Quaker organisation

Attenders and members

Everyone is welcome to attend a Quaker meeting for worship. When someone regularly attends a particular meeting, they are called an “attender”.

Attenders can become members of the Religious Society of Friends. Membership is a two-sided process involving the individual on their spiritual journey and their Quaker community.

All attenders and members are encouraged to get involved in Quaker activities – contributing their time, energy, skills or money. Members can also be invited to serve in particular ways, for example by becoming a clerk or treasurer. Those with specific roles are asked to serve for limited periods of time, after which others take their turn to serve.

Local meetings

Local meetings are where Quakers come together to worship. Both members and attenders help to organise local meetings. Each local meeting is different and works in a slightly different way.

Examples of roles in a local meeting, which people take on for a period of time, are:

  • Clerks, who are appointed to deal with business meetings, correspondence and notices;

  • Elders, who are appointed to nurture the spiritual life of the meeting;

  • Overseers (now often known as Pastoral Friends), who are appointed to ensure the pastoral needs of the meeting are met; and

  • Welcomers, who volunteer to welcome people as they arrive.

Local meetings hold business meetings during the year to make decisions.

Area meetings

Area meetings are made up of a number of local meetings. Area meeting is the primary business meeting for Quakers and is also a worshipping community. Area meetings are charities and appoint trustees, who work on behalf of all Quakers in the area. There are four Area meetings in Scotland: East of Scotland Area Meeting, North of Scotland Area Meeting, South East Scotland Area Meeting and West of Scotland Area Meeting.

General Meeting for Scotland

Quakers in Scotland are also known as General Meeting for Scotland. We are part of Quakers in Britain, who are also known as Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM). General Meeting for Scotland meets four times a year. We carry out the work of BYM in Scotland, in particular organising events for children, young people and families, communicating with churches and other faith groups in Scotland, and engaging with Scottish institutions. More information is on the General Meeting page.

Meeting for Sufferings

Meeting for Sufferings is the standing representative body of Quakers in Britain. It meets five or six times a year, and attends to the business of the yearly meeting through the year. Members of Meeting for Sufferings have to be appointed.

Yearly Meeting

British Quakers hold an assembly once a year, called Yearly Meeting. All members can attend (and so can attenders, with permission). The Yearly Meeting has a range of committees which oversee different parts of Quaker work. Quakers from across Britain are appointed to these committees.

Britain Yearly Meeting

Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) is the national body of Quakers in Britain. It is a registered charity and has trustees, appointed by Yearly Meeting. All area meetings in Britain are linked to Britain Yearly Meeting. It has a central office in London (Friends House) and employs about 150 staff, who undertake work on behalf of the Yearly Meeting. More information is available on the BYM website.

Quakers worldwide

There are Quakers around the world, spanning a rich diversity of regional cultures and beliefs. While all flavours of Quaker try to answer God’s call to universal love, there are a variety of views about the authority of the Bible and the nature of Christ’s divinity. There are also different traditions of worship, with many Quaker traditions having “programmed” meetings, where there is less silence.

Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) encourages fellowship among all the branches of the Religious Society of Friends. Through its four section offices, it runs programmes in different regions. In the name of FWCC, Friends run the Quaker United Nations Offices (QUNO) in New York and Geneva. These offices consult with members of the UN Secretariat, the representatives of other non-governmental and faith-based organisations and delegates from a variety of countries. Areas to which the offices contribute include human rights, disarmament, the environment, economic justice, trade and development, criminal justice and action on refugees. More information is on the FWCC website.

Young Friends General Meeting

Young Friends General Meeting is open to Quakers between the ages of eighteen and about thirty who need not be formally in membership of the Religious Society of Friends. Area meetings may appoint representatives to Young Friends General Meeting. At its meetings for business three times a year it organises a range of other events for young people. Young Friends General Meeting nominates two representatives to Meeting for Sufferings. More information is on the Young Friends General Meeting website.