Flowers in Meeting for Worship

2014 09 28 new meeting

  • Do you have flowers or books on a table in the middle of Meeting for Worship?
  • If you do – what books and who chooses them?
  • Have you worshipped outside?

All of these questions and more are being asked by Peter Duckworth who is coming to the end of a two year Equipping For Ministry (EFM) Course at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre. During the course he has developed an interest in the motivations for use of flowers and books in Meeting for Worship. Many Friends are deeply attached to the practice though it is a relatively recent innovation, one not generally used by American Friends and alien to the practice of early Quakers.

As part of his EFM Project, Peter was prompted to find out more about how widespread the practice is and what the experience and understanding of Friends might be. He has developed a short ‘flowers in meeting survey‘ which he asks for Friends to complete – it won’t take long and each answer helps to give a fuller picture.

My current meeting meets in rented accommodation and doesn’t tend to have flowers; many people don’t have a garden to plunder or come by bike. I haven’t noticed any difference in how I settle or worship without flowers – but do enjoy them when they appear.

ACAT Annual Conference 2016

Responsibility, Impact & Stewardship

This year’s ACAT conference was held Saturday October 15th at Woburn House Conference Centre, London.

Money & Monks, Markets & Monasteries

Our opening address was Br Dr Anthony Purvis, Prior of St Michael’s Priory, Willen, Milton Keynes talking about the relationship between Thomas Merton and Dom James Fox the Abbot of the Abbey of Gethsemani. Stressed at some times as they had very different priorities, while also sharing many similarities – as they joined the same order and lived together for many years.

“What does it mean to live in a world based on money, when you have taken a vow of poverty?”

We were assured that to live in a religious house is not to run away from the world’s problems, but instead to face them in a smaller community. A priory is a place with budget deficits, financial difficulties, problems with contract law etc. It can be hard to deal with such things in association with people only wanting to concentrate on theology.

We must learn to live together or we fail each other. We learn from those we don’t leave.

Money Management

Thomas Merton is often seen as a prophetic voice speaking from the wilderness loved the simplicity of the life he signed up for – sleeping ten to a dorm on straw mattresses, hand cultivating the land, eating very frugally. But he also made a great deal of money for the community – by writing a best seller.

Any money that came in was carefully managed by James Fox (a graduate of the Harvard Business School) to improve the fabric of the building, to mechanise the farming and increase production and to create mail order businesses – diversifying and increasing income streams. Good business sense that enable the religious work to continue and grow – by the time of Thomas Merton’s death new buildings were needed to hold all the incoming monks.

Two very different viewpoints and priorities, but the two were also brothers in spirit. When James Fox became the Abbot he insisted that Thomas Merton heard his confessions and when dying, asked to be buried next to Thomas Merton.

This was an inspiring set of thoughts and several on our table said we were going to do more reading – It reminded me of the Parker J Palmer passage in Qf&P 10.19

In a true community we will not choose our companions, for our choices are so often limited by self-serving motives. Instead, our companions will be given to us by grace. Often they will be persons who will upset our settled view of self and world. In fact, we might define true community as the place where the person you least want to live with always lives!

Parker J Palmer, 1977

Workshops, Advice & AGM

This year’s conference format included a brisk AGM, plus several workshops – separated into large or small church streams.

From the chat around our table and others both streams were well done, with interesting presenters, thoughtful answers and useful tips.

There was advice on employment, financial matters, information about Churches impacting on the community and the setting up of the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union, low cost property loans for churches, information on applying for grants – from a list available on parishresources.org.uk or through your local authority community fund, plus stewardship and the raising of funds.

I’ve come away with several pages of notes, some items to do research on and a pack of material to sort through over the next few days. A truly worthwhile day – recommended to any other Treasurer or Trustee concerned with financial management.

QBC’16 – Embodying Equality in Business – Why? & How?

QBC’16 – Embodying Equality in Business – Why? & How?

The ‘Why’ inspires change and the ‘How’ empowers change

Wednesday, 9th November 2016
Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ

9:30am to 10:00am Registration and Networking.
10:00am Meeting for Worship (for ten minutes).
4:30pm Close.

The heartfelt purpose is for those attending the conference to leave with their own personal intent to embody equality in their organisations at a deeper, more profound human level. The participants will leave feeling and knowing the difference these ideas will make for their staff, their customers and for the wider community.

The day will be grounded in Quaker Advice and Queries 22:
“Respect the wide diversity among us in our lives and relationships. Refrain from making prejudiced judgements about the life journeys of others. Do you foster the spirit of mutual understanding and forgiveness which our discipleship asks of us? Remember that each one of us is unique, precious, a child of God”

There will be speakers and creative activities during the day; and the flow of our four speakers for the day is:-

  • Gender Equality
  • Sexual Orientation Equality
  • Racial Equality
  • Religious Equality

Satish Kumar, internationally renowned speaker on ecological and spiritual issues will be speaking on Embodying Religious Equality in Business.

Michael Lassman, who has over 30 years’ experience following an equality and diversity agenda, speaking on Embodying Gender Equality in Business. Michael set up Equality Edge at the end of 2006 as a vehicle to deliver innovative workshops, one-to-one or small group coaching and public speaking services. He is speaking at the 2016 Global Equality and Diversity Conference.

You can find the full programme here.

Looks like a full day of inspiration and challenge – I’ve put that in my diary and hope to see you there.

Radical Spirituality

Microcosm_of_London_Plate_064_-_Quakers'_Meeting_(tone)

Lancaster University are running a free on line course exploring how/why Quakers formed and grew into the radical group they are today.

” Together, we will explore the beginnings of Quakerism and this critical piece of religious history of a group who gathered around a radical and outspoken spiritual message that was to change the face of 1650s England, and has since remained a distinctive part of the religious landscape.”

Click here to join now – it starts October 3rd.

I’m looking forward to it!

Pension advice for small charities

2015 05 01 Clerks Reference booksPension Advice

There was a time when the only reference books found in a meeting house were similar to those seen at the Clerks’ table at Yearly Meeting. Over the years, as many Area Meetings have registered as charities, this has changed and now legal advice is as necessary as spiritual. While pensions are mentioned in the bible, it doesn’t qualify as helpful advice.

At the Managing Meeting Houses course last month there were several anxious questions about pensions.

  1. Do they apply to all employees?
  2. Do we have to set one up for our volunteer wardens?
  3. What about ‘flexible’ employees with limited contracts – often known as zero-hour contracts?

Obviously, I’d recommend seeking professional advice if you have any concerns. The guidance given here is a summary of what I’ve found useful, and supplied to my clients on request.

  1. Yes – every employer with at least one eligible member of staff must enrol them onto a workplace pension scheme, and then contribute towards it.
  2. Volunteer wardens aren’t employees and so don’t qualify for auto enrolment. You aren’t able (as a meeting) to contribute into a pension for them as this is seen as payment in kind. That creates problems for their employment status. From the very helpful gov.uk website: Workers employed and paid by the charity for the work they do are eligible for pensions if they:
    • earn more than the current minimum wage
    • are aged between 22 and the state pension age
    • work in the UK

    ‘Workers’ include contractors and agency staff, as well as people working under an apprenticeship. Volunteers and unpaid staff are not eligible.

  3. Contractors who are on zero hour contracts and work in other places may not qualify for pensions. You may need to take legal advice regarding the contracts you use and your employment and recruitment policies.

The Charity Finance Group (CFG) has produced a useful guide to pensions – downloadable from that link. The publication hopes to provide some guidance for the 22,000+ charities, each with less than 25 members of staff, who are due to be auto-enrolling their staff between 1st January 2016 and 1st April 2017.

The guide is easy to read with advice on how to prepare, implement, and build the necessary processes. It urges you to plan early and budget for additional costs created by auto-enrolment.

Fire Drills During Meeting for Worship

2013 07 15 fire truck 2Fire!

Fire Alarms and the necessary Fire equipment and signage are all an important part of any building’s safety plan – and we always hope they won’t be needed. However, if the worst happened – would your meeting know how to respond?

Mount Street, Manchester recently held a fire drill during Meeting for Worship. Although there were several mishaps, and originally many people were upset, by the end they had learnt so much it was decided this should be done again.

Have your Premises and Elders sat down to work out an evacuation plan? Appointed marshals to ensure the building is empty, count everyone out and to ring the Fire Brigade?

Consideration of where to meet – and when to reunite children and parents are two important issues.

Are there any people who need special consideration?

  • Is anyone hard of hearing who wouldn’t hear the alarm for example?
  • Is there anyone who would need help in getting out of the building for any reason?
  • Does your Children’s Meeting meet in a different part of the building? If so do the helpers know where to go and have enough people to ensure everyone can leave safely?

We’re not alone in needing to do this – Ship of Fools has a thread about other churches who have done drills during services. One suggestion was to hold the drill at the end of the services so everyone was still there but the evacuation practice was done. Another was to do it at different times of the month to cover any changes to routine.

Reminding us that this risk is real one post commented that there was a priest who started each Sunday service with information about fire exits as their previous church had burned down.

  • Have you ever held a fire drill during Meeting for Worship?
  • Would you consider it? If not – why not?

Managing Meeting Houses Conference 2016

2011 01 Front of building

Managing Meeting Houses

Managing meeting houses can be a lonely job – it is easy to feel that you are alone in dealing with matters. It is equally important to ensure that you don’t spend time re-inventing the wheel.

This annual conference organised jointly by Quaker Life and Woodbrooke is a great chance for new wardens, trustees and premises committee members to learn about their new role. But there is always enough sharing of good practice, tips and tricks for a more experienced person to take away too.

Sessions ranged from those essential nuts and bolts of Employment and Health & Safety to more inspirational – what is special about your Meeting House? We considered them as a place of worship, as part of the local community and as a venue for customers.

Employment Matters

Pensions – especially for smaller meetings with only one worker, or many part time workers were discussed. Friends House recommends The People’s Pension which several participants said had worked well, but we were also encouraged to apply earlier rather than later. There is a worry that these suppliers will fill their quotas of small charities and some meetings may miss out.

Employment – especially ways to decide if someone is actually employed or truly self-employed was a perennial favourite. I’ve discussed this before here – and my favourite definition is from another of these conferences in regards to wardens.

“If your meeting could arrive Sunday morning to find the building locked up tight with a note pinned to the door saying, “I’ve gone to Peru.” And deal with this without any real hassle – then your warden is a volunteer…

If your meeting couldn’t cope then it is more likely that your warden should be an employee.”

The importance of all meeting houses being properly organised – with back up for wardens and resident friends was mentioned several times. Ensuring there are contingency plans in case of sickness and to cover regular days off were both stressed as necessary to prevent burn out and stress.

Laughter greeted the suggestion that members of Premises and Trustees should do any job they were asking someone else to do – to have a more complete idea of the specification they should give as well as some idea of how long the job should take. Several attendees gave examples of how doing this changed their time expectations, and their appreciation for how quickly (and well) a professional can do a job!

Employers’ resources and support

The transfer and rewrite of the new Employers’ & Wardens resources and support pages from the old quaker.org site to the new has been completed. There are newly updated template documents and of course more guidance can be found both here and in chapter 13 of Quaker Faith & Practice.

As always it was a pleasure to stay at Woodbrooke. I made sure to get outside into the gardens, to walk the labyrinth and enjoy catching up with old friends, as well as meeting new people.

If you’ve not been before – or haven’t been for some time do look out for the next in January 2017.

Reading Quaker faith &Practice Chapter 2: Approaches to God – Worship & Prayer

Qf&P stones Chapter 2 Approaches to God - Worship & PrayerReading Quaker Faith & Practice Chapter 2: Approaches to God – Worship & Prayer

This chapter is one that most Quakers I’ve spoken to have dipped into.

Not surprisingly ‘Quakers and God’ is a continually popular Quaker Quest session.

There are four sections

  • Experience and nature of worship
  • Silent Waiting
  • Prayer
  • Meeting for Worship

and ninety-two passages, quite a lot to read in 31 days, but fourteen which contain the word “LIGHT” so they are in my current Qf&p journal. I reread through my journalling, and worked through the four remaining.

My word for 2016 is BELIEVE – I was interested to see that although BELIEVE appears ten times in Chapter 2, there are only three (2.24, 2.57 & 2.58) that also included LIGHT.

I’m looking forward to pondering and journalling on the remaining seven in this year’s journal.

  • Are you taking part in this reading project?
  • Is your meeting arranging a monthly discussion group?

This post is part of my Reading Quaker Faith & Practice series – click here for the introduction and explanation or here for all posts in this series.

A Living Wage Must Pay Enough To Live On

Living Wage.indd

The Living Wage Campaign

Lancaster Quaker Meeting are tasked to take the lead nationally within the Society of Friends to promote awareness about the payment of The Living Wage.

As part of their work they have produced an information pack, which can be downloaded from their website, which includes the poster above and others.

Pay Compare is an independent, not-for-profit organisation funded entirely by donations, founded by Stuart Hill, a member of Quakers in Business, who works for Pay Compare on a voluntary basis.

This is what Stuart says about it:

‘We invite business leaders and owners to lead the way towards a fairer, better economy by publishing their organisation’s pay ratios at the website www.paycompare.org.uk for everyone to see and compare. In doing so you receive the Pay Compare Mark which can be proudly displayed to show your commitment to pay transparency – a consideration promoted in Q&B’s Good Business Ethics at Work book. Be in the vanguard of organisations who are empowering citizens and investors in this way, including Triodos, TSB, Charity and Unity Trust Banks, numerous social enterprises and charities, and a growing number of local councils and private companies. Those not active in business can take action as Ratio Requesters by simply visiting www.paycompare.org.uk to tweet, email or write to any employer to ask them to publish their pay ratios at Pay Compare. Together, we can help pay ratio reporting become common practice in the UK so that we can all favour those who pay fair.’

  • Does your business, employer or supplier publish its pay ratios?
  • Find out, and if not suggest they do!

Pay Compare is a company limited by guarantee and registered in England as No. 8974596

 

‘Reading Quaker faith & practice’ conference at Woodbrooke

Woodbrooke Conference & Quaker Study centre

All area meetings in Britain have been invited to nominate a Friend to participate in the ‘Reading Quaker faith & practice‘ conference at Woodbrooke, 22nd to 24th April 2016.

The conference will provide an opportunity to:

  • Learn from one another’s experience of participating in the Reading Quaker faith & practice programme so far.
  • Gain ideas and resources for setting up and inspiring groups in meetings.
  • Share reflections and insights emerging from existing groups.
  • Understand more about the origins, purposes and development of the current book.

The conference welcomes participants from all area meetings, including those which have not yet decided to participate in the Reading Quaker faith & practice project.

Every Area meeting is being asked to nominate a Friend or attender who has one or more of these qualities:

  • is involved in an existing Reading Quaker faith & practice group
  • is willing to promote the programme around the area meeting
  • has a concern for spiritual learning in the area
  • will be able to communicate with others about what they have learned

If you would be interested in attending the conference on behalf of your area meeting, please talk to your AM clerk or nominations committee. For more information about the conference contact: qfp@quaker.org.uk

I have found the process of reading from a specific chapter and then discussing it with others (including members of my local meeting) such a benefit this year. Combined with my Qf&p journal it has been both inspiring and challenging.