Online Encyclopedia

SOCIETY FRIENDS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 229 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
SOCIETY FRIENDS OF liberty for all men and women to state their opinions, and to serve on all committees and other appointments. The mode of conducting these meetings is noteworthy. A secretary or " clerk," as he is called, acts as chairman or president; there are no formal resolutions; and there is no voting or applause. The clerk ascertains what he considers to be the judgment of the assembly, and records it in a minute. The permanent standing committee of the Society is known as the " Meeting for Sufferings " (established in 1675), which took its rise in the days when the persecution of many Friends demanded the Christian care and material help of those who were able to give it. It is composed of representatives (men and women) sent by the quarterly meetings, and of all recorded Ministers and Elders. Its work is not confined to the interests of Friends; it is sensitive to the call of oppression and distress (e.g. a famine) in all parts of the world, it frequently raises large sums of money to alleviate the same, and intervenes, often successfully, and mostly without publicity, with. those in authority who have the power to bring about an amelioration. The offices known to the Quaker body are: (1) that of minister (the term " office " is not strictly applicable, see above as to " recording ") ; (2) of elder, whose duty it is " to encourage and help young ministers, and advise others as they, in the wisdom of God, see occasion "; (3) of overseer, to whom is especially entrusted that duty of Christian care for and interest in one another which Quakers recognize as obligatory in all the members of a church. In most Monthly Meetings the care of the poor is committed to the overseers. These officers hold, from time to time, meetings separate from the general assemblies of the members, but the special organization for many years known as the Meeting of Ministers and Elders, reconstituted in 1876 as the Meeting on Ministry and Oversight, came to an end in 1906-1907. This present form both of organization and of discipline has been reached only by a process of development. As early as 1652-1654 there is evidence of some slight organization for dealing with marriages, poor relief, " disorderly walkers," matters of arbitration, &c. The Quarterly or " General " meetings of the different counties seem to have been the first unions of separate congregations. In 1666 Fox established Monthly Meetings; in 1727 elders were first appointed; in 1752 overseers were added; and in 1737 the right of children of Quakers to be considered as members was fully recognized. Concerning the 18th century in general, see above. Of late years the stringency of the Quaker discipline has been relaxed : the peculiarities of dress and language have been abandoned; marriage with a non-member or between two non-members is now,possible at a Quaker meeting-house; add marriage elsewhere has ceased to involve exclusion from the body. Above all, many of its members have come to " the conviction, which is not new, but old, that the virtues which can be rewarded and the vices which can be punished by external discipline are not as a rule the virtues and the vices that make or mar the soul " (Hatch, Bampton Lectures, 8i). A genuine vein of philanthropy has always existed in the Quaker body. In nothing has this been more conspicuous than in the matter of slavery. George Fox and William Penn laboured to secure the religious teaching of slaves. As thropic early as 1676 the assembly of Barbados passed "" An Act internsts, to prevent the people called Quakers from bringing negroes to their meetings." On the attitude of Friends in America to slavery, see the section " Quakerism in America " (above). In 1783 the first petition to the House of Commons for the abolition of the slave trade and slavery went up from the Quakers; and in the long agitation which ensued the Society took a prominent part. In 1798 Joseph Lancaster, himself a Friend, opened his first school for the education of the poor; and the cause of unsectarian- religious education found in the Quakers steady support. They also took an active part in Sir Samuel Romilly's efforts to ameliorate the penal code, in prison reform, with which the name of Elizabeth Fry (a Friend) is especially connected, and in the efforts to ameliorate the condition of lunatics in England (the Friends' Retreat at York, founded in 1792, was the earliest example in England of kindly treatment of the insane). It is noteworthy that Quaker efforts for the education of the poor and philanthropy in general, though they have always been Christian in character, have not been undertaken primarily for the purpose of bringing proselytes within the body, and have not done so to any great extent. By means of the Adult Schools, Friends have been able to exercise a religious influence beyond the borders of their own Society. The movement began in Birmingham in 1845, in an attempt Educa to help the loungers at street corners; reading and writing were the chief inducements offered. The schools are unsectarian in character and mainly democratic in government: the aim is to draw out what is best in men and to induce them to act for the help of their fellows. Whilst the work is essentially religious in character, a well-equipped school also caters for the social, intellectual and physical parts of a man's nature. Bible teaching is the central part of the school session: the lessons are mainly concerned with life's practical problems. The spirit