Sunday, February 22, 2015

simply complex

Over the last few weeks I've been compiling and editing Documents in Advance for our Yearly Meeting - 88 pages of contributions from Monthly Meetings, various committees and other bodies we work with/help fund. Basically it is the national Quaker annual report prior to our AGM (Yearly Meeting) which is in May.

It has been an interesting process. As with anything to do with organizing Quakers it has been an exercise akin to herding cats. As a teenager I first heard the joke if you ask 10 Quakers what Quakers believe you'll get a dozen answers and a list of books to read as long as your arm, well I'm thinking there should be a similar one about collecting statistics. Compiling what I still think of as the Tabular Statement but here is simply 'Yearly Meeting Statistics' was enlightening. I had no idea there were so many ways in which to give the information requested in a completely different order from the questions asked, and ways to re-interpret the question to make extracting the desired information a challenge! Then of course there are the occasions when the maths simply doesn't hold water (3+2 does not equal 4, especially when you are counting children!), or people you know exist simply don't appear in the count - do you add them in, knowing they are there, or stick to the numbers you were given even though they don't match reality as you know it to be? Which of these options shows integrity and truthfulness?! How many times do you go back to a Worship Group to query the same piece of information when each new answer just leaves you more confused than you were to start with?! Oh and what actually counts as a Meeting for Worship for Business? I suspect the answer being sought was how many times did you hold Monthly Meeting, but that wasn't the question asked and it was interpreted in several different ways.

Aside from the above complications and some interesting interpretations of deadlines that required a lot of last minute re-formatting of pages (repeatedly...) it has been a privilege to be part of the process. I'm looking forward to the next step of White Pages, which records the responses and questions from Friends and (hopefully!) the answers from the relevant post holders and committees.

I'm anticipating having to answer a few queries myself, even though as secretarial assistant I don't have a report in there myself. Docs in Advance will look a little different this year. It is a little longer than normal this year, partly that is due to some extra material and some lengthier than usual reports, not to mention the fact that everything bar one set of accounts turned up in time (ish...) to make it in rather than having to appear later in White Papers. But partly it is due to using a different typeface - Calibre takes up a little more space than Times New Roman, but it is a much easier font for those with dyslexia to read. And when faced with 88 A4 pages of type to read and make comments on, you don't want to have to battle against the font to make sense of it all.

Also this year it is 'perfect bound' ie with a glued spine rather than stapled. Apparently the cost is much the same, but the process of perfect binding is quicker (just as well as the printer stuffed up and forgot that the date for collection was rather critical!), and at 88 pages it was too thick for their stapling machine anyway. And on top of that (!) rather than a plain coloured card cover it will be a printed colour. We have had this before mind, although when Linley & Claire thought using the Chiefs colours in stripes was a good idea the year YM was being held in the Waikato region there were many comments about the 'German flag' on the cover, and they weren't all complimentary by a long chalk! Instead the 2Es have gone for a 'radical feminist purple' as their swan song as co-clerks. We'll see how well that goes down... But not only is the cover printed in colour rather than just black ink on coloured card, it is going to be matt laminated too. I think I must've been the first person the printers had ever come across who asked if it couldn't be plain instead, even though they were offering laminated for the same price! Quaker simplicity, especially when you're trying to uphold a commitment to reducing reliance on oil based products, can't half be complicated at times. At least it is matt laminating, a glossy cover would've been well beyond the pale.

So whilst I await the next lot of contributions for White Papers I've to design a form to (hopefully...) simplify the collection of statistics for next year. If nothing else they'll get given the same set of boxes to fill in as makes up the table; if it weren't unquakerly to do so though I'd bet you anything they'll still come back completed with multiple interpretations of the questions asked! It's all very well being a religion that attracts those who have a tendency towards questioning conformity, but there are times when it would be nice if we could manage to do everything the same way.

No comments: