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Yearly Meeting is a term used by members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, to refer to an organization composed of constituent meetings or churches within a geographical area. The constituent meetings are called Monthly Meetings in most of the world; in England, local congregations are now called Area Meetings, in Australia Monthly Meetings are called Local Meetings. "Monthly" and "Yearly" refer to how often the body meets to make decisions. Monthly Meetings are local congregations which hold worship on Sunday. Depending on the Yearly Meeting organization, there may also be Quarterly Meetings, Half-Yearly Meetings, or Regional Meetings, where a number of local Monthly Meetings come together within a Yearly Meeting.
Yearly Meeting gatherings are times for Friends from a wide geographical area to come together to worship and to seek God's guidance on decisions and on issues facing Friends in that region. Yearly Meetings publish guiding principles, organizational processes, and collected expressions of faith of the constituent Friends. These publications are called Faith and Practice, and/or Books of Discipline.
Like many aspects of Quakerism, the organization into Yearly Meetings arose gradually. English Friends began to meet shortly after their beginning in a large group starting in the 1650s. The oldest Yearly Meeting in Britain, Britain Yearly Meeting (originally London Yearly Meeting), considers the year 1668 its official founding. New England Yearly Meeting dates its founding from 1661. In the early days the business of the meeting was to receive answers to the Yearly Meeting's queries to the Quarterly Meetings, to read epistles from traveling Friends, and to seek God's guidance on actions. They also proposed and planned the establishment of Quaker institutions, such as schools.
As the Religious Society of Friends grew and spread around the world, new Yearly Meetings were established. While often influenced by the activities of other Yearly Meetings, each of the Yearly Meetings is autonomous.
A session of a Yearly Meeting, as with all Quaker business sessions, is considered a time of worship in dealing with matters of business. When a matter has been presented and explained, the Friends who are gathered wait in silence, listening to the leading of God's spirit within them. Those who feel led to do so share their insights, while the others listen. Eventually a "sense of the meeting" begins to emerge. The clerk of the meeting (a type of facilitator) or the Recording Clerk (a person who writes the minutes) tries to formulate a minute that reflects the sense of the meeting. More input may follow. When it is clear that there is agreement, the sense of the meeting is recorded in the minute. Some Friends at the meeting may have reservations about the matter but choose to defer to the others. Friends believe and hope that the minute is God's will on the matter. However, nothing is considered a permanent and inviolable law among Friends and every matter is open to future change.
Before the close of a yearly meeting, Friends write an epistle to communicate to other Friends world-wide. It is the custom to read out selections from epistles the Yearly Meeting has received from other Quaker bodies during yearly meeting sessions.
All Friends who are members of a constituent Meeting are members of the corresponding Yearly Meeting and may attend and participate on an equal basis--there is no hierarchy within the Religious Society of Friends. Many specific issues of concern to Quakers are dealt with by committees appointed by Yearly Meetings.
Ohio Yearly Meeting--Meetings for Worship in Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. This Meeting offers "affiliate membership" for individual Friends or small congregations worldwide isolated from other Conservative Meetings. Affiliates are as far away as Midlands in England and Athens, Greece.
Central Yearly Meeting--Meetings for Worship in Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio. According to Quaker historian Ben Pink Dandelion, "Central Yearly Meeting has little or no contact with the rest of the Quaker world. It broke away from Five Years Meeting in 1926 and represents a Holiness Yearly Meeting."
Missouri Valley Friends Conference
North Pacific Yearly Meeting--Meetings for Worship in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. (A Beanite yearly meeting with informal ties to Friends General Conference, some Monthly Meetings are affiliated with FGC).
Pacific Yearly Meeting--Meetings for Worship in California, Hawaii, Mexico, and Guatemala. (A Beanite yearly meeting with informal ties to Friends General Conference, some Monthly Meetings are affiliated with FGC).
Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends--Meetings for Worship in Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho. It broke from Northwest Yearly Meeting in 2017. (A Beanite yearly meeting with informal ties to Friends General Conference, some Monthly Meetings are affiliated with FGC).
Germany Yearly Meeting (die Deutsche Jahresversammlung, or DJV)--Quaker communities were established in 1677 and 1678 in what is now Germany at Emden and Friedrichstadt (extinct in 1727). English and American Friends organized a Quaker colony in Friedensthal (Peace Valley), which existed from 1792 until 1870 in what is now Bad Pyrmont, a city in the district of Hamelin-Pyrmont, in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany. Land was donated for a meeting house in January 1791 and the Quaker House (das Quäkerhaus) was built. In 1933, it was reconstructed and relocated from its original site to Bombergallee 9, Bad Pyrmont. The German Annual Meeting (Deutschen Jahresversammlung) was organized in 1880. Relief work following World War I revitalized German Quakerism. The German Yearly Meeting (die Deutsche Jahresversammlung or DJV) resulted from the 1923 mergers of the German Annual Meeting with the Friends of Quakerism (Freunde des Quäkertums) and, in 1925, the Federation of German Friends (die Bund der deutschen Freunde) and serves as an umbrella organization for the small liberal Quaker presence in Germany and Austria. This body uses a translation of Britain Yearly Meeting's current book of discipline Quaker Faith and Practice: The book of Christian discipline of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain entitled Quäker--Glaube und Wirken (das Handbuch der Quäker zur christlichen Lebensführung, übersetzt aus dem Englischen)