Overview of New Structures and Strategic Directions

Implementation Committee Report to Annual Sessions, July 2015

A community of thousands of Friends and 105 meetings in the mid-Atlantic region, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is an extended network. This community exists to hold and amplify, deepen and nurture the experience of Spirit, and everyone’s talents and involvement help make that happen. You are invited to share your gifts, to bring truth, capacity, and strength into the life of our community.

This document provides two overviews. The first is an overview of the primary structures that support our corporate work and community, which are under the care of the Quaker Life Council and the Administrative Council. The structures’ authority, responsibilities, resources, and means of accountability are detailed in a handbook to be completed by September 2015. The second overview is of the strategic directions that will guide our community over the next five years.

Overview: The Primary Structures

Threads

ThreadsThreads weave our yearly meeting community together by gathering people around common themes.

Common threads of concern run through all our monthly meetings. Some examples include: deepening worship and connection to Spirit; providing care to members; stewarding finances and maintaining property; and engaging in social witness.

In a meeting community, these threads weave together to support the faith, practice, and witness of that meeting. When we bring the threads together across our meetings, we create the fabric of our religious society.

Within a thread, people may gather and communicate or build a network, share or create resources, engage in activities, or create informational publications. It is expected that every thread will execute at least one event per year, whether that’s a half-day or day-long Thread Gathering at a meetinghouse, a conference call, a webinar, or another type of event.

Formation of Threads

Threads are identified by the Quaker Life Council and are open to participation by all. Periodically, the Council will review the Threads to determine if each should continue or be laid down (due to energy levels, etc). The threads are organized by staff in collaboration with Friends, under the direction of the Councils.

How Friends Get Involved

All Friends are encouraged to participate in the Threads. Friends with an interest in a Thread should sign up on the PYM website to receive the appropriate Threadletter, to receive information about events, news, Sprints (see below), and resources, as well as the Threadletter.

Specific ways that Friends may contribute to our community through the Threads include:

  • attend gatherings
  • share questions, resources and wisdom through PYM’s Online Conversations and Thread Gatherings
  • writing short news items and stories about the experience of their meeting that may be shared with others; facilitating workshops at Gatherings
  • participate in Sprints to develop or gather resources
  • participate in email listservs
  • join in conference calls.

Some Friends will help organize the offerings of Threads and those who are interested in doing this should contact the Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life.

Job Description

Summary

Thread participants identify themselves as having an interest in one or more Threads and then participate to whatever extent they wish.

Key Responsibilities

  1. Sign up for Threadletters.
  2. Let others in their meeting and other Quaker communities know about the activity within a Thread and encourage others’ participation.
  3. Engage in Thread opportunities to the extent they are interested.

Collaboratives

CollaborativesCollaboratives make us a dynamic, “community organized” yearly meeting, by providing a vessel to hold Friends with similar ideas and leadings, and help launch projects and activities which grow out of those shared callings. They provide cross-pollination for the specific interests, enthusiasms, and bonds of individual Friends within PYM. Using Collaboratives, Friends will join with other Friends to share their passions and reach critical mass and connection.

Examples of possible Collaboratives include: Undoing Racism, Friendly Crafters, Quaker Parents, and Ecstatic Dance.

Formation of Collaboratives

Collaboratives are formed by Friends who have a common interest or ministry. They are self-organized and self-facilitated and are formed under the care of the Quaker Life Council through a process established by the Council. Collaboratives reach out to Friends in all meetings to form a focused community across worship groups, monthly meetings, or quarterly meetings. By definition, each Collaborative will include Friends from several different meetings.

How Friends Get Involved

All Friends are welcome to participate in all Collaboratives to the extent they wish, with a wide range of possibilities offered, including: sharing experience, wisdom, leading, heart-centered presence, and skills with others; attending meetings, events, and social witness; and participating in electronic communications.

Any Friends wishing to create a new Collaborative will use the process established by the Quaker Life Council.

Collaboratives are expected to prepare communications about their progress, achievements, discoveries, and concerns, so that others in the yearly meeting can be aware of it.

Job Description

Summary

Collaborative members participate to the extent they are interested within the expectations of the specific Collaborative.

Key Responsibilities

  1. Actively welcome, engage, and interact with Friends from all meetings.
  2. Demonstrate an excitement about expanding the reach of their interest or work across the geography of the yearly meeting.
  3. Report annually to the Quaker Life Council on the Collaborative’s activities.

Resource Friends

Resource-FriendsResource Friends help our community be healthy and thrive, by providing expert support in areas of need in our monthly meetings and on the yearly meeting level. They are the Friends who have a diverse variety of gifts and tremendous knowledge base from which the community may benefit.

Examples of some concerns that may require Resource Friends include, but are not limited to: religious education, fundraising, community organizing, addressing racism, financial management, facilitation, conflict resolution, the law, pastoral care, healing and wellness, and non-violent direct action.

Identifying Resource Friends

Resource Friends are identified by the Councils and then agree to be available to be called on for various needs. The Quaker Life Council identifies areas of necessary expertise, and will cultivate pools of skilled individuals to serve our extended community.

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To be considered for engagement as a Resource, Friends can complete a profile in PYM Connect, which feeds the Skills and Gifts Pool the Councils will refer to in order to find appropriate members. Additionally, Friends who have relevant skills and experience are invited to contact the Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life with their offer of service. Meetings needing support by a Resource Friend should contact the Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life.

Job Description

Summary

Resource Friends are experts in their fields are experienced and possess a level of knowledge or have a gift that can help with skill building, problem-solving, or moving toward a new understanding.

Key Responsibilities

  1. Respond to constituent information and referral requests to the best of their ability and time. Similarly: Decline a request to serve if they do not have sufficient time, internal resources, experience, or skill to respond to the inquiry.
  2. Submit a report at the end