Structures: Monthly Meetings
Index to Section 4: STRUCTURES AND ORGANISATION: WORSHIP GROUPS, RECOGNISED MEETINGS AND MONTHLY MEETINGS
(Click on a heading to skip to that section)
- 4.1 General -definitions, boundaries, meetings
- 4.2 Worship groups, recognised meetings and monthly meetings
- 4.3 Appointments made by monthly meetings, recognised meetings and worship groups
- 4.4 Guide to recording minutes and information in meetings for worship for business
- 4.5 Property and finances
- 4.6 Annual report
- 4.7 Suggestions for clerks
- 4.8 Nominations
- 4.9 Membership
- 4.10 Marriage and civil union according to Friends' usage
- 4.11 Funerals
- 4.12 Testimonies to the grace of God in the lives of Friends
- 4.13 Special meetings for worship
NOTE: The asterix * in the text indicates that a note on how the website can help is given and a link to the relevant User Guide is provided. Blue highlighted text is linked to a webpage giving guides, information or a resource, such as a form, to download.
A Worship Group is a body of Friends within a Monthly Meeting who meet regularly for worship. It may be the only Quaker group in its area, or it may be a local sub-group of a larger Worship Group. It may conduct Meetings for Worship for Business on occasions.
A Recognised Meeting is a body of Friends within a Monthly Meeting who worship together (in one or more Worship Groups), and who, because of size, experienced membership, location and other factors, find it preferable and possible to have an organised structure and to meet when necessary for business. A Recognised Meeting is also the regular gathering of this body to conduct business.
A Monthly Meeting consists of the Friends within a defined area of Aotearoa (4.1.2) and the term is also used for the regular gathering of this body to conduct business. Monthly Meetings support the worship, spiritual nurture and pastoral care of Worship Groups, Recognised Meetings and all associated with the Society in their area (4.2).
The Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand consists of the Friends within Aotearoa New Zealand. The annual conference of this body is also known as Yearly Meeting.
Northern Monthly Meeting covers Northland and Auckland Regions.
Mid North Island Monthly Meeting covers Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regions.
Taranaki Monthly Meeting covers Taranaki Region.
Whanganui Monthly Meeting covers Whanganui, Ruapehu and Rangitikei Districts.
Palmerston North Monthly Meeting covers the Horowhenua District, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne Regions and the Manawatu–Whanganui Region other than Whanganui, Ruapehu and Rangitikei Districts.
Kāpiti Monthly Meeting covers Kāpiti Coast District.
Wellington Monthly Meeting covers the Wairarapa District and the Wellington Region other than Kāpiti Coast District.
Christchurch Monthly Meeting covers the South Island other than Otago and Southland Regions.
Dunedin Monthly Meeting covers Otago and Southland Regions.
4.1.3 Change of Meeting status
When a local group of Friends wish to hold regular worship after the manner of Friends, they consult the Monthly Meeting which records in its minutes the formation of the Worship Group or Recognised Meeting. At the wish of the Worship Group, the Monthly Meeting may lay it down.
When a Worship Group or Recognised Meeting covers a defined geographical area and has a sufficient, continuing and experienced membership, it may consider accepting the responsibility of forming a separate Monthly Meeting. If it decides to do this, it will inform its Monthly Meeting of its intention. Monthly Meeting will pass the proposal with its recommendation to Yearly Meeting for its decision.
If a Monthly Meeting feels that it is no longer able to carry out its responsibilities, and wishes to become part of another Monthly Meeting, the other Monthly Meeting is consulted, and a joint recommendation is brought to Yearly Meeting.
4.1.4 Meeting for Worship for Business
Monthly Meetings for Worship for Business deal with the affairs of their own body and with its relation to outside groups. They also contribute to decision-making by the Yearly Meeting as a whole concerning Yearly Meeting's own affairs and its relation to outside groups.
Monthly Meetings relate directly to Yearly Meeting. Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings relate to Yearly Meeting via Monthly Meetings. However, Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings receive the monthly Yearly Meeting Clerk’s letter and associated papers.
Members and Attenders share the responsibility for the business of the Society through the network of Worship Groups, Recognised Meetings, Monthly Meetings and Yearly Meeting.
All are welcome to participate in Meetings for Worship for Business. Practices vary from Meeting to Meeting so non-members need to consult with the Clerk as to the practice in that particular Meeting. Their presence may be minuted by the meeting either initially or each time. When confidential or sensitive matters are discussed, withdrawal of non-members of that Meeting may be required.
4.1.5 Special Meetings for Worship for Business
A special Meeting for Worship for Business may be called by the Meeting or called at the discretion of its Clerk. Such a meeting may also be called following a written notification signed by five Members, the reason for it being clearly stated. These meetings should be held at a time convenient to Members and after sufficient notice.
4.1.6 Regional Gatherings
Friends within a region (either within or crossing Monthly Meeting boundaries) may meet from time to time for worship, enjoyment, learning and other purposes. Such regional gatherings are not formally incorporated into the structure of Friends’ organisation.
4.2 WORSHIP GROUPS, RECOGNISED MEETINGS, AND MONTHLY MEETINGS
The size, needs and opportunities of Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings vary greatly. Each Meeting should decide from time to time what activities and structure best enable it to promote worship and spiritual growth, to care for those within it, and to give witness through action.
Consultation with the Monthly Meeting is recommended. A larger Worship Group or Recognised Meeting in effect carries out many of the functions of a Monthly Meeting, and some of these may be expressly delegated by the Monthly Meeting.
Smaller Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings may choose not to have their own Friends responsible for spiritual and pastoral care, Nominations Committees or Clerks.
Where delegation of these roles by a Monthly Meeting to such Worship Groups occurs, all parties should be aware of the guidance provided in the Quaker Handbook and be mindful of their responsibility to carry out such tasks in accordance with Friends’ practice.
