What’s a Business Meeting?


A Brief Perspective from John Samson of Winnipeg Monthly Meeting 

Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business gives Friends an opportunity to practice several of our testimonies as we carry out the practical work of maintaining our faith community. We seek to be Spirit-led in our work, with as much efficiency as possible, achieving a sense of what Friends call “right order.” The following guidelines, developed and refined by Quaker communities over the last 350-plus years, are helpful for both newcomers and experienced Friends. 

If you are led to speak, ask the clerk to recognize you by raising your hand. Allow silence before and after each person speaks. 

To affirm something someone has said, simply nod or use the phrase, “This Friend speaks my mind.” Please don’t ask to be recognized so that you may express the same thought in other words. 

When you speak, please stand, and speak to the clerk. Keep your comments plain and to the point and speak as much as possible from your own experience. — Expect to speak only once during consideration of a given item. Friends will not generally be recognized to speak on any given issue more than once, except to acknowledge a personal change of perspective during the meeting. The clerk may not call on everyone if there is a clear sense of the meeting. 

When a person speaks in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, receive the words as you receive vocal ministry in Meeting for Worship – with an open heart and calm mind. If you have a strong reaction to something someone has said, sit with it until a way is clear for you to speak with patience and compassion. Do not react to or critique what others have said, but express your own concerns and insights as deeply and honestly as you can 

When the recording clerk is developing a minute, sit in worship, and hold them in the Light. Please refrain from conversation with your neighbour. 

Paradoxical as it may seem, this approach is likely to achieve a decision, grounded on a sense of the meeting, far more quickly than a back and forth discussion would. Everyone has a chance to speak, and to be listened to. Everyone is encouraged to dig more deeply and share more honestly than they normally would. When everyone has spoken once, there may well be a clear sense of how the meeting is led to move forward. The clerk may want to reframe the question in light of what has been said and ask for another round of worship sharing. If there is no unity, further discussion is unlikely to help. The clerk may ask a few Friends to explore the question further and bring back a recommendation to the next meeting. 

Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business is the crown jewel of Quakerism. In worship we learn how to listen deeply and open our hearts to the Light and to each other. In business meeting, where we inevitably encounter disagreements and differences, we find out whether we can listen and love deeply enough to be a gathered people, obedient to divine guidance.