E. The Monthly Meeting
The basic unit in the Religious Society of Friends is the monthly meeting. It has as its primary concern the meeting for worship. The monthly meeting receives, transfers, and dismisses members; provides for the oversight of marriages and funerals; and treats in a spirit of restoring love those who depart from Friends’ principles and testimonies. It collects funds required for the work of the meeting; holds and administers real estate and other property for the use of the meeting; and appoints members and committees for special service and considers and approves their reports. The individual member and the group are strengthened in faith and practice by prompt and regular attendance at these meetings. Queries and Advices should be read at frequent intervals.
Friends may adjourn a session of a monthly meeting and continue it at a later date. Special meetings of the monthly meeting can be called by either the clerk or the assistant clerk or upon the request of three members. The clerk shall give notice at a regular meeting for worship at least seven days prior to the date of holding the special meeting. This notice should identify the business to be considered and the persons calling for the special meeting. No business may be considered at a special meeting other than that for which it was called. Each monthly meeting should define a quorum for the transaction of business in its special sessions.
CLERK. Each monthly meeting appoints a clerk and an assistant clerk unless the meeting is too small to require more than one. The clerk conducts all business sessions, sees that the business is properly presented to the meeting for consideration, and announces decisions when made. The clerk keeps an accurate set of minutes, properly dated and signed, showing all matters discussed and actions taken. The clerk carries out the instructions of the meeting and signs necessary documents on its behalf.
An assistant clerk, if the monthly meeting appoints one, shall have such duties as the clerk may delegate. In the absence of either clerk, the meeting shall appoint a clerk-for-the-day from among those present.
RECORDING CLERK. A recording clerk, if the monthly meeting appoints one, writes minutes of the business meeting, subject to the meeting’s approval.
TREASURER. The monthly meeting appoints a treasurer and, where appropriate, an assistant treasurer to receive and disburse funds. These officers are governed by such rules as the meeting considers suitable. The treasurer keeps the account books of the meeting and reports regularly to the meeting. Each year the meeting should appoint a person or committee to audit these accounts.
CORRESPONDENT. Monthly meetings may, if need exists, appoint a correspondent other than the clerk to provide for the transmission, reception, and acknowledgement of communications.
RECORDER. The monthly meeting should appoint one or more recorders (or registrars) to keep a record of all matters pertaining to membership such as births, parentage, marriages within or outside the meeting, applications, transfers, deaths, other removals, and up-to-date mailing addresses, and to keep the yearly meeting office promptly informed of them (see also section J). The importance of accurate and detailed records cannot be stressed too strongly, since they are the statistics of the membership of the meeting and the foundation for many operations of the yearly meeting. They may serve as proof of religious affiliation.
The meeting should establish and maintain procedures to assure prompt and accurate communication to its recorder of all additions or changes affecting the membership records. The clerk of the meeting must assume a major role in this regard, but this responsibility should also be shared by overseers, correspondents, committee clerks, and the entire membership of the meeting. Records should be kept in accordance with forms furnished or recommended by the yearly meeting.
Recorders are urged to issue an up-to-date list of names and addresses of all members each year.
TRUSTEES. Monthly and other meetings are advised to incorporate under the laws of their state or to appoint trustees. (See also section H.)
Meetings holding or acquiring property when not incorporated should appoint a suitable number of members, usually three, as trustees to hold title and to execute necessary documents on behalf of the meeting. Such trustees have no independent authority or discretion, and they may act only in accordance with the direction of the meeting as inscribed in the minutes. (The foregoing does not apply to meetings that are specially incorporated under state law, in which case the statutory procedure should be followed.)
STANDING COMMITTEES. The meeting as a whole may carry on any of its functions, or it may appoint committees of its members for particular tasks such as overseers, ministry and counsel, nominating, finance, or advancement. Attenders, as well, may serve on religious education, peace and service, and other specified committees not named above. (See ATTENDERS.) Newly appointed committees should meet as soon as possible after their appointment to name a clerk and to organize their activities. Unless otherwise designated by the meeting, the first person in the list of appointments acts as convener for the first meeting. Committees shall conduct their business according to the principles described in Section A: General Business Procedures.
