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Quaker Language and Jargon

Over the centuries, Friends have developed language, structures, and organizations that suit the unique understandings and processes of Quakers.   The following definitions are just a sampling of terms that others have compiled and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or understanding of all those who attend HFM or other Quakers around the world.   But it might be a helpful place to start.  Some words like "birthright," "oversight," and "elder" that were once used widely, currently cause some Friends concern.  Indeed, not all Quakers are comfortable with the word "God" and some use the words Light Within, Christ, Spirit, Seed, Creator, and Inward Teacher. Some avoid any word for a higher power.   

Advices: A collection of writings used as inspiration and guidance

After the Manner of Friends: Using Friends' process

As Way Opens: As circumstances allow for a process that is right to proceed

AFSC: American Friends Service Committee

Business Meeting: A shortened form of Meeting for Worship on the Occassion of Business indicating that it is a spiritual practice and Friends speak from a spiritual leading.

Centering Down: The process of stilling the body and mind in order to hear Spirit.

Clearness Committee: A group of Friends that support someone or a group to clarify a decision or concern.

Clerk: A person who presides at meetings of committees or Worship or who serves as an official of the Meeting for legal matters.

Concern: A deep interest in a spiritual or social matter.

Continuing Revelation: A belief that Spirit still speaks to people and groups today.

Discern: Coming to a decision or leading from a deep spiritual sense.

Elder: Verb--to nurture and support a Friend or Group. Noun-- historically, some Quakers were appointed to offer vocal ministry and support the spiritual condition of members.

FCNL: Friends Committee on National Legislation.

FGC: Friends General Conference

FWCC: Friends World Committee for Consultation

Hold in the Light: To ask for God's presence to illumine a person or problem. To some members akin to prayer.

Labor with: To struggle with and reflect on a concern or difficulty.

Leading: A strong inner spiritual conviction to compel one to offer ministry or to follow a particular course of action.

Light: The presence of God or Christ or Goodness within each person, a nearly universal Quaker belief.

Monthly Meeting: A community of people that meet weekly for meeting for worship and meet monthly to deal with business.

PacYM: Pacific Yearly Meeting (not to be mistaken with PYM or PHYM which is Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.).

Queries: A set of open-ended questions to examine individual and corporate life and used as inspiration.

Recording Clerk: Person who records the minutes of the Meeting for Worship on the Occassion of Business.

Seasoning: Taking extra time to consider and ensure that a decision is grounded in God's will.

Speaks to one's condition: receiving a message from Spirit or another person that deeply addresses a person's problem or issue.

That Friend Speaks My Mind: Spoken when another person states what one was thinking, without the need to restate the message.

The State of the Meeting: An annual statement that reports on the condition of the monthly meeting and then is registered with the Annual Meeting.

Testimonies: Statements that reflect some key principles and beliefs that many friends support.

Unprogrammed Meeting: A meeting for worship, with no set order, where Friends sit in silence and wait upon Spirit for a message to share with those gathered there.

Worship sharing: Usually used instead of a traditional discussion where Friends speak out of worshipful silence and only once until all who are led to speak are able to contribute.

Some sources used:

 The Quaker Glossary from Lansdowne Friends Meeting in Pennsylvania

Warren Sylvester Smith, One Explorer’s Glossary of Quaker Terms (Philadelphia, PA: Friends General Conference, 1985).

Beatrice Kimball & Joyce Holden, Dictionary of Friends Terms (Richmond, IN: Friends United Press, 1984).

Pink Dandelion, The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Max Carter, A Glossary of Quaker Terms Heard at Guilford [used with First Years]

Historical terms used around slavery (not used).

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