What is Quaker Business?
At Silverton Friends Church the Quarterly Meeting for Worship for Business is the central means for making decisions, translating concerns into action, and considering matters relating to the organization of the Meeting and its program and activities as an ongoing religious group.
Friends assume that in the transaction of business the Meeting will be able to act in unity. If unity cannot be achieved, the Meeting defers action. Friends do not reach decisions by voting, since we believe that voting may be a method of imposing the will of the majority on the minority; it may serve to divide rather than to unify a group.
Instead of voting, the Meeting reaches decisions by “sense of the Meeting,” by which is meant the Meeting’s sense of God’s will.
The Clerk is not a conventional presiding officer; rather the Clerk must listen, gather expressions of opinion, maintain a focus, and seek to recognize and articulate unity.
According to the traditional practice of Friends, when the Clerk believes that agreement has been reached on a particular subject, the proposed decision or action is stated by the Clerk and is embodied in a written “minute.”
The Clerk or Recording Clerk then reads the minute, which may be approved by informal expressions of agreement, or revised or modified on the basis of further suggestions. The minute, as finally adopted, is recorded as the official decision or action of the Meeting.
The Clerk has the role of deciding when the sense of the Meeting has been reached. If one or two persons are unconvinced, they may nevertheless remain silent or withdraw their stated objections (“stand aside”) in order that the item of business may be completed. If, however, they remain strongly convinced of the validity of their position and state that they are not able to withdraw the objection, the Clerk will generally find that a sense has not been reached.
In determining the sense of the Meeting, the Clerk takes into account the verbal expressions of opinion, the wisdom and experience of Friends, and the level of opposition expressed. While all attenders at a Meeting for Business are welcome to contribute to the discussion, the role of non-members in reaching a decision, and in the recording of the decision, remains under consideration.
A Friends Meeting for Business should parallel the spirit of a Meeting for Worship. The Meeting for Business is preceded by a period of silent worship, and sometimes includes additional periods of silence if time is needed for collective meditation or if Friends feel moved, by the nature of matters before them, to express praise or seek guidance through worship.
If discussion becomes heated, of if deep cleavages of opinion appear, the Clerk or some other Friend may ask for a few moments of silence.
Frequently, after such a period of worship, a new spirit is manifested in the discussion, and Friends find themselves able to attain unity.
SFC’s Quarterly Meeting for Business will be held this Sunday (May 18th) following worship (10:45am) and potluck (12:15pm). It will be open to all who are “active participants” in the life of the church, members or not.