Yearly Meeting clearly could not be an in-person gathering in 2020, due to Coronavirus.
However, YM2020 did go ahead to the maximum extent possible. New forms of using online techniques were used, in order to make the replacement a good substitute, which builds a sense of community, allowed learning and sharing and enabled business to be progressed.
Yearly Meeting 2020 was due to be held at the Avondale University College, near Lake Macquarie between Sydney and Newcastle, between 4 July and 10 July 2020. The new event focused on these same dates. Some parts of YM happened earlier, and some continued later.
YM2020 was hosted by Canberra Regional Meeting. Canberra Friends enlisted help from other Friends for running the event. There was no cost to participate, so any financial barrier was fully removed. This included travel costs, of course. We envisaged that most Friends would participate from their homes, though some small groups were able to gather together.
Nonetheless, there was a registration form we asked Friends to complete to indicate their intention to join in some or all of YM activities online.
For people who were worried about using technology, there were opportunities beforehand to provide tutorials and assistance. Some of these were provided centrally, some by Regional Meetings.
2020 Backhouse Lecture: The James Backhouse Lecture was held on Monday 6 July and streamed via the internet, as well as being pre-recorded and uploaded to the Quakers Australia YouTube channel. The lecturer was Fiona Gardner of Victoria Regional Meeting, speaking on Seeking Union with Spirit: Experiences of Spiritual Journeys. To learn more about the Lecture go here.
The Friendly School focused on how Quaker business is done, and how to make it work well. The Friendly School topic was the same for all, with an introduction to the whole group, then conversation and consideration in small groups for half a day. We hoped this would contribute to YM business running better. Friendly School was run online, of course, still allowing for discussion and sharing. Murray Short, a former Presiding Clerk of Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa/New Zealand presented some of his work on Quaker business processes, connecting to our history, and our modern issues of Quaker decision-making.
It was clear for a while that the format of Yearly Meeting should change. We did not foresee nor wish for this cause, to change. But it was forced upon us. We trusted that we could use the opportunity for creativity, learning and experimentation.
Of course, all Quakers world-wide are facing similar challenges and opportunity. We hoped to make use of wisdoms that were discovered by others, and to add them to our own creativity.
To go to the YM20 event page, go here.
Epistles to Friends Everywhere were read at the closing worship, and included those from the Children and from Junior Young Friends. These Epistles can be read here: