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Spiritual nurture of the Meeting

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Site: Woodbrooke
Course: FWCC-EMES Information Resource for Quaker Meetings
Book: Spiritual nurture of the Meeting
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Date: Sunday, 8 December 2019, 3:08 PM

Meeting for Worship is central to our life as Friends. Regardless of how often and where we hold Meeting, there are ways to help it be a good experience for participants -- new attenders and long-time members.

What follows is an excerpt from Cheerfully over the World, A handbook for isolated Friends

Worship is our response to an awareness of God. We can worship alone, but when we join with others in expectant waiting we may discover a deeper sense of God’s presence. We seek a gathered stillness in our meeting for worship so that all may feel the power of God’s love drawing us together and leading us.  (Britain YM, Advices and Queries 8)

Meetings for worship are central to the activities of the Religious Society of Friends it is in worship that our communal life is best experienced. The corporate contemplative and worshipful process of meeting together on the basis of silence can excite a sense of being with the divinity in sacramental stillness. Friends are a worldwide community and so the format for our worship varies from culture to culture with different emphases and different degrees of programming. Despite the variety, most of us would probably unite around the following:

Meeting for worship is the heart: the powerhouse, the source of inspiration. It is based on a mystical concept where there is seeking by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain union with the Deity and apprehension of truth beyond the understanding. It requires a heart open to the Inner Light and a quiet and humble mind: ordinary people finding a sense of peace, strength and sharing. The unique nature of each Meeting may be regarded as an act of faith in personal relationships and an experiment in religious search.  (from George Gorman, Introducing Quakers, p.29)

In the silence, I may simple go over what needs to be done for the week, or focus on concerns for friends, or worry through a problem. In the silent worship, space is there to hold these all up to God. Other times I am drawn into a sense of awareness of Presence, a place of comfort, or instruction, or prayer or awe. (Margery Post Abbott, in Philadelphia YM Faith and Practice)

Meeting for worship in the early days of the Quaker movement followed an unprogrammed format, often with long sermons by charismatic leaders interspersed with silent periods of waiting on the Lord. During the periods of evangelical revival during the late 1800s, many Friends’ groups in North America found revitalization in adopting a service which broke the silence with vocal prayer, hymns, scripture reading, personal testimony and a sermon from a pastor. It was this format which Quaker missionaries took with them to East and Central Africa, Asia and other parts of the Americas. In those countries, local traditions have been added as well.

Convinced that all places are sacred, Friends do not need to worship in specially consecrated buildings. If a meetinghouse or church is not available, they may share a venue with another religious organization, hire a hall or meet in a private home. The main criteria are regular availability and a peaceful, quiet setting which is conducive to worship. The numbers who gather for worship can vary. In Delhi, one Friend kept faith, meeting alone with God in silence each Sunday for several years in a room in the YMCA. Occasionally, a few people responded to his advertisement and he welcomed them to join him.

Anyone may attend Friends’ worship and newcomers should be made to feel welcome. To clarify the style of worship being practised, we can make available small leaflets describing our worship. It is important to distinguish between worship of the living God and group therapy. Confusion about this has led some to misuse the quiet, attentive group to air personal problems. Some meetings arrange a time to share personal joys and sorrows toward the end of the worship hour. This is particularly useful if the time of worship has become burdened with this kind of sharing. If there are programmed elements in the worship service, their purpose and timing should be explained so that all may know what to expect.

The physical setting is also important: decorations and furniture should be kept simple. For unprogrammed worship, the chairs or benches are usually arranged in a circle or square to enhance the feeling of equality and to encourage participation. There may be simple items set on a central table such as a Bible, a book of Christian Discipline or Quaker Faith & Practice, flowers or on special occasions, a lighted candle. For programmed worship, there is usually a platform where those whose turn it is to lead the worship can be easily seen and heard. Worship begins when people begin to gather in silence and participants join the stream of worship in growing unity.

Although Meeting for worship is usually held on a Sunday morning, worship can be arranged at any time. For the community of Friends, however, it is important to observe the discipline of gathering to worship at a regular time convenient to all. Meetings usually last about one hour. Children are invited to attend but, as some may find it difficult to keep still for the duration of the service, might be engaged in their own more structured worship or learning activities for part of the time set aside for Meeting.

