London Quakers is the temporary successor to two historical groupings, the Quarterly Meeting and then the General Meeting.
There used to be Quarterly and General Meetings for every region in England, Scotland and Wales. In London’s case these were called London and Middlesex Quarterly Meeting, succeeded in the 1960s by London and Middlesex General Meeting, which ended in June 2007.
London and Middlesex Quarterly Meeting
To understand Quarterly Meetings it may help to explain Quaker decision making.
Quaker Business Meetings run in a way which tries to bring out the equality of all participants, even though this can make them slow going. They involve a Meeting for Worship into which reports and decisions are introduced. There is no Chair-person and no voting. Instead the Clerk listens to what anyone in the Meeting has to say on a subject and drafts a Minute (record of what was said) for the Meeting to revise, accept or reject.
There are decision-making Meetings at local, Area (a grouping of around half a dozen local Meetings) and national level. The higher the level, the less often the grouping meets: hence national-level meeting is called Yearly Meeting, and Area-level meeting used to be called Monthly Meeting. When an issue has to be passed on to a Meeting covering a wider geographical area for its consideration, that is done by forwarding the Minute to the Clerk of the wider Meeting.
Quarterly Meeting was a level between Monthly Meeting and Yearly Meeting. Minutes were passed on to it from Monthly Meetings and it passed Minutes on to Yearly Meeting (for the rest of the year Quarterly Meeting Minutes went to Meeting for Sufferings, the national representative committee for British Quakers).
Quarterly Meetings also conducted local business: London and Middlesex Quarterly Meeting owned and provided governors for Friends’ School Saffron Walden, for example (the school was originally located in Clerkenwell and later in Croydon).
London and Middlesex General Meeting
With so many levels for passing on issues the process was felt sometimes to be longwinded and in the 1960s Quarterly Meetings were taken out of the decision making chain. They were renamed General Meetings and had most, but not all, of their business functions taken away from them.
They became places where Quakers across a region could debate issues of great interest.
London and Middlesex General Meeting continued its Quarterly Meeting’s local business. It also developed an outreach role (letting non-Quakers know about Quakerism).
Since June 2007, as part of RECAST, a widespread process of simplifying Quaker groupings, General Meetings have been made strictly optional: a region can have one if it wants with the remit that it wants.
Other London Quaker history
For very interested historians the Britain Yearly meeting website has a selection of historical sources, including the Friends Historical Society
If your London Quaker meeting has its history on the web and would like a link to it from this page, please contact us.