First Time Attending? (FAQs)

What Will You Find at Bethesda Friends Meeting?
Welcoming friends

Visiting a new congregation for the first time can be daunting. You might have questions like: Can anyone visit a Quaker Meeting? (“meeting” is the Quaker word for our gathering for worship)  What should I wear? What about my kids? Will I have to introduce myself as a first time visitor?  Where do I park?”

To make things a bit easier for you, we offer these Frequently Asked Questions. If you have additional questions please contact us.

We welcome you and sincerely hope to see you soon.

Please click Location to get directions.
Please click Sunday Schedule to get specific Meeting times.
  1. Can anyone visit a Quaker Meeting and participate in Meeting for Worship?
  2. How is the Bethesda Friends Meeting for Worship conducted?
  3. What should I wear? 
  4. Is the Meetinghouse wheelchair and hearing accessible?
  5. Is Bethesda Friends Meeting near the Metro? Where do I park?coffee hour
  6. What about my kids?
  7. Will I have to introduce myself?
  8. How do I become a part of the community?
  9. How does one get to know people at Bethesda Friends?
  10. Whom do I go to if I have a family or personal concern?
  11. How would I donate money?
  12. How does a Quaker community operate without a minister?
  13. How does one become a BFM member?
  14. How can I learn more about other aspects of Quakers (Friends)?
Can anyone visit a Quaker Meeting?     
Absolutely!  All are welcome. Many of us at Bethesda Friends Meeting were not raised in the Friends’ Sharing lunchtradition but found our way to Quakerism as adults. We believe that people from all backgrounds can be “natural Quakers” who find our manner of worship suited to their needs, and we treasure the contributions that they bring with them as seekers of spiritual truth. Although the Religious Society of Friends began as a Protestant denomination, the absence of a formal creed means that people from a wide spectrum of religious beliefs and traditions join our congregation. We welcome all people regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or previous religious affiliation. You will be warmly welcomed!
How is the Bethesda Friends Meeting for Worship conducted?                    
Most Bethesda Friends (Quakers) gather together for an hour each Sunday at 11:00 a.m. 
  • Our worship is “unprogrammed,” which means that we gather in expectant silence and wait to speak when called by divine inspiration.
  • There may be many types of vocal messages. People most commonly speak from their experience, spiritual study, and beliefs. Messages might sometimes include Bible passages, poetry, or even song, but none are planned in advance. Ideally, they arise from our shared experience of the divine.

Meeting for Worship includes

  • A beginning (when the first worshiper sits down) and
  • An ending (with the invitation to share “joys and sorrows”—a bit of personal good news, or a request that others in the Meeting “hold in the Light” oneself or others who are in difficulty). 
  • The Meeting concludes when the designated "head of Meeting" shakes hands with the person next to him/her, signaling others to do the same. Meeting announcements follow.

The silence during Meeting is a form of spiritual seeking and worship in itself. From this silence it is expected that some will be moved to speak. Occasionally the entire hour may pass in silence. For many this contemplative silence, in which all are seeking to make connection with the divine spirit, is the most meaningful aspect of Meeting.

What should I wear?                                                                                                    
Wear what is comfortable. You will see some folks wearing jeans or yoga pants, others in ties or dresses.

Is the Meetinghouse wheelchair and hearing accessible?                                                      
Yes, it has mobility accessibility and there is hearing assistive technology.

Is Bethesda Friends Meeting Metro accessible? Where do I park?                
Bethesda Friends Meeting is three blocks from the Bethesda Metro. If you drive, there are two parking lots and a garage at the Sidwell Friends Lower School, where Bethesda Friends Meeting is located. If they are full, it is possible to park at the Bethesda Library on Sunday mornings. Most street parking in the immediate vicinity is restricted to residents. Click here for more information. 
What about my kids?                                                                                                 Friends greeting children
Your children are welcome to stay with you throughout the worship time if they wish. There is childcare available for ages 6 months through pre-K. After fifteen minutes of worship, older children (Kindergarten-8th grade) leave the Meeting to attend what Quakers call First-Day School (children’s religious education).

During the summer, there is supervised play. Many children go to Quaker camps in the summer.  

Will I have to introduce myself?                                                                          
No, you will not be singled out. You will simply be part of our community as we worship. There will be an invitation for newcomers to introduce themselves at the close of meeting. During announcements you’ll learn with whom you can talk to get more information, and you are invited to sign our guest book.

How do I become a part of the community?                                                         
The first step is to sign our guestbook, so we know you have come to visit. The second is to fill out a newcomer card (in the welcome packet). The card has a number of items for you to check off, such as getting a name tag and getting on our mailing lists.                      

How does one get to know people at Bethesda Friends?                                          
Please attend our worship service and then join us for informal socializing afterwards. We also have a potluck
Coffee hour in the BFM Library
lunch once a month to which all are welcome, even if you did not bring food. At the rise of Meeting on some Sundays, we have “Getting to Know One Another” gatherings, in which those who are interested share a bit about themselves, learn about others, and ask any questions that may arise. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the Meeting; you might want to join a committee, take part in Religious Education, work with Social Concerns, join the Book Group, or attend Meeting for Business.
Whom do I go to if I have a family or personal concern?
At the end of Meeting for Worship, a designated member of the Pastoral Care Committee is available as a “Friendly Ear” to listen to concerns and suggest resources that might be helpful. Pastoral Care members send flowers and notes to those who are ill, visit folks who are hospitalized, and provide or organize the provision of support for families in crisis. Committee members also meet with those interested in BFM membership and assist those who wish to marry under the care of the Meeting.
How would I donate money?                                                                            
Selling T-shirts for Ramallah Friends School BFM collects funds for two purposes:
  1. Money for the Support of the Meeting;
  2. Money for a specific social concern (which changes each month).

Your donation for either one can be (a) placed in the collection boxes on the table in the entrance hall, (b) mailed to the BFM Post Office Box, or (c) donated via Pay Pal on this web site. Please click here for more information.

How does a Quaker community operate without a minister?                              
Friends accept personal responsibility for their own spiritual seeking, as well as for the support and nurturing of others who worship with them. We are self-governing, so there are no external authorities and no person who speaks for a Meeting or for all Quakers.
  • Most functions are performed by committees, such as organizing the worship service and providing pastoral support for members, religious education, and fellowship.
  • The Meeting as a whole gathers once a month for Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business, where matters are brought forward by committees or individuals.
  • Decisions are made by what Friends call the sense of the Meeting, which is a process of allowing God, working through those gathered, to guide us to a right action. Voting is not necessary, and individuals are asked to try to see beyond strong personal preferences to how the divine spirit leads us.
  • BFM Business Meetings are led by a Clerk of the Meeting, appointed by the Meeting for a three-year term.
How does one become a BFM member?   
Greeting friends at Coffee Hour

If, after attending the Meeting for a while and learning about Quaker practice, you want to apply for membership, you can talk to the current Clerk/s of the Meeting or the Friendly Ear (the person from Pastoral Care who introduces him/herself at the end (rise) of Meeting).

How can I learn more about other aspects of Quakers (Friends)?
Please go to this link for information about the wider Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).                                                                                                                                                                                     

Bethesda Friends Meeting
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 30152, Bethesda MD 20824
Our Meetinghouse is on the campus of the Sidwell Friends Lower School at the intersection of Edgemoor Lane and Beverly Road in Bethesda, Maryland
We are a member of the Religious Society of Friends
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