Visitor Info

Considering attending a Quaker meeting for the first time can be a daunting. You may or may not have already done some looking into the Quakers already, but still have more questions than answers.

What do Quakers do at these meetings anyway? What if you say or do something completely inappropriate without knowing? Are you supposed to call first, or can anyone just drop in? Do it matter what are your beliefs or background?

First of all, Quakers fundamentally accept everybody equally. We have no creeds to follow as such, but one of our most quoted principles is that we seek to find "that of God in everyone". We welcome you, whoever you are. The following questions and answers may help to give you a flavour:

Q: I'd like to come to a meeting, what do I do?

 A: Just come along! There's no specific need to call ahead, our doors are always open to visitors when we have a meeting for worship. Meetings in Clevedon start promptly at 10:30am every Sunday and last for an hour, but it is best to arrive a few minutes early to avoid interrupting worship. You will be welcomed at the door and probably given a leaflet or two to help you if it is your first time at a Quaker meeting. Worship is always followed by a cup of tea, coffee or herbal tea and a friendly chat. We normally disperse at about noon unless we have shared lunch or other special meeting. Nobody is expected to stay longer than they wish as we all have different family or other commitments.

Q: What do I wear?

 A: Quakers don't have a dress code as such, that is there is no need to "get dressed up", but Quakers prefer simplicity and if you can demonstrate that in your attire, all the better. A long time ago, as a protest to the social damage high fashion caused, we made a point of wearing only simple grey clothing and wide brimmed hats (bonnets for the women), but that has not been the case for some 150. It is not uncommon these days to see quakers at worship in a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. Some may still prefer jacket and tie, it really doesn't matter.  

Q: What happens when I get there?

A: When you arrive, you will be greeted at the door by a Friend whose job that day is to greet everyone. Shake his or her hand and feel welcomed! At that point you can make your way into the meeting room for worship. You will see a group of chairs and benches gathered in a rough circle around a table with some books on it and some smiling faces giving you further welcome. Take any seat you like, there is no special significance given to any one place, just sit and wait for worship to begin. If you find the silence difficult at first, feel free to pick up a book and start reading, that is what they are there for. 

Q: I'm ready to 'worship', what does that entail exactly?

A: Worshiping with Quakers is a unique experience. It can be strange to first time visitors and it may take some time to get value from it. Worship is best described as a silent, reverent waiting in communion with other people. It will continue in this fashion until someone feels 'moved' to stand up and say something, or 'minister'. Sometimes an entire hour may go by without anyone saying a word, other times several people may stand at different times and minister, each meeting is different. 

Q: How do I know when worship has begun, or when it ends?

A: Worship starts when the first person sits down in the meeting room, but you'll find that those present really start to 'centre down' when the clock hits 10:30 am. The person who welcomed you joins the meeting at about 10.40 am. If there is a Children's Meeting, they ususally join the main meeting about ten minutes before it ends.  When the meeting is over it will be brought to a close by the elder on duty shaking the hand of someone near him/her and there is a round of han shakes. This is followed by brief notices and orders for refreshments followed by informal chat.

Q: What do I do when someone speaks during worship?

A: Just listen. what they have to say may not even be of any direct relevance to you, but it definitely is to someone, even if it's just the person who felt the need to get up and say it. Perhaps there is more in what they did for you to reflect upon than what they said. It may be that what someone says is exactly what you need to hear, you might even have been thinking about something along the same lines just before they stood up. This is a common occurrence, but you should resist standing up immediately after they finish to comment on their ministry. Real listening means giving your full attention to the person speaking, not thinking about what you would say immediately afterwards. Take the time to digest what has been said, mull it over, then if you feel moved to, say something, or don't. The best ministries are those that are given the time to percolate through the entire meeting. The meeting for worship is not a debate and it would be unusual for anyone to minister more than once.

Q: Is there a collection?

A: There is no mandatory collection. Often a collection box will be put out at the end for Friends to contribute donations to the upkeep of the meeting, or a charity chosen by the meeting. Quakers see it as their responsibility to contribute what they can, when they can, but as a visitor no one will expect you to give anything.

Q: I might like to come more than once, do I need to join up or take an oath to keep coming?

A: Quakers do not take oaths, even in court, and the idea of pledging your loyalty to any entity other than what you personally believe God to be is inconsistent with our views on being open to the teachings of others. There are no creeds, rituals or rites of passage in the Quaker faith, and even many of the people who regularly attend services, count themselves as part of the local Quaker community, and even call themselves Quakers are not officially members of the society. These "Attenders" often take membership eventually, but it is not uncommon for some to remain attenders for many years, if not their entire life. So, no, you won't be asked to take any special oath or join anything as a requirement for worship.

Q: Who's in charge of the meeting?

A: It is often said that The Religious Society of Friends has no clergy, but in truth, the church exists because it has no laity. Everyone who attends a Quaker meeting has the potential to guide the spirit just as a priest or clergyman or woman would do. Having said that, there is a subtle hierarchy that exists, mostly for the purposes of experience led guidance and administration. Within the meeting there are elders, overseers, a clerk, a treasurer, various committee members and a rota of greeters. Each one of these roles is filled by a regular member or attender, equal in all respects, but the roles themselves carry certain responsibilities that mean the rest of the group may at times defer to their position. During a meeting for worship, the only time a single members position in this hierarchy is deferred to is when the meeting is brought to a close by two elders who shake hands.

Q: Are Quakers Christian, do you believe in God/Christ/etc...?

A: Early Quakers based all of their beliefs and learnings on the teachings of Jesus Christ, as portrayed in the New Testament. There was a strong emphasis on the importance of Christ and his life. Quakers tried to emulate his life as best as possible, and as such, they could be considered Christian. However, at the time, many mainstream Christians did not consider Quakers to be a part of their religious parentage, primarily because of emphasis on self inspired revelation that continues to exist today. Many modern Quakers still argue the point as to whether Quakerism is or isn't a Christian religion. The fact is that the inherrent openness of the religion to all spiritual wisdom allows for it to be both. Within the Society we count Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants, Universalists, Pagans, Muslims, Jews, and even Atheists among our numbers. We don't ask that anyone give up the beliefs that they hold in order to join, we only ask that they share them so that we may gain a better understanding of God, and of each other.

Q: You say you accept everyone unconditionally, but other religious organisations don't welcome me as I am, are you sure you will?

A: Yes. What more can I say? Yes, I am sure.

Q: Who else is a Quaker?

A: There have been many famous Quakers throughout history, many of them may surprise you. Just to name a few:


  • Joan Baez
  • Susan B. Anthony (more famous across the pond)
  • James Dean
  • Judi Dench
  • Ben Kingsley
  • Sheila Hancock
  • Paul Eddington
  • Gerard Hoffnung
  • Dave Matthews
  • Edward R. Murrow
  • Thomas Paine
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • James Turrell
  • Walt Whitman
  • Joseph Lister
  • Joseph Rowntree
  • George Cadbury
  • And many many more, just search famous quakers...


Q: How do I find out more about being a Quaker?

A: Firstly, come down to a meeting, you'll get the first hand advice and experience, plus there's always loads of leaflets and info to take away. We even have a library of books on the subject and are very happy for people to borrow them.

We also conduct a monthly open discussion study group, which is a great place to go if you are new to Quakers and want to learn more. Look out for dates on the calendar.

Secondly, go to and browse around. There's loads of information on there for new and old to look through.

Third, have a look at our links section. There is tons of great information in there!!! For eample, check out for some great videos with real Quakers, offering honest opinions about their faith.