Quaker A-Z: H is for “Hope So!”
Why do Quakers say “Hope so!” rather than “yes”? Or, in these days of Zoom, put thumbs up or nod at the camera?
If you’ve attended a Quaker Meeting for Worship for Business you may well have heard these phrases:
Clerks: “Is the minute acceptable, Friends?”
Meeting: “Hope so!”
This exchange is a traditional form. First the clerk asks for approval or acceptance of a draft minute and then the meeting gives it.
Is this mere historical tradition or is there a deeper reasoning?
To understand this, you must remember that Quakers are not trying to reach consensus or vote. Decisions are not made on popularity, nor on the loudest voice.
The meeting (which is not only the group discerning together at this time but also all those members who are present in spirit) therefore say “Hope so” to reflect that they do not know for certain.
Instead, we’re attempting to step aside from our egos and personal agendas and allow the Holy Spirit to flow through and guide us.
Up until the mid-20th century, silence was taken as acceptance since the ministry comes directly from God and you can’t get more “right” than that!
However, Quakers are fallible – just like everyone else! Verbalising makes the acceptance of the minute explicit for legal purposes. God doesn’t care, but is tolerant of human failings!
Clerks, therefore, aren’t offering their opinion or promoting their own agenda. The minute isn’t the clerks’ words but words chosen to reflect the clerks’ discernment of the spirit of the worship and ministry offered.