Friends are a community spread across vast distances and so appointing a time for worship when others are known to be worshipping as well can bring a sense of comfort. This was done effectively in the Middle East when Friends in Ramallah, West Bank and in Brummana, Lebanon, were prevented by borders from joining with each other physically, and so at an appointed hour worshipped together in spirit. Although scattered in many parts of India, members of the General Conference of Friends in India join in worship at 9:30 pm. Friends worldwide have also been encouraged to meet at a certain hour, local time wherever they are, to pray together for issues of particular concern, such as Friends in South Africa and for peace among the people of Kosovo during the unrest and violence in those places. As this booklet goes to press, Friends are invited to focus on and pray for peace each Sunday evening at 7:00 pm.

Hearts and minds prepared

Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit?... Take time to learn about other people’s experiences of the Light. Remember the importance of the Bible, the writings of Friends and all writing which reveal the ways of God. (Britain YM, Advices and Queries 3, 5)

Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God, whereby thou wilt receive his strength and power from whence life comes.  (Geroge Fox, Journal, p.346)

Worship and preparation for it require attention more than once a week. Particularly for those who attend unprogrammed meetings for worship, special care and discipline to prepare are advised so as to make best use of the time of corporate worship. This may include regular times of centering, the reading of various inspirational works and reflecting on the Advices and Queries, those useful Quaker aids for examination of our own daily lives. At other times, the appreciation of the beauty of nature or meeting with (writing to) a like-minded spiritual companion are what is called for. Especially for those who find sleep difficult, prayer and reading at night might be useful preparation for worship, for centering the spirit and letting loose the cares of the day. With these habits in place, less time may be required to become fully centered and attentive to the living Presence as one settles in to meeting for worship.

There are times when Friends explore variations on the unprogrammed Meeting for Worship. All-age worship can sometimes be semi-programmed. Some Meetings hold separate experimental Meetings for Worship with a theme, for example music or readings out of the silence.

Speaking out of the silence is central to Quaker experience. The content, nature and amount of vocal  ministry varies greatly. There are ways to encourage vocal ministry when our worship has become too silent. There are ways to deepen vocal ministry. There are ways to discourage abuse of vocal ministry. 

Vocal ministry

While coming to worship prepared in spirit is important, this does not necessarily include the preparation of vocal contributions to an unprogrammed worship service. Vocal ministry of the deepest sort is likely to arise spontaneously after a personal centering process during worship, prompted by the Holy Spirit. Some enter the silence with internal discipline, consciously using prayers of confession, thanksgiving praise, intercession and petition as a process of becoming centered. Others reach toward the Divine Centre by means of a repeated prayer or phrase, or they simply empty their minds and listen.

As the silence grows deeper, letting go of temporal distractions to find encounter with God, vocal ministry may follow as an outward expression of what has developed in the silence. Subsequent ministry can often build on what has been said before as the movement of the Spirit reveals that a meeting has truly been a “gathered” one.

Some meetings may be totally silent with no one feeling moved to break the stillness.Friends of the unprogrammed tradition value the process in the silence because if “allows them for a while to be aware of the inner and deeper meaning of their individual and corporate lives” (Quaker Worship, Quaker Home Service, 1989). Besides being a time of praise and thankfulness, the meeting for worship becomes a time of learning to listen, acceptance of frustrations and cessation of judgements: vital aspects of the self-discipline that helps us on our journey.

Some worship groups include Friends with different first languages, or use a language different from that usual in the area where they meet. It is helpful to make it known that vocal ministry is welcome in whatever language the speaker uses most comfortably. One of those present may be able to interpret once the ministry has ended. If not, Friends who do not understand can accept it trustfully in the Spirit, rejoicing “to feel where the words come from” (Pepunehang quoted in John Woolman's Journal,18/06/1763.

Programmed meetings for worship provide the opportunity for more outward expression of praise and joy in God's greatness and work in our lives. Through song and scripture, vocal prayer and testimonials, the Friends' pastor knows that the Holy Spirit can work through each person present and prays that the sermon prepared in advance will speak to the worshippers with vision and lead their thoughts rightly. On many an occasion, a sensitive pastor has brought a different message to the meeting than had been prepared. “Many people believe Quaker ministry should be spontaneous, ejaculatory and unpremeditated. Such is not the case, provided one has the spiritual discipline to be able to distinguish God's prompting from one's own” (John Punshon, Encounter with Silence, p. 81).

