Britain Yearly Meeting

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The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain
Quaker logo.png
Classification Protestant
Orientation Quaker
Associations Friends World Committee for Consultation
Region England, Scotland, Wales,
Channel Islands, Isle of Man
Founder George Fox
Origin 1660
Fenny Drayton
Separated from Church of England
Congregations 478[1]
Members 22,184 members and attenders[1]
Hospitals 1
Aid organization Quaker Peace and Social Witness
Secondary schools 8 [2]
Other name(s) Britain Yearly Meeting (since 1995)
London Yearly Meeting (until 1995)
Quakers in Britain
Official website

The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, also known as the Britain Yearly Meeting (and, until 1995, the London Yearly Meeting), is a Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It is the national organisation of Quakers living in Britain. Britain Yearly Meeting refers to both the religious gathering and the organisation. "Yearly Meeting" is usually the name given to the annual gathering of British Quakers. Quakers in Britain is the name the organization is commonly known by.


First Quaker meetings in Britain (1654–1672)[edit]

Britain Yearly Meeting, which until 1995 was known as London Yearly Meeting, grew out of various national and regional meetings of Friends in the 1650s and 1660s and has met annually in some form since 1668. The first meeting of Friends from different parts of Britain to be organised was at Balby in Yorkshire in 1656. This consisted of representatives from each Church in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire "to consider of such things as might (in the Truth's behalf) be propounded unto them; and to enquire into the cause and matter of disorder, if any be."[3] The Quaker book of discipline, Quaker Faith and Practice records:

We may think of that at Swannington in 1654 or Balby in 1656 (the postscript to whose lengthy letter of counsel is so much better known than the letter itself) or Skipton the same year, or the general meeting for the whole nation held at Beckerings Park, the Bedfordshire home of John Crook, for three days in May 1658, and attended by several thousand Friends. This in some ways might be considered the first Yearly Meeting were it not for the fact that the 1660s, through persecution and pestilence, saw breaks in annual continuity. The meeting in May 1668 was followed by one at Christmastime, which lasted into 1669, since when the series has been unbroken. It is 1668, therefore, that we have traditionally chosen as the date of establishment of London Yearly Meeting. But many (though not all) of the meetings up to 1677 were select, that is, confined to "publick" (or ministering) Friends: from 1678 they were representative rather than select in character.[4]

Establishment of Yearly Meetings (1672)[edit]

In 1660 was a meeting which was attended by representatives from Friends from the whole of Britain. At this meeting it was decided that an annual "General Assembly of the Brethren" be held in London annually, the first being held in Fifth Month (May) 1661. For various reasons, this meeting was not held every year, although there has been a national annual meeting of some sort in Britain every year since 1668.[3]

At the "General Meeting of Friends for the Nation" in 1672, it was decided that there would be a:

Generall Meeting of friends held in London once a yeare in the week called Whisun week to consist of six friends for the Citty of London, three for the Citty of Bristoll, two for the Towne of Cochester and one or two from each and every of the Counties of England and Wales respectively (sic)

Minutes are preserved from 1672 which record that this meeting was held in 1673, and from 1674-1677 consisted only of recorded ministers. The Yearly Meeting with representatives from each area as described above was restored in 1678, and has met on an annual basis every year since then.[3]

The end of official persecution in England (1689)[edit]

Under James II of England persecution practically ceased.[5] James issued a Declaration of Indulgence in 1687 and 1688, and it was widely held that William Penn had been its author.[6]

In 1689 the Toleration Act was passed. It allowed for freedom of conscience and prevented persecution by making it illegal to disturb anybody else from worship. Thus British Quakerism became tolerated though still not widely understood or accepted and were instead identified in English and Welsh law as a dissenting group.

Yearly Meeting for Women (1784–1907)[edit]

Participation in Yearly Meeting was originally only men. In 1784, a Yearly Meeting for Women was set up, which corresponded with equivalent Yearly Meetings for Women in other countries, and corresponded with the Monthly Meetings for Women and Quarterly Meetings for Women in Britain. In 1898, London Yearly Meeting produced a minute stating that

in future, women Friends are to be recognized as forming a constituent part of all our Meetings for Church Affairs equally with their brethren

and since then women have had an equal right to attend London Yearly Meeting. The Yearly Meeting for Women was laid down in 1907.[3]

Fritchley General Meeting (1868)[edit]

