Quakers in Southeastern Yearly Meeting
Southeastern Yearly Meeting is a community of 25 unprogrammed Quaker Meetings and Worship Groups in Florida, coastal Georgia and South Carolina, and Managua, Nicaragua. We are mostly known as Quakers, but also simply as ‘Friends.’
You are welcome at any of our Meetings or Worship Groups! We are a diverse and inclusive community of people who support each other on our spiritual journeys and work for positive change in the world.
At the heart of the Quaker faith is the personal experience of an inward teacher, or Inner Light—the source of spiritual growth, guidance and transformation that is present in all people, regardless of religion or culture. ‘That of God in everyone’ is a phrase often used by Friends. Relying on the experience and guidance of the Spirit, writings from earlier generations of Friends and various faith traditions, we actively avoid imposing a shared set of beliefs or creeds on anyone. The Quaker Faith is a way of life in the Spirit, tested and guided by those who have come before us. Our understanding of our faith is always open and evolving, always contemporary.
SEYM is in the unprogrammed, or ‘liberal’ branch of Quakers. All are ministers—offering each other spiritual support, sharing in the silence and vocal ministry in worship, and participating in the work of the meeting. We all help each other and work to build a loving community.
Our Meetings for Worship are based in silence— an expectant waiting for the presence of the Spirit, a stillness where each can listen to the Light within. In this way of worship, the need for ritual, sermon, or music falls away, replaced by the experience of the Light.
Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Sustainability are our central testimonies: a way of life, in the Light, and a call to action to work for a culture of peace, justice, and care for the Earth.
- SEYM Faith & Practice, Chapter 4
At the heart of the Quaker faith is the personal experience of an inward teacher, or Inner Light—the source of spiritual growth, guidance and transformation that is present in all people, regardless of religion or culture. ‘That of God in everyone’ is a phrase often used by Friends.
For Quakers, faith is about what you do & how you live.
Our faith is a way of life in the Spirit:
- a spirituality of listening to the inner light.
- a Meeting for Worship based in silence, where we let go of the busy-ness of our lives and listen to the inner teacher.
- a set of practices that support spiritual growth, inclusive community, and group decision-making in an organization with no hierarchy.
- Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Sustainability— our central testimonies— ways of living and action that flow naturally from listening to the spirit.
Quaker spirituality is about listening to the Inner Light, both inwardly and as we recognize and see it in other people.
Being still: the practice of setting aside desires, ambitions, and other busy-ness that distracts us from listening to the light within ourselves and keeps us from seeing the light in others.
Recognizing the Light: discerning whether an insight is a true leading of the spirit, or just a product of our own ego or imagination. Authentic spiritual experience bears good fruit, transforming us & bringing us into deeper connections with ourselves, each other, and the world.
Following the inner guide: trying to listen to the Spirit in all that we do — in our everyday lives as well as in Meeting for Worship— and seeking guidance as a community in our Meetings for Business.
Quaker Spirituality: Selected Writings, Harper Collins Spiritual Classics
“Worship is our response to what we feel to be of ultimate importance. Worship is always possible, alone or in company, in silence, in music or speech, in stillness or in dance. It is never confined to place or time or form, and it is open to everyone.”
“There is a renewal of spirit when we turn away from worldly matters to rediscover inward serenity. ”
—SEYM Faith & Practice, pp. 18 -22
Meeting for Worship is an hour of silence where we take time out to listen to the inner guide, the Light within. There is no program, sermon, or ritual. At first it may seem that nothing is going on at all, but this is really an active form of worship where all are equal participants in the community.
Meeting begins as we quietly take our seats and ‘center down’ in silence, letting go of the busy thoughts that usually fill our attention. In the stillness, we seek deeper awareness of the life of spirit within. Some thoughts that arise will be distractions that can be set aside. Other thoughts, questions, or feelings come from a deeper source and can lead us in listening for clarity, guidance and peace.
Sometimes someone may feel led to stand and share a message with the group. These short, spoken phrases or stories are not an intellectual exercise, but are meant to arise from leadings of the Spirit. We listen with open minds, then return to the silence without responding.
Whether the meeting has spoken messages or is completely silent, in the stillness and depth we experience connection with the group and with the Spirit, Light, Source, God…Though each of us may use different language or names for the experience of the sacred, we are united in finding spiritual renewal, guidance, and support in our worship together as a community.
Meeting closes after an hour when an assigned person shakes hands with their neighbor. Then we all do the same.
