On 18th February, I took part a in Mary Sumner House virtual training session, Preparing for future meetings; the first of four led by Marion Pope. Participants were from across the UK and were encouraged to pass on the discussion points. In groups of eight we had a short session to introduce ourselves then had two longer sessions for discussion.
Preparing for future meetings: These are the main points from the four discussion groups.
What are the challenges you see?
Managing the future when there are unknowns, risk assessments. Government restrictions – sanitize space, maximum number allowed together, social distancing, masks/face covering. The confidence of members after such a long time in lockdown; members may still be shielding; should the branch hold a mixture of day/evening meetings? How will the branch organise transporting members who need a lift?
How do we encourage our MU members to engage fully in 2021?
Continue to communicate with all members: telephone chains, printed information, email, virtual/zoom meetings. Arrange several meetings with smaller numbers; organise a local prayer walk or a walk to socialise which could be sponsored to raise funds for an MU charity. Put MU branch information into the parish magazine/ pew leaflet to inform the members and wider community. Suggest members bring their own drink/snack.
What might future meetings look like?
Meet in church instead of a smaller meeting room. Thanksgiving service; meet in an outside venue e.g. a sports club golf, cricket, large garden, for a catch up with social distancing; continue zoom meetings if there is a demand; consult with members and act upon suggestions from your members.
When restrictions are eased, invite MU members who have no access to virtual/ zoom sessions to take part in one with the guidance of another experienced member.
If any Oxford Diocese MU members would like to take part in a similar discussion, I will arrange a virtual session. Best wishes to you all planning for your future meetings.
Valerie Bolan Trustee AVP for West Berkshire