Katie Evans writes:
I introduce Yearly Meeting and Yearly Meeting Gathering to non-Quaker friends and family by saying they’re like a cross between an Anglican General Synod and Glastonbury Festival. I have to admit I’ve never been to a Synod or Glastonbury Festival, so I might be wildy misrepresenting all three events!
The impression I mean to give is of deep, serious consideration of church/world affairs alongside the joyful buzz of lots of people getting together to enjoy each others’ company and share common interests.
It’s a wonderful atmosphere, but it can also feel overwhelming – it’s easy to feel lonely in the crowd. The first time I went to Yearly Meeting I felt tired and a bit lost. I’m hugely grateful to the Friend from Bradford-on-Avon Meeting who recognised me, greeted me warmly and said ‘come and sit with us’.
This year for the first time I’ve been part of Yearly Meeting Agenda Committee (the planning committee for Yearly Meeting). It’s been great to see how a Yearly Meeting takes shape and be part of that. For me the Committee has been an example of the Quaker business method at its best, combining an open spirit-led approach with a constructive, practical willingness to get stuck in and get stuff done.
In Bath Meeting my way to get to know people and feel part of the community has been to take on roles within the Meeting (librarian, treasurer, clerk, elder – but not all at once!) Being on Yearly Meeting Agenda Committee has been the same but on a national scale. I’ve got to know people and feel much more part of the wider Quaker community.
At Yearly Meeting this year I was on the Pastoral Care team. Having that ‘hat’ (well, actually a green sash) to wear enabled me to pass on the goodwill I was given by that Friend from Bradford-on-Avon years ago. I spent the weekend smiling at people and saying ‘would you like to sit here?’ ‘how are you finding the weekend?’ I wouldn’t have started those conversations without the role as a way in. It was pastoral care for me if not for anyone else!
I would encourage everyone to consider filling in a Quaker Service Information Form (available from: http://www.quaker.org.uk/our-organisation/giving/quaker-service or phone 020 7663 1121) to make your interests and skills known to the nominations group for national committees. Yearly Meeting is making a real effort at the moment to look at ways of working to make serving in central roles more accessible to a wider range of Friends e.g. to Friends who are in full time work or have caring responsibilities. So now’s a good time to put your name forward. And of course there are lots of opportunities to get involved locally. Speak to a member of Bath Meeting’s Nominations Committee (Alison, Izzi, June & Diana) to explore where your abilities/ministry and the Meeting’s needs might meet.
Wearing different hats: after serving in a variety of local roles Katie now serves on British Quakers’ Yearly Meeting Agenda Committee. Photo (cc) Wayne Noffsinger)