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.
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.