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Notes on Language and Glossary of Terms




Some notes on the language used in this Handbook

Religious terms

From the earliest days Friends have used a rich variety of language to express our religious or spiritual experience. So it is within our Yearly Meeting. Underlying the choices of words Friends make are some substantial differences which cannot be papered over. Friends will differ as to how they perceive, and how they describe, worship, decision-making, our communal life and our witness to the world. Are there ways in which we conceive of 'the other' as a dimension beyond the human and natural? Are there ways in which we find our spiritual seeking embodied in our everyday experience? Friends find many different ways to speak of what is central for us - light, truth, God, being, infinite love, revelation, Spirit, and many more.

The earliest Quakers lived in a Christian context, and believed themselves to be called to rebuild the original true Christian community. The Christian language they used is part of our heritage. We share it with Friends worldwide, the majority of whom identify as part of the broader Christian church.

In this Handbook the Revision Committee has tried to use language which will be generally acceptable to Friends within the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand. Probably each Friend will find some of the ways of expression uncongenial, perhaps even hurtful. We invite you to practise loving hospitality to words which speak truth to others. As well as re-expressing them in ways which are right to us, each of us has opportunities to enter imaginatively into the experience of others, to share our treasures.

"Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your heart, and respond to them." (Advices and Queries    A 1)

Respond also to the promptings of love and truth in the hearts of others.

‘Quakers’, ‘Friends’

Within the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand both Members and Attenders play a full part in the life of the Meeting. In this Handbook the terms 'Quaker' and 'Friend' are used to include both Members and Attenders.

Spiritual and pastoral care

The terms ‘spiritual care’ and ‘pastoral care’ have been accepted by Meetings (November 2019) for use in this Handbook to refer to what was traditionally known as ‘Eldership’ and ‘Oversight’. Meetings are free to use whatever terms they feel are most truthful and appropriate in their own life and organisation.



Glossary of Terms Used in This Handbook

The references in brackets are to sections where some terms are considered in more detail.

The Handbook respects the accepted practice of the use of macrons in Māori words, whether or not they were used in the original documents.


Attender (2.2.4) Attenders are people, not in membership, who attend worship with some regularity, and/or in other ways are clearly part of the life of the Meeting.

Call, calling A sense of rightness about a proposed activity or service.

Centring (2.1.4 & 3.2.1) In worship or reflection, bringing our attention away from distraction towards the Spirit or the concern before us.

Church A community of Christians. Early Friends were clear that the church was the body of people, and not a building or an administrative structure. In many parts of the world Quakers use the term 'church' for their group and building, where in our Yearly Meeting we use 'Meeting', 'Worship Group' and 'Meeting House'. (See also Meeting.)

Clear, clearness (6.4) A sense of rightness about something, following careful spirit-led consideration. Hence a 'meeting for clearness', a 'clearness committee', to assist a Friend / Friends in reaching a decision.

Clerk (3.3, 3.4, 4.4., 4.7) A Friend called to serve a Meeting by convening its Meeting for Worship for Business, guiding the process, and offering minutes to embody the sense of the Meeting. The role may be shared. Clerks are the central point of contact for the Meeting, and can have other roles such as administration, and representing the Meeting to other bodies and the public.

Concern (2.3) A powerful call or leading to undertake a particular service or form of witness, or to support a particular cause.

Discernment Reaching a decision through careful spirit-led consideration of its implications, and of the right way forward.

Enquirer (2.2.5) Enquirers are people who have made some contact with a Meeting, including by electronic means, or who occasionally attend worship.

Epistle (5.4.5) A letter to Friends generally from a Yearly Meeting or other group, expressing the experience of its gathering, 'how the Spirit has moved amongst it'.

Friend From very early days, used by Quakers of one another, 'Friends of Truth'. Generally used within Quakers, while 'Quaker' describes us to others. In this Handbook 'Friends' and 'Quakers' cover both Members and Attenders. (See Quaker).

Gather, gathered (2.1.4) A sense of especial depth and unity shared by a group, in worship or on another occasion.

Hapū (1.3.1) Groupings within iwi.

Iwi (1.3.1) Peoples, tribes.

Junior Young Friend A young person aged roughly 13 - 16, who has some connection with Friends.

