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Readings for Reflection: October 2012
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Membership in the Whole Society by Percy W. Bartlett

Other Christians are very conscious of being a part of the whole church. The newly admitted Friend also joins not only a local meeting but also the whole Society, and soon becomes conscious of it as he assumes his privilege in taking part in many kinds of meetings and committees and finds that he is welcome in meeting houses in many parts of the world ….

The Society has shown itself in experience and in action to be, in a very full sense, corporate; its foundation principle is in fact not in the sanctity of human personality but in the joint call of a group of children of the Light, of Friends of Truth, of men and women subject to corporate guidance. From the beginning it was a deeply religious fellowship. George Fox, who, though not a law-giver for the Society said many things that command respect, urged those around him to know one another in God. A. Neave Brayshaw, typical perhaps in his deep sense of membership, continually urged the young Friends by whom he was surrounded to plumb the depth of the phrase “One another,” and he did so in a quite definitely Christian context.

Whether the Society is to be regarded as a company of lay folk or a society of ministers – and both views are tenable – our membership of one another … is a foundation fact of Quaker religious experience.


Percy W. Bartlett: Quakers and the Christian Church, 1941, p. 20. Faith and Order Commission, London Y.M. From Faith and Practice of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, 1985.

Reprinted with permission.


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