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Members vote positively at the 31st Synod. Photo by Uniting Communications.
Members vote positively at the 31st Synod. Photo: Uniting Communications

Six awkward meeting moments (and how to solve them)

Everyone knows the Uniting Church loves a good committee. With the 31st Synod sitting this month, Journey writers have gathered some helpful hints based on the Assembly’s Manual for meetings about how to avoid those awkward meeting moments.

1Why wasn’t I told about this?

Similar to “Am I late?” this question indicates that the speaker has ignored their emails or left their printouts folded in the pew sheet. All reports and proposals should be circulated well in advance of the meeting and are deemed to have been read by committee members before the meeting has begun, even if the Masterchef finale was on TV last night.

2Can’t we just take a vote?

Welcome! You must be new. Only innocent bystanders or disoriented folk at the wrong church ask this question. The Uniting Church believes that consensus—the process by which the common mind of the meeting is sought about the wisest way forward—engenders a spirit of openness and humility through which we are more likely to discern God’s will.

3What are the cards for?

People, pay attention. As tempting as it might be to fold them into hats or planes, the two coloured cards are used for consensus decision making, not intricate origami. Orange indicates warmth or general agreement, while blue symbolises coolness or general disagreement. Caution: use with care. If you hold the cards back-to-back the people behind may grow agitated at your apparent intransigence. If the cards are crossed, the chairperson will assume that you are ready to move on.

4That’s not the way we did it with our last minister.

Don’t be that person. The Manual for meetings calls this “the stagnation blues”.

5Point of order!

We all secretly yearn to leap to our feet and shout this, especially when the meeting needs a little drama. You may only speak when called upon by the chair, except to raise a point of order about the proceedings. Caution: use with care! This isn’t parliamentary question time; we’re all on the same team.

6I’ll only take ten minutes of your time.

If it wasn’t so long, this rule would be tattooed on the forehead of every committee member: Unless otherwise predetermined by the council, a member presenting an issue, report or proposal speaks for no more than five minutes and subsequent speakers speak for no more than three minutes. God is truly merciful.

If you want to sound really smart at parties you can at on the Queensland Synod website.

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