4.2.1 Guide to Responsibilities of Worship Groups
The responsibilities of Worship Groups can include:
(a) arrange regular Meetings for Worship;
(b) minister to the spiritual and other needs of those associated with it, including the conduct and quality of Meeting for Worship; ensure that Enquirers are included in the Meeting and are guided in their growth within Friends; care for isolated Friends within its area; care for children and young people and arrange a programme which introduces them to Friends and to the Quaker way of life; ensure that visitors are made welcome; maintain a library and encourage its use;
(c) carry out such business as is necessary for the promotion and development of the spiritual life and activities of the group, and minute its decisions; contribute to the annual report of the Monthly Meeting, including numbers attending Meeting for Worship;
(d) make any necessary appointments: in addition to a correspondent (a Friend to relay information between the group and Monthly Meeting and other Friends), these could include a Clerk to guide the conduct of business, and a Treasurer;
(e) attend to finances as appropriate, including encouraging Friends to make regular financial contributions;
(f) care for and maintain chattels;
(g) foster concerns and maintain the religious and social testimonies of Friends (2.3.1-2.3.6 and 2.4.1-2.4.10);
(h) appoint Friends to serve with other organisations whose interests it supports and consider reports from these representatives; make information about Friends, and opportunities to meet with them, available to the public; and respond appropriately to needs and issues in the community;
(i) as appropriate:
- consider matters brought to it by the Monthly Meeting Clerk and the Yearly Meeting Clerk and committees;
- bring its views on these and other matters to Monthly Meeting, where appropriate by means of a minute;
- encourage and assist as many Friends as possible to attend each Monthly Meeting for Worship for Business, and to report back;
(j) maintain an up-to-date page on the Yearly Meeting website, detailing information about the venue and times of Meeting for Worship, and how to contact the Worship Group.
There may be occasions when it is appropriate for a Worship Group or Recognised Meeting to be in direct contact with the Yearly Meeting Clerk. However, the making of decisions via the Yearly Meeting Clerk’s Letter and in preparation for Yearly Meeting is based on unity among Monthly Meetings. Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings forward to their Monthly Meeting their contributions to such decisions.
4.2.2 Guide to responsibilities of Recognised Meetings
The responsibilities of Recognised Meetings include those of Worship Groups as listed in 4.2.1. In addition, Recognised Meetings may be responsible for the care and management of property such as a Meeting House. Annual reports on the care and management of the properties are required by the Religious Society of Friends in Aotearoa New Zealand Trust Board, which is the legal owner of all land and buildings.
4.2.3 Guide to the Responsibilities of Monthly Meetings
A Monthly Meeting may consider any matters affecting the life of the Society and the concerns of its members. Its main functions are to support Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings in fulfilling their responsibilities as listed in 4.2.1 and 4.2.2.
In addition Monthly Meetings are expected to:
(a) care for Worship Groups, Recognised Meetings and isolated Friends; be open to the needs for Quaker worship and witness in parts of its area where there is no current Worship Group; support programmes for children and young people which introduce them to people of the Meeting and to the Quaker way of life;
(b) attend to membership (receive into membership, transfer membership, end membership);
(c) write letters of introduction, commending to the care of other meetings Friends who intend to travel overseas, and conveying greetings to Friends who may be visited; letters of introduction differ from travelling minutes which are provided to Friends travelling under a concern (4.4.1 h);
(d) conduct marriages and civil unions in accordance with Friends’ usage, and support Worship Groups or Recognised Meetings with the arrangements (4.10 and Appendix 2);
(e) care for funerals of Friends; arrange for the preparation of testimonies to the grace of God in the lives of deceased Friends (4.11);
(f) hold regular meetings for the conduct of Monthly Meeting business; record decisions and other matters in minutes (4.4.1); encourage Friends to attend Meetings for Worship for Business; make any necessary appointments and provide support and training where appropriate; keep and preserve records (4.4);
(g) assist with the care for and maintenance of properties within the Monthly Meeting area and maintain the chattels of the Monthly Meeting; ensure that annual reports on the care and maintenance of properties are made to the Religious Society of Friends Aotearoa New Zealand Trust Board;
(h) attend to Monthly Meeting finances;
(i) prepare an annual report for Yearly Meeting showing how Quaker life, faith and practice have been expressed by the Monthly Meeting's activities, or 'how Truth has prospered' within the Meeting (4.6);
(j) attend to any other Monthly Meeting matters, such as the arrangements for Yearly Meeting when held in its area;
(k) join in the conducting of Friends’ business within the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand by:
- considering matters brought to it by Yearly Meeting Clerk and Yearly Meeting committees;
- considering matters to be discussed at Yearly Meeting;
- bringing concerns and other matters to other Monthly Meetings and to Yearly Meeting;
- appointing correspondents where appropriate to Yearly Meeting committees, receiving their reports, and communicating via them the views and actions of the meeting;
(l) maintain up-to-date pages on the Yearly Meeting website, including public information about the Monthly Meeting.
4.2.4 Responsibilities of a Monthly Meeting to its Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings
In addition to the responsibilities listed above, Monthly Meetings are expected to:
(a) notify Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings of Monthly Meeting business and other information;
(b) consider the appropriate allocation of financial resources;
(c) arrange visits for support and fellowship between Meetings in its Area;
(d) arrange fuller involvement in Monthly Meeting activities by holding Monthly Meeting for Worship for Business in different centres, by assisting travel and by offering opportunities for participating electronically;
(e) consider matters and concerns of Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings brought to Monthly Meeting through minutes or other appropriate means;
(f) facilitate the inclusion of Worship Group and Recognised Meeting reports into Yearly Meeting Documents in Advance.
4.3 APPOINTMENTS MADE BY MONTHLY MEETINGS, RECOGNISED MEETINGS AND WORSHIP GROUPS
Suggestions for appointments are usually made by a Nominations Committee (4.8). This may be a continuing committee, or a committee set up specifically for the occasion.
