Vibrancy

Update January 19

The start of 2019 marks the beginning of the final year of the “Vibrancy in Meeting” programme. 
It inevitably feels a little unsettling, set against the background of what are undeniably turbulent times. Where should the energies of the programme be focused in these final months?
 
Evaluating the programme
In the last few weeks of 2018 a lot of the Vibrancy team’s efforts centred on the evaluator’s report, which is due to be shared more widely in March once trustees have seen it. It examines the findings at the midway stage of the project. The findings of the programme hope to inform how Quaker meetings around the country are supported in the future; it is right that such efforts are being focused on the ‘Vibrancy experiment’. Thank you to the Friends who input by filling in the online questionnaire and by being interviewed on the phone. 
 
 
A Simplicity testimony?
Frequently we are challenged to keep things simple whilst doing things in right order and with due consideration. I’m afraid it might disappoint the Friend who appealed for reports to be simple, using ‘common- sense English’ as if writing ‘for an elderly aunt’.  The report will have a summary but it will contain much detail, addressing the question “how does having locally-based staff help meetings to thrive as communities, with a vital Quaker ministry, becoming stronger, more connected, more confident, more engaged, and more sustainable?”.
 
What the ‘experiment’ was set up to do wasn’t to discern how Quaker communities can become stronger, more connected, more confident, more engaged, and more sustainable.  However it is part of my work to support these considerations. A simple example of this is to facilitate experiments with teleconferencing technology like “Zoom” and to help Friends find systems that work.  
 
I am encouraged by the reflections by individual meetings and at an area level; by Devon’s decision to institute a review of the functioning of Area Meeting, to appoint a Review and Development Group to consult widely and think radically. The three Area Meetings in the SW, in common with many other Area Meetings in Britain have all experimented with structures in recent years.  It is tempting to look at what works for Friends in other areas and import these ideas. Perhaps we unconsciously seek external Friends who can provide us with a quick solution or affirmation, whether it be around our Quaker structures, or in discernments around property, right ordering, misunderstandings … it is essential to seek help, ideas, and share stories, but we need to remember that we then need to discern what is right for our circumstances, for our community.
 
 
Meeting differently?
Simplifying our structures and some of our arrangements is a different discernment to looking at how we meet for worship and fellowship, and whether we are truly ‘open to all’.
“Different Meetings. Meeting Differently” is a day being hosted by West Somerset in March. It is a chance to look at new ways of Quaker Meeting embracing worship, community, and ministry. It is part of a wider discussion around the essence of a “Quaker Meeting”; of share experiences of Friends that suggest ways for us to widen access to Quaker worship and to start a consideration of what different patterns & experiments might look like.
 
Other threads of work
Supporting coming together to learn, understand and share more, between local meetings and area meetings has been a developing theme of my work. After the successful Devon & Cornwall Gathering in June 18, I allowed other work to rather swamp me, so there are still things to discern on how to carry this forward.  I would love to see a day for attenders later in the year; if any Local Meeting would be willing to host this, we can look to organise it under D&C Arrangements, with Woodbrooke-on-the-Road tutors.  Please get in touch about this and any other ideas you might have.
 
There are already events in the diary and more in planning, not least the Sustainability Gathering in August. We won’t all be able to go to them all; but I hope some Friends from each meeting may be able to take part and bring back things to share.  I can come alongside to help organise an event if you have something in mind.  
 
I am aware of several patterns of small ‘attached meetings’ across the South West: mid-week and worship groups.  My own meeting grew from one of these and I understand the difficulty of supporting the larger proportion of enquirers and attenders who may come. I am visiting the smaller groups over the next few months to gather impressions and to share stories. Worshipping on the platform at Lostwithiel and in a shepherd’s hut in a small village in Devon are highlights of 2018.  I feel immensely blessed and upheld in my role.
 
It is my hope that in the final year of the programme I can be alongside as many of you as possible. 
 
With thanks
 
Pip Harris
 

Facebook page "Vibrancy in Meetings - Quakers in Britain"

How to contact me:

Pip Harris
Local Development Worker (West Somerset, Devon & Cornwall Area Meetings)
Email: piph@quaker.org.uk
Telephone: 020 7663 1163
Mobile: 07422 973 089
I am based at home and work part-time; I can be flexible, working on any day of the week including evenings. I try to use public transport where possible, but will happily travel anywhere aross the South West, using the car as necessary.
 

Background information about the Vibrancy project.