I was delighted to meet the clerk of Northumbria AM, which has doubled AM attendance to ninety by adopting our pattern of meeting- with a few small differences.
AM is on Sunday. With us, people attending AM often go to meeting where AM will be. With them, this is encouraged. They have lunch together, but in the time before lunch they have a community building activity: either a speaker, or worship sharing or other group activity. After lunch, they have business, which can be limited to one hour, often: reports are not read out- some will leave before the business session. For the whole time, they have children’s activities organised.
One AM has an hour’s “discussion” before AM, where they can speak more freely, and express strong feelings, as well as explain the facts underlying questions for discernment.
Some appoint an elder to attend AM as elder. My thought on this is that as AM clerk, I have to take care not to be attached to any particular outcome, or I would not be able so well to discern the actual decision of the meeting. Arguably this applies to the assistant clerk as well, and if an elder is concerned with right ordering that elder also should be above the fray.
Some AMs have AM business meetings four times a year. They need to arrange what will happen in between. For example membership would need to be so organised that it could be decided at the AM following the application, but the 5th edition of QF&P has new alternative membership procedures.
I met the clerk of Luton and Leighton, who invited us to join in our former General Meeting for a meeting with Juliet Prager, assistant recording clerk. These meetings are to discuss the working of Meeting for Sufferings with AMs. How can we help AMs to feel more connected to BYM? There will be work on a new Long Term Framework next year.
There was a small group on “Lightening the bureaucratic load”. How do we enthuse a Friend for this (and other) roles? One AM puts all reports in the newsletter, as reading them at AM is a waste of time. Some AMs have paid workers: Richard Summers, when working at Manchester MH did all the accounts of all the PMs and MM, overseen by an appointed treasurer. In one AM the trustees are transparent, making sure everyone knows what is going on, though this again depends on enthusing and engaging people, “More reports clogging my in box” or “There’s all this fascinating information”.
In the “Conflict in meeting” session one Friend talked of an attender whose ministry was “violent” and who was “suggestive” to female Quakers. Elders should correct and if necessary exclude such a person. Far more difficult is the personality clash. One Friend who had been treasurer felt burnt out in the role.
Right now, however, I feel enthused, and pleased to be able to serve.
I wrote this for AM, so there is a slight difference in register.