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?

Quaker A-Z: S is for Safeguarding

2011 08 07 worshipping group & cathedral 2

 A&Q 18 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.

S is for Safeguarding

Safeguarding is the protection of children and adults from harm. It is often seen as only applying to children, and yet abuse can affect anyone no matter their age, so safeguarding guidelines apply also to vulnerable adults.

It is often seen as only applying to sexual relationships, however, abuse can happen within other relationships too.

Fundamentally, harassment and abuse is a serious misuse of power and authority, committed by a dominant partner in an unequal relationship. Power is a fact of life, it is present in every relationship and situation, it is how that power is used that causes problems.

Area Meeting Trustees have a responsibility to adopt a Safeguarding policy and to see that all AM activities abide by it.  This includes all local meeting activities and any Quaker residential events.  Premises committees need to consider how to remind Friends of the policy. A local meeting can choose to create and adopt a more stringent safeguarding policy if they feel it necessary.

However any other non Quaker groups who are hiring the building do not need to be aware of, or to follow the AM Safeguarding policy. Instead they must have their own policy and ensure that they follow any other laws or regulations. Premises should ensure that the group know that it is their responsibility to do this and to ensure that they know it is not Premises’s responsibility to critique the policy or to ensure that it is abided by.

I suggest my clients put the following clause, or something simialr into their terms and conditions:

The Hirer must ensure that all necessary Child Protection checks have been undertaken before the Hire Period commences. (Name) Meeting cannot accept any responsibility for a failure to comply with this legal requirement. Children must be supervised at all times.

Quaker Resources

National resources

  • Churches Agency for Safeguarding (CAS) is the national body that provides Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) criminal records application service and safer recruitment training, information and advice.
  • NSPCC has useful resources including research and fact sheets
  • Elder Abuse has resources specifically aimed against the
  • Mencap has resources for people with learning difficulties.

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

Quaker A-Z: O is for Openness

2009 08 30 open signThis post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

O is for Openness

Qf&P 20.20 For a Quaker, religion is not an external activity, concerning a special ‘holy’ part of the self. It is an openness to the world in the here and now with the whole of the self. If this is not simply a pious commonplace, it must take into account the whole of our humanity: our attitudes to other human beings in our most intimate as well as social and political relationships. It must also take account of our life in the world around us, the way we live, the way we treat animals and the environment. In short, to put it in traditional language, there is no part of ourselves and of our relationships where God is not present.

Harvey Gillman, 1988

Openness is therefore also something that should be included in the way our buildings are used by both Quakers and the other hiring groups.

It is hard to move beyond our own unconscious processes and inherent biases. This is one of the most complicated issue – and often over looked. How can we ensure that the way we allow our buildings to be used and the relationships these usage create reflect our Quaker way rather than just a business matter.

How can we find ways not only to be willing to work with those in our local communities but also to welcome them – to live out our openness.

Qf&P 13.32 We appear to offer our facilities, but in fact we offer our love’

This is easy to say but can be tricky to do!

One simple step to demonstrate our openness – is the use of a publicly available lettings policy. Such a policy can be a way of ensuring that those coming to look at or use our building can see and assure themselves, that our decision to hire or not is not based on personal biases but on our overarching concerns and testimonies. It is also a good way of giving us a frame work of reference to work from when a enquiry comes in and there is a concern about the appropriateness of the hire.

Good Business: Ethics at Work: When we realise that everything we have comes to us as a gift from God, we understand that we are all stewards accountable for our use of time, people, money and all natural resources. In each situation a good steward seeks the right balance between prudence and adventure; conservatism and creation; leading and serving; stimulation and supporting. Good business is the way we serve the social and economic community.

Friends House has their letting policy available on their website, so does Bridgend, Ealing, St Albans and others – search for ‘Quaker meeting house lettings policy’ to find more.

  • How does your meeting show and practice openness to the wider community around you?
  • Do you have a lettings or room hiring policy?
  • Is it publicly available?

You can find more information on this topic in: H is for Hirers and Hospitality.

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

Quaker A-Z: K is for Knowledge & Know-how

Knowledge Sharing by Ewa Rozkosz

Knowledge Sharing by Ewa Rozkosz

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

K is for Knowledge & Know-how

“Learning the Knowledge” or the 25000 streets in central London that a taxi driver must be able to recognise to gain their license has been shown to result in a visibly bigger hippocampus. Whilst the learning curve isn’t quite as steep, any new clerk or member of a committee can feel lost and rather daunted at what they need to learn.

In the same way that most people are happy to just take the taxi, or to listen to their sat navs rather than navigate on their own, much of what is needed is not to memorise but rather to know where to get that information.

This is similar to what I talked about in the last post – joining the dots where knowing what each committee does and is doing can result in less duplication of work.

People who use the meeting house don’t need the technical or background information about the heating system or fire alarm they just need to know how to adjust the temperature in the room they are in and how to turn off the alarm when it is set off by mistake.

Most people have experienced a frustratingly laid out website or a manual which lacks good indexing or a table of contents.

  • Have you thought about what sort of information each group of people using the building may need and where they might look for it?
  • Have you ever thought about how to ensure a smooth transition from one committee member to another?

I talk about generic email addresses and file sharing as ways of ensuring information isn’t lost, but people need to know it exists in the first place. Examples of ways you might share that know-how include:

On your website

  • Information about Quakers including links to other resources
  • Room names, sizes in square metres as well as appropriate group size, photos of various set ups.
  • Downloadable copies of information leaflets, including times of Meeting for Worship, room booking procedures and policies.
  • Clearly labelled email and telephone numbers for each person listed.

For hirers

  • Practical guide to using the meeting house
  • Weekly or monthly calendars showing when there are rooms available
  • Information on other groups using the building

For members and attenders

  • A-Z of how the meeting house works (a summary of the fuller operations manual)
  • Committee role and other job descriptions (salary and other information removed where necessary)

What other information have you found useful to have available to hand to new committee members or others?

 

 

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

Quaker A-Z: J is for Joining the Dots

alphabet-dot-dot-the-alphabetThis post is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project – click here for more information.

J is for Joining the Dots

In the last post I talked about how so many of the jobs done both in the meeting house and across the country in each meeting house have similarities. Each meeting will have their own dots of committees and individuals to be connected to others within the meeting, the wider area meeting and the surrounding community.

Each committee can feel isolated from the others – Elders and Overseers often work together, as do Finance and Property but, what about the others?

  • How can each committee ensure that information flows freely from one to another?
  • How can we ensure that these dots of interest and responsibility are joined to ensure everyone knows what is happening?

There will be good practice in one area, several job descriptions being created in another and yet another innovation being tried out in yet another…

  • How can we ensure that not all of these individual meetings and committees aren’t duplicating effort with each attempting to reinvent the wheel?

Within the meeting or area meeting is probably the easiest place to start communicating – here are some ideas I’ve gathered on how others do this:

  • A noticeboard with items of interest for each committee (including photos and explanation of what that committee does)
  • Premises space or noticeboard with a place to put comments or concerns (rather than disturbing the convener before meeting)
  • Premises/Wardens paragraph in the monthly newsletter, or sent out to everyone interested directly ‘Wardens’ Waffle’.
  • Reports and (where appropriate) summary of business/minutes read during notices after meeting, rather than just during business meeting to ensure a wider audience. Often adding in an explanation of what that committee does and asking each member of the committee to stand up.
  • Regular meetings of all AM Premises elders/overseers/clerks/conveners/treasurers to ensure good practice and ideas are shared and for support.
  • Away days where deeper thinking can be done by Trustees rather than just a rushed meeting.

As my time at Muswell Hill came to an end a Threshing Meeting was held. At the end of the full day several people commented that they now knew more about how the meeting worked as a community, they therefore felt more involved and able to offer help than they did previously. Perhaps a similar day on ‘how does our worshipping community work?’ would be useful in your meeting?

  • In what ways do you ensure that the various committees talk to each other locally and further afield?

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.