Meeting for Business

How would you describe the Meeting for worship with a Concern for Business (Meeting for Business) to people who are religious but not Friends?


Collected From an Open Online Survey
7/20/09 – 7/24/09


A collaborative effort to discern the Will of God for this group of people at this time, characterized by a focus on listening and hearing rather than speaking.

-Lloyd Lee Wilson – Rich Square Monthly Meeting, NCYM(C)


The underlying assumption is that God, Creator of the Universe, and knower of all things has a highest plan for each of us individually and corporately, so we come to place of listening for that and doing our best to articulate/support that when it comes together.

Ideally, we lay down our own agendas and pre-conceived ideas as we tune in for the “still, small voice.”

-Anonymous, North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM


The idea is to have the meeting be a process of discovering what God wants. The attitude should be   worshipful,   and   group   clearness   should   be   sought   (which   is   somehow   different   than consensus). In practice this means that there is supposed to be a lot of silence, and each person is only supposed to speak once. When it is not working, people don’t always observe this and things can get incredibly annoying, as seemingly trivial concerns block seemingly obvious action. When it works well, there is a sense that there is great strength in the determination of the decision.

-An Anonymous Attend


I would say that instead of arguing, discussing, and voting to find a most popular outcome,meeting for business seeks the will of God (or a Spirit led outcome.)  It may be different from any of the options or opinions originally brought to the meeting.

-Liz, Savannah Friends Meeting


It’s where we listen to determine in what direction God wants us to go. A lot of times God seems to be saying, Use the common sense that I gave you.

At other times, it’s the opposite: Suspend your common sense and step forward in faith.

-Anonymous, Brooklyn Meeting


It is a place of spiritual discernment around issues concerning the business of the community.

-P.W. – FGC QUAKER from Madison W


Friends believe that God cares about our corporate and individual decisions and that for many questions — and all important questions — that there is God’s solution and there are our solutions.  The structures of Meeting for Business — silence, consensus, “sense of the Meeting” —are all instruments for a Meeting to move towards God’s solution both corporately and individually.Ideally, and I would argue typically (but miraculously!), Friends enter Meeting for Business with an understanding that their answers or understandings are imperfect and that Meeting for Business is an opportunity to listen for the perfect Will of God.

-Ken Haase, Beacon Hill Meeting, NEYM


The Meeting for Business is a complex spiritual discipline designed to teach us patience, tolerance, humour, humility, and the utter futility of trying to do anything radical, decisive, or counter-cultural within our Friends meetings, which might upset our comfort and complacency.  Predicated on the notion that the leadings of Spirit can bring us to unity, most Meetings for Business have not faced real world problems with real world consequences for years.   In Pacific Yearly Meeting, where much of annual sessions is taken up with trying to find the ‘sense of the meeting’ on various topics, the simple question of where to have next year’s sessions is decided in the relatively small Site Committee, and their recommendation is “Accepted” rather than “Approved” by the larger meeting because as soon as our process has to decide whether or not folks will have their own bathroom connected to their room, or if they will have to walk down the hall to a shared bathroom, it all falls apart.  Must eat vegetarian?  Puh-LEASE!!!  Meeting for Business is a good idea, and it ought to be tried some time.

-Carl Magruder, Pacific Yearly Meeting


At its best, collective prayer for Divine guidance, sometimes blessed with sudden clarification and unity. Can fall away from the ideal when Friends enter with closed hearts.

-Anonymous, Cambridge Meeting, NEYM


As non-programmed Friends, we do not have a professional who ministers to the meeting, and so we all become ministers.  We minister to each other, and we minister to the meeting.  We take responsibility for handling the regular business of running an organization, as well as doing witness work, together.  The basis of Quakerism, for me, is the search for spiritual union.  We seek to handle business from a place of awareness, respect and union.

-Donna Beckwith – Perry City, NYYM


MFB, A place where Friends come together and listen to one another.  A place of worship where we seek an inner united calling, which empowers us to move forward on issues and concerns under Divine Guidance.

-Anonymous, New Bedford Monthy Meeting


Meeting for Worship for Business is a time when Friends, together with God, do the business of the monthly meeting or Friends Church. When Friends need to make a decision they come together with God’s help to unity. This unity is a spirit-led togetherness, not consensus which is more secular.

In all honesty, I think we sometimes forget the God part, but do believe that God is with us and will help us if we only ask.

-Nancy McLauchlan, Bridge City Meeting, North Pacific Yearly Meeting


Friends aspire to spend the time to come to a sense of the meeting about an issue; a point of aaahhh yesssss that is shared. I believe this is sometimes described as gathered. It avoids a battle over details and intentions later, which voting does not.

Unfortunately, in practice Friends can feel pressed for time and the agenda gets to be long and putting things off til next time only feeds a sense of taking forever to come to a decision which drives a lot of folks nuts when they think an issue is urgent.Which can lead to a sort of qualified unity that assumes I can buy into it as long as I don’t have to act on the decision personally.

This can lead to a hollow declaration that ultimately doesn’t get acted on except for a few passionate individuals who get fried for lack of support from the community.Which is all to say that the original aspiration is really the way to go.



Meeting for business is similar to the secular consensus process, except that in meeting for business, the gathered people attempt to unite in the awareness of the presence of the Divine,and to discern the Divine will in any given matter. Participants listen deeply to each spoken message, and enough silence is observed between messages for the message to sink in and bet ruly heard.

-Gail Eastwood, Southern Humboldt Worship Group, Pacific YM