Back in the fall of 2020, two gatherings took place – one for monthly meeting leaders and another for quarterly meeting leaders. Worship during the pandemic was a big topic of discussion, so we had a follow up meeting on January 26, 2121 wherein we asked monthly and quarterly meetings to let us know who in their communities had experience with virtual and hybrid meetings. These are the notes from that meeting.
For any support or information regarding hosting hybrid meetings, please reach out to Zachary Dutton at firstname.lastname@example.org. For supporting youth and families in this way, you may also want to reach out to Melinda Wenner Bradley, email@example.com.
We will host another meeting soon for the purpose of getting even more organized on these issues.
The 1.26.21 Gathering on Hybrid Meetings
The Tuesday, January 26, 2021 focused primarily on hybrid meetings. Hybrid meetings are gatherings of some kind (worship, events, or otherwise) that bring together people both in person and virtually. We recorded the session and have posted it on YouTube
We invited the people identified by their communities as having experience in this topic, and the word spread. The gathering was originally intended to be something more preliminary, and spirit moved many to dive more deeply.
We invited Molly Burgoyne from Third Haven Meeting in Easton, Maryland who spoke about their process in developing hybrid meetings. Some of Mollie’s points:
- The unexpected outcome of the process was the emergence of sense of deeply shared connection with everyone who was involved in getting the tech to work.
- After meeting only virtually during the first part of the pandemic, the meeting experimented with a hybrid model in May of 2020. This was a time when some of the restrictions on gathering had been lifted.
- As a first step, the meeting called together all the Clerks of its committees for discussion and discernment.
- The Pastoral Care Committee checked in with as many members of the meeting community as possible – to get a sense of people’s concerns.
- The Worship & Ministry committee developed a way to set up worship outside in a way that emulated sacred space.
- The meeting’s caretaker (who has a sideline job in a rock & roll band) helped a lot. He had equipment that could be set up on the ground and integrated with a laptop and an iPad set up on a tripod. Friends were invited to stand six feet away from the mic when they had a message.
- A quick sound check was important to do every time, especially to ensure that no one else had joined the Zoom meeting from their phone which would have created a reverberation.
To learn more about what Molly shared from Molly herself , email Zachary Dutton at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will forward your inquiry to her.
We also heard from Susan Vorwerk of Byberry Meeting, PA.
Susan spoke about the Meeting Owl Pro technology that Byberry and Upper Dublin meetings have found useful.
The particular technology that Byberry and Upper Dublin chose was paid for through the Membership Development Granting Group. To find out more about the Owl visit the Owl conferencing technology website. To find out more about this funding opportunity and to apply, visit Membership Development’s page on the PYM website.
Some other discussion take-aways were:
- Some meetings wondered how to regulate people who would attend in person and how would we turn people away if too many showed up? There were concerns about folks with uneven tech skills.
- We asked; what of families who want to worship in person with young children? Children aren’t being vaccinated yet.
- Some people still struggle with the idea of using audio and video during worship.
- Byberry and Upper Dublin are now meeting together through Zoom; they struggle with the idea of returning to separate meeting houses. They have not had some of the pitfalls of divided meetings, and have had new applications of membership. Friends who moved away who are now back through Zoom. They can’t imagine ever looking back. They are excited by what technology has done.
- One meeting asked, “how do you prepare for meeting for worship on Zoom? We are 45 people – quite small – and we’ve been meeting virtually mostly without messages.”
- It was noticed that the pandemic has offered an incredible opportunity to get to know one another. A vehicle for expanding Quakerism.
- One of the more important things seen has been increased spiritual and social engagement.
- Small meetings with no electricity have met in person. Others have been phoning each other.
- Meetings have picked up some people who moved away but notice that a third or quarter of their members have not come to Zoom worship and they are not seeing people in that whole group. They are thinking about how to engage these Zoom averse Friends.
- Young families with small children have dropped out (too much Zoom). Older students don’t want zoom.
- Pastoral care has done so much to connect each other. There has been much looking after one another.
- “Happier hour” at Third Haven has been a very successful Friday evening community builder.