Whittier First Friends Church
A Quaker Meeting

13205 Philadelphia Street
Whittier CA 90601-4386
(562) 698-9805



"A Christian people called to listen, gathered to seek peace, and sent forth to serve."

| Home | Welcome | Events | The Living Light | Youth | USFW | Peace | Links



The Sacraments
Aspects of the Quaker Vision


Meaning of Sacrament

One of the distinguishing features of the Society of Friends from most other Christian bodies is the absence of the observance of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper from its religious practices. To many of our fellow Christians, the Quaker understanding of the Sacraments is worrisome and appears to disregard what has long been perceived as the plain command of Christ to "do this in remembrance of Me".

Our purpose here is to briefly interpret the Quaker vision with regard to the sacraments not only for the benefit of the visitor or seeker, but to remind Friends in this generation of the historic roots of the testimony and to inquire if the testimony rings true to our own experience today.

A Sacrament has been described as the intersection where God and human beings meet. Sacrament has to do with the sacred. Through the centuries, even in the mystery religions, primitive peoples believed in the possibility of participating in the life of the divine by eating or drinking something clearly associated with or representing their god in likeness or symbol. The extent to which pagan religions had a direct influence on the development of Christian sacraments during the early stages of the Christian era, is unclear. However, there is historical evidence that the sacramental idea was practically universal in the religious habits and practices of those who became Christians from pagan religions represented throughout the extensive Roman Empire.

The Quaker Emphasis

The Quaker movement was founded on the conviction that the whole of life is sacramental. The founders refused to designate any particular observance or practice as being more sacred than another. They assumed the same position with respect to time or to special days. Sunday was regarded as no more holy than Saturday or Monday. All days are the Lord's days, all are holy. In this sense, it was a positive witness, emphasizing what Friends were for rather than what they were against.

While both Catholic and Protestant traditions in mid-seventeenth century required the observance of certain rites as a prerequisite for membership, Friends were persuaded that although to be a member of Christ's body involved no outward rite, it does inescapably require an inward transformation of one's whole life.

Friends do not consider the observance of the sacraments to be wrong, but they do regard participation in such an outward rite as unnecessary to genuine Christian discipleship or entry into the community of Christ's people.

Friends use the words "baptism" and "communion" to describe the experience of Christ's presence and his ministry in worship. John the Baptist was pointing to this when he said: "I have baptized with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." Worship reaches its goal when those who worship feel the baptism of the Spirit. Communion occurs when the worshiper communes with God and with those who are gathered in the Lord's name.

The presence of Christ with his church does not occur by symbol or representation, but in the real communication of his Spirit: "I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, who shall abide with you forever." John 14:18. Christ needs no rite or priestly intervention to make that real communion or baptism possible.

We believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and in communion with that Spirit. If the believer experiences such spiritual baptism and communion, then no rite or ritual is necessary; whereas, if the rite or ritual is observed without the inward transformation which these outward sacraments are intended to symbolize, then the observances become meaningless and hypocritical.

Communion after the Manner of Friends

The Quaker ideal is to make every meal at every table a Lord's Supper. Again, the reality lies, not in the nature of the material substance, but in the way it stirs the heart of every partaker. The Quakers, and all Christians, are called upon to remember Christ every time bread is broken.

Friends understand and appreciate the fact that other Christians feel the need of ceremonial observances. In fact, we may share this with them, when invited to do so. However, the life to which we are called is one which is deeper than all ceremonies and outward observance.

Friends use the words "baptism" and "communion" to describe the experience of Christ's presence and his ministry in worship. John the Baptist was pointing to this when he said: "I have baptized with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." Worship reaches its goal when those who worship feel the baptism of the Spirit. Communion occurs when the worshiper communes with God and with those who are gathered in the Lord's name.

The presence of Christ with his church does not occur by symbol or representation, but in the real communication of his Spirit. If the believer experiences such spiritual baptism and communion, then no rite or ritual is necessary; whereas, if the rite or ritual is observed without the inward transformation which these outward sacraments are intended to symbolize, then the observances become meaningless and hypocritical.


For Further Information Read

An Introduction to Quakers by D. Elton Trueblood
Friends View of the Sacraments by Jack Kirk
The People Called Quakers by D. Elton Trueblood


| Home | Welcome | Events | The Living Light | Youth | USFW | Peace | Links

Website feedback: web@firstfriendswhittier.org