As the new triennium of Meeting for Sufferings begins, Friends are urged to 'apply simplicity'
The first meeting of the new triennium of Meeting for Sufferings (MfS) was held on Saturday 7 July in the Large Meeting House at Friends House in London.
A Friend, in ministry, said that a section in the trustees’ report (see ‘Meeting for Sufferings: “Are we ready to be transformed?” BYM trustees ask Meeting for Sufferings’) concerning ‘reimagining ourselves as a simple charity’ had impacted on him greatly.
He suggested that Friends ‘apply the testimony of simplicity to ourselves and our structures’. He added that if this triennium of Sufferings can ‘find a way to help simplify, we would have spent our time well, Friends’.
Thanking Friends for their attendance, Anne Ullathorne, clerk of Meeting for Sufferings, said: ‘You could be at Pride… or thinking about a certain sporting event…’ (It was the afternoon of England’s World Cup quarter-final match against Sweden.)
She said the first assembly of the new triennium was ‘a chance to get to know some new faces’. A show of hands indicated the presence of a significant number of newcomers to Sufferings alongside ‘old hands’.
Anne Ullathorne said: ‘It’s quite humbling to see all these people giving so much service.’
Continuing with the induction, she said: ‘I never forget the Friend who said “Too many words”,’ before giving a brief and succinct summary of what Meeting for Sufferings, which meets five times a year, is – ‘the central body that can act on behalf of the Society between Yearly Meeting’.
She continued: ‘Spoken ministry can be quite daunting, but we do need it. If the Spirit is moving you, stand. Hopefully, we’ll be a very friendly place for this to take place.’
She stressed that those at Sufferings were representatives not delegates – ‘we’re in worship’ – and encouraged reps and alternates to devise their own best ways of working together.
Margaret Bryan, assistant clerk to Sufferings, described the aim of the Arrangements Group as ‘simplifying the work of Meeting for Sufferings’. The Group meets between Meetings of MfS to review the previous Sufferings and plan the next one. ‘We welcome comments,’ Margaret Bryan said. ‘We receive correspondence and we read it all.’
A Friend from the Support Group, which has a preparatory meeting on Friday afternoons, said: ‘I like the emphasis on us being at worship.’ It was important for Friends to feel welcome and comfortable ‘so your hearts and minds are prepared’.
Ingrid Greenhow, clerk of Britain Yearly Meeting trustees, talked about their role. The responsibility for centrally managed work and the routine work of governance ‘does mean a lot of meetings. It also means we know what’s going on and you know… Trustees are like you – except we get the extra [duties]… The technicalities apart, we’re all in this together.’
She also said that the contribution of the Hospitality Company ‘cannot be underestimated’, a ‘culture of giving’ was being encouraged and ‘we’re all about making the world a better place.’
Paul Parker, recording clerk of Britain Yearly Meeting, talked about centrally managed activities ‘to ensure the work that Friends discern actually happens’. The task was also ‘to engage with other parts of the world – the outside world in all its glorious forms’.
Around one in seven staff are not based at Friends House, he said. ‘The idea that things come down from Friends House is not how it feels to us,’ he concluded.
Helen Drewery, head of witness and worship for Britain Yearly Meeting, told Sufferings how much she valued the job of raising public awareness.
For Paul Grey, of Friends House Hospitality Company, it was very important to ‘demonstrate that it is possible to run an ethical business in London’.
As part of the induction process Friends heard what happens when a minute from an Area Meeting is sent to Sufferings. Although not every minute will find its way onto the agenda, a minute can turn into an aspect of work – as with the development of the Sanctuary Everywhere project.
Anne Ullathorne said: ‘Sending a minute is a big thing. It takes a lot of discernment.’
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