Frequently Asked Questions

Why are members of the Religious Society of Friends called Quakers?

The term “Quaker” arose in the 17th century as a derogatory description of Friends’ impassioned speech in Meeting for Worship. However, Quakers took the sting out of the term by using it themselves. Many Quakers prefer to call themselves “Friends.”

Why is First Day School not called Sunday School?

Early Friends referred to days of the week by numbers rather than the “pagan” names in general use, which are drawn from Norse mythology. So Sunday was First Day, Monday was Second Day, and so forth. While the use of number names for days of the week has largely died out, the name First Day School remains.

What are the Testimonies?

Friends’ Testimonies express the values that seem to arise frequently when we try to live according to the guidance we receive from the Inward Teacher. They are not rules so much as guides to living in harmony with the Holy Spirit. Some commonly recognized testimonies include peace, integrity, equality, simplicity, community, and care for the earth. (Adapted from the Friends General Conference web site.) Read more about testimonies the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting website. 

What is a Query?

A Query is a question used as a guide to self-examination as we strive to live as God directs us. Some queries are addressed to individuals and some to meetings as a whole. Each yearly meeting and some monthly meetings have their own sets of queries, which address topics that include worship and spiritual nurture, concern for peace and the environment, and the adherence to testimonies such as integrity and simplicity. At Swarthmore Meeting, each Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business begins with the consideration of a query.  Learn more about queries at

This business of monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings is confusing. Help me sort it out.

A monthly meeting is the local meeting to which Friends come each week for worship, religious education, and other activities. Its name comes from the fact that members meet monthly in a Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business.

A quarterly meeting is a small group of monthly meetings whose members gather four times a year for fellowship and worship.

A yearly meeting is a group of quarterly meetings, though monthly meetings usually have direct relationships with their yearly meetings. Yearly meetings provide resources for monthly meetings in areas including pastoral care, spiritual formation, finances, communications, and fellowship activities that connect members of many meetings.

Swarthmore Monthly Meeting is a member of Chester Quarterly Meeting and is one of 103 monthly meetings that comprise Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM).

Don’t Friends call each other “Thee” and “Thou”, rather than “you”?

Early Friends addressed everyone as Thee and Thou at a time when royalty and people of high rank were supposed to be addressed using the plural You. Using Thee and Thou for everyone expressed Friends’ belief that all people are equal before God and possess the spirit of God in equal measure. Now that “you” is used to address everyone, the use of Thee and Thou has largely disappeared.

What is the Quaker position on alcohol and other addictive and mind-altering substances?

Quakers are concerned that overindulgence in addictive and mind altering substances interferes with the ability to listen for the will of God and harms oneself, relationships with others, and the ability to function as a caring and responsible member of the Society of Friends and the broader community. 

Are Quakers related to Shakers?

It’s a common misconception that Quakers and Shakers are the same, or that Shakerism grew out of Quakerism. Shakers were a completely separate group, although some people left Quakerism to become Shakers. Quakers aren’t related to Mennonites, the Brethren, or the Amish, either, although we share with these churches a long-standing opposition to war and active support for conscientious objection to war.

Is that Quaker Oats guy really a Quaker? 

Absolutely not! We’re not related to the University of Pennsylvania mascot or sports teams, either.

Find more FAQs about Quakers on the Friends General Conference website