By Wies Schuiringa New South Wales Regional Meeting
Quakers in Australia need to decide about holding YM2022 later this year. A venue will have to be found and an initial booking made sooner.
The purposes of YM are to discern and make decisions about how we proceed as Quakers in Australia, our spiritual learning, both formally and informally and strengthening our community. We know that a Zoom YM is good but cannot replace the depths of seeking unity in decision-making, the spiritual nourishment and the strength of our community.
Friends have different tolerance levels for risks, depending on our age, our physical and emotional robustness, our finances, our personality. Our deep desire for an in-person YM can override or minimise the risks, and our personality may also be comfortable to take some risks. AYM, as an organisation, also has some responsibilities to minimise risks to Friends and to themselves in the way YM is organised.
The arrival of the Covid variants has the epidemiologists, health administrators and ICU staff very worried. As I am writing this, Victoria is in its 4th lockdown with travel impacts around the country.
Do we require that all Friends who attend an in-person YM2022 to be vaccinated, also the children?
Organising a hybrid YM with Friends attending in person and others on Zoom would require paying for equipment and staff to manage this process well. The venue would need to have this equipment or be able to accommodate the technology, and large screens to be brought in. The program would also need to accommodate this technology. Seeking unity in decision making at Standing Committee with 20 Friends on Zoom has been difficult. Could we experiment doing this with perhaps 100 Friends in a hall and 75 Friends Zoom?
What are the risks in organising an in-person Yearly Meeting in July 2022?
- Sudden lockdowns: Friends may not be able arrive on time, not arrive at all or leave early to avoid not being able to get home and back to work, having to quarantine etc. This may affect office holders or Friends presenting reports. The YM program would be interrupted but we could continue with those Friends who are at the venue and manage any outstanding matters afterwards.
- A Covid variant is brought into YM, unwittingly by a Friend or a staff member or is in the local area. The health authorities can close down YM for several days for testing. The YM program would be stopped.
- The technology is complicating participation between in-person attendance and online attendance too much.
- Financial impacts for individual Friends when their travel plans are interrupted. Financial impacts for AYM when YM has too few registrations or Friends cancel at the last minute.
Should we not worry about these risks and ask a group of Friends to organise the in-person YM in July 2022? Have I forgotten risks or interpreted them wrongly? Please respond so we can decide together what we’ll do for YM 2022.