North Branch Friends FAQ
Are you "Quakers," "Friends," or what?
We are the "Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)." We generally refer to one another as "Friends", which conveys our belief in the equality of all people and expresses the style in which we want to interact with others both within and outside our meetings.
Are you part of a larger Quaker community?
Each Quaker monthly meeting, including the North Branch Friends, is autonomous. However, we are also part of the Upper Susquehanna Quarterly Meeting, which is in turn part of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Individually and through these connections, we work cooperatively with Friends General Conference and other Quaker organizations throughout the world.
How long has North Branch Friends been in Northeast Pennsylvania?
Our meeting was founded in 1956, and formed a second worship group in the early 1990's. Historically, Northeastern Pennsylvania was settled by Congregationalists from Connecticut, who in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were antagonistic to Quakers. Thus, this area began to support a Quaker meeting far later than did many other parts of Pennsylvania. You can read more about our meeting's history here.
Do you say "Thee" and "Thou" and all that?
In the 1600's, when the Religious Society of Friends was founded, English speakers used "you" and "your" in a formal context, to indicate the high social status of the person being addressed. Friends and family were addressed with the familiar pronouns "thee" and "thou," which indicated equality of station. Because Quakers believed all people are equal, they generally referred to everyone with these familiar pronouns, refused to doff their hats to nobles, and otherwise rejected social conventions that gave some people more courtesy than other people.
Today, equality remains important to us, but our language has evolved. "Thee" and "thou" do not convey the same message they once did. We generally refer to one another by first names, omitting courtesy titles such as "Ms." or "Dr." However, most Quakers, including those at North Branch Friends, do not routinely use "thee" and "thou" in conversation.
Do you wear funny clothes, like the Quaker Oats guy?
Quakers believe in simplicity, and early Quakers wore what was then simple, practical clothing. They didn't update their wardrobes to follow the fashions of each turning season, and they did not decorate their outfits lavishly. As a result, they became recognizable by their plain, often outdated, clothing.
Modern Quakers still believe in simplicity, but wearing clothing like that worn three centuries ago is, for most of us, not a choice that supports simplicity. Many of us choose to buy clothing at thrift stores; others shop differently. When we work in offices, health care professions, or construction sites, we generally dress appropriately for our jobs. At meeting, Friends tend to wear comfortable clothing--often blue jeans--rather than the fancy "church clothes" other groups wear to worship.
Incidentally, Quaker Oats was not founded by Quakers and has nothing to do with the Religious Society of Friends. The company chose a Quaker as their logo because Quakers were associated with wholesomeness, honesty, and simplicity--qualities they wanted consumers to associate with their product.
Are Quakers Christian?
The Religious Society of Friends originated as a Christian community, founded by people who saw their efforts as restoring a primitive Christianity. Their belief in a living, present God who continues to reveal spiritual truth to the living allowed for the development and inclusion of a wide variety of beliefs. Today, many Quakers--and many Quaker meetings--remain clearly and overtly Christian. Among these Christian Quakers can be found almost as wide a variety of specific beliefs as can be found among other Christians. In addition, many modern Quakers integrate their Jewish, Buddhist, Universalist, Pagan, Nontheist, and other backgrounds into their beliefs and practices. We view this diversity of theology as a strength that helps us explore Truth from many different perspectives, and people of all faith backgrounds are welcome at our meetings.
Why do you meet at a school, someone else's church, and all those houses? Why not just one place?
There's a very simple answer to this: we don't own a meeting house of our own. While we're currently working toward buying or building one, we continue to meet in borrowed and rented spaces in the meantime.