#AdventWord 2019: 21 Rest

2011 06 11 Genevieve sleeping at Sci Fi Exhibition

Every stage of our lives offers fresh opportunities. Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt. Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.

Qf&p Advices & Queries 28

Like many people, today’s #AdventWord feels appropriate. I finished client work yesterday and am now in full swing Christmas preparation. Today has been full of shopping, list-making and completing to-dos, and looking at the number of people in the various shops and places it’s a popular choice for this weekend.

But it’s important to ensure that rest happens too. With that in mind, I’ve ensured that there are empty days booked in over the next couple of weeks. Everyone needs to discover what is restful for them and accept that others may not share in that past time.

As we go into the new year I’m looking forward to taking up some responsibilities and relinquishing others. Guaranteeing that there is space in my life to listening for that divine guidance and being ready to respond.

#AdventWord 2019: 19 Bless

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By occupation he was a barber, and on moving into this district in 1937 from Swindon, he first took a shop in Wallington, and later one in a poor part of Croydon. Not all who went there did so for a shave or a haircut, but to enjoy its friendly atmosphere, and to talk to Percy. ‘I am sure,’ said a friend of his, ‘that as Percy rubbed oil into a customer’s hair, he blessed him.’ This would have been natural, since he desired all his actions to be sacramental.

part of Qf&P 23.59

Looking at your place of work – whether it is an office or a building that is open to the general public – how can you use the building to offer a blessing to those who come to it and help them to find what they seek?

Make the building and surrounds welcoming to people as they enter, giving them a clean and attractive space to work or to hire. Decide on a level of maintenance that is sustainable and affordable. Ask for feedback from hirers and users about the building. Ask yourself does it feel peaceful? Meeting Houses I’ve visited are often referred to as an oasis amid busy surroundings.

Have you ensured the building is as accessible as reasonably possible? Are your policies and procedures simple and transparent, so that you can be certain that everyone is treated equally?

When things go wrong and those policies and procedures have failed or need adjusting, do you have ways of dealing with the fall out in an equitable and calm fashion? Like all policies and procedures, a grievance policy is much better created when things are going well than from the middle of chaos.

These may seem like odd blessings – but the future managers, trustees, employees, and volunteers will thankful for those steps taken to make life easier in their now. Being able to work through problems, feeling supported and without the ‘blame culture’ so often found in other organisations is indeed a blessing.

Guaranteeing a fair and unbiased mediation where needed, to help restore and reconcile relationships, supporting firm boundaries where necessary are all part of making the building a healthy place to work. Finding ways to live out your values and demonstrate them to those you interact with can be tricky but is an important part of living a sacramental life, blessing those around you.

#AdventWord 2019: 16 Learn

Colourful pencilsharpenings and post-its

Much of the work of meetings for church affairs and committees will be undertaken by Friends especially appointed by the meeting or committee responsible for the work, most often on the recommendation of a nominations committee. The process of appointment starts when the meeting identifies the need for a task to be performed. It is good practice for a meeting to have a clear view of the tasks that need to be accomplished on its behalf and to fix the length of service required so that both the meeting and the Friend appointed understand the commitment.

Many of our gifts are latent. A particular appointment may enable one Friend to exercise unsuspected abilities. Other Friends may find themselves overburdened by being appointed to service beyond their capacity and experience. It requires great discernment to know the right moment to ask a particular Friend to undertake or lay down a particular task.

<snip>

Quaker Faith & Practice 3.23 paragraphs 1 & 2

Today’s #AdventWord Learn made me muse about where and how I’ve collected the knowledge I have over the last twenty odd years of being involved with running meetings and meeting houses.

Ensuring that all those working within a meeting or other charity, either volunteers or employed have a chance to learn and grow in their roles is important. It also enriches the entire community and gives a chance for those latent gifts to be discovered and developed.

Clear understanding of the work that needs to be done, well written and comprehensive role or job descriptions are invaluable and the promise that support and further training is available ensures that people can offer service without concern.

Woodbrooke offers training for many Quaker roles, as well as spiritual development. Other professional training may be helpful or necessary. A wider pool of people can be found by looking locally for others groups to combine with.

In addition to more formal or required training, the opportunity to get together with others in similar roles is helpful. I’ve written about this in more detail in this post: K is for Knowledge & Knowhow. The importance of ensuring that people are supported while doing roles/jobs is written about here: Z is for Zen. Finally – the one bit of training that all meeting houses need to look into is around catering and kitchens, Quaker meetings are considered food businesses – I’ve written more about it here: K is for Kitchens.

#AdventWord 2019: 15 Turn

a photo of a tube labyrinth
Part of a series of art throughout London Underground

Every stage of our lives offers fresh opportunities. Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt. Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.

Advices & Queries 28

Turn – to change direction, or to hand over power or responsibility. Of course you can combine the two, deciding you need to change direction and to do so you need to hand over responsibilities or power. Alternatively you can discover that you now have new responsibilities and have to change direction to suit. I’m often called in when a charity has run into a problem and needs someone to untangle the systems or paperwork ready to hand on to the next volunteer.

Handing on of power regularly is of course the reason for the triennial appointment system, knowing that you are the clerk/treasurer/elder/overseer now but in a few years you’ll be something else. It also means that those coming into the system can see the testimony to equality being lived out, or where there are difficulties in handing on power – either because someone doesn’t want to relinquish or accept what is offered.

  • How do you ensure that all of your systems and procedures support the smooth handing on of power and responsibilities?

#AdventWord 2019: 14 Gather

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“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” – Mother Teresa

Gather is today’s #AdventWord – my first thought was of gathering in resources including money. I joke that my hobby is getting non-Quaker money into Quaker pockets – pointing out that there are more non-Quakers than Quakers by far. This makes some people uncomfortable, yet the work that it is supporting is Quaker work – if we are offering a fair service in exchange there isn’t a problem, and in my experience people are glad to use Quaker buildings knowing our reputation.

Recently I wrote an end-of-year feedback questionnaire for a client and included in the list of various ‘reasons you like using our building’ the answer, ‘knowing it supports Quaker work’. There was a clear majority of responses who chose this as an option.

On another occasion I had an enquiry from someone who wanted to hire a room in a local meeting house because they’d attended a conference at Friends House Euston and been so impressed with the various posters explaining Quaker values and work. They wanted to use their local meeting house to support that work as well.

Over the last thirty years I have an innumerable conversations with people using a Quaker building and expressing admiration for our fairness, transparency and willingness to share our buildings. I’ve also had some that feel that our testimony to equality shouldn’t include people they don’t like, or should include special treatment for them. All of which have given me the chance to consider and practice my own testimonies, while gathering in resources to support central or local Quaker work.

#AdventWord 2019: 13 Water

2014 09 25 waterfall

Today’s #AdventWord water has such symbolism and power. Over 70% of earth’s surface is covered in water, and all living organisms need water to live.

Water can be seen both positively or negatively: washing clean or depositing detritus as it slows; creating landscapes or weathering/destroying as it moves; supporting you as you float or dragging you down in a fast moving current. Whilst I usually love fountains, I was less pleased to see fountaining toilets in the basement of Muswell Hill after a heavy rain.

Buildings and their surrounding landscape can help reduce their water usage through, either by retrofitting aerators to taps, installing water butts outside etc. or during design and building/remodeling.

Careful paving choices, considering the surrounding area along with the creations of ponds or dry gardens depending on the environment also help.

Opened in 2014 Kingston Quaker Centre was built with sustainability in mind. It harvests rainwater from the roof – where water is directed to harvesting tanks which feed some of the toilet cisterns and is used in the garden, as well as dropping directly into planted areas. There is a monitor in the Library which shows statistics for energy usage and water saved by rainwater harvesting as well as the current status of the heating, cooling and ventilation systems.

Muswell Hill linked not only waterbutts to downpipes but also diverted one into a pond to ensure it remained topped up.

Taking care of water usage is just one part of the overall sustainability plan, but it is an important part. What are you doing in your local community to help take care of your water?

#AdventWord 2019: 11 Confess

Confess by Dagny Mol on Flickr

Confess makes me think of admitting that you’ve done something wrong, or perhaps something you’re uncertain about.

I liked this idea of public confession – but mainly because it means that people are examining their lives. Of course the other part is that by reading what others have confessed someone may realise it isn’t just them, which can be good to discover.

The end of the year is a good time for such examinations. Taking the time to have a look through what has happened this year, what goals and aspirations you started with back in January and where you are now.

You can’t confess if you never look back or acknowledge where you may have made mistakes. It makes you vulnerable, open to being hurt or rejected – but these are good things. Quaker Faith & Practice Advice & Queries 17 reminds us that we should “Think it possible that you may be mistaken”. Brene Brown researches shame and advocates being vulnerable as a way to remain healthy.

#AdventWord 2019: 8 Worthy

worth title

Today’s #AdventWord comes on a Sabbath – a time of rest. Although as I opened up for Meeting for Worship, set up the chairs, took in the coffee and milk for the refreshments, did the washing up and am writing this post now… I’ve not managed to keep the day as purely for rest and contemplation. Yet, they were jobs that I felt needed doing – I decided they are ‘worth’ trading some of my free time. Deciding what is and isn’t worthy can be tricky.

There is, it sometimes seems, an excess of religious and social busyness these days, a round of committees and conferences and journeyings, of which the cost in ‘peaceable wisdom’ is not sufficiently counted. Sometimes we appear overmuch to count as merit our participation in these things… At least we ought to make sure that we sacrifice our leisure for something worthy. True leisureliness is a beautiful thing and may not lightly be given away. Indeed, it is one of the outstanding and most wonderful features of the life of Christ that, with all his work in preaching and healing and planning for the Kingdom, he leaves behind this sense of leisure, of time in which to pray and meditate, to stand and stare at the cornfields and fishing boats, and to listen to the confidences of neighbours and passers-by…

Most of us need from time to time the experience of something spacious or space-making, when Time ceases to be the enemy, goad-in-hand, and becomes our friend. To read good literature, gaze on natural beauty, to follow cultivated pursuits until our spirits are refreshed and expanded, will not unfit us for the up and doing of life, whether of personal or church affairs. Rather will it help us to separate the essential from the unessential, to know where we are really needed and get a sense of proportion. We shall find ourselves giving the effect of leisure even in the midst of a full and busy life. People do not pour their joys or sorrows into the ears of those with an eye on the clock.

Caroline C Graveson, 1937

Qf&P 21.22

Along with this passage, the last sentence of Advice & Queries 18 reminds us, ‘Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.’ That if we’re not careful we will be too busy doing the urgent, and miss out on doing the essential.

Especially if we are doing a job we love, we need to ensure that we are ensuring there are margins in our schedule and that we don’t burn out. Being able to do that, without feeling guilty that we’re not doing something more ‘worthy’ is essential. It is another part of ensuring our meetings, charities and any other organisation is sustainable.

  • How do you make that judgement about what is worth sacrificing your leisure for?

#AdventWord 2019: 5 Raise

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Perhaps not surprisingly the first topic that today’s #AdventWord Raise inspired was money. Raising money is a continual topic when running a meeting or a building – charitable or not.

At one point the building would have been supported and even built or repaired by the worshipping community. However, for most buildings I’ve visited the building now is maintained by professionals and supported more by other activities – hiring the building out to groups, or through longer-term leases.

One topic I’m often asked to comment on is the level of room hire charges. This is a continual debate and one that doesn’t have any easy answer. Often people will say that they’re happy to be at the cozy and cheap end of the market, while others aspire to be in align with a local office or conference centres. I go into this in more detail in the marketing course, you can read one article about this here: Marketing the next steps.

Another continual topic is how to raise interest in the worshipping community for the various behind the scenes jobs that are essential. Finding ways to ensure that reports and conversations explain what is happening throughout the year. Then for projects that people understand the plans and fully support the people doing the work.

If you are trying to ensure people feel part of the process and are willing to increase their funding there are some simple steps that can have fairly impressive results.

  1. Tell people about the need, people give more for specific topics so perhaps draw out a list of things that might be of interest and work through them. This month talking about raising money to support the local LINK group, next month bursaries for sending people to courses and conferences, then on to the library, hospitality, etc. Having different people speaking to support is always best as there is a personal connection. People often do this for ‘special collections’ for outside organisations but it works to educate the community about its different aspects.
  2. Ask – give specific targets, create an annual appeal letter and suggest that people review their giving as often a standing order is set up and then forgotten about. If someone isn’t giving by standing order make it easy to complete the form – including gift aid if applicable and offer help if needed.
  3. Share the knowledge and responsibility, consider a finance team rather than just a treasurer. Break the role down into tasks and see if simplifying systems can remove some of the tasks. For example, no longer having a cash collection removes the need for banking, counting, etc.
  4. Keep reports simple and use illustrations where possible – there are examples in the Quaker A-Z: W Where does the money go? post from a local meeting treasurer who checks the reports against her primary school children. If a target isn’t made tell people – but also celebrate when targets are reached.

How do you raise interest in finance and building management within your community?

#AdventWord 2019: 4 Humble

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String connection workshop activity at Managing our meeting houses conference at Woodbrooke

The Lord has told you, ·human [O man], what is good; he has told you what ·he wants [the Lord requires] from you: to do what is ·right to other people [just], love ·being kind to others [mercy; lovingkindness], and ·live humbly, obeying [walk humbly with] your God.

Micah 6:8 Expanded Bible

Like so many behind the scenes supporting jobs, building management is often seen as a humble purpose, busy with blocked toilets, leaking roofs and cluttered chaos. Yet, it is how this job is done that is the important thing.

From the Micah quote above – ‘to do what is right to other people’, often translated as to act justly. Which can be your own attitude, or how you treat suppliers, contractors, volunteers and others working alongside you to get the work done.

However, this can include much more, such as transparent policies, paying a living wage, being a Fair Trade church.

The second phrase ‘being kind to others’ is also translated as ‘loving to show mercy’. So often being willing to forgive and move forward toward reconciliation can be seen as a weakness, yet being willing to accept others frailties can build a stronger team and community. Of course, there are times when being loving towards someone means making hard decisions, but that can also be done in a transparent and truthful way.

Finally, the third phrase ‘live humbly’ with the idea of walking alongside God brings us to a more spiritual aspect. So often meetings get caught up in agendas and projects, plowing through items to ensure it is all dealt with efficiently. Yet, it is important to leave time for discernment, to work out what is not necessarily easiest or most efficient but what those ‘promptings of love and truth in your hearts’ are leading us towards.

How can we ensure that all aspects of our building and business reflect these three phrases or instructions?