Creativity and listening in all spaces (even the internet!)

Quaker Meetings and Churches finding new ways of being together.

Part one: overview

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” – Steve Jobs

In the past few pandemic years, I as a Friend have been in many situations where immediate response was needed, and long term plans were formed.  The amount of change, especially for Quaker meetings (who historically take a long time to decide even small concerns) has seemed at lightning speed.


I’ve noticed a few underlying aspects of some meetings and groups that seem to have helped.  When a meeting has a clear sense of its purpose, its primary reasons for existing, and the needs of it members, the resulting necessary changes seem almost “easy” in hindsight.

An example: before Friends start rushing out to research types of microphones to purchase for the hybrid worship that everyone is doing – what does your worshipping community feel about access to messages?  Sound quality in general?  If your meeting has discussed for years the concept of a hearing assist system, without any implementation – why will this new audio process go more smoothly, or quicker?  Why is being able to hear messages and each other a priority now that we are all racing to zoom, when it was not for long time attenders already in your community?  And if you are in a meeting that did prioritize listening devices, or amplification, or whatever worked – how do those needs simply transfer to new equipment, like a different kind of microphone, or linking devices to a zoom output?

The meeting I am now a part of  is “small” by our standards – 8 folks at most usually present.  On zoom, in person, a little bit of both.  Zoom technology electronically limits after meeting conversations to one person speaking at a time (as any good conference software will do!).  There can be no “side conversations” around the coffee pot, or moments of introduction and learning happening as Friends are simply randomly gathered informally.  Some meetings on zoom now hold community “chats” at other times to create community.  Some meetings open up small zoom rooms for folks to choose where to go, and chat.  Some meetings put folks in random rooms, in more/less formal “get to know your neighbor” groups.

Back to my meeting… the eight of us stay in one zoom/hybrid space.  We share and talk and take turns.   To us this seems welcoming and natural.  Why?  Well – before the pandemic, this meeting always had a post-meeting dinner potluck, where we all sat around one table.  The habit of sharing conversation with folks, one at a time, was already established.  It worked for this group.  So on zoom, or in a hybrid meeting – it still does.  Community fellowship and conversation can take many forms. Once your meeting decides what is the right way to communicate – then it’s time to find the right structure to support it. 

One of the wonderful gifts of traveling among Friends is seeing this variations.  It is such a lift of the Spirit for me to see folks attending to the needs of their communities.  It’s hard work!  But part of being in relationship.

I’ll be sharing more reflections on adaptations and openings in this time with examples from meetings I visit.  Thank you for following along!








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