An Introduction to Liverpool Quakers

Who are we?

We are a group of worshippers who feel that we belong together, with beliefs based on a shared Christian heritage. Our official name is The Religious Society of Friends, but the nickname, Quakers, given with derisive intent by a judge in 1650, has been used at least as much as the term Friends.

How do we worship?

We "wait in the Light" (an old Quaker phrase), in silent worship, stilling the stream of everyday thoughts. You are welcome to come to our Meetings; just enter and sit down quietly in any seat. No priest or minister directs the process, but it is not individual meditation. From time to time, someone may speak. This we call ministry. It comes from the heart and is not prepared in advance; by custom, it is unusual for an individual to minister more than once in a Meeting. When the elders shake hands, Meeting is ended.

We do not distinguish between a clergy and a laity; no one is ordained. Everyone contributes to the conduct of the Meeting. We do not celebrate the outward symbols of baptism, holy communion or other sacraments. We feel that they can actually come between us and the presence of God. Every situation contains the seeds of the sacramental.

Each person has the capability to respond to the leadings of God. We call this the inner light, and this is at the heart of our faith. Our goal is to strengthen this light within ourselves, and in the hearts of others. In doing this "the evil is weakened, and the good raised up".

Quakers see the scriptures as the product of the light rather than its source.

Faith in action?

If God is directly accessible to all persons - if every person is held equal in God's love and has equal potential to be a channel for the revelation of God's truth - then all persons are to be equally valued. This belief has both led Quakers to reject violence as a solution to human problems, as expressed in the historic Peace Testimony; and resulted in our faith leading to individual and corporate social action in fields as wide as penal reform, mental health and housing. Quakers work for the equality and acceptance of all people who face discrimination in society.

How do we decide things?

As we believe that everyone is capable of receiving divine inspiration, so all members can be involved in decision making. Our meetings for church affairs are held in the spirit of worship; an argumentative style would be out of place. Members speak to the matter under discussion. The Clerk listens to the sense of the Meeting, and when it seems right offers a minute to the Meeting. The wording of the minute is then accepted or amended. If the Meeting cannot agree, no decision is taken. There is no vote.

Quakers in Liverpool

In the turmoil of the English Civil War, a conviction grew in the hearts of many that a new religious movement was needed outside the power structure of the established church, which was seen as corrupt. In 1654 Thomas Holme, a Kendal weaver, brought the Quaker message to Huyton. The response was immediate, and when George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, passed through in 1657 a regular meeting already existed in Knowsley.

The first purpose-built Meeting House was erected in Hackins Hey about 1709. The building in Paradise Street was opened in 1982. It was the subject of compulsory purchase, which Friends resisted on the grounds that to destroy such a building was a great waste. It was finally vacated in the fifth month of 2006, when the Meeting transferred to the newly-built premises in School Lane, which were provided as "equivalent reinstatement".

Friends played a considerable part in the development of Liverpool. Several generations of the Rathbone family were merchants, prominent in the movement to abolish the slave trade. John Rutter founded the Medical Institution in Mount Pleasant, and was co-founder of the Liverpool Botanical Gardens. James Cropper was part owner of the SS Bengal, the first ship to sail from Liverpool for India after the ending of the East India Company monopoly. Leather traders, grocers, clockmakers, millers, bankers... in these and many other roles Friends have contributed to the life of the city, quietly witnessing in their lives at the prompting of their inner light.

Maintained by Simon Grant for the Liverpool Preparative Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.
last updated 2006-05-19