FAQ for newcomers

Important Info For Newcomers — You Are Welcome here

“What kind of church is GMM?”

Germantown Monthly Meeting (GMM) of the Religious Society of Friends is a large, urban Quaker meeting, diverse in many ways, and we welcome visitors throughout the year.

GMM is an unprogrammed Meeting where we worship by gathering and silently waiting for the Spirit to guide us. We celebrate diversity and welcome people from all walks of life. We are a welcoming and affirming congregation for LGBTQ people. We are also involved in various activities to further peace and social justice.

“What can I expect?”

  • There are some brief videos about Quaker Worship you can watch for more information.
  • Quakers practice silent prayer as our primary form of worship and way of listening to God.
  • When you arrive in the worship room, take a seat, get comfortable, and settle into prayer, meditation, or quite contemplation.
  • Often times, individuals will feel moved to stand and share an insight they experienced during worship.
  • Worship is over when folks turn to one another and start shaking hands.

“How should I dress?”

  • Dress how you feel most comfortable according to local weather conditions.
  • Please avoid wearing strong perfume or scents so as to not distract others during worship.

“What is unprogrammed worship?”

Watch these brief videos for a better understanding of what to expect from unprogrammed worship. In these videos you will hear from actual Quakers their own thoughts and perspectives on worship.

You will find that the early part of Meeting is often silent, as we put aside our daily concerns, center and open ourselves to the Spirit. We gather together in silent worship to wait on the Spirit to inspire us:

  • Worship begins when the first person enters and centers down in the silence.
  • We meet each other in a friendly atmosphere in which anyone who feels strongly led by the Spirit to speak may do so; unprogrammed Friends meetings do not rely on paid clergy or sacramental rituals:
  • Our worship frequently includes spoken messages, and may also include song or movement.
  • We ask Friends to wait a few minutes after someone has spoken before offering another message.
  • It is our usual custom that an individual will only speak once in meeting for worship.
  • At the close of our time together, a member of the meeting sitting on one of the facing benches who has been appointed to care for that morning’s worship will shake hands with a person sitting nearby, signaling the close of meeting for worship.
  • All present then are welcome to greet one another with a handshake and friendly words.
  • The meeting closer will then ask those who have come for the first time or are back from a long absence to introduce themselves. This is followed by a short period when newcomers are asked to introduce themselves and announcements are made.

“Where’s the minister?”

  • As in many Friends Meetings, we have no paid minister.
  • We share responsibility for the vocal messages, or “ministry”, for the affairs of the Meeting, and for care of each other.
  • If you have questions about the Meeting for Worship or the vocal ministry, ask the person making the announcements at the close of worship or anyone at the Welcome Table.

“If there is no minister, who is supposed to speak?”

  • All present should be open to the Spirit and may be moved to offer a ministry.
  • There are times when no one is moved to speak, times when many messages are offered, and others when ministry may include song or movement.
  • It should be remembered that all ministries should originate with the Spirit; this is not a time for debate or discussion.
  • If a message is offered that does not speak to your condition, it may be meant for another so let it pass.
  • If you are moved to offer a message, please allow some time to pass after a previous message (we recommend at least 2-3 minutes).
  • In this way, all messages can be given the respect they deserve.

“Where do I sit?”

  • Sit where you like; it’s open seating.
  • You may like to know that many of the most actively involved Members of the meeting typically sit near the front or in the facing benches.
  • There can be some difficulty hearing spoken ministry during worship because the Meeting Room’s acoustics are poor.
  • It is recommended to sit in the center of the room, stand when giving a message, and speak slowly, loudly and clearly.

“What if I show up late?”

If you arrive after meeting has started please enter quietly and wait near the door until anyone who is offering a message has finished before taking a seat.

“What if I need special accommodation?”

  • Accessibility is provided by our ramped front entrance at the northeast vestibule just across from the Commons are parking and the School.
  • There is a wheelchair accessible bathroom in the northeast vestibule.
  • Because acoustics in our meeting room are challenging, we encourage everyone to sit towards the center of the room, and speak slowly, loudly, and clearly.
  • Electronic headsets are available to assist with hearing during Meeting for Worship.

“Why is it called a Monthly Meeting?”

  • Once a month, usually on the second Sunday of the month, we hold a “meeting for worship with attention to business” to carry out our business affairs.
  • The Business Meeting also begins in a spirit of expectant waiting on divine guidance.
  • You are warmly invited to visit Meeting for Business. Please inform the Clerk of the Meeting that you are planning to attend so that you may be introduced.