The Quaker business method has been cultivated for over 300 years. It is a gift and a discipline for us when we make decisions, regardless of how large our Meeting is. The circumstances of the Meeting will determine how formal the practice is, but expression of  truth, peace, equality, simplicity and community are necessary components of all Quaker decision making.

Meetings for Business

Not in the way of the world, as a worldly assembly of men, by not contests, by seeking to outspeak and overreach one another in discourse...not deciding affairs by the greater (majority) vote...but in the wisdom, love and fellowship of God, in gravity, patience, in unity and concord submitting to one another in lowness of heart and in the holy spirit of truth and righteousness, all things (are) to be carried on. Edward Burrough (Britain YM, Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.87)

The meeting for business after the manner of Friends is also a time of worship in which the community seeks God's guidance together. It is Friends' experience that when votes are taken and the will of the majority overcomes the minority, an injustice is often done. Perhaps the minority was not listened to sufficiently for the wisdom of their advice to be recognised. Thus, we make our corporate decisions seeking unity in the Will of God. Some Friends refer to these meetings as "meeting for worship with attention to business" as a reminder to Friends of the worship setting. It is the clerk's responsibility to listen to all contributions and to record a minute of decision which all can own; thus they listen for areas of unity rather than stressing the areas of conflict. If conflict and tempers flare, a good clerk knows when to ask for a period of silent worship in which Friends can seek God's guidance and reflect charitably on what has been said. Some Friends work more comfortably if the clerking and recording functions are shared between two people.

This process is a special and unique contribution Friends can make to the wider society and is used in many "worldly" decision-making situations. Besides carrying out the usual practical decisions, the business meeting can provide a worshipful setting for listening to one another and seeking the Light of God's guidance on potential problems and concerns. These can include outreach, proposed service projects, possible responses to difficulties in the region, etc. All members and those attenders who wish should be encouraged to participate. Each person present should help the process by listening well, upholding the clerk and seeking the way forward with which all can unite.

This is one of the documents used in the EMES Meeting for Learning 11-13 June 2010 held at Svartbäcken, Rimbo, Sweden

Gospel Order

In her Pendle Hill pamphlet entitled Gospel Order. A Quaker Understanding of Faithful Church Community, Sandra Cronk tells us that Gospel Order is a term that gathers together the most significant threads of Friends’ understanding of the church community. She says that George Fox used it to describe Quaker practices of worship, decision-making and daily living in meetings and everyday lives, and how being led into God’s new order of love, peace and justice manifested itself in the world. For early Friends, Gospel Order implied the emergence of new patterns of life, a listening and responding to the leadings of the Inward Teacher, and being part of a community of faith. Transformed lives also meant turning to the Light – which led to Christ, the Inward Teacher and Guide – that revealed what people needed to do in order to live true and faithful lives. In this sense, Gospel Order meant God’s New Order and alluded to a reconciled, faithful, personal relationship with God. It also implied being gathered into a faith community of similar seekers and rejecting all social conventions that were considered contrary to God’s will. Through Gospel Order people would be restored to a right relationship with God and with each other. Although Early Friends used the phrase Gospel Order to describe the communal/ecclesiastical and societal dimensions of this new ordering, it can also be used to describe the personal and cosmic dimensions of God’s New Order.

Cronk breaks the definition of Gospel Order down as follows: Gospel refers to the life, power and reality of our relationship with God, while Order indicates the characteristics of daily living that flow from God and that allow the faith community to maintain and deepen its relationship with Christ. George Fox referred to this relationship as a “covenanted relationship”, which is a relationship of enduring trust and faithfulness with God and with other people (given that one cannot live God’s New Order alone). For early Friends the new covenant was Christ Jesus and their living relationship with Christ. In this context, patterns of life – the ‘order’ in Gospel Order – were a manifestation of one’s relationship with Christ. The Quaker meeting community as a whole – and not simply the individuals within it – was also required to embody the new pattern of life and to bear fruit, i.e. to live out the fullness of a living relationship with Christ.