The appointments of Clerk, Assistant Clerk, Treasurer, Registering Officer and other Friends to serve the Meeting are generally changed after three years so that most Friends have opportunities to be involved in the work of the Meeting. Renewal for a further three years is possible.
Each Monthly Meeting appoints groups of Friends to organise care for the spiritual, personal and social needs of the Meeting (see Section 6). These committees are currently known as Pastoral Care, Spiritual Care, Ministry and Oversight, or by some other name.
Appointments to this and to other committees are if possible staggered to give continuity.
Monthly Meeting appointments may be terminated at any time by the Friend laying down the work or moving elsewhere, or by decision of the Monthly Meeting. Replacements and additional appointments may be made at any time.
Friends are encouraged to accept nomination, even if they may feel a sense of inadequacy, and to look upon their service as an opportunity to gain experience and training, and to feel more deeply engaged with their Meeting.
A list of appointments* is circulated regularly to Friends.
*NOTE: Monthly meeting appointments are listed on the website page for each monthly meeting.
4.4 GUIDE TO RECORDING MINUTES AND INFORMATION IN MEETINGS FOR WORSHIP FOR BUSINESS
The minutes of Meetings for Worship for Business record the sense of the meeting that results from discernment, and also the following factual information:
(a) the names of those present, and the place, date, starting and finishing time of the meeting;
(b) the dates and times of:
- Meetings for Worship held on special occasions;
- regional gatherings and other events arranged by the Monthly Meeting that are not Meetings for Worship;
(c) the names of those appointed to serve the Monthly Meeting in any particular way, including ad hoc appointments such as visitors in connection with membership;
(d) reports received or submitted by the Monthly Meeting;
(e) names and dates relating to membership, and to deaths of Friends;
(f) announcements of intention of marriage or civil union, appointment of a Meeting for Worship for the solemnisation of marriage or civil union, and report of the registering officer to Monthly Meeting that the marriage or civil union has taken place;
(g) the marriage or civil union of Members other than by Friends’ usage, including names, date and place if possible;
(h) the receipt of important letters;
(i) the issue of travelling minutes to those travelling under concern and of letters of introduction;
(j) other significant events.
4.4.2 Other records
Information kept but not necessarily minuted includes:
(a) a register of Members, recording for each Member the dates when in membership of the Monthly Meeting;
(b) a current list of Members and Attenders for publication by Yearly Meeting;
(c) statistics of membership and participation for Yearly Meeting;
(d) minutes of committees for spiritual and pastoral care;
(e) documents of historical interest to the Society;
(f) financial records and legal documents.
4.5 PROPERTY AND FINANCES
Monthly Meetings in conjunction with Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings should keep under consideration the retention, care and use of meeting houses and other properties. They are advised to encourage the use of these assets for educational and other purposes which serve the needs of the Quaker community and then the wider community.
Each Monthly Meeting appoints a Treasurer, maintains a bank account, and approves financial statements which have been suitably reviewed/audited.
Meetings which are registered with Charities Services need to observe their requirements.
Friends should be reminded at least annually of their financial responsibilities and advised of any financial needs for different purposes. This gives them opportunities to consider the response they can make in the light of their financial situation. While all Friends are encouraged to assist financially with the Meeting expenses, participation in the life of the Meeting is not dependent on financial contribution.
4.6 ANNUAL REPORT
Each year, the Monthly Meeting Clerk or another Friend so appointed prepares a report showing how Quaker life, faith and practice have been expressed by the Monthly Meeting's activities, or "how Truth has prospered". This report includes contributions from Worship Groups and Recognised Meetings, which are combined with the general Monthly Meeting report. After approval by a Monthly Meeting for Worship for Business this is forwarded to the Clerk of Yearly Meeting for inclusion in Documents in Advance (4.2.3 i).
4.7 SUGGESTIONS FOR CLERKS (See also SECTION 3)
4.7.1 Conduct of Meetings for Worship for Business
Friends' method of waiting in a spirit of worship for guidance, and of reaching decisions by finding the sense of the meeting, requires the Clerk to have a spiritual capacity for discernment of the expression of the Inner Light. Other important assets are patience, and unobtrusive leadership to enable the gifts of members to be developed.
Clerks are the servants of the Meeting, which places its trust in them. The Meeting will usually respond cheerfully if clerks find themselves at a loss and ask for help. Good clerks "keep their ears to the ground", and continually ask themselves: "What are the needs of the Meeting? How can they best be met?"
Discretion is needed in deciding whether a matter should be brought before a Monthly Meeting, dealt with by the Clerk, or passed on to a committee or an individual. When in doubt, confer with an experienced Friend. It is the Clerk who makes sure that the business is handled smoothly and efficiently, with the support of all present.
The Clerk's attitude will help to set the pattern of worshipful listening.
Remind Friends as often as necessary about the need to listen, and to be disciplined when making contributions. Remember that the speaker may be impelled by some inner necessity and should be guided sensitively to make the contribution clearly and briefly.
Keep a sense of proportion and a sense of humour. Be aware of the tempo of the meeting. Do not be overly brisk or allow matters to drag tediously. Be alert to those who may need encouragement to speak.
When a strong division of opinion occurs, a period of silent waiting on the prompting of the Spirit may enable matters to be seen in a truer perspective, and a decision may be reached where previously none seemed possible.
Advance preparation for the Meeting for Worship for Business is vital. Before the meeting, assemble the appropriate documents and discuss the business with the Assistant Clerk. Set and distribute the agenda with adequate time for Friends to be prepared. It may be appropriate to give deadlines for accepting agenda items. Check beforehand any facts that may be in question, as this avoids leading the Meeting into fruitless speculation.
Bring to the meeting the factual parts of the minutes in draft form, leaving room to record the Meeting's decision: it will save time and contribute to unhurried deliberation.
