The Monthly Meeting
The basic unit in the Religious Society of Friends is the monthly meeting. It consists of all persons recorded on its list of members. It fosters their spiritual life as they worship and conduct their business together. Responsibility for decisions made and actions taken by the monthly meeting or its committees rests with its members.
The monthly meeting
- receives, transfers, and discontinues members;
- provides for the oversight of marriages;
- provides for the oversight of memorial meetings and for the preparation of memorial minutes when appropriate;
- treats in a spirit of restoring love those who depart from Friends' principles and testimonies;
- issues travel minutes (see Appendix 2, C. on travel minutes and letters of introduction); and
- sets up or lays down preparative meetings or worship groups.
- collects funds required for its works;
- holds and administers real estate and other property;
- appoints members and committees for special service and acts on their reports;
- appoints representatives to attend quarterly meetings and Yearly Meeting and considers their reports;
- appoints members to Yearly Meeting committees as requested; and
- prepares and dispatches reports requested by quarterly meetings or Yearly Meeting.
The monthly meeting usually meets monthly for the transaction of business and, in any case, such meetings should be held regularly. Both the individual member and the group are strengthened in faith and practice by prompt and regular attendance at these meetings. The Advices and Queries should be read at frequent intervals. Any session of a monthly meeting may be adjourned and continued at a later date.
Special or Called Meetings
Special meetings of the monthly meeting may be called by the clerk, or by the clerk upon request of three members. Notice shall be given at a regular meeting for worship at least seven days before the date of holding the special meeting; it shall name the business to be considered and the persons calling for the special meeting. No business may be considered at a special meeting other than the business for which it was called.
Officers of the Monthly Meeting
Once a year each monthly meeting appoints a clerk and other officers of the meeting as appropriate for the size and character of the meeting.
CLERK. The clerk conducts all business sessions, sees that business is properly presented to the meeting for consideration, and announces decisions when made. The clerk is responsible for keeping accurate minutes, properly dated and signed, showing all matters discussed and actions taken. These shall be kept in permanent form in a minute book after they have been approved by the meeting.
The clerk carries out the instructions of the meeting on all matters pertaining to the accomplishment of its business and signs necessary documents on behalf of the meeting. The clerk also receives, transmits, and acknowledges communications; the meeting may appoint a correspondent to assist with these matters. In the absence of the clerk, the meeting may appoint another Friend to be clerk for the day.
RECORDING CLERK. The recording clerk keeps accurate minutes showing all actions taken by the meeting. When appropriate, the recording clerk may assist the presiding clerk in framing a minute.
TREASURER. The treasurer receives and disburses funds as the meeting directs. The treasurer keeps the account books of the meeting and reports regularly to it. The accounts should be audited annually.
RECORDER. The recorder keeps the permanent records of all changes in the status of membership, such as births, deaths, marriages, applications, transfers, and withdrawals. Records should be kept in a form approved by the Yearly Meeting and statistics on membership submitted as called for. It is recommended that recorders issue annually to the membership an up-to-date list of names and addresses of all members. Such a list should be appended to the monthly meeting minutes every ten years, beginning with the first monthly meeting in 1985.
Election of Officers
In cases where a meeting has been incorporated and state laws require the election of officers of the corporation, such election may be accomplished by instructing the clerk to cast a unanimous ballot for the officers appointed by the meeting. In most cases, properly minuted actions taken by the business meeting in accordance with Faith and Practice will satisfy legal requirements without the necessity of a vote. (See Appendix 1, Some State Laws.)
Ministry and Counsel
A meeting or committee on ministry and counsel oversees and nurtures the spiritual life of the meeting. (See Chapter 3 of Part IV.)
Each monthly meeting appoints such committees as may be needed to accomplish its work. Each standing committee submits a complete report once a year and may report at more frequent intervals on matters of special importance or interest to the monthly meeting.
Friends should bear in mind that a committee is a group of individuals who, out of a sense of calling or concern, and by appointment, have been given special responsibility for some aspect of the life of the meeting. Committee work often gives the corporate support and guidance needed to carry forward an individual concern, but it should never become a substitute for personal leading and action, nor for the corporate leading and action of the whole meeting.
Members ought to feel a sense of rightness of their service a sense of divine calling. Appointments should not be accepted nor declined lightly. Their acceptance should mean willingness to be regular in attendance, to work with others, and to share and to listen. Preparation for effective service is important, involving the ordering of personal affairs so that it is possible to give fully of time, energy, and spiritual resources.
Committees of the monthly meeting may include the following:
NOMINATING COMMITTEE. The nominating committee makes nominations throughout the year for officers, committees, representatives, and other positions of responsibility as directed by the monthly meeting. Members of this committee are chosen with regard to their discernment, seasoned judgment, and general knowledge of the membership of the meeting. They confer with proposed nominees before presenting their names to the monthly meeting. Any member of the meeting may suggest changes in the nominations. Members of the nominating committee serve for no more than three consecutive years.
FINANCE COMMITTEE. The finance committee is responsible for raising funds and preparing a budget for the consideration of the monthly meeting.
OTHER COMMITTEES. Other committees, such as Christian education, peace and social concerns, literature, and outreach, are formed as needed by the meeting.
Monthly meeting appointments are for one year unless otherwise stated. All appointees hold their positions until successors are appointed. The responsibilities of holding office and of committee membership should be shared as widely as possible. Where numbers permit, committee members may be appointed on a two-year or three-year cycle, and a monthly meeting may establish a regular policy of limiting the number of successive terms that may be served in any capacity.
Monthly and other meetings holding property should seek competent legal advice to ensure compliance with applicable statutes and to ensure desirable methods of holding such property, whether by appointment of trustees, by incorporation, or otherwise. (See Appendix 1, Some State Laws.)