Tuesday, April 01, 2014

coming ready or not....

Well I've sent off my registration for Yearly Meeting in May, and booked all my travel. All I have to do now is make sure I'm well enough to make going worthwhile. At least I've now got a date for my initial specialist appointment and not only does it not clash, I can see the visiting gynaecologist here rather than travelling down to Whangarei which makes life a bit easier.

This year Yearly Meeting will be somewhat different. It is being held at Curious Cove in the Marlborough Sounds and access is by boat from Picton. It will probably mean that those who do attend will almost all be there for the whole event unlike recent years where there has been a high number of day visitors, and folk who only come for the actual weekend and have to be back at work by Monday. Whether the lure of the setting will encourage enough who don't usually to come to make up for those who can't take that much time off remains to be seen.

There are a couple of issues that look like they'll be coming up that I'm hoping we can make some progress on, outreach and paying Friends for taking on various tasks. Two very thorny issues in this YM. Apart from the part time administrator of QIET we have no-one employed through our YM to do our work, directly or indirectly beyond cleaning some of our Meeting Houses. A couple of Friends at the Quaker Settlement are paid by Earlham College for the work they do to support their Environmental and Cultural Studies programme here but fantastic as that work is, it isn't part of our YM's work. Having grown up within Britain YM which has Friends House full of staff, Woodbrooke, NFPB and many other places with paid posts working at a mixture of local, regional and national level; and having been a Quaker employee on the wardening team at Edinburgh Quaker Meeting House, doing the admin for both FWCC EMES, and the 2005 World Gathering of Young Friends to me paying Friends to do the work needed is not the anathema it is to some here. Yes we are considerably smaller than Britain YM, but we do still try to cover a lot of the same ground if to a lesser extent.

From what Friends in the know have said, it seems to take a YM of about 1,000 members to support a full time administrator (although there are notable exceptions of much smaller YMs funding one). We have about half that number, so a part-time person could well be justified. And if we had someone paid then we could do more outreach which could well boost out numbers... but then there are those who throw their hands up in horror at the idea of outreach, usually those who are refugees from the more evangelistic churches. But as one of the main messages of the World Conference of Friends 2012 in Kenya points out, now is not the time to be hiding our light under a bushel - we need to stand up and be counted, be open about what we are doing and why in order to give hope to others as well as promote our own causes. We can't be spotted by our Quaker bonnets and refusing hat honour any more, we need to be visible in other ways. The open publicity around Quaker support for same sex marriages in Britain is a great example of this. We have a same sex couple as our YM co-clerks, and what did we manage when the same legislation came up here? As far as I can figure out an article in their local newspaper and not much else!

So, we are being asked in our Documents in Advance if we agree to paying someone to produce and distribute next years Docs in Advance rather than that task falling on the shoulders of the YM Clerks. Baby steps indeed, and a far cry from what could be done.... also rumbling around (still...) is the concept of getting at least some of our national newsletter (of which I'm now on the editorial team) on our website  - as yet we seem to be fighting a losing battle (not a very Quakerly analogy I realise!) to get this out in the public domain, not hidden away in some corner where only current Kiwi Quakers can log in to read it. Being able to link articles via social media such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc would vastly raise our profile. Our MM Outreach Committee is similarly wanting to have an outreach focused public web presence, but we keep getting stuck in the same bog - it is hardly outreach if you have to be a member and log on to see it! And no, a discrete link at the bottom of the home page for local events wasn't quite what we had in mind either... File under 'work in progress'.

As someone who has blogged for years, has a Flickr account and uses Facebook daily as well as worked on  and used various Quaker websites over the years I'm not exactly shy when it comes to having an online presence. However the majority of Friends who attend YM are of a generation less used to such and this is I think where much of the problem lies. They say they want to reach out to those who automatically use Google to find out what they want to know, but then get very agitated about putting personal information (including names in articles etc) online. Currently the newsletter team is trying to figure out what response we can give to go in White Papers to try to move the issue forward ready for YM, maybe this year we'll finally get somewhere, after all it has been talked about for years now!

As someone with distinct Luddite tendencies when it comes to technology (I blame my Yorkshire upbringing!) it seems somewhat ironic that I'm amongst those trying to drag our YM into the C21st, but probably it is better me wanting to link to articles on Facebook and here on my blog, rather than someone +20yrs my junior pushing for smartphone apps and a Twitter feed - back to those baby steps again. Hopefully it will all come to pass eventually, whether certain Friends are ready or not. But given how slow Quaker process takes I don't think there is much chance of us ever being up there with cutting edge technology!

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