C is for Choices and Changes (+ Cleaning)
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.
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?
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