When introducing business, try to identify and clarify the issues, and arrange for background information to be available to aid decision-making. In subsequent deliberations it may be necessary to supply further information, to advise on procedure, or to make a suggestion if none is forthcoming. On occasion, a very small Meeting may wish the Clerk to participate. Remember, however, that the main task is to discern the sense of the meeting, which is harder to do when the Clerk is also a participant in the spoken consideration. Try to refrain from expressing personal views— this detachment can lead to a new and deeper relationship with Friends. If deeply involved in a particular decision, ask the Meeting to appoint another Friend to act as Clerk while this matter is under consideration, and join the body of the Meeting for this item.
During the meeting ensure that everyone, especially newer or younger Friends, feels free to speak. When seeking the sense of the meeting try to assess the value of every individual contribution.
Sometimes the Clerk can discern the sense of the meeting even when unanimity is not achieved. When the Clerk offers a minute, Friends who do not feel in unity with it may choose to stand aside and allow the minute to be accepted. If the sense of the meeting is not clear, it is not appropriate to proceed with a decision, and the minute should record lack of unity on the matter. (See 3.3 and 3.4)
4.7.2 Writing of Minutes
When writing a minute, make sure that it covers all the points on which decisions are required, remembering that it is a permanent record to which reference may be made in the future. Provide context to facilitate understanding by Friends who were not present. Minutes recording the presentation of attached reports do not need to quote the contents.
Do not be afraid to remind the Meeting to wait in silent worship while a minute is prepared. It may be necessary to allow time for reflection before a minute is offered. This will enable it to be completed and accepted in that Meeting.
Minutes are signed on behalf of the Meeting by the Clerk. *
*NOTE: Clerks are strongly recommended to take advantage of the website facility to compose minutes in an online Meeting Record or, at least, upload their minutes into a meeting record. Online meeting records comprise the set of minutes for each specific meeting occasion. Meeting records are automatically archived and listed in date order for easy retrieval by any logged-in Friend at any time. For a guide to compose on-line meeting records (minutes) click here. For help contact a User Support Friend or use the Contact Us form to request one-on-one training.
Minutes composed online are first in draft form for proofing. The draft can only be seen by members of the meeting who have been given a web role allowing them to edit minutes. If published as a pdf, the print out will have a water amrk saying DRAFT. Once the minutes have been proofed for spelling or typo errors, the clerk "signs" the minutes by changing the meeting record status to "signed" (check box button). Signed minutes can then be published as a pdf (which can be emailed and/or printed for a paper record) and/or shared (which automatically emails a link to the online minutes to those selected from a list such as YM Clerk, Nominations, YM Treasurer, subscribers, those attending the meeting or all meeting members). To view the online minutes, Friends need to be logged on. It is needful to log on before clicking on the link sent in an email otherwise a message Access denied will appear because the website assumes unlogged on users are members of the public who do not have permission to view minutes.
4.7.3 Other responsibilities
Check that the Meeting carries out its responsibilities towards all visitors invited to the Meeting. Ensure that they are warmly welcomed, that their needs are met, and that arrangements and any reimbursements are made smoothly.
When notified of a death of a Friend associated with the Monthly Meeting, the Clerk sends a notice to the whole of Yearly Meeting via the current alias for all clerks. When arrangements for funerals or memorial meetings are known, similar notice is circulated. News of deaths and related arrangements within the Monthly Meeting and elsewhere is sent to Friends in the Monthly Meeting.
4.8.1 Appointment process
The Nominations Committee, in a Worship Group, Recognised Meeting, Monthly Meeting or Yearly Meeting, works to make sure that responsibilities are shared out among us, and to ensure that appropriate people are nominated to each task. This is an important role. Friends appointed to Nominations Committees should be knowledgeable about the tasks, and about people in the Meeting, open to their gifts, discerning in judgement and tactful in manner. They may invite other Friends to suggest names for consideration before a nomination is brought to the Meeting.
Responsibility for making appointments lies with the Meeting, not with the Nominations Committee. For this reason, the Meeting needs to give careful consideration to the names brought to it. At times the Meeting may reject an offered name or delay an appointment while acknowledging that the committee has given careful consideration to its nomination.
An appointment does not signify elevation to an office, but rather recognition that a Friend can serve the Meeting in a particular capacity.
Friends should expect to hold and relinquish appointments so that tasks do not rest too heavily on a few.
4.8.2 Suggestions to help Nominations Committees
The following suggestions may prove helpful to Nominations Committee members:
(a) be alert to use the gifts and resources of the whole Meeting, recognising in any Friend, including those younger and newer, the ability to give service which would benefit the Meeting and also develop the person's own capacity;
(b) consider the period of service and duties involved and explain them to those who are asked to accept nomination; refer them to the job description and the Handbook if appropriate;
(c) bear in mind the past services of Friends in relation to the present needs of the Meeting;
(d) do not take acceptance for granted but wait for a considered answer;
(e) where two Friends would have to work closely together (such as a Clerk and Assistant Clerk), it is advisable to talk over the proposal with both before making a firm approach;
(f) if a Friend can reasonably expect to be reappointed, but the Committee opts to nominate someone else, take care to convey this decision in a tender and friendly manner;
(g) membership of the Religious Society of Friends Aotearoa New Zealand Trust Board must legally be held by Members. Friends also expect that only Members will be appointed to the office of Yearly Meeting Clerk, Monthly Meeting Clerk, or to Yearly Meeting positions where they would represent and speak for the Society. But generally, at both Yearly and Monthly Meeting levels, it is assumed that any Member or active Attender can be called to serve (4.3);
(h) consider the overall balance of the committee under consideration, including ages, genders, experience and, for Yearly Meeting, geographical spread.
4.9.1 General (2.2.1-2.2.6)
The Religious Society of Friends today is a continuation of the early fellowship of men and women who, through their experiences and insights, found themselves together on the same spiritual journey. Meeting in silent worship, they sought the presence and power of God within themselves and in other people, and upheld one another as they strove to follow the guidance of the spirit of Christ revealed to them by their inward light.
