Quaker “Best Practices”—Meeting for Business
February 6, 2017 § 4 Comments
- Distribute the agenda and relevant documents in the week prior to meeting for business in worship.
- Consider one of the queries from your Faith and Practice.
- Set aside time for exploring long-term issues, big picture issues, and other concerns that lie outside the usual business of the meeting.
Central Philadelphia Meeting distributes materials pertaining to the upcoming meeting for business in worship by email during the week before meeting. The meeting also provides some packets of these materials on a table by the door into the meeting room for those who don’t use email or have not printed them or brought some mobile device to view them on. These should be in a format that makes mobile viewing manageable; pdf files work pretty well; html pages work better.
One of the first things on the agenda is to read and consider one of the queries in PhYM’s* Faith and Practice, rotating through them month by month. I think this is an excellent practice. My previous meeting (Yardley, PA) also read the queries in the meeting for worship on the same Sunday as meeting for business, so that the larger number of members attending worship could respond. It tended to shape the vocal ministry, sometimes, but that was the point. I liked this practice, also.
Dedicated time for exploration and reflection
On most business meeting Sundays, Central Philadelphia Meeting holds two meetings for business in worship, one before meeting for worship, and one after. The morning session is dedicated to considering the kinds of things that the necessary and regular business of a meeting almost always pushes to the side—exploration of issues facing the meeting, presentations from important outside groups, consideration of matters that affect the meeting but are not part of the meeting’s regular business, etc. We used this time a while back to work on the FCNL priorities survey. We’ve looked at the annual budget and the meeting’s priorities for the coming year. We’ve had a presentation from a local interfaith witness network that we’ve joined. We considered the report and recommendations from an ad hoc committee charged with addressing racism.
This makes for a long day for sure. For personal reasons, I myself am rarely able to dedicate that much time on a Sunday, so I often attend only one. I imagine that many meetings would never consider doing this. But I do think that it’s important to set aside time regularly for these kinds of concerns. Otherwise, they never happen. There is always too much regular and pressing business to attend to. Which sounds like an argument to not set aside such time. But realistically, how often would the meeting really suffer if some of the regular and even the pressing business didn’t happen until the next month? When you make an hour and a quarter available virtually every month to consider the important meta-issues of the meeting, as CPM does, the meeting grows into the future with self-awareness and a measure of confidence that is hard to get otherwise.
* I use PhYM for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, even though members of the yearly meeting and the yearly meeting itself use PYM (it’s url is pym.org). I do this because Pacific Yearly Meeting also uses PYM, and I think it’s worth minding the distinction. PhYM’s historical importance, its venerable age, and its large size has given it first chance at PYM and this history encourages the yearly meeting to be a little self-centered. I have never heard anyone even mention the problem of the overlapping acronyms with Pacific. One could refer to Pacific Yearly Meeting as PaYM, I suppose, but that would suggest Pennsylvania and be confusing. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the “Ph” in Philadelphia lends itself nicely to an alternative usage for PhYM. PhYM can do nothing about its url, though, so I am resigned to being eccentric in this usage.
One day, I’m going to write a series of posts on “Bioregional Quakerism” and make a case for completely abandoning our historical nomenclature and boundaries and adopting bioregional names and boundaries. Then there wouldn’t even be yearly meetings named after cities, as Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore Yearly Meetings are. We already have some bioregional yearly meeting names, Pacific being one of them. But I suspect that most yearly meetings—maybe all—are virtually totally unaware of the bioregion they inhabit, its geology and physiography, its flora and fauna, its watersheds, its endangered species and invasive species, its water supplies and waste management systems, its fault lines and ecosystems. What would North American Quakerism look like if our yearly meetings had boundaries and identities that were directly informed by their bioregions, if the places we lived in really mattered?