Orange County Friends Meeting
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Costa Mesa, California

Branches: varieties of Quaker belief and practice

Anyone who looks at the Society of Friends in the United States today will notice two quite different worship styles.

An unprogrammed Meeting for Worship waits in silence for God's voice, and for a feeling of spiritual unity with others. All who attend are listeners. Any listener may become a minister, and rise to speak. Such speaking is called "vocal ministry," but the silence is a form of ministry too. There is no single "leader," no order of service, no readings, no hymn singing (although sometimes someone will feel called to sing), no prepared sermon.

A programmed meeting is lead by a minister, elder or pastor, follows a set order, and contains elements found in  many Christian Protestant services, such as readings, singing and prepared sermons. More often called a service than a meeting, Quaker programmed services sometimes include a period of silent worship.

In England, where Quakerism began, all Quaker meetings are unprogrammed. In many other parts of the world, Africa in particular, most (all?) meetings are programmed. More Quakers in the world today attend programmed meetings than the other.

Outward differences in worship style mirror inward differences in belief and religious practice. Programmed meetings tend to profess an evangelical, Christ-centered message based on an infallible Bible; unprogrammed meetings tend away from these things. Unprogrammed meetings are often called liberal, unprogrammed conservative. This is probably a fair characterization if you're willing to overlook a lot of details, but is probably a mistake. The issue is complex.

Orange County Friends Meeting is an unprogrammed meeting. Most of the material on this website reflects the point of view the so-called liberal branch of the Society. 

View a Quaker Speak video

There are two forms of Quaker worship, programmed, and unprogrammed. This video speaks to the differences between these two forms.