Spiritual reviews - Quakers in Britain

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Summary of Spiritual reviews - Quakers in Britain

£4.00 A spiritual review is a fulfilling undertaking, offering us a rich opportunity to be more closely in touch with one another on our varied spiritual journeys. It is also a complex undertaking because Quaker meetings are complex. Part of the Eldership and Oversight handbook series, this new volume is a practical guide to planning and carrying out a ‘spiritual review’ of a Quaker meeting. This book offers a range of possibilities to help Friends design a review process that will work for their meeting, while addressing common concerns and hesitations for those undertaking the exercise for the first time. Drawing on the experience and insights from over thirty spiritual reviews conducted across Britain Yearly Meeting, Spiritual reviews is an invaluable resource for Friends intending to ‘take stock’ of their own meeting. C M Y CM MY CY CMY K Q Logo - Sky - CMYK.pdf 1 19/04/2012 13:43:04 Spiritual reviews Reviewing the spiritual life of the meeting and its expression in caring Volume 3 of the Eldership and Oversight handbook series Book cover final_to press.indd 1 31/08/2012 11:44:15 Spiritual reviews Reviewing the spiritual life of the meeting and its expression in caring Volume 3 of the Eldership and Oversight handbook series October 2012 First published in October 2012 by Quaker Books, London © Britain Yearly Meeting 2012 Quaker Books, Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ www.quaker.org.uk The moral rights of the author are asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher. Reviewers may quote brief passages. Enquiries should be addressed to the Publications Manager, Quaker Books, Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ. Designed and typeset by Gabrielle Scott Cover image © Mike Pinches ISBN 978 1 907123 40 5 Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is a registered charity, number 1127633 Contents Introduction 1 1: Why have a spiritual review? 3 2: Planning a review process 5 Testing the idea 5 The planning group 5 Taking stock of the meeting 6 Queries for the planning group 7 Timescale for a review 7 A whole-meeting venture 8 Involving children and young people 9 Anticipating problems 9 Confidentiality 10 3: Asking the right questions 12 Notes on framing questions 12 Questionnaires and the like 13 Engaging with questions 15 What to do with responses 17 4: Responding in group settings 19 Example activities 19 Facilitating 20 Confidentiality in group work 21 5: Reporting and taking the review forward 22 Making a written account of the review 22 Where next? 23 The review cycle 24 6: Drawing threads together 25 Summary 25 Conclusion 26 Appendices 27 1. Sample letter 27 2. Appreciative Inquiry 29 3. Ways of working in groups 32 4. Resources 33 A book with this title was originally published in October 1999 as Volume 3 of the Eldership and Oversight handbook series. The text of this 2012 edition is entirely new. Abbreviations used in this book Qf&p: Quaker faith & practice LM: Local Meeting AM: Area Meeting  Introduction Whether elders and overseers are appointed or not, local meetings should regularly review their spiritual life and its expression in caring. A meeting might like to compile and use a series of queries for this purpose. Such a review could take place every two or three years and might in itself be a form of pastoral care. The process might start in small groups, in which unmet needs could be revealed and confidentiality respected, then move on to an occasion drawing all together. Special attention might need to be given to involving those associated with the meeting who take little part in its regular life because of youth, age, disability or disaffection. (Qf&p 12.16) Our long tradition in Britain Yearly Meeting of reporting on how the spiritual life is faring goes back to 1682, when representatives from each quarterly meeting were asked to reply to three questions orally, “so that progress of the Society throughout the country could be seen and help given in the areas where it was most needed” (Qf&p 1.04). The first two of those early queries ask which Friends had died in the past year; the third asks Friends how the Truth has prospered amongst them since the last yearly meeting, and how Friends are in peace and unity. A later version of the queries expands that focus on the health of the worshipping community, asking, “What is the state of your Meeting? Is there any growth in the Truth? And doth any Convincement appear since last year? And is Love and Unity preserved amongst you?” (Christian and brotherly advices given forth from time to time by the Yearly Meetings in London, c.1738–c.1771, p.309 (MS VOL 39)) Today we make regular use of Advices & queries in our meetings for reflection and for challenge and inspiration; but we should also take the opportunity from time to time to think through together how we fulfil our purpose as a Quaker meeting. And we need to do this for reasons echoing the intention of that eighteenth-century query: so that we can become aware of “progress” in our meeting and attend to what is needed. A spiritual review is that opportunity. Unlike the factual report local meetings submit to their area meeting recording what is (or was), a spiritual review explores what we think and feel about what is, discovers what was hidden, envisages what might be and takes a first step towards what will be. This handbook offers guidance and practical suggestions on planning and carrying out a spiritual review for meetings to draw on in whatever way they find useful. It Introduction  includes a range of possibilities to help you plan a review process that will work for your meeting, and addresses common concerns and hesitations for those undertaking this exercise for the first time. The guidance is based on research that involved reading over thirty spiritual reviews received from meetings all over Britain – meetings of every kind, from inner city to remote island, from four or five gathered for worship in a Friend’s home to a hundred and more in a large, well-appointed meeting house. They are mostly local meeting reviews, with a few examples from area meetings. The first thing that stood out was how varied they were, and sometimes how varied they became from common starting points. This range of approaches to more or less the same task made it clear that each review process must be tailored to each meeting’s circumstances, and that it would therefore not be helpful in this publication to recommend one particular model for meetings to adapt as needed. Another striking feature of the reviews and accompanying notes provided by meetings was Friends’ concern to reflect on how things went, both to ensure they improve on their process for next time and to pass on their experience for the benefit of other meetings. Receiving reviews and reflections from so many Friends and meetings was extremely helpful. This material provided valuable insights into how spiritual reviews have been conducted across Britain Yearly Meeting, greatly expanding the perspective of the author’s own experience and prior research. The guidance offered here draws on this rich resource, together with observations of common threads in what worked well and what Friends found to be less fruitful. The following pages include quoted extracts from these reviews – on the understanding that neither Friends nor meetings would be named. Each extract indicates whether it is from a local or area meeting spiritual review. Throughout the text, the term ‘Friend’ is used to denote both members and attenders of Quaker meetings. Where the reference is to elders, overseers and their respective or joint responsibilities, Friends will no doubt be able to translate this in terms of the particular arrangements for eldership and oversight in their own meeting.  1: Why have a spiritual review? Meetings gave a number of reasons. Often they were responding to a requirement or expectation of their area meeting, which the local meeting confirmed by a minute – perhaps outlining a plan or a timescale. But meetings also had their own reasons and were glad of the prompt. “The process started with a concern from one of our Friends about the nature of membership, in particular in relation to non-theists.” (LM) “The spiritual review of our Area Meeting had its roots as far back as July 2005 when we recognised the difficulty of finding Friends to serve.” (AM) “The need for a Spiritual Review… was prompted partly by the unexpected resignation of our resident warden and a growing awareness that this provided us with a real opportunity to assess how we care for our Meeting House.” (LM) A spiritual review is relevant to any meeting, whatever its circumstances – long established or just getting on its feet, confident or troubled. Where a meeting is working well it is an opportunity for clear-eyed and optimistic appraisal and a chance to envisage fresh possibilities. For a meeting addressing difficulty or facing a challenge, a spiritual review can be an important step in finding constructive ways forward. We can certainly expect that a review will help Friends in our meeting become more aware – of each other, their meeting, their hopes and aspirations, the challenges they face, and their Quaker faith. Reviews in the research sample give a consistent picture of meetings gaining from the exercise, often in ways they had not anticipated. Typically, a meeting starts out with the aim of gathering responses to queries designed to reveal what Friends feel about the spiritual life of the meeting and what should be done to deepen it. They then discover that in the process Friends get to know one another better and feel more involved with what goes on in the meeting, and that the community as a whole becomes more confident and optimistic. Recognising these as potential outcomes will help a meeting plan a process designed to encourage this to happen, and will also be part of determining what other elements to include. Why have a spiritual review?  The process has been described as “a meeting’s health check” and, like any other health check, its purpose is to raise awareness and lead to action. We hope that the process will be helpful to us all and will result both in a better understanding of strengths that we can build on and of weaknesses that we all need to take a part in addressing. (LM) In most meetings there is no shortage of issues that can be usefully addressed in the course of a spiritual review, though it will be important to consider these not in isolation from, but as integral to our purpose as Quaker meetings. We also need to keep in mind our understanding of worship as central to everything we do. Whatever broad or more defined focus we decide on for our review, with these two essentials at the forefront of our planning we will maintain our attention on the meeting’s “spiritual life and its expression in caring”. A further word about that key phrase from Qf&p 12.16: Friends recognise that the spiritual dimension is deeply implicated in everything they do to care for their meeting and each other, and equally that pastoral care includes care of the spiritual dimension. Although in many meetings elders and overseers have separate responsibilities, a spiritual review will benefit from giving practical expression to the interconnectedness of eldership and oversight through elders and overseers working together on the exercise.  2: Planning a review process Testing the idea Each meeting will decide for itself how to go about planning, designing and undertaking its review, bearing in mind what it hopes to gain from the process and what it feels able to take on at this time. So testing whether a spiritual review is the right way forward for the meeting is the first step. The question might be raised first at a meeting for business; more usually, those responsible for eldership and oversight will consider it beforehand and send a minute from their meeting to the LM (or AM) clerk for the agenda. It will help the review get off to a sound start if a good number can be encouraged to attend the meeting for business at which the matter is raised; the sooner Friends feel personally involved the better. Elders and overseers might bring to that meeting outline proposals or suggestions for issues to consider in the review, or they might propose that Friends meet in another context to discuss ideas and possible ways forward. What form should the review take? How can we give everyone the chance to be involved? How do we make sure the views of particular groups are heard? (LM) We propose to have an extended Afterword on Sunday [date] to set the ball rolling. Please come if you are able to and contribute to thinking through how our Meeting can plan and carry out a review process that meets our needs and suits our particular circumstances. (LM) The planning group Once the decision has been taken to go ahead, a certain amount of groundwork and advance planning will clearly be needed, and the meeting will consider which Friends or group should do this and how they will be briefed. In many meetings, it is