Sunday, January 22, 2012

Questions on How Best to Meet for [Quaker] Business.

Margaret Jones & I were invited to lead an after-Meeting "worship-sharing" session this afternoon, which drifted quite a ways from normative "worship-sharing" forms-- but we believe that everyone involved found the session illuminating, encouraging, quite possibly useful. We hope other Meetings may find our handout helpful:

Questions on How Best to Meet for Business

We two members have recently felt called to raise a concern about how our Meeting’s business is being conducted. While changes in formal procedures may help in addressing that concern, the issue is one of spiritual orientation: whether our way of following such procedures is meeting their object.

That object, as we understand it, is to work together in harmony with what some people would call ‘God’s will’, or ‘the Tao’―or what Lloyd Lee Wilson here calls ‘gospel order’:
“The perception of gospel order is a spiritual exercise, rather than an intellectual one, and the intellectual processes or physical procedures by which we look for discernment are aids to the spiritual process, rather than the process itself. The fundamental means by which a meeting or an individual discerns gospel order is by centering down into waiting worship, to listen and receive what the Spirit will offer to enlighten the circumstance…

“As individuals or as a meeting community we should go about answering the question, ‘What is gospel order in this situation?’ by listening to the Inward Guide, and learning to set all things aside except that guidance. If we do, we will see over time that there is an internal consistency and pattern to our actions in gospel order, though seeking after consistency or intellectual logic would not have led us in the paths we have traveled with the Holy Spirit.”

We hope that worship sharing on the following questions will be worthwhile [Quotes are from (Pacific Yearly Meeting)Faith & Practice sections: ‘Friends Process for Making Decisions’ and 'Meeting for Worship for Business'] :

1) “Friends conduct business together in the faith that there is one Divine Spirit, which is accessible to all persons. When Friends wait upon, heed, and follow the Light of Truth within them, its spirit will lead to unity. This faith is the foundation for any corporate decision.”

Do we have sufficient confidence in that foundation to make it our first consideration, not an afterthought?

2) “Friends begin meetings in which decisions are to be made with a period of silent worship.
In the stillness, they realize that a business or committee meeting is in fact a Meeting for Worship to deal with certain matters of importance.”

Can we strive to maintain a spirit of worship throughout, treating business in a manner more like ‘worship sharing’? What would that be like?

3) “Friends who stand to speak find that their ministry is more faithful, concise, and better heard.”

Although our meetings are too small to require anyone to stand to speak— would that practice effectively remind members that anything said should be, essentially, a ‘message’?

4) “Although Friends study and discuss issues in advance, they should not come to Meeting for Business with minds made up. Seeking to be reverent to that of God in themselves and others, Friends should offer their personal perspectives and avoid taking fixed or adversarial positions.”

While no one can be expected to arrive at Meeting in a state of blank ignorance— can we hold our fixed ideas lightly, subject to revision, reframing, new inspirations? How can members best cultivate that readiness?