The best way to learn about Quakers is to go to Quaker meeting and spend time with Quakers. But we've collected some resources here that are the next best thing.
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General Information about Quakers
The Quaker movement started in the Lancaster area of England in the 1650s as part of the religious revival that included the Puritans and other Protestant sects. Quakers were distinct for believing that all people were called to be ministers and that God is directly present to those who listen with open hearts.
These beliefs led to Quakers to develop a religion without clergy or priesthood and a practice of worship where people gather in silence, waiting to be led to speak by the promptings of the Spirit.
In the late 1600s, a Quaker named William Penn incorporated Pennsylvania with freedom of religious conviction, enabling it to be a home to Quakers and to people with various religious beliefs. Quakers also came to New England in the late 1600s. Quakers were prominent in the governments of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey into the mid-1700s.
The formal name for Quakers is the Religious Society of Friends. "Quaker" and "Friend" (with a capital F) are synonymous.
Quakers have a wide variety of beliefs, and Beacon Hill Friends Meeting is no different. In general, though, we tend to believe that there is that of God in every person and that being present to the Spirit leads us towards simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality, also known as the Quaker testimonies, which are outward ethical expressions of following our spiritual path.
Today, the Quaker faith is practiced in many places around the world. In Kenya, there are more than 100,000 Friends; in Bolivia, there are more than 30,000. The countries with more than 3,000 Quakers, ordered starting with those with the most Quakers, are: Kenya, the United States, Burundi, Bolivia, Guatemala, the United Kingdom, Nepal, Uganda, Taiwan, India, Rwanda, Hungary, Peru, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some Quakers you may have heard of: Susan B. Anthony, Moses Brown, John Cadbury (inventor of the chocolate bar), John Dalton, Judi Dench, Mary Dyer, John Hickenlooper (current governor of Colorado), Thomas Hodgkin (identifier of Hodgkin's lymphoma), Herbert Hoover, Ben Kingsley, James Michener, Lucretia Mott, Edward R. Murrow, Carrie Newcomer, Richard Nixon, Bonnie Raitt, Bayard Rustin (a leader of the Civil Rights Movement), James Turrell, and John Greenleaf Whittier
About Beacon Hill Friends Meeting
The building at 6-8 Chestnut Street in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston was designed by Charles Bulfinch in the early 1800s. It was given to the Quakers in 1957 and established as an intentional Quaker community.
Quakers began meeting at Beacon Hill Friends House for worship in the early 1960s. In the late 1970s Friends Meeting at Cambridge formally took this worship group under its care. In 1980 Beacon Hill Friends Meeting was officially incorporated as a separate meeting for worship with its own monthly meeting for business. Beacon Hill Friends Meeting is the fourth Quaker meeting to meet in Boston, following two Quaker meetings that laid themselves down and Friends Meeting at Cambridge, which used to meet in Roxbury.
Beacon Hill Friends Meeting is open and affirming of queer and trans folks. We have been conducting marriages for same-sex couples since 1984.
The five officers of the meeting are Clerk, Recording Clerk, Recorder, Treasurer, and Secretary.
There are twelve standing committees of the meeting: Adult Religious Education, Clearness and Membership, Clerk's Support, Communications, Fellowship, Finance, Library, Ministry and Counsel, Nominating, Pastoral Care, Peace and Social Concerns, and Young People's Ministry and Education.
There are also additional committees as needed, created for support of individuals, for assistance in clearness, for supervising an individual's leading, for marriages, for memorial meetings, or for other purposes.
Would you like to contribute to the meeting, either financially or by volunteering? Are you interested in joining the Quaker movement? Would you like to find out more about the services we offer, which include marriage under the care of the meeting? Please get in touch!
Links to External Resources
New England Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice, which discusses Quaker thought, Quaker history, and how Quakers are organized in New England (the new version is in progress; the 1985 version is also available)