a straightforward matter of asking elders and overseers to be responsible for the review. Some meetings appoint a group of Friends for the task, which may or may not include those with responsibility for eldership and oversight. There may be advantages in drawing on other Friends with particular skills and experience, but it Planning a review process  will usually be appropriate for at least a few of the appointed elders and/or overseers to be involved in the planning group. This will ensure that planning takes account of their current knowledge and insights, and also that those in key roles in the meeting feel fully engaged. There was some reluctance to engage with a Spiritual Review among some Friends – notably, to our concern, among Elders. This undoubtedly stunted the response in Local Meetings. None of the Planning Group were Elders at the time. (AM) Taking stock of the meeting The planning group will need to hold in mind the nature of their meeting community – the demographic and other factors that may influence an approach to a spiritual review. If your meeting has experienced any significant changes in the last few years, this may not be as straightforward as it sounds. A ‘stock check’ of your meeting community might include all or some of the following: • the meeting list compared with actual attendance • age profile of those attending fairly frequently • young people attending and arrangements for children and young people’s meetings • known reasons for non-attendance • particular needs and how these are met • balance of members to attenders • proportion of newcomers • geographical spread and travel considerations • factors to do with the meeting house or premises • social groupings within the meeting (such as house groups or interest groups) • relationship with other LMs and the area meeting • involvement in the local community • Friends active in the wider Quaker community • pattern of eldership and oversight • structures and appointments in the meeting • burning issues in the meeting. With your meeting ‘portrait’ in mind, consider how a review process might engage the whole meeting community and what outcomes you hope for. It will help to read Planning a review process  the complete handbook before making a start: Section 3 and Section 4 look at ways Friends might explore issues and engage with themes; Section 5 addresses the later stages of reporting and what happens next. It will help your planning if you think about each of these stages beforehand so that you can take them into account in decisions made at the start. Discussing various possibilities will clarify your understanding of what the review is for and what the meeting hopes to gain from the process. Queries for the planning group 1. How will we arrive at a focus for the review? Will we decide this, or will we involve the meeting at the very start in this thinking? 2. How will we plan the process? How flexible will it be – how responsive to what emerges along the way? Will we involve the meeting in planning the process? 3. How might the review “be a form of pastoral care”? 4. How will we involve children and young people? 5. How will we ensure that those who attend rarely, for whatever reasons, are included? 6. How will we record what comes out of the review? Do we plan this now, or once the review is underway? What relative importance do we give to a) the review process, b) a record of the review, c) actions arising from the review? 7. How will we take things forward? What part might identifying or planning next steps play in the review? Timescale for a review How and whether a meeting decides this at the outset may depend on any number of factors, including the time of year, other calls on the meeting’s attention, Friends’ availability, the kind of process planned and so on. But it will help to have an idea of how long the process is likely to take, and to say so in order for Friends to feel confident about what will be required of them. If you are able to draw up a review plan with proposed dates, so much the better. This can be subject to any necessary adjustments, with reasonable notice. Three rules of thumb: 1. Friends need plenty of notice of dates and deadlines. 2. Those doing the work need more time than they ever anticipate. 3. The meeting needs ‘digesting’ time. Planning a review process  We should have started the process sooner and given more notice of the get-together. This might have resulted in more Friends attending. (LM) Although Local Meetings were asked in May to conduct a spiritual review and the Area Meeting review did not start until September, the timescale was still a problem for some meetings. (AM) Our committees were hard-pushed to deal with their responses; the Trustees generously gave time in their crowded agenda, Elders and Overseers did not have time to complete their discussion and Nominations Committee could not find any time at all. (AM) A whole-meeting venture The planning group has a key role in making things happen, but needs to keep in mind the importance of maintaining good two-way communications and of drawing on the skills and experience of other Friends. The sooner you can involve the wider meeting, the more supportive Friends will be. Encourage the whole meeting to have ownership of the process. For example, you may need to consciously avoid giving the impression that you will be seeking people’s views and thoughts for your information or for you to act on. Be aware of how easy it is, unwittingly, to create a sense of hierarchy – of ‘them’ who respond to questions and ‘us’ who pose questions, receive responses, filter, analyse or summarise them and act on the findings. The aim should be to go about things in ways that will encourage all Friends to identify with the outcomes of the review and to feel motivated to be part of taking things forward. Our Spiritual Review has identified important questions of community, worship and faith and suggests how these may be addressed. We urge all Friends to take these matters to heart and do what they can. Friends with an organising role in the Meeting, including Elders, can facilitate these efforts but can achieve little alone. Together we may achieve much in acting on the two principal questions… (LM) At our area meeting in September the review team introduced proposals for conducting the review… Every step to be rooted in discernment and in worship; the whole AM will be involved and it will be an all-age activity; we will try to make it clear what each step will be, what it will require of us, why we are doing it and what the outcome will be… At that meeting