Yes, it’s a contradiction: Quakers generally do not have hierarchy, believing that each individual has “that of God” inside them. However, just as an individual can find spiritual community in a meeting, meetings gather together in groups that gradually encompass more and more Quakers, creating a kind of hierarchy.
The basic unit of Quaker organization is the monthly meeting. Burlington Friends is a “monthly meeting.” We offer meeting for worship twice each week, but every month, Friends get together (usually after Sunday-morning worship) to hold “meeting for worship with a concern for business.” Business meetings are described at this link, so we won’t go into them in detail, but it is at the monthly business meeting that Friends assemble to plan and approve specific actions and make formal statements on social or spiritual issues, as well as mundane financial, physical, and organizational matters. (We call formal statements “minutes,” a bit confusing since we also use the term in the usual way, to refer to records of what happens during meetings.)
Roughly once every three months, geographically defined groups of monthly meetings send representatives to a quarterly meeting. Ours is Northwest Quarterly Meeting (NWQM), one of eight quarterly Meetings in New England Yearly Meeting. It has eleven Monthly Meetings (seven in Vermont and two in southwestern New Hampshire) and seven worship groups. NWQM meets during the first weekends of December and March at one of the Monthly Meetings. Bethany Birches Camp in Plymouth, VT, hosts NWQM’s September weekend gathering. See the “events” page for specific dates and locations of upcoming quarterly meetings. The clerk of NWQM changes every few years, but they can always be reached at email@example.com.
A yearly meeting consists of several quarterly meetings (and all their monthly meetings) and holds a formal meeting every year. New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) has been holding sessions for 350 years and offers many other programs and services to New England Friends. It has connected Friends in Burlington with Friends in Banes, Cuba, through its Puente de Amigos program.
901 Pleasant St., Worcester, MA 01602-1908; Tel: 508-754-6760; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.neym.org
There are two world-wide groups that monthly meetings often associate with, Friends General Conference (FGC) and Friends United Meeting (FUM).
Friends General Conference (FGC)
Including mainly meetings in the United States and Canada, this group puts on the annual FGC Gathering and offers regional conferences, workshops, and publications. 1216 Arch St. 2-B, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Tel: 215-561-1700; email: email@example.com; web: www.fgcquaker.org
Friends United Meeting (FUM)
A worldwide organization of more Biblically centered Quakers, FUM supports the Friends School at Ramallah in Palestine/Israel, works closely with Cuba Yearly Meeting on Quaker church restoration in Cuba, and facilitates hospitals and missions in Kenya and other countries.
101 Quaker Hill Drive, Richmond, IN 47374
Tel: 765-962-7573; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.fum.org