Kāwanatanga (1.3.1) Formulated from English "governance" to describe the role of the British Crown in Te Tiriti  provisions.

Lead, leading The sense that words, or courses of action, are being prompted from beyond oneself.

Meeting Meeting has three senses: an event when Friends gather, a group of Friends, the organised structure of the group.

Member (2.2.1 - 2.2.3) Members are people who find themselves at home with Friends, have decided that they wish to declare publicly that they are part of the Quaker community, and have worked through a process of discernment with their Monthly Meeting, and been accepted into membership of that Monthly Meeting. Thereby they are members also of the Yearly Meeting, and hence of Friends World Committee for Consultation.

Ministry (2.1.5 - 2.1.13) The fundamental meaning is 'service'. 'Ministry' is also used for spoken or other contributions to worship.

Monthly Meeting (3, 4.1.1) The body of Friends responsible for Quaker life within its region; the Meeting for Worship for Business of this body. Membership is held with a Monthly Meeting. Together Monthly Meetings form the Yearly Meeting.

Programmed, unprogrammed Terms used for patterns of worship among Friends worldwide. Programmed worship includes prepared elements such as Bible reading and teaching, other spoken messages, singing and other  music. 'Unprogrammed' describes waiting or open worship as general within our Yearly Meeting. Where the two forms are combined,   'semiprogrammed' may be used.

Quaker The term was used with scorn against early Friends who called on people to tremble before God, and has over time been claimed. It is useful to distinguish us from other 'Friends of . . ' bodies.

Rangatiratanga (1.3.1), tino rangatiratanga (1.3.1) In Te Tiriti, describing the "leadership", "sovereignty", "self-governance" held by iwi and hapū.

Religious Society of Friends The formal name of Quakers, often used in legal names.

Sense of the Meeting (3.3)  In Quaker decision-making, an understanding of how the group as a whole feels led to proceed, even though it may not be what each person would have chosen.

Silence is a form of ministry, an instrument for worship, which itself goes beyond silence.

Spirit The Judaeo-Christian understanding of the 'Spirit of God', the 'Holy Spirit', is broadened by many Friends to include the spiritual dimension of nature and the whole universe, and experience of depth, of what is beyond us. Terms such as 'spirit-led' point to a sense that an action or decision goes beyond the self-regarding and utilitarian.

Tangata whenua (1.2.1) "People of the land", conveying belonging, guardianship and authority.

Te reo (1.3.2) The Māori language.

Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri The Māori name of our Yearly Meeting, gifted to us by Tīmoti Kāretu as Māori Language  Commissioner. Can be understood as "the faith community that stands shaking in the wind of the Spirit".

Te Tiriti  The Treaty of Waitangi in its Māori text, as agreed to by the overwhelming majority of the signatories.

Testimony (2.4)  Friends use the term to describe various ways in which we feel called to live, act and witness, such as the testimony of integrity. A 'testimony to the grace of God in the life' of a late Friend (traditional language) is a Meeting's attempt to express how that person's life has exemplified their beliefs.

Unity (3.3.3, 4.2.1) A Meeting or group finding that they are at one in a decision or practice, even though it might not be the choice of each individual. Unity differs from unanimity, which is everyone taking the same position, and from consensus, which is a practical decision to accept a position, after exploring disagreements.

Worship (2.1) Originally 'giving worth'. A Meeting for Worship is a time to focus, individually and together, on what gives meaning, and a recognition of presence, whether divine or human.

Worship Group (4.1.1) A Worship Group is a body of Friends within a Monthly Meeting who meet regularly for worship.

Worship-sharing (2.1.17) A group process where, in a sense of worship, each person has the opportunity to speak for themselves and from their heart on the issue before the group.

Yearly Meeting (5) A broadly-based self-governing grouping of Friends within geographical boundaries, in our instance within Aotearoa New Zealand. Also the regular meeting for decision-making of that body, and its organised structure. Yearly Meetings worldwide relate to one another in friendship and collaboration, but each is self-standing.

Young Friends Those aged (roughly) 16 - 35 who identify as having a youth focus on being Quaker or associating with Quakers.



This index gives the Handbook references to the terms and incorporates a short glossary of acronyms