If pressure is brought upon you to lower your standard of integrity, are you prepared to resist it? Our responsibilities to God and our neighbour may involve us taking unpopular stands. Do not let the desire to be sociable, or the fear of seeming peculiar, determine your decisions. Advices and Queries, no.41
SOME THINGS WE DO DIFFERENTLY....
Quakers have often been referred to as a ‘peculiar people’. That is usually because we do things differently from most other organisations.
We believe that each person has ‘something of God’ within them. This leads to our belief that all people are of equal value and are sacred. Hence our emphasis on pacifism.
It also leads to rather different ways of doing things. We don’t vote in our business meetings (those in the minority might be right). All decisions are made in what is in secular terms ‘by consensus’ – we refer to it as ‘seeking the will of God’.
That of course means we don’t vote people into administrative roles (secretary, treasurer, etc.). We have Nominations committees whose job it is to bring suggestions to our business meetings of people who are willing to fill the roles needed.
We also don’t have a hierarchical structure – we are all in charge and each use our talents and experience for the good of the whole organisation. Hence, there is nobody ‘in charge’ of our worship services; we worship together in silence and any person can make a brief contribution, spoken or in other ways
Set out below are some of our unusual practices and our reasons for them.
Quakers reach decisions collectively by seeking to reach a spiritually formed decision, or to discern the will of God, in the Meeting for Worship for Business. Meetings for Worship for Business are Meetings for Worship in which we do business. The Meeting is embedded in silent contemplation. Participants listen respectfully, and allow time between spoken contributions. We describe this corporate spiritual decision-making as being ‘in unity’. We do not vote nor accept the principle of majority rule. Thus, all Friends present are encouraged to come with ‘hearts and minds prepared’, which means that they are acquainted with all the relevant material facts, and are willing to listen to the Spirit moving in the Meeting, rather than hold to a preconceived outcome. The Handbook of Quaker Practice and Procedure in Australia, Section 1.4.
You can read more about the Quaker decision-making process here.
Like open worship, Worship Sharing is a time for listening. There are some differences, however. In open worship, Friends tend to speak only if they feel compelled. In the context of Worship Sharing, you are encouraged to speak. Self-disclosure is an integral part of the process. Even if your thoughts seem unrefined, consider sharing them. Sometimes, catching a glimpse of someone ‘in process’ can be more helpful than viewing their finished project.
Worship sharing focuses on a particular question and helps us to explore our own experience and share with each other more deeply than we would in normal conversation. It seeks to draw us into sacred space, where we can take down our usual defences, and encounter each other in “that which is eternal.”
You can read further about Worship Sharing here.