Gospel Order means a life lived in transforming, guiding and sustaining power, not the imposition of a system of “shoulds” and external codes of behaviour. It is based on an ordered way of life that is tangibly expressed in all areas of living, both outward and inward and reflects a sense of peoplehood, rather than individualistic actions and assumptions. According to Cronk, the content of Gospel Order as understood in the Quaker context is made up of three specific areas:

a) the inward life of worship and discernment: living in a way that nurtures and maintains the covenant relationship with God, e.g. holding regular meetings for worship and for business where the discipline of listening together and discerning the inward leadings of the Divine Teacher and Guide are practised.

b) the interior functioning of the church community, our families and homes: which grows out of the above and reflects the love and unity of our relationship with God.

c) the social testimonies of Friends: a prophetic witness to society at large expressed through the Quaker testimonies that witness to the New Order that God brings to birth in the world.

In the early Friends model of Gospel Order, socioeconomic and political concerns and the life of the meeting community were linked and intertwined into an integrated whole. Today, in contrast, we tend to regard these aspects as separate models and often categorise into ‘social concern Friends’ (action-based) and ‘inward life Friends’ (prayer and contemplation-based). Friends in Fox’s day believed that the most basic peace and social concerns grew out of living Gospel Order. This was reflected, for example, by their community witness or testimonies to plain speech, simple dress, the refusal to go to war, take an oath etc., and their consequent living in a new order of peace, simplicity and harmony. Living like this was seen as a prophetic challenge to all the unjust social structures of the so-called old order. In other words, Gospel Order grows out of the interweaving of the inward, communal and social witness aspects of our lives as Quakers.

Mutual accountability was seen as an important component, in that it provided an internal dynamic to keep Gospel Order strong within the Quaker community and meant accountability to each other and to God. This accountability was regarded as the lifeblood of the process of discipling, i.e. being disciples to one another and helping each other to become disciples of Christ. In a prophetic context, accountability also means mutual admonition, given that the Inward Light of Christ also reveals our unfaithfulness and wrongdoings. Friends regarded admonition as part of a larger process of spiritual listening, guidance and nurture that meant helping each other to hear and respond to God’s call, recognise and use spiritual gifts, identify life’s broken and unfaithful aspects, overcome fear, discern leadings and know when the Inward Guide had either been outrun or had not been heeded. In this sense, admonition implied encouragement to: undertake a much needed service or ministry, resist taking on too many tasks, trust God’s leadings or let go of behaviour or things that prevented a deeper commitment to faithfulness in all areas of life.

Understanding Gospel Order helps us to hear God’s call to a deeper faithfulness. Nowadays it does not mean reproducing patterns of the past that do not match or fit our times. What it does invite us to do, though, is to live in the life and power of a covenant relationship with God and with each other that speaks and witnesses to our contemporary world.

Within the meeting community, Elders were regarded as the overseers of Gospel Order. Their role included oversight of meeting for worship, the spiritual life of the meeting and the daily life of the meeting community. Another of their roles was to nurture Friends’ practice and process of listening. Listening to God in community was regarded as the heart of Gospel Order and the act of faithfulness from which all life flowed. The Elders’ attitude of deep listening helped the meeting as a whole to centre down in worship, helped individual Friends within the meeting community to listen and respond to God, helped to ensure that the inward life of the meeting and of individual Friends was translated into faithful daily living, and helped to ensure that Friends with special needs received the help and care they required. Their work also included the oversight and practice of accountability – in terms of helping to solve conflicts or disputes, the reconciliation of broken relationships, serving as mediators or arbiters at the request of the parties involved, encouraging ministry, providing care and spiritual guidance and generally watching to see that individual Friends and the meeting faithfully practised Gospel Order.

Sue Glover Frykman

In addition to Meeting for Worship and a shared meal or refreshments, opportunities for learning and having fun are important for the life of a Meeting. Here are suggestions and experiences.

Quakers have developed methods for sharing outside of Meeting for Worship. These all have elements of silence, deep listening, speaking from the heart and seeking clarity. Worship sharing,  meetings for clearness and the guided meditation Experiment with Light are three valuable methods for deepening the life of the Spirit in Meetings. 

