Exactly what a
Quaker meeting (congregation) does regarding meeting business is determined
primarily by two things:
national or regional customs may dictate approaches to business, appointment of
committees and officers, and other primary business functions. The
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Faith & Practice
is the book of discipline (a Quaker term) chosen by
the Dallas meeting as its guideline for issues of faith and business when it was
founded. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is a very large and well
established body and some of its guidelines may not always fit the needs of a
younger and much smaller yearly or monthly meeting. In addition, much
about the nature of the business meeting depends on the style of its presiding
clerk and officers of the meeting.
The following list presents information about how we carry out
business in the DFM:
It is always assumed that the meeting for business is a
continuation of meeting for worship, but worship in a somewhat different way
from the silence of the community worship.
The goal of the business meeting is
to reach unity on administrative and spiritual issues. There is no
voting. The clerk's primary duty is to sense the movement of the
spirit within the business meeting and determine whether there is unity or
whether further attention needs to be given to a subject. To make sure
the shy or hesitant member does not hold back, the clerk will typically ask
a question like "Do Friends approve?" This is not a vote but a chance
for the clerk to ensure that the matter has received proper consideration
and attention can be moved to other business.
The process of asking for approval
helps move things along in another way. Because there is no voting,
Friends do not repeat the opinions or positions taken by others, but by
seeking approval, the clerk gives Friends time to consult the inward spirit
as to whether it is in accord with the outward decisions.
Spirit is dynamic and volatile and
previous decisions may be reversed if new light has come to a situation.
Meeting for business is normally
held on the third Sunday of each month unless Yearly Meeting (at Easter)
falls on that Sunday, or at Christmas, where we often move the meeting to
the second Sunday and have a Christmas celebration on the third Sunday.
Meeting for business convenes some
time after everyone has had time for refreshments and conversation after
regular meeting for worship; the clerk opens the meeting with a brief period
of silence which allows those present to center back into a worshipful mood
Visitors may attend meeting for
business as observers.
Snacks from the social period after
meeting can be brought to business meeting.
The clerk of the meeting, or a
substitute, presides over the meeting for business.
The minutes of the meeting are
recorded by a recording clerk, or a substitute.
Reports may be solicited from the
standing committees of the meeting. The finances of the meeting are
presented and discussed. Building maintenance needs may be reported.
Ministry and Oversight will report on any issues regarding membership,
outreach, or other matters under its care. The Kitchen Committee may
remind everyone that there is a signup sheet in the kitchen.
When Friends are attentive to business,
committees are prepared to report and the clerk knows what the agenda is.
Matters for discussion have been seasoned, and committees make
recommendations on administrative matters, letting Friends trust they have
done their job, rather than expecting all present to sort through the
minutiae of each decision. Even then, Spirit may move causing
unexpected matters to come to the group's attention.