7. SERVING AS A NAMED REPRESENTATIVE
(Note: This section also applies to those named by the Yearly Meeting to other Friends' bodies.)
Fall and Spring Sessions transacts business for the Yearly Meeting between its annual sessions. In order to encourage participation that reflects the whole body of the Yearly Meeting, monthly meetings appoint named representatives, and a number are appointed by the Yearly Meeting also. All Friends are encouraged to attend Fall and Spring Sessions whether or not they are named representatives.
Fall and Spring Sessions carry out instructions given by the Yearly Meeting and continues work on the business of the Yearly Meeting. It may act for the Yearly Meeting on any matter, except that it may not make changes in Faith and Practice or issue a statement of faith. At its November meeting, it provides for an annual budget for the Yearly Meeting and assigns covenant donations for collection from regional meetings.
For a number of years Fall and Spring Sessions has been held the first weekend in November and usually the second weekend in April (if not Easter). The November meetings are held in the metropolitan New York City area, the April ones elsewhere. Each session begins with a meeting for worship, which allows everyone to settle into the sense of one body gathered to worship, with a concern for business matters. There are usually two or three plenary business sessions. Many committees take the opportunity to schedule meetings at the time of Fall and Spring Sessions, and others are welcome to sit in. Sitting in on meetings is a way to keep in close and sympathetic touch with the committees of the Yearly Meeting, which is one function of Fall and Spring Sessions.
Business sessions at Fall and Spring Sessions are conducted according to Friends' practice, in worship, as a search for the Light of God in each situation. Spiritual and practical preparation is important, as is openness to new insight and understanding. The usual guides to participation are helpful: Be ready to speak if needed, once to an item; be ready not to speak; help to maintain the quiet of worship so that truth can be heard.
All present participate in searching and finding the sense of the meeting. There is an expectation that named representatives will be well acquainted with the spirit and attitude of their own meetings. It can be helpful to the whole body to hear differences articulated in the course of a search for unity. It is important, however, to make a clear distinction between Friends' representative system and a delegate system. In a delegate system a duly appointed delegate is empowered to speak and vote for her or his local group, and delegates can be instructed ahead of time how to vote on an issue. In the Friends' representative system, the primary purpose of the business meeting is to seek and to discover the Yearly Meeting's response to God. No decisions are predetermined, by a hierarchy or by local meetings. Representatives may usefully report discussion of issues or minutes adopted by local meetings, but they are not there to "vote" on behalf of nor to represent the interests of their meetings. The allegiance of all Friends is to the truth.
The best interest of all Friends is served by paying attention to God. We conduct our business by engaging in corporate worship and opening ourselves to instruction by that of God in ourselves and others.
Named representatives have particular responsibilities:
- to attend Fall and Spring Sessions, or see that their meeting appoints an alternate
- to prepare and participate in business sessions as a seeker after truth
- to serve as a link between local meetings and the wider body of the Yearly Meeting, including reporting at home on what happened at the sessions
To carry out these responsibilities, a named representative needs to have a copy of the current Yearbook.