How many Quakers does it take to change a lightbulb? That depends. If the lightbulb is in the meetinghouse, then it takes the whole meeting, and 3-9 months.
First, property committee has to notify clerk that a lightbulb is burned out. It will then be put on the agenda for the next monthly meeting for business. When it comes up on the agenda, clerk will ask how Friends respond to the notice from property committee. Then, clerk of property committee will be asked for that committee’s recommendation regarding the burned out bulb, and we will learn that property committee was merely notifying meeting of the state of the bulb, and it did not reach the point of trying to make a recommendation. The matter will then be referred back to property committee to come up with a recommendation regarding the bulb, and the matter will be put on the agenda for the next monthly meeting for business, four weeks later.
At the next monthly meeting, property committee will report that it needs more time to make a recommendation because it has asked for consultation from other committees, and it has not yet received reports from these other committees. The Peace and Social Order committee is reporting back regarding the relationship between the utility company and the armaments industry and the Pentagon, and looking for a manufacturer of lightbulbs that does not have such ties. Unity With Nature Committee is reporting in the effects of the use of electricity on the environment, and whether the old light bulb is biodegradable, and, if not, is there any way to get rid of it that comports with our commitment to the environment. The Committee on Right Sharing of the World’s Resources has reported back that any additional use of lightbulbs by meeting flies in the face of our testimony of simplicity, and recommends that the burned out bulb be left in place as a reminder of all who must live without the benefit of electrical power. The matter is then put over to the next meeting for business.
At the next meeting for business, all committees report and there is no unity on a recommendation to change or not to change the lightbulb. Clerk schedules a threshing to take place in the interim before the next meeting for business, at which time it will be on the agenda again.
At the next meeting for business, Clerk discerns a sense of the meeting among Friends and attenders that meeting should do the following:
After a period of silence, an old, well respected Quaker scholar and weighty Friend rises to quote from George Fox, stating that, “It is not in thy power to change it. Thy task is to bring it to Christ and leave it there.” In view of this, weighty Friend must stand in the way. After another, even longer period of silence, another Friend rises to make the point that our willingness to proceed requires respect for Fox’s writings, but must be tempered by the light received by meeting today. More silence. Clerk discerns that there is no sense of the meeting to proceed at this time, and offers to lay the matter over for the next meeting for business. Weighty Friend suggests that since so many of us did not grow up as Quakers, we might schedule an adult education series on the writings of George Fox on the inward Light, thereby preparing meeting for its future possible consideration of when the new light bulb should be screwed into the socket. There is clearly strong unity on the Fox series, and Clerk receives volunteers to arrange and schedule it. Weighty Friend then agrees to stand aside. Meeting Clerk then reads back the three points on which there had been unity, and asks for a period of silence. The matter is minuted. Then another Friend suggests that the matter be put over until the next monthly meeting since it is our custom to put over all action items for a month for seasoning. Friends agree, and the matter is put over to be reconsidered after seasoning.
Before the next monthly meeting, old weighty Friend becomes ill and at the time of monthly meeting for business, is still in the hospital. Meeting agrees not to act on the lightbulb matter until weighty Friend recovers, since the matter was so close to his heart. The matter is put over to next meeting for business, at which time, though weighty Friend is still in the hospital, he has sent a message that he is still willing to stand aside so long as the Fox education series goes on. Clerk re-reads the three points on which meeting reached unity, and there is a loud “Agreed”.
Amhara Powell In “… the Light That Shineth in Darkness…” Orange Grove Monthly Meeting Pasadena, California