By Dorothy Benyei, Victoria Regional Meeting.
From attending Meeting for Worship occasionally for many years (our older son had “found” Friends at the age of thirteen), I became a regular Attender at both Meetings for Worship and Meetings for Worship for Business in 1978. I then applied for and was granted membership in 1979.
A beloved Friend wondered if I “had thought about going to Yearly Meeting”. I had mistakenly understood that I had been invited to do so. The joy and wonder that I experienced at my first Yearly Meeting in 1980 remains with me today. The venue, including the accommodation was at Friends School and Yearly Meeting was in the care of Hobart Regional Meeting. Bron Meredith was Presiding Clerk and David Purnell YM secretary. Their patience and skills have been repeated by succeeding Office Bearers, each with their own special gifts of the Spirit. The loving care and concern of the host Regional Meeting and the involvement of so many of their Members and Attenders at each Yearly Meeting since have been wonderful.
Advances in electronic communication have and will continue to bring great changes (we seem to be speaking more quickly). However, I feel our Meeting House libraries will continue to be an important part in our learning and outreach. While we cannot live in the past, there is much we can learn from the history of our own past.
I have seen the ways in which wise, experienced Friends have conscientiously seated themselves next to “restless” people at Yearly Meeting sessions, occasionally with a piece of paper, with words such as “are you really led to speak”; “is it relevant”; is it helpful”; “is it kind”. There continues to be a need for mentoring both at Yearly Meeting and within our Local and Regional Meetings, but this can be done lovingly and kindly. The role of Elders is of great value, especially at Yearly Meetings when many participating F/friends are not experienced in Quaker Faith and Practice.
Do we always come to Yearly Meeting with “Hearts and Minds Prepared”? How many attend their Local or Regional Meeting discussion sessions on Documents in Advance?
Preparative Meetings at Yearly Meeting give opportunity for wide discussion and have proven to be of utmost importance. It is interesting to see Preparatory Session Minutes grow and change in the following formal YM session. Quaker processes, when followed can bring wise and acceptable outcomes. The difference between consensus and unity is sometimes not easy to find.
Respectful Relations and Child Protection, Junior and Young Friends issues continue to be areas of great importance. Opportunities for learning have been very important to me, at Local and Regional Meetings, at Woodbrooke and now at Silver Wattle. I hope that these opportunities will become more available to more seekers in the future and that encouragement to attend Yearly Meeting will be available.
Mentoring has meant much to me in my journey within the Religious Society of Friends and I give thanks for the grace of God as shown in so many Friends who have helped me through this journey. At the 1982 Yearly Meeting in Victoria much discussion took place on a section in the new edition of the Handbook. It was the words that a suggestion made by a dear older Friend that has stayed with me always – that we should be “Humble learners in the School of Christ”.
From serving on and representing Friends on various Committees, it is a joy now to attend Yearly Meeting, to meet dear Friends old and new, and to have time to “Be Still and Know”.