Simon Grant's quaker links
Concern about Quaker concerns and business
I have recently considered the matter of business within Quaker Meetings
from a number of angles, and shared this with various Friends, some of
them in the Quakers and Business Group. In the face of a situation where
so many Friends feel that service on committees is an onerous and
unwelcome duty, it remains my firm belief that service to Quaker life
and work should be a joy, particularly if it is hard work. In the same
way, loving parents sharing the hard work of bringing up children brings
them joy, and draws them closer in the Spirit of love and of truth.
Similarly, if Friends were to care lovingly for the business and concerns
that arise amongst them, and if at all possible, rearrange that business
so that it is able to be carried forward by Friends who share a loving
concern for that business, then that business itself, instead of being
an onerous and unwelcome duty, could become the opportunity for joyful
unity. The fact of joyful sharing of work on shared concerns would
surely be a strong attraction for others to join us.
The question I am addressing here is, what are the principles on which
this rediscovery to joyful service could be built? I sense there are
some things which are missing from the current Religious Society of
Friends. While some of these things may be part of the historical
heritage of Quakerism, some of those may have been forgotten or
abandoned, and some, perhaps, may never have been clearly set out.
Here is a tentative list of the principles which, I hope, if adopted,
could lead to joyful service. It is not clear in every case which are
currently practised and which not.
My invitation is to Friends who may share this concern to join with me
in making a more cogent, carefully-worded list which could better serve
the purpose of giving advice to Friends, to Meetings, and to groups who
wish to grow into a more joyful sharing of concerns and business.
Suggested principles of a way forward - to discuss
Unprogrammed Meetings for Worship serve as the fundamental point of
stillness in which individual worshippers can lay themselves open
to the workings of the Spirit, to listen to the promptings of love and
truth in their hearts, and, when moved, to share indications of the
Spirit at work: these may be "concerns".
The business associated with each Meeting for Worship includes:
consideration of all concerns which arise in Friends of that Meeting;
discernment of the Spirit moving in those concerns; and Friends laying
themselves open to being united with concerns that arise in the
Groups of Friends, and committees, come together both to take forward
business which is clearly of common interest, and to further concerns
that they have identified, and with which they have united.
Groups of Friends that come together for business or concern need not
belong to the same Meeting for Worship: typically in committees they do.
There are two ways in which any Meeting or group may rightly deal with
any business or concern: the first is to take it as their own; the
second is to forward it to another Meeting or group better suited to it.
When a concern arises in a Meeting, that Meeting has a collective
responsibility to discern whether or not they are called to take
forward that business or to unite with that concern: this decision
cannot be made by a clerk or convenor alone, and should take into
account the ability, aptitude and capacity of that and other
Meetings and groups.
If a Meeting or group is led not to take on particular business or
concern which is sensed as a true leading of the Spirit, they should
help the concerned Friends to find a good Meeting or group to take
the concern forward and, where it is clear that no such Meeting or
group exists, help or encourage them to set up such a Meeting, group,
A good Meeting or group in which to further a concern or take forward
business is one where the concern or business provides a good
opportunity for the constructive operation of the Quaker Business
Method, where the Spirit is allowed and invited to expose and resolve
conflicts, so that the Friends can be united in a way forward and a
truth that is greater than the sum of the truth that was brought
by the individual Friends to the Meeting or group.
The knowledge and discernment of how other Meetings or groups may
be suited to taking forward some business or concern, and their
identification, is itself a contribution to taking it forward.
Every Meeting and every group needs to have effective procedures for
finding a better Meeting, group or committee for any business or
concern that it cannot take forward: the default procedure of
referring it to a wider Meeting is not always the best way.
Both committees and "special interest" groups will tend to give service
through taking particular suited concerns and business as their own,
while keeping in mind a clear awareness of what is not their business
Preparative and other Meetings for general "church affairs", as well as
owning business which is to do with the organisation itself, and the
arrangement of Meetings for Worship, will tend to give service in their
knowledge of which Meetings and groups are well suited to particular
business and concerns; in their ability to create committees and groups
as necessary to take forward business and concerns for which existing
committees and groups are not well suited; and in their collective
knowledge of the qualities of their Friends.
Nominations committees will naturally take a special responsibility for
knowing about the qualities, circumstances and personal development of
the Friends in their Meeting, so that when the Meeting senses a need
for a Friend to serve in some way, they can help to identify suitable
Friends who will be able to unite with other Friends while taking
forward the business or concern, and will themselves grow and develop
through that service.
Information about business and concerns should be communicated,
stored and presented in a way that is accessible to all (individuals,
Meetings and other groups) who, in the present or the future,
may wish to unite with that concern, to serve that business,
or to identify others who might do so.
Information about Meetings, committees and groups should be
communicated, stored and presented in such a way that Friends
themselves, as well as nominations committees, are most easily able
to discern a good fit between individuals and the group, its nature,
the types of business and concern that are shared by them,
and the kinds of opportunity and service needed.
Information about individual Friends could be made available, only in
accordance with the Friend's explicit request, so that other Friends,
as well as nominations committees, can recognise their values,
concerns, abilities, aptitudes, skills, qualities, goals, motivations,
capacity, circumstances and desires to serve and collaborate in as
many different ways as is requested, and as can be conveniently
represented and understood.
written 2002-12-24 and