Reflections about the VRM Pod set up for Yearly Meeting 2022

Maxine Cooper, Victoria Regional Meeting

–,The F/friends who were interested and available to set up an AYM Victoria Regional Meeting Pod at 484 Williams St, West Melbourne, were initially pleased to be able to use the excellent IT equipment which made the Victoria Quaker Centre an ideal space for a pod.  Our kitchen and other facilities made it a welcome usable space. As a small group we undertook to be open from 10am each day of the YM. The numbers of Friends attending the Pod varied from as few as 3 to about 16 for the Backhouse Lecture.  It was a positive experience for all of those taking part over the ten days. Shared meals, endless tea and coffee, and a variety of snacks and a delicious meal at a local African restaurant before the Backhouse Lecture were positive experiences for those involved. There was a lot of teamwork, talk and laughter along with the occasional problem solving in a small, caring community.

In trying to evaluate the experiences we now see that the practicalities of covering every day of YM from 10 am Meeting for Worship meant a lot of work for the small group volunteers.  There were times (Friendly School and Share & Tell sessions) when there was little interest in staying in front of the big screen.  On other occasions the presence of children and the comings and goings of various Friends made us feel a real part of our Quaker community.

We had anticipated that individual Friends might wish to take part in different activities at the same time, so we provided extra computers downstairs, which were used only occasionally.

Issues that arose included one Friend who mentioned that they enjoyed the Pod experience however because they were a pastoral carer they were often very busy at online meetings, and that it would have been easier if the home groups were with those others already in the Pod who were meeting face to face.

Another Friend responded that initially they had hoped to be present at the Pod but that because of the timetable for the home groups and the reports they had to give, they were not able to travel from their home to be present for the main sessions at the VRM Pod. Therefore, they were able to join the VRM Pod for only one session.

In considering some recommendations for future YM Zoom Pods it was suggested that:

  1. We use a Pod for the days when Formal Sessions are time-tabled and on those days the Pod would start in time for the 10 am Meeting for Worship.
  2.  Neither Friendly School or Show and Tell lend themselves to a VRM Pod because we would have needed too many computers and more rooms to use all the necessary equipment.
  3. We would publicise the Pod for the Backhouse Lecture preceded by a shared meal and discussion afterwards or according to the AYM timetable.

One friend suggested, a “residential” pod, as was the case at Silver Wattle, would have been more manageable, without the demands of the home groups so early in the morning and then having travel to the Pod for the formal sessions.

In conclusion, we did enjoy the experience and we did learn a lot about what we would do next year if YM follows a similar timetable and structure of the program.


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