Part III. Practices and Procedures
The Society of Friends began not as a structured organization, but as a fellowship of Friends of Truth. As the need arose for service to members or others, Meetings were established and named for the times or intervals of their regular sessions, as Monthly Meetings, Quarterly Meetings, or Yearly Meetings. Meetings, in the Society of Friends, are thus both gatherings of persons for a purpose and units of the structure of the Society. All organized Meetings normally have gatherings for worship and other gatherings for the conduct of business.
Meetings for business are held in a spirit of worship. This does not mean they must be overly solemn or devoid of humor. It means they should be conducted in a spirit of inward recollection out of which will come a flexible and informal dignity fitting to the conduct of the work of a Religious Society.
Friends believe that the right and satisfactory decision in any matter is reached when those present understand and consent in the proposed judgment, finding it in accordance with their understanding of the will of God for the Meeting's action. Therefore, they act on a basis of the "sense of the Meeting" rather than by decision of the majority.
The basic unit of Friends' organization is the Monthly Meeting. The recording of membership and its transfer or termination, the solemnization of marriage, the consoling of Friends bereaved, the nurture of young people, ministry and worship, pastoral care of members, fellowship, inspiration and recreation, outreach and social concern, the raising of funds needed for the work of the Society, are all basically the responsibility of the Monthly Meeting.
For purposes which cannot properly be served by single Monthly Meetings, Friends group themselves into larger and less frequently convened units covering larger areas. The next larger unit after the Monthly Meeting has traditionally been the Quarterly Meeting, and the largest unit the Yearly Meeting. In Baltimore Yearly Meeting some of the traditional Quarterly Meetings have reorganized as Half-yearly or other Meetings. In this book all such intermediate Meetings are referred to as Quarterly Meetings. Membership in all such wider Meetings is conferred upon all members of their constituent Monthly Meetings. Information about Quarterly and Yearly Meetings is given more fully later in this section. There are now many national and international organizations of Friends organized for different purposes, and Baltimore Yearly Meeting is affiliated with a number of them which the Manual of Procedure describes.
3. Preparative and Allowed Meetings for Worship1
Monthly Meetings which find the geographic area from which their members gather too large, or the numbers of their attenders too great, from time to time establish Allowed Meetings for worship or organize Preparative Meetings for the preparation of business to be brought to Monthly Meeting. A Friends' worship group may also begin independently of an existing Monthly Meeting. Such a group may apply to a Monthly Meeting for recognition as an Allowed or Preparative Meeting under the care of that Monthly Meeting.
A Preparative Meeting is a meeting for business subordinated to a Monthly Meeting. It is normally established in conjunction with a separate worship group which handles its own local business matters and which prepares business of more general concern for submission to the Monthly Meeting. Membership decisions and financial responsibility reside with the Monthly Meeting. Sometimes it is helpful to have a simpler relationship between the newly-formed group and the parent Monthly Meeting than a Preparative Meeting. In such cases, the Monthly Meeting recognizes the new group as a meeting for worship and appoints a committee to provide guidance. Such an Allowed (or Indulged) Meeting is under the care of the Monthly Meeting and does not conduct its own business meetings.
Many Monthly Meetings in England and the United States have existed for long periods as groups of two or more Preparative Meetings. However, the more common pattern in Baltimore Yearly Meeting is for an Allowed Meeting which achieves both growth and stability to advance to the stage of Preparative Meeting, and then to full, separate Monthly Meeting status.
The establishment of Allowed and Preparative Meetings is the concern of the sponsoring Monthly Meeting. In addition, the laying down of these subordinate Meetings is the responsibility of the Monthly Meeting in the event that a Preparative or Allowed Meeting becomes unable to fulfill the purposes for which it was established.
4. Establishment of Monthly Meetings2
An Allowed or Preparative Meeting which feels itself ready for Monthly Meeting status applies to its Monthly Meeting. The Monthly Meeting, if it concurs, forwards the application with approval to its Quarterly Meeting. Following its action, the Quarterly Meeting forwards the application to Representative Meeting for its consideration and recommendation to the Yearly Meeting. The Yearly Meeting in session approves or, rarely, disapproves the establishment of a new Monthly Meeting.
Unaffiliated worship groups or organized Friends Meetings within the historic boundaries of Baltimore Yearly Meeting may wish to affiliate with the Yearly Meeting. Application may be made to the most convenient Monthly Meeting for acceptance as an Allowed or Preparative Meeting. They may also apply directly to the Yearly Meeting through Representative Meeting for Monthly Meeting status.
A worship group or organized Meeting that is already affiliated with another Yearly Meeting or Quaker body, or that is not within the boundaries of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, may wish to establish a formal relationship with Baltimore Yearly Meeting. In such cases application is made directly to the Representative Meeting, which will recommend appropriate action to the Yearly Meeting in session.
A Monthly Meeting which has so little business or member interest as to be unable to hold meetings for business at least four times per year should apply to its Quarterly Meeting or to Representative Meeting for assistance. The Quarterly Meeting or the Yearly Meeting may initiate steps to lay down a Monthly Meeting which is entirely inactive. Any real property of a Monthly Meeting which is laid down is normally transferred to the Yearly Meeting. Capital or Trust Funds under the care of a Monthly Meeting which is laid down should be transferred to the Yearly Meeting for appropriate administration. Remaining members of Monthly Meetings laid down are encouraged to join another Meeting.
