This ministry on Quaker Business Method was prepared for the opening session of British Quakers’ Yearly Meeting Gathering in 07/2011 and has been edited for Nayler.
By Rachel Swancott
There will be an introduction to an item during a Quaker Meeting for Worship for Business, for example and Area Meeting event or a membership application, given by a member of the meeting who has been involved with the item prior to the meeting. Then the floor is opened up to questions about the item.
Once the points for consideration have been introduced and clarified we will enter into a process of discernment. Discernment is our process of worshipful waiting on the guidance from the spirit, God or the light on the best way to go forward on an issue. We do not debate and we do not vote, we simply wait. During this time Friends will be given the chance to minister about the subject, in order to help our clerks to discern the sense of the meeting and provide them with the means to write an appropriate minute. If you feel moved to minister please stand or raise a hand if you are unable to stand and await acknowledgement from the clerk, usually a nod of the head, when this occurs please say your name and give your ministry.
Not everyone who wishes to, may get the chance to minister because often time and numbers are a constraint. Sometimes this can feel frustrating. We must remember that we are gathered together waiting on the spirit and we should support and uphold the meeting and trust that the right movement forward will be discerned. Staying silent and upholding the meeting is as important as giving ministry.
When the clerks feel the sense of the meeting is pointing them towards beginning to write the minute Friends are asked to uphold them in worshipful silence. Friends may be reminded of this if the clerks or meeting elders feel it is necessary. The minute will then be presented to the meeting, it will be followed by the statement
“Is this minute acceptable?”
This is an invitation to Friends to suggest any small changes to the minute, for example, changing of wording or clarification of facts. We ask Friends to remember that this period of time is not a continuation of the discernment process however it will still be carried out with silence left between ministries as before. When the clerks discern that the meeting is ready to hear the revised minute, it will once again be presented to the meeting, if there are no other amendments Friends are expected to say
We say hope so as we can only hope that we have accurately discerned the will of God/the light/the spirit. Once hope so has been said the item is closed, as it were, and no more ministry should be given on the item or minute.
If during the period of discernment you feel called to minister we ask you to consider 5 things.
- Is the ministry for you, or for the meeting?
- Is the ministry relevant to what we are being asked to discern?
- Has the heart or substance of the ministry already been given by another Friend, if so is it necessary to repeat it?
- Is this the right time to give ministry?
- Have you already spoken? If so is it necessary to speak again
During meeting for worship for business, as with meeting for worship, there will be a door keeper who will let Friends exit and enter the meeting room when prompted by the clerks. We ask friends not to come into session unless invited to do so by the door keepers to minimise disturbance in meeting, the same applies to leaving the meeting although we realise that this sometimes can’t be helped.
It is important prior to a business meeting to familiarise yourself with the agenda and any documents in advance if they are available prior to the meeting so that the meeting is not held up by ‘covering old ground’.
If you feel something in a Business Meeting has affected you emotionally and you would like to talk to someone about it you can speak to a meeting elder or overseer.