July 6, 2009

Guidelines for Conduct in Friends' Meetings for Business

Here is a revised version of the guidelines used recently at the Annual Sessions of Lake Erie Yearly Meeting. They were taped to the backs of all the chairs in the meeting room, and the clerk discussed them at the beginning of the first session of business, following our typical worship and reading of an Epistle. The spiritual environment of our business session was deeply helped by these reminders, and it was so much easier for me as clerk to discern Spirit's leading! We were helped by the fact that there were several Friends among us who were familiar with Quaker conduct in MfB. Had this not been the case, I doubt that a list of reminders would have been enough. Perhaps a session on Friends business practice would have needed to precede it, in that case.

As it was, I experienced our sessions as a blessing, rather than an exhausting drain; as a three-part partnership between Spirit, clerk, and the YM. I will post separately the guidelines as I have revised them since for use in committee meetings. They continue to be a work in progress.

These guidelines come from a number of sources: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice (which is the F&P that my monthly meeting, Red Cedar, and LEYM currently use), Britain Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice, and some Quaker clerking books that have been published by FGC including "Where Do I Stand? A Resource for Monthly Meeting Clerks." They were shared with and refined by some Friends whose insight and experience I trust. And they are briefly stated so as to fit on a half sheet of paper as reminders for Friends who have already been exposed to Friends' practice. ++++

Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business provides an opportunity for Friends to practice several of our testimonies as we carry out the practical work of maintaining our faith community. We seek to be Spirit-led in our work, with as much efficiency as possible, achieving a sense of what Friends call “right order,” and so ask that you use the following guidelines.

  1. When you are led to speak, ask the clerk to recognize you by raising your hand.
  2. To affirm something someone has said, simply nod or use the phrase, “This Friend speaks my mind.” Please don’t ask to be recognized so that you may express the same thought in other words.
  3. When you speak, please stand, speak to the clerk’s table, and keep your comments plain and to the point.
  4. Friends will not generally be recognized to speak on any given issue more than once, except to acknowledge a personal change of perspective during the meeting. The clerk may not call on everyone if there is a clear sense of the meeting. We are seeking the sense of the meeting.
  5. When the recording clerk is developing a minute, sit in worship, and hold him/her in the Light. Please refrain from conversation with your neighbor.
  6. When a person speaks in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, receive the words as you receive vocal ministry in Meeting for Worship – with an open heart and calm mind. If you have a strong reaction to something someone has said, sit with it until way is clear for you to speak with patience and compassion.
  7. If you need a break simply leave quietly when no one is speaking and return, waiting until no one is speaking to take your seat.

No comments: