Structures: Monthly Meetings
Index to Section 4:
- general -definitions, boundaries, meetings
- guide to the responsibilities of Monthly Meetings and Recognised Meetings
- appointments to roles
- guide to recording minutes and information
- conduct of Meetings for Business and guide to setting out minutes
- nominations committee
- applying for membership
- membership transfer
- ending membership
- marriage & civil union according to Friends usage
- special Meetings for Worship
The collective name for the Religious Society of Friends in Aotearoa New Zealand is the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Yearly Meeting refers to the annual conference of the Society and the body of monthly meetings which make up the Yearly Meeting.
Similarly, the terms Monthly Meeting and Recognised Meeting mean both a body of Friends in a particular area and the regular gathering of this body to conduct business.
All business meetings of the Society are an extension of meeting for worship.
A Monthly Meeting consists of the Friends within a defined area of Aotearoa New Zealand (see 4.1.2). Monthly Meetings are responsible for the worship, spiritual nurture and pastoral care of all Friends and others associated with the Society in their area (see Responsibilities 4.2) and deal with membership and marriage.
A Recognised Meeting is a body of Friends within a Monthly Meeting who worship together (in one or more places), and who, because of size, experienced membership, location and other factors, find it advisable and possible to have an organised structure and to meet when necessary for business.
A Worship Group is a body of Friends and others 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 meeting. Worship groups generally do not conduct formal business and are not often responsible for property. A worship group should appoint one of its members as a correspondent to the Recognised or Monthly Meeting, as appropriate, and to Friends elsewhere. This is likely to be unnecessary where members of the group have access to the larger meeting, as in suburban worship groups in cities.
Revised version to be supplied.
4.1.3 Change of status
When a local group of Friends is regularly meeting for worship after the manner of Friends, and there are sufficient active and experienced members associated with the meeting who are prepared to accept responsibility for ministry, pastoral care and major offices, the group may wish to be recorded as a Recognised Meeting. The Monthly Meeting will record recognition in its minutes if it is satisfied that this is the wish of the local group, and that the conditions above are fulfilled. Recognition may be ended by the monthly meeting if the Recognised Meeting feels it should become a Worship Group.
When a Recognised Meeting covers a defined geographical area and has a sufficient, continuing and experienced membership, it should consider accepting the responsibility of forming a separate Monthly Meeting. If it decides to do this, it will inform the Monthly Meeting of its intention. The Monthly Meeting will then pass this on to Yearly Meeting with its own recommendation.
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 should be consulted, and the two together should bring a recommendation to Yearly Meeting.
4.1.4 Monthly Meetings for Business
Monthly and Recognised Meetings 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 its own affairs and its relation to outside groups.
Monthly Meetings relate directly to Yearly Meeting. Recognised Meetings and worship groups relate to Yearly Meeting via Monthly Meetings. However, both Recognised Meetings and worship groups receive the Yearly Meeting Clerk’s monthly letter and associated papers, and, if they wish, respond directly on issues raised.
4.1.5 Members role
Each member shares the responsibility for the business of the Society through the network of worship groups, Recognised Meetings, Monthly Meetings and Yearly Meeting. Others are welcome to participate in business meetings after consulting the clerk, and their presence is minuted by the meeting. When confidential matters are discussed, withdrawal of non-members may be required.
4.1.6 Special Business Meeting
A special business meeting may be appointed by the Meeting, or called at the clerk’s discretion. Such a meeting may also be called following a written request signed by five members, the reason for it being clearly stated. These meetings should be held at a time convenient to members and after allowing sufficient time for notification.
4.1.7 Inter-regional Meetings
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 Monthly Meetings, etc.
4.2.1 Guide to the Responsibilities of a Monthly Meeting
A Monthly Meeting may consider any matters affecting the life of the Society and the concerns of its members.
