Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), an organization of Quaker meetings in the Midwest, begins our annual meetings at Scattergood Friends School and Farm, in the country near West Branch, Iowa, today. You can see the schedule and descriptions of events for the week here. This is a time when we gather for worship and to share what has been happening in our lives. It is also a time when the business of our meetings is done.
I am going to be spending my time with the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the Peace and Social Concerns Committees of the local meetings in our group. Although to be accurate, many of our meetings are small enough that the peace and social justice work of the meeting is done by the meeting as a whole, rather than a separate committee.
It is an interesting process by which issues related to social justice are brought to the Yearly Meeting for consideration. Our Yearly Meeting clerk, Deb Dakin, sent the following yesterday in response to a question that came up in preparation for our meetings this year. It does such a good job of describing this interesting process, that I wanted to share it here. (She gave her permission to share it).
1.An individual has a leading to…
The leading might be only their own to carry (and there are many examples of this)…
or at some time, they might be led to take it to their monthly meeting to ask them to consider if they too are led to carry this concern as a group. (or the monthly might also feel led the same way).
(NOTE: I recently described this process as it occurred in my local Quaker meeting, Bear Creek: https://jeffkisling.com/2017/07/20/ethical-transportation/)
In the process, it might change in some way for the group to take it up. (while the individual continues as they are personally led) If the monthly meeting is clear that it is also their leading as a group, it becomes
2. The monthly meeting’s leading.
The leading might be only be their own to carry (and there are many examples of this)…or at some time, they might be led as a meeting to take it to the yearly meeting to ask the Yearly Meeting to consider if they too are led to carry this concern as a group.
3. When this happens it is brought to the Yearly Meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee.
The Yearly Meeting Peace and Social Concerns Committee prayerfully labors with this leading in the same way the monthly meeting did, to see if they are led to bring it forward to the Yearly Meeting. In the process it might change in some way (while the monthly meeting continues as they are led). If Peace and Social Concerns is led to take it to the Yearly Meeting (in the same or changed form), then that is what they do.
4. The Yearly Meeting then worships and decides if indeed they are led as a yearly meeting to take up concern. In the process it might change in some way, but this how a large group of people can come to own it.
What people unfamiliar with Quaker process frequently can’t see by observing, is that our larger bodies are not laboring on the merits of a particular cause or concern…but they are asking themselves whether or not they are led to take up that particular concern as a body. And if so, in what form?
I also remember being impatient and bored by the wordsmithing that happened when letters or minutes were brought to general business mtg. Now I recognize how much effort it takes o not just jump on board, but to consciously decide whether or not to take up a concern and then craft words that speak for all. “Laboring” truly is the right word. At least that is the ideal. And if they decide that they CAN’T carry it, then it shouldn’t pass.
Many times, with really big issues, this laboring with a concern extends over a period of years…longer and beyond the lifetimes of the first people involved. In fact, when you think about it, it replays the history of all great social change.
I will hold the Peace and Social Concerns Committee in the Light as you do your work.
love, Deb Dakin, clerk
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)