Something old, something new. . .

As I think about the kind of yearly meeting I would like to belong to, I don’t see too many immediate changes. There are many important features of Friends which have been built over the last 350 years which I wouldn’t want to throw away.

For example, the Quaker way of worship is important to me – both the traditional unprogrammed Friends worship where we “wait upon the Lord” in expectant silence, and also the programmed style of worship which includes time for hymns, prayers, a prepared message, or other things which are helpful to the gathered meeting. In my ideal yearly meeting, both kinds of worship would be highly valued and warmly welcomed.

I wouldn’t want to throw away the Quaker way of making decisions, either. Some of our finest moments as a church come when we follow our tradition of doing business in an atmosphere of worship, without taking a vote, and waiting for the Holy Spirit to guide us. The recent controversy in Indiana Yearly Meeting shows how important it is for all of our members to be more educated about Quaker business procedure, and we probably need to clarify some key procedures in Faith and Practice.

Speaking of Faith and Practice, I’m sure we’re going to need a new one. The old Indiana Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice has a long history, and it can serve us well during this time of transition. At a minimum, we’re going to need to change a lot of names and references. But as long as we’re working on it, I think the whole thing needs to be updated and made more useful. In a future post, I plan to make some detailed suggestions for places I think we need to change.

For me, one of the most important reasons for gathering as a yearly meeting is that a larger group can work together on missions and service. I want our new yearly meeting to continue to support Quaker missions and to recruit, empower and support mission workers. Many of the existing Quaker missions deserve our continuing support, but I’d like us to be open to some new ones. And if a mission or organization is not fully supported by all Friends, we need to find ways to “agree to disagree” about controversial missions.

One long-standing complaint about the old Indiana Yearly Meeting is that supporting it financially has become a serious burden for many meetings. The yearly meeting assessment of $150 per member per year often amounts to 10%, 15% or more of a local meeting’s budget. We probably need to go back to zero again and think realistically about how to pay for the things we want our yearly meeting to do. Again, look for a posting on this subject in the future.

Very few yearly meetings have kept up with changes in technology. We like our minute books, our endless paper reports, our newsletters and certificates and evaluations. We also spend a lot of time traveling long distances for face-to-face meetings, and we wait for months to see the printed version of the minutes. While I’m dreaming, I’d like to see a yearly meeting which really takes advantage of technology for publishing documents, staying in touch with each other, better scheduling, more transparent reporting, immediate distribution of minutes, instant sharing of news and alerts, hyperlinked records and things which are taken for granted in other parts of our lives. Wouldn’t it be fun for Quakers to be ahead of the curve now and then?

Let’s identify the “old” things which we value, make careful changes to things which need to be updated, and think creatively about new ideas and technologies which might help us be Quakers in the 21st century!

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Disclaimer

All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.

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