Simplifying our meeting
Hope Valley Local Quaker Meeting meets at the Quaker Community Bamford in the beautiful Peak District. It is a small meeting and finding people willing to take on various roles was difficult. Some simple changes made life at Hope Valley easier.
Apart from visitors to the Community, the meeting has about 10–15 people each week. As a small meeting we have struggled to find necessary role-holders for many years. We have met three times over the last six years to discern our status as a local meeting. The most recent process started in September 2018 after our treasurer and trustee left. The meeting had been running without an overseer for over a year at this point. The co-clerks we had then, one of whom is an elder, were finding it diﬃcult to carry out all the clerk's duties.
We held a series of discernment meetings. Information about the needs of a local meeting and a worshipping group were explored by local friends. We did this with advice from area meeting clerks, elders, members of Britain Yearly Meeting staﬀ team and former members of the Bamford Quaker Community. From this a proposal was brought to the meeting in early January 2019 which was then explored at area meeting.
The proposal was that the necessary jobs of the meeting be taken over by a convening team of three people. It would oversee clerking, eldership, oversight, and finances. To start with members of the team would serve for three, two and one years. This was done to encourage friends to take on tasks and learn the skills needed to support the meeting, but without them seeming too much of a burden.
This plan was discussed with area meeting and it was agreed that the local meeting would no longer supply a trustee to area meeting. It was also agreed that all finances would be managed by the area meeting treasurer. Area meeting clerks and elders agreed to support the meeting, as needed, during these changes and in the future. A memorandum of understanding was agreed detailing the arrangements agreed between the local and area meeting.
Following a meeting with the area meeting treasurer a simplified plan to manage the local meeting finances was proposed. Individual members were asked to cancel standing orders to the local meeting and to support Quaker work by donating directly to whoever they chose.
Friends were also asked to financially support the meeting to cover rent for rooms for meeting for worship at the community. They would also pay for refreshments, the meeting's subscription to The Friend and the upkeep of the newly proposed website. We decided to keep the local meeting bank account open and use it for these costs only. Together we have been discerning what to do with the large sum of money that had collected in the account.
Friends at Hope Valley Meeting have felt a new energy in the meeting. We have an informal arrangement each week of greeters, door keepers and refreshment providers. This has encouraged more people to share responsibilities. At our Afterword session at the end of each meeting friends are encouraged to speak and share their experience of meeting and ministry. This seems to have given less confident friends the chance to speak.
- oversight by all friends is being encouraged
- a monthly discussion group led by a diﬀerent friend each time is well attended
- we plan to hold three meetings for worship for business each year. We propose that any business between meetings be dealt with in notices as needed. Minutes will be recorded by the convenor if necessary.
Although it is still early in the process it is felt that friends have a better understand about the importance of attending our business meetings.
It's early days yet, but the process we have undertaken has given us new insights into how a local meeting lives, works and worships together. We hope to build on this new energy and continue to learn from and work with one another to sustain the life of our meeting.
- Information about meetings for discernment can be found in Chapter 13 of Quaker faith and practice website.
- If you'd like to speak directly to Hope Valley Friends please visit their website.
- If you'd like support from Britain Yearly Meeting please email email@example.com.