One of the most interesting discussions we had last year in our adult Forum class was that there are certain "minimums" which we feel our meeting should have -- spiritual freedoms, practical safeguards, or standards of behavior. The group argued whether "rights" was the best term -- to some people, it seems too legalistic. But we agreed that these are more than just privileges, more than guidelines -- these are how every person who comes to West Richmond Friends should expect to be treated, at all times. By sharing this working paper with you, we hope that discussion will continue.
1. You have the right to take part in worship. All people are welcome at our meeting for worship, regardless of age, sex, race, education, physical or mental ability, economic or social position, religious belief, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or any other condition. During open worship, all people are free to speak, as they are led by the Spirit of Christ. People who speak in open worship in ways which the Ministry and Membership Committee judges to be unhelpful to others may be asked to find other times to share their thoughts.
2. You have the right to be safe in our meeting. The meeting will not tolerate sexual, physical, verbal, racial, psychological or spiritual harassment by any one in the meeting. The Monthly Meeting or its committees will take prompt steps to deal with violations, and will notify all parties of its actions.
3. You have the right to take part in decisions made by the meeting. All members of the meeting may participate in decisions of the monthly meeting. Decisions affecting the whole meeting will be made using Quaker process. Decisions which have been made by the meeting will not be undone by individuals, or re-decided in private conversations later.
4. You have the right to know where money which you have given is being used. You may ask for a receipt for any gifts you make, unless you give anonymously through the Sunday collection. You will receive a statement twice a year for your giving. You may designate your gifts, and expect them to be used for the designated purpose, unless that purpose is contrary to a decision of the monthly meeting, in which case you will be so informed, and in which case you may ask to have your gift returned. Gifts in memory of an individual will be placed in the Memorial Fund, and used as directed by the donor or by the monthly meeting. Large gifts or bequests will be handled in accordance with the meeting's bequest policy. Gifts to the meeting will not be converted improperly for the personal use of staff or private individuals. The meeting's tax-exempt status will not be used by staff or private individuals for their own personal benefit.
5. You have the right not to be asked for money improperly. The Stewardship and Finance Committee will coordinate and schedule special fund raising efforts so that too many requests for funds outside the regular budget are not made at once. The meeting will not use fund raising methods such as raffles, games of chance, or lotteries which appeal to the spirit of greed. Requests made by Young Friends for fundraising for their special needs are usually approved. Requests may be made by children for school fund raising projects at the discretion of their parents.
6. You have the right to see all public documents of the meeting. You may ask to receive copies of all monthly meeting minutes, all budgets and financial statements. Committees will keep minutes of decisions made at their regular meetings, which will be open for inspection unless there is some special reason for confidentiality. You may ask to have any documents, or any terms or decisions included in them, explained to you. Members and attenders of the meeting will be sent the newsletter.
7. You have the right to privacy. Pastoral conversations, confessions, or counseling sessions will be kept confidential by the meeting's staff. When committees such as Ministry and Membership, the Conflict Management Team, or the Counsel and Care Committee deal with matters which need to be kept confidential, they will be particularly careful in wording their minutes so as not to injure the people involved, and the clerk will remind committee members of their need to be careful of the feelings and reputations of everyone. Any records concerning counseling, scholarships, Human Needs Fund loans, or your own financial giving, will only be accessible to people who need to know.
8. You have the right to the services of the meeting. You may ask for help from the meeting's staff and from its committees as you need them. If staff or committees are unable to help you, they will inform you, and refer you if possible to other sources of help. If you are a member or regular attender of the meeting, you do not have to pay extra for such services as pastoral calls, hospital calls, funerals, pastoral counseling, weddings, etc. You may freely borrow and return books from the library, or other materials from the meeting, under the established loan policies of the meeting. The meeting will make every effort to see that its facilities are physically accessible to everyone.
9. You have the right to worship with integrity. The pastor and the Ministry and Membership committee will make every effort to see that meeting for worship provides spiritual nourishment and refreshment for everyone. The Scriptures will be quoted accurately and handled carefully. Sermon illustrations will not be fictional, unless they are clearly identified as such. Speakers will not scold individuals, or make unfounded accusations from the pulpit. Hymns and other music will be chosen to reflect a broad range of spiritual sensibilities. Language used in worship will be chosen to express the spiritual experience of both men and women. Worship will attempt to address the needs of all ages. Worship leaders each week will try to keep from running past the usual time, but they will respect their sense of the presence of the Spirit if more time is required. You are free to leave worship at any time.
10. You have the right to
the support and discipline of the meeting. You
may ask for prayer, for personal support, for advice and counsel from your
fellow members and attenders. You may ask for a support committee to help
you with special needs, or for clearness committee to help you in making
important decisions on such important matters as marriage, job change, family
issues and education. If others in the meeting are concerned about your
actions or about ideas which you have expressed, you have the right to ask
for the assistance of the appropriate committee of the meeting. If the meeting
takes actions regarding your membership which you disagree with, you have
the right to appeal the monthly meeting's decision to the Quarterly Meeting,
or, later, to the Yearly Meeting.
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Updated: January 2007
Copyright 1998 by Joshua Brown