Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
What is a Quaker Meeting?
A Quaker Meeting is about offering the general public opportunities for community service in the context of a role-based institution designed around Quaker values. These roles are unpaid in most cases, but not unimportant and may be regarded as in-kind donations of time-energy by those filling them.
Quaker values include a lack of hierarchy, which does not mean anarchy. A Meeting is a set of structured concurrent processes centered around Meetings for Worship, including Meeting for Worship for Business, and committee work. Through committee work, participants have opportunities to practice the skills that grow from a life anchored in the Spirit.
Committee work provides Quakers with opportunities to walk their talk.
The means whereby our management structure is kept non-hierarchical is by means of rotation. All positions have terms. Decisions are by consensus through a facilitated and recorded practice in which good clerking skills are critical.
In the standard unprogrammed design, we have no pastor. The meeting clerk is the clerk of the monthly business meeting and as such is responsible for coordinating with committee clerks regarding agenda, as well as cycling through processes on the calendar.
An example clerk responsibility: shepherding a State of Society report through a revision and approval process, to be shared with the Quarterly Meeting. A joint meeting of Oversight and Worship and Ministry may be standard, to work out the gist of such a report.
Nominating recommends people to a slate, the document which, when approved, shows who is currently doing what with regard to a meeting's roles. Slates are shared with the Yearly Meeting for its web site.
Oversight presides over the process whereby people attain or drop formal membership within the Religious Society of Friends, organizes clearness and support committees (including for marriage and divorce if the meeting performs these services), supervises Friendly Care.
Finance and Property Management looks after accepting donations, investing / saving funds, managing the budget and paying bills. Landscaping and indoor janitorial services are under Property Management's purview.
Peace and Social Concerns is a study circle for those called to activism and to networking with other groups outside the meeting. In meetings which own buildings, this committee may join with the Hearthkeeper (another role) in "building use" decisions i.e. decisions regarding what events to host, what groups to rent space to, what groups to reach out to (or keep at a safe distance).
Social Committee helps with routine and special events in providing logistics, such as for potlucks. This committee is in charge of the meeting's kitchen and food stores.
Worship and Ministry looks after the quality of Meetings for Worship, in part by making introductory statements and providing literature, sharing a monthly query should such apply, and otherwise fine tuning the flow of events around Meeting such as when latecomers are admitted, when children leave, when singing happens if any and so on.
Becoming a member is not a prerequisite for joining a committee. On the contrary, Oversight Committee often recommends that newcomers get to know the people and inner workings of a Meeting before contemplating formal membership. Join Peace and Social Concerns as a way of learning about how a Meeting works within a wider community, in tandem with other Quaker and non-Quaker organizations.
Through the institution of recorded membership, which not all Friends choose to participate in, one may publicly declare one's affiliation and loyalty to the Religious Society of Friends. The process begins with a letter to Oversight followed by a Clearness Committee and business meeting approval of Oversight's recommendation.
Resigning or suspending membership, perhaps in protest over of meeting's direction or policy, is also a valid means of participation. In addition, Oversight may occasionally assess that a person has drifted off and confirm an ending of membership perhaps by certified mail.
Becoming a member does not signify achieving a higher spiritual level or coming closer to God, though it may include these experiences for any given individual. No background checks on the part of the Meeting are implied nor are those with criminal records excluded from membership.
Choosing to become a member is rather a public declaration that one is willing and wishing to serve in the life of the meeting.
Nominating is welcome to approach members with role proposals, unless such members are "released" -- a special status that frees a member to undertake traveling ministry or other community service.
Non-members may pro-actively signal to Nominating when they feel led to participate, which in some cases may be to a degree equivalent to that of any recorded member.