Felicity Rose, Tasmania Regional Meeting
Another Yearly Meeting. Is it my fifteenth? The familiar posters and arrows lead me to the registration desk and glasses of ice cold water. The hugs and hellos begin. I find my room and am very pleased that it is on the cool side of the building. No time to rest, though; it’s off to Standing Committee to consider the items needing our attention before being placed on the YM Agenda for business. We work through gently, held in a spirit of worship, we even finish a little bit early. It is a very good way to begin.
Then into the rhythm of a week of community life: meetings and catch-ups to pop into the spaces, dinner at 6 with a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends whilst inching slowly towards the food, looking around to spot Tasmanian Friends and JYFs with a sense of having brought my home community with me. During the week I will want to keep an eye on them to make sure it is a good experience for everyone, especially first-timers.
Living a week in a faith-based, worshipping community is a great opportunity to practice our faith together and to experience the challenges and benefits of community which are not felt so strongly living apart in our ordinary lives. This is something which I treasure at Yearly Meeting and also as I spend time at Silver Wattle, or a residential weekend in our regional meeting: “getting to know one another in the things that are eternal.” When we live together like this we get a sense of each individual as part of a whole, it helps us to realise that business done and decisions made are in response to a movement of the spirit within the whole community, and when unity comes it feels like a beautiful blessing.
The first Formal Session is at 7.30, with a Welcome to Country which reminds us of the spiritual element of place: Yearly Meeting 2015 is under way.
The day spent in Summer School is a good beginning, the theme “Life in the Light” gives us an invitation to hear about and discuss many different ways of living with conviction, letting our lives speak.
During the week my personal spiritual nourishment comes in large part from the optional Early Morning Meeting for Worship for half an hour from 6.30 till 7am each day. About 20 friends, slipping quietly into the circle, attend it. There is very little spoken ministry and a deep community of love develops in the silence.
This year I have been appointed by my meeting as an Elder for Yearly Meeting. It really helps to do this as part of an appointed group. I have attempted to act as an elder on my own in the past and have found it very difficult to feel as if my intention was connecting with the Spirit. When it is an official role and two of us come in ten minutes early and hold the space in worship together it is clear to people what is happening and acts as a reminder to them to join us in worship rather than going on chatting until the last moment. I felt as if the worship continued right through the meetings, whether for worship or for worship for business, and it was easy to slip into deeper worship when the Clerk needed it. I felt personally affirmed and uplifted in this experience by the Spirit and was very aware of it throughout the whole week. There was widespread respect for each other and for our processes which proceeded with unhurried gentleness.
In this way good progress was made in some matters which have been undecided over several years: the naming of Earthcare as a testimony, the development of a paper on First Nations Concerns which lends itself to consideration at regional level, and a willingness to try the three-year experiment of holding Yearly Meeting in July. We are coming closer to practising a Quaker way of banking and business and to taking powerful action with regard to the treatment of asylum seekers. Our JYFs are learning to contribute and we adults are learning to listen to them. I return to my meeting encouraged and heartened, with a strong sense that along with my many Friends I have lived something very worthwhile.