Worcester Friends Meetinghouse
The Worcester Friends Meeting began as a Preparative Meeting of Uxbridge Meeting (See Uxbridge blog entry, May, 2014) in the 1800's. This is the third Worcester meetinghouse for the Worcester Meeting. By the time they acquired this new meetinghouse in the 1970's, they had already outgrown two buildings in Worcester proper. Also, the demise of the Leicester Meeting and the Uxbridge Meeting had occurred.
For this third Meetinghouse space, a Victorian-style house was purchased. Taking the wall down between 2 rooms created the Meetingroom. The room has 2 deep window seats as well as blue chairs. The hardwood floor gleams. This is a very versatile room. When I arrived, the chairs were stacked around the edges for cleaning. During Meeting for Worship the chairs are arranged in concentric circles. After Meeting, the room is rearranged to accommodate tables set up for a community potluck lunch, which happens weekly. The chairs are again rearranged for business or committee Meetings.
The second and third floors of the house hold First Day School rooms, an organizing office, and rooms rented by New England Yearly Meeting and an organization called “The Center for Nonviolent Solutions.”
The flexible chair arrangement was echoed in Worcester Meeting’s flexible organizational structure.
Since Friends believe that each person has that of God within, and that no person should be above another person, their organizational structure is very flat. There is no one person in charge. All members run each Meeting community and all members do all of the Meeting work. All major decisions are group decisions (See South Berkshire blog entry, September, 2014).
Traditionally committees carry out the work of the Meeting. There is usually a Finance Committee, a Maintenance Committee, a Library Committee, a Peace and Social Concerns Committee, a spiritual nurture committee usually called Ministry and Counsel, a pastoral concerns committee, and a First Day School Committee. There may be other committees such as Outreach, a committee to organize potlucks and Sunday coffee, and…you get the idea…lots of committees. There is a website which pokes fun at Quaker tradition (http://quakerprobs.tumblr.com) and they show a picture of a Quaker looking heavenward saying “99 problems…98 committees.” It is kind of like that…
Committees are a good news/bad news situation. The committees are run by Quaker practice and so Quakers can spend a LOT of time making decisions and doing good work. In today’s world, the committee structure can be problematic: shrinking memberships at some meetings mean fewer people to join committees and do the work. In the busy world of today, finding time to devote to committee work is difficult for many. So sometimes, a few willing people do the majority of committee work. However, the good news is that all members are involved in running the Meeting.
In Worcester, they are using a flexible arrangement for committees with just three of them: Spiritual, Practical, and Peace and Social Concerns/Outreach. They looked at the problem of too few people and too little time for too many committees, and they tried an alternative arrangement. When a project/problem arises, people join in and help to solve it, no matter what committee they belong to. This structure works well for this meeting. They are still experimenting with it, and are planning an evaluative process soon. I will be interested in hearing the outcome…
The picture I have chosen is the picture of the Worcester Meetingroom, with the chairs arranged in concentric circles for their Meeting for Worship. I have chosen this picture to show the flexibility of this room. You can imagine the chairs stacked and to the side for their other community functions. And you can see that it is in a room that was once two rooms. The stairs to the second floor can be seen on the right.
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