As we approach our business we need to put aside how the world reaches decisions in temporal affairs and to recollect that we have come together to seek not equity, nor compromise, nor even the most "democratic" solution to the matter at hand but the Truth as God gives us to see the Truth. We believe that God is revealed and gives guidance to all who seek. Thus, in business meeting, we should listen to the views of all, just as we do in meeting for worship. We further believe that as Truth emerges we will have substantial unity in recognizing it, for Truth is undivided and that of God within each person responds to its presence.
We need to allow sufficient time for the conduct of the affairs of our Society. In our modern hurried life it may be hard to take time to search thoroughly for a right course of action. Failing unity, we may defer action until we can all see the Light together. Yet the practical business concerns we address in monthly meeting are as important to our individual and corporate life as the more directly spiritual concerns addressed in our meetings for worship.
Major items of business to be submitted to the Meeting should be prepared as carefully as possible by a Meeting committee or by preparatory work on the part of the Clerk so that pertinent facts and records of previous Meeting actions will be available to facilitate the discussion. Members not involved in the preparatory work should trust and value the work of preparation. Care should be taken to avoid re-working in a way that belittles the work already done.
When a matter requiring decision is placed before the Meeting by the Clerk or any other member, all who feel concerned to express their views should be heard. The Clerk should make sure that all points of view are clearly stated so that the Meeting may have all it needs to arrive at a right decision. Words and spirit should be those of loving helpfulness in search for the right way, the Truth, the best solution to a problem, rather than a position dogmatically asserted and adamantly held. All the time needed for deliberate consideration, including silences for prayerful reflection as needed, should be allowed. When it appears that there is general unity in the Meeting, the Clerk states what appears to be the sense of the Meeting. If the members approve, a minute expressing the sense of the Meeting is immediately written and is read and approved before the close of the session. In matters which are particularly important or complex it is best for the Meeting to compose, and request approval of, a minute before passing to other business.
A minute should express clearly the decision reached by the Meeting and should cite relevant information explaining the Meeting's judgment, but it need not detail or even summarize the views expressed in arriving at unity. The final judgment of the Meeting is of greater importance than any tentative or interim judgments.
The Clerk and Recording Clerk may be given authority to edit minutes already approved if, being re-read, they seem in need of clarification. Any change so made should, however, be reported to the members of the Meeting through publication or by reading at the next business session. When finally approved, a minute becomes part of the Meeting's permanent record.
Members should exercise forbearance in discussion and should seek Divine guidance, realizing that Truth will often transcend the understanding of any single individual. When the judgment of the Meeting appears to be tending away from the opinion of a member, that Friend should consider whether to stand aside or to prevent the consensus required for the Meeting's action. When the Meeting cannot unite upon a minute, no action is taken on the matter, which may be postponed for further consideration. Any previous action or policy of the Meeting in the same area stands in the absence of a specific Meeting decision to change it. Friends are reminded that failure to act is also a form of judgment and are urged to consider seriously the nature of their guidance to stand opposed to a view which has clearly received the assent of most Friends in the Meeting. At the same time Friends are mindful of the many occasions when the leading of one or a few has proven to be the way of Truth. When action appears to be blocked by one or a few Friends, the Meeting may find it useful to appoint a special committee to labor with all concerned for a resolution of the impasse.
These principles of decision making apply also to decisions reached in other Friends' gatherings for business such as committees or boards of trustees.
Membership in the Religious Society of Friends is a spiritual commitment. To become a member, an applicant should have come experientially into general agreement with the Society's principles of belief and testimonies.
Baltimore Yearly Meeting has no binding creed. Its principles of belief are based on its Judeo-Christian heritage and adherence to the Spirit of Christ (the Inward Light, the Divine Seed, That of God in Everyone). The testimonies spring from respect for truth; for peace, harmony and a settled intention to practice love; for simplicity, community and the equal worth of all people.
Membership carries with it spiritual obligations. Each member is called to participate in the Meeting's spiritual life and to attend worship regularly. Members need to nurture each other's God-given gifts and talents. They seek guidance from one another and the Meeting in discerning God's will for themselves. They pray for one another.
The basic spiritual commitment creates practical obligations. The vitality of each Monthly Meeting depends on its members' investments of time, energy and financial support. Friends put practical meaning into their spiritual commitment through regular participation in meetings for business, service on committees or as officers, regular financial giving, taking part in service projects under the care of the Meeting, assisting in maintenance of Meeting property, and representing the Meeting in community and wider Friends' organizations.
a. Application for Membership3
It is essential that those desiring to join the Monthly Meeting have regularly attended meetings for worship and have attended some meetings for business. They also need to review carefully Faith and Practice and other writings of Friends to gain an understanding of the Quaker mode of worship and transacting business, the meaning of Friends' testimonies, and the responsibilities of membership.
Applicants for membership should address a letter to the Monthly Meeting stating their desire to enter into membership. It is helpful for the letter to explain why the applicant feels drawn to the Religious Society of Friends. The application is considered by the appropriate Monthly Meeting committee, which either meets with the applicant or appoints a clearness committee to fulfill the function and to report back. At the clearness meeting with the applicant, loving consideration is given to the applicant's spiritual journey, familiarity and agreement with Friends' principles and practice, commitment to fulfill the spiritual and practical responsibilities of membership, and relationship to any other religious body. If the applicant is a minor, the parents' attitudes toward the application should be determined.
If the committee feels that the applicant is not yet ready for membership, action may be postponed. It is then the responsibility of the committee to become better acquainted with the prospective member and to offer instruction and guidance as seems appropriate.
In rare cases, the committee will conclude that for this person, membership in the Society of Friends is not appropriate. The committee should be sure that the applicant understands the reasons for their conclusion.
If the committee finds no obstruction, it brings the application to the Monthly Meeting with a recommendation for acceptance. Some Meetings follow the practice, particularly useful for larger Meetings, of postponing final action until a subsequent meeting for business in order that Friends may become acquainted with the prospective member. When any application is approved, the Monthly Meeting minutes the acceptance into membership.
When the Monthly Meeting accepts any adult or child into membership including transferring or sojourning members), it should arrange for an appropriate welcome of the new member and for particular Friends to accept a continuing responsibility to embody the Meeting's ongoing concern for the welfare of the new member.
The necessary statistical data concerning each new member required for the Meeting records are obtained by the Recorder.
A Friend residing temporarily at a distance from the Monthly Meeting where membership is recorded, and not wishing to transfer membership to the Monthly Meeting which it is convenient to attend, is welcomed to all the meetings and activities of the "host" Monthly Meeting. Such a sojourner may request the home Meeting to supply a minute addressed to the host Meeting, asking for sojourner status in that Meeting. The host Meeting normally acts on such a request at the business meeting at which it is presented. Formal sojourner status is not recorded in the absence of a communication from the home Monthly Meeting. The host Meeting does not include sojourners in its statistics of membership. Sojourning status terminates when the sojourner leaves the area of the Meeting, which should then notify the home Meeting.
A sojourner who continues to reside in the area of the Meeting for an extended time should consider transferring full membership to the Meeting. A Meeting which perceives that sojourning is continuing for an extended time should discuss with the sojourner the possibility of a change in status to regular member.
The appropriate committee should inform members moving away about the Meetings near their destination, and inform such Meetings of the arrival of the members. The appropriate committees of Meetings so informed should get in touch with such new arrivals and inform them of the Meeting activities.
Members moving beyond the limits of the Monthly Meeting are advised to transfer their membership to the Monthly Meeting within whose limits they propose to live, in order that they may be able to assume the full responsibility of membership. Friends moving to a place where there is no Meeting may, of course, retain their existing membership and should maintain contact with their Meeting.
Members wishing to transfer notify the Monthly Meeting in which they hold membership. Following the Meeting's approval, the Clerk of that Monthly Meeting will, by a certificate of removal or by letter, forward the request to the Clerk of the receiving Monthly Meeting. The receiving Meeting normally acts upon the transfer request at the business meeting at which it is presented. When the transfer has been accepted and recorded and the issuing Monthly Meeting notified of the acceptance, the Friend becomes a member of the receiving Meeting. Suggested formats for use by Meetings involved in transfers are contained in Appendix B.
Transfer members should be welcomed into the Monthly Meeting in the same manner as other new members.
Meetings should encourage attenders to become acquainted with the Meeting and its members and to be active in the life of the Meeting. The Society of Friends depends in a unique way on the shared efforts of all in the meeting for worship, meeting for business, committee tasks and the Meeting's concerns. Attenders are welcomed into all Meeting activities, but generally do not serve on Ministry and Counsel, Trustees, Overseers, or Nominating Committee, or as Meeting officers or clerks of committees.
An attender whose service on a Yearly Meeting committee is considered appropriate by the Monthly Meeting may be suggested to the Yearly Meeting Nominating Committee for such service.
When children reach the point at which they can have the understanding to make the commitments of membership, they may apply. Children too young to make this commitment may be recorded as junior (associate) members at the request of member parents or guardians. Some Meetings record minor children as full members upon the request of member parents or guardians, or at birth.
Children are equally a part of the Meeting, whether they are junior (associate) or full members, and should be encouraged to be active in the Meeting.
As children mature, the Meeting through its appropriate committee should consult from time to time with those who did not themselves make the commitment of membership, both junior (associate) members and full members by parental request, to determine if they are committed to the spiritual and practical responsibilities of adult members. If they do not indicate interest in full adult membership during the Meeting's contacts over a period of several years, their names should be removed from the membership rolls and they should be so notified.
It is the responsibility of each Monthly Meeting, through the appropriate committee, to keep in touch with its members. It is recommended that, at least once a year, each Meeting write to those members who reside at a distance, and particularly to those who are remote from any Friends meeting. This letter should express kindly interest and inquire as to their religious life and activities.
Should a member offer a resignation of membership, the Monthly Meeting is advised, if the way opens, to request the appropriate committee to visit the member in a spirit of loving care to inquire into the cause of the resignation. If a member does resign, the minutes should reflect that the release is being made at the member's own request and the member should be informed of the action.
Members who substantially disregard the obligations of membership should be visited by the appropriate committee to inquire about their interest. If extended efforts are unavailing, or the member cannot be located after five years of absence, and the Monthly Meeting concurs in the judgment of the committee, the member may be dropped from the list of members, and if possible, notified by the Clerk of the Meeting.
If a member's conduct or publicly expressed views appear to deny Friend's beliefs and testimonies or bring the Society into disrepute, the appropriate Meeting committee should appoint a few well-qualified Friends to meet with the member. These Friends should labor with the member lovingly and patiently in a spirit of reconciliation for as long as there is reasonable hope of benefit from their labors. If such efforts are unavailing, the Friends appointed to labor with the member may recommend to the committee which appointed them that the person's membership be terminated. If the committee agrees, it should so recommend to the Monthly Meeting after notifying the person of its decision. The Monthly Meeting, if it agrees, records the termination of membership for cause in its minutes. A copy of the minute should be delivered to the person whose membership is terminated.
One whose membership has been terminated may subsequently apply for membership in the usual manner.
The Monthly Meeting meets regularly for business, normally at monthly intervals. It appoints suitable persons for stated terms as Clerk, Treasurer and Recorder. Other officers, such as Recording Clerk, Assistant Clerk and Assistant Treasurer may be appointed as needed.
All regular appointments by the Monthly Meeting, except those to the Nominating Committee, are made on the basis of nominations from a Monthly Meeting Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee itself is composed of members chosen directly by the Monthly Meeting or through a special nominating procedure.
a. The Clerk4
The Clerk is the servant of the Meeting for the execution of its business affairs, convening regular or specially called meetings for business, guiding deliberations and carrying out the Meeting's instructions for actions between business sessions. The Meeting reposes great trust in its Clerk and can be greatly assisted if that officer understands the peculiar functions of the office. There is great virtue in giving several members the experience and the tempering which comes with the responsibility of the clerkship. Hence it is desirable that the occupant of the position be changed at reasonable intervals.
Part of the decision making process in the Society of Friends is the recording in the minutes of those decisions made by the Monthly Meeting. This is the responsibility of the Recording Clerk (sometimes called the Assistant Clerk). The Recording Clerk works closely with the Clerk in preparing for Meetings for Business and in formulating proposed minutes. The Recording Clerk is responsible for the preparation of an accurate final copy of the minutes, which becomes a permanent record of the Monthly Meeting.
A Treasurer, nominated by the Monthly Meeting Nominating Committee and appointed by the Meeting, is responsible for the custody and disbursement of Meeting funds as directed by that body. The Treasurer should keep accurate records and report to the Meeting periodically or on reasonable request. The Meeting should provide for an annual audit of the Treasurer's records. The Meeting may appoint an Assistant Treasurer or a person to function in the Treasurer's absence. These officers are, ex officio, members of the Stewardship and Finance Committee. It should be noted that bonding of the Yearly Meeting treasurer is written to include bonding within specified limits of all Monthly Meeting treasurers for the protection of the Meetings and of the officers.
The Recorder keeps records of births, deaths, marriages, and changes in membership and marital status, and prepares and forwards to the Yearly Meeting an annual statistical report. The Recorder also has general charge of all records of the Monthly Meeting, except for current records being maintained by other officers, and is a member of the Yearly Meeting Committee on Records.
In the Religious Society of Friends a committee is a group of Friends who are responsible for specific duties or the pursuit of an inquiry which the Meeting as a whole cannot accomplish efficiently or appropriately. A committee is expected to act for the Meeting which appointed it in matters that come within its charge. It reports to the Meeting such of its business as does not betray confidences, seeking guidance from the Meeting before going beyond its stated charge.
From time to time it is helpful for a committee to state to the best of its ability its understanding of its function and responsibility and to ask the Meeting for guidance as to the correspondence of that understanding with the intent of the Meeting. In most Meetings this will take the form of an annual report. It is also helpful for a committee from time to time to prepare position papers in which the committee states its corporate sense on a particular concern and asks the Meeting's approval of the statement as the basis for further progress. Each Monthly Meeting committee should keep in touch with the equivalent Yearly Meeting committee to report activities and to receive information and assistance.
A committee acts for the entire Meeting and is responsible to the Meeting for what it does. However, it is also responsible to the Spirit which moves in any Quaker meeting, and may sometimes be led in unexpected directions. Sensitivity to the implications of these two responsibilities to the Meeting and to the Spirit and to the necessity of carrying the whole Meeting forward toward the Light rather than outrunning the Meeting, is the most challenging part of committee work.
Committee meetings are generally open to any interested Meeting member and, for this reason, are held at stated times and places or, if specially called, should be well announced. While open committee meetings permit general participation, it is expected that non-members of a committee will use appropriate restraint. Some committees, notably Overseers (or Ministry and Oversight) may deal with matters of such confidentiality as to require closed meetings. The Nominating Committee, because of the need to consider frankly the qualifications of Meeting members for service in various functions, normally meets with only appointed members of the committee present.
Upon receiving suggestions from a duly appointed Nominating Committee, the Monthly Meeting appoints suitable persons to serve as members of a Committee on Ministry and Counsel (also sometimes known as Ministry and Worship), as Overseers, and as members of such other committees as the Meeting may find useful. In some Meetings the Committee on Ministry and Counsel is combined with Overseers as a Committee on Ministry and Oversight.
Officers of the Meeting, Trustees, and committee clerks should be recorded members of the Monthly Meeting. Experience has also shown that Monthly Meetings are best served by having Ministry and Counsel, Overseers and Nominating committees composed entirely of Monthly Meeting members.
Any committee, except Ministry and Counsel, Overseers, Nominating, and Trustees, is free to add, besides its regularly appointed members, any other Meeting member or attender who shows sufficient interest and is willing to attend meetings and perform committee duties. It is important that such co-opting be the considered decision of the full committee and not a casual invitation from the committee clerk. The act of co-opting is recorded in the committee's minutes and communicated to the clerk of the Meeting and the clerk of the Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee can look at the discharge of responsibilities by co-opted committee members to find candidates for regular appointment to the committee.
The Nominating committee of a Meeting carries a heavy responsibility. The effectiveness of the Meeting's operation as a corporate body of Friends is, in large part, dependent upon the sensitive yet forthright consideration by this committee of persons to be recommended to the Meeting for service. The Nominating Committee must consider capabilities, experience, personal attributes, willingness to serve, as well as special gifts and talents. In addition, the committee must be aware of the duties and responsibilities of each office and committee of the Meeting.
The Nominating Committee nurtures different types of ministry through its careful selection of Friends to serve in Meeting positions. By varying the assignments of individual Friends and thus broadening their Meeting experience, the committee helps strengthen the Meeting's corporate life by fostering individual growth.
Because of this heavy responsibility it is desirable to select for the Committee members of the Society, and preferably of the local Meeting. As this committee does not bring in suggestions for its own membership, the Meeting is advised to establish a careful process for the selection of knowledgeable, sensitive, experienced, caring and forthright Friends to serve on the Nominating Committee.
1. The Common Purpose
The Ministry and Counsel Committee (in some Meetings called Ministry and Worship) and the Committee of Overseers have a common purpose to help build and maintain a Christian community which unites all in the Meeting in a shared spiritual life, and which inspires all to walk in the Light. Ministry and Counsel is concerned primarily with what happens when the Meeting gathers for worship or for business. Overseers are concerned primarily with the spiritual well-being of the Meeting's individual members. In some Meetings the two committees may be combined as a Ministry and Oversight Committee.
All Meeting members are called to care for one another and for the Meeting. The two committees described here foster and focus that caring, in a spirit of commitment and love. Their common purpose is central to the life of the Meeting.
2. Ministry and Counsel
This committee seeks to ensure that each meeting for worship or business begins with quiet and reverent assembling; that it proceeds on the basis of a silent and attentive search for Divine guidance; that the meeting is served by spoken ministry that is inspired as way opens, and is addressed to the conditions of those present. Meetings for worship are ended when it is sensed that those present have been spiritually refreshed. The Ministry and Counsel Committee should:
- Counsel and support those who are led to speak out of the silence in meetings for worship. Inexperienced speakers especially may need to be encouraged and advised. Those who are inclined to speak unacceptably, at undue length, too often, or too soon after another speaker, may need prompt and loving counseling.
- Assure that appointed meetings for such occasions as marriages and memorials are appropriately held.
- Arrange special meetings for worship on behalf of those who are ill or imprisoned.
- Plan retreats, or other gatherings smaller than the regular meeting for worship, in order to deepen the spiritual life of the Meeting.
- Welcome newcomers and visitors to Meeting. (Leaflets to help newcomers understand Friends' practices and a visitors' book to record names and addresses are useful in this connection.)
- Consider requests5 for travel minutes and make recommendations on them to the Monthly Meeting.
3. Report on the State of the Meeting
Ministry and Counsel drafts annually a report which assesses the Meeting's spiritual condition and needs. The Monthly Meeting should thoughtfully consider this draft and give it final approval. The report should be prepared with reference to the Queries6 and should cover such matters as:
- Spiritual condition of the Meeting; strengths and failings.
- Nature of meetings for worship during the year. Quality of the silence, content and quality of the spoken ministry.
- Meetings for business during the year. Range of concerns considered, attendance of members, implementation of the Meeting's decisions.
- Contributions of Peace and Social Order, Religious Education, Ministry and Counsel, Overseers, and other committees.
- What is most needed to deepen the spiritual life of the Meeting and to strengthen its witness in behalf of Friends' testimonies to the world.
This report is forwarded to the Quarterly and Yearly Meetings after approval by the Monthly Meeting.
Care of the individual members of the Meeting is the responsibility of the Committee of Overseers. Overseers should encourage each member to participate fully in the Meeting community's life and to perform faithfully his or her Meeting commitments. To this end, Overseers should:
- Be acquainted with all members and regular attenders, and be aware of needs for encouragement and support.
- Receive, consider and recommend Meeting action on requests for and withdrawals from membership.
- Help prospective members and new members to understand Friends' principles and practices.
- Identify members' special gifts and talents. Seek clearness on the special nature of the gift and the way it is to be recognized. When clearness is attained, forward any appropriate recommendations to the meeting for business and any appropriate Quarterly or Yearly Meeting Committee.
- Assist in setting up clearness and support committees for those who need or request them.
- Provide clearness committees to assist couples contemplating marriage under the care of the Meeting.7
- Assist with arrangements in time of death.8
- Encourage visiting and community life among the Meeting's members, and see that ill, troubled or needy Friends are visited and helped.
- Get in touch with absent members and keep contact with non-resident members.
- Help to reconcile differences which may arise in the Meeting.
Many duties of Overseers are delicate and personal. In such areas, the committee's proceedings are kept confidential and the dignity of the persons concerned is respected.
The Monthly Meeting is free to form such other committees as meet its purposes. Whether special committees are formed or not, the following functions need to be provided for in some appropriate way in each Monthly Meeting.
Monthly and Preparative Meetings should raise from their members and attenders funds sufficient to meet their responsibilities, to expand their interests, to care for their property and to meet their obligations to the Yearly Meeting. A Stewardship and Finance Committee or Finance and Property Committee appointed by each Meeting is responsible for the preparation of an annual budget for consideration by the Meeting, for raising the funds to meet the approved budget, and for proper care and use of Meeting property. The Treasurer is ex officio a member of this committee.
The Meeting should periodically review its corporate witness with respect to contributions to Quaker and other organizations which reflect Friends' testimonies. The Stewardship and Finance Committee should make suitable proposals to reflect these attitudes or decisions.
Any Meeting that accepts substantial funds for investment or holds appreciable real property is encouraged to incorporate and to appoint trustees. Those Meetings not incorporated should also appoint trustees to hold title and execute legal business pertaining to property and securities held by the Meeting. Trustees should be appointed in accordance with applicable laws, and for specified terms. A local Meeting is incorporated in the state of its location; therefore the law of that state prevails.
The trustees, like other committees of the Meeting, are selected by the Meeting and are expected to act for the whole Meeting in carrying out their responsibilities under the law. Thus, while trustees must be conscious of their fiduciary obligation to preserve the assets of the Meeting, they must also be continuously sensitive to the spirit of the Meeting and its wish to fulfill the social testimonies of the Society of Friends. The Meeting, in turn, should be sensitive to the legal responsibilities of trustees which can, in certain circumstances, make them personally liable for actions taken in the name of the Meeting.
The Committee of Trustees alone is held legally responsible for the administration of Meeting property, real and personal. On behalf of the Meeting, the trustees, as its legal representative, may borrow money when necessary. They are the legal holder of property and securities, preserve the principal of donated funds, and have the power to accept stocks, bonds or other securities in exchange for short-term loans to other Friends' organizations. Trustees and Meetings holding gifts in trust must see that these are appropriated as designated by the donors. If, however, these purposes become obsolete, the trustees should seek advice from the Meeting. The Yearly Meeting has adopted a set of specific advices to Meetings and those proposing to leave property to Meetings in their wills.9
The trustees shall be directed by the Monthly Meeting's wishes, and shall consider these wishes in their transactions, being ever mindful of the conditions prescribed by donors. The trustees should keep accurate records of the terms of the trusts held by them on behalf of the Meeting and report at least annually to the Meeting.
No Meeting property may be distributed among individual members of a Meeting. If any Monthly Meeting ceases to exist, its property passes to the Yearly Meeting. The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Trustees, in concert with the trustees, if any, of the Monthly Meeting involved, make a recommendation to the Yearly Meeting for the sale or other use of the property.
Some Meetings have a special committee with duties in these areas; in others these responsibilities may be borne by Ministry and Counsel.10
Advancement and outreach are natural and integral aspects of the Quaker way of life. Realizing that we are all children of God means that there is an infinite opportunity to search for God in our relations with others. Our fellowship begins, grows and is nurtured in home and Meeting. It reaches greater fulfillment as we carry our love of God and humankind to our relationships with persons in the wider community of which our Meeting is a part, with members of other Meetings, and with all persons whom we meet.
While such extensions of fellowship reflect corporate concern, the concern will be manifest to others only if our individual lives are filled with the fruits of the Spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, fidelity, gentleness and self-control. This type of witness is itself outreach, but when words of witness are spoken from the foundation of such lives, then the hearers are truly called to God. The sharing of our spiritual values with others, from our neighbors to the larger world, makes our outreach and advancement activities meaningful. Without spiritual motivation our witness falls short.
In our communities, witness can be made through public lectures, letters to newspapers, radio talks and the like. In a wider sphere, friends can reach out through articles, pamphlets and books. We should constantly search out other appropriate ways to make known our insights, experiences and testimonies.
Many Meetings have found strength through the attendance and membership of students and faculty members from nearby colleges and universities. Every Meeting should be sure that its ministry is known and open to such groups, but should also be sure that it reaches out to people from all other vocations and whatever racial and ethnic groups are present in its area. The Society of Friends is weakened by its lack of such diversity.
Our efforts for social betterment are a part of our outreach. Committees established to seek peace or social justice are as much involved in the advancement and outreach of the Meeting as the committee bearing this name. It is, however, the special concern of this committee to carry the message of Quakerism to those in the community who are seekers but have not heard of Friends. It is frequently said that someone who joined one of our Meetings "had been a Friend without knowing it." This committee seeks to reach such persons.
The Religious Education Committee is charged with the guidance and conducting of the formal religious education of the Meeting. Religious education should be broadly interpreted to embrace a continuing experience throughout life. The aim of religious education in the Society of Friends is to enhance opportunities for individuals to experience and be guided by the Inner Light. In a real sense, such education begins in the home from the earliest days of a child's life. The experiences of love, sharing, doing and learning within the family can all witness to the extent to which the Spirit of God is manifested in daily life.
First Day School and Adult Discussion Groups provide a continuing opportunity for religious experience. An awareness of the Bible, of Quaker history, of other forms of religious experience and practice, and a personal sense of relationship to God can all come with participation in Meeting-organized religious education programs.
Religious education activities are part of an integrated worship process. To achieve this, it is desirable to have First Day School children share at least a part of the period of meeting for worship.
Members of the Meeting should treat seriously the responsibility and the opportunity to share in First Day School either as members of the Religious Education Committee or as teachers. Care in developing a balanced curriculum suitable to our times, and preparation for teaching, are needed to assure that religious education is a vital part of the life of the Meeting.
Meetings may vary widely in the extent of their activity and the degree of their organization in these areas and will often differ in the names chosen for service committees. Other names commonly used include Community Relations Committee, Social Action Committee, International Outreach Committee. Such committees are established to ensure that the Meeting makes a suitable corporate contribution to the furtherance of the testimonies of the Society of Friends in the important areas of peace and social concern. Committees established to address these concerns should keep in close touch with the related committees of the Yearly Meeting for coordination of activities and sharing of information.
Visiting among Friends strengthens our Society. Individual Friends and Meetings are advised to take part in and encourage such visits.
a. Letters of Introduction11
Friends who travel on business or vacation are urged to visit Friends' Meetings and homes as way opens. Such travelers may take along letters of introduction from their Monthly or Preparative Meetings. A letter may be in the form of a minute of the Meeting, confirming the visitor's membership, giving some information about his or her participation in Friends' affairs, and conveying greetings from the Meeting.