Its main functions are to:
- Arrange regular meetings for worship in a suitable place or places;
- Minister to the spiritual and other needs of its members and attenders, including the conduct and quality of Meeting for Worship;
- Care for Recognised Meetings, worship groups and isolated Friends;
- Care for children and young people and arrange a programme which introduces them to members of the Meeting and to the Quaker way of life;
- Maintain a library and encourage its use.
- Hold, and encourage members to attend, regular meetings for the conduct of business; and record decisions and other matters in minutes; (see 4.4.1)
- Make any necessary appointments;
- Keep and preserve records; (see Historical Documents 5.7.7)
- Attend to the property of the Monthly Meeting;
- Attend to finances;
- Prepare an annual report for Yearly Meeting;
- Attend to any other Monthly Meeting matters, such as the arrangements for Yearly Meeting when held in its area.
- Attend to membership (receiving into membership, transferring membership, ending of membership, attenders);
- Introduce and commend by letters members and attenders travelling to other meetings, conveying the greetings of the meeting to Friends who may be visited;
- Conduct marriages in accordance with Friends’ usage;
- Care for funerals of its members and attenders.
- Foster concerns (see section 2.3);
- Maintain the Testimonies of Friends (see section 2.4).
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 to Yearly Meeting committees, receiving their reports, and communicating via them the views and actions of the meeting.
Appoint Friends to serve with other organisations whose interests it supports;
- Give consideration to reports from these representatives;
- Make information about Friends, and opportunities to meet with them, available to the public;
- Respond as appropriate to needs and issues in the community.
4.2.2 Guide to Responsibilities of a Recognised Meeting
[NOTE:] The size, needs and opportunities of Recognised Meetings vary greatly. The 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 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. What follows is suggested as a guide.
(a) Arrange regular meetings for worship in a suitable place or places.
(b) Minister to the spiritual and other needs of its members and attenders; care for worship groups and isolated Friends within its area; care for children and young people and arrange a programme which introduces them to members of the meeting and to the Quaker way of life.
(c) Carry out such business as is necessary for the promotion and development of the spiritual life and activities of the group, and record by minute the more important decisions.
Prepare and approve an annual report and present it to the Monthly Meeting.
(d) Make any necessary appointments. These should include a clerk to guide the conduct of business and to correspond with Monthly Meeting and other Friends, and a treasurer. Recognised Meetings should consider the appointment of correspondents to major Yearly Meeting committees.
(e) Attend to finances.
(f) Foster concerns and maintain the testimonies of Friends (see 2.3.1-2.3.10 and 2.4.1-2.4.7).
(g) As appropriate, appoint Friends to serve with other organisations whose interests it supports; give consideration to 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.
(h) As appropriate:
consider matters brought to it by Monthly Meeting clerk and Yearly Meeting clerk and committees;
bring its views on these and other matters to Monthly Meeting, where appropriate by means of a minute;
ensure at least one of its members attends each monthly meeting to report back, and encourage and assist regular attendance by all its members.
Recognised Meetings also often reply directly to matters raised in Yearly Meeting Clerk’s letters.
4.2.3 Responsibilities of a Monthly Meeting to Recognised Meetings and Worship Groups
- Notify Recognised Meetings and worship groups of Monthly Meeting business and other information;
- Consider the appropriate allocation of financial resources;
- Arrange for visits for support and fellowship between meetings in its area;
- Arrange fuller involvement in Monthly Meeting by holding monthly meeting in different centres, and/or by assisting travel to monthly meeting;
- Consider matters and concerns of Recognised Meetings and worship groups brought to Monthly Meeting by minute or otherwise.
Note: This applies to Monthly Meetings, and to such appointments as are made by Recognised Meetings.
Suggestions for appointments are usually made by a nominations committee (see 5.7.5). This may be a continuing committee, or may be set up specifically for the occasion.
The appointments of clerk, assistant clerk, treasurer, auditor, registering officer and other Friends to serve the Meeting are considered annually and changed periodically so that most Friends have the opportunity to be involved in the work of the Meeting.
Each Monthly Meeting appoints Friends to care for the spiritual, personal and social needs of the Meeting. (See Section 6) These may be called Elders and Overseers, Committee for Pastoral Care, Committee of Ministry and Oversight, or some other name. Such appointments are usually made for a period of three years, and may staggered to give continuity.
Monthly Meeting appointments may at any time be terminated by the Friend laying down the work or moving elsewhere, or by decision of the Monthly Meeting. Replacements and additional appointments may he 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 to the meeting as providing the opportunity to gain experience and training.
A list of appointments is circulated to members and attenders.
4.4 Guide to Recording Minutes and Information
Note: This guide speaks of Monthly Meetings and should be used by Recognised Meetings where appropriate.
The minutes of monthly business meetings for church affairs record the sense of the meeting on the subjects discussed, and the following facts:
(a) The names of those present at the meeting:
(b) The dates and times of:
- meeting for worship held on special occasions, including funerals and memorial meetings;
- regional gatherings and other meetings 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 by the Monthly Meeting such as the treasurer’s report; reports from elders and overseers and Monthly Meeting committees; reports from representatives on Yearly Meeting committees and other organisations; reports on decisions by Recognised Meetings, reports from visitors about membership; and any other reports of interest to Friends, including testimonies to the grace of God in the lives of the deceased;
(e) Reports submitted by the Monthly Meeting such as its report to Yearly Meeting.
(f) Names and dates in connection with:
(i) application for membership;
(ii) admission to membership;
(iii) request for and acceptance of transference of membership;
(iv) ending of membership;
(v) deaths of members and attenders;
(vi) births of children to members.
(g) Announcements of intention of marriage, appointment of a meeting for worship for the solemnisation of marriage, and report of the registering officer to Monthly Meeting that the marriage has taken place;
(h) The marriage of members other than by Friends’ usage, including names, date and place if possible.
(i) The receipt of important letters, and the issue of travelling minutes to those travelling under concern;
(j) Other significant events.
4.4.2 Other records
Other information recorded but not minuted include:
(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 for Yearly Meeting;
(d) minutes of elders, overseers and/or pastoral care committees;
(e) documents of historical interest to members of the Society.
4.5 Property & Finances
Monthly Meetings should keep under consideration the retention, care and use of meeting houses and other properties in conjunction with Recognised Meetings. Monthly Meetings are advised to encourage the use of meeting houses for educational and other suitable purposes which serve the needs of the community.
Each Monthly Meeting and each Recognised Meeting appoints a treasurer, maintains a bank account, and approves financial statements suitably audited. Members should be reminded at least annually of their financial responsibilities, and advised of the needs for different purposes. They are thus given the opportunity of considering, in relation to their personal incomes, the response they can make. While all members and attenders 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 clerk or another Friend so appointed prepares a report on the Monthly Meeting’s activities. After approval by the Monthly Meeting this is forwarded to the clerk of Yearly Meeting for inclusion in Documents in Advance. (see 4.4.1)
SUGGESTIONS FOR CLERKS
Conduct of Meetings 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 Inward Light. Other important assets are patience, and unobtrusive leadership to enable the gifts of members to be developed. Come with heart and mind prepared. The clerk's attitude will help set the pattern of worshipful listening.
Clerks are the trusted servants of their Meetings, whose members usually respond cheerfully to any request 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. If in doubt, confer with an experienced Friend. It is the clerk who makes sure that the business is handled smoothly and efficiently. Advance preparation for the meeting for business is vital, including the checking of any facts that may be in question. This avoids leading the meeting into fruitless speculation. Before the meeting discuss the business with the assistant clerk and set the agenda, which should be circulated prior to the meeting when possible.
Remind Friends as often as necessary of the need to listen and to be disciplined in their contributions. Remember that the speaker may be impelled by some inner necessity, and should be guided sensitively to make their 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 overbrisk nor 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 will of God may enable matters to be seen in a truer perspective, and a decision may be arrived at where previously none seemed possible.
