Are you coming to Yearly Meeting for the first time? Or maybe you have been before and are looking for the essential details on how to attend. Either way, welcome! It's wonderful to see so many Friends.
Yearly Meeting is the annual assembly of the Quaker church in Britain. It's when Quakers gather in worship to connect, explore current concerns and conduct business.
Yearly Meeting can be big and busy, and Friends can sometimes find it a little bewildering. This blog sets out some things you might find helpful.
When and where is Yearly Meeting?
Yearly Meeting 2023 will be held from 28 April to 1 May. It will be a blended event, with Friends attending online and in person at Friends House in London. We will be holding online preparation sessions during March and April.
There will also be programmes for children and young people. The programme for 0–11-year-olds will run alongside Yearly Meeting, while Junior Yearly Meeting will take place from 1 to 4 April 2023. Please email Jude Acton on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the 0–11 programme. You can find out more about Junior Yearly Meeting on our website.
How to book your place at Yearly Meeting
You can book your place at Yearly Meeting at www.quaker.org.uk/ym from 10 January 2023. This is also where you will find the preparation documents. There is a three-step process for registering to attend:
- Book your place at Yearly Meeting
- Receive an email invitation to register on the online Yearly Meeting Planner
- Create your schedule by choosing all the events at Yearly Meeting you wish to attend on the YM Planner
The week or two before Yearly Meeting
Friends speak about coming to Yearly Meeting with hearts and minds prepared. As different people prepare in different ways, we have tried to balance written, video and group exercises in the preparation resources.
Yearly Meeting is a busy event, so it's a good idea to plan ahead. Feel free to choose what interests you, but please be careful to pace yourself, and remember that it's impossible to attend every single discussion. Event descriptions on the YM Planner will give you guidance, and you will also want to read Preparing for Yearly Meeting (PDF) or Yearly Meeting agenda & notes (available early April), which will be available at www.quaker.org.uk/ym/documents.
There are over 100 events and sessions happening as part of Yearly Meeting 2023. On the YM Planner all events are colour-coded by category. Some Friends like to attend all 'Yearly Meeting sessions'. Preparation sessions and Special Interest Group events can be just as valuable, particularly for building community and getting to know other Friends.
Before Yearly Meeting starts, we will hold two different types of session:
- Session preparation: These are organised, or commissioned, by Yearly Meeting Agenda Committee. They are held in advance of the main Yearly Meeting sessions and are intended to help Friends develop their understanding of topics on the Yearly Meeting agenda. Additional preparatory material can be found in the document Preparing for Yearly Meeting (PDF).
- Orientation: These events have been organised to give people an overview of what's happening, to provide guidance, and to develop our understanding of how discernment works online and in blended meetings. We recommend you attend orientation sessions on how a blended Yearly Meeting works. These are clearly marked on the YM Planner.
At Yearly Meeting
Here are the different types of session being held during Yearly Meeting:
- Yearly Meeting sessions: These are formal sessions for business and discernment. Without them, it wouldn't be a Yearly Meeting. You will sometimes hear these described as 'Yearly Meeting in session' or 'plenary sessions'. Some Yearly Meeting sessions focus on discernment around a specific topic. For these, preparation is particularly useful, so try to align your preparation to those Yearly Meeting sessions you plan to attend.
- Worship: There are opportunities for worship in a variety of forms. As with local and area meetings for business, Yearly Meeting sessions are also meetings for worship for business, and there are also morning and evening meetings for worship. Many Friends, including newcomers, find attending these worship sessions grounding.
- Special Interest Groups: These events are offered by Quaker groups, and by those working on the programmes and committees of Britain Yearly Meeting. Topics vary, depending on the particular focus of the group or programme. Some, but not all, relate to topics considered during Yearly Meeting sessions.
These events can be very popular, so it's a good idea to book early. Some will give you an insight into the work undertaken by Britain Yearly Meeting on behalf of Friends. Other Special Interest Group events, organised by independent Quaker groups, will show the activities and concerns Friends are engaged in across Britain, and may help you develop connections with others who have similar interests. The annual Swarthmore and Salter Lectures are part of these events.
If you're a newcomer to area meetings as well as to Yearly Meeting, you may find Documents in advance helpful for understanding the decision-making process and specific words. These will start to become available from the week commencing 9 January 2023.
Where to go for help
If you have any technical difficulties navigating the YM Planner, you may find the guide for attendees pages useful. In particular, look at the pages on 'Manage Event Schedule' and 'Register For An Event'.
This video (originally produced for Yearly Meeting 2021) may help you get to grips with the YM Planner this year.
Feel free to ask for help by contacting the Yearly Meeting Help Desk – email email@example.com or phone 020 7663 1040.
Another helpful place to get advice is from your local or area meeting or worshipping group. Do you know which Friends from your local meeting plan to attend? If not, you can ask a local Friend who provides eldership or pastoral care, and they should be able to assist you.
Finally, if you have general questions about Yearly Meeting or are feeling a bit lost, please do ask to be directed to the community hub in Friends House. It's a welcoming space where you'll find a few Friends happy to help. You could also approach a member of the Pastoral Care team (also found in the community hub), who would be delighted to speak to you about your experience and answer questions. If you're attending online, the Pastoral Care team, as well as elders, can be contacted through the YM Planner.