You are invited to stay for coffee and conversation!
QuakerSpeak Videos: www.quakerspeak.com
- What to Expect in Quaker Meeting for Worship
- Quaker Worship: The Challenge of Sitting in Silence
- Quaker Worship: Giving Vocal Ministry
- Quaker Worship: The Gathered Meeting
- Quaker Silence
- The Four Doors to Meeting for Worship, FGC, from the pamphlet by William Taber
- SEYM Faith & Practice, pp. 18-26
“True godliness doesn’t turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavours to mend it.”
—William Penn (1644-1718)
Quaker Testimonies are ways of living, actions, or activism arising out of Friends’ spiritual experience and leadings.
Testimonies are not ethics or ideals; but rather ways the Spirit leads us, as individuals and as Meeting communities, to live in harmony with each other and the Earth; and to speak out against injustices and violence in the world. Our testimonies are a witness to the new social order of peace, equality, and care for the Earth that Spirit intends for us, and a call to take action to bring this new order into the world.
Quakers today unite the central testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, & Sustainability.
“We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretense whatever; this is our testimony to the whole world.”
—Declaration to King Charles II, 1661
Quakers are probably best known for being one of three ‘Peace Churches,’ and for being pacifists: taking stands against wars, counseling conscientious objectors, and working for reconciliation.
“Quakers are the only religion so far to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. It was awarded to Friends worldwide in 1947, recognizing three centuries of Quaker efforts to heal rifts and oppose war, and especially recognizing Quaker relief work in Europe following the two world wars. Representative of American Friends Service Committee and British Friends Service Council accepted the prize on behalf of all Friends.”
Today Friends are engaged in peacemaking many ways. The American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Quaker United Nations Office, Friends Peace Teams, and Quaker House are just a few of the Quaker organizations working for peace. Friends also work for peace and social justice in their local communities.
Practicing Peace includes:
- living in ‘the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars.’
- living in cooperation— not competition—with others, and resolving our differences without physical or emotional violence.
- ‘Waging Peace:’ Peace is not avoiding conflict, but rather involves building a culture of justice and reconciliation, and using non-violent struggle to effect social change.
- preventing and resolving conflicts between people and nations by seeking justice and healing for all involved.
Visit our Peace & Social Concerns page
A life of simplicity is one focused on who and what one truly cares about. It is being mindful of how one spends time, energy and resources so one may live a spiritually refreshing and meaningful life. It is a life uncluttered with distractions of too many material things or too many demands on our time.
“Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center—a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It takes no time but occupies all our time.” —-Thomas Kelley, 1941
Practicing Simplicity is:
- valuing one’s spiritual life and relationships as central
- using only what you need; not cluttering one’s life with material things and commitments
- being mindful of ways that luxuries and consumer goods are rooted in the exploitation of people and the earth
- using one’s resources, money and time in ways that are most likely to make life better for oneself and others
“Simplicity, when it removes encumbering details, makes for beauty in music, in art and in living. It clears the Spring of life and permits wholesome mirth and gladness to bubble up; it cleans the windows of life and lets joy radiate.”
—Faith & Practice, Philadelphia YM, 1955
“May we look upon our treasure, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try to discover whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions.”
—John Woolman (1720-1772)
Plain Living, A Quaker Path to Simplicity, by Catherine Whitmire
The testimony of Equality is grounded in the recognition that there is that of God in everyone. Each person is due equal respect, regardless of distinctions in class, race, gender, sexual orientation, social status, age or physical attributes. Friends were among the first to campaign for women’s rights. They became leaders in the anti-slavery movement. Today we are most concerned with racism, political and economic inequities, and civil rights for all regardless of sexual orientation.
Our Meetings and Yearly Meetings are non-hierarchical and decentralized. There are no positions of authority; responsibility is shared by all. We practice group decision-making, where everyone is equally respected and listened to.
Equality is about:
- treating everyone, everywhere, as equally precious , with unconditional compassion and regard for all;
- recognizing that everyone has inner light and gifts to share
- recognizing that all forms of oppression— prejudice, social caste, privilege and exploitation—- are antithetical to the Spirit and to humanity.
- working to change attitudes and practices that perpetuate discrimination.
- working for social, political and economic justice for the disenfranchised and the poor.