This is one of the documents used in the EMES Meeting for Learning 11-13 June 2010 held at Svartbäcken, Rimbo, Sweden

About Worship Sharing/Creative Listening

Worship sharing group is an opportunity to share and listen deeply, in the spirit of worship, with a small number of Friends. This can be especially important at larger gatherings of Friends. As facilitator, you help create a welcoming and safe space, encourage participants to share the time respectfully, ensure that everyone has a chance to speak as s/he feels called and remind Friends that silent participation is also valued. It is good if participants are able to speak in their own languages, and any interpretation is the responsibility of the group. Rather than see interpretation as a time-consuming frustration, please try to see it as a gift—it gives time for further reflection as the same message is heard in another language. Some participants may have hearing, sight or mobility needs to be met in a loving way. Often, there will be a question that the group is asked to focus on.

These reminders need to be shared with the group before beginning:

  • What is shared remains in the group. Confidentiality is important.

  • Everyone is entitled to pass—contributing is voluntary.

  • Everyone should be able to contribute once before anyone shares a second time. 

  • Participants are reminded to speak clearly and loudly enough so that everyone can hear. 
    Participants should feel free to speak in their own language if interpretation is possible.

  • Remind participants that time is limited and that everyone must have equal opportunity to share. Facilitators may need to be gentle but firm in helping Friends with this.
    Perhaps a “sign”, established at the outset, helps the speaker know when her/his time is up.

  • Allow a period of silence before beginning, between contributions and at the end. 

  • Contributions are gifts to the group. We refrain from commenting on, responding to or critiquing others’ contributions.

     

This is one of the documents used in the EMES Meeting for Learning 11-13 June 2010 held at Svartbäcken, Rimbo, Sweden

Important Aspects of a Meeting for Clearness

Complied by Sue Glover Frykman

What is a Meeting for Clearness?

In the early days of the Quaker movement, clearness committees were mainly appointed to ensure that both partners wishing to enter into marriage were ‘clear’ from previous marriage commitments. Clearness committees were also appointed to help applicants for membership to gain a deeper understanding of the Religious Society of Friends and as a way of testing ‘leadings’ with a small group of experienced Friends. It was also a way of testing whether a member was, for example, called to travel in the ministry. In a sense, it was seen as an opportunity to ‘become clear’ as to the right way forward.

While many American and European Yearly Meetings still maintain the practice of clearness for marriage, the concept has broadened to include partnerships between heterosexual and homosexual couples. It has become a loving and caring exercise on behalf of the meeting, in which the couple are helped to explore their commitment to God, to one another and to the meeting, to look in depth at the outcome of previous relationships or marriages, to consider their attitudes towards the care of existing or future children, and to explore how they can make decisions about their life together.

During the 1960s, Young Friends started to apply the concept of clearness to other weighty matters of life, such as when a difficult decision had to be made, e.g. about a job or profession, unexpected changes, conflicts in the family, separation or divorce. Such meetings were also seen as being of help and comfort to the dying. Meeting for Clearness was seen as providing support and guidance from the spiritual community when it was most needed. One of its strengths was that it was flexible and could be adapted to suit a variety of situations.

Meetings for Clearness have also been used for testing concerns and as a conflict transformation tool. While they can also be used in and adapted to secular situations, the focus here is on the use of clearness meetings as an instrument for spiritual discernment according to Quaker practice.

A Meeting for Clearness should be held in a relaxed atmosphere of trust, although some degree of formality is helpful. A facilitator should be chosen to assist in clarifying the question or questions to be considered. Some groups may decide that notes should be taken. It is important that confidentiality is maintained within the group. There is a need for careful and attentive listening, tact, affirmation and love.

The object of the exercise is to examine the issue and obtain clarity about what is to be done. The role can be investigative, supportive or mediatory, depending on the specific need. The meeting is usually conducted in a Quaker worship-sharing mode (see separate information sheet). Each member of the group should have opportunities to question and explore the background to the matter that is to be clarified. It is important not to be diverted by side-issues, but to concentrate on exploring options and understanding underlying difficulties. It will take time to reach clearness and periods of gathered worship will be helpful.

The meeting should also have a clear ending and should not continue once tiredness sets in. A further meeting or meetings may be needed if the original issue, or practical details, would benefit from further thought.

Why is a Meeting for Clearness valuable?

A Meeting for Clearness is valuable because it involves a process of corporate discernment that is designed to help an individual - or group - to ‘test’ or clarify a concern or problem and thereby come to a greater understanding or realisation. It can be described as a process that leads to reconciliation or a sense of inner peace.

