From the "Friends Bulletin" for July 1995:


                          Meeting for Business
                by Robert S. Vogel, Orange Grove Meeting

"Is the Meeting for Business held in a spirit of a Meeting for Worship
in which we seek divine guidance for our actions?"
                                -Pacific Yearly Meeting query

Although the meeting for business is different from the meeting for
worship in that the former has a definite agenda, still Friends are
advised to conduct their business in a spirit of worship.

My recent experience in England might offer another perspective on how
English Friends conduct their meetings for business. These observations
are based on several monthly meetings, the Meeting for Sufferings, and
the Woodbrooke Council.

The meeting for business begins when the clerk and assistant clerk sit
down at the table. There is a period of about fifteen minutes of silent
worship, after which the clerk rises and takes up the agenda, copies of
which are either on a notice board or distributed to members. Items
come to the meeting from preparative meetings or committees in the form
of reports and recommendations for action.

After the item has been presented, the clerk says, "The matter is before
the meeting," and sits down. Silence. One person stands, and, after
being recognized by the clerk, states his or her views and sits down.
More silence. Other persons stand, address the clerk, and sit down.
When the clerk feels she has the sense of the meeting, she stops
recognizing standing Friends and, with the help of the assistant clerk,
begins to write the minute. This may take up to five minutes during
which time Friends are in a silent worshipful mode. After writing the
minute, the clerk stands and reads what she has written. She will
recognize Friends who are standing who then speak to the minute and
possibly propose some changes. The minute may be revised and again
presented to the meeting for approval. At this point I was expecting a
chorus of "Approve," but I never did hear that word. After the meeting
I asked the clerk how she knew she had approval. She said she looked
at Friends who either nodded, smiled, or said, "Hope so." What impressed
me was both the worshipful atmosphere that pervaded the meeting and the
efficiency of the operation. If there was apparently no unity, the
matter was either referred back to the committee meeting or simply laid
aside. No meeting, except the Meeting for Sufferings which met all day,
lasted more than two hours, and minutes were written and approved as
they arose.

This may or may not be a model for meetings for business in North
America, but we still need to respond to the query that asks if our
meetings for business are held in a spirit of worship.


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