By Wies Schuiringa and Mark Johnson, New South Wales Regional Meeting.

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the first edition of the Australian Friend for 2013. This edition contains mostly reports, commentary and reflections from Yearly Meeting (YM) which was held in Canberra from the 5th through to the 12th of January. We hope that this edition of the Australian Friend (AF) will keep the experience of the recent YM alive for Friends and provide an insight and connection for those Friends who were not there. Of course, all Friends at YM will have remembrances of their own experiences, and their own points of view.

YM is always a massive undertaking for the host Regional Meeting, and the exhaustion is often visible on the faces of the members of the organising committee by the end of the week. A letter by Jenny Madeline, from New South Wales Regional Meeting was published in the December issue of the AF, titled “Are there alternative models for Yearly Meeting (and Friends Gatherings)?” . Jenny wondered if there are different and perhaps better ways of doing what YM does, and managing the expectation that YM will be “all things to all people”. YM is often a spiritual community at which to worship and to be together for a week or is a time to listen “how the truth has prospered amongst us”, as well as the time for corporate discernment and decision making processes that underpin the work of the Australian Yearly Meeting.

The Site Search Committee in Victoria Regional Meeting wrote a letter to Standing Committee that met on the Saturday afternoon before YM. This Committee of three persons wrote that they spent up to 80 hours to find a venue for YM in 2015, to be held in Melbourne. This Committee asks “that Yearly Meeting considers a different model for the holding of future Yearly Meetings, as raised in the report of the Site Search Committee”. This letter is to be sent to Regional Meetings for their responses, to be presented at mid-year Standing Committee. It is also printed in this edition of the AF and you are invited to participate in an online discussion about alternative models for our Yearly Meeting.

Maxine Cooper finished her term as Presiding Clerk and Julian Robertson has commenced his term as Presiding Clerk, which began at the end of YM 2013. Being the Presiding Clerk during the business sessions at YM is a daunting task. Facing a lecture theatre full of strong minded and passionate individuals while discerning the sense of the Meeting in a spiritual as well as in a practical sense is challenging.

We offer thanks to Maxine and good wishes to Julian!

I enjoyed observing the thorough preparations for YM, especially when the Secretary moved pieces of paper to and from the Presiding Clerk, found items on her laptop and whispered to those other Friends seated at the table – whose faces then visibly relaxed. A wonderful performance, thanks Susan.

We hope to see you all at Yearly Meeting in Brisbane from 4 until 11 January 2014.

The June edition of AF will be themed under the heading: “Leadings or Wilfulness – and Everything in Between”. The panel at AF asks that potential contributors reflect upon what is meant by “Leadings”—what is it that we understand as their inspiration? When can they go astray? What is their significance? What is your experience of Leadings? Being Quaker is firmly grounded upon the experience of God, not just considering the notions about God.

Leadings have always been central to this experience and to our activities. But maybe our Quaker-cultural familiarity has let this vital part of our life simply slide into the background and become the wallpaper of what it is to be-Quaker. We here at the Australian Friend hope that this might be a chance to bring this vital part of our life to the forefront of consideration.

We look forward to receiving your articles.

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