Much of our work and decision making is taken not by the whole body, but by small committees which are set up to look at matters in more detail than can be done by a whole meeting; people to serve on these committees are suggested by nominations committees, whose job it is is to look at all the meeting’s members to see which of them will best carry out the task to be done, balancing age, sex, experience, freshness of thinking, and for national and international committees, geography. The suggested names to serve on the committee are then put before the whole meeting, who will accept them or suggest changes as they discern. The committee will then go away and do its work, either as a standing committee or one set up for a specific period to do a specific task, and report back to the full meeting at points along the way or on completion.
It is often said that one of the reasons Quakers as a group survived when most of the other religious and political sects which formed during the English Civil War period died out is this due to the strong method of organisation which was set up in our earliest days. To find out more about those days, we need to have a little history lesson.