We are all Seekers. We’re all on a journey of religious/spiritual growth. It’s likely we would describe what we are seeking for in different ways, with different words. Quakers understand this, and don’t seek to impose alignment on each other.
We are not perfect, neither individuals nor the organisation. We all learn by making mistakes—Quakers are encouraged to live adventurously.
Quakers recognize that the world gains new spiritual understandings as time goes by. Learning about how Quakers have historically expressed their spiritual understandings and responded to world issues helps us understand about what Quakerism is, and its ideals. (Image credit: Geoff Greeves, YM14)
When a person first starts involvement in Quakers, we call them an Enquirer. We hope to welcome them, and provide ideas, conversations, written words which may be helpful. Some Enquirers feel instantly at home in a Quaker Meeting. For others, it’s a lot different. Some will stop coming.
After a few months, an Enquirer will be asked if they would like their name put on the database of Members and Attenders. Accepting this indicates that the person identifies Quakerism as having some place in their life. Some people stay an Attender for a long time, some recognise after further time that it’s not for them. Being an Attender also allows you to sign in to the restricted areas of the AYM website where there is more detail of our activities.
Similar to deciding to join a choir, or a team, some Attenders decide they’d like to become a member. This indicates an interest in getting more involved in the Meeting, and helping it with the work it undertakes. Part of this is understanding Quaker decision-making methods, and wanting to learn how to participate in them.
Writing a letter to the Clerk, stating that you would like to become a member initiates a process. Business Meeting appoints two members to visit you and discuss your application. This is not a test of spiritual readiness, or of knowledge.
It is common that new arrivals fall in love with the ideals of Quakerism. Because Quakers are imperfect, we sometimes fall short of the ideals. Messy situations may be handled well or poorly. We learn from these, but we may be put off Quakerism—for a time or permanently, or we may be encouraged, and increase our understanding.
The visitors will discuss what you have experienced, learned, liked and had difficulty with. Sometimes applicants are still in the honeymoon stage—visitors may suggest the application is too early, or membership inappropriate.
The visitors report on their visit, and usually the Business Meeting welcomes the applicant into membership.
Understanding more about Meeting life
No creeds, but Testimonies
Quakers don’t have creeds. There is nothing that we sign up to that we must believe. Quakerism is a lived religion. It affects our life choices. But we make our own choices. However, we do have testimonies. These are distilled wisdoms that many Quakers would see as guiding principles for life. Following the testimonies may challenge us.
Quakers have developed a different way of making decisions about the organisation, and the actions we undertake. It embodies the testimonies, and many methods that we have evolved.
Quakers do not vote. Quaker decision-making can be slow, but it usually generates good results. Not infrequently we have to deal with conflicts. Quaker methods often work well to do this.
Involvement in Quakerism is more complete with involvement in decision processes, which are open to all. A helpful pamphlet on Quaker decision-making can be found here.
Australian Quakers do not have pastors. Tasks that need to be done to keep the Meeting functioning are undertaken by the people of the meeting. It makes sense to contribute to the work of the meeting, as one feel more in tune with it.
Meetings have committees to do particular kinds of tasks. Most committees are open to anyone with enthusiasm. Being on a committee provides extra insight into how Quakerism works, and how it can guide our lives. There are a few committees which are only open to members. Similarly, a few office-bearer positions are only open to members (Clerk, Treasurer, some convenorships).
Quakers don’t elect people to office. The Nominations committee considers positions that need to be filled, who is available, who is interested, who has relevant skills. Nominations Committee will make recommendations to Business Meeting for appointments.
It’s a Quaker principle that office holders stay in their position for about three years, allowing:
- opportunities for experience to be shared around
- that no-one becomes too entrenched in any one position
- that fresh ideas are introduced
There are also Committees at the national level of Quakers and more can found about them here