The Quaker term monthly meeting refers to the fact that Friends typically meet once a month to attend to administrative issues such as receiving individuals into membership, making decisions about property maintenance, hearing reports about ongoing activities, and so forth. This gathering is sometimes called Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, or simply Meeting for Business.
At Cincinnati Friends Meeting, this typically occurs on the second Sunday of each month, shortly after the end of worship. On monthly meeting Sundays, we do not have fellowship in the Fireside Room. Individuals are encouraged to bring a snack if needed and eat prior to coming to the meeting. All members and attenders are encouraged to come.
Meeting for Business is based on Friends understanding that a group seeking divine guidance can reach unity by relying on the Inward Teacher. Members and attenders share information, build community, and make decisions according to the sense of the Meeting as discerned by the Clerk of the Meeting. This refers to unity among Friends, though not necessarily agreement. The sense of the Meeting goes beyond mere consensus because it acknowledges a corporate Truth rather than individual truth.
Although the Clerk of the Meeting plans the agenda and presides, Meeting for Business begins and ends with a period of silence in which Friends seek to be open to and aware of the divine Presence. Friends are expected to come to Meeting for Business with minds open to the leading of the Spirit. If a Friend feels led to speak, she or he addresses the Clerk, and when recognized, should speak briefly and to the point. In general, Friends speak only once until everyone has had an opportunity to speak; they may speak a second time if they have new light on a subject. Friends should not repeat what has already been said, though they may offer a word or two of agreement. Although they may disagree, Friends avoid refuting statements made by others, and give each other credit for purity of motive. At any time during the meeting, anyone may request a period of silence. In the silence, differences may be reconciled and a better course of action may emerge than what had appeared before.
As consideration of each matter approaches unity, the Clerk formulates what seems to be the sense of the Meeting. Agreement generally expressed, or an absence of disagreement, is recorded in the minutes as the decision of the Meeting. In complicated or delicate matters, a minute is carefully written and read aloud for the Meeting to approve or alter. It must always be remembered that the final decision as to whether the minute represents the sense of the meeting is the responsibility of the Meeting, not of the Clerk. If it becomes apparent that unity cannot be reached, the matter is set aside for the time being or is referred to a committee for further study.
In making decisions, Friends seek unity of will and spirit. Although there may not be unanimity of opinion, the Meeting must find its way in love and understanding, listening to one another with care and respect. If a Friend objects to the Meeting’s decision, she or he may 1) simply remain silent and permit the matter to go forward; 2) indicate disunity with the decision but stand aside so the Meeting may move forward; 3) stand aside, but request that his or her name be recorded in the Meeting minutes as unable to unite with the decision; or 4) express continued disunity and an inability to stand aside. At any time, the Meeting may defer action until clearness and unity are reached; or the sense of the Meeting may be so strong that the Meeting feels clear to move forward.