Jennifer Burrell, New South Wales Regional Meeting
This online workshop was facilitated by Sheila Keane, Jennifer Burrell, and Aletia Dundas. Some 20 Friends attended, at least for part of the time, and although it was targeted to NSWRM Friends, four Friends from other RMs attended.
The first thing to say is that it was fun! We shared laughter and conversation. The online session was plagued with technical glitches … a pre-prepared survey vanished overnight, a video bumped with poor connectivity – but the breakout rooms worked well and we shared an amazing list of ideas for deepening our Quaker communities (not necessarily online). We could do this again … within smaller Meetings or across Australia.
We talked about the core ways we deepen and nurture community:
- Worshipping together
- Learning together (e.g. Quaker Basics)
- Looking after one another (pastoral care)
- Doing meaningful actions together
- Doing necessary things together
- Enjoying each other’s company.
We agreed we could do all these core activities online.
Ideas, some of which were new to Friends attending, included:
- A number of Friends spoke of the richness they had found in online meetings for worship, including breakout rooms afterwards to catch up socially. One Friend commented that online meetings seemed to encourage new Attenders and a wider range of people, especially male Friends
- One Friend spoke of the depth of Spirit when attending Margaret Woodward’s Gathering
- Attending an online course as a group, and setting up a discussion meeting room afterwards to share our learnings (one Friend is attending the Ben Pink Dandelion course on Quaker history, and mourned the lack of small discussions afterwards)
- This could be done by a whole Meeting, or by a group of Friends from anywhere in Australia
- We spoke of how we do pastoral care for each other: keeping in touch by telephone, email, or other means. This needs to be tailored to the recipient’s preference. One Meeting has a WhatsApp group, one uses Messenger to keep in touch
- Letter-writing groups and direct online action were suggested by some Friends
- We spoke of the necessary things we still need to do, including care of premises, committee work, setting up Zoom meetings
- We spoke of simple breakout rooms after meeting for worship, coffee meetings, lunch meetings, home gatherings, discussion groups, book discussion groups (SWQC is meeting online to discuss A testament of devotion), creative groups (poetry groups; a group akin to VRM’s Writing group; singing groups after meeting for worship). CRM runs a regular coffee morning by Zoom.
Our Friendly community is a precious thing. We need to cherish it always, even more when we do not meet physically – remembering this is always true for many, many Friends who do not have a nearby Meeting, or who worship in a small Meeting with a smaller range of activities. The lock-down required by COVID-19 has been an opportunity to explore a wider range of opportunities to nurture each other in a group unlimited by the tyranny of distance. We do not forget many Friends do not or cannot take advantage of these, but we welcome the opportunities for those who can.
And it was fun!