Chapter 12 » 12.13

Eldership and oversight

Responsibilities of oversight

Some of the responsibilities listed here may be carried out by elders, or by specially appointed groups or committees, but it is important that overseers should see that they are fulfilled. It is laid upon overseers:

  1. to encourage attendance at meeting for worship and to make sure that newcomers to the meeting are welcomed and introduced to other members of the worshipping group;
  2. to encourage members to attend meetings for church affairs whenever possible and to take their rightful part in them;
  3. to make opportunities for Friends and attenders to get to know one another so that their diverse needs can be discovered and so that all will become aware of their gifts and experience, which may be of service to the meeting and to the Society – to be valued and needed is an enrichment for all concerned;
  4. together with elders, to take particular care of the needs of enquirers and attenders;
  5. to meet regularly to ensure that the pastoral needs of everyone associated with the meeting are being noticed; to check the membership list frequently, not only for accuracy but also in order to cover unmet needs – each child and young person should be considered as an individual and not solely as a member of a family group;
  6. together with elders, to exercise care over the children and young people associated with the meeting, whether in membership or not, and to see that suitable activities are arranged (see also 12.12.i); to encourage them, where appropriate, to take part in gatherings arranged for young people at local or national level, consulting with parents when appropriate;
  7. to make opportunities to talk with young people whose parents have brought them into membership about whether they wish to confirm it; at this stage they, and young attenders, may like to address a personal application to the area meeting and to be visited in the usual way; some may, at this point, wish to resign from the membership acquired for them by their parents (see also 11.1711.19);
  8. to give advice and information about how to apply for membership both to attenders and to parents who may wish to apply on behalf of their children; some attenders, either through shyness or because of a feeling of unworthiness, may be holding back from seeking membership – they may need encouragement to apply to the area meeting; it will be helpful to remind them that the letter of application to the area meeting clerk need not necessarily be more than a statement of the wish for membership, and that when they meet with the Friends appointed as visitors there is opportunity for asking questions and exploring matters of faith rather than examining fitness for membership (see also 11.10);
  9. to visit members and attenders who have recently joined the meeting or moved into the area and to visit new-born babies; to see that the regulations on notices of change of address (11.23) and certificates of transfer of membership (11.26, 16.52) are promptly attended to and that certificates are applied for when not duly received; to advise the area meeting on the acceptance or non-acceptance of certificates of transfer;
  10. to encourage caring friendship within the Quaker community: should difficulties between Friends arise, overseers may be able to offer help at an early stage so that misunderstandings may be resolved; overseers are encouraged to make opportunities to talk privately with a Friend whose behaviour and manner of life is inconsistent with a Quaker witness, to explore underlying causes and endeavour to restore harmony (see also 11.3211.35);
  11. to send recommendations to the area meeting for the termination of membership in accordance with 11.3111.35, once every effort has been made to follow up those who have drifted away from the meeting or have not been heard from for several years;
  12. to ensure that young members and attenders living away from home are cared for and made welcome; to maintain contact with Friends residing abroad or in other parts of the country;
  13. to advise local treasurers, collectors or finance committees, as appropriate, which members and attenders should and which should not receive contribution schedules;
  14. to advise Friends who are in financial difficulty or who need help with education or training of their children about ways of obtaining assistance; to ensure that financial help is available, where this is needed, to enable Friends to attend meetings for church affairs and to accept appointments connected therewith;
  15. to make sure that those intending to marry understand the principles on which the Society’s usage is based and to refer them to the registering officer (see 16.19, 16.03 and 16.12);
  16. to see that sick people and elderly people, whether in their own homes, in hospital or in sheltered housing, are visited and cared for; to seek means of alleviating financial hardship; where overseers become aware that an elderly person is no longer able to look after herself or himself, it may be appropriate to offer help in consultation with the person concerned and any relatives or others involved: overseers should try to be aware of the statutory and voluntary provision of residential and other care in their locality, including Quaker homes;
  17. together with elders, to respond to the needs of the bereaved at time of loss; to provide comfort and sympathetic listening, however grief may be expressed.

It is advised that overseers keep minutes of their meetings.

On the participation of overseers in meetings for clearness concerning intentions of marriage see 16.38.b, and in other meetings for clearness see 12.2212.25. See also 12.10.

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