Hybrid meetings

The General Assembly Clerk the Revd Michael Hopkins has put forward some thoughts about Hybrid meetings:

Dear friends,

I have been asked about hybrid meetings. I thought it more helpful to offer my thoughts quickly and informally, than wait an age for a long paper!

Technically, there are no Standing Orders for hybrid meetings, and one could argue that there is therefore no possibility for that.  However, the reality is that people are bound to ask this, and such things are not unreasonable to ask about per se in the mix of decision-making, however I have some fairly significant caveats.

1. As there are no SOs for hybrid meetings, they would have to be considered as a virtual meeting where it just happened that some people were all in one place.

2. Our theology of decision-making and of the Holy Spirit is such that in a meeting we gather not to seek a majority decision to authorise something, but to listen for God with the help of the Holy Spirit, and to seek God's will. Therefore, it would be absolutely essential in any hybrid meeting that everyone, whether on screen or in the venue, could see and hear everyone else.

3. The requirement to see and hear everyone else properly is not too difficult for small meetings - many of us have experienced a meeting of eight or ten or twelve where one or two or three people 'dial in', but to achieve the ability for all to see and hear everyone else is very much more technically challenging in larger gatherings. Hybrid worship does not have the same constraints, and so is easier to manage.

4. Chairing such a meeting requires considerably more work than either a virtual meeting, or a physical meeting, and should only be attempted where a chair feels comfortable and confident in the situation and the technology.

My advice, then, is probably summarised as it's really quite difficult to do it, so think very carefully if it really is your best option.

While writing, I share a few other thoughts.  Feel free to ignore or use as appropriate:

Virtual meetings are here to stay - there is no suggestion they need to stop as the pandemic eases - many Synods and committees are considering a proportion of their meetings remaining virtual, so as to balance the benefits of face-to-face meetings and the benefits or virtual meetings;

There has been great creativity, such as meetings happening outdoors, meetings at times and places different from usual.  It would be a great shame to lose such creativity;

Given how well we have managed with many fewer meetings, is God telling us that we could streamline our governance, yet still hear God clearly?? 

This is off-the-cuff thinking to respond to an urgent request, rather than definitive and final advice...