The Individual and the Friends Meeting

The relationship of the individual and the meeting includes the expectation that everyone will participate directly in the life of the meeting community. Active involvement typically includes regular attendance at meetings for worship and for business, service on committees, financial support, and other contributions to the ongoing work and life of the meeting. Active involvement ensures that one knows others and is known by them. Active involvement contributes to an individual’s spiritual growth in community.

The Religious Society of Friends accepts a variety of vocabularies for the expression of faith and encompasses a broad range of views on both the nature of faith and the ways faith can be carried into action. Friends meetings, with the guidance of this Faith and Practice and other sources, have the ongoing responsibility of interpreting Friends ways to prospective and experienced members. No one should hesitate to ask the meeting for explanation.

A person who feels a spiritual or personal concern—or a call to potentially life-changing social action or public witness—may seek the assistance of the meeting to test this leading. At times such testing is done informally through conversations with friends.  At other times, the process is more structured.  The person may ask for a “clearness committee,” composed of individuals chosen by the member and/or by the meeting, to meet with the person. Persons who serve on a clearness committee have a special responsibility to listen carefully, respond from their experience and understanding, and encourage individual and corporate faithfulness to spiritual leadings. (See Section VII. Clearness Committee.)

When the clearness process focuses on a leading to engage in social action or public witness, the individual Friend benefits by sharing this leading with the whole meeting. The meeting may decide to support the leading in specific ways, such as supporting the work collectively or offering guidance. Alternatively, the meeting may embolden the person to follow the leading independently. The person with the leading is encouraged to accept the decision of the meeting and to be open to learning from the process of corporate discernment. Through these experiences, the meeting can support spiritual growth and personal transformation.

When the clearness process focuses on a spiritual or personal concern, the individual works primarily with the pastoral care or worship and ministry committees.  The result of this type of clearness process is often confidential and may not come before the meeting as a whole.

Members and regular attenders are expected to serve on committees of the meeting. This service is essential for someone to be fully integrated into the life of the meeting. Since important work of the meeting is accomplished through its committees, an individual’s willingness to serve when asked enables the Friends meeting to achieve its goals. An individual’s acceptance of a committee appointment entails a commitment to loving diligence in carrying out the committee’s functions.