Like the early Friends, we welcome into membership those who find that our meeting for worship helps their spiritual growth, who feel in unity with the principles and testimonies of Friends, and who view their lives as a spiritual journey.
We express our spirituality in various ways. The insistent questioning of the seeker, the fire of the rebel, the commitment of the activist, the faithfulness of the worshipper and the contribution of the more reflective thinker all hold a place among us. This does not always make life easy. As we learn to listen and to enjoy and serve one another, we come to respect the sincerity of one another's experience and to love and care for each other.
Membership can be seen as a form of discipleship. We ask for no affirmation of doctrine or outward observances. Nevertheless, those wishing to join the Society should be aware of its Christian origins. In Quaker Faith and Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand, Quaker Faith and Practice (Britain Yearly Meeting) and in Advices and Queries, Friends have tried to express the broad principles of belief and conduct on which unity is essential. Our testimonies reflect the Society's corporate insights. Respect for these is expected, although precise agreement on every point is not required. We all lapse in our discipleship at times, and no one should be held back from applying for membership by their sense of unworthiness.
Membership implies a commitment to enter wholeheartedly into the spiritual and corporate activities of the Society and to assume responsibility for service and support. When early Friends affirmed the "priesthood of all believers", others saw this as an abolition of the clergy. We see it as an abolition of the laity. This means that all Friends need to see themselves called to ministry, taking responsibility for the maintenance of the meeting as a community in which spiritual growth and exploration are possible.
Membership also entails a financial commitment appropriate to personal means. Money is needed to support the life of the Meeting and of the wider organisation.
Monthly Meetings admit Members into the Society, transfer Members to other Monthly Meetings, and release Members from membership. These decisions are recorded in Monthly Meeting minutes and given either verbally or by letter to the person concerned. The Meeting's records, including appropriate sections of the website, are adjusted accordingly.
4.9.2 Applying for Membership
Anyone who has had experience of Quaker life and practice and feels a desire to become a Member is encouraged to consult with one or more experienced Friends in their Worship Group to discern whether the time is right.
They may then apply for membership of a specific Monthly Meeting by writing a letter to the Clerk. This may take the form of a simple request or it may include a longer explanation of the reasons for the application. Letters of application will be acknowledged promptly by the Clerk with an explanation of the membership process.
Receipt of an application will be minuted by the Monthly Meeting. The Meeting then appoints two Friends, either directly or through the Friends responsible for spiritual care, to visit with the applicant. This visit is in the nature of a Clearness Meeting and takes place at the convenience of the people involved. It is a sharing of the applicant's and the visitors' views on membership, as well as an opportunity for asking questions.
The visitors submit a report, usually in writing. The next Monthly Meeting decides whether or not to receive the applicant into membership. It is only through acceptance that the applicant becomes a Member of a particular Monthly Meeting and thus of the Religious Society of Friends *.
Advice to Applicants
Applicants may consider such questions as:
- What has been your spiritual journey?
- What are your contacts with Friends now and in the past?
- What do you know of Friends' religious basis and social testimonies?
- How do you wish to contribute to the life of the Society?
- Are you aware of the responsibilities of membership, including the financial ones? (2.2.1-2.2.6, 4.9.1).
Advice to those appointed to meet with applicants
(a) Talk to one another in advance and prepare for a wide-ranging discussion. It will be helpful to be familiar with the sections on membership (2.2.1-2.2.6, 4.9.1), and to know something of the applicant's participation to date in the life of the Meeting.
(b) Be prepared to discuss and answer questions on any aspect of Friends' testimonies and practices, including worship, decision making and financial matters.
(c) Conduct the visit in a friendly and sensitive manner, providing an opportunity for in-depth exchange of thought, and for sharing of experiences. Begin and conclude the visit with a period of worship.
(d) Be clear about the Christian origins of Friends. Be clear that not all Friends consider themselves to be Christians and that not all Friends accept the testimonies in full.
(e) Take care to ascertain how far the applicant is in accord with the views and practices of Friends and sees the intimate association between our faith and our practice. This is an opportunity to explore together whether the applicant is likely to find a spiritual home in the community of Friends.
(f) If two people from one household apply together, they are usually visited separately, at least for part of the time.
(g) It is helpful if one or both of the visitors attends the Monthly Meeting for Worship for Business which considers the application. Their report does not make a clear recommendation but tries to convey enough of the content and feel of the visit to assist the Meeting in its decision.
Advice to the Clerk and the Meeting
Letters of application should be acknowledged promptly with an explanation of the process. Receipt of the letter is minuted by the Monthly Meeting.
Visitors may be appointed either directly by the Monthly Meeting or through Friends responsible for spiritual and pastoral care. It is helpful for one of the visitors to have prior experience of visiting applicants for membership.
When the visitors' report is presented, the applicant, if present, is asked to leave the Meeting.
The Monthly Meeting decides whether to:
(a) accept the application *
(b) decline it, or
(c) advise that the applicant reapply at a later time.
There is also the possibility that an application might be withdrawn.
The Monthly Meeting decision must be communicated promptly to the applicant. It is common for a new Member to be welcomed in some way and offered a copy of an appropriate Quaker book.
4.9.3 Transfer of Membership
It is generally better for individual Friends, and for their service to the Society, if their membership is in the area in which they reside.
Members moving from one Monthly Meeting to another should ask either Monthly Meeting to arrange for the transfer of membership. If such a request is not made, either Monthly Meeting may start proceedings, having first consulted the Friend about the Meeting's intention. The original Monthly Meeting sends a certificate of transfer of membership to the Clerk of the other Monthly Meeting. Forms are available here from the Yearly Meeting website.
On receiving a certificate of transfer of membership, the Monthly Meeting Clerk asks the local Friends responsible for pastoral care to arrange contact with the Member or Members, if they have not already made themselves known. The responsible Friends will advise the Monthly Meeting on the result of this contact. The transfer of membership is not completed until the certificate has been accepted and minuted * by the receiving Monthly Meeting, and the member concerned has been notified.