of brotherliness which prevails is largely the secret of the success of the movement. At the end of 1909 there were in connexion with the " National Council of Adult-School Associations " 1818 " schools " for men with organization, disuse of the outward ordinances (this point is subject to some slight exception, principally in Ohio), and women's ministry, they do not differ from English Friends. The yearly meetings of Baltimore and Philadelphia have not adopted the pastoral system; the latter contains a very strong conservative element, and, contrary to the practice of London and the other " orthodox " yearly meetings, it officially regards the meetings of " the smaller body " (see above) as meetings of the Society of Friends. In 1902 the " orthodox " yearly meetings in the United States established a "Five Years' Meeting," a representative body meeting once every five years to consider matters affecting the welfare of all, and to further such philanthropic and religious work as may be undertaken in common, e.g. matters concerning foreign missions, temperance and peace, and the welfare of negroes and Indians. Two yearly meetings remain outside the organization, that of Ohio on ultra-evangelical grounds, while that of Philadelphia has not taken the matter into consideration. Canada joined at the first, and having withdrawn, again joined in 1907. See Jaynes Bowden, History of the Society of Friends in America (1850-1854); Allan C. and Richard H. Thomas, The History of Friends in America (4th edition, 1905); Isaac Sharpless, History of Quaker Government in Pennsylvania (1898, 189 ); R. P. Hallowell, The Quaker Invasion of Massachusetts (1887), and The Pioneer Quakers (1887). Organization and Discipline.—The duty of watching over one another for good was insisted on by the early Friends, and has been embodied in a system of discipline. Its objects embrace (a) admonition to those who fail in the payment of their just debts, or otherwise walk contrary to the standard of Quaker ethics, and the exclusion of obstinate or gross offenders from the body, and, as incident to this, the hearing of appeals from individuals or meetings considering themselves aggrieved; (b) the care and maintenance of the poor and provision for the Christian education of their children, for which purpose the Society has established boarding schools in different parts of the country; (c) the amicable settlement of " all differences about outward things," either by the parties in controversy or by the submission of the dispute to arbitration, and the restraint of all proceedings at law between members except by leave; (d) the " recording " of ministers (see above); (e) the cognizance of all steps preceding marriage according to Quaker forms; (f) the registration of births, deaths and marriages and the admission of members; (g) the issuing of certificates or letters of approval granted to ministers travelling away from their homes, or to members removing from one meeting to another; and (h) the management of the property belonging to the Society. The meetings for business further concern themselves with arrangements for spreading the Quaker doctrine, and for carrying out various religious, philanthropic and social activities not necessarily confined to the Society of Friends. The present organization of the Quaker church is essentially democratic; every person born of Quaker parents is a member, and, Periodic together with those who have been admitted on their own "meet- ofgany request, meeting entitle of d twh }r he ror theibus ainessmemasseber.mblies The inv." Society is organized as a series of subordinated meetings which recall to the mind the Presbyterian model. The " Preparative Meeting " usually consists of a single congregation; next in order comes the " Monthly Meeting," the executive body, usually embracing several Preparative Meetings called together, as its name indicates, monthly (in some cases less often) ; then the " Quarterly Meeting," embracing several Monthly Meetings; and lastly the " Yearly Meeting,' embracing the whole of Great Britain (but not Ireland). After several yearly or " general " meetings had been held in different places at irregular intervals as need arose, the first of an uninterrupted series met in 1668. From that date until 1904 it was held in London. In 1905 it met in Leeds, and in 1908 in Birmingham. Its official title is " London Yearly Meeting." It is the legislative body of Friends in Great Britain. It considers questions of policy, and some of its sittings are conferences for the consideration of reports on religious, philanthropic, educational and social work which is carried on. Its sessions occupy a week in May of each year. Representatives are sent from each inferior to each superior meeting, but they have no precedence over others, and all Friends may attend any meeting and take part in any of which they are members. Formerly the system was double, the men and women meeting separately for their own appointed business. Of late years the meetings have been, for the most part, held jointly, with equal a membership of about 113,789 ; and 402 for women with a member-ship of about 27,000. The movement, which is no longer exclusively under the control of Friends, is rapidly becoming one of the chief means of bringing about a religious fellowship among a class which the organized churches have largely failed to reach. The effect of the work upon the Society itself may be summarized thus: some addition to membership; the creation of a sphere of usefulness for the younger and more active members; a general stirring of interest in social questions.' A