Meetings are advised to maintain a planned committee structure with clearly allocated responsibilities. However, the use of particular committees is not mandatory, and the meeting itself may perform any committee function without appointing a special committee.
A committee is a group of individuals who meet under appointment and out of a calling or concern with the responsibility for being particularly aware of some aspect of the life of the meeting. Committees often give the corporate support and guidance needed to carry forward an individual concern, but they should never become a substitute for personal leading and action.
A faithful committee works and grows together and does not permit personal differences in emphasis to destroy their unity of purpose. It does not require all to walk in the same path, but in the same direction. It carries out the wishes of the meeting and forges into the unknown as well, helping both committee and meeting members to stretch and grow beyond the point they have attained.
Friends should not accept appointments lightly. Before accepting, nominees should be clear that they can make the necessary commitment of time, energy, and spiritual resources. Their acceptance should mean willingness to be regular in attendance, to work with others, and to share and to listen.
TENURE. Monthly meeting appointments should be for one year unless otherwise stated. All appointees hold their positions until their 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 to a two-year or three-year cycle. In any event, a meeting should establish a regular policy of limiting the number of successive terms that appointees may serve in any capacity. To avoid the possibility of abuse, Friends should not allow appointments to become the purview of a few individuals.
NOMINATING. The nominating committee should be appointed to make nominations throughout the year for officers, committees, representatives, and trustees as the monthly meeting directs. Care should be taken that members of this committee be chosen with due regard to their discernment, seasoned judgment, and knowledge of the membership of the meeting. Nominating committee members should confer with Friends they nominate before they propose their names to the monthly meeting for appointment. Any member of the meeting has the right to suggest changes in the nominations. A member of the nominating committee shall not be eligible for reappointment after service of three years except after an interval of one year.
MINISTRY AND COUNSEL, OVERSEERS, ELDERS. (See Section 3)
REPRESENTATIVES. The monthly meeting is responsible for naming representatives to regional or general gatherings of Friends, giving assistance where necessary for travel arrangements and incidental expenses of its representatives. In some cases this may involve regular appointments to standing committees for stated terms of office in accordance with established procedures, or it may be a special appointment to attend a particular meeting, conference, institute, or similar gathering. Meetings should choose their representatives with a view to their ability to reflect the general attitudes of their meeting on matters of business to be considered. However, representatives should not be bound by the will of their meeting when appointed but must be open to the gathering’s corporate search for truth. Representatives should expect to report fully to their home meetings on the proceedings.
Principal among regularly recurring appointments will be the designation of members to Spring and Fall Sessions and of the yearly meeting on ministry and counsel. There may also be regular appointments to standing committees of the quarterly or equivalent meeting.
In all cases the meeting making appointments should notify promptly the clerk or other designated person of the regional or general gathering of the names of its representatives. Where regularly appointed representatives are unable to attend, they should notify their own meeting in sufficient time so that a temporary or permanent substitution may be made by the meeting. Clerks should report such alternate appointments and the time period to which they apply promptly to their quarterly meetings and the yearly meeting office. An annual review and correction of listings of representatives is recommended even though appointments may be for longer terms of office.
COMMUNICATIONS. The monthly meeting is responsible for reporting activities and otherwise maintaining contact with its quarterly and the yearly meeting. It is also responsible for routinely sending to the yearly meeting office names of newly appointed officers, changes in membership of the meeting, appointments to quarterly or yearly meeting committees, and State of the Meeting reports. In addition, the meeting may wish to present concerns for action by or requests for advice and assistance from the larger meetings. The monthly meeting is at liberty to address special communications directly to the yearly meeting at spring, summer or fall sessions, and it may refer matters for consideration to the quarterly or equivalent meeting.
Where proposals concern change in general policy or practice, the local meeting is advised to seek consideration and support of its quarterly meeting before submission to the yearly meeting.