The transfer is notified to the Recording Officer or Membership Clerk of both Meetings. Each Meeting makes the relevant changes to its records, including appropriate sections of the website.
If there is any objection by the Monthly Meeting to acceptance of the transfer the certificate is returned to the issuing Monthly Meeting as soon as possible, with an explanation. This is be done only in exceptional circumstances. Although a Member may have taken little or no part in the life of the Meeting for many years, a move may stimulate renewal of association with the Society.
Nevertheless, a Monthly Meeting may properly return a certificate:
(a) if it seems clear beyond doubt that the Member will in no way associate with the receiving Monthly Meeting;
(b) if, in the view of the receiving Monthly Meeting, the Member concerned is more closely associated with either the issuing or another Monthly Meeting;
(c) if, in the view of the receiving Monthly Meeting, the issuing Monthly Meeting should consider whether termination of membership is more appropriate.
4.9.4 Ending membership
Membership may be ended by:
(b) termination by the Monthly Meeting;
It is important that minutes recording ending of membership are specific.
*NOTE: When using the website's feature Creating a meeting record, the template provides for different Minute types: general, appointment, transfer out, transfer in, accept new member, death, and resignation. These provide the required specific minutes and will update the user account. For guidelines on how to create special minutes click here for
A Member wishing to resign membership should do so by letter to the Clerk of the Monthly Meeting. The letter is referred to Friends responsible for spiritual care for their advice. Normally a resignation is not accepted until a visit has been made on behalf of the Monthly Meeting. On acceptance the Monthly Meeting Clerk immediately informs the person concerned. The resignation is minuted and recorded in the Meeting's records of membership, including appropriate sections of the website.
(b) Termination by the Monthly Meeting
In some instances Monthly Meetings may take the initiative in terminating membership. This should not be terminated solely for financial reasons.
Possible examples could be:
(i) if over a prolonged period a Member has shown no interest in the life of the Society and there seems no likelihood of change;
(ii) if the conduct or publicly expressed opinions of the Member are at variance with the known principles of the Society and the spiritual bond of membership has been broken;
(iii) if the Member's address has been unknown for more than three years and cannot, after careful search, be ascertained.
Monthly Meetings should not normally terminate membership in the case of (i) or (ii) above until the Member has been visited. If the Member does not agree to the termination, a letter is sent, explaining the intention of the Meeting and offering the opportunity for further discussion. If the Monthly Meeting finally decides on termination, the Clerk immediately informs the person in writing, drawing attention to the right of appeal to the Yearly Meeting Standing Committee. The termination is minuted, and Monthly Meeting records, including appropriate sections of the website, are adjusted accordingly.
The death of a Friend is minuted, and Monthly Meeting records, including appropriate sections of the website, are adjusted accordingly.
4.10 MARRIAGE AND CIVIL UNION ACCORDING TO FRIENDS’ USAGE
Section 4.10, together with Appendix 2 on Quaker Marriages and Civil Unions, comprise the guidelines and legal regulations of the Religious Society of Friends for marriage and civil union. The Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Registrar-General of Civil Unions should be informed of any changes to these regulations.
4.10.1 Uniting in the Spirit
The heart of marriage and civil union is the spiritual union of the couple - a deep inner connection between them and the Spirit (“the Lord with us and joining us,” said Thomas Ellwood, married in 1669). This spiritual union gives an enduring strength to their relationship. The marriage of Friends in the early days of the Society was an adaptation of old common-law traditions, where the couple publicly declared that they were man and wife.
This is the basis of today’s simple Quaker act, when the couple join together with their friends in worship. It is a very natural expression of the way of life in which we believe. In the presence of God and the Meeting the two people take each other freely and equally as life partners, asking divine blessing on their union.
A Meeting for Worship to recognise and bless a couple’s union is held in the same spirit as any other Friends' Meeting for Worship. It is an occasion when the couple may gain inspiration and help from the Meeting, which Friends hope will be a source of strength to them during their life together. It is also an opportunity for those present to ask God's blessing on the union and to give both spiritual and personal support to the couple.
The Meeting, especially Friends responsible for spiritual and pastoral care, together with the Registering Officer, is responsible for ensuring spiritual depth in the preparation, clearness process and holding of the Meeting for Worship. When a couple join together under the care of the Meeting, this opens up an ongoing relationship of commitment and support between them and the Meeting.
4.10.2 Legal form of Quaker marriage and civil union
Friends consider that spiritual reality takes priority over outward form. The legal side of marriage and civil union is secondary to the spiritual. However, it is important that legal requirements are completed diligently, to ensure the legal status of the couple’s relationship, to honour Friends’ tradition and to maintain the legal recognition of that tradition.
The spiritual union or marriage between a couple may be legally recognised by a marriage or civil union, according to Friends’ usage as recognised by the law of New Zealand. Either marriage or civil union can be entered into by a couple irrespective of gender or sexual orientation. The procedures described in the following parts of this section, and in Appendix 2, apply to such marriages and civil unions; they can be modified according to the discernment of the couple and the Meeting when a legal union is not sought (4.10.8).
4.10.3 Description of the process
A couple wishing to have a Meeting for Worship for their marriage or civil union should contact their Meeting's Registering Officer well in advance.
The "Declaration of Intention to Marry or to Contract a Civil Union and Request for the Appointment of a Meeting for Worship" (Form A) will be supplied by the Registering Officer for the couple to complete.
The decision on any request to marry or join in civil union after the manner of Friends rests with the Monthly Meeting, after a clearness process as outlined in 4.10.6. After the form declaring an intention has been received, this intention is announced after Meeting for Worship in the place where or near where it is proposed to hold the marriage or civil union. This is to enable Friends to be prepared for consideration of the request at Monthly Meeting, for any objections to be raised in good time, and for the Worship Group or Recognised Meeting to show its care for the couple.
