Understanding and Meeting Our Needs at Sessions Business Meeting

Story author
David Coletta

For the last two years I have been following a leading to help Quaker meetings and organizations who are learning about online and hybrid worship and business. I do this work out of my love for the Yearly Meeting and out of a motion and yearning for leaving behind patterns that no longer serve us and inventing and embracing new ones that support a vision and practice of inclusion and accessibility. This leading is under the care of Fresh Pond Monthly Meeting; my Care & Accountability Committee welcomes your observations about my faithfulness to this leading. More information about this work is available at

Anticipating our first hybrid business sessions this summer at Castleton and on Zoom, I am considering what our needs are as individuals and as a body. These are needs we all share no matter how we choose to attend Sessions. Depending on each person’s physical location and means of attending, they may be met in different ways.

You may notice I am avoiding the words “in person” because, after all, everyone is “in person” somewhere, and when we use the words “in person” to describe only the largest group, it centers that group.

When we used to meet all together in one location, some of our needs were:

  • Awareness of who is present in the business session
  • Access to documents, videos, and any other materials needed for consideration of the business before us
  • Being able to see and hear everyone, within the limits of our physical senses
  • Being able to ask to be recognized by the clerk
  • Awareness of who is currently asking to be recognized
  • The ability to have a brief private conversation with another person present

All of these needs are subservient to the deepest need, which is to be a body together, with each other and the Spirit. When we met all together in one place, we generally knew how to get these needs met, and we gave some, but not full, consideration to making sure that accommodations were available to everyone who needed them. The reality of meeting together from multiple locations provides us with a magnificent opening to be able to perceive the ways in which these needs are universal, and to use new tools to be able to reach further than before toward universal access.

Some of the specific ways we are considering meeting these needs for all include:

  • More cameras in the auditorium, so that Zoom participants can see clearly who is speaking from the floor or back of the auditorium
  • Better lighting in the back of the auditorium of people who cannot access the seating areas
  • Multiple video screens so that Zoom participants, videos, and closed captions can be seen by participants in the auditorium
  • Descriptive audio of what is happening in the auditorium

Many of us will likely benefit from some or all of the accommodations. Instructions will be provided for anyone who chooses to opt out of any of the accommodations, when opting out is possible.

It is one of the blessings of the pandemic that it has prompted us to ask what we need from our worship together. As I follow this ministry of faithful use of technology, I want to hear: What other needs do you have?