Allan Knight, West Australia Regional Meeting
My Yearly Meeting experience this year was quite different from my previous ones. In a sense it started before July 7. With the need to find alternative clerking arrangements for Standing Committee and Yearly Meeting formal sessions, I agreed to clerk Standing Committee and the first two and final formal sessions. Almost immediately after agreeing, the doubt and “what have I agreed to” thoughts emerged. After a period of apprehension about this, a confidence arose; not in what I might bring to the clerking role but rather that Friends would be caring and supportive regardless of what I brought to the role. This confidence was not misplaced.
In preparing to clerk Standing Committee and the first two formal sessions at Yearly Meeting I realised how much of the processes and formalities I had participated in at previous Yearly Meetings had in fact not entered my consciousness – so many things seem to have just passed over me. This led me to a renewed gratitude for Quaker record keeping and minute taking practices; a review of previous Standing Committee minutes and Documents in Retrospect helped to start clear some of the fog. I was also reminded of the importance of coming to Meeting with heart and mind prepared. The discernment we undertake in our business meetings is well supported by hearts and minds prepared to be open to the leadings of spirit, and hearts and minds abreast of information relevant to the matters under discernment.
I learnt much more of the processes that go on quite often unseen, and possibly unrealised, “behind the scenes” to make our Yearly Meetings function as smoothly as possible. This was from the work of Friends in the host Regional Meeting to the work undertaken by the AYM secretary and presiding clerk, convenors of preparatory sessions and committee convenors. I left Yearly Meeting with a deepened appreciation of the work undertaken by many Friends to make our time together one that can speak to our conditions and strengthen the bonds of our community.
As has often been my experience of Yearly Meeting, it is the opportunities to sit with others over a meal or cup of coffee and engage in conversations that allow us to get to know each other both in things temporal and things eternal that are so enlivening. The rural setting also provided for walks and chances to converse with cows, sheep and goats – although it must be said these were rather one-sided conversations.
Another reflection that has continued to stir in me following Yearly Meeting is the strength we have in Quakers’ diversity of faith belief and the binding strength in our Quaker processes. I left Yearly Meeting with a quickened joy in our manner of worship and ways of making decisions where we try to answer that of god in all people so that we may unite in spirit even in the knowledge we have differences. A piece of vocal ministry given at the Meeting for Remembrance and based on Hebrews 12:1 has remained with me since Yearly Meeting. We were reminded that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Not witnesses in the sense of others watching us, but rather Friends whose lives witnessed to that measure of light given them. In the light of their lives we too can find guidance and insight to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
But my overriding experience of Yearly Meeting is that of gratitude. Gratitude for the grace, love and patience shown by many Friends in the conduct of their work during Yearly Meeting, not least that of our AYM secretary Jacque Schultz; gratitude for the work of Friends who serve on our committees; gratitude to Friends who take the time to stop and ask “How are you?” and then show the patience to hear a response that may go beyond the simple “I am well”; gratitude for the way so many Friends let their lives speak on a daily basis.