“Is there a book that explains Quakerism?”

  • There is no one single book, since Quakers are diverse in both practice and belief.
  • Helpful titles include: The Quaker Way, Letters to a Fellow Seeker, Silence and Witness.
  • More information can be found in Friends General Conference’s Essential Reading for Newcomers resource.
  • An essential starting point is Faith and Practice published by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
  • Read Faith and Practice online.
  • Extracts from the Writings of Friends.
  • Queries (questions asked with the intent to seek truth and guidance)
  • The Library is open nearly every Sunday after Meeting for Worship.
  • A wide variety of books is available.
  • If you would like help in selecting useful literature, please ask the Clerk of the Outreach Committee, or any other member of the Meeting.

“What is the difference between an Attender and a Member?”

Attenders…

  • Regularly come to Meeting for Worship and offer spoken messages when they feel inspired.
  • Volunteer with some of the work of the Meeting like helping in the kitchens or working with a committee of interest to them.
  • Occasionally come to the Monthly Meeting for Business to listen and ask questions about the business of the Meeting.
  • Seek guidance or mentoring on Quakerism from Members of the Meeting.
  • Offer donations for the yearly fundraising campaign to help cover the Meeting’s operating expenses.

Members…

  • Members have accepted an additional commitment and responsibility to the Meeting community and routinely provide care and support to Attenders and other Members.
  • Consistently attend Meeting for Worship and offer spoken messages when they feel inspired.
  • Actively volunteer with the work of the Meeting and may serve on multiple committees.
  • Volunteer to sit on Clearness Committees to consider important subjects of consideration such as the approval of memberships, taking marriages under the care of the Meeting, and other topics as well.
  • Consistently attend the Monthly Meeting for Business and actively contribute to the long-term administration of the Meeting.
  • Provide guidance or mentoring to one another and Attenders of the Meeting.
  • Consistently make financial contributions according to what their financial circumstances allow to cover the costs of the Meeting.
  • For more information about what it means to be a Member, please read this statement on membership.
  • Strictly speaking, members who attend Meeting often are “attenders”, though we use that term for non-members who attend Meeting. Although many of our members live far from Germantown, we welcome them warmly when they return.

“Do I have to become a Member?”

  • You are under no obligation to join the Meeting as a Member.
  • Attenders will always be welcome at our Meeting, and we encourage you to become involved with the Meeting to learn more about us.
  • We encourage you to follow your heart in this matter.

“What is a Clearness Committee?”

  • A Clearness Committee is a tool for discernment which comes out of our early Quaker tradition.
  • When a Member or Attender feels a strong leading of the Spirit or call to do work in the world, they have the option of requesting that the Meeting appoint a Clearness Committee.
  • The Clearness Committee is composed of Members who will carefully listen to you and ask questions to help you reflect on your calling.
  • The Committee’s job is to help facilitate your own understanding of your calling from a place of worship, openness, and trust.
  • Examples of when a Clearness Committee is requested may include:
    Contemplating a major life decision such as selecting a college, getting married, switching jobs.
  • A call to ministry such as working for peace and justice, prison ministry, traveling among meetings with a ministry of listening, etc.
  • Reflection on a deeply philosophical or theological idea you have had where deeper understanding would help you grow as a spiritual person.
  • The Meeting may also appoint a Clearness Committee to research an issue for the entire Meeting such as:
  • What stance the Meeting should take on a political issue.
  • A change in policy or procedure.
  • What action should be taken on a larger social issue.
  • You can read an official explanation of what a Clearness Committee is in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice.

From our beginnings, Quakers have believed that anyone who recognizes that of God (or the divine or the eternal) in themselves and others and tries to live their lives in that light is a Friend. By attending meeting for worship and participating regularly, you become part of the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting community and are referred to as an “attender.” When you feel clear in your heart that you are a Quaker and want to commit yourself formally to the Meeting, you ask to become a member, meet with a clearness committee and, when “cleared”, are recorded as a “member” not only of the meeting but to the Religious Society of Friends. Some of our community’s most active participants have remained attenders. Others knew the first day they came to meeting and became members soon thereafter.

Whether or not you are thinking about membership, once you have attended meeting for worship for a while you can look around for other meeting activities besides meeting for worship:

  • Partaking of hospitality after meeting for worship
  • Showing up for a workday in or outside the building
  • Getting involved with the work of a committee
  • Attending Monthly Meeting for Business (second Sundays from September through June)

“If I feel ready, how do I become a Member?”

