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Finding Friends (Quaker)
Meetings and Churches
Using the Internet
Prepared by Bill Samuel
Originally published July 1, 2000 at Suite101.com
If you wanted to find a place to worship with Friends (Quakers) in your area or in some place you were visiting, how would you do it? How can you use the Internet in such a search?
You can find a lot of Friends meetings and churches (congregations) on the World Wide Web, but it may not be easy. There is no site that contains all, or even a very large proportion, of Friends congregations. There is only one list of meetings of which I am aware that contains a large number and includes meetings on more than one continent.
Where Do I Look?
If you don't find anything in your area on that list, you generally need to find the yearly meeting(s) serving the area. A yearly meeting is the Friends equivalent of a diocese, annual conference or district in other denominations. Because of divisions among Friends, there is often more than one yearly meeting serving an area.
Most yearly meetings in areas of the world where there is a substantial proportion of the population with Internet access have a Web site or at least an email address. Most yearly meeting Web sites include directories of member congregations. However, the majority of the world's Friends are in poorer areas where few have Internet access. Yearly meetings in these areas usually do not have Web sites, and only a few have email addresses. Check my Friends (Quaker) Yearly Meetings and Broader Bodies on the Internet Web page for a listing of yearly meeting Web and email addresses.
Canada and the United States
I am treating North America north of the Mexican border as a special case. Information is usually available via the Internet for these North American congregations, but it can be hard to determine which yearly meeting Web sites to check. For example, who would know that the geographical area covered by Western Yearly Meeting is western Indiana and Illinois? Please see my separate page on Finding North American Friends Meetings and Churches for a listing of where to look by state.
Different Kinds of Congregations
Over the centuries, Friends (Quakers) have become extremely diverse. Friends encompass a wide range in both theology and style of worship. If there are several Friends congregations in your area, you might want to visit not only the one closest to you but others to find one where you feel most comfortable.
In worship style, Friends congregations are usually classified as either unprogrammed or programmed (or pastoral). Unprogrammed congregations have no pre-planned order of worship or sermons, but gather in silence with anyone moved by the Spirit being free to offer vocal ministry. Programmed congregations have an order of worship and usually a pastor offers a sermon, but may include a period of unprogrammed worship - usually called open worship - within the service. These are not hard and fast divisions. Some congregations offer both styles of worship. See my article on Friends (Quaker) Worship for more information.
You can get a clue to style of worship from the name of the congregation. Unprogrammed congregations virtually always call themselves meetings. Most programmed congregations call themselves churches, but some use the traditional meetings term. Except for the United States, most congregations in the "developed" (richer) part of the world are unprogrammed. Most congregations in the "developing" (poorer) part of the world are programmed.
Can't Find It on the Internet?
If you can't find Friends congregations in your area using the Internet, and there are congregations in your area, there are more traditional ways to find them. The Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas periodically publishes a Friends Directory of Meetings, Churches and Worship Groups in the Section of the Americas. Britain Yearly Meeting annually updates its Book of Meetings covering much of the rest of the world.
The phone numbers and mail addresses of virtually all yearly meetings in the world are available online in the Calendar of Yearly Meetings. So you almost always can find a number to call or an address to write if the information for your area is not online.
© by Bill Samuel. Do not reprint in whole or in part without prior permission of the author, except for limited quoting in accordance with "fair use" principles. You are welcome to link to this page.
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