Chapter 5

Other Quaker groupings

Origins

5.01

The origin of regional gatherings, each embracing several area (formerly monthly) meetings, goes back to 1660 when George Fox was ‘moved to set up the men’s quarterly meetings throughout the nations’. These were followed by women’s quarterly meetings. From the middle of the eighteenth century these progressively became mixed. They gradually took on considerable responsibilities and functioned as a link in the chain between local meetings and the yearly meeting. With reorganisation in 1967 the title and function of quarterly meetings dis­appeared and they were renamed ‘general meetings’. In 2005 Yearly Meeting decided to remove general meetings from its administrative structure but expected ‘the rich life in some of our existing general meetings’ to continue. Accordingly, some have continued in fact as independent charities while others have laid down or devolved their former administrative responsibilities, adopted new names and continued as gatherings in support of Quaker life and witness (see 5.06). A few have retained administrative responsibilities, particularly in relation to Quaker schools and the care and nurture of children and young people.

5.02

Among general meetings that are continuing and are managing independent activities and financial accounts are General Meeting for Scotland (see 5.03) and Meeting of Friends in Wales (see 5.04 & 5.05). They represent Quakers in their respective nations and are part of Britain Yearly Meeting’s structure with certain delegated powers from Yearly Meeting. Other distinct types of general meeting are any Quaker school general meeting that functions solely as that school’s responsible body, and Young Friends General Meeting (see 5.08).

General Meeting for Scotland

5.03

General Meeting for Scotland has national responsibilities on behalf of Britain Yearly Meeting, to represent and advance the life and witness of Quakers in Scotland. It consists of all Friends in membership of the Scottish area meetings, and meets at least quarterly. Provision is made for members of other meetings and attenders to be present at meetings as in 4.08. The responsibilities of General Meeting for Scotland include:

  1. promoting spiritual life and witness, facilitating contact between Friends of all ages, and providing opportunities for training and mutual support for those with special responsibilities, in conjunction with the associated area meetings and Quaker bodies;
  2. representing Britain Yearly Meeting in Scotland, including: acting on behalf of Britain Yearly Meeting in relation to ACTS (Action of Churches Together in Scotland) (see 9.099.12) and other church and faith groups; acting on behalf of Britain Yearly Meeting and of Friends in Scotland in dealings with the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government and the Scotland Office, and on such procedures as may be required by the Scottish legal system;
  3. encouraging communication from Scottish area meetings on matters which in their judgement merit interchange of views (see 4.18), including testimonies to the life and service of deceased Friends, discerning whether the latter be forwarded to Yearly Meeting for the benefit of the Society as a whole (see 4.274.30);
  4. representing Scotland to Britain Yearly Meeting, liaising with yearly meeting committees and departments where appropriate.

General Meeting for Scotland will provide information and nom­inations or appointed representatives to Quaker and other bodies when required. The meeting may communicate by minute with Yearly Meeting through its agenda committee (6.18) and Meeting for Sufferings (7.04), as well as with area meetings in Scotland. It also has the obligation to receive minutes from these bodies.

Meeting of Friends in Wales

5.04

Meeting of Friends in Wales has national responsibilities on behalf of Britain Yearly Meeting, to represent and advance the life and witness of Quakers within Wales. The meeting consists of all Friends who live in Wales or who are members in local meetings within Wales. Provision is made for members of other meetings and attenders to be present at meetings as in 4.08. The responsibilities of Meeting of Friends in Wales include:

  1. promoting spiritual life and witness, facilitating contact between Friends of all ages, and providing opportunities for training and mutual support for those with special responsibilities, in conjunction with associated area meetings and Quaker bodies;
  2. representing Britain Yearly Meeting in Wales, including: the appointment of Friends to serve on Cytûn (Churches Together in Wales) and its committees (see 9.099.12), communication with the National Assembly for Wales and with other public and voluntary organisations in Wales, especially those concerned with social witness, peace and interfaith relations;
  3. encouraging communication from associated area meetings on matters which in their judgement merit interchange of views (see 4.18), including testimonies to the life and service of deceased Friends, discerning whether the latter be forwarded to Yearly Meeting for the benefit of the Society as a whole (see 4.274.30);
  4. responding to issues which relate to living in a bilingual society, including outreach in Wales and commissioning, translating and publishing Quaker material in the Welsh language;
  5. representing Wales to Britain Yearly Meeting, liaising with yearly meeting committees and departments where appropriate.

Meeting of Friends in Wales will provide information and nominations or appointed representatives to Quaker and other bodies when required. The meeting may communicate by minute with Yearly Meeting through its agenda committee (6.18) and Meeting for Sufferings (7.04), as well as with area meetings which include parts of Wales. It also has the obligation to receive minutes from these bodies.

