The organisers of the annual meeting of Quakers in Britain, Yearly Meeting Gathering, have announced that this year’s event in Bath in 08/2014 is so full that people not booked to attend must not come. Over 1,900 people are booked to attend the event, meaning that the number of Quakers gathered together in Britain will be at its highest since the 1980s, according to the Quakers’ website.
Yearly Meeting clerk Chris Skidmore explained that there were both positives and negatives to take from the situation. “It is heartening to have such a huge response but extremely disappointing to turn away Friends,” he said. “It is our experience that Friends across Britain will be upheld and strengthened by Yearly Meeting Gathering, whether or not they can be physically present.”
The announcement that YMG was full was originally posted on the Quaker Life Network Facebook page, revealing that there are up to 500 more people booked to come than at previous residential gatherings and although they have extended the capacity to fit the numbers booked they are no longer allowing any more day visitors or residents to attend.
Quakers reacted with delight to the news on social media sites. However, the decision to tell people who aren’t booked in not to come may run contrary to the yearly meeting’s own constitution, which states that “all members of the yearly meeting have the right to attend and to take part in its deliberations.”
The theme of YMG is “what it means to be a Quaker today” focusing on what it means to be a Friend in membership and what it means for attenders who have chosen not to come into membership. In preparation for YMG, Quakers are being asked: “How does your being a member or not a member affect your feeling of commitment and belonging to your Quaker meeting and the broader Quaker community, and how do you think it affects your meeting’s relationship with you?” and “If you are in membership, you might also like to think about what changed for you, and in you, when you became a member. Did you feel different, perhaps even transformed?”
Also on the agenda during the week is the tabular statement – the annual record of the numbers of members, attenders, children and marriages in Quaker meetings across Britain Yearly Meeting, and is received by yearly meeting each year. Last year, yearly meeting asked the recording clerk to work with Meeting for Sufferings and area meetings to experiment with new ways of gathering and presenting information about our patterns of membership.
Commemoration of world war one is on the agenda as the 100th anniversary of the start of the war falls during YMG and is being seen as an opportunity for British Quakers to recommit to the peace testimony.
Meticulous planning goes into each yearly meeting gathering event with local and national organisers starting preparations years in advance. Arrangements also enable those attending to keep all their home comforts with participants able to make a shopping order in advance so that Quakers don’t have to go without their fennel, clotted cream or free range duck eggs while staying on site.
YMG runs from 02/08 to 09/08/2014 and Quakers in Britain will post updates on their website as the week progresses and through their Twitter account, @BritishQuakers. They are encouraging people to use the hashtag #ymg14 on social media in connection with YMG.
The full statement posted on the Quaker Life Network Facebook page reads:
“Yearly Meeting Gathering is full!
Can you share the following information with Friends in your meeting.
Yearly Meeting Gathering is full!
If you are not booked please don’t come. We have been delighted by the numbers of Friends who have booked for Yearly Meeting Gathering, we have 400-500 more Friends booked to come than at our previous residential gatherings. We have extended our capacity to fit the numbers booked but reluctantly we can take no more day visitors or residents.
The YMG Team”