Quakers in Britain have set up a new base for national Quaker work in Leeds as part of a five-year pilot to test a different way of working.
A small number of staff – including me – are already using the office, although covid restrictions mean that the site won't be fully open until later on in the year. In the meantime – and until you can visit us properly – we're welcoming Friends suggestions on what we should name it!
The office is attached to Carlton HIll (Central Leeds) Quaker Meeting House and is an important milestone in realising Britain Yearly Meeting Trustees' vision of becoming a 'simple church supported by a simple charity to reinvigorate Quakerism'. A key part of this is to become an organisation less focused on and centred in London.
Over the last few years many Friends have seen how having local development workers based across Britain has enabled BYM to be better aware of and more responsive to the needs of Quaker communities. While Friends House (and Swarthmoor Hall) will continue to be important centres for Quaker work, the Leeds office will build on this.
As well as providing accommodation for staff to work and meet with Friends, the aim is to provide a base for action and work with Quaker communities across the north of England as well as providing more opportunities to employ people outside of London. With good public transport access, there will be space for national committee meetings and to hold events in the meeting house next door.
While the office is an experiment, we're excited about the possibilities it brings. I personally hope it will facilitate stronger connections and relationships between Friends and 'the centre', help BYM to see things from a different perspective and – perhaps most excitingly – more alert to the potential for different kinds of partnerships and collaboration.
In a small way we're already seeing that manifest itself through the very warm welcome we've received from Leeds Friends and the conversations we're having with them as we learn to share space together in different ways. But who knows what else the future might bring?
I'm hoping that we'll be able to have a proper opening event to start welcoming visitors to the hub later on this year. In the meantime, there's just the small matter of what to call it. 'Friends House North', and 'Quaker Hub Yorkshire' are just two of the names that have been suggested. But do you have a better idea? If so, please let us know by emailing MCS@quaker.org.uk