Chapter 12 » 12.12
Eldership and oversight
Responsibilities of eldership
Some of the responsibilities listed here may be carried out by overseers, or by specially appointed groups or committees, but it is important that elders should see that they are fulfilled. It is laid upon elders:
- to meet regularly to uphold the meeting and its members in prayer; to guide those who share in our meetings towards a deeper experience of worship; to encourage preparation of mind and spirit, and study of the Bible and other writings that are spiritually helpful; to encourage individual and united prayer in the meeting;
- to promote the right holding of meetings for worship, remembering that responsibility for the meeting, including the fitness of the ministry, is shared among all the members of the worshipping group;
- to foster helpful vocal ministry, seeking to discern the needs and gifts both of individual contributors to the vocal ministry and of the meeting as a whole: some Friends may hesitate to risk speaking in meeting because they lack confidence in their own call to speak – they will need encouragement; others may too easily rise to their feet without being clear as to the helpfulness of the message; sometimes it may be necessary to restrain unsuitable ministry;
- to be responsible for the quiet gathering of the meeting for worship in order, reverence and harmony, for the arrangement of seating and for encouraging punctuality; elders will arrange for the closing of the meeting, normally by shaking hands;
- to ensure that the basis and method of conducting meetings for church affairs are understood; to accept responsibility for their right ordering (see chapter 3);
- to take responsibility for the right holding of meetings for worship on special occasions such as marriages (16.49) and funerals (17.08–17.09), and, if memorial meetings are asked for, to make sure that their purpose is clear to those who attend (17.10) – some meetings like to make special arrangements for welcoming new babies or celebrating other events (see also 10.12, 10.17 & 22.44–22.46);
- to care for individual Friends and attenders, entering with sympathy into their needs; to remember those who are unable to attend our meetings through age, illness or for other reasons; to visit them or where helpful to make special arrangements for meetings for worship in their homes; to take special responsibility for ministry to the dying and comforting the bereaved;
- to encourage opportunities for all in the meeting to broaden and deepen their knowledge and understanding – this might include learning about the roots and foundations of our faith, becoming aware of the insights of other faiths and being challenged by new ideas, exploring with one another how to deepen our ministry, making opportunities for quiet reflection, increasing our understanding of ourselves and others and acknowledging our share of responsibility where there is conflict and loss;
- together with overseers, to care for the children and young people associated with our meetings; to listen to what they have to say and to enable them to take as full a part as possible in our life and worship; to ensure there are regular opportunities for their spiritual nurture (see also 12.13.f);
- together with overseers, to take care of the needs of enquirers and attenders, encouraging them to join in the life of the meeting;
- to encourage Friends to take responsibility for their rightful part in the life of the community in which the meeting is situated; to welcome to our meetings those who belong to other Christian bodies, to other faiths and to none;
- to consider the question of vocal ministry in the constituent meetings of the whole area meeting and to give support where there is need for intervisitation.
It is advised that elders keep minutes of their meetings.
For responsibilities of elders in relation to non-members wishing to attend Yearly Meeting see 6.15. On the participation of elders in meetings for clearness see 12.22–12.25 and in meetings for clearness concerning intentions of marriage see 16.37–16.39. See also 12.10.