  • In order to make an informed decision, you can read this statement on membership.
  • The decision to join a Quaker Meeting is a joyous one, but also means a serious commitment.
  • To help you make this decision, you would request the Meeting to appoint a Clearness Committee to help you think through this decision.
  • The Clearness Committee will never pressure you into joining the meeting. They are there to act as a sounding board to help you reflect on your sense of clarity to become a member of the meeting.

The formal membership process works like this:

  • You write a letter to the clerk of the meeting, explaining why you want to become a member of the Meeting.
  • Your application for membership may include an application for your child(ren) as associate member(s).
  • The clerk forwards your letter to the Care & Visiting Committee. This committee considers your letter, and usually identifies a Clearness Committee of three people to meet with you one or more times to explore your request for membership. We want you to be clear about what you are signing up for, and we want to be clear that you have a sense of how you will contribute to the life of the community as a member.
  • There is an expectation that you will contribute financially to the extent you are able, either at one time or spread out over the year. When you join the Meeting, you must give up membership in whatever religion you may previously have been practicing.
  • Once the clearness committee has met with you, it makes a report to Care & Visiting Committee, possibly recommending that Care & Visiting take your request for membership to a business meeting.
  • If the Care & Visiting Committee accepts the clearness committee’s recommendation, it notifies the clerk to place this membership on the agenda for a Monthly Meeting for Business for a first reading.
  • At the Meeting for Business, the person reporting for Care & Counsel reads your letter requesting membership, and makes sure Friends know who you are.
  • After this first reading, you introduce yourself in after-meeting conversations so that Friends will know you when your request for membership is considered at its second reading, the following month.
  • At the following month’s Meeting for Business the request is presented again, and this time, if you are present, you are asked to leave while Friends consider the request.
  • If the business meeting comes to unity on accepting your request for membership, it appoints a welcoming committee to celebrate with you your becoming a member.
  • If the business meeting does not come to unity, it may suggest that you continue to attend and be involved so that more people get to know you.

“How can I get more involved?”

  • Come to an Adult Education program, class or study group.
  • Attend a Business Meeting.
  • There are also potlucks, our annual Christmas Dinner, a Meeting Picnic, and potluck dinners focused on specific issues.
  • Participate in Outreach Committee meetings, Peace and Social Concerns Committee, or any other committee open to attenders, is an especially good way to learn about Friends.

“Is there someone I can ask about the Meeting?”

  • Refreshment hour is held after Meeting every Sunday in the Social Room behind the Meeting Room.
  • It’s a good time to get to know people.
  • Attenders’ packets and other literature are available at the Welcome Table.
  • You can fill out and wear a name tag if you like so that we can know you better.

“Is childcare available?”

  • During the school year we have a Children’s Religious Education program (or First Day School/FDS.)
  • Toddlers and infants enjoy a supervised playroom, and there are classes for older children.
  • You are invited to visit a class anytime.
  • Before their classes, the children usually go to Meeting with their parents for the first 15 minutes.
  • We understand that children will sometimes make noise. We welcome them with loving hearts.
  • GMM takes the safety of children seriously; all First-Day teachers (usually parents of FDS students) must get police clearance to teach.

“Is there parking?”

  • There is free parking on Sunday is available in the Commons area between the Meetinghouse and the School buildings.
  • Additional parking is in the back lot behind around the Meetinghouse.
  • Parking is also available in the GFS Visitor lot off Coulter St (turn to left, before entrance on right to 47 Coulter St Meeting driveway).
  • Free street parking on Coulter and Knox Sts is also a useful option.

“Can I get to the Meeting House on public transportation?”

  • The nearest stops on public transportation (www.septa.org) are:
  • #23 Bus at Germantown Ave. and Coulter St. (1/2 block away)
  • #H & #XH Buses at Greene and Coulter Sts. (1/2 block away)
  • R7 Chestnut Hill East Regional Rail, Germantown Station (approximately 10 minutes walk)
  • R8 Chesnut Hill West Regional Rail, Chelten Ave. Station (approximately 15 minutes walk).
  • You may also use Google’s directions tool for driving, walking, and public transportation.

“How can I make a contribution?”

  • You can give to GMM online, click here to make a gift today!’
  • We don’t have a collection plate but we do appreciate your contributions.
  • You can drop a contribution into the wooden contribution box in the Social Room, leave a contribution envelope at the Meeting Office, or mail it to the Meeting Office.

Modified from FAQ for newcomers on the CPMM website

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