About Quakers

An introduction to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and some resources on the Quaker way.

Introduction. Quakers have their historical roots in seventeenth century England and share a common faith, based on experience, that every human being can commune with God directly, without the need for any mediating persons or rituals.

Our name. Friends derive our name from John 15:15—“I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”—in which Jesus confirms our experience of being taught directly in the Holy Spirit, even unto the present day. Originally, we called ourselves the Children of the Light and Friends of the Truth, but we soon embraced the term “Quakers,” given to us originally pejoratively to describe the experience of Quakers trembling—quaking—under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Quaker history. Even the briefest of historical surveys would be too lengthy to include here, so we invite you to visit our book of Faith and Practice online, which has a section on Quaker history. Our Faith and Practice is New York Yearly Meeting’s official answer to a very wide range of questions you may have. When the page opens, note the Table of Contents on the left.

A brief introduction to New York Yearly Meeting. Founded in 1694, New York Yearly Meeting is the denominational organization for meetings (congregations) in New York State, northern New Jersey, and southwestern Connecticut. (We call ourselves a “yearly meeting” because for centuries we met annually to do our collective business, though now we meet three times a year.)

Quaker demographics. New York Yearly Meeting has roughly 3,300 members, out of approximately 88,000 Friends in North America. Friends World Committee for Consultation (an international Quaker organization) has a colorful map of the globe showing the distribution of Quaker communities throughout the world. The largest Quaker community in the world is actually in East Africa, with more than 133,000 members in Kenya alone. Bolivia has 33,000 Quakers, Europe 23,000, mostly in Britain (16,000). Wikipedia has a good breakdown of Quaker demographics, as well.

Other resources on Quakerism.

  • Wikipedia—“Quakers.” This entry is not too bad. It is quite thorough and contains only a few very minor mistakes and misrepresentations, and, of course, lots of cross-reference links.
  • Philadelphia Yearly MeetingAbout Quakers. See the Menu in the sidebar at the right of their page for more specific topics.
  • Friends General ConferenceExplore the Quaker Way. This section has a brief video and good resources for people seeking information about Quakerism.
  • Earlham School of ReligionQuaker Information Center, with an About Quakerism section. Earlham Scool of Religion is a Quaker seminary in Richmond, Indiana. This is an excellent source of information on the "programmed," pastoral branch of Quakerism.