Although Quakers can worship anywhere, we are usually organised into Local Meetings, which are grouped geographically into Area Meetings. Abingdon Local Quaker Meeting is part of Oxford & Swindon Area Meeting, which in turn connects us to our national body, Britain Yearly Meeting.
Abingdon Meeting was established in 1668, and a Meeting House was built in The Vineyard in 1700. Sadly, the Meeting declined in the early 20th century, and the disused Meeting House was sold and demolished in the 1960s. The housing development that now stands on the site is named Quakers Court to reflect its history.
The Meeting itself was revived in the late 1970s by a group of Friends who were resident in the Abingdon area and worshipped in nearby Meetings. In 1980 it was fully reinstated as a Preparative Meeting (‘Preparative’ was the term formerly used for Local Meetings). Without a Meeting House of our own, we have worshipped in a number of community buildings over the years. The locations of our current venues are given on the Contact & Find Us page.
How the Meeting is organised
Since Quakers have no priest or minister to lead a congregation of worshippers, everyone in the Meeting contributes to the way we worship. Even so, it’s important to ensure that the needs of individuals and the community are met, and this is the role of our Spiritual and Pastoral Care Group (SPCG). The group comprises roughly seven members of the Meeting, each of whom serves for a three-year period. Members of SPCG also take it in turn to open each Meeting for Worship and bring it to a close at the end.
Abingdon Meeting also has a very small library of books on Quaker history and spirituality for loan. [Information on how to access the catalogue and borrow a book will follow in due course.]
Quakers’ commitment to equality means that decisions about the running of the Meeting are made collectively at our business meetings, held every two months. The official title of these meetings is ‘Meeting for Worship for Business,’ which reflects the principle that the decisions taken, and the discussions that precede them, should take place in a spirit of worship.
Like all Local Meetings, Abingdon Quakers appoint a Clerk, who serves for three years and looks after administrative matters relating to the Meeting. The Clerk’s duties include dealing with correspondence, preparing the agenda for business meetings, guiding the meeting through the items of business and circulating the minutes afterwards.
There is no voting at a Quaker business meeting: instead, it is the responsibility of the Clerk to discern ‘the sense of the meeting’ in relation to each agenda item and prepare a written minute of the of the outcome.
Running a Quaker Meeting depends on contributions by a number of other Friends, whether as committee members or as individuals. Other roles in Abingdon Meeting include:
- Children’s Committee (which organises Children’s Meeting)
- Newsletter editor
- Advisers on funerals
- Representatives on Area Meeting bodies
- Representatives on the Governing Body of Church in Abingdon, an inter-denominational body comprising local Christian organisations
- Correspondent for Quaker Peace & Social Witness
Post-holders are generally appointed for a three-year term in the first instance. The Meeting’s Nominations Committee identifies suitable individuals and presents their names for acceptance at the November business meeting. New and renewed appointments take effect on the following 1st January.
Informal groups within the Meeting
In addition to the formally appointed committees, a number of informal groups flourish within Abingdon Meeting. Three separate groups meet monthly at different times of the week to read and discuss works relating to Quakerism or spirituality in general. A group was set up in 2021 to explore ways in which we can become an anti-racist Meeting. And, in a more literary vein, a number of poetry enthusiasts meet monthly to share their favourite poems on a wide range of topics; one poem is selected (following true Quakerly methods!) for sharing in the Meeting’s monthly newsletter.