Tempe Friends Meeting
of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Frequently Asked Questions
What do Friends believe?
What are some of the distinguishing features of the Society of Friends?
Friends believe the direct and unmediated experience of the Divine is open to everyone. That which Quakers call the Inward Light lives in each human being. Traditional Friends testimonies - truth, equality, peace, simplicity, community – are outward and visible signs of our faith.
There is no single statement of faith to which we are asked to subscribe. Instead, we hold a central belief that there is that of the Divine within each being, and we must act in recognition of the Divine Presence in ourselves and in others.
Friends believe in a Divine source and that there is that of God in everyone. While individual Friends have differing concepts of God, Friends believe that a direct and unmediated experience of the Divine is open to everyone.
Over the three and a half centuries of our history, Friends have used many names for the source of our faith – among them God, the Inner or Inward Light, the Divine Principle, the Seed, the Christ Within, the Inward Teacher, Jesus, Holy Spirit ... The names we use are appropriate to our experience. Some of us may use different names at different times, for our experiences vary throughout our lives.
The religious society was formed during the 1650’s after George Fox, an Englishman, began speaking against formalized religion, seeking a return to the simple direct worship that characterized early Christian communities.
Worship is our response to an awareness of God. We can worship alone, but when we join with others in expectant waiting we may discover a deeper sense of God’s presence. We seek a gathered stillness in our meetings for worship so that all may feel the power of God’s love drawing us together and leading us.
Tempe Meeting’s worship is “unprogrammed”, that is, without a designated minister. Worship is conducted in silent meditative reflection awaiting revelations led by the Divine presence. Upon receiving such an insight the worshipper may share the message.
There are various accounts of the origin of the name. For example:
As stated in John 15:15, Jesus said “No longer do I call you servants...; but I have called you friends, for all I have heard from my Father I made known to you”.
Initially the religious society was called “Children of Light”, and afterwards “Friends” and “Friends in the Truth”.
However the name originated, from the earliest time members of the society referred to each other as “Friends”.
Again there are various accounts:
Robert Barclay says that “the name came from the trembling of Friends under the powerful working of the Holy Ghost”. Some early members became so fervent in their vocal ministries that they would physically quake while making their pronouncements.
Another story relates how the word Quaker was applied insultingly to George Fox after he told an English judge to “tremble at the Word of the Lord.”
Friends chose to embrace the name “Quaker” and today the terms “Friends” and “Quaker” are used interchangeably.
For early Friends, the Bible was a rich and sustaining record of inspired revelation over the course of many centuries. George Fox and his contemporaries knew it well, studied it earnestly, and quoted it often. It was clear to them that the spirit they knew in their hearts spoke to them through the Bible. However, they also stressed a distinction, which is profoundly important to us today: the power which inspired the scriptures is still speaking. Because of that, Friends have avoided using writings as a final or infallible authority. Inspiration comes from the Spirit, which reveals itself to us in many places.
Many Friends find great depth of meaning in, and inspiration from, the Bible. And generally Friends find it a source, along with other revelations, that is helpful in their spiritual quest.
Friends believe that Jesus was a profound teacher; his revelations are among those that have shaped our religious beliefs. Jesus was a deeply spiritual person with an awareness of the reality of God.
Beliefs do vary from the literal to the symbolic belief in Jesus as God’s incarnation.
Friends believe in a Divine Presence. Although various beliefs are held about the divinity of Jesus, Friends do believe that there is a Divine Light (Holy Spirit) within each of us.
Friends believe that, because each of us has a direct personal relationship with God, we do not need an intermediary in that relationship.
Before taking any action, a Friends Meeting seeks unity with the Spirit to discern the way in which the meeting should proceed.
Unprogrammed Friends have no liturgy, leaving our worship open to guidance by the Spirit.
Friends do not require acceptance of a creed as a test of membership, believing that no creedal statement of faith can adequately describe spiritual reality.
For Quakers, life is sacramental. The absence in our worship of traditional Christian rites and sacraments grows out of our belief in the primacy of the inward experience of the Spirit. Friends believe that the presence of the Spirit is not mediated by finite ceremony.
Because we know Christ’s Spirit as our present teacher, we await the word of God in our vocal ministry - we seek the will of God in our meetings for business - we receive communion with God in our gathered meetings - we celebrate the baptism of God in the transformation of our lives - we recognize the ordination of God in the ministries of our members - we hold ourselves accountable to the authority of God present in the faithful community - we witness to the Divine Presence in the testimonies of our lives.
Tempe Meeting, as part of the unprogrammed branch of Friends, has no paid minister. Some branches of Friends do have a paid minister.
As Friends conduct their affairs by reaching unity before taking action, there is no leader who makes decisions for the whole. The Clerk of the Meeting is responsible for recording the decisions of the Meeting and is frequently the spokesperson for the Meeting. With no designated minister, each Friend is called upon to minister --- whether in spoken ministry during worship, in our daily lives, or in social action.
Once an individual becomes convinced that he or she wishes to become a member, the individual makes this desire known to the Meeting Clerk in writing. Then a committee meets with the individual and makes a recommendation to the Meeting.
All are welcome to worship with us in the manner of Friends. It is common for people to attend Meeting for Worship, serve on committees, and participate in activities of the Meeting without feeling a call to seek membership.
A planned curriculum is offered in four age groups, pre-school through High School. Topics covered include Quaker History, Friends Beliefs & Testimonies and the Bible. Childcare is also provided for infants.
Approved by Tempe Monthly Meeting for Business, 08/11/2002. Copyright © 2002 [Religious Society of Friends, Tempe, AZ]. All rights reserved.