Difficult business meeting

Meeting for worship for business is at least as important as the unprogrammed meeting for worship. In both we may encounter God, Reality, and the community; but in deciding among ourselves what practicality is Good, it is more difficult to retreat into comforting illusions.

Should people leave the meeting, when their nomination to a role is being considered? No, I say. It is very rare that anyone nominated is not appointed, though there is always the theoretical possibility. It wastes time to have people leave. I have had people speak against me behind my back, truly and falsely, and would far prefer them to have the courage to say it to my face. Having people leave is a ritual which does not answer the actual needs of the meeting, only an imaginary world where we might reject someone: we preserve our illusions by insisting on it. And in this particular case, we need a — for his meeting, no-one else will do it, so we cannot reject him.

I am heartily sick of nominations committee. Someone told me the AM clerk should not be on noms, as she could in theory appoint people from a little clique and have too much influence on the meeting. Fat chance. In three years I have had one conversation where someone was actually enthusiastic to take on the role: not on Quaker committees, but such things as elder/overseer/trustee. I hear the expressions of distress from people when I exert moral blackmail to take on the job- “No-one else will do it” is all I can say, but that does sometimes work- or when they seek release. “I have thought long and hard about this letter”- of course he has, he is conscientious and committed, and it has all been too much.

I am appointed to nominations until 31 December, and if the only alternative to me serving after then is my meeting not represented on nominations, I still prefer not to serve. Even though I know more members from other local meetings than most of my small meeting do.

However, when I proposed from the clerk’s table that the man only leave if anyone indicated his appointment was controversial, without any gap between them people rose to explain those nominated should leave. I feel bruised by this: there was no need for quite so much “me too” ministry. One said that guidance on right ordering should come from elders rather than the clerk: he explained over lunch that he meant to assist me by not loading that extra weight on me, but it felt at the time as if he meant I should keep my nose out of such things. Later in the meeting, he stood and started speaking before I had named him. I said, “—, would you wait to be called.”

He slapped his wrist and said “Bad Boy,” mock angrily. That was not what I said. Possibly, it is how he sees himself.

Calling for the elders to specify right ordering is not calling on some ideal font of wisdom, but calling on the two actual people who happen to be there. Eldering is better done in private after a meeting.

I wonder about bringing up right ordering as an agendum. We know all this stuff, after all. We also recognise the depth of worship in a meeting. Burne-Jones, the Mirror of Venus featured

7 thoughts on “Difficult business meeting

  1. I’ve found the only way for me to approach business meetings is to leave any sense of self/ego at the door, and bring patience and open-mindedness in with me. It works for me. I know I’m able to ignore self more easily than many others – usually to my disadvantage, but this is one case where it has proved useful.

    Because I’m not able to attend meetings very often, I haven’t been asked to serve on committees, but many years ago when my health was better, I was involved in committees on several non-profit organisations, and I appreciate the difficulties that different personalities can cause, even with the best of intentions. I’m not sure if such differences can be usefully discussed, but because clerking a Quaker meetings is so different from chairing a typical committee, perhaps a discussion on right ordering might be fruitful. I think it would have to be handled very carefully though.


    • I too am able to ignore self more easily than others. It is a trans attribute, as well as an aspie one. Perhaps you have been confused and met with blank rejection when you seek to assert your self; well, I hardly know what self to assert.

      Setting aside the ego, and seeking the Good, is the only way the Quaker business method can work.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Ina, that is not it at all.

      Nominations Committee proposes that some individual should serve as elder, overseer, trustee. They obtain the consent of the person to be nominated, and bring the name to Area Meeting. Area Meeting then considers whether to appoint that person to that post.

      The question was whether that person should leave while her/his nomination is considered. Mostly, nominations are simply accepted, and my predecessor as AM clerk thought they always should be, the procedure has brought forward the best candidate. The person should leave, it is argued, to allow anyone who opposes the appointment to speak freely, and to spare the nominee’s feelings should anyone speak against.


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