Visit the SEYM Ministry on Racism page
“Quakers & the Rights of Women,” Quakers in Britain
“Quaker Activism,” PBS History Detectives
The testimony of Integrity is central to the Quaker way. It is when one’s outward life & actions are true to one’s feelings and Inner Guide. Being honest with ourselves and others is the most visible part of integrity; on a deeper level, it is about becoming authentic and whole human beings.
Living with Integrity is:
- telling the truth.
- seeking the truth in all situations.
- acting on our convictions, being true to our guide.
- doing what we say we will do.
- becoming authentic and whole human beings.
The Testimony of Integrity, by Wilmer Cooper, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #296
“God guides us to a place of empathy, care, and joy in each other’s company. Fellowship in the Spirit has a distinctive liveliness, openness, mutuality, and ease.” —SEYM Faith & Practice, p.
The experience of the Light within invites us to live in harmony and connection with each other. The Quaker meeting is meant to be a ‘blessed community’—a living testimony to a social order that embodies God’s peace, justice, compassion, and joy in life and in our relationships.
Living in Community is:
- experiencing a spiritual belonging and friendship with others.
- respecting & listening to others.
- supporting one another in our faith journeys, in joys and sorrows.
- building good relationships, caring for others and accepting their help.
- working together on our shared concerns & testimonies
- seeking unity in our decision-making
Friends feel a strong spiritual connection with Nature, and see all creation as sacred. We are deeply concerned about Climate Change and finding ways to reduce mankind’s destruction of the environment. The challenge of climate change and living sustainably has at its root a spiritual issue: can humankind come to value all life over wealth and economic growth?
- understanding the interdependence of all life.
- reducing consumption of the earth’s resources to a level that preserves the environment for future generations, protects ecosystems and the future diversity of life on the planet.
- working for policies, economics, and a culture that values and protects the environment.
- Visit our Earthcare News page
- Quaker Earthcare Witness : Seeking emerging insights into right relationship with Earth and unity with nature.
- Earth Quaker Action Team: building a just & sustainable economy through nonviolent direct action
QuakerSpeak Video: Quakers Talk to Congress About Climate Change
A Brief History of SEYM
On 4/12/1963 Southeastern Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends met for the first full session of their new Yearly Meeting for the first time. Their 1962 Conference minutes read in part, “Seven Meetings of the Southeastern Friends Conference having indicated by official Minutes their desire to assume Yearly Meeting status, the Planning Committee recommends that these Meetings now consider themselves the Southeastern Yearly Meeting [of the Religious Society] of Friends…”
These seven Monthly Meetings were: Augusta, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, and St. Petersburg. J. Barnard Walton (Friends General Conference, 1915-1963) had been instrumental in shepherding the Conference from its inception in 1950 to this conclusion. In recognition of his support, it was decided to name the annual Saturday night lecture series, The Walton Lecture.
The birthing of SEYM was unique in Quakerism with its individuals having been members in three of the east coast’s Quaker traditions: FGC, FUM, and Conservative. By 1970, SEYM decided to formally acknowledge the organizations that had supported its meetings: FGC, FUM and FWCC.
After careful consideration, holiday weekends were selected for formal and informal gatherings to allow early Friends from SEYM’s wide geographical area to attend as many meetings as possible. Easter week was selected for Yearly Meeting and the Walton Lecture. Later, Martin Luther King weekend was chosen for Winter Representative Meeting and the Michener Lecture, and Thanksgiving weekend for Half Yearly Meeting.
SEYM Meetings continue to grow and wane as population centers evolve. At the turn of the century, twenty-five meetings are affiliated with or have a relationship with SEYM. These meetings in alphabetical order are: Augusta Monthly Meeting, Brandon Worship Group, Charleston Monthly Meeting, Clearwater Monthly Meeting, Deland Worship Group, Ft. Lauderdale Monthly Meeting, Ft. Myers Monthly Meeting, Gainesville Monthly Meeting, Golden Isle Worship Group, Halifax Meeting, Jacksonville Monthly Meeting, Key West Worship Group, Lake Wales Worship Group, Managua Worship Group, Miami Monthly Meeting, Ocala Meeting, Orlando Monthly Meeting, Palm Beach Monthly Meeting, Sarasota Monthly Meeting, Space Coast Monthly Meeting, St. Petersburg Monthly Meeting, Stuart Worship Group, Tallahassee Monthly Meeting, Tampa Monthly Meeting, and Winter Park Monthly Meeting.
SEYM is noted for its social concerns including assisting in the founding and support of ProNica, the Cuban Quaker Project, and Amigos Construction.