This week I participated in two online Quaker board meetings. Online meetings—conference calls or skyping—make it possible for people widely separated geographically to get together and do business, Quaker style. I’ve discovered that we can even sit together in silence over the phone, although the time is usually brief and something in the quality of the experience goes missing. Even so—it can be done.
The first meeting involved a board I’ve just become a part of, and this was my introduction to the group. We span yearly meeting lines (as well as theological perspectives) but are united in a common task, one I highly value. I also value these wider Quaker connections.
As a newcomer I was ready to listen. The first item of business was a reading of the minutes. This included mention that one of the members had just completed a task, and the minute expressed appreciation and gratitude. Another member reminded the group that they had previously decided not to express gratitude in the minutes because if they thanked one person, they would need to thank each person for each task completed, and someone was bound to be left out. The minutes were then corrected and approved.
I can see the logic behind this. Minutes should be to the point, not flowery. Good recording clerks do not gush. Formality dictates style, in this case. Even so, it felt a little strange.
Then one day later, I participated in another conference call, this one of a board within our own yearly meeting and among people I know. We opened and closed the meeting in verbal prayer, without any telephone silence. And our excellent recording clerk does not gush, at least in the minutes. So far, so good. But this time, it was me who reported on a completed task and was, appropriately enough, not thanked, either verbally or in the minutes.
I represented a team who had been working together in a very difficult situation, and we had definitely experienced God at work. Our work had come to a good conclusion. I was hoping this would be a cause of rejoicing for the whole board. And maybe it was, beneath the surface.
I guess this is a confession. I should be mature enough by now not to want or expect expressions of gratitude. As I talked over my disappointment with Hal, he encouraged me to remember who I was serving. That helps.
Later this week, I have another digital Quaker meeting. I clerk a committee under the NWYM Board of Global Outreach that has oversight over our Friends Serving Abroad in Russia. This time we will skype, complete with video images. We will gather from around the Pacific Northwest and Russia. We are close friends and this meeting will be more informal. We’ll probably even joke and laugh out loud. Seeing the changing expressions on faces encourages this.
Someone may even say, “Thank you.”