Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, hold beliefs that range from very liberal to conservative, depending on the branch of the religion. Some Quaker services consist of silent meditation only, while others resemble Protestant services.
Baptism - Most Quakers believe that how a person lives their life is a sacrament, and that formal observances are not necessary. Quakers hold that baptism is an inward, not outward, act.
Bible - Quakers' beliefs stress individual revelation, but the Bible is truth. All personal light must be held up to the Bible for confirmation. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the Bible, does not contradict Himself.
Communion - Spiritual communion with God, experienced during silent meditation, is one of the common Quakers beliefs.
Heaven, Hell - Quakers believe that God's kingdom is now, and consider heaven and hell issues for individual interpretation. Liberal Quakers hold that the question of the afterlife is a matter of speculation.
Jesus Christ - While Quakers beliefs say that God is revealed in Jesus Christ, most Friends are more concerned with emulating Jesus' life and obeying his commands than with the theology of salvation.
Sin - Unlike other Christian denominations, Quakers believe that humans are inherently good. Sin exists, but even the fallen are children of God, Who works to kindle the Light within them.
Trinity - Friends believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, although belief in the roles each Person plays vary widely among Quakers.
Practices of Quakers
Sacraments - Quakers do not practice a ritual baptism but believe that life, when lived in the example of Jesus Christ, is a sacrament. Similarly, to the Quaker, silent meditation, seeking revelation directly from God, is their form of communion.
Quaker Worship Services
Friends meetings may differ considerably, based on whether the individual group is liberal or conservative. Basically, two types of meetings exist. Unprogrammed meetings consist of silent meditation, with expectant waiting upon the Holy Spirit. Individuals may speak if they feel led. This type of meditation is one variety of mysticism. Programmed, or pastoral meetings, can be much like an evangelical Protestant worship service, with prayer, readings from the Bible, hymns, music, and a sermon. Some branches of Quakerism have pastors, others do not.
Quakers often sit in a circle or square, so people can see and be aware of each other, but no single person is raised in status above the others. Early Quakers called their buildings steeple-houses or meeting houses, not churches.
Some Friends describe their faith as an "Alternative Christianity," which relies heavily on personal communion and revelation from God rather than adherence to a creed and doctrinal beliefs.
To learn more about Quakers beliefs, visit the official Religious Society of Friends Website.
(Sources: Quaker.org, fum.org, quakerinfo.org, ReligiousTolerance.org, and Religions of America, edited by Leo Rosten.)