Here are some guidelines on how to participate in a Quaker Business meeting, as discerned from a session held by the Quakers and Business group in Edinburgh in August, 2013.
o The discipline is to let go of your own will and to seek a sense of the common spirit of the group
o Silence at the start allows you to gather together in community, to lay ego aside and to listen for what others have to contribute
o The clerk will state the business item and, after a brief silence, if you wish to speak please stand (or, in a small group, raise a hand). Others may also indicate they wish to contribute. The clerk will then sense who to choose to speak. Not everyone may be called.
o Speak from the heart and personal experience, and only if you feel it would contribute and really needs to be said. Do not repeat what has already been said.
o Allow silence between contributions. It allows you to really hear what was said and to speak briefly, expressing the essence of what you want to say
o Listen attentively without interruption.
o Do not lapse into discussion or comment directly on what another has said, though you may follow on from or pick up another’s thread
o Be mindful of the time to give whoever wishes to speak the opportunity to do so
o Speak only once unless you feel you have something new to contribute
o The clerk, or anyone, may interrupt if the discipline is not kept or things get too heated or wordy and may ask for a period of silence
o The clerk chooses when to start writing a minute to sum up the sense of what has been said. This is done in silence and then read out. The clerk asks if it is acceptable and you agree or indicate you wish to speak to make an amendment, again waiting to be called by the clerk. The minute is then redrafted until unity is reached. New ideas may not be introduced now – only slight changes may be made to make the minute more accurate.
Try to set aside your disappointment if you are not called to speak or if you do not agree with the decision reached. Accept that the decision has been reached collectively through waiting together in a search for what is right. Remember that unity is not the same as unanimity. You are upholding your community as you work together for your shared purposes.
More on the Quaker Business Method.