When introducing business into the meeting try to identify and clarify the issues, and arrange for sufficient background information to aid decision-making. On occasions it may be appropriate to ask another Friend to obtain the necessary information and introduce it to Friends. It can be helpful to bring factual parts of the minute already drafted to save the meeting's time. In the subsequent deliberations it may be necessary 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 meeting's united mind, which is harder to do when the clerk is also a participant in the discussion. Try to refrain from expressing personal views - this detachment can lead to a new and deeper relationship with fellow members. A clerk who is deeply involved in a particular decision to be reached, or who wishes to make a contribution to the matter being considered, should ask the meeting to appoint another Friend to act as clerk while this matter is dealt with.
During the meeting, ensure that newer or younger members feel free to speak. When seeking the sense of the meeting try to assess the value of every individual contribution.
Sometimes the clerk can correctly discern the sense of the meeting even when unanimity is not achieved. When the clerk offers a minute with which some Friends are unable to unite, those Friends may choose to stand aside and allow the minute to be accepted.
If, however, the sense of the meeting is not clear, it is not appropriate to proceed with a decision, and the minute should record the lack of unity on the matter. (See sections 3.3 & 3.4)
Do not be afraid to ask the meeting to wait in silence while a minute is being prepared. This will enable it to be completed and accepted in that meeting. Judge carefully when to offer a draft minute. In some cases it may be necessary to allow time for reflection, and then to present a minute after an interval in the meeting.
Minutes should be read to the meeting as they are made. When writing minutes, make sure that they cover all the points on which decisions are required, remembering that reference may need to be made to them in the future. Remember to give the context so that they make sense to those not present at the discussion. When the minutes record the presentation of reports which will be filed with them, it is generally not necessary to quote the contents in the minutes themselves. At the end of the meeting the minutes should be signed “in and on behalf of . . . . .”. It is then unnecessary for them to be confirmed at the next meeting.
4.7.12 Suggestions for setting out the minutes
For each meeting occasion, record:
a) The name of the group: ie local, recognised, monthly or yearly meeting, committee or other working group
b) The place, date and time that the meeting is taking place
c) The names of those present
d) The name of the person clerking the meeting
e) The place, date and time of the next meeting.
For each topic considered at the meeting it is helpful to record in the minute:
f) Where it came from: ie previous minutes, correspondence, new business
g) Who brought it to the meeting
h) What was discussed / decided.
Check that the meeting carries out its responsibilities towards any visitor invited to the meeting. Ensure that they are warmly welcomed, that their needs are met, and that arrangements and any reimbursements are made smoothly.
4.8 NOMINATIONS COMMITTEE
The role of a Nominations Committee, in the Monthly Meeting or Yearly Meeting, is to ensure 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 this Committee should be knowledgeable about people in the Meeting, discerning in judgement, and tactful in manner. Before meeting to make nominations, the Committee may invite other Friends to make suggestions for consideration.
The responsibility for making appointments lies with the Monthly or Yearly Meeting, not with its Nominations Committee. For this reason, the Meeting should not act as a mere "rubber stamp" for the nominations brought to it. At times the Meeting may reject a name proposed, or delay an appointment; but at the same time there needs to be an awareness that the committee has given careful consideration to its nominations.
An appointment is not an elevation to an office, but rather a recognition that a Friend can serve the Meeting in a particular capacity. Friends should expect to hold and relinquish appointments so that the tasks do not rest too heavily on a few.
The following points may prove helpful to nominations committee members;
- Bear in mind the past services of Friends in relation to the present needs of the Meeting.
- Be alert to use the gifts and resources of the whole Meeting, recognising in any Friend, including younger and newer members, the ability to give service which would benefit the Meeting and also develop the person's own capacity.
Consider the period of service and duties involved, and explain them to those who are asked to accept nomination.
- Do not take acceptance for granted, but wait for a considered answer.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be aware that there are some roles, namely membership of the Society of Friends New Zealand Trust Board and of the Society of Friends Whanganui Educational Settlement Trust Board, which must, in terms of the respective constitution of those Boards, be filled by members of the Religious Society of Friends in Aotearoa / New Zealand. Friends also expect that only members of the Religious Society of Friends in Aotearoa / New Zealand will be appointed to the office of Yearly Meeting Clerk or 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 members or regular attenders can be called to serve.
