Outgoing Epistle 2002

To Friends Everywhere,

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends came together for our 322nd sessions from March 21 to March 24, 2002, at the Arch Street Meeting House, in a feeling of joyous anticipation of the fellowship and opportunities to worship together as we sought God’s will in attending to matters of business. At these sessions, we began the practice of providing an American Sign Language interpreter to make the sessions more accessible and inviting.

Our sessions proceeded with such awareness for the leading of the Spirit that seeking the right course of action was often accomplished with surprising dispatch. Dry business items became occasions for renewal and increased love for and commitment to our Yearly Meeting.

Following the terrorist attacks in September, the children’s programs for Yearly Meeting were planned to help children to deal with their feelings of loss and confusion and to continue the healing process for them and their families. Experiences bravely shared by three young Friends brought home to us the healing power of a strong spiritual community. They also made us aware of the need for young Friends to find a meaningful place within Quakerism during a natural phase of transition from youth to adulthood.

The topics that emerged from our sessions revolved around inreach and outreach. Workshops provided support and resources for Monthly Meetings, their work, and their worship. Friends approved revisions of Faith and Practice reflecting recent changes in the Yearly Meeting’s structure. Friends appreciated the efforts of our financial committees in maintaining a balance between return on investments and Friends’ testimonies.

Friends united in approving the separate incorporations of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and the two schools under its care, Westtown and George School. There is such a precious bond between the Yearly Meeting and the schools providing irreplaceable spiritual support that these schools will remain under the care of the Yearly Meeting.

Some Friends have been working on a project called Making New Friends, which, in conjunction with other Yearly Meeting projects, such as Deepening and Strengthening Our Meetings As Faith Communities, we hope will increase the size and vitality of our Monthly Meetings. Friends are searching for ways to witness corporately the joy of our faith and worship and to support actively and lovingly the many individual spiritual paths that lead people to the Religious Society of Friends.

There was a constant awareness of the ramifications of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and of the escalating violence in the world. At the opening session, Jean Zaru, a Palestinian Quaker and Clerk of Ramallah Monthly Meeting, electrified the meeting as she shared her story of grief, sufferings, Christian witness, and hope as a citizen in an occupied country. Friends recognized that there was an exciting opportunity inherent in the combination of Ramallah Meeting’s need for help in repairing their historic meetinghouse, their dream of establishing an international peace center in that meetinghouse, and our longing to take action to nurture peace efforts in the Middle East.

In exploring our options, we quickly became clear that we are called to develop an ongoing spiritual partnership with Ramallah Meeting and to work collaboratively with them and, as way opens, with all others working nonviolently in the hope of contributing to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

We enthusiastically received the thoughtful, well-planned presentation of our Young Friends’ minute calling for our spiritual support for their participation in the peace march and rally called “Stop The War at Home and Abroad” and for our participation in this witness in Washington, D.C., on April 20, 2002. Friends joyfully approved this minute and additionally authorized appropriate funding for the work of Young Friends in the coalition.

A gathered presence was deeply felt by many throughout the discernment process in these annual sessions. Friends called each other to be gently steadfast, to embody love, and to seek and speak Truth as it has been revealed to them.

Signed in and on behalf of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends,
Arlene Kelly, clerk