Julie Webb, South Australia and Northern Territory Regional Meeting
As I was not part of the organising committee, my introduction to YM began with the online registering process. Decisions needed to be made – to live in or not, to have meals or self-cater, to pay full price or concession (a typical Quakerly way based on a self-assessed ability to pay rather than whether one had any formal concession cards). In the past when YM has been in Adelaide, I have travelled from home each day. This time I decided to live in, which allows for more time with Friends, particularly in the informal, unplanned interactions. Having made those choices, I helped someone else register online and waited for the Winter School details to be posted. Summer School has always been a highlight of YM for me and Winter School this year was a valuable time to settle into the rhythm of Yearly Meeting in a small group.
Having offered to help in some way during YM, I was asked to help with accommodation. I attended two planning sessions in the month before YM as well as a visit to the Shores Resort to ask questions of the staff. The meetings were well-attended, informative and interesting and I became aware of the huge amount of work that had gone into planning YM. Most of the room allocation had already been organised before Liz Pyatt and I took over from Yarrow Andrew two weeks before YM started. A few last-minute registrations and some other requests required a bit of juggling but were able to be accommodated.
On the first day, somewhat nervous, we waited at the Help Desk for everyone to arrive. A number of volunteers had to withdraw at the last moment due to illness but others stepped in to help and the show went on. There was the pleasure of greeting old friends and meeting new ones as people poured in to register and in some cases get keys to their cabins. Nothing is ever perfect but we did our best to deal the challenges. There were only two keys per cabin, sometimes to be shared among 6 people. Some people were sharing cabins with people they did not know well, if at all. The cabins were very comfortable, with living rooms and a kitchen, but sharing two or three to a room could be challenging. Over the next few days, changes needed to be made for various reasons and most people were very happy to co-operate. I got a lot of exercise during this time and got to know the layout of the resort reasonably well, after getting hopelessly lost a few times.
Although I hadn’t initially been rostered to be on the Help Desk, I ended up doing a few shifts and found it most enjoyable. It was often the hub of activity, with the children next door and people popping in for requests or a chat.
When the venue was first booked, it seemed as if there would be more facilities for meeting rooms, but this did not eventuate and other plans had to be made. The Sea Squadron rooms were very comfortable, and enhanced by views to the hills in one direction and the sea in the other. Many of the living rooms in the cabins were used for various purposes, including Winter School sessions, committee meetings, book sales, tapestry activities, a quiet room and Share and Tell sessions. This worked well in most cases.
Instead of the formal exchange of gifts between Quakers and the local Kaurna people, as happened at the last Adelaide YM, this year’s exchange was a combined, less formal occasion. As it was NAIDOC week, many Kaurna people were busy with other events and Kaurna elder, Uncle Lewis O’Brien, asked Peter Webb to play the didgeridoo to accompany the song (words written by Harald Ehmann, translated into Kaurna language by Uncle Lewis, set to music and taught to us by Matthew Lykos).
The Backhouse Lecture was quite different this year and it was very moving to hear the personal stories of David Carline and Cheryl Buchanan.
Food always seems to be a major issue at YM. Quakers have an amazing array of dietary issues, which can be very challenging for caterers. The only way to keep the costs of evening meals at the Golf Club reasonable was to go all-vegetarian. Friends with special needs were advised that if they did not think this would be suitable for them, they should consider self-catering, a good option considering the facilities available. Packed lunches were provided by the Resort caterers and they did their best to be “green” in their packaging. Being one of the dietarily challenged Friends, I self-catered, but many people I spoke to were very happy with the quality of the lunches and dinners. The daily mini-bus and car services were helpful for those who wished to go to local shops to stock up.
The small number of Young Friends was a concern, not least to the Young Friends themselves. The timing of YM and changes to the lower age limit have affected YF involvement, and we became aware of the pressures placed on those who were present to nominate YFs to be on the various YM committees. Similar pressures are faced by Friends in some local and regional meetings as numbers drop and ages increase.
One of the highlights was the display of the 16 finished panels in the Quaker Narrative Embroidery Project around the walls of the main meeting room. There was discussion about insuring and protecting the panels to preserve them for the future but these panels are also for us now, and being able to inspect them closely was a pleasure.
It is always a pleasure to see Quaker process working well and to learn from it. Jo Jordan, in her role as YM clerk, clerked formal sessions quietly, respectfully and skilfully, while other Friends clerked the preparatory sessions. Adelaide Friends appreciated the morning tea gatherings with Emily Chapman-Searle, who was able to answer questions and give advice, based on her experience at previous Yearly Meetings.
The last day arrived all too soon and things happened in reverse. Rooms were vacated and keys returned before the final formal session and Meeting for Worship. After everything was packed up, a number a tired Friends gathered at Yarrow’s for a wind-down and debrief.
Adelaide Local Meeting for Worship on Sunday morning was a larger-than-usual meeting, with a number of interstate Friends present. Although there was a lot of ministry, it could not be described as a “popcorn meeting”. It was a powerful, gathered meeting, a fitting end to a week spent in Quaker community.