Monthly meeting

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Monthly Meetings are, traditionally, the basic unit of administration in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

For some Friends (Quakers) a Monthly Meeting is a single Meeting (church), while for others it is a grouping of Meetings (churches) which come together for administrative purposes. Membership in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is with a Monthly Meeting. Monthly Meetings are charged with the bulk of administrative and sometimes also the pastoral care of their associated congregants.

Friends' (Quaker) organizational structure is complicated and varies from place to place, but in many cases, Monthly Meetings are grouped for various purposes into Quarterly Meetings, which themselves are grouped into Yearly Meetings. In places where Quakers are few, there may be no Quarterly meeting. In some places, e.g. Korea, the largest administrative unit is the Monthly Meeting which encompasses several other Meetings around the country.

In Britain Yearly Meeting, Monthly Meetings are in the process renaming themselves as "Area Meetings". This is because British Meetings for Church Affairs seldom gather twelve times a year and the name "Monthly Meeting" does not convey much meaning to outsiders. The process hopes, among other things to reduce "Quakerspeak" jargon. However, among Friends (Quakers) the term "Monthly Meeting" will continue to be used for that administrative Meeting for some considerable time, as it has been for the past 350 years. From 2007, an Area Quaker Meeting is primarily a business meeting for a particular geographic area, and contains a number of local meetings which hold regular Meetings for Worship.

A noteworthy practice of Friends is that all administrative and business decisions must be made in a Meeting for Worship (church services). Thus Monthly Meetings, Area Meetings, Quarterly Meetings, Yearly Meetings and larger gatherings of Friends are all Meetings for Worship. Decisions are made prayerfully. Decisions are made by unanimity. Friends' unanimity should not be confused with a secular consensus. Friends' unanimity is spirit based and the finding of unanimity emerges from Friends worshiping together (see also Quaker decision-making).

The term Monthly Meeting comes from the practice of holding a monthly Meeting for Business, separate from the Meeting for Worship held once a week on Sunday (often called "First Day" for reasons discussed in the Testimony of Simplicity.) Similarly "Quarterly Meeting" refers to the fact that members of a Quarterly Meeting gather four times a year. In some areas, including parts of the USA, Canada, Africa, Korea, Britain and Ireland, there are local (Preparative) Meetings, which fall under the care of the larger Monthly Meetings. Monthly Meeting is most often used by Quakers in the "unprogrammed" tradition; Friends who attend programmed services, particularly Evangelical Friends may often refer to their group instead as a church. However, Friends in most traditions commonly use the term Yearly Meeting.

A Monthly Meeting is usually associated with a particular place of worship; in many cases, the associated Meetinghouse has a distinctive style of architecture, reflecting the Testimony of Equality (benches are arranged in a roughly circular or three-quarter-square configuration, with no "privileged" place) and the Testimony of Simplicity (the interior of the Meetinghouse is usually kept simply and unadorned.) Some Meetinghouses in the United States are among the earliest remaining religious structures in the country, particularly in the Philadelphia area, but also in the Mid-Atlantic states and the Midwest generally.

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