Advices Regarding the Meeting for Business:
(Draft from the Worship and Ministry Committee, revised 4/1/06, approved by Third Haven Monthly Meeting 5/14/06)
"Dear Friends, keep all of your meetings in the authority, wisdom, and power of Truth and the unity of the blessed Spirit. Let your conduct and conversation be such as become the Gospel of Christ. Exercise yourselves to have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all people. Be steadfast and faithful in your allegiance and service to your Lord, and the God of peace be with you." Elders of Balby, Yorkshire, 1656
Advices to members and attenders:
All members and attenders are encouraged to attend the Meeting for Business. Each of us needs to be aware of our responsibilities to the Meeting community and the impact we might have upon our Meeting for Business. Therefore, the following advices are presented for your thoughtful consideration:
- The Meeting for Business is held in the Spirit of a Meeting for Worship. Offerings in the Meeting for Business are akin to vocal ministry, except they concern our corporate actions rather than our spiritual being.
- Listen with care and tenderness to the words of each Friend. Hold these words in the Light. It is strongly suggested that there be a period of silence following each offering.
- Regardless of how any individual's viewpoint aligns with others, genuine love and tenderness must be offered to and received from each member and attender of the Meeting. All else is not Spirit-led and is inconsistent with the pursuit of truth in unity. Be prepared to release words of others that are not of the Spirit.
- We must keep from obstinacy and harshness of tone or manner and be ready to admit the possibility of being in error.
- Be aware that excessively long offerings, where one outruns a leading, unnecessarily consumes the time of many. Use the silence between offerings to prepare expressions of your discernment.
- When deliberations are in-progress, do not be timid in vocalizing either disquiet or lack of clarity regarding a proposal.
- When speaking, please stand and speak with full volume.
- Try to speak once to an issue. If a Friend has "spoken your mind", simply note this. At the time the Clerk places an issue before the Meeting, you will then have an opportunity to voice your "I approve".
- After a proposal has been approved by the Meeting, it should not be a common practice for the issue to be revisited.
- We must acknowledge that the search for truth in unity requires discernment in the Light. We must be open to personal transformation as the community arrives at the sense of the Meeting. We must be teachable.
Advices to committee clerks, Meeting representatives, and committee members:
Much of what is brought to our attention during the Meeting for Business comes from the clerks of committees or through our Meeting's representatives to various local or Quaker organizations. These members of our Meeting take on an important and significant role in the smooth conduct and transparent processes of the business of our Meeting and, therefore, the following advices are presented:
- Committees are encouraged to be mindful of our testimonies and concerns in their deliberations, and this should be reflected in the reports of committee clerks. Committees serve the monthly meeting not only by carrying on routine delegated functions, but also by doing important background work in preparation for decisions at the monthly meeting for business. They examine designated matters in depth, identify the issues, gather the most useful information, and make seasoned recommendations for decision by the Meeting. When this work is done well, the monthly meeting in session is able to focus quickly on the matter at hand.
- Committee clerks and Meeting representatives are encouraged to submit agenda items to the Clerk one week prior to the Meeting for Business.
- It is suggested that reports at the Meeting for Business be concise and preferably written out for presentation to all attending the meeting. The value of written reports is significant and includes: (1) a more thorough and precise preparation of what is presented to the meeting; (2) those present at the meeting are able to read and follow along with each report, offsetting any need to repeat portions of the report; (3) the written report becomes a valuable aid to the recording clerk for preparation of minutes; and (4) a written report provides an item that can be easily included in the monthly newsletter and, when appropriate, in the weekly e-mailed announcements.
- If a committee is planning to present a matter to the Meeting community or is going to request that a potential action be taken, then the clerk of that committee is encouraged to distribute the proposal through the communications committee for the Meeting community to consider in advance of the next Meeting for Business.
- Committee clerks (or their designated representatives) are encouraged to report the outcomes, and the salient features of deliberations, of their committees at the Meeting for Business. Committee clerks are encouraged not to overstep these bounds by introducing topics that have not been previously brought before their committees, unless it is a matter of extreme urgency. We come together, not to hear everything that might be heard on a subject, but enough to move forward with it.
- Since we do not have clergy, we are jointly responsible for our Meeting community, our grounds and buildings, and our service to the community. Each of our committees is important to the health and spiritual well-being of our Meeting. In the weeks prior to the Meeting for Business, all committee members are encouraged to be mindful of their responsibilities in this regard and come to the Meeting for Business prepared to contribute to the discussion of issues that have come before their committee.
Advices to the Clerk of the Meeting:
All of us need to be aware of what is expected of our Clerk during a Meeting for Business. We must recognize that any of us, at any time, might be called upon to serve our Meeting in this capacity. The following advices have been prepared for this position within our Meeting:
- An agenda should be prepared by the Clerk prior to the Meeting for Business, with copies made for distribution to all present at the Meeting for Business.
- During the Meeting for Business, be mindful that our committees are the place where much of the work of the Meeting is done. After a Spirit-led offering by a member or attender, if it is sensed that the matter warrants further attention, the Clerk may wish to suggest a committee where the issue can receive thoughtful attention.
- The Clerk is encouraged to allow for further offerings from members and attenders as the Spirit assists in defining the issue for consideration, but there should be a recognition that the Meeting for Business may not be the place for initial deliberations on the topic, unless it is a matter of extreme urgency that cannot be laid over to a subsequent Meeting for Business (which would allow time for the topic to be discussed by an appropriate committee).
- There should be silence after an offering. "Conversation" in Meeting for Business does not allow us to discern that which is of the Spirit in an offering. If a second offering is made directly after someone has spoken then ask for silence before proceeding. The Clerk asks for expressions of concern or disagreement before final approval. It is the Clerk's responsibility to acknowledge silence as agreement. Once an item is approved, it should not be a common practice for the Meeting to go back and discuss it further.
"Dearly Beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all with the measure of Light which is pure and holy may be guided, and so in the Light walking and abiding these may be fulfilled in the Spirit—not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." Postscript to an epistle from the Meeting of Elders at Balby, Yorkshire, 1656
Sections of text herein are drawn from both Queries and Advices, Faith and Practice, PYM, 2002, as well as H. Brinton, Friends for 350 Years and P. Loring, Spiritual Discernment.