Pelham Friends Church has been a deep-rooted part of the community of Pelham for over 200 years, and belongs to the Evangelical Friends Church denomination.

Humble Beginnings

that the Friends movement began in the 17th century with a growing dissatisfaction with the rigid forms of the Church of England, and the increasing desire for a more inwardly satisfying way of worship and life?
George Fox, trained cobbler and early dissenter became passionate that the living Christ could speak directly to the need of every seeking soul. Over time, Fox’s teachings attracted large numbers of people. At that time, no church was permitted except the Church of England; hence, the followers of Fox first called themselves Friends of Jesus, and later, the Religious Society of Friends. The term Quaker was given to them out of mockery and derision for Fox’s statement that they should ‘tremble at the word of the Lord.”
early Friends services involved waiting in silence for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and every one was expected to give a public response in prayer, message or exhortation as so led. They actually placed such a high premium on silence that they discouraged all speaking, reading of Scripture, vocal prayers, music, formal preaching and the overuse of the sacraments.
George Fox insisted that both women and children were qualified for ministry because they had souls that were capable of experiencing the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
George Fox placed a high priority on the presence of God everywhere, insisting on meeting in fields and orchards rather than in a building. In fact, Fox refuse to use the word “church” to refer to the actual building, rather he coined the term, “steeple-house” which is still in usage today.
Friends were brutally persecuted and were imprisoned in the foulest of conditions. As their numbers multiplied, they actually fought and won the “Act of Toleration,” which included guarantees of religious freedom.
George Fox travelled to America, migrating westward with more “Friends” to spread the teachings across the new nation. Although these Friends were known for their simple God-fearing lives, many became notable like William Penn, Robert Barclay, Elizabeth Fry and Joseph John Gurney.

Growing Through Change

The Friends’ movement transforms and divides into 5 major groupings.
• George Fox founded the original organization called, London Yearly Meeting. In the 19th Century it was strongly evangelical, but in the 20th Century it followed the trend of modern liberalism and became closely associated with the General Conference of Friends.

• Currently, there are five major groups of Friends: Hicksite, Orthodox, Conservative, Independent and Evangelical Yearly Meetings. In their character, they all reflect the major divisions that have occurred among Friends.

• HICKSITE Friends General meetings have their origin in the separation of 1828-1829. Their leader, Elias Hicks, separated from the Orthodox Friends due to differences in beliefs regarding rationalism and Unitarianism. Hicksites today still participate in unprogrammed meetings as their main form of worship.

• ORTHODOX Friends United Meeting was established early in the 20th Century. Currently, Orthodox Friends are a meeting of diverse character, ranging from very conservative to liberal views, and often join with the Hicksites and other orthodox branches of the Church.

• CONSERVATIVE Friends were established through the teaching of John Wilbur in the mid-1800’s. Conservative Friends hold fast to traditional silent worship, Quaker garb and other practices. Wilbur’s teaching on the “inner light” sounded almost like infallibility and was a source of tension for many over the years.

• INDEPENDENT Yearly Meetings are not affiliated with any larger grouping of Friends. However, they do continue to honour their Quaker roots.

• EVANGELICAL Friends believe in the Biblical teaching of entire sanctification (I Thessalonians 5:23) and emphasize lives of holiness made possible through the workings of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart. This emphasis on the Holy Spirit, always characteristic of Friends, made the Wesleyan-Arminiam teaching on holiness congenial to Friends.

• In 1987, Evangelical Friends International (EFI) was formed with five geographical regions for Yearly Meetings and countries of mission endeavors: North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe.

• Currently, the EFI North America includes Alaska, Eastern Region, Mid-American, Southwest, Northwest, and Rocky Mountain Yearly Meetings.