Introducing Quakers: Study Groups
The purpose of a study group is to provide an opportunity for a more in-depth examination of a theme. Study groups usually meet regularly over a period of weeks or months. The membership of a study group tends to be fairly stable.
Study Groups differ from Meetings for Learning in several respects. A Study Group meets for the purpose of studying several aspects of a single theme. This permits a deeper exploration of the issues than is possible in a Meeting for Learning. Examples of themes might be:
1. Preparation for the forthcoming revision of Quaker Faith and Practice
This a Woodbrooke-devised programme of reading, reflection and discussion.
2. My Spiritual Journey
How I got started
Stepping stone ideas that have helped me
Obstacles, barren times, and how I overcame them
Where I am heading, and what would help me now
3. My Personal Attitudes to:
Quakers and Quakerism
Other Christian denominations and other religions
Virtue and the virtuous life
Authority in its different forms and guises
Responsibility for social issues (especially local issues)
Responsibility for the environment
A Study Group is most likely to meet on a regular basis over a period of weeks or months. Unlike a Meeting for Learning, it is expected that group participants will have given thought to the issue under discussion in preparation for the meeting. A format or methodology is adopted which then applies to each meeting of the group. An example of a popular format is Creative Listening, in which each member of the group speaks in turn. Each person has a fixed amount of time to have their say, and while they are speaking, no-one may interrupt or question what the person speaking is saying. This has the great merit that people who typically feel hesitant about speaking can do so in some confidence that they not going to be required to justify what they are saying. There may be an agreement that, once everyone has spoken, observations may be made, and questions asked. The Creative Listening format is popular among Quakers. Being a Quaker group, meetings of the group begin and end in silence.
There is a limit to the number of participants in a Study Group. Once the group has formed, group membership is then ‘closed’. This engenders trust and a deepening relationship, permitting a more personal and intimate exploration of the issues being addressed. Were membership of the group to remain ‘open’, then it is much more difficult for deeper trust to develop and the experience is likely to be more superficial.
If you are in attendance at a Quaker Meeting and might be interested in participating in a Study Group, you could ask an Elder the Meeting what Study Groups are planned for the coming months.