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Structure of the Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) throughout the world are divided into autonomous Yearly Meetings, with differing customs and practices. There is no central authority, although a committee in London, Friends World Committee for Consultation, has a coordinating role.
The Religious Society of Friends in New Zealand is a non-hierarchical organisation, having no ministers, creed or dogma. Some Quaker groups in other parts of the world have regular pastors and programmed Meetings.
The fundamental organisational unit of the Society is the Worship Group. These gather for worship on a regular basis, normally each Sunday but smaller worship groups may meet fortnightly or monthly, and for a few not on Sunday. All the worship groups in an agreed region are part of the same Monthly Meeting. All Friends in each region are part of that Monthly Meeting, and are encouraged to attend the Meeting for Business which is held monthly. There are nine Monthly Meetings in Aotearoa/New Zealand, ranging in size from 45 to 440 people. The number of worship groups in each Monthly Meeting ranges from one to eight.
The people associated with each Monthly Meeting are referred to as either Members or Attenders. Members are those who have formally applied for and been accepted into membership with a particular Monthly Meeting. Attenders are those who attend Meeting for Worship but have not taken formal membership.
The term "Yearly Meeting" is used to describe both the corporate body of New Zealand Quakers and the actual annual business meeting. There are a number of appointments, usually for a three year term, to Yearly Meeting positions, such as Clerk, Treasurer and various committees. At the actual business Meeting (Yearly Meeting), we write an Epistle, summarising what went on at our annual Meeting and how we felt about it.