I first started attending Quaker meeting because Silent Worship spoke to me like no other church service I’d ever experienced. After a few months of attending, I decided to deepen my commitment to the Meeting by making regular contributions of my time and financial support.
Volunteering for a committee at the Meeting was easy, but figuring out how to give financially proved harder. When I asked the worship clerk one Sunday, he looked around the room. It was a large, east coast Meeting, and there were about fifty Quakers gathered. “Well,” he said, “there might be someone here who could tell you how, but I don’t know who.”
The Quakers do not conduct a traditional church service, and they also do not pass the plate for donations. At least not in any of the Meetings I’ve ever attended. Sometimes there’s a small box or canister on a table near the door, but I’ve rarely heard anyone suggest attenders drop their contributions inside it. And unlike most Protestant churches, Quakers rarely use a pledge system. A Meeting might make a special appeal, say if it needs funding for a new building or something unusual, but generally Quaker Meetings proceed as if money doesn’t matter.
But, of course, it does. Reno Friends has an annual budget and is happy to accept donations to help us pay our First Day School teacher (our only staffing expense), and to offset the cost of utilities, insurance and upkeep of our Meeting House and First Day School. We also give to several local and national charitable organizations or Quaker organizations, and we support the quarterly and yearly Meetings that serve our region and the West Coast.
When we do discuss giving to our Meeting — usually at our monthly Business Meeting — we try to do so in a larger context. As the 19th-century Quaker John Woolman said, “As Christians, all we possess are the gifts of God. To turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of Universal Love becomes the business of our lives.” We recognize that some people have more time than money, or may feel that they have a special skill or expertise they can lend the Meeting to make our communal experience richer and more interesting. Our Query on Stewardship says: “From the indwelling Seed of God, we discover our particular gifts and discern the service to which we are called.” Some might make phone calls to those who are sick, while others balance the books or help keep our campus tidy. There are many ways to give to the Meeting.
In the end, I’ve learned to appreciate the Quakers’ way of keeping money off center stage, and I appreciate the many ways Reno Friends give to our Meeting. Everyone does what she or he can. If they have a handful of coins or a check to share, then they can slip it into the humble Quaker Oats canister that sits on our Meeting House table.
Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting
email: wswallow54 (at) gmail.com
The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.