A called meeting is a meeting outside our normal schedule, called by the Clerk, and is used to gather Friends to consider a concern that cannot wait until the next meeting of the entire yearly meeting either because of timing and/or significance. Called meetings are held rarely and only after careful consideration; they are not taken lightly and your Clerk, assistant clerks and elders are under this weight.
Dear Members and Seekers,
In my role as Presiding Clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, I am calling for a Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business to discern how we, as a faith community, are being led to address racism.
On several occasions during Annual Sessions 2014 concerns about -isms – racism, sexism, genderism and classism – that exist within our communities, our meetings and in our hearts were raised. On July 27, 2014, the body approved the Clerk and Elders to discern a way forward. Over the ensuing months of discernment several truths have made themselves known:
- That we are not a unified body about the degree of these concerns. My experience has been that Friends generally fall into one of the following three broad categories:
- Questioning: some Friends question the degree of the concerns or our place as a religious community to address them.
- Overwhelmed: some Friends see, at least in part, the concerns as significant yet feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to take action or to have a productive, non-harmful conversation; some Friends feel paralyzed by the magnitude of the concerns or an unknowing of how or where to begin.
- Under the weight:some Friends have been under the weight of these concerns and have been working and ministering within and/or across them.
- Any actions our yearly meeting may take must be done in a manner in which all Friends are welcomed and cared for in each step of the process regardless of where they may stand in regard to the general descriptions above.
- That any work to be done by our yearly meeting will not be that of a few Friends or a committee, but of all of us, for only we know our true heart and only we can speak of our experiences.
- Any effort to address our -isms will be a journey. No single event or workshop, or even a few of them, will achieve what is necessary. This work will require us to examine practices we have learned and held since childhood and such changes do not happen overnight.
The time since Annual Sessions last July has been difficult for many of us – from Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO; to Eric Garner in New York City; to articles in the October 2014 issue of Friends Journal. These situations have heightened our need to come together.
The Called Meeting
The agenda of our called meeting will focus on sharing our experience and discerning a possible way forward as a faith community. We have the intent to proceed in a manner that is inclusive of everyone regardless of where they may stand in relationship to the issue of racism. The called meeting is a space for us to share our spiritual conditions without blaming or shaming one another. Your clerks and elders are looking to test with the body that we are led to:
- Increase our consciousness as Friends about the intersection of privilege and race in our culture and spiritual community. We know our knowledge is often limited by our own experiences and that we have much to learn from each other and from outside resources.
- Move forward with our entire community. The yearly meeting is the community of all of our monthly meetings and individual Friends and this work needs to be done with the involvement of all of us.
- Integrate this work into what we do in an ongoing way at the yearly meeting level. We want this work to become part of the fabric of what we do whenever we get together as yearly meeting members and attenders.
As all called meetings, this one is open to all. In addition to welcoming everyone, we are asking each meeting to name two Friends to attend the called meeting and possibly serve as contact people for the meeting for future communication. The named Friends need not be people who are engaged or even familiar with issues of race. Rather, we ask that they be Friends who are trusted by the meeting community and who are willing to step into uncertain territory with our religious community.
This called meeting is about how we do the work within that may then change the world. We look forward to worshiping with you on January 10, 2015 at Arch Street Meeting House.
We ask Friends to RSVP on the PYM website so we can plan well, schedule childcare and provide Accessible Parking for those who need it. We encourage all Friends to carpool or use public transportation to attend the called session.