December 2021 – True Quaker Process in Faithful Meetings

By Mary Linda McKinney

I sometimes hear Friends bemoan Quaker process. The complaints are legitimate, based on the experiences these Friends–and likely all of us at one time or another–have had. What people call “Quaker process” can be misused. It can be wielded to silence marginalized folks, to uphold systems of power, to manipulate and control. Even when it is not abused, Friends can simply use the rigid forms they’ve been taught in ways that do not build the spiritual life of their communities. But you know what? Using Quaker process in these ways is not Quaker process. True Quaker processes are corporate spiritual practices which help us become aware of the presence and guidance of the Spirit. The Pendle Hill Pamphlet by Elizabeth Meyer A Practical Mysticism describes it this way: “Quaker business process is a group practical mysticism that opens the worshiping body to the promptings of the Divine.”

One common misuse of Quaker process is sticking with “the way this has always been done” which can be used to block everything from new committee structure to really necessary changes like dismantling harmful systems of dominance. One of our central tenets, although not often named, is “continuing revelation” which means that the Spirit is still alive, active, and guiding us. Understanding the practices of earlier Friends is important but it is also worthwhile to remember that they were following the Light given them; we should learn from their experiences and then seek our own Light. When we refuse change by saying “this is the way it has always been done,” we deny the Living Spirit and deny ourselves opportunities for faithfulness.

It makes sense that we want to remain with what is familiar. The known is usually more comfortable than the new. Change can be challenging and disquieting. To enter Quaker process is to step into an in-between space where we must be willing to let go of our desires for control, to be in the mystery in order to be open to what the Divine has in store for us. This requires trust…in oneself, in one another and especially in Spirit.

A core element of the new School of the Spirit program Faithful Meetings is to provide Friends’ communities with many opportunities to build trust by practicing discernment together. The monthly large group sessions, each centering on a theme important to the life of Friends’ communities, are loosely structured to allow frequent worship. Out of worship, Friends will share about how they are experiencing God’s presence. Openings will arise to talk about feelings, including hopes and fears. Powerful emotions and strong attachments will not be avoided or denied but welcomed as part of what it means to be human; Friends will be able to examine what they are experiencing so they can become aware of how these feelings get in the way of seeking Divine will. Friends will actively witness one another so each feels heard and understood. Following leadings of the Spirit, those gathered will flow in and out of worship, worship sharing, discussion, reflection and back again into worship. Through this, Quaker process will be experienced as a spiritual practice that draws us into unity with one another through the loving guidance of the Holy Spirit.

If you would like to know more about Faithful Meetings and how to bring it to your community, begin by clicking through this short slideshow. (For best results, turn sound on with the speaker icon in the bottom left corner.) You can register to attend an upcoming Faithful Meetings information session here. You can contact Faithful Meetings directly by emailing faithfulmeetings@schoolofthespirit.org.

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2 thoughts on “December 2021 – True Quaker Process in Faithful Meetings”

  1. Hello. The information sessions for Faithful Meetings have already passed – i just got the email today. Will there be more? Thank you, Laura

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