Our Society today is a continuation of that early fellowship of men and women who, through their experiences and insights, found themselves together on the same road in their spiritual pilgrimage. Meeting in silent worship together, they sought the presence and power of God within themselves, and upheld one another as they strove to follow the guidance of the spirit of Christ revealed to them by their inward light.
So, today, 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 are all at different stages along the path, and we express our spirituality in various ways. The insistent questioning of the seeker, the fire of the rebel and the contribution of the more reflective thinker all hold a place among us.
This does not always make life easy. But we have found that 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, therefore, is seen by many 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 basis. In Quaker Faith and Practice (readings published by British Quakers) and in Questions and Counsel, Friends have tried to express those broad principles of belief and conduct on which unity is essential. Our testimonies reflect the Society's corporate insights, and a respect for these is expected, even though 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 by a 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 members need to see themselves as clergy and take 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 a member's means, for without money neither the worship group nor the wider structure can function. (See also sections 2.2.1-2.2.4 on the rights and responsibilities of being a Quaker)
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 orally or by letter to the person concerned. The register and list of members is amended accordingly. When a Recognized Meeting or another Monthly Meeting is involved, the decision is communicated to it.
APPLYING FOR MEMBERSHIP
4.9.7. Description of process
- Anyone may apply for membership of a specific Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, by writing a letter to the Clerk of that Monthly Meeting. The letter may take the form of a simple request or 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 process and the receipt of the application will be minuted by the Monthly Meeting. The Meeting then appoints two Friends, either directly or through elders or pastoral care committee, to visit the applicant. This visit is arranged to provide an opportunity for mutual interchange of thought on the responsibilities of membership, and on the commitment which is implied.
- The visitors report, usually in writing, to the next monthly meeting, which then decides whether or not to receive the applicant into membership. It is only through acceptance that they become members of a particular Monthly Meeting and thus of Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
4.9.8 Advice to Applicants
- The visit takes place at the convenience of the people involved, usually at the applicant's home.
- This visit is a sharing of the applicant's reason for seeking membership, as well as an opportunity to ask questions about the Religious Society of Friends.
- Applicants should consider questions such as the following:
- 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 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? (See 2.2.1-2.2.4 & 4.9.5)
4.9.9 Advice to visitors appointed to visit applicants
- The two visitors should 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 above (2.2.1-2.2.4 & 4.9.1-4.9.6), and also to know something of the applicant's participation to date in the life of the Meeting.
- Visitors should be prepared to discuss and answer questions on any aspect of Friends' testimonies and practices, including worship, decision-making and financial matters.
- The visit should be conducted in a friendly and sensitive manner; should provide an opportunity for in-depth exchange of thought, and for sharing of experiences; and should conclude with a period of silent worship.
- Though the visitors should be clear about the Christian basis of "where Quakers are coming from", they must also be clear that not all individual Friends consider themselves to be Christians and that not all Friends accept the historic testimonies in full.
- Care should be taken 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 come to know whether the applicant is likely to find a spiritual home in the community of Friends.
- If two people from the one household apply together, they are usually visited separately, at least for part of the time.
- At least one of the visitors should attend the monthly meeting which considers the application. Their report should not make a clear recommendation, but should try to convey enough of the content and feel of the visit to assist the Meeting in its decision.
4.9.10 Advice to the Clerk and the Meeting
Letters of application should be acknowledged promptly and minuted by the Monthly Meeting.
Visitors may be appointed either directly by the Monthly Meeting or through elders or pastoral care. It is helpful for one of these visitors to have prior experience of visiting applicants for membership.
When the visitors' report is presented, 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
(d) that an application might be withdrawn.
The Monthly Meeting's 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 a relevant Quaker book.
4.9.11 Requesting a transfer
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.
