What: “Elders with oversight”.Who: You will find photos of current Elders with Oversight are on the noticeboard in the Meeting House foyer.
Many Quaker Meetings have members who are known as “Elders”. These Friends are asked to foster the spiritual life of the Meeting. There are also “Overseers” who are asked to ensure that the more practical aspects of pastoral care are in place. These names and responsibilities were developed in the 17th century, to give additional responsibility to some Members of our faith group that is rooted in equality and the priesthood of all believers.
More than a decade ago, Redland Meeting, and some other Quaker Meetings in Britain decided to combine these two roles, into one – and the Elder with Oversight (EwO) role began.
What do we do?
As EwOs we try to contribute to the life of the meeting in many ways. We aren’t “special people” and each of us is better at some things than others. The sorts of things we try to do include:
- getting to know each other and as many people in our Meeting as we can
- our presence in Meeting for Worship with 2 of us each Sunday being responsible for shaking hands at the end of Meeting for Worship
- supporting and convening our 6 Sharing Circles, and ensuring there is good care for hospitality at Meeting for Worship
- supporting Meetings for Learning, and other learning gropus
- being attentive to the spiritual needs of individuals including children and young people
- supporting one another and contributing to the spiritual development of our group of EwOs through our monthly meetings and other gatherings
- attending Local Meetings for Business when we can
- supporting our attenders to consider membership when they feel ready.
How do we do it?
As a part of a compassionate team of Ffriends who are doing our best, feeling that we aren’t good enough, and don’t have enough time to do all we would like to do.
We may be comforted by Isaac Pennington’s words in 1667 that “Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.”
Why are we writing this?
We hope it helps all those who come to our Meeting to know how we care and support our worshipping community. We aim to have 12 EwOs in Redland (though there are currently less than 10). We are appointed, by Bristol Area Meeting, usually for 3 years, generally at the end of each year.
The time for considering these appointments will soon be upon us, and we would like to encourage Friends to think if this is a role you might like to offer to our community. There is training available for new EwOs at Woodbrooke and elsewhere, and established EwOs try to befriend and help those who are new to their role.
How can you be involved?
Please ask existing EwOs, or our clerk Julia Bush for more information about the role, and then think if it is something that might interest you.
Our Meeting really does need you!!