Conference 2016, “Feathers on the Breath of God”, got off to a great start on Friday, 22nd July.
We began in traditional manner – with a convivial welcome and chair’s reception, followed by dinner, evening prayer and the Annual General Meeting – before removing once again to the bar for some very convivial socialising. So just on the fist evening, we experienced three of the four key standard elements of a Quest conference – spiritual refreshment, Quest business, and mutual support in friendship and socialising (the value of which should not be underestimated).
The fourth element, intellectual stimulation, will come on days two and three.
Annual General Meeting
The highlight of this year’s AGM was the chair’s report, with encouraging news of how over the past year or so, our focus has moved beyond our traditional focus on supporting our members in the challenge of reconciling faith and sexuality, to a greater emphasis on looking outwards, to the wider world. On the one hand, this has been by reaching out to Catholic bishops and others in Church structures, on the other, it has been by working together with secular LGBT organisations such as LGBT history month, and especially Stonewall, whom we have started to collaborate with on their school role models program. All these initiatives will continue, and grow. The meetings already held with bishops, priest, and the church safeguarding team will all require follow up. We have also been discussing with Stonewall some opportunities to expand our areas of co-operation to new areas, and already, there are plans in place to take our work with the School Role Models project beyond talking to the pupils in school assemblies, to providing some training to school staff on the supportive elements in Catholic teaching – and why church teaching requires us to combat homophobia, and any form of violence or malice, in speech or in action.
Achieving our aims with our present limited resources, depending entirely on our team of willing volunteers will not be easy – even now, we are hardpressed just to keep up with existing commitments. This is why a group of committee members, regional convenors and a few others gathered recently for a weekend workshop to do some brainstorming on identifying priority objectives, and ways to develop the resources to implement them. A summary report on the workshop conclusions, and the action plan that was agreed on, was distributed to the members present, and will be formally submitted to the new committee for their consideration.
We also heard in the treasurer’s report that our finances are sound. We are not a wealthy organisation, but we always been able to operate within our income, even generating a small annual profit. We do therefore have a small surplus available to us, to cope with unexpected demands. In discussion from the floor, it was pointed out however, with the proposed expansion of our activities, we must expect that there will be greater demands for funds than previously. This means that we will need to look for new sources of funding. Some of this could come from external donors, but we will need to do some active fundraising ourselves, at either national or regional level (or both).
One other potential source of increased funding, is to increase membership. We learned from our membership secretary, that after a long period of decline, our paid-up membership is again beginning to increase, albeit slowly. Part of the recommendations by the strategic planning weekend, was that we need much more actively to recruit new members.