Friends 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 within three months of removal, the Monthly Meeting from which they are moving may issue a certificate of transfer of membership on their behalf. Alternatively, the receiving Monthly Meeting may apply for the certificate. In either case, the Friend concerned should be notified of the Monthly Meeting's proposed action so as to have a say. (Supplies of sets of forms are held by the YM Clerks).
4.9.12 Certificate of Transfer
On receiving a certificate of transfer of membership, the Monthly Meeting clerk asks the local overseers to get in touch with the Friend or Friends, if they have not already made themselves known. The overseers will advise the Monthly Meeting on the acceptance of the certificate.
4.9.13 Objections to transfer
If the receiving Monthly Meeting sees an objection to accepting the certificate, it returns the certificate to the issuing Monthly Meeting with as little delay as possible, stating the reasons for its return. This should be done only in exceptional circumstances. Monthly Meetings are reminded that although a Friend may have taken little or no part in the life of the Meeting, even for many years, a move may prove an occasion for a renewal of association with the Society. Nevertheless, a Monthly Meeting may properly return a certificate:
(a) where it seems clear beyond doubt that the Friend will in no way associate with the receiving Monthly Meeting;
(b) where, in the view of the receiving Monthly Meeting, the Friend concerned is more closely associated with either the issuing or another Monthly Meeting; or
(c) where, in the view of the receiving Monthly Meeting, the issuing Monthly Meeting should consider whether termination of membership may not be more appropriate.
4.9.14 Acceptance of transfer
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.
It may be desirable that the overseers of the Meeting from which the Friend is moving should write to the clerk of overseers of the new Meeting giving such information in confidence as may be felt to be useful.
4.9.16 Membership may be ended by:
(b) death, or
(c) termination of membership by the Monthly Meeting.
It is important that minutes recording termination of membership are quite specific.
A member who wishes to resign membership should do so by letter to the clerk of the Monthly Meeting. Monthly Meetings arrange for such letters to be referred to Monthly Meeting elders for their advice. Normally a resignation is not accepted until after a visit is made on behalf of the Monthly Meeting. On the acceptance of a resignation the Monthly Meeting clerk immediately informs the person concerned.
4.9.18 Termination by the Monthly Meeting
There are some cases where Monthly Meetings may take the initiative in terminating membership. However, it should not be terminated for solely financial reasons. The possible circumstances for termination are:
(a) where over a prolonged period a Friend has not shown any interest in the life of the Society and there seems no reasonable likelihood of this occurring;
(b) where the conduct or publicly expressed opinions of the member are so at variance with the known principles of the Society that the spiritual bond of membership has been broken; or
(c) where 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 under (a) or (b) above until after the member has been visited. If the Monthly Meeting then considers terminating the membership of a member who does not agree to the termination, a letter is sent to the Friend concerned explaining the intention of the Monthly Meeting and offering the opportunity of further discussion. On the actual termination of membership the Monthly Meeting clerk immediately informs the person or persons in writing, drawing their attention to their right of appeal to Standing Committee should they feel aggrieved by the decision of the Monthly Meeting.
4.9.19 Attenders are those who, without being members, attend or are associated with a meeting for worship and, with their permission, are listed as attenders. Attenders serve in many ways.
4.10 MARRIAGE AND CIVIL UNION ACCORDING TO FRIENDS’ USAGE
Section 4.10, together with the Appendix 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.
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 the elders and other Friends in a pastoral role, 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.
4.10.3 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 marriag
e 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 the relevant Appendix, 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. (See 4.10.10)
Introduction to 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 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)
- a legal Civil Union Licence with accompanying forms (BDM 345 & 345A),
- bring these to the meeting's registering officer, who holds and completes the paperwork 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.
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 an elder and 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.
4.10.7 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 an elder, 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 (See 4.10.9).
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.
4.10.8 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. 9 Example text
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 minutesof 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.
4.10.10 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 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. Natural sorrow there will be, but often our thought may be one of great thankfulness for lives which have borne witness to the power of the Spirit.
