How to open a door…

2015 02 26 door release sign

Or perhaps how to get someone else to open the door for themselves.

Seen while leaving Westminster Meeting House.

2015 02 26 door release buttonI was impressed not only with the sign but the photograph and arrow.

Yes – if you turn to look where the arrow is pointing you do indeed find the button.

Complete with an additional sign!

Hopefully this ensures that everyone needing to leave can do so without disturbing the Wardens or anyone else.

Always interested to see such examples of good practice.


Managing Meeting Houses – January 2015

2008 07 12 Woodbrooke Labyrinth 1This is the annual weekend aimed at anyone who has a role related to managing a meeting house. Employers, employees, volunteers, caretakers, trustees – plus of course all those who are wearing more than one hat. Thirty participants made this a full weekend.

Quaker Life and Woodbrooke organise this weekend, and each time I attend I learn something new, as well as coming away energised. I highly recommend the course to my clients so was delighted that one attended and told me how inspiring and useful they found it.

During the weekend we had seminars on

  • People Matters – Managing Our Relationships and Communication
  • Nuts and Bolts 1 – Employment
  • Nuts and Bolts 2 – Health & Safety – and more!
  • Know your Gifts
  • Engaging MH as community. What is the new Directory of Services?
  • Panel of Experts and closing worship

There were also chances to have a one-on-one discussion with one of the seminar facilitators. These were snapped up – I’ve used that opportunity before, and it is always useful to be able to go into more detail about an issue or to discuss a specific problem.

Richard Summers as General Secretary of Quaker Life also reminded us that anyone with specific queries on wardenship or employment can contact him on and he will attempt to help. More  information is on the page. If he doesn’t know the answer he will seek out the most appropriate person.

But of course the conversations over meals and breaks, discovering that someone else is sharing the same problems – or even come up with solutions that you hadn’t thought of are all an important part of the weekend. Creating connections and building networks, meeting people who you have spoken to on the Wardenship e-list and just being reassured that you aren’t alone in this labyrinth of needs, wants, requirements and legal necessities.

Planning has already started for next year’s event – do consider it you haven’t been already. It is well worth sending both an employer/manager and an employee/volunteer. Dates will be announced in Clerk’s mailings as well as on the e-list.

Quaker A-Z: Z is for Zipped

zip file error message

photo from Clive Darra on Flickr

This is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

Z is for Zipped

No, not coats but files. Large files often need to be shared amongst a committee. With people creating photo and graphic heavy documents, often across a variety of platforms and programmes, there are more opportunities for problems to arise.

Zipping or compressing a file can ensure that even large files can be sent via email or stored on a flash drive. However, this can also give rise to errors. So how can you share information without worrying about losing information or using up someone’s data allowance?

Another alternative is to store the documents on a server and share access to those who need it. This could be accessed via a website or you can use one of the file hosting cloud based storage systems which sync folders to ensure that you always have the most up to date information.

Examples of such systems are Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box. Each has their own benefits and will be compatible with different systems. Mindful Business Services uses Dropbox for most of its clients, but has used Google Drive for a few that already had that system in place.

By creating a central information storage hub you ensure that files are easily shared with new committee members and aren’t lost when someone leaves a committee – a problem I wrote about under Generic Email Addresses.

  • How has your meeting managed to share important information amongst committee members?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: Y is for Young and Young at Heart

2013 06 Cotteridge gardenThis is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

Y is for Young and Young-at-Heart

A meeting should reflect the community surrounding it – and it should ideally be an all age community.

A&Q 18 says:

How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome? Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another. As we enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help and to receive it, our meeting can be a channel for God’s love and forgiveness.

A&Q 24 says:

Children and young people need love and stability. Are we doing all we can to uphold and sustain parents and others who carry the responsibility for providing this care?

I feel strongly that Meeting Houses and meetings should support the vision of an all age community.

Families with children at different stages will need different support. All of us are ageing – and our needs will change as we do.

So what can a meeting do to include all members no matter their age and ability? How can the meeting ensure these needs are considered, when making decisions about design changes, redecoration or purchases?

As well as ensuring there is a Children and Young People’s committee and that consideration is given to inclusion of families at business meetings and meetings for learning as well as meetings for worship and meals there are practical matters that can be helpful for the young and the young-at-heart.

  • Does your meeting have stools in the toilet areas, plus family friendly toilet seats?
  • Are the toilet or bathrooms useable by someone needing a carer?
  • Is the soap easily accessible to someone with small or who lacks hand strength and mobility?
  • Can doors be opened easily and are the doorways wide enough?
  • Do stairs and passageways have grab rails and banisters at different heights?
  • Are there bibs, child sized cutlery and crockery, sipper cups and booster seats or high chairs available for use during shared meals?
  • Do you have a variety of styles and sizes of chairs throughout the building to suit a range of needs?
  • To ensure parents and carers are able to attend worship and be supported, are members of the Children and Young People’s committee sourced from outside that group?
  • Is the structure of the committees and events flexible enough to change with the demands of its new appointees?

Paul Parker (current Recording Clerk) said in a presentation,

“Currently our Society is organised, or set up for the convenience of the newly retired.”

There was wry laughter after that comment – he was talking about national committee structures, but this can be relevant at local and Area Meeting level too.

When was the last time you heard, “Business meeting will be held after coffee at 12:30 in the meeting room, child care is in xxxx room”. Or asked the members of Children’s Meeting to run a business meeting, or help to decide what to do with the meeting’s resources?

Older members can feel isolated or unsupported too – Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has produced a website Quaker Ageing Resources exploring ageing and generational relationships. Including a set of queries that can be used as part of a discussion or study group.

  • How has your meeting ensured that it becomes and remains an all age worshipping community?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: X marks the spot

2014 12 19 tube labyrinth

This is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

X marks the spot – part one

X marks the spot for signatures. Do you have room hire contracts? Are they for set periods of time or a license for part of the building? Do you have full names and addresses for the people and groups that use your building – especially any that have keys or access codes?

In P is for Premises and Policies and in T is for Terms and Conditions I mentioned the benefit of having time to think through issues and be able to decide on terms, conditions and policies to ensure that levels of service, care and maintenance are standardised, whilst problems can be prevented or considered before they arise.

A well written contract can ensure that problems are dealt with in a measured fashion, and that all hirers are held to the same expectations. The contract can prevent individuals being treated differently – depending on which Quaker they’ve spoken to. Being able to refuse a request or point out a problem with reference to a policy or contract document can make any confrontations easier to handle, and feel less personal to the people involved.

When you produce a contract, it should include the relevant terms and conditions as part of the contract so the hirer can see what they are agreeing to. As I’ve mentioned previously, many samples are available – it isn’t necessary to invent the wheel. Contact me if you would like a sample pack of documents.

X marks the spot – part two

X marks the spots on maps, especially treasure maps. X is often used to mark a specific place.

  • So, could anyone find you on the map?
  • On local tourist or information maps is the Meeting House marked as a place of interest?
  • Are there directions on your website?
  • If you have photos of the building, are they what a visitor would see from the road or the prettier bit around the side?
  • Have you included a map on any marketing or information leaflets that you hand out?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: W is for Woodbrooke & Websites

2008 07 12 Woodbrooke Labyrinth 1

This is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

W is for Woodbrooke

I should start this with an acknowledgement that Woodbrooke is one of my favourite places – I have been lucky enough to learn and teach there. Life Artistry, the spiritual scrapbooking course I developed, has been taught there several times.

Woodbrooke is Europe’s only Quaker Study Centre. It is based in the former family home of the local (Quaker) chocolate maker, George Cadbury. Since 1903, Woodbrooke has provided education for those of any faith or none from around the world. It also runs courses at other venues – most recently in partnership with Swarthmore Hall, and for individual meetings when requested.

Among the courses offered are several that can be considered helpful to those responsible for running a Meeting House as well as a meeting. There are courses for Treasurers, Trustees, plus the annual ‘Managing Our Meeting Houses’ course which will run at the end of January.

This year’s Managing Our Meeting Houses weekend is full, but do look at next year. I highly recommend this weekend for both those managing the building, business and practical aspects, plus those overseeing that management – a time for inspiration, information and a sharing of good practises.

Woodbrooke on the Road can also help your local meeting or area meeting to develop a course to meet any needs that you may have.

W is for Websites

Friends House has set up a basic page for each Quaker Meeting in Britain – for example Leigh on Sea. They also have a page of Quaker meeting websites and a page of ideas on creating a website for your meeting.

Other meetings have set up more complicated sites – as part of their local Area Meeting or on their own. Central England Quakers covers a large geographical area while Kingston Quakers include photos of their new building, their terms and conditions and current leaflets.

What might you consider putting on your website? Well – it depends on who you are writing for.

  • Are you writing for your own local worshipping group and don’t want to share that information?
  • Are you writing for people who are looking to find Quakers to attend a Meeting for Worship or to hire a room?
  • Who is going to maintain the site – are you going to look for volunteers or are you going to pay someone? (Yes, MBS does offer this.)

You can also link to other websites – for example Muswell Hill has a page showing who uses the building with links to the hirers’ own websites. Those pages also have a reciprocal link back to Muswell Hill so that visitors can explore that site as well.

Google for business is a free way to ensure that your meeting house shows up on searches across Google. Other sites such as Halls Hire will take your listing and promote it on their own site – you may find a local website run by your council or chamber of commerce.

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: V is for Volunteers and (school) Visits

2009 10 06 Wendrie w Volunteer badge 2 This is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

V is for Volunteers

If you read the last post ‘U is for understanding and undervalued‘ you may be wondering how to avoid having your wardens or other volunteers feeling undervalued and misunderstood. Is it just as simple as following the list of advice given last week?

2010 12 09 Volunteers Desk

Volunteers Desk at Quaker Centre Friends House

It is always tricky to balance the skills you need with the skills offered but then that is part of the fun of working with volunteers rather than calling in professionals.

Remembering that you might get a professional volunteering too!

Well, I’ve been both a volunteer and managed volunteers – in small or large groups with a variety of ages, experiences and abilities.

There are some things that can help your project succeed and your volunteers leave feeling satisfied and willing to come back for more.

  • Have you clearly defined the job(s) or tasks that you want done?
  • Have you ensured that appropriate tools and working areas are available and supplied by you?
  • Have you categorised the jobs and tasks to fit a wide range of skill sets and abilities? Pairing not so able or skilled with others more skilled or ensuring there are jobs suitable to all abilities.
  • Has someone done a dry run (even just on paper!) to ensure all obvious snags are reduced and that the tasks can actually be done in the place and time you’ve allotted?
  • Do you ensure all volunteers are welcomed and given an induction suitable to their age and ability?
  • Do you thank all those who came to help – even if they weren’t able to help? I always find that sharing food together is a good way to ensure fellowship and a feeling of being appreciated.
  • If the project is over a longer period of time, do you ensure that everyone is kept up to date with developments and is able to give input?

All Quaker meetings are of course run by volunteers – and one of the joys of giving Quaker service is meeting others who are also giving service. Even when it is frustrating, or hard work there are always benefits – to paraphrase A&Q 23:

In times of difficulty remind yourself of the value of prayer, of perseverance and of a sense of humour.

V is for Visits – school and others

One interesting way of getting people to visit your meeting house is to invite them to visit. A common visit can be from a local school – Quakers can come into the National Curriculum in a range of ways.

Dissenters, slave trade, or individuals such as George Fox and Elizabeth Fry, or even local religious groups is another for younger children.

However, I also had a visit where I was informed they wanted to come as the sixth formers were looking at ‘Religious Architecture and Icons’. When I hesitantly pointed out the building didn’t have much to look at in the way of either icons or obviously religious architecture – I was reassured by the teacher saying that we were being compared to the local Greek orthodox church.

There are resources available from the Children and Young People’s Team at Friends House ‘Schools Journeys’ to help you plan and organise the visit – you could invite all schools to a specific exhibition, or just contact the local schools to inform them that the meeting exists and that there are people willing to come in to do assemblies or to host a field trip.

Along with other recent commemorations of WWI two new packs were produced by QPSW Conscience and Conviction which can be downloaded for free from that link.

Over the years I’ve hosted school visits and always found the groups interesting as well as challenging. I’ve been thanked by the adults attending as well as the students. I hope you are tempted to try out a school visit!

  • Does your meeting have a relationship with any or all of the local schools?
  • Have you any tips for a successful visit?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: U is for Understanding and Undervalued

2014 09 28 new meetingThis is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

U is for Understanding


Many Quaker meetings appoint wardens, resident Friends, caretakers, managers, other employees or volunteers to manage, or work in  meeting house premises and grounds. The nature of these roles varies according to the circumstances of individual meetings, but essentially arises from Friends’ desire to open the doors of their meeting houses and to provide a living contact between the meeting, its members and the local community.

Wardenship should be seen as an integrated part of Quaker life and worship which can foster a friendly atmosphere in a meeting house and give caring attention to all those details which make for conditions conducive to worship and welcome. It is also a responsibility to be shared by the whole meeting.

Some see wardenship as a form of service, others regard it as a very worthwhile form of employment. The benefit of good wardenship to a meeting can be beyond measure. However, both meetings and their employees should be aware of the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees and of  importance of good, clearly structured employment practices.

Do you understand:

  • What the Warden or Premises Committee members do in your meeting?
  • What is the true time and skills required for the tasks you have asked them to do?
  • How these role and therefore the expectations can vary from meeting to meeting and over time in the same meeting?
  • How can you support both those giving service and those receiving it to understand each other’s needs and wishes?

In O is for Oversight I mentioned the responsibility on all members of a meeting to support those doing work on their behalf.

U is for Undervalued

Sadly one of the most common comments from Wardens is that members of their meeting don’t value their service. Usually as it is mostly behind the scenes and therefore often unseen.

Whilst Jane Stokes is talking about homemaking here this can also include wardening and the other caring for a meeting house that can go unseen.


There is much work to be done which is not paid, but which is vital, desperately undervalued and undertaken to a large extent by women. I refer, of course, to caring for children and/or elderly disabled relatives and homemaking. The work itself is often hard, stressful, mundane and repetitive, unseen and unacknowledged, with low status. We need a transformation of our attitudes to this work, giving it all the esteem it deserves.

Voluntary work gives the sense of being able to give something – whether in time, money or expertise – and that is precious to the person doing the giving. The feeling of having contributed, the satisfaction of a job lovingly done, is the reward. We should not regard voluntary work as of less value because it is unpaid and the rewards intangible, nor should we exploit the goodwill of volunteers…

Everything in the end can be distilled to relationships – our relationships with each other and the earth. Our work must benefit our relationships rather than damage them, and we must ensure that neither the earth nor other people are exploited. Caring, not exploitation, is the key.

Jane Stokes, 1992

Whilst at a Managing Our Meeting Houses course at Woodbrooke, I heard two statements which made me rethink how I think about Wardening.

The first was from Wendy Blake Rankin – an employment specialist who, whilst talking to a room full of Wardens remarked:

“Quakers exploiting Quakers is not Quakerly.”

By which she meant that oddly, many Quakers are quite happy to demand from other Quakers things that they wouldn’t from non-Quakers. There is a piece in Qf&P that says:

13.38 Wardens should not be asked to accept conditions of accommodation and work which most Friends would not tolerate personally. Casually made appointments can lead to misunderstandings and unintended exploitation. Meetings employing a warden are urged to consult with Quaker Life, to ensure that good practice is observed in their meeting.

It is hard for many Wardens to create boundaries between their own work, worship and service especially if they feel unsupported in creating those boundaries. This can lead to burn out, leaving of positions earlier than expected and many bad feelings.

While the second was from Kathleen Russell who whilst talking about employed and volunteer wardens and how to tell the difference who gave the following example which raised many a wry smile around the room.

“If your meeting could turn up on Sunday to find the building locked up tight and a note from your Warden on the front door saying, “Hi – I’ve gone to Peru!” and continue working – yes with some minor problems, but no real panic. Then your Warden is indeed a volunteer – if not, than they are probably are or should be an employee.”

Of course if you have a good Operations Manual, sensible Policy documents as reference, and there is continual liaison between all parties then it is easier for Premises and others to be the necessary back up or be able to take on the work during any time of transition.

There are ways to make Wardens feel more valued such as (gathered from conversations with Wardens over the last few years):

  • a regularly reviewed job description and time expectations
  • regular reviews with written summaries of the discussion or review
  • support to create and maintain boundaries between work and home life
  • backup to enable holidays and sick days to be time off
  • awareness that leisure time is not available for work or ‘a quick chat’
  • support to ensure that other members of the meeting don’t make unreasonable demands
  • acceptance of them as full members of the meeting with their own spiritual journey
  • appointment of specific Friends, or a group a Friends to provide specific support and a space to listen and explore their feelings related to their role
  • offering training or paying for training when requested which relates to their role
  • saying thank you on a regular basis
  • arranging help for specific tasks and supporting working days when there is a build up of tasks for whatever reason

What other ways do you think show Wardens and similar roles that they are valued both for the service they supply and as individuals?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: T is for Twinning Toilets plus Terms & Conditions

Toilet Twinning

by Michael Coleman on Flickr

This is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

 T is for Toilet Twinning

I first heard of this project at Woodbrooke, where the male and female toilets in the New Wing corridor are both twinned, and was impressed by the idea. Individual toilets are £60 to twin. Or a meeting house could twin a block in a school for £240.

Delighted to see that Bakewell, Bridport, Gildersome, Hammersmith, Harrogate, Hartington Grove, Ross, Stocksfield Meeting Houses and the Priory Rooms, have all raised monies – and a bit of awareness, to twin their loos. Some raised the money themselves, others involved others using the meeting house. There were even articles in the local press for the opening of the twinned toilets.

A simple but effective way to support a good project, help improve the lives of others and perform a bit of outreach at the same time!

Has your meeting done this?

T is for Terms & Conditions

You might call these Terms of Use or Conditions of Use – they may be written down and formal or perhaps there is just a verbal list someone runs through with any new hirer. Or some combination of the two.

Having them written down does make things easier when a problem arises – issues can be thought out in advance, consultations made and decisions made calmly. Although, it is always possible to change them once they’ve been made!

A formal definition of Terms and Conditions could be:

“rules which one must agree to abide by in order to use a service.” (Wikipedia)

Examples of such things can be found on some websites:

Does your meeting house have a set of terms and conditions for room hire agreed?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.

Quaker A-Z: S is for Sustainability & Stewardship

Sustainability image light bulb at sunset

Sustainability image light bulb at sunset by Intel Free Press

These are two words with complementary meanings.


Sustainability graphic on Performance.govIn general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture.

At BYM Canterbury in 2009 Quakers made a corporate decision to become a sustainable low-carbon community. Receiving inspiration through the Woodbrooke funded Swarthmore Lecture by Pam Lunn Costing not less than everything: sustainability and spirituality in challenging times.

I’ve written about this before – click on the Sustainability tag on the sidebar to read all other posts on this theme.

There is also a recognition that we need to include our own processes and policies within that consideration – do we need this many jobs and committees? If our main purpose of existing is to be a worshipping group, then to give service to the world than what supports that and what drains it? Which leads us on to the other S…


Stewardship is perhaps more specific – it is the careful and responsible management of something, usually resources. Quaker Faith & Practice has this to say about our assets and how they are used:

14.04 Whilst the work of area meetings may vary, our assets are used for:

  1. strengthening the life and witness of our local meetings;
  2. spreading the message of Friends and interpreting and developing the thought and practice of the Religious Society of Friends;
  3. undertaking our service for the relief of suffering at home and abroad;
  4. funding the concerns of Friends that our meetings have adopted or agreed to support;
  5. providing for the pastoral care of individual Friends, including assistance to those in need and for education;
  6. maintaining and developing our meeting houses as places in which to worship and from which to carry our witness into the world;
  7. administering and maintaining the organisation of Britain Yearly Meeting.

Whilst Quaker Stewardship Committee has responsibilities laid upon it to both ensure that meetings are doing this and supporting them in this endeavour.

‘…support meetings in their stewardship of finance and property; encourage accountability, transparency and integrity in all our affairs and enable Friends to work with statutory bodies, such as those administering charity law, on issues that affect all meetings and their associated bodies. ‘ (Quaker faith & practice, section 14.28) (Third Edition)

Stewardship, as I mentioned above, can also refer to the energy and time of people. Nomination committees are finding it hard to find enough people to fill all the roles they have to fill. This has meant that meetings – both local and area, have become aware that human resources need to be managed and cared for. Investigating what jobs must be done, which can or must be out sourced to professionals and which can be reduced to the essentials or even done away with.

One Quaker in a tiny meeting told me,

“we threw out everything and then said – what do we need? A place to worship – well we had a building already, so that was o.k. Next we thought we need someone to open up and drew up a rota for that. Slowly added back jobs, but only if someone wanted to do it. We still don’t have everything that Qf&P says we should, but we meet and we’re swimming now not drowning.”

15.02 Quaker Faith & Practice (fifth edition) starts Chapter 15 on Trusteeship with

As members of the Religious Society of Friends we are all called upon to exercise stewardship over the Society’s resources. This is stewardship in its widest sense: ensuring that money and buildings are used wisely and well; that business decisions are taken in right ordering; that all within a meeting, both its members and its employees, are supported and helped to play a full role in the Society’s affairs; that the meeting’s children are cared for and nurtured; that eldership and oversight flourish. We are all called to participate in building a responsible and caring community.

  • What has your meeting done to ensure the stewardship of the Society’s resources?

To browse through all of the posts click on the Quaker A-Z link here or in the side bar.