Every so often, a Friends Journal arrives that is exactly the right thing at the right time. For me, this October issue is one of those. A few months ago, I began service as the clerk of my Friends monthly meeting for the first time. Quakers call their decision-making sessions “meeting for worship with attention to business,” and the charge of a clerk in this process is to assist the body of Friends in bringing into their discernment a sense of mutually searching for and identifying the movement and guidance of divine Spirit on the topic at hand.
I’ve participated in and witnessed Quaker business meetings for decades. I’ve seen Quaker process work well, and I’ve seen it work poorly. Taking up the role of clerk at my meeting, I wanted not only to help my friends walk together in the right direction; I wanted to avoid some of the pitfalls that I’ve seen from time to time that can leave Friends spiritually bruised and weary, unheard and unappreciated. In the midst of a pandemic, a miasma of empire, and the bright lines of resistance, there’s already quite enough to make us bruised and weary, if not worse.
My first two business meetings as clerk have been virtual, as public health guidelines have kept us from gathering in person. I’ve appreciated some of the advantages that videoconferencing technology offers a clerk: one can clearly see everyone’s names and faces at once. Background noise and distractions are minimized because everyone but the speaker can be muted. Documents and links can be easily shared on-screen or in a chat window. And I also appreciated that all of the technical differences didn’t seem to eliminate the spirituality of our discussions or the fellowship that helps underpin healthy discernment. Like many meetings in Friends General Conference, we have adopted the practice of opening with a query to remind us of our intentions to overcome a blight that has held us back from fully doing God’s will: “How does this decision support us in our goal to actively transform into an actively antiracist faith community?”
Whether you are new to Quaker process or have years of experience, I hope that the pieces we’ve collected here are helpful to you in fostering grounded worship, joyful decision making, and forward momentum in whatever circles you join. It takes the participation of every one of us to help our Quaker communities transmit our brilliant Light into a world that needs it dearly.
P.S. If you participate in Quaker meetings for business and don’t already have a copy, I’d recommend picking up Mathilda Navias’s useful Quaker Process for Friends on the Benches, available from QuakerBooks of FGC and the Friends United Meeting Bookstore.