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 do Quakers take forever to get anything done?
We don’t always. But we often do.
Finding sense of the meeting takes time. Everyone needs a chance to speak. We have to assemble everyone. Sometimes we wait a few months for the next gathering. And if we then discern a need for more preparation, we have to wait for the next gathering.
Humans get into bad habits, though. Sometimes Friends think, “It takes forever—so why worry if it takes a little longer?” Individuals delay in getting reports or notes written, or they’ll have objections and wait until the last minute to raise them. When we waste everyone’s time because we didn’t do our homework (read ahead of time, contact the committee), that’s rude.
(Sometimes an objection is made at the last minute for good reason. But usually, it could have been dealt with sooner.)
Many Friends’ groups now permit clerks or secretaries to speak on their behalf, without corporate discernment, when something is both urgent and important. This takes trust and doesn’t always work perfectly. But it makes things possible that otherwise wouldn’t be.
I wish people didn’t make light of “Quaker time.” Ideally, it’s about “God’s time” or “at the right time.” That doesn’t always mean slow.