strong interest in Sunday schools for children preceded the Adult School movement. The earliest schools which are still existing were formed at Bristol, for boys in 1810 and for girls in the following year. Several isolated efforts were made earlier than this; it is evident that there was a school at Lothersdale near Skipton in 1800 " for the preservation of the youth of both sexes, and for their instruction in useful learning"; and another at Nottingham. Even earlier still were the Sunday and day schools in Rossendale, Lancashire, dating from 1793. At the end of 1909 there were in connexion with the Friends' First-Day School Association 240 schools with 2722 teachers and 25,215 scholars, very few of whom were the children of Friends. Not included in these figures are classes for children of members and " attenders," which are usually held before or during a portion of the time of the morning meeting for worship; in these distinctly denominational teaching is given. Monthly organ, Teachers and Taught. A " orovisional committee " of members of the Society of Friends was formed in 1865 to deal with offers of service in foreign lands. In 1868 this developed into the Friends' Foreign Mission Association, which now undertakes Missionary work in India (begun 1866), Madagascar (1867), Syria (1869), China (1886), Ceylon (1896). In 1909 the number of missionaries (including wives) was 113; organized churches, 194; members and adherents, 21,085; schools, 135; pupils, 7042; hospitals and dispensaries, 17; patients treated, 6865; subscriptions raised from Friends in Great Britain and Ireland, £26,689, besides £3245 received in the fields of work. Quarterly organ, Our Missions. Statistics of Quakerism.—At the close of 1909 there were 18,686 Quakers (the number includes children) in Great Britain; and " associates " and habitual "attenders " not in membership, 8586; number of congregations regularly meeting, 390. Ireland—members, 2528; habitual attenders not in membership, 402. The central offices and reference library of the Society of Friends are situate at Devonshire House, Bishopsgate Without, London. Bibliography.—The writings of the early Friends are very numerous: the most noteworthy are the Journals of George Fox and of Thomas Ellwood, both autobiographies, the Apology and other works of Robert Barclay, and the works of Penn and Penington. Early in the 18th century William Sewel, a Dutch Quaker, wrote a history of the Society and published an English translation; modern (small) histories have been written by T. Edmund Harvey (The Rise of the Quakers) and by Mrs Emmott (The Story of Quakerism). The Sufferings of the Quakers by Joseph Besse (1753) gives a detailed account of the persecution of the early Friends in England and America. An excellent portraiture of early Quakerism is given in William Tanner's Lectures on Friends in Bristol and Somersetshire. The Book of Discipline in its successive printed editions from 1783 to 1906 contains the working rules of the organization, and also a compilation of testimonies borne by the Society at different periods, to important points of Christian truth, and often called forth by the special circumstances of the time. The Inner Life of the Religious Societies of the Commonwealth (London, 1876) by Robert Barclay, a descendant of the Apologist, contains much curious information about the Quakers. See also Quaker " in the index to lS/Iasson's Life of Milton. Joseph Smith's Descriptive Catalogue of Friends' Books (London, 1867) gives the information which its title promises; the same author has also published a catalogue of works hostile to Quakerism. For an exposition of Quakerism on its spiritual side many of the poems by Whittier may be referred to, also Quaker Strongholds and Light Arising by Caroline E. Stephen; The Society of Friends, its Faith and Practice, and other works by John Stephenson Rowntree, A Dynamic Faith and other works by Rufus M. Jones; Authority and the Light Within and other works by Edw. Grubb, and the series of " Swarthmore Lectures " as well as the histories above mentioned. Much valuable information will be found in John Stephenson Rowntree: His Life and Work (1908). The history of the modern forward movement may be studied in Essays and Addresses by John Wilhelm Rowntree, and in Present Day Papers edited by him. The social life of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th is portrayed in Records of a Quaker Family, the Richardsons of Cleveland, by Mrs Boyce, and The Diaries of Edward Pease, the Father of English Railways, edited by Sir A. E. Pease. Other works which may usefully he consulted are the Journals of John Woolman, Stephen Grellet and Elizabeth Fry; also The First Publishers of Truth, a reprint of con-temporary accounts of the rise of Quakerism in various districts. The periodicals issued (not officially) in connexion with the Quaker body are The Friend (weekly), The British Friend (monthly), The ' See A History of the Adult School Movement by J. W. Rowntree and H. B. Binns. The organ of the movement is One and All, published monthly. See also The Adult School Year Book. Friends' Witness, The Friendly Messenger, The Friends' Fellowship Papers, The Friends' Quarterly Examiner, Journal of the Friends' Historical Society. Officially issued : The Book of Meetings and The Friends' Year Book. See also works mentioned at the close of sections on Adult Schools and on Quakerism in America, Scotland and Ireland, and elsewhere in this article; also Fox, GEORGE. (A. N. B.)
End of Article: SOCIETY FRIENDS
[back]
FRIEDRICHSRUH
[next]
SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.