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Spiritual and Pastoral Care

Index to Section 6 of the Quaker Handbook – SPIRITUAL AND PASTORAL CARE

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6.1.1 Monthly Meeting appointments for spiritual and pastoral care

In any community there is need to watch over the well-being of the group and the individuals within it. In a Quaker community there is also a need to nurture the spiritual growth of those associated with the Meeting. Meetings may choose to appoint a committee which will fill both roles or two separate committees. All Friends should know what responsibilities are covered by these roles. A Monthly Meeting may appoint Friends responsible for spiritual and pastoral care to serve within a particular Worship Group (4.2.1 b, 4.3).

Friends responsible for spiritual and pastoral care are usually appointed for a period of three years and a maximum of two terms. They are responsible to their Monthly Meeting. When specific spiritual and pastoral care tasks are allocated to others by Monthly Meeting, Friends responsible for spiritual and pastoral care need to ensure that the work is being carried out. While the appointed Friends are to focus on the spiritual and pastoral care of the Meeting, all in the Meeting have a responsibility for the care of one another.

6.1.2 The nature of the  task

The work of Friends responsible for spiritual and pastoral care is often personal and may be confidential, to be discharged quietly in a loving manner, as the spirit may lead. Much of their work is advisory. It calls for wisdom and insight, and meticulous respect for its sensitive nature. It is important that privacy and respect are maintained if any records are made. Remember that others may have access to these records in the future.

6.1.3 Cooperation

Spiritual and pastoral care concerns the life of the Monthly Meeting, its Worship Groups, Recognised Meetings and individual Friends (6.2, 6.3). Since the tasks involved are closely linked, those carrying them out should co-operate on decisions as necessary. Where the functions are separated, the two groups will sometimes meet together, to consider wider needs.

As with all committees, no one Friend is expected to carry out every one of the tasks; it is up to the whole committee to ensure that all tasks are covered. Delegation to others in the Meeting is expected.

6.1.4 Gathering at the time of Yearly Meeting

Friends from each Monthly Meeting responsible for spiritual and pastoral care usually meet together at the time of Yearly Meeting.




Friends responsible for spiritual care are primarily concerned with nurturing the spiritual life of the group and of its individual members, so that all may become more responsive to the Light and therefore closer to one another.

Friends responsible for spiritual care will be concerned with:

  1. the right holding of Meetings for Worship in Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings within the Monthly Meeting area. This includes practical matters such as attending to seating; encouraging punctuality; the quiet gathering of the meeting with order and reverence; and the closing of the meeting, usually with the shaking of hands. (Health considerations may affect this practice.) On occasion, a Friend responsible for spiritual care may take a disturbed or disruptive person aside for a quiet talk and perhaps referral to appropriate assistance.
  2. encouraging and advising sympathetically those who may feel called to give spoken or other ministry within the Meeting for Worship, especially any who are hesitant, and guiding them to discern when the words and occasion are appropriate;
  3. the right holding of Meeting for Worship for Business, including support for the Clerk at this time;
  4. giving thought to the ministry for special occasions such as marriages or civil unions, funerals and memorial meetings (4.10, 4.11); and on these occasions guiding others so that they may participate more fully;
  5. answering enquiries and ensuring that there is provision and encouragement for Friends to deepen their experience and knowledge of Quakerism and its roots, in the form of study groups, quiet days, seminars and other events;
  6. caring for the spiritual needs of individual Friends, remembering those unable to attend our meetings through age, illness, isolation or other reasons and, where helpful, arranging Meetings for Worship in their homes (6.3 l);
  7. taking special responsibility for ministry to the dying;
  8. seeing that provision is made to help the children and young people of the Meeting to come to an understanding of the Quaker message, and to enter into the experience of worship (Section 2);
  9. ensuring that provision is made for religious education and opportunities for spiritual growth, for all in the Meeting;
  10. organising Monthly Meeting weekends or days for worship, study and social activities, and sometimes regional gatherings (also a Pastoral Care responsibility (6.3 f );
  11. encouraging Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings to make regular use of Advices and Queries;
  12. providing assistance where there is a difficulty between people within the Meeting, or between a person and the Meeting (6.4); (also a Pastoral Care responsibility - 6.3 m);
  13. giving advice and information about applying for membership and encouraging any who may be hesitant; encouraging Members to transfer or resign their membership when appropriate (6.3 n);
  14. giving advice and information to those wishing to have a Quaker wedding or civil union, and referring them to the Registering Officer of the Meeting (4.10 and App 2);
  15. responding sensitively to the needs of role-holders;
  16. helping to deepen the connection among Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings by, for example, encouraging intervisitation, joint events, and other means of communication;
  17. generally watching over the Meeting as a community founded on love.




The essence of pastoral caring is faithful concern and understanding love. Pastoral care is concerned with maintaining a community that is caring and supportive, in times of joy, of sorrow and of need.

Friends responsible for pastoral care foster a fellowship in which all find acceptance, loving care, and opportunity for service, so that all may grow in grace, and, liberated from pre-occupation with self, are enabled to serve others creatively.

Friends responsible for pastoral care, jointly or sometimes individually, will be concerned with:

  1. sharing in the joys and sorrows of those associated with the Meeting;
  2. creating a climate of acceptance and encouragement particularly of newcomers and new Attenders, so that all associated with the Meeting may feel part of the group, growing into the fellowship and being given the opportunity to make their contribution by joining in the worship and work of the Meeting;
  3. encouraging support between individuals and small groups living near each other;
  4. encouraging Friends to attend business meetings and to accept a share of responsibility for the work of the Meeting; encouraging regular Attenders to attend business meetings, to gain a deeper understanding of Quaker procedure and to begin to participate;
  5. encouraging Friends, including children and young people, to go to Yearly Meetings, summer gatherings, seminars and other events; and advising on financial assistance available;
  6. organising Monthly Meeting weekends or days for worship, study and social activities, and sometimes regional gatherings (also a Spiritual Care responsibility (6.2 j);
  7. exercising a care over the children and young people; supporting parents; fostering activities which bring all Friends together, being mindful of the all-age nature of the Quaker community; ensuring that activities are arranged for children as well as all-age events; encouraging adults to respect and value children as individuals;
  8. ensuring that Friends expecting babies are well supported, and offering them an occasion for the baby to be welcomed into the Quaker community (see 2.1.14);
  9. keeping in touch with Friends who are unable to come to Meeting for Worship; arranging for them to be visited if they wish (6.2 f); helping Friends in need, bearing in mind the existence of funds and services within Meetings and beyond (5.6.2, 5.6.3);
  10. keeping in touch with young people who are residing elsewhere for work or study, putting them in contact with the nearest Meeting;
  11. welcoming newcomers and Friends who come into the Meeting Area;
  12. seeking to re-establish communication with any Friend who appears to be out of fellowship or not finding spiritual help within the Society;
  13. providing assistance where there is a difficulty between people within the Meeting, or between a person and the Meeting (6.4); (also a Spiritual Care responsibility - 6.2 l);
  14. notifying other Monthly Meetings promptly when Friends move into their area, even for a few months, and maintaining contact with these Friends if they so wish;
  15. notifying the Clerk of marriages, civil unions and deaths, so that these may be recorded in the Monthly Meeting minutes;
  16. reading over the list of members and attenders at least once a year in order to consider the needs of each person associated with the Meeting; checking the list for accuracy of contact details and ensuring that the names of children in the Meeting are added to the list; considering whether to send recommendations to Monthly Meeting for termination of membership, after consultation with the Members concerned where possible (4.9.4 b, 6.2 m);
  17. nominating and supporting the Respect and Safety Contact Friends for the Monthly Meeting (6.3 u);
  18. being aware of and where appropriate offering support to Friends who are experiencing particular hardship or need e.g. financial  issues, employment, relationship difficulties or breakdowns, ill health;
  19. supporting Worship Groups and Recognised meetings in acknowledging important life passages (birth, death, marriage, divorce, illness, loss, etc), including the provision of an appropriate Quaker book to give to each 16-year-old and to new members;
  20. maintaining a record of Friends' end-of-life and funeral wishes.
  21. Friends responsible for pastoral care aim to ensure that the Meeting is a safe community in which people of all ages and genders respect one another. The procedures for dealing with complaints of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, and other forms of disrespectful behaviour, physical or verbal, are in the Respect and Safety Manual, available from Monthly Meetings, and from the Yearly Meeting website. A knowledge of resource people for advice, counselling and community services is desirable.




6.4.1 Description

In clearness meetings, a small number of Friends meet to discern the way forward on a particular matter. The idea springs from the   Quaker understanding that the Meeting can provide individuals with a resource of wisdom and strength.

The proceedings are carried out in the spirit of worship. Clearness meetings provide, under the guidance of the Spirit, a loving respectful environment where non-judgmental listening and asking open questions offer an opportunity for exploring uncertainties, and contribute towards clarity of thinking. They may help to avoid the necessity of individuals making major decisions alone, in haste, in fear, or under pressure. The extent of confidentiality is to be agreed at the outset.

6.4.2. Personal discernment

A clearness meeting to assist with an individual's personal decision-making is a small private one. Those invited to attend are normally selected by the person(s) seeking clearness. These will usually be trusted personal friends and Friends in the Meeting with appropriate experience.

6.4.3 Marriage and civil union

It is often advisable that a clearness meeting be held prior to a spiritual marriage, with or without a legal marriage or civil union. Sometimes the Monthly Meeting, or the Friends responsible for spiritual care, will make a clearness meeting a necessary precondition for a Quaker wedding. In other cases it is the choice of the couple.

6.4.4 Group discernment

There are also clearness meetings of a more open kind, which may be called by a Meeting in response to a public crisis or an important situation involving the Meeting.

6.4.5 Examples of possibilities

The use of clearness meetings can also encompass a variety of situations when clarity is being sought.

Some possibilities are:

  1. to test a concern or leading (2.3.2);
  2. to consider new forms of service;
  3. to seek guidance in difficult choices or turning points (for example changing employment or crises in relationships);
  4. when there is a personal dispute between individual Friends;
  5. when there is a conflict within the Meeting;
  6. when some Friend has a concern about a public issue or crisis.

The above list of 'possibilities' is not meant to imply that a clearness meeting is always the way ahead; in some cases, skilled or professional help may be needed.