Baltimore Yearly Meeting
What is a Yearly Meeting?In many ways a Yearly Meeting is the central organizing unit of the Religious Society of Friends. No larger Quaker body has authority over the Yearly Meeting. Books of discipline, defining the faith and practice of Friends, are developed and approved at the Yearly Meeting level. It is the Yearly Meeting that knits local Meetings into the Religious Society of Friends; recognition by a Yearly Meeting distinguishes a Quaker Monthly Meeting from a non-denominational worship group. Friends ask for membership at the local level, and may not realize that they are also joining a Yearly Meeting, but their Yearly Meeting membership is what makes them part of the Quaker movement.
Like a Monthly Meeting, the Yearly Meeting exists to build community, to support the life of the spirit, to discern right action, and to bear witness in the world. Like a Monthly Meeting, it carries out these responsibilities through shared worship, regular Meetings with a Concern for Business, ongoing committee work, and sponsored projects. A Yearly Meeting, in other words, can best be understood as an ordinary Friends Meeting, but on a much larger scale.
The search for unity among Friends, grounded in worship, is at the heart of Baltimore Yearly Meeting's mission. In strong local Meetings, Friends learn to listen deeply to each other, to care for one another, to engage with each other, and not to walk away when things get hard. At the Yearly Meeting level, Friends have a chance to practice the same Quaker ways. What binds us together as Friends is the belief that we can find unity, if we dig deeply enough. All it takes is an attitude of patience, openness, humility and love, with creativity and a sense of humor thrown in for good measure. Baltimore Yearly Meeting challenges us to expand our understanding of what it means to be a Quaker and part of a Quaker community. In fellowship, in deep listening, in waiting worship, in commitment to each other, it richly rewards those who embrace the challenge of being a Yearly Meeting Friend.
Baltimore Yearly Meeting is a regional Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends that has existed for more than 300 years. Geographically, it includes most of Virginia, the portion of Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay, the District of Columbia, central Pennsylvania, and eastern West Virginia. It has about 4,740 members - Friends of all ages - organized into over 40 established Monthly Meetings plus several Preparative Meetings and Worship Groups. Like any Friends Meeting, Baltimore Yearly Meeting comes together for gathered worship and corporate discernment, seeking to know God's will.