Name: Society of Friends
Address: 52 St. Martin’s Lane. WC2N 1LD
Postal address: 8. Hop Gardens, WC2N 4EA
Please visit the website for times of meetings and details of other events.
Quaker origins are Christian but we have no creed, no set of beliefs on which all Friends agree. Many members of Westminster meeting consider themselves Christian, and many do not. However, there are concerns on which Friends are in unity, resulting in testimonies on such topics as simplicity, equality, truth and integrity, and peace.
- There is something sacred in every person.
- All people are equal before God.
- Religion is about the whole of life.
- We meet in stillness to discover a deeper sense of God’s presence.
- True religion leads to respect for the earth and all life upon it.
- Each person is unique, precious, a child of God.
You are welcome to attend our Meetings for Worship, whatever your beliefs or religion. Our form of worship is based on silent prayerful communal waiting on God.
Worship begins when the first person enters the room and takes a seat. We come together in God’s presence, gathering initially in silence. Out of the silence, one of us may feel compelled by the Spirit to speak: we call this vocal ministry. After a pause, in which the silent communion is re-established, another Friend may be led to speak.
Meeting for Worship is not, however, the place for discussion or debate. If the ministry does not “speak to your condition”, let it pass, and seek to become still again.
The end of the meeting is signalled by the elders shaking hands. After the close of Meeting, the Clerk (or one of the elders) gives out notices. We do not have any paid ministers. Quakers believe in “the priesthood of all believers”.
Quaker Meetings for Worship have been held in Westminster weekly since 1655. Former Meeting Houses were in Pall Mall, the Strand and near to Westminster Abbey. The current Meeting House was damaged by wartime bombs, and re-built in the 1950s.
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was founded around 1652 in North West England by George Fox who, after an anguished period of seeking, had a profound spiritual experience. There are now about 300,000 Quakers world-wide in over 80 Yearly Meetings (Yearly Meetings often cover a single country – in Britain Yearly Meeting covers England, Scotland and Wales and it has about 27,000 members and attenders, and some 500 local Meetings, of which Westminster is one). Westminster Friends have worshipped together since 1655, at first in different parts of the area, and finally, since 1883, at 52 St Martin’s Lane. When the Meeting House was badly damaged in World War Two, the Archbishop of Canterbury kindly allowed Friends to hold meetings at Church House during the rebuilding. The meeting’s thank you letter to the Archbishop ended as follows:
“From 1666 to 1769 there was a Friends Meeting House on the present site of Church House. It is a matter of great interest to us, therefore, that Westminster Friends were able to return there for the period of their ‘exile’, and the experience has given them a renewed sense of the unity of all Christian people, however diversified their forms of worship may be.”
Style of Worship
Quaker worship is based on silent waiting on God. Spoken ministry may come out of the silence when a Friend feels compelled by the Holy Spirit to speak. There are no paid ministers. The children join the meeting for the closing minutes. At the end of the meeting, when two elders shake hands,’ the clerk gives out notices and visitors are encouraged to introduce themselves. Friends are non credal, but our worship and life experience give the grounding to our testimonies: peace, equality, truth and simplicity.
Quaker literature is available from the library and discussion groups and meetings for inquirers are held regularly. Meetings for Worship for business are held monthly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A group of Friends known as elders are appointed to care for the spiritual welfare of Friends. Another group known as overseers see to the meeting’s material needs.
The Meeting House is used by many non-Quaker groups, and the large entrance passage is in constant demand as an art gallery for exhibitions.
All are welcome to attend Meetings for Worship and to join in the meeting’s activities.