A Friend who feels called to travel in Truth's service to visit with families, make public speeches, speak at called meetings, or the like should lay the concern before the Monthly Meeting, preferably first bringing it to the Committee on Ministry and Counsel. If the Meeting unites with the concern, it should record a minute describing its member's leading and proposed service, expressing the Meeting's approval and support, and asking for the assistance of Friends to be visited. The Meeting should provide the Friend under concern with a copy of the minute.
The Friend who sets out on such a journey should be accompanied, when practicable, by a Friend in sympathy with the concern and able to give counsel and companionship. The Monthly Meeting issuing the minute is responsible for seeing that the service is not hampered by lack of funds.
A Monthly Meeting minute for travel outside the Yearly Meeting should be approved and endorsed by the Yearly Meeting, or Representative Meeting, if time permits. Clerks of the Meetings visited should be asked to endorse letters of introduction or travel minutes. The travelers should return their endorsed documents to the Monthly Meeting promptly at the end of the journey.
6. Marriage under the Care of the Monthly Meeting12
Marriage is regarded by Friends as a spiritual commitment, a solemn covenant made in the presence of God and the Meeting. It is earnestly advised that those contemplating this important step seek Divine guidance in reaching their decision.
Marriage established in love and understanding should lay the foundation for happy and useful lives. Obstacles that arise from differences in ideas or temperaments can be overcome by patience, mutual forbearance and a common will to build a loving home.
As marriage affects more people than the couple themselves, families and trusted friends should be consulted early so that harmony may be preserved. The procedures outlined below provide time for thoughtful consideration and planning under the care of the Monthly Meeting. This normally takes three months or more.
The wedding takes place during an appointed meeting for worship. Simplicity should be observed in wedding arrangements.
Couples wishing to be married under the care of a Friends Meeting must have the approval of the Meeting. This should be requested at least three months prior to the proposed wedding date. The request should be in writing and signed by both persons intending marriage. Their letter indicates that they have considered the questions in Appendix F-1., and asks for the Meeting's oversight of the wedding. Members or non-members of the Society may marry under the care of a Monthly Meeting, if applicable law permits. The couple should be aware that the loving concern of the Meeting continues beyond the wedding itself.
The letter of request should be addressed to the Meeting in care of its Clerk, who forwards the request to the Overseers or other appropriate committee. A small committee of Friends is appointed to inquire into the clearness of the couple for marriage. This committee meets with the couple to consider the matters outlined in Appendix F-2 and reports its findings to the Overseers Committee, which brings a recommendation to the Monthly Meeting for Business. If the Monthly Meeting approves, a special committee of oversight is appointed to arrange the meeting for worship during which the couple will marry. This committee of oversight sees that the wedding is carried out in a dignified and spiritual way, after the manner of Friends. Those appointed also accept personal responsibility for representing the Meeting's continuing concern for the marriage and, as far as possible, remaining in touch with the couple following the wedding. For this reason, it is customary in many Meetings to include on this committee Friends whose names are put forward by the couple or their families as suitable to this duty. Appendix F-3 lists the duties of this committee.
The fact of impending death is one of God's provisions for our living. Death comes as the culmination of life and is both inevitable and natural. The mystery of death is no greater than the mystery of life. Friends should consider their own death and make appropriate provisions in advance to spare their loved ones trouble, expense and the pain of unanticipated decisions.
Monthly Meetings should be ready to help Friends facing death, and their families, to prepare for life's final mystery. Overseers can help with information on legal requirements, simple burials and cremations. Ministry and Counsel can help the family to arrange a memorial meeting or funeral after the manner of Friends.
Grief is natural after the death of a loved one, whether the death is sudden and unexpected or long-impending. The Meeting should help family and friends to express their grief and work through it to a sense of unity with all creation, so that the deceased can be remembered joyfully. Meetings frequently do this by holding memorial meetings for worship, in celebration of the life of the member or attender who has died.
a. Memorial Meetings13
Memorial meetings are arranged as soon as convenient for the family. They are conducted as meetings for worship, with Friendly simplicity. If attendance of non-Friends is anticipated, it is appropriate to appoint a Friend to explain Friends' worship near the beginning of the meeting. A memorial minute may be read early in the meeting. A closed casket or urn may be present if the family wishes.
Memorial minutes are normally read also in meetings for business, and entered in the minutes of the Meeting. The family of the deceased Friend should also receive a copy. If the deceased was active in Quarterly or Yearly Meeting affairs, the memorial minute should also be forwarded to those Meetings.
Burial or the scattering of ashes may precede or follow such a meeting, may be separately arranged, or may constitute the only observance. In any case it should be conducted as an act of worship under the guidance of the Spirit. Friends should avoid display or excessive expense in funeral arrangements. The family may wish to suggest that memorial contributions be made for some special concern of the deceased.
Documentation of one's wishes regarding disposition of one's body and possessions after death is a matter which requires forethought and preparation while health permit s. Friends are urged to make wills according to the guide in Appendix I. If a Friend wishes to will some or all of the body for medical purposes, it is strongly urged that this wish be made known to members of the family at the time of the decision, and that it be registered with a memorial society and with the state or other organization authorized to act on such requests. The family should be acquainted with steps to be taken at the time of death, since immediate action is usually required. Overseers should maintain a file of up-to-date information on the preferences of their members on these matters, and on the laws of their particular jurisdiction.
Friends have traditionally taken care to keep and preserve records, and Meetings should give sustained attention to this matter by appointing competent members to keep the records accurate, accessible for current reference, and preserved for future generations.
The Monthly Meeting Recorder is responsible for maintaining the roll of members and keeping it up to date. Care should be taken to record in the Monthly Meeting minutes each change in statistics or membership status. The Recording Clerk or Monthly Meeting Records Committee should review the Meeting membership records each year and report to the Monthly Meeting on their status.
Taking minutes of meetings for business and preserving them is the duty of the Clerk and the Assistant or Recording Clerk, and the responsibility should be definitely assigned. The minutes of each business session should be dated and signed by both the Presiding Clerk and the Recording Clerk. Attachments such as the annual budget and financial report, the annual committee assignment list, and other communications of importance, should be kept with the minutes to which they relate, and notations on the minutes and the attachments should cross-reference each other. Each item should be dated and signed.
The accounts are normally kept by the Treasurer, usually under the direction of the Monthly Meeting's Finance Committee. All accounts are kept in a form which enables them to be reported to the Meeting on a regular basis. Either the Monthly Meeting or the Committee should appoint an auditor or an auditing committee to examine the accounts each year.
Minutes of committees should also be carefully kept, in chronological order, and turned over to the Recorder for preservation when no longer needed by the Committee. As with Monthly Meeting minutes, they should be signed and dated.
The newsletter may be the most-used record of the life of the Meeting. At least one complete set should be kept for Meeting reference and archival purposes. Other documents important to the life and good order of the Meeting or its members may include legal documents (deeds, notes, trusts, insurance policies), marriage certificates (in reduced-copy form), and correspondence. All such documents should be kept in a safe location known to the Clerk, the Trustees, the Finance Committee, and the Recorder.
Each set of records, including membership, business meeting minutes, financial records, committee minutes, and the newsletter, should be kept on acid-free paper. No attachments should be made to pages by the use of metal fasteners, paste, glue, or gummed tape, as all will eventually eat through the paper and destroy the record. Each set of records should be kept in chronological order in acid-free folders or binders and boxes. If binders are used, it is best not to allow direct contact of metal with the contents, and it should be possible to remove pages for microfilming.
The permanent record copies of membership records, Monthly Meeting minutes and attachments, financial records, committee minutes, and newsletters should go in units of approximately 500 pages to the Maryland Hall of Records, which will make and keep a microfilm copy. Meetings should retain a reference copy of important records during this process. Information on current procedures for further disposition of records is obtainable from the Yearly Meeting Records Committee. The Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College and the Quaker Collection at Haverford College have jointly served as the official depository for records of Baltimore Yearly Meeting and its constituent Monthly Meetings.
Each Monthly Meeting should:
- Annually appoint members to attend Yearly Meeting sessions and report to the Monthly Meeting.
- Annually appoint to Representative Meeting the number of representatives to which the Monthly Meeting is entitled and promptly advise the Yearly Meeting office of the appointment(s).
- Support the Yearly Meeting financially in accordance with the apportionment developed by the Stewardship and Finance Committee of the Yearly Meeting in cooperation with the Monthly Meeting and approved at the Yearly Meeting sessions.
- Annually forward approved Monthly Meeting reports, for example on Peace or Religious Education, to the Yearly Meeting office for use by the appropriate Yearly Meeting committees.
- Forward to the Yearly Meeting office at appropriate times statistical information, names and addresses of officers, committee clerks and members and other facts which from time to time may be required by the Yearly Meeting.
- At the request of the Yearly Meeting Nominating Committee, suggest the names of persons who would be suitable to serve on Yearly Meeting committees.
- Annually forward to the Yearly Meeting office an approved report on the spiritual state of the Monthly Meeting.
- Forward, either directly to the Clerk of Yearly Meeting or through the Quarterly Meeting, copies of memorial minutes of Friends well-known beyond the Monthly Meeting. These minutes are mentioned in the Yearly Meeting Yearbook. They may be read in whole or in part, as way opens, in a Yearly Meeting session, and they are filed with Yearly Meeting records.
- Respond promptly to calls from the Yearly Meeting office with news items for the Interchange. Regularly forward the Monthly Meeting newsletters and directory to the Yearly Meeting office.
In Baltimore Yearly Meeting the traditional role of Quarterly Meetings as business meetings intermediate between Monthly Meetings and the Yearly Meeting has undergone many changes. Quarterly Meetings (some of which are now Half-yearly or Half-year's Meetings) are primarily held for fellowship and conference purposes bringing together members of all meetings in a geographic area, while some Quarters are adding business sessions. Interest in reviving strong, active Quarters is widespread within the Yearly Meeting.
Certain Yearly Meeting committees are constituted to have representation from each Quarter (see Manual of Procedure), and reports on the spiritual state of the Monthly Meetings and memorial minutes for deceased Friends well known in the Quarter are customarily considered by Quarterly Meetings. This book does not prescribe organization or committee structures for Quarterly Meetings, which may establish such as serve their purposes.
Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends is an organization of the members of its constituent Quarterly and Monthly Meetings. The Yearly Meeting exercises only general oversight and loving care over constituent Meetings, leaving them to the property ordering of their worship, fellowship, and service. Information on the structure and operation of the Yearly Meeting is contained in the Manual of Procedure and the Yearbook.
1 See Appendix G.
2 See Appendix H.
3 See also Appendix E.
4 See Advices for Clerks, Appendix A.
5 See Appendix C.
6 See page 39.
7 Appendix F and page 68.
8 Appendix J and page 69.
9 See Appendix I.
10 See page 59.
11 A sample