Clerk’s Minute of Exercise – 3rd Month 2007

A Minute of Exercise is an allowed expression of liberty given to the clerk to speak from his heart to the body on what he wishes to lift up from these sessions. Many of us approached these sessions with the hope that the work of preparation would be substantial to hold our attention and that it would enable us to engage with the Divine and with each other. Our theme “Dwelling in that which God has given us” came alive as we began to understand our Yearly Meeting resources, programs and budgeting processes.

We found this quote in an Epistle written by George Fox, one of our principal founders:

“Friends, I warn and exhort you all in the presence of the Lord God, dwell in the measure which God hath given you of himself, in which is not strife, but unity. Therefore every one of you dwell in it. And this I do warn you of, boast not yourselves above your measures, but dwell in the truth itself; that with the measure of the living spirit of the living God ye may be guided up to God, in which spirit ye will all have unity, in the least measure of it….” (Epistle 94, p. 101)

We planned time to attend to our Yearly Meeting at these annual sessions. And we found unity in many ways. Mary Lord reminded us who we are when she told the story of Ezekiel and the Elders in hearing God speak: “I am the Lord your God.” Mary warned us, as surely seen in Israel’s history, that unless we are grounded in God’s love and spirit, we will fail if we do it by ourselves. Although we did not pick up Mary’s query to us, it is still ringing for us to hear: “What is Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s calling as a peace maker?” This is a carillon waiting to be heard at Residential Yearly Meeting when we come together at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.

Joe Volk affirmed his sense of how God was present among us and that we can learn what it is that we are called to do as a community. He said we will have to learn how to let go of our individually and deeply held concerns, our fears, our nagging doubts and our worries of our daily life. “There is no elegant solution to a poorly defined problem.”

When we began to raise questions about our budget and the Budget Process Proposals, we began to bump into our individually held concerns and fears. This was the important work we came to do this weekend – beginning to talk about our resources and our programs that lead us to encounter our world. We are beginning to understand that we do not have the luxury of doing all that we have done in the past without restructuring our resources, without listening to one another, and without asking that essential query: “What are we called to do as a community?” The decisions we hopefully will make in July will show what we are made of and will tell the world who we really are. This is important stuff.

We worked well during these three days. We showed our ability to dwell in that measure of discipline given to us, that we found the tempo to do our work. It was intense work.

I am thankful, an honest-to-God thankful, for being able to give service to our Yearly Meeting. I learned how essential the body is to clerking. I am thankful for Beth, Dorothy, Ted and Pat who were here to love and pray that my service was grounded and guided. I am thankful for you and your belief that there is a Living God who wants to guide and love us. I am thankful for Young Friends who played “The Unnamed Game Show,” and answered questions like “how many Quakers does it take to screw in a light bulb?” I am thankful for Arthur Larrabee’s vision of us being a vibrant community. I am thankful for many hours and hearts that enabled the planning. Thankful to Lauren Baumann whose inaugural service as PYM Sessions Coordinator got it right. I am thankful for Lisa and Jim Collins of Fallsington Meeting who brought their children (two of whom are sitting with the clerk and one is our recording clerk for this session), and I am thankful for Jim’s caring that our audio system works well.

I am thankful for the Magnolia trees and for their blooming. And I am thankful to Phil Anthony who told me that an earlier Friend who loved our Yearly Meeting planted that species of Magnolia because they would bloom around the last week in March. I am thankful for the Friend who came to me in truth to say that when I called on her she felt bullied. I am thankful we worked through our miscommunication.

I am thankful for the good groundwork we started this weekend and we will continue to labor and thresh with one another in our own Monthly Meetings. I am thankful to anticipate that we will come prepared in Residential Yearly Meeting to discern our right use of our resources and to discover a vision for us. I am thankful that we are on a flight path that will teach us to really fly. I am thankful that we dwelled in the measure given to us as a people of God. I am thankful for the joy of being thankful.

If we humbly ask each other and the Divine at our local communities, “What is Philadelphia Yearly Meeting called to do as a community?” we can find we have an exciting adventure before us. We will have to learn how to lay aside our own pet concerns, our own pet Quaker testimonies, and to listen how we can do something grand together.

May these words from Paul in his Epistle to the Romans be our guide. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Thomas Swain, Clerk,
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting