Tessa Spratt, Victoria Regional Meeting
When Alyssa Nelson visited Australian Friends, her Elder, Cathy Walling, was unable to stay for her full visit and it fell to me to act as Elder for her workshop “Becoming Allies to Youth” in Melbourne. I had not performed this task before, though I am very aware of how Elders during Yearly Meeting assist with the smooth running of business and I had considerable experience of Cathy Walling acting as Elaine Emily’s Elder on previous visits to Australia.
My most helpful resource was Cathy and Elaine’s Pendle Hill Pamphlet Spiritual Accompaniment and I re-read that on the eve of the workshop. I also rang Christine Larkin who acted as Alyssa’s Elder at the Canberra workshop, so I felt reasonably prepared. What I was not prepared for was the depths to which I sank during that time. It was like a spirit filled Meeting for Worship that lasted all day. During the concentric circles, I could not hear any of the conversation and just sank below it all, holding the space. I did not feel uncomfortable, nor did I want to wriggle – I just felt I had been given an incredible gift. Even interruptions did not change this feeling – we had a young mother who needed to change her daughter’s nappy and Alyssa was concerned when she quietly slipped out and asked me to check on whether she was OK. The atmosphere in the room where our two children and two carers were seemed like an extension of the workshop – amazingly peaceful. I slipped back and reassured Alyssa and sank down again. In the afternoon, role plays were impossible not to get involved in, but still I felt that sense of holding the space to be very powerful. I wonder if we have realised the power that is unleashed by that simple act of “Holding the Space”. Alyssa was also grateful and said she herself felt “held” and able to run the workshop smoothly. For Alyssa, it was incredibly necessary to have that support as she has never held so many workshops so close together and without the support, I think she may not have had the stamina to keep going with such energy.