Duties of Ministry and Counsel
Ministry of the Meeting
Ministry and Counsel should be especially attentive to the quality of the meeting for worship. Humility of spirit and confidence that the power of God will work in each person are essential to this service.
Ministry and Counsel should encourage those whose vocal ministry gives evidence of true spiritual insight and offer guidance to those whose messages seem inappropriate to a meeting for worship. The depth and timeliness of the message and its harmony with the spirit of the meeting are more important than the form. The example of one struggling to be faithful in a difficult task may be more helpful than a polished address. Although the vocal ministry serves an important purpose, Friends should be constantly aware that the opportunity for silent communion with God is basic to their religious practice.
Ministry and Counsel initiates the recording of gifts in the ministry. (See page 246.)
Where ministry is offered through music, Ministry and Counsel should be sensitive to its contribution to the quality of worship.
Ministry and Counsel should also encourage private prayer, meditation, and devotional reading which promote growth in the spiritual life and prepare each worshipper for the corporate worship of the meeting.
Members of Ministry and Counsel should come to know all members and attenders, to share their joys and sorrows, and to find ways to encourage and help them. Love is nurtured by visits and correspondence. From time to time Ministry and Counsel may call a special meeting or appoint a special committee to help Friends who are seeking guidance or in other ways wish support from the meeting. Ordinarily such committees, unlike clearness committees, do not report back to the monthly meeting.
Ministry and Counsel should encourage participation by all members in the work of the meeting. They should assist new and young members to become acquainted with the organization and function of the meeting and to find their best place in its several activities. They should particularly encourage junior members who have reached the age of eighteen to consider and to test their readiness to affirm their membership. They should labor with inactive members for restoration of their interest.
Ministry and Counsel should help young people, attenders, and seekers to understand Friends' principles and testimonies and encourage them to apply for membership when appropriate.
Ministry and Counsel serves as a committee to consider all applications, transfers, affirmations, or terminations of membership before these are presented to the monthly meeting for action. Its responsibilities and procedure in these matters have already been described in the chapter on membership.
Ministry and Counsel may undertake the conduct of study groups, public meetings, circulation of literature, and other outreach for the general instruction of Friends and others in the religious beliefs and practices of the Society and in the advancement of Friends' principles. (See Chapter 4.)
In larger meetings a portion of the duties of Ministry and Counsel may at the option of the monthly meeting be assigned to a separate body of overseers, appointed in the same way as Ministry and Counsel. The overseers report directly to the monthly meeting. Overseers and Ministry and Counsel should meet jointly from time to time to ensure a common understanding of their respective responsibilities and of meeting problems.
State of Society Report
At the end of each calendar year Ministry and Counsel should appoint one or more of its members to prepare and present to its sessions a report on the state of the monthly meeting. The report when approved should be forwarded to the monthly meeting for approval and by that body to the quarterly meeting and the Yearly Meeting.
The report should be a searching self-examination by the meeting and its members of their spiritual strengths and weaknesses and of the efforts made to foster growth in the spiritual life. Reports may cover the full range of interest and concerns but should emphasize those indicative of the spiritual health of the meeting. Meetings may wish to consider one or more of the following:
- quality of worship and spiritual ministry;
- efforts to foster spiritual growth;
- stand taken on Friends' principles;
- personal and family relations;
- relations with community and other religious groups;
- participation in general activities of Friends;
- significant activities, outreach, or concerns of the local meeting;
- youth of the meeting;
- meeting community.
In cases it deems appropriate, memorials of deceased members may be prepared by Ministry and Counsel, considered by the monthly meeting and, when approved, entered in the minutes. If the Spirit through these members reached larger bodies of Friends, the records of their religious life may be transmitted successively at the discretion of each body to Ministry and Counsel of the quarterly meeting, the quarterly meeting, the Permanent Board, and the Yearly Meeting. Each step may occur with or without revision, but, before recording or transmitting, the memorial should be read and considered.
Appointment of Pastors or Meeting Secretaries
Those meetings desiring the help of pastors or of meeting secretaries should consult with the Field Secretary and with other persons made responsible by the Yearly Meeting for such service. Ministry and Counsel should consider the qualifications of candidates and make recommendations to the monthly meeting for action. Pastors or meeting secretaries may be engaged or dismissed only by action of the monthly meeting or its constituent meetings.