The Society of Friends has a complex structure of Meetings with Britain Yearly Meeting at the top. But all you need to know is that here in Mid Wales, each Local Meeting takes it in turn to host the Area Meeting once a month.
It works out that each Local Meeting only hosts one Area Meeting per year and it's only every two years that we have to organise a full day event. But last Saturday it was our turn to host the representatives from the other Local Meetings in Mid Wales. The morning is taken up with business (reports from various meetings, membership matters and such like) and in the afternoon, there is a talk or other Quakerly activity.
The first year we hosted a full day meeting, we organised an invited speaker. Last year was just a half day, so business only, but this year we needed to provide something in the afternoon and I volunteered to run a discussion on "Simplicity".
Everyone seems to be decluttering these days and that seemed to fit with both the Quaker idea of simplicity and the request last September from BYM for Quakers to think about ways of simplifying our organisation.
The discussion had to run for over an hour and I didn't want people to run out of ideas and start going round in circles, nor did I want the discussion going off on a tanget. I therefore split everyone into 3 groups of four and every so often I went round and gave them a slip of paper with a question to prompt further discussion or lead it in a slightly different direction. Because I wanted the groups to share what they'd discussed with the whole group at the end, I made them produce a mindmap as the discussion progressed.
Thankfully everyone seemed to enjoy the discussion and it went well. The feedback session at the end was helped by having the mindmaps to refer to. I also photographed them and will be emailing copies to the area clerk who will forward them on to the different groups. People were even talking about taking the ideas raised during the discussion back to their own meetings.
Despite having been an attender and then a member for many years, I still don't feel like a "proper" Quaker most of the time because I arrived by a very indirect route, moving from lapsed Methodist via Buddhism to Quakerism. So the successful discussion was a big confidence booster and it was nice to do something teacherly again. It's lovely being retired, but teaching adults did feel like a vocation and I do miss it at times.
Of course we over-catered. People bring their own lunch, but a tea is provided before people head off home. Having no idea how many will turn up, it's impossible to be precise with quantities. But the vegan sandwiches I made were well received and I will definitely make the peanut butter, grated carrot, raisin and cinnamon ones again.