“Hearts and minds prepared” is a twelve session course for small groups developed by the Quaker Study Centre at Woodbrooke, UK. The aim of the course is to deepen participants’ understanding of our Quaker heritage, the fundamental principles of Quaker faith and practice, and their application today within the liberal tradition of Quakerism. It has been very popular with Quakers in Britain and has been well received when offered in Australia.
The sub-title – “Grounding the faith and practice of Quakers today” – emphasises the concern of “Hearts and minds prepared” with Quaker history and heritage on the one hand, and the ways this is interpreted today on the other. The tensions between the past and the present are often present and usually constructive. Some sessions use writings of early Friends to deepen our understanding of our Quaker heritage, while challenging us to articulate and own our individual and corporate faith and practice today, and to reflect on the ways in which these are linked to but different from their origins. Other sessions ask us to read, listen to, and on one occasion watch a video of modern Friends sharing their sense of being grounded in their faith and practice as a stimulus to considering our individual positions. Throughout the course there is constant encouragement to examine our individual spiritual grounding, practices and spiritual journeys, and to share them with the group.
But content – a greater understanding of our own spirituality and the Quaker way – is only one aspect of the course. Perhaps as important is the development of our skills of listening and sharing, which in turn help to create a growing sense trust and community among participants, and an increasing depth and sensitivity in appreciating and learning from the spirituality of others. These skills are encouraged by a carefully structured course, in which early sessions focus on less personal and potentially challenging subjects, while activities, such as one-to-one sharing, encourage disclosure in a non-threatening environment, and build skills of creative listening and worship sharing.
The course is tightly structured overall and each session has a very specific focus; this is not a course for a group wanting, open, wide-ranging and self-directed discussion. The facilitators’ handbook and the comprehensive resources provided, whether readings, cards, audio or video presentation are excellent, and the activities based on these are varied and engaging. Although the role of the facilitators is critical in guiding the sessions, their role is not to impose particular views on the group, and the direction taken, the outcomes and the learning depended on the group as a whole. Preparatory reading is not required, an aspect which may be important for busy people taking part in the course. There are, however, many handouts, booklets to borrow and suggestions for reading specific to most sessions.
The course is designed for groups of about eight, including two facilitators, with a mix of experienced Friends and newcomers. The group becomes closely bonded and trusting, so it is important that a commitment to attend is made by everyone and that there are no late additions to the group. Each session fits comfortably into a two hour period.
The course developers expect facilitators to attend a training day and an excellent program has been developed which focuses on trainees participating in, and taking turns in leading, the specific sorts of activity the course entails – but with the training content focused on the process of facilitation rather than course content. After undertaking training in Britain I have trained groups of potential facilitators in several Regional Meetings. There are now Friends in most places prepared to facilitate the course or the training, and I am available to come and lead a training day.
A number of Regional Meetings have copies of the resource kits.
Contact: Peter Wilde
Tasmania Regional Meeting