There is no set pattern for the conduct of funerals. A meeting for worship to uphold all those who grieve and to give thanks for the life of our Friend may be held in the meeting house (or the home, or a funeral chapel) before or after committal or cremation. In some cases it may be better to hold a memorial meeting on a later occasion, while in others a brief meeting for worship at the graveside or crematorium is all that is desired.
Whether the coffin is present in the Meeting House varies according to the wishes of the bereaved or the deceased. Elders have a leaflet containing suggestions for Friends' funerals.
Elders or Pastoral Care Committee should ask one or two experienced and sympathetic Friends to consult with relatives on the holding of the meeting for worship, and on other matters in connection with the funeral. They may request those with a special gift of ministry to be present at the meeting for worship.
Where it is expected that many present will be without experience of a Quaker meeting for worship, it is desirable for an elder, or other suitable Friend, to explain briefly the nature of the meeting for worship and the procedure to be followed. Alternatively, a written explanation may be handed to people as they arrive.
It is natural that some bereaved Friends will wish (perhaps even following instructions from the deceased) to minimise the "fuss" and dispense with a funeral. There is, however, a sense of incompleteness when a funeral or memorial meeting for worship is not held. A death affects many beyond the person's immediate circle; and elders should bear in mind the needs of this larger group when deciding what it is best to do.
A feeling of hesitation in speaking at funerals is most natural, for wisdom and tenderness are required. Nevertheless, these gatherings give opportunities of a very special character for vocal ministry. There is a place for specific tributes and reminiscences. In addition, 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 elder comes forward to the relatives, speaking with them and indicating that they should lead the way out.
Friends should be sensitive to respond to the needs of the bereaved. These needs continue long after the funeral.
4.11.6 Example text
Here — for those who might find it useful — is the text of what one elder said to introduce a Quaker funeral:
"Friends,we are gathered here to give thanks for the life of . . . . . . and to offer our loving support to .
The meeting will last probably forty minutes — or longer: that is not predetermined. Everyone is invited to stay for a cup of tea and light lunch afterwards.
This is a Quaker meeting, based on silent worship. In the silence, we all participate in remembering .... and the particular qualities which he/she shared with us. And out of the silence anyone may stand and speak, whether to offer a reading or a prayer, or to recount a memory about his/her life in the recent or distant past. We ask that nobody should stand to speak immediately after someone else has sat down — leave some silence."
4.11.7 Testimonies to the Grace of God in the Lives of Friends
The Monthly Meeting should arrange, where it seems appropriate, for the preparation of a testimony concerning the life and service of a deceased Friend. This is not the same thing as an obituary or a eulogy or a comprehensive biography. Its central 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 some people reading it will have never met the deceased, and may be reading many years later, the text should strive for clarity. Since Friends are enjoined to "let our lives speak", it should include enough factual materials to inform them about the person's life and activities.
It should not be filled with the grief of the moment. Normally the main scribe is not one of the family or principal mourners, though their input is of course important.
Preparing a testimony is normally the responsibility of the Monthly Meeting of which the Friend was a member. Often there is consultation with other Monthly Meetings where the Friend lived for some time. The main scribe or scribes will normally be named.
All written testimonies should be sent to the NZ Friends Newsletter and to the person appointed to collect them for the Yearly Meeting records.
4.12 SPECIAL MEETINGS FOR WORSHIP
Weddings, funerals and memorial meetings, discussed above, are not the only occasions for which a special meeting for worship may be appointed.
Some other possibilities are:
- to welcome a new infant into the group (see 6.3.3.f );
- to celebrate a major wedding anniversary;
- to focus on some special reason for grief or thanksgiving.
Special meetings may be appointed by a Monthly Meeting, a Recognised Meeting, a meeting of elders, or a regular Worship Group deciding to meet for a specific purpose.
A Monthly Meeting may appoint a Meeting for Worship for a celebration of commitment for a couple who do not wish to be legally married, or a same-sex couple whose relationship is not, under current legislation, entitled to full recognition.