Quakers and Meeting Business

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Exactly what a Quaker meeting (congregation) does regarding meeting business is determined primarily by two things:

  • The Faith & Practice they have adopted. (See the Home page for a link to several Faith & Practice books.)

  • The inclinations of the leading members in the meeting.

In addition, 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 after socializing.

  • 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.