Friends have a continuing commitment to corporate decision-making and arguably this is most evident in the way they conduct their meetings for business. Indeed, William Taber describes the Quaker business meeting as ‘that place through which we learn to walk hand in hand with each other and the Spirit out into the world to do the work of committed and obedient disciples’ and he writes of the ‘dedicated intention’ that is necessary for this kind of group discernment.
In this post, two of our Associate Tutors, Judith Roads and Mary Savage, share their experiences of Meeting for Worship for Business.
I have always felt that our business meetings were an important component of being a Quaker, living the Quaker way. Not really to get the decisions made and stuff done but to experience that slow, measured approach for the search for the right way forward, for the periods of silent waiting and reflecting, for the collective affection and attentive listening to all the spoken contributions. I have a special affection for clerking and all clerks. It is a real privilege to serve as a clerk. Clerking is only done at its best when there is a faithful body of Friends ready to do the work of the Spirit, the outcomes of which enable the clerk to record in draft minutes.
I have attended countless Quaker business meetings both ‘ on the bench’ and at the table: local meetings, Area Meetings, Yearly Meetings, committee meetings, nominations meetings, online meetings, meetings in English, meetings in French, meetings in German (which I don’t speak!). When it works it’s exhilarating. When it doesn’t work it’s not the fault of the method – we just hadn’t been faithful enough at the time.
I like business meetings! I like the learning that takes place in business meetings – learning about each other, learning about different aspects of Local and Area Meetings, learning to let go of preconceived ideas and opinions, learning to open oneself to the unexpected. I like hearing the spoken contributions of Friends who do not always have the confidence to minister in Meeting for Worship. But most of all I like the sense of togetherness and wonder that results from the discernment of a truly spirit-led decision.
I have been in membership of the Society of Friends for many years and in that time I have experienced lots of different Quaker business meetings. I have been on several committees both in France and in England, sometimes at the table and at other times on the bench. I have been clerk of my local Area Meeting and currently, I am clerk of my local Quaker Meeting and also an overseer.
Judith and Mary will be leading an online course on meeting for worship for business from 17th September to 14th October. To join this course click here.