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

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

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 http://quaker.org.uk/qsc 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.

Quaker A-Z: L is for Learning and Lights

Scattered Light at Northern Spark

Jim Campbell’s Scattered Light at Northern Spark at Upper Landing Park in Saint Paul.

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

L is for Learning and Lights

Learning and Light are things Quakers talk about regularly, although perhaps not always in relation to premises.

  • How do you involve other members of the meeting in learning about the meeting house as a building?
  • How do you empower members of the meeting to help in the decision making and running of the building?

As part of my leaving transition preparations, I’m running a workshop on that subject at Muswell Hill on Sunday afternoon. Starting with a treasure hunt – looking for such things as the fuse boards, cleaning cupboard and banners and finishing with a building tour. I have done similar events in the past.

  • Have you ever done a similar event?
  • What were the results?

Woodbrooke and Quaker Life both offer ways of learning about meeting house management and sharing good practice – through courses and regular workshop days such as “Wardens Talking”.

Informal chances to get together with others can be difficult to organise but useful – if only in having the chance to talk to someone who does understand the joys and problems opportunities of living on the job!

If you are able to attend one of these gatherings, I do recommend them. The next two Wardens Talking are in September (London) and November (Lancaster), the cost for the day is only £10 which includes lunch and refreshments. A bargain I assure you!

L is for Light

In 2011 Britain Yearly Meeting agreed to corporately strive to become a low carbon, sustainable community. One of the simplest ways of reducing the meeting house’s carbon footprint it to start to use low energy light bulbs.

LED light bulbs are coming down in price, although compared to compact fluorescents they are still expensive – but use a fraction of the energy and have (or are supposed to have) a much longer lifespan.

Perhaps start by using them in places where it is difficult to change bulbs, and therefore the longer life is a good motivation.

This is something that Bath LQM did, using a sustainability grant from Quaker Peace & Social Witness, as part of their overall restoration plans.

Or use natural sources… Cotterage Meeting House uses solar tubes to bring light to their toilets. Not to mention the Large Meeting House at Friends House with its new skylight.

Don’t forget that if you make changes that reduce your energy consumption and thereby ‘green’ your building, you can use the money saved (comparing utility bills before and after) to invest in new improvements.

Plus you can also use those to make your building more attractive to potential hirers. Friends’ House use the phrase ‘With us events don’t cost the earth’ to stress their green credentials.

  • What ways have you found to help your meeting house live lightly?

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

Quaker A-Z: G is for Garden

2014 02 21 snowdrops 1 This is part of the Quaker Alphabet Project click here for more information.

G is for Gardens

Many Meeting Houses have gardens or burial grounds or both…

QUAKERS BURIAL GROUND

photo by Leo Reynolds

During the Woodbrooke “AM Properties: Spiritual & Strategic Resources” course I attended last year several Trustees brought up burial grounds as a problem.

‘Tis a complicated subject with many variations – so I’m not going to get into the technical legalities of burial grounds and their maintenance.

Nor am I going to attempt to enthuse you about gardening – although it is a passion of mine. Especially in urban areas, outdoor space can be a big draw for hirers of the building, as well as making the building look more inviting.

I mentioned in C is for Choices & Changes that I had told the hirers about Minute 36, what the Meeting hoped to do to reduce its carbon footprint and some practical changes that would be happening.  I also put copies of the minute and other information up on the garden noticeboard – this has guidelines on the garden and its usage.

I was able to talk about how the organic, wild life friendly garden is managed, why the various areas exist and how doing this both improves bio-diversity and reduces our carbon footprint at the same time.

Whilst each group may feel that composting their tea bags and left over biscuits may not be much, they can see that combined with the other groups it does make a difference.  Ensuring that there is a display of what those differences are – for example photos of the apple harvest or pond wildlife can encourage visitors.

Good garden design can make all the difference to the usage and maintenance of the space. Maintenance and some new flowers can also help tremendously.

2013 06 Cotteridge gardenCotteridge Meeting House had their garden designed by a professional gardener Debbie Arrowsmith, who was able to combine a busy Pre-School play area with a quieter meditative space which appears when the play things are all packed away.

Whilst chatting with the gardeners at Friends House, I discovered they have to be careful of the height of plantings – to prevent people using that semblance of privacy for various anti-social behaviours. Instead they’ve redesigned the area to create height and interest in different ways.

Contrasted to another gardening chat with the Warden, where their main vandals were local cattle…

Did you know that there is a Quaker Gardens Project? The Project ran a course at Woodbrooke offering help and advice on using the space to ensure that our Quaker values and testimonies are on show here as well in our buildings. Woodbrooke’s grounds are wonderful – and draw visitors in to their open days who not only enjoy a brief glimpse at this urban oasis but also learn a bit more about Quakers and organic gardening at the same time.

At a Wardens Talking event we discussed ways to use the garden for outreach – such as joining with a local gardening or green group to arrange an open day – especially if there are strong connections with the Meeting already. The group might be able to offer additional people on the day, plus marketing directed at a completely different group.

This sort of joint event could even be arranged in a Meeting House where there isn’t much garden – apple identification, seed swaps etc. are all indoor events.

Horfield Meeting in Bristol managed to convert their rather small and dingy outdoor yard into a space complete with planters and Quaker made tiled mural – a place to stop and admire whilst waiting at the bus stop rather than ignore.

Horfield courtyard

Whilst if you have been blessed with ample green space you could consider using part of it to grow vegetables or fruit, as a memorial area or even create a peace garden [link to peace garden project]. Woodbrooke hold open days which attract many people into the space to enjoy the garden but also to learn a little bit about Quakers too.

  • What have you done to attract people to your outdoor space?
  • Have you considered the usage and maintenance of that space as a way of demonstrating Quaker values?

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

Quaker A-Z F: Fair Trade Churches & First Aid

2012 02 23 1st aid drawer

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

F is for Fair Trade & First Aid

Fair Trade Churches

Fair Trade Fortnight was 24 February – 9 March 2014 this year – did you do anything?

A Meeting House can become a Fair Trade Church – a small but significant step towards a fairer more equitable society.

How? Thankfully that is fairly easy, you may discover you already qualify at least in part.

Your Meeting must agree to the following:

  • Use Fairtrade tea and coffee after Meeting for Worship and in all meetings for which you have responsibility
  • Move forward on using other Fairtrade products such as sugar, biscuits and fruit
  • Promote Fairtrade during Fairtrade Fortnight and during the year through events, worship and other activities whenever possible

The Meeting will get a certificate which you can display in the kitchen. Some meeting houses also have fair trade products available to sell. Others just ensure that the supplies they use are Fair Trade.

The Fairtrade Foundation Churches scheme is supported by Quaker Peace & Social Witness centrally, but each Meeting can join in with the Fair Trade Church campaign.

F is also for First Aid

It isn’t until something happens that it occurs to us to ask… “Is there anyone in the Meeting who has an up to date first aid certificate?” The old question of a doctor needs too much clarification on occasion!

First aid again is another of those not so interesting but necessary items overseen by Premises and building management committees.

One of the useful tips I picked up on a first aid course was to sign and date the accident book when checking the box’s contents. Just to show that you were there – and to prevent anyone from entering an accident that you weren’t aware of.

Did you know there isn’t any legislation saying what you should have in a first aid box – although the HSE do supply guidance free to download. Note: you shouldn’t have tablets or medications in there or be giving them out.

  • Is there a first aid box in the meeting house?
  • When was the last time the contents were checked?
  • If you hire space to other organizations do they use your first aid kit?
  • Do you have any guidance for them or the Meeting on where it is and what to do if there is an accident?

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

Quaker A-Z: C is for Choices and Changes

Cleaning Cycle

Photo by Garry Knight from Flickr.

C is for Choices and Changes (+ Cleaning)

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

Perhaps not a very interesting title but have you ever thought of the Meetings Choices, Changes and Cleaning as a form of Outreach?

Why Have a Meeting House?

Wherever a few are gathered, in whatever premises, Quakers can hold a meeting for worship; and Friends individually or in small groups can pursue their concerns with success. However, many of us find that the presence and effectiveness of the group is extended immeasurably by having its own meeting house. Sooner or later the meeting will want its premises to serve such needs as these:

  • As a place for the local Meeting for Worship,
  • As a place for Area Meeting,
  • As a physical Quaker presence in the neighbourhood,
  • As a centre for outreach,
  • As a place to call others to Quaker concerns.

A house-group can fulfil only the first of these, no matter how effective the group is as a meeting for worship. A hired room may serve the next one as well, but cannot extend its facilities beyond that. The fact of owning its own premises will enable the meeting to do all these things, at times and in ways of its own choosing. However ownership necessitates the acceptance of responsibilities. If we are to be seen as an enlivening presence in our community we must take up these responsibilities seriously, so that we speak not only through our lives, but through our buildings too.

(Handbook on the Care of Meeting Houses 001.4)

– there so many things that Meetings and Premises committees do because they are good or necessary things to do. But have you ever thought to ensure, that where the Meeting is doing something because it feels led to do so, or is joining with other Quaker groups to support something, that other people know that you are doing them for those reasons?

One example is that usage baseline that Meeting for Sufferings asked each Meeting to calculate after Yearly Meeting at Canterbury. As a warden I sent out a brief email to each user telling them of the practical changes (recycling in the main lobby etc.) that would be happening and asking them to join in with them.

We also weighed all of the landfill, recycling and compostable material leaving the building for several weeks to get an average. This had an unexpected side affect – our main hirer was so appalled at how much was being thrown away by their group, that they altered their policy not only at our building but at their other sites.

Twin Toilet

Photo by Amanda Slater from Flickr

This is somewhere that we can learn from larger Quaker building management – I was tickled whilst on a course to discover that Woodbrooke have twinned their toilets, a talking point and a way to express Quaker values in a fairly subtle way.

Friends House list their values and use a tagline ‘holding an event here won’t cost the earth‘ as part of their reasoning as to why you should hold an event there.

These values are visible enough in the Quaker Centre that they were commented on during a meeting I held there. As the only Quaker – I answered questions which led on to a discussion of the Canterbury Commitment and general Sustainability.

  • Does your meeting only use environmentally safe cleaning materials?
  • Have you made specific choices about how you run your building/garden, hold and organise events or who you collect money for?

Any of these can be a reflection of our beliefs and values that could be shared with others in a non-boastful way.

This sort of outreach is aimed at educating people to what Quakers find important and about the values that we corporately share. To repeat the quote above

“As a place to call others to Quaker concerns… If we are to be seen as an enlivening presence in our community we must take up these responsibilities seriously, so that we speak not only through our lives, but through our buildings too.”

Specifically things we do because we are Quaker rather than just moderately-nice-people…

Looking around your Meeting House –

  • What sort of values does your Meeting House reflect and share?
  • Do you have lists of, or information about and Newsletters from the causes supported by collections?
  • What changes could you implement that could help your Meeting House explain its Quaker values more clearly?
  • What does your Meeting do that expresses these values clearly?

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

Affording our Meeting House – Sustainability

563990405fc2130fc312f244476a8ba99ee8d99d2477577b998321d01f0d852c3e41d200Six Weeks Meeting  are the representative Trustee body for the 40 Meeting Houses in London. Last March they wrote a minute about how they would be tackling the 2011 Britain Yearly Meeting corporate decision to become a low carbon community – often called “Minute 36: Our Canterbury commitment

SWM13/23 Six Weeks Meeting Statement on
a Low Carbon Sustainable Community for Quakers in London.

Further to minute SWM 12/44, we have been reminded of Minute 36 of Britain Yearly Meeting 2011.

We, the Trustees of Six Weeks Meeting, wholeheartedly endorse the sentiment contained in this minute. In our role in managing the maintenance and repair of the Quaker Meeting Houses in London, we recognise that the built environment is responsible for around 50% of global CO2 equivalent emissions.

We wish to commit Six Weeks Meeting, on behalf of all the Quakers in London, to significantly reduce the energy consumption of our Meeting Houses over the next few years. This will require us all to re-envision how we use our buildings, and how many we seek to maintain. To this end we wish to draw up a strategic vision and plan of action. The scale of change required will need more financial capital than we currently have available.

This is an opportunity given to us. Change is always challenging. It also offers new opportunities for growth and renewal.

To incentivise and accelerate energy reduction methods they’ve come up with an Energy Saving Fund. This isn’t new money per se – instead the financial savings that accrue during the first five years after each energy-saving-project are then ring-fenced for future re-investment into further energy saving projects.

Sustainability is always a complex subject – it is easiest to look for the ‘green bling’ as I’ve heard it called – the solar panels on the roof and the electric or hybrid car. But as in so many things it is in the small daily actions which will make the biggest difference.

Trent, a frugality blogger explains it re saving money, but the same principle can be used to save energy.

First, there are more opportunities in your life to practice the small stuff. We spend money dozens of times a month – at the grocery store, online, on our bills, and on little incidental things. Each of those is an opportunity to spend less and seek out a greater “bang for the buck.”

The same applies personally – do you leave the water running when you wash dishes, use low energy bulbs, compost your kitchen scraps? These aren’t as glamorous of course but do add up.

Each building no matter its usage will have similar opportunities to save energy – and that is the overall goal. Current UK Government targets talk about reducing today’s levels by 60% over the next decade.

As a result of that Canterbury Commitment, Meeting for Sufferings instructed Quaker Peace & Social Witness to create a baseline of energy usage. Our Meeting completed questionnaires, measured and noted many things. Including – we weighed our rubbish – every bag was hung from a luggage scale and its total duly noted.

We were delighted to discover that we recycled and composted over 50% of our rubbish. We are lucky to have a garden where we can compost and a local authority that collects recycling weekly.

However, I was also delighted to note that the Pre-School who use the lower half of the building were so surprised by how much was being thrown away – that they changed their practices. The staff put a recycling box in the class room and encouraged everyone to use it. Peels and waste food from their healthy snacks are now fed to the worms in the wormery or put into the compost.

Other building wide improvements which will have a daily effect in reducing the amount of energy needed to run the building have been done. We were lucky enough to be able to take advantage of the Muswell Hill Low Carbon Zone and were able to get some building works including cavity wall and loft space insulation funded for us.

Smaller steps included ensuring all light fittings had low energy bulbs (LED would be next and is being considered), noticing that people weren’t using the recycling bins outside and finding places inside to put smaller containers.

608421722d0e0e13120c3ef9c93f6263dd713a6f75daad586ccf5bb1753677ffdd4b1152In the garden we installed water butts, linked where there was space.

Plus we diverted one guttering down spout to feed the garden pond.

The pond acts as a reservoir as well as adding important bio-diversity habitats.

We garden organically, adding plenty of mulch to maintain soil moisture and healthy soils. Plus we consider what we grow – fruit, flowers and vegetables.

Less picturesquely – a new condensing boiler was installed which is programmable – this should reduce the overall gas usage quite considerably. We’re taking monthly readings to ensure we keep a look at how much we use over this rather unusual year.

There is one Meeting House which was determined to lower its energy usage and fuel costs. To do this it has put into their Terms & Conditions that you are to set the room thermostats to 10C at the end of your session. If you don’t – you pay double for that session. I was told it only takes one or two occasions for new hirers to decide it is worth the hassle!

More ideas on how to tackle energy reduction can be found online at http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/

  • What steps have you taken to make your buildings and meetings more sustainable?
  • How have you inspired other groups using the meeting house to get involved in reducing cuts?

Affording our Meeting Houses

2013 06 18 Collection boxThis could be taken two ways – how do we ensure that the Meeting House is affordable for both the local community and the worshipping community that uses it. Not only financially, but also with reference back to an earlier post: Beacon or Burden.

Hopefully, all Quaker Meetings are a spirit-led, all-age faith community trying to create a vibrant worshipping community, based on their testimonies of equality, integrity/truth, peace, simplicity & sustainability. From that there is the expectation that this community should be able to support itself & its activities.

I’ve talked about how you can increase the visibility of and welcome to your building for both potential hirers and visitors. These actions can hopefully increase the numbers of hirers and enquirers who find you.

Now I’m widening this to the more intangible costs – I’ll cover ways of reducing utilities etc. later.

In this post instead I’m going to talk about the costs on the members of the Quaker community that uses the building.

  • How can we find ways to empower all members of the meeting to take responsibility for their meeting?
  • How can we decide each time a decision or suggestion is made if this a good use of our meeting’s energy and time?
  • What is our Meeting’s Ministry and how can we work together to achieve it?

Obviously, I could talk about outsourcing some of the routine tasks – cleaning, gardening, bookkeeping, lettings administration but those are the easy ways to release energy.

Or I could mention that Clerking teams or combined Eldership & Oversight work well for many meetings. There needs to be a balance between keeping the jobs within a small ‘weighty friend’ circle and overburdening a new attender or member.

  • What ways are there for ensuring the work is equally spread between new and more experienced Quakers?
  • What ways are there to experiment with structures and ensure everyone feels able to contribute?
  • What ways have you found in your Meeting to do this?