Note for non-Quakers. Each local worshipping community of Quakers is also part of a larger Quaker community, in our case five meetings. (Us, New Barnet, Stoke Newington, Tottenham, and Bunhill Fields on the borders of the City of London.)
Membership and some important roles are held in the area.
This is a very personal summary of the morning discussion we held on the future of our Area Meeting. 50 people were present – exceeding expectations – and there was a great sense of spiritual gathering. We heard how things are hard – people long and tired in major roles, it is difficult to find people to step up, ‘business’ that feels like a burden and does not bring us joy. Even many longstanding Friends don’t find routine area meeting rewarding, nor are we good at explaining why we work with other meetings. We urge people to come and to care and yet we don’t give them confidence. (It was great to have a number of people at their first area meeting ever!) We heard many positives, about love and connection and about benefiting from the different strengths of different meetings. Changes in society have brought challenges – it is more complicated and bureaucratic to run any small organisation than it used to be – but also opportunities. Our nominations teams work hard: we began to hear how we might build on better supporting people in their roles and explore different ways of finding them – how we could be better at succession planning – and different ways of organising our business to feed our spirits and get to know each other in the things that are eternal. Did we come away, with clear answers? No, that wasn’t the point. And it is too early to say whether purely structural changes such as boundaries are worth exploring. (Mergers might create as much trouble as they solve.) Whatever we decide about such bigger changes, I believe that we can transform our meetings by doing these other things better. But that is just my view from the start of our process.