Corporate discernment is important because it helps us to discern whether actions or intentions are impulsive ideas or are truly and faithfully rooted and grounded in the spirit, to the benefit of the spiritual community and in keeping with God’s purposes. In short, corporate discernment helps us to look at different angles of a problem or concern in an attempt to ‘become clear’ and find ‘inner peace’ in the unfolding of our lives.

Important aspects of a Meeting for Clearness

A Meeting for Clearness can either be initiated by an individual member, who approaches the Elders, their local Meeting or Worship Group with a concern or problem that necessitates a decision or action, or by the Elders or local Meeting. When clearness has been reached, the work of the appointed clearness committee comes to an end.

Care should be taken in the appointment of a clearness committee, as it is important that issues are examined from a variety of different perspectives. It can be helpful to include Friends who don’t know the focus person or group very well, in an attempt to avoid partisan alliances or attitudes, as well as those with particular areas of experience or expertise that might lead to deeper insight into the questions being asked. However, it is important that the people serving on the clearness committee are chosen for their abilities and skills of spiritual discernment. A maximum of 6 people is usually recommended. The focus person or group may also have ideas about who to include, and should therefore be consulted.

A Meeting for Clearness is not an opportunity to give advice, make statements or suggestions or ask loaded or rhetorical questions of the person or group in focus. The clearness committee’s role is to search for the Truth relating to the matter in hand. Discernment therefore involves open, challenging and loving questions that enable the focus person or group to clarify their own inner truth. Attentive and prayerful listening is another important feature of a Meeting for Clearness. It is not our will that we are seeking, but that which is Divine.

It is helpful if the person or group seeking clearness writes down his/her/their area of focus in advance of the Meeting for Clearness and makes this available to those involved in the process. The concern or problem area should be identified as precisely as possible: relevant background factors should be mentioned, and clues provided at to what lies ahead. This exercise is valuable for the clearness committee members as well as the focus person or group.

A Meeting for Clearness lasting about two to three hours should be envisaged, with the understanding that a second and even a third meeting may be necessary. It is important that the process is not hurried in any way. Short pauses during the Meeting for Clearness can be opportunities for ‘taking the pulse’ and re-assessing how to proceed.

Maintaining confidentiality within the group must be emphasised. It is often helpful to appoint a facilitator or convenor to look after the practical details of time-keeping and making sure that the Meeting for Clearness proceeds as it was envisaged. The group of people involved should decide in advance whether notes of record or a summary of the meeting ought to be made.

Basic guidelines for a Meeting for Clearness

The following guidelines illustrate how a Meeting for Clearness is conducted.

  • The process is one of prayer and discernment. The task in hand is to serve as a channel for the Light to help those present to clarify their own inner truth (i.e. no-one makes any decisions or attempts to solve the problem).

  • Arrange for one member to be facilitator or convenor (i.e. to be responsible for the process) who will attend to physical details that will nurture an atmosphere of stillness and seeking – telephones turned off, no interruptions etc.

  • Begin with worshipful silence. The convenor opens and closes the meeting, reminds everyone of the purpose of the meeting, the need for disciplined and prayerfully attentive listening and keeps the process moving in a worshipful way. The convenor also reminds people that what happens or said during the Meeting for Clearness is said in confidence, keeps track of the time and makes sure that all who wish to speak have the opportunity to do so.

  • Invite the focus person or group to formulate their experience, concern, leading or problem. After this, others present are invited to ask clarifying questions, make an observation, or describe an image - as they feel moved.

  • Allow for plenty of silence between contributions. When questions arise, try to ensure that they are honest, caring and open, and are asked for the sake of clarity. Listening without prejudice or judgement, helping to clarify alternatives, helping communication and providing emotional support as a person seeks to find the “truth and the right course of action” are all important aspects. Focus on what is happening now and explore what can be done to resolve the situation (rather than focusing on historical excuses or reasons for the present problems).

  • After the first round of contributions, the convenor should allow for a short pause and ask the group how they wish to proceed. (This is to try to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the process and remains involved in it.)

  • Towards the end of the meeting, the convenor can invite members to reflect on the process and ‘mirror back’ what they have seen, heard or have become more aware of. It is helpful if the group agrees upon and records a summary of events or whatever clarity seems to have been attained, as well as any next steps agreed to be taken.

  • All those involved should agree on the next steps, such as whether this recorded summary should be brought to the attention of the next relevant Meeting for Worship for Business, whether a follow-up meeting should be held etc.

  • End with a period of stilling, centring worship – taking inward stock of particular insights or promptings that have arisen from the session.

Things to keep in mind

  • Avoid the temptation to ask leading or rhetorical questions or give advice. This is counter-productive to a Meeting for Clearness.

  • Ensure that the clearness committee members work as a team with the focus person or group, thus avoiding ‘cliques’, partisanship or defensive positioning.

  • Problems may arise during the Meeting for Clearness itself, for example, if emotions become heated or the focus person or group doesn’t feel they are being ‘heard’. If this happens it is important that the convenor lovingly asks for a period of silence to give the Meeting for Clearness a chance to ‘come back on track’. The convenor needs to be prepared to lovingly confront and guide if necessary. Thinking ahead of time about possible difficult scenarios and how they might be dealt with is a wise precaution

Here is the link to the website for the Experiment with Light guided meditation. The meditation is increasingly used and appreciated among Friends.

Each Meeting will have different jobs that need to done, various roles to hold and ways of serving each other. 

There are various resources that can help Meetings grow. 

Current information and developments can always be found on the EMES website.

Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre  hosts this Information Resource on its Moodle platform. Woodbrooke also offers a great variety of courses that can help Meetings grow. Woodbrooke's online learning provision is growing. Woodbrooke tutors will also come to your Meeting in the form of Woodbrooke-on-the-Road.

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From the EMES website:

EMES Small Grants Fund (SGF)

FWCC-EMES and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) have reached agreement on terms for a new Small Grants Fund (SGF) to be administered by FWCC EMES. to further the development of Quaker worship and community in our Section. This initiative complements our Ministry and Outreach Programme, already funded by JRCT, and will run for three years initially, from mid-2015, to test the need and scope for such support.

A total of £30,000 per year will be available, with grants from £1,000 to £15,000 over three years being considered.

Objectives of the SGF

  • Strengthening Quakers’ shared identity: We would like to support projects that will promote Friends’ understanding of Quakers’ shared history, theology and spirituality, to strengthen Quaker faith and practice.
  • Strengthening Quaker connections: helping Friends to meet and network in order to learn with and from one another and to enable outreach to attract new members and for Friends to become more visible.
  • Bringing Quaker values to the wider community: encouraging Friends to take forward innovative and practical work that brings Quaker values and beliefs to the world around them.

Selection criteria

The SGF will consider applications from Quaker Meetings (Yearly, Monthly, Area, Local) and other Quaker organisations from across Europe, excluding from and within Britain Yearly Meeting (England, Scotland, Wales).

Drawing from JRCT’s experience, Quaker projects are successful if they are the result of a collective effort in terms of carefully and prayerfully exploring and formulating the idea and the plan of action and carrying out the implementation accordingly. Applications will therefore be restricted to groups and organisations, meaning that individuals cannot apply.

Within EMES we want to encourage a wide variety of applications of a broad and diverse scope. However, grant applications will not be considered, if the funds would be used for:

  • the core administration and management of established Quaker Meetings and Organisations (although we would make exceptions in cases where small infrastructure costs may meet our aims and objectives);
  • maintaining or resurrecting work, where a decision has been previously been made by another Quaker body to actively lay it down by discontinuing funding;
  • covering an individual’s personal income while they research or write a book, film or play
  • activities requiring less than £ 1,000 or more than £ 5,000 per year or more than £ 15,000 over three years.

Requests for funding will have to follow the format as outlined in the Application Information.

Each application will be considered carefully, looking at the fit with the purpose of the fund, as detailed above, specifically at:

  • the way in which a Concern has been developed and tested
  • the prospective benefit of the project to Friends and to wider society
  • the strength of the approach put forward in the application
  • the available skills, experience and ability to undertake the project
  • the relationship between the proposed project and other work within the Society of Friends
  • other funds that might be available to the applicant

Submission dates

Normally, there will be two submission dates for applications each year, which are planned to be the end of December and end of June each year. Exceptionally, applications of an urgent or very important nature may be considered in between.

Our Secretary and our Ministry and Outreach Co-ordinator will offer encouragement and support, and, where appropriate, recommend the funding of translation work to enable an application to be expressed as well as is possible.