Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Innovations and Improvements

Quakerism: a view from the back benches
Copyright 1966 The Back Benches

Innovations and Improvements

To improve business sessions, Friends might consider clearer definition of the duties of the clerk, of attenders, and committees. More delegation, to the clerk and committees, of executive powers and discretion to handle matters arising between sessions, to classify business as routine, to skip routine minute approvals and to set the order of business might free up time in many meetings for discussion of concerns. A scheduled period early in the session for individuals to raise concerns may help to keep discussion of concerns out of meetings for worship, as Friends realize that the business session is a more appropriate, available forum. It would be healthy if Meetings adopted a practice of dropping immediately any concern raised which no individual accepted. That practice would distinguish swiftly and surely between intellectually conceived “good works” and “Quaker concerns.” For if the “concern” is truly something which weighs on Friends, they will take it up, sooner or later. The other “good works” simply overburden the Meeting’s resources.

Lack of oversight in some Meetings lets omission or non-performance of assigned service pass unnoticed. Follow-up is needed. Some Meetings use the practice of “answering the minutes.” When a minute charging a committee or individual with a duty is read at the subsequent session, that committee or individual is required to report on progress. Delegation to the clerk or a committee of authority to remind appointees to act may be useful when duties run over several months. And “needle” might be a more appropriate verb than “remind” in many cases. Since Friends are perhaps more parochial in their business procedures than in their worship, it might be even useful for Yearly Meetings to appoint a Friend as a sort of “inspector-general” to travel among the various monthly meetings to view business procedures. His report might prove most edifying.

A necessary function, often unrecognized, is that of parliamentarian, a person present at the session who has a greater knowledge of procedure and precedent than most and who can advise, disinterestedly, as to proper methodology. The clerk, or Friends active in discussion, often cannot fulfill this role and the Meeting frequently will not accept the advice of a Friend not recognized for proficiency in this area. Meetings that have much procedural discussion might find it useful to formalize the function by appointing a Friend to this advisory role.

(to be continued)


At 7:55 PM, Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Hi Lor,

This is more a comment on the whole "Back Benches" series you're doing than on this particular post....It's a good thing. I'm really enjoying rereading these articles.

- - Rich A-E (Brooklyn Quaker)


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