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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

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ii: quaker faith and spiritual practice

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Worship And The Meeting

pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.


Meeting For Worship For Business†

 Being orderly come together… proceed in the wisdom of God, not in the way of the world… not deciding affairs by the greater vote… [but by] assenting together as one man in the spirit of truth and equity, and by the authority thereof.

edward burrough, 1662
britain yearly meeting,
quaker faith & practice, 1995, §2.87

 There is little record of how Friends’ unique practice for conducting business evolved, but there can be no doubt that it is derived directly from Friends’ faith. It is guided by three core beliefs: that there is that of God in everyone, that each can experience that of God within, and that divine guidance will lead to the realization of a single shared truth.

 From these beliefs it readily follows that a Friends Meeting for Business is a Meeting for Worship in which business is conducted by seeking God’s will in the decisions that are to be made. The silent worship with which the Meeting for Business both opens and closes connects individuals to the Spirit. It prompts them to be sensitive to and grounded in the Love that binds the Meeting.

 Anyone may call for silence in the course of a meeting: when resolution of a matter is proving difficult, when there is a need to reflect on what has been said, or to return the Meeting to a spirit of quiet reverence. A call for silence is always a call to worship, to focus on the guidance of the Spirit, to listen with a loving and open heart. As in other Meetings for Worship, Friends may feel moved to speak out of the silence on the matter in hand.

 Friends strive to observe a discipline of plain speaking, expressing themselves simply and directly. This discipline extends to not interrupting or interjecting remarks. The occasional “That Friend speaks my mind” shows support for a viewpoint. Friends maintain order and ensure full participation by waiting to be recognized by the Clerk and usually standing to speak, addressing all comments to the Clerk and not to one another.

 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.

 Friends pay careful attention to all expressions, searching for the truth behind the words, aware that it may come from unexpected places. However, the voice of an experienced Friend is often especially valuable, providing wisdom that the Meeting needs.

  Listening is at the very heart of Friends’ faith and practice. By listening to the Divine in ourselves and in each other, Friends are better prepared to find God’s will. Friends should not listen for the most convincing argument, but for the greater understanding to which each contributes and to which each may assent.A sense of the Meeting evolves from the interplay of all contributions and the skilled guidance of the Clerk. When unity is realized, the outcome is deeply satisfying. It produces a sense of the rightness of the decision and a loving connection between members.

 Friends do not vote or act on the will of the majority. In Quaker experience, it is possible for all to unite in a decision, even when some have reservations. A united Meeting is not necessarily of one mind but it is all of one heart.

 Unity requires active participation: where there is division over an issue, it is especially important for everybody to be heard.When Friends withhold expressions of dissent in the interest of avoiding controversy, the unity that results is spurious. The collective wisdom of the Meeting can be realized only to the extent that all participate in seeking it.

 When Friends come to an issue with conflicting views, they are challenged to pool their knowledge and experience, and to experience the joy of discovering a new understanding that encompasses all of these elements in a far better form than previously imagined. This process requires love, courage, trust, and an ability to truly listen and change.

 In coming to unity, Friends draw upon feelings and contemplative insight, not simply upon rational thought. Honest emotions are essential to discernment, but they should not be abused to sway the Meeting’s decision. Time is also essential for“ seasoning” important decisions. Sometimes decisions must be deferred for reflection and to allow residual unease to surface.

 Decisions made in unity are not victories or defeats when Friends remain faithful, preserving the loving unity and higher purpose of the Meeting. Business conducted as a corporate endeavor in a Meeting for Worship enables Friends to move forward with confidence and joy. (See Friends Process for Making Decisions, p. 83).


† This section looks at the mystical roots of Quaker business process. Detailed treatment of procedure is to be found in Part V, Friends Process for Making Decisions.