Fritchley Meeting in Derbyshire split off from London Yearly Meeting in 1868 because they felt that London Yearly Meeting was becoming too evangelical in its outlook.[7] They also objected to Friends in London Yearly Meeting stopping the practices of plain speech and plain dress.[7] They therefore established Fritchley General Meeting as a self-proclaimed Yearly Meeting for Conservative Friends in Britain, which existed as a separate Yearly Meeting entirely independent of London Yearly Meeting, until 1968.[8] Friends from Bournbrook in Birmingham also joined with Fritchley Friends for a few years, before emigrating to Saskatchewan in Canada.[7] The separation was healed in 1968 with Fritchley Meeting rejoining London Yearly Meeting. Fritchley Quaker Meeting is now a full member of Britain Yearly Meeting, with a variety of theological outlooks amongst its membership.[9]

Meetings outside London[edit]

In the twentieth century, Yearly Meetings started to be held outside London, namely in Leeds in 1905; in Birmingham in 1908; in Manchester in 1912; in Llandrindrod Wells in 1924; in Scarborough in 1925; in Manchester in 1926; in Bristol in 1937; In York in 1941 and in 1942. in Edinburgh in 1948. In 1945, London Yearly Meeting produced a minute stating that the Yearly Meeting should be held in Eighth Month (August) outside London every four years.[10] These four-yearly meetings, which have become known as "Residential Yearly Meetings" have been held in Exeter in 1986; in Aberdeen in 1989; in Coventry in 1993; in Aberystwyth in 1997; in Exeter in 2001; in York in 2005; in York again in 2009; and in Canterbury in 2011.

London Yearly Meeting in 1994 decided on a change of name to "The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain" in 1994, with the short form being "Britain Yearly Meeting". This name change came into effect at the start of 1995.[11]

Organisational structure[edit]

Britain Yearly Meeting is the name used to refer to both the Yearly Meeting of Quakers and the central organisation of Quakers in Britain, based in Friends House, London. Britain Yearly Meeting is the national organisation of Quakers in Britain. Its membership consists of the members of all Area Quaker Meetings in England, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands. Any member of Britain Yearly Meeting is entitled to attend the Yearly Meeting.

The national work of Quakers in Britain is undertaken by Meeting for Sufferings and four central standing committees. The committees are composed of representatives who correspond with Area Quaker Meetings throughout Britain. Similarly, Area Quaker Meetings are made up of representatives from Local Quaker Meetings, which cover smaller areas. This correspondence and representation means that Quakers in Britain can have unified response on major issues. The central work of Meeting for Sufferings and the standing committees is supported by the staff of Britain Yearly Meeting who work from London,(Friends House), Swarthmoor Hall, and Edinburgh, and Vibrancy teams whose work covers large areas of Britain.

Central committees[edit]

There are committees set up to deal with particular issues, including long running committees consisting of representatives from all over Britain: Meeting for Sufferings, Quaker Life and Quaker Peace and Social Witness.

Meeting for Sufferings[edit]

Meeting for Sufferings is a national representative committee which deals with decisions which need to be made on a national basis for the Yearly Meeting during the year whilst Yearly Meeting is not in session. It has two representatives from each Area Quaker Meeting in England, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The General Meeting for Scotland is a member of the ecumenical organisation Action of Churches Together in Scotland.[12]


Britain Yearly Meeting currently has four national committees who carry out work at a national level on behalf of Friends in Britain. Each have both representative committees of Friends appointed by Yearly Meeting to oversee the work, and a paid secretariat who carry out the day-to-day work of each department:

  • Quaker Life deals with the running of Quaker meetings within Britain, including outreach work within Britain, education and development for Quakers in Britain, activities for children and young people.
  • Quaker Peace and Social Witness deals with Quakers' peace and development work, both in Britain and overseas.
  • Quaker Communications deals with publications, advertising, advocacy, the organising of large Quaker events including Yearly Meeting, committee support, and meeting and donor relationships.
  • Quaker Committee on Christian and Interfaith Relations deals with relationships between Quakers and other Christian and faith groups.

Britain Yearly Meeting assembles and publishes British Friends' Book of Discipline, which since 1995 has been known as Quaker Faith and Practice.

Yearly meeting[edit]

Before 2009, three out of four yearly meetings of BYM were held at Friends House over one of the May bank holiday weekends, and once every four years a week-long Residential Meeting was held in the summer. In a change to this practice, the first Yearly Meeting Gathering (YMG) was held in York in 2009, with the 2010 Yearly Meeting being held at Friends House in London on May. The second YMG was held in Canterbury in 2011. A new three-year rotation has been extablished with Yearly Meetings being held two years running at Friends House, and the third year as a residential YMG.

All types of issues are discussed in the standard fashion of Quaker decision making. Among several lectures over the gathering, one of the highlights is known as the Swarthmore Lecture, relating to issues concerning Quakers. There is also an under 19's programme, with activities tailored to each age group.

Year Date Location
2005 30 July–6 August A residential Yearly Meeting held at the University of York.
2006 26–29 May YM 2006 took place at Friends House in London over the second May Bank Holiday in the UK
2007 4–7 May YM 2007 took place at Friends House in London over the first May Bank Holiday in the UK
2008 23–26 May YM 2008 took place at Friends House in London over the second May Bank Holiday in the UK
2009 25 July–1 August A residential Yearly Meeting Gathering was held at the University of York. For the first time this encompassed Junior Yearly Meeting (JYM) and merged both Yearly Meeting and the scheduled Summer Gathering into Yearly Meeting Gathering, a new biennial event.
2010 28–31 May YM 2010 took place at Friends House in London over the second May Bank Holiday in the UK
2011 30 July–6 August YMG 2011 took place in Canterbury.[13]
2012 25–28 May YM 2012 took place at Friends House in London.
2013 24–27 May YM 2013 took place at Friends House in London over the second May Bank Holiday in the UK
2014 2–9 August YMG 2014 took place at the University of Bath.
2015 1–4 May YM 2015 took place at Friends House in London.
2016 27–30 May YM 2016 took place at Friends House in London.[14]
2017 27 July–5 August YMG 2017 will take place at the University of Warwick.

Events for young Quakers[edit]

Under 19s Programme[edit]

The Under 19s Programme is held during the annual Britain Yearly Meeting and is attended by young Quakers aged 0 to 19, with appropriate age grouping (i.e. 0-3,...,15-18). The programme aims to provide young Friends with an insight to Quaker beliefs and values, as well as providing a safe environment for relationship building within the society.

Junior Yearly Meeting[edit]

Junior Yearly Meeting, commonly known as "JYM", is an event for young Quakers aged 15 to 18. The annual event is normally held around the Easter holidays at the Pioneer Centre in Kidderminster, and coincides biennially with Yearly Meeting Gathering in late July. It acts as a stepping stone for the transition from the Under 19s Programme into the Society of Friends.

Transition Group[edit]

The Transition Group is a fairly new programme for young Friends aged 19 to early twenties who would still like to attend yearly gatherings however do not feel ready for the full adult programme.

Relationship with international Friends[edit]

Britain Yearly Meeting participates in the international Religious Society of Friends through the Friends World Committee for Consultation. Quakers are a highly decentralized denomination with a great degree of diversity in beliefs and practices. The faith and practice of British meetings resembles that of the Ireland, Canada, Australia and the US meetings affiliated with the Friends General Conference, and is characterized by unprogrammed worship and liberal to universalist theology.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain. "Patterns of membership including the 2013 tabular statement" (PDF). 
  2. ^ Friends' Schools' Council. "Quaker Schools". 
  3. ^ a b c d London Yearly Meeting (1931). "1". Church Government. London: Friends Book Centre. p. 1. 
  4. ^ Quaker Faith and Practice, 6.01,
  5. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia 1917, Entry on Society of Friends
  6. ^ Lodge, Richard The History of England – From the Restoration to the Death of William III 1660–1702 (1910). p. 268
  7. ^ a b c Pink Dandelion, Ben (2007). An Introduction to Quakerism. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-84111-9. 
  8. ^ Paz, Denis (1995). Nineteenth century English religious traditions: retrospect and prospect. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-29476-3. 
  9. ^ Nottingham and Derbyshire Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. "Fritchley Quaker Meeting". Archived from the original on May 6, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  10. ^ London Yearly Meeting (1945). "Minute 17". Minutes of London Yearly Meeting. 
  11. ^ Britain Yearly Meeting (1995). "6.02". Quaker Faith and Practice. London: Britain Yearly Meeting. 
  12. ^ "General Meeting for Scotland | Quakers in Scotland". Retrieved 2016-06-25. 
  13. ^ "Yearly Meeting Dates". Quakers in Britain. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  14. ^ "Yearly Meeting". Quakers. Retrieved 2016-06-25. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°11′11″N 3°06′07″W / 54.1864°N 3.1019°W / 54.1864; -3.1019