Quaker “Elders” Seminar Day Two. Conference Proper, Saturday.

I do love the quiet room.  The settlement is a lovely place, but the quiet room is the real centre of it.

Whanganui Settlement Quiet Room

Its not a meeting room: that’s in town, just a room that’s used for meeting for worship every day (except Sunday, when they use the Whanganui meeting room).  Its octagonal, and has a large skylight in the middle – it reminds me of the Pantheon in Rome, which is my favorite building So Far.  Sitting with other Friends in silence, the light flooding the middle, it feels like a kind and warm place.  Tall windows around the wall let in more light, and views of greenery.  Can you tell I like it?  I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Payne, a settlement member who was the architect for the settlement in general.  I’d love to sit in the room and have a chat to him about it in some detail.

Last night we each (and there’s over 30 of us) shared on what our expectations were for the weekend.  It was really re-assuring that many said they felt too young, too immature, not quakerly enough to qualify as an ‘elder’.  I know that’s how I feel.  One of the ameliorating facts fro me is we don’t have elders as such in Dunedin, but members of a ‘pastoral care’ meeting, who look to the ‘oversight’ of the meeting as a whole.  I think its a kinder notion: eldering has the connotations of discipline, which doesn’t seem to fit with the culture as well as ‘looking after’.

My laptop spellchecker thinks the word ‘eldering’ should be ‘endearing’.  I’m not sure I agree with it.

The day continued with an overview of eldering (what the hell, that’s the word everyone is using) from a historical perspective, and then group discussions about what we think its role is.  I love the group discussions: its wonderful to have a chance to talk to people who have considered these things (amongst others) quite deeply.  And its a laugh: there is a gentle sense of humour here, self deprecating dry, smart.

There is a lot of talk about the role being one not of prescription, not of a list of “nots”, but allowing the meeting to grow as it will, to think about tradition as a guide, not a harness, ad that we will know viscerally if things are right.  To trust ourselves.

For a quarter hour we were encouraged to act as disruptively as we liked, mirroring behaviour that we had seen in meeting.  Pens were clicked, ministry on “what we had seen on the way to meeting this morning” was given, as well as ministry through prancing.  Snoring was heard.  Interruptions were made.  There was much laughter.

The point made that I have retained was most of these behaviours were ‘pet peeves’.  If we could see that they were getting up our nose, maybe we could appreciate it was just our irritation that was bothering us, not the behaviour itself.

That would up a day’s work, and the evening was a DVD of Bill Bailey at the Royal Albert Hall, messing about with a full orchestra.  Very silly.

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