Council Members Gather to Launch New PYM Structure

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By Zachary Dutton, Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life

On September 19th, our Implementation Committee brought PYM Staff and Nominating Committee together with the new members of the Administrative Council and Quaker Life Council for a day-long training on our new governance structure, which takes effect on October 1.

Over fifty Friends gathered at the Burlington Meeting House. They were members from across almost every Quarterly Meeting and many Monthly Meetings, uniquely under the weight of a new vision for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

The first half of the day, before lunch, was devoted not to reviewing handbooks or trumpeting on with endless reports, as the infamous teacher from the Peanuts comic. Instead, this precious time of worshipful convergence was used largely as a staging ground for the imperative paradigm shifts, which need to accompany our structural shifts.

Members of the Implementation Committee, Emily Blanck and tonya thames taylor, convened our day with singing and exercises to deepen our awareness of each other.

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Christie Duncan-Tessmer, our General Secretary, used a “skwish” children’s toy to emphasize the flexible, agile nature of the new governance structure.

Jada Jackson, our outgoing Clerk, spoke with poignant depth about the incumbent restraint of servant leaders, the need to learn how to say no lovingly, and the sheer weight of the midwifery upon which the Councils will embark.

Jonathan Snipes, Implementation Clerk, also led us in song and sustained our joyful grounding in the Spirit, as he framed the training within the context of our seven strategic directions.

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From these openings and invitations, a felt sense of connection extended throughout the entire day. Near the end, one Administrative Council member remarked that the training had, in its very design, eschewed old “silo behavior” and embraced work and witness that includes, empowers and connects. We seem to be off to a good start, but the coming changes will take more than 50 people to flourish vibrantly.

Council members were sent home with lots of homework for getting up-to-speed on the important minutia of our new operational procedures, and afternoon workshops explored many more details Council members will need to have branded onto their brains as securely as the lyrics to the George Fox Song, “Walk in the light, wherever you may be!”

PYM Quakers are called to become a grass-roots, connected and networked spiritual community, which provides just enough structure to extend the Quaker Way into our whole lives, transforming ourselves and the world.

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Opportunities to Engage

Did you know that You are PYM? The people who met to explore and learn about shepherding the new way into being were only one small segment of the ten thousand Friends who make up the extended family of Friends, called Philadelphia Yearly Meeting! This means you are part of the important work to come, and there are ways to be engaged at various levels.

Stay tuned for news to be released soon about how to form Collaboratives, access and become Resource Friends, get more involved with PYM Connect, and consider becoming a Bridge Contact for your meeting, worship group, or other community.

Come to Continuing Sessions!

Most importantly, be sure to attend Continuing Sessions on November 7, 2015. It will be held at Westtown School. Our whole yearly meeting (that’s you!) is invited to participate in the best parts of our residential Annual Sessions (held in the summer) condensed into one full day.

The entire morning will be spent discerning and worshiping with the query: “What is God calling PYM Quakers to do next to end racism and white supremacy in the Religious Society of Friends and beyond?”

After the morning, we will explore the different ways to get involved through the lens of our Threads and consider important operational decisions, while touching on our query in some way during each segment of the afternoon. Continuing Sessions is completely free, with the option of purchasing lunch.

Join us! Our profound shifts are only possible if Friends far beyond the 50 who attended the training for Councils on September 19 get involved and make our witness come alive!

Photos by Melissa Rycroft