Why did people freak out about the minute containing the words “thank you”?

This is part of a series called “answers for a small-f friend.” These articles are deliberately simple, informal, and under 200 words…the kinds of answers that I might give casually over a cup of lemonade. 

If you’re wanting to go deeper, I recommend Faith and Practice (any yearly meeting’s version) or Quaker Process for Friends on the Benches by Mathilda Navias. If you’re a video person more than a text person, try the QuakerSpeak series, available online.

Do you have a question I should add? Let me know in the comments.

Why did people freak out about the minute containing the words “thank you”?

It might seem natural to say, “Lucille McGillicuddy is released from her three years as clerk, and we thank her for her service,” but in certain groups of Friends, people will practically leap out of their chairs to object to such a minute on theological grounds.

The theory is that everyone is supposed to do the service that their gifts and capacities allow them to do. Stepping up and playing such a role is a matter of faithfulness and is to be expected. We don’t thank people for doing what’s expected and normal.

(It’s a minority perspective. Most groups of Friends have never heard of this idea.)

Thanking vs. not-thanking isn’t a big deal, in my opinion. Whether a group does it or doesn’t—fine, whatever, just don’t yell at your recording clerks about it. 

But when the “doing what’s expected” concept expands to lack of recognition, it’s a problem. We should notice people’s contributions and name them when we are talking about what we’ve learned from them. Young people, people of color, and women especially need this recognition because otherwise they are assumed to be less-competent, which leads to fewer opportunities to minister.  

4 thoughts on “Why did people freak out about the minute containing the words “thank you”?

  1. Thanking people for their service is important. It’s often really difficult to find people willing to serve in certain roles, if we don’t thank them for having stepped up and taken on that role, then it will become even harder to find further volunteers/victims. And there are times when I t does feel more like a victim than a volunteer, when one is overworked, not appreciated and agency denied. I’m willing to serve God, just maybe not so much onerous administrative processes.

  2. Thanking people for their service is important. It’s often really difficult to find people willing to serve in certain roles, if we don’t thank them for having stepped up and taken on that role, then it will become even harder to find further volunteers/victims. And there are times when I t does feel more like a victim than a volunteer, when one is overworked, not appreciated and agency denied. I’m willing to serve God, just maybe not so much onerous administrative processes.

  3. Another dimension of this is that sometimes minutes express gratitude to the Leader and Guide that motivated the service. “We are grateful the Emily has been well led in this service.”

  4. I was brought into a traditional Quaker current that eschewed thanks our praise for doing what’s right. But we frequently minuted appreciation for going above and beyond and I think that’s most appropriate. Further, I’m little moved when the Meeting minutes appreciation; I want, i need, I grow from individuals’ direct expressions of love and thanks, ranging from a tea date or invitation to dinner, to a request for counsel or history “because thee has a background in this area.”

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