The following is a translation into Welsh of 5.04

Cyfarfod y Cyfeillion yng Nghymru

5.05

Mae gan Gyfarfod y Cyfeillion yng Nghymru gyfrifoldebau ar ran Cyfarfod Blynyddol Prydain, i gynrychioli ac hyrwyddo bywyd a thystiolaeth y Crynwyr yng Nghymru. Mae’r cyfarfod yn cynnwys pawb o’r Crynwyr sydd yn byw yng Nghymru neu yn aelodau o gyfarfodydd lleol yng Nghymru. Gwneir darpariaeth i aelodau o gyfarfodydd eraill fynychu cyfarfodydd yn unol â 4.08. Mae cyfrifoldebau Cyfarfod y Cyfeillion yng Nghymru yn cynnwys:

  1. ar y cyd â chyfarfodydd rhanbarth perthnasol a chyrff Crynwrol eraill hybu bywyd a thystiolaeth ysbrydol, hwyluso cyswllt rhwng Cyfeillion o bob oed a chynnig cyfleoedd am hyfforddiant a chyd gefnogaeth i’r rhai sydd â chyfrifoldebau arbennig;
  2. cynrychioli Cyfarfod Blynyddol Prydain o fewn Cymru, gan gynnwys: penodi Cyfeillion i weithredu ar Cytûn (Eglwysi Ynghyd yng Nghymru) a’i bwyllgorau (gweler 9.099.12), cyfathrebu gyda Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru a gyda chyrff cyhoeddus a gwirfoddol eraill yng Nghymru, yn enwedig y rhai sydd yn ymwneud â thystiolaeth gymdeithasol, heddwch ac amlffydd;
  3. annog cyfathrebu oddiwrth y cyfarfodydd rhanbarth perthnasol ar faterion sydd, yn eu tyb hwy, yn haeddu cael eu cyd drafod (gweler 4.18), gan gynnwys tystiolaethau i fywyd a gwasanaeth Cyfeillion ymadawedig, gan ddirnad os dylid anfon rhain at y Cyfarfod Blynyddol er lles y Gymdeithas gyfan (gweler 4.274.30);
  4. ymateb i faterion sydd yn ymwneud â byw mewn cymdeithas ddwyieithog gan gynnwys ymestyn i’r gymuned yng Nghymru a chomisiynu, cyfieithu a chyhoeddi deunydd Crynwrol yn y Gymraeg;
  5. cynrychioli Cymru i Gyfarfod Blynyddol Prydain, gan gysylltu â phwyllgorau ac adrannau y cyfarfod blynyddol fel bo’n addas.

Fe fydd Cyfarfod y Cyfeillion yng Nghymru yn darparu gwybodaeth ac enwebiadau neu benodiadau i gyrff Crynwrol a chyrff eraill yn ôl y galw. Gall y Cyfarfod gysylltu trwy gofnod â Chyfarfod Blynyddol Prydain trwy ei bwyllgor agenda (6.18) a’r Cyfarfod Dioddefiannau (7.04), ac hefyd â’r cyfarfodydd rhanbarth sy’n cynnwys rhannau o Gymru. Mae hefyd yn ofynnol i’r cyfarfod dderbyn cofnodion gan y cyrff hyn.

Regional gatherings

5.06

Other Quaker gatherings, regional meetings and former general meetings are associations of area meetings which broaden Quaker fellowship beyond the local meetings. They provide for conference and inspiration, informing themselves regularly about the service of their members and fostering spiritual support, learning and friendship. They have opportunities to consider the work of the yearly meeting, outreach and ecumenical and interfaith links and activities (see 12.06). They are listed in the Book of meetings.

5.07

Quaker gatherings or regional meetings may be set up by two or more area meetings, by a mix of area and local meetings, or by two or more general or regional meetings. The constituent meetings are those that choose to take the responsibility for organising and funding such gatherings or conferences. The members are the members of the sponsoring meetings. They may choose to change their status or area, or local meetings may wish to come together in different combinations to support the work and witness of Quakers in the area. If such changes are contemplated, or if a newly formed gathering is intended to have an ongoing structure and regular meetings, the Recording Clerk should be informed and appropriate guidance obtained from Quaker Stewardship Committee.

All gatherings (including those that continue from pre-existing general meetings) must inform Yearly Meeting through Meeting for Sufferings of any substantial changes they may make including their setting up and laying down, and, if the latter, of how they intend to discharge or transfer their responsibilities and deposit their records. They should forward to the Recording Clerk the minute by which they are finally laid down.

Quaker groupings which are independent charities may need to register with the Charity Commission and should obtain advice from Quaker Stewardship Committee via the Recording Clerk.

Young Friends General Meeting

5.08

Young Friends General Meeting is open to Quakers between the ages of eighteen and about thirty who need not be formally in membership of the Religious Society of Friends. Area meetings may appoint representatives to Young Friends General Meeting. At its meetings for business three times a year it organises a range of other events for young people. It may communicate formally by minute with area meetings, Yearly Meeting through its agenda committee, Meeting for Sufferings and the standing committees of Yearly Meeting and Meeting for Sufferings.

Young Friends General Meeting nominates two representatives to Meeting for Sufferings, being officers or others able to speak in its name (see 7.05.c).

Six Weeks Meeting

5.09

Six Weeks Meeting, dating back to 1671, does not fit neatly into the modern pattern of area meetings, general meetings and gatherings. It is made up of representatives from the area meetings within the London region. Its main objective is to maintain, preserve and insure the places of worship of the constituent area meetings, and their contents. It is accountable to the constituent meetings for the stewardship of the funds and assets it holds on their behalf. It may communicate formally by minute with the constituent area meetings, Meeting for Sufferings and Yearly Meeting through its agenda committee.

The names of constituent area meetings in 2013 were Kingston & Wandsworth; London West; North East Thames; North London; North West London; South London and South East London. Each appoints an agreed number of representatives to Six Weeks Meeting (currently three). The normal period of appointment or re-appointment is five years. The Friends appointed are individually managing trustees of the properties and financial assets in the care of Six Weeks Meeting (15.03).

Purposes and functions

6.02

We did conclude among ourselves to settle a meeting, to see one another’s faces, and open our hearts one to another in the Truth of God once a year, as formerly it used to be.

Yearly Meeting in London, 1668