Chapter 12 » 12.15

Eldership and oversight

Sharing responsibility for pastoral care

Some of our meetings are undertaking to care for one another without specially appointed elders and overseers. These meetings need to give careful consideration to the best way of attending to pastoral care without neglecting any of the responsibilities of eldership or oversight outlined above. Thought must be given, for example, to those who attend the meeting only rarely or are housebound.

If a local meeting wishes to adopt an alternative method of providing pastoral care, it should take time to work out how the responsibilities would be shared and who would represent the group in meetings for eldership and oversight within the area meeting. It should undertake a periodic review of the effectiveness of any procedure adopted.

In some cases Friends may decide that shared oversight works well for them but that they still see advantages in appointing elders to attend to the spiritual nurture of the group. Traditional practices are tried and tested. For some meetings, however, there will be advantages in exploring newer and possibly more appropriate ways of meeting their particular needs.

Any proposals for changes in the way pastoral care is exercised in a meeting or meetings should be taken to the area meeting for guidance, support and decision. Area meetings should have a particular care for those meetings involved in novel ways of exercising eldership and oversight, both to offer guidance if difficulties or deficiencies arise and to ensure that the benefits of new practices can be shared with other meetings. (See also 4.34.)

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