Quaker marriages and civil unions are not restricted to Members of the Society. People not in membership, but who are in unity with our testimony as to the nature and character of marriage or civil union as a religious act, may ask to have their marriage or civil union solemnised according to Friends' usage.
Although requests for Quaker marriages or civil unions are usually approved, the procedure is neither automatic nor speedy. Three months is a realistic lead-up time, so that the Monthly Meeting has time for careful consideration before it authorises the Meeting for Worship for the solemnisation of marriage or civil union.
The couple apply to the Registrar of Marriages or of Civil Unions, indicating their intention to marry without a celebrant "in accordance with the marriage regulations of the Religious Society of Friends" under section 32 of the Marriage Act, or to have a civil union "in accordance with the civil union regulations of the Religious Society of Friends" for which the Religious Society of Friends in Aotearoa New Zealand has been approved as an exempt body under schedule I of the Civil Union Act.
They obtain: a legal Marriage Licence, with the accompanying forms (BDM 45 & 45A), or a legal Civil Union Licence, with accompanying forms (BDM 345 & 345A), and bring these to the Meeting's Registering Officer, who holds and completes the paper-work on behalf of the Meeting. The marriage or civil union licence is only valid for three months, so it is preferable that the couple wait till the Monthly Meeting has appointed a date before applying for the licence.
If the couple are in an existing civil union, and wish to change their relationship to marriage, they apply to the Registrar of Marriages on the appropriate form. The Quaker procedure for marriage is then followed.
4.10.4 Clearness meetings
When a request for a marriage or civil union is brought to monthly meeting, it is usually desirable for two or more Friends (often including a Friend responsible for spiritual care and the Registering Officer) to be appointed to meet with the couple, to consider their request. This is one type of clearness meeting, on which guidance can be found in section 6.4 of this Handbook, and in sections 16.19, 16.20 and 16.21 of Britain Yearly Meeting’s Quaker Faith and Practice 1995. The purpose is to enable the couple and the Meeting’s representatives to reflect in depth on the couple’s understanding of their commitment to one another and of their relationship to the Meeting, together with the Meeting’s responsibility to support and care for the couple. By meeting several times the group can increase the spiritual depth with which they explore the riches and challenges of the couple’s long term commitment.
A further purpose of the clearness meeting is to clarify for the couple and the Meeting how the Meeting for Worship will proceed. It is an appropriate time for the couple to discuss their desired variations to the simple Meeting for Worship, such as contributions from other faiths and cultures.
The clearness meeting is particularly important when one or both of the couple are not familiar with the Religious Society of Friends. If the couple attend worship in one Meeting, but wish their marriage or civil union to be celebrated under the care of another, the Meeting they attend may arrange a clearness meeting and send a report to the other.
4.10.5 The Meeting for Worship
The decision to appoint a Meeting for Worship for marriage or civil union is made by the Monthly Meeting. It should ensure, by the attendance of a sufficient number of concerned Friends, that the Meeting for Worship is rightly held according to our usage. Where it is expected that many present will be without experience of a Quaker Meeting for Worship it is desirable for a Friend responsible for spiritual care, or other suitable Friend, to explain briefly the nature of the Meeting for Worship and the procedure to be followed. A written explanation may also be given, accompanying the invitations and / or handed to people as they arrive (4.10.7).
To assist the Meeting in deepening the spirit of worship, the couple need to arrive promptly.
When the Meeting for Worship is gathered, the two people as they are ready stand and, taking each other by the hand, make their vows. The wording of the vows may be worked out by the couple themselves, provided they are recognisably marriage or civil union vows as understood by the law and by the community, and provided the wording is acceptable to the Registering Officer or the Monthly Meeting.
The names of the couple should be spoken in the wording, as in the specimen Form C in the appendix. The Civil Union Act requires that the couple acknowledge that they “are freely joining in civil union with each other”. An example of marriage and civil union vows is found on the sample certificate (Form C) in the appendix. If, for any reason, either of the couple getting married or joining in civil union is unable to make the declaration distinctly, then the Registering Officer present at the Meeting for Worship reads the declaration audibly and the person signifies assent to its terms in some clear and unmistakable way to the satisfaction of the Registering Officer.
The marriage or civil union takes place within a Meeting for Worship. The time for photographs is after the close of worship.
4.10.6 Quaker certificate of marriage or civil union
The couple arrange beforehand for a certificate to be prepared. This is signed during the Meeting for Worship by them (with the surnames as used immediately prior to the Meeting). After it has been signed by at least two of those present as witnesses and by the registering officer, it is read audibly by the registering officer or other suitable person either immediately or shortly before the end of the Meeting. Others present are also encouraged to sign as witnesses after the conclusion of the meeting. This certificate is retained by the couple to become a treasured record of the occasion.
The legal marriage or civil union takes place within the Meeting for Worship. The legal forms are signed at the same time as the certificate or at the end of the Meeting for Worship. At a subsequent Monthly Meeting the marriage or civil union is recorded by minute.
4.10.7 Possible explanation of the process
Here is an example of a text that can be sent out with the invitations, handed out to people arriving at the Meeting for Worship and/or read out near the start of the Meeting for Worship.
"In a Quaker marriage or civil union we gather in worship, recognising the presence of the Spirit among and within us.
Worship follows the regular Quaker pattern. We enter together into silence, a space within which we can seek blessings on the couple for their life together, and we can value one another’s presence.
After an initial period of silence the couple will stand and take each other by the hand. They will make their vows directly to each other. No third person acts as celebrant. They will then sign the legal documents (with two witnesses also signing) and the Quaker marriage or civil union certificate, which is read aloud either immediately after signing or at the end of worship.
Out of the following silence you may wish to share a particular reflection, prayer or other contribution. A song, a reading, expressions of feeling and humour can have a place.
Anyone present is free to contribute; there is no predetermined order. We ask that people do not speak more than once. Following a contribution, we leave several minutes of silence, in which the words can be received and absorbed. After this return to silence another person may be ready to contribute.
The close of worship is marked by two previously appointed people shaking hands with one another. Feel free to greet those near you at this time. All present are invited to sign the certificate in support of the couple’s commitment after the Meeting has closed.
Please respect the spirit of worship, by not taking photographs during the ceremony. There will be an opportunity to photograph or film the couple with their certificate at the close of the meeting."
4.10.8 Non-legal marriage
Monthly Meetings may, should they wish, hold a non-legal marriage in the manner of Friends. Meetings follow the procedures outlined in this Handbook, except for legal requirements. Care needs to be taken not to claim legal status for the marriage or union.
When a couple and their Monthly Meeting agree to such a Meeting for Worship to recognise a spiritual marriage or commitment, the Monthly Meeting, Recognised Meeting and/or Worship Group should offer the same degree of pastoral and spiritual care as for legal marriages and civil unions.
The funerals of Friends should be held in a spirit of quiet peace and trust. As well as natural sorrow, there is often great thankfulness for lives which have borne witness to the power of the Spirit.
4.11.1 Conduct of funerals
There is no set pattern for the conduct of funerals. A Meeting for Worship to uphold those who grieve and to give thanks for the life of the Friend may be held in the Meeting House or other suitable location before or after committal or cremation. In some cases a Meeting for Worship at the graveside or crematorium is all that is desired. Presence of the coffin depends on the wishes of the bereaved or the deceased. Friends responsible for spiritual care can supply a leaflet containing suggestions for Friends' funerals. However, the family may prefer alternative arrangements. If so,
Friends may wish to hold a Memorial Meeting for Worship later.
Spiritual and Pastoral Care Committee should ask one or two experienced and sympathetic Friends to meet with relatives, offering support and consulting on the holding of the Meeting for Worship, and on other matters in connection with the funeral.
In making the arrangements for the funeral and preparing the introduction, it is important that the family and/or close friends are fully involved. There may be instructions left by the person who has died, either in their will or separately that also need to be considered. (A form is available on the website and can also be filed on the website in the Friend's user account and accessed by a User data Manager), This ensures that the funeral is tailored to the particular circumstance and means that considerable variation in the nature and length of funerals can result.
4.11.3 Explaining Quaker practice
If many people without experience of Quaker worship are present, a suitable Friend can explain briefly the nature of the Meeting for Worship, the procedure to be followed and how the Meeting will end. A written explanation may be handed to people as they arrive.
The matters that are useful to cover in the introduction to a funeral include:
a) welcome and thanks for attending the service for the person who has died, to all participants, on behalf of the family and the Meeting;
b) health and safety information and a reminder to turn off mobile phones;
c) the service is to remember the person who has died, celebrate their life and support the family;
d) the service is in the manner of the Religious Society of Friends, often called Quakers, which is based on silent worship; in the silence, all participate in remembering the person who has died and the particular qualities they shared; out of the silence any-one may stand and speak, whether to offer a reading, a prayer or a song, or to recount a memory about the person in the recent or distant past; after someone has spoken, time to reflect on their contribution is needed and so it is important to leave several minutes of silence before another person speaks; there is no predetermined order for speaking (unless the family wish to contribute first);
(e) the service normally runs for about an hour (this can vary widely depending on the wishes of the family, the number present and other factors);
(f) explanation of the use of any technology e.g. microphone;
(g) the meeting will close with the shaking of hands;
(h) explanation of what happens after the closing e.g. will the family carry the coffin out etc.;
(i) invitation to join the family for refreshments and the arrangements for that.
4.11.4 The significance of a funeral
Some bereaved Friends may wish (perhaps following instructions from the deceased) to minimise "fuss" and dispense with a funeral. However, there can be a sense of incompleteness when a funeral or Memorial Meeting for Worship is not held. Death affects many beyond the person's immediate circle, and the needs of this larger group should be considered.
4.11.5 Speaking at funerals
A feeling of hesitation about speaking at funerals is most natural.
Nevertheless, these gatherings give opportunities for a special type of vocal ministry. Specific tributes and reminiscences, together with some messages of a general character, arising from the gathered meeting, may enrich the worship. The presence of all in a loving and sympathetic spirit is a very real service. At the close of the meeting it may be helpful if an appointed Friend indicates what is to happen next.
4.11.4 Needs of the bereaved
Friends should be sensitive to the needs of the bereaved. These may continue long after the funeral.
4.12 TESTIMONIES TO THE GRACE OF GOD IN THE LIVES OF FRIENDS
The Monthly Meeting arranges, where it seems appropriate, for the preparation of a testimony concerning the life and service of a deceased Friend. This differs from an obituary or a eulogy or a comprehensive biography. Its purpose is to be a record of the power of divine grace in human lives, and it should aim at being an inspiration to others. Because readers may not have met the deceased or may refer to the testimony after many years, the writers should strive for clarity. Since Friends are enjoined to "let our lives speak", it should include enough factual material to inform them about the person's life and activities, while concentrating on the influence of the Spirit. It should not be filled with the grief of the moment.
Preparing a testimony is normally the responsibility of the Monthly Meeting with which the Friend was associated. Often there is consultation with Friends in other Monthly Meetings.
The main writer is not normally one of the close family or principal mourners but may seek their input. The main writer(s) will normally be named in the Monthly Meeting minute, but not as part of the testimony, which the Monthly Meeting has accepted as its own. A copy of the testimony is sent to the family, the Aotearoa New Zealand Friends Newsletter, the Yearly Meeting archivist and the Yearly Meeting website.
4.13 SPECIAL MEETINGS FOR WORSHIP
In addition to weddings, civil unions, funerals and memorial meetings, a special Meeting for Worship may be appointed on the request of any Friend(s).
Examples might be:
- to welcome a new infant into the worshipping community (6.3 g);
- to celebrate a major anniversary;
- to focus on some special reason for grief or thanksgiving.