Quakers – who are we?

Quakerism began in England in the middle of the 17th century during the English Civil War, under the influence particularly of George Fox and Margaret Fell. There is a useful timeline of key moments in Quaker history on the Britain Yearly Meeting website.

Groups of Quakers sprang up in Gloucestershire from the mid 1650s onwards, with important centres in Gloucester itself and in Nailsworth. There is a detailed account of early Quakerism in Gloucestershire here.

Today there are about 17,000 Quakers in Britain, and a further 9,000 or so people attend Quaker meetings as “attenders” (that is, without having joined the Society). There are about 400 Quaker meetings in Britain, some with their own Meeting Houses, while others meet in private homes or in rented premises. Across the world, there are some 210,000 Quakers, and many more attenders. There are particular concentrations of Quakers in North America, East Africa and parts of Latin America. Quakerism in Ireland has a long history, going back to the 17th century. There are scattered, and generally small, groups of Quakers in many countries in Europe.

The traditional form of Quaker worship is the silent Meeting for Worship, lasting for about an hour, during which we try to focus on the still centre of our being, and listen to the gentle leadings of the spirit. Often, there is brief spoken ministry from Friends who feel moved to speak. This is still the pattern of almost all Quaker worship in Britain. In parts of North America and elsewhere, however, Quaker meetings are generally programmed, with hymns, bible readings and a sermon, as well as silent worship, more like conventional church services.

Here are some links which you may find useful:

Britain Yearly Meeting – BYM is the body which brings together all Quakers in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Quaker Tapestry in Kendal – a fascinating portrayal of Quakerism over the last  350 years.

Experiences of Quakers and other conscientious objectors in Gloucestershire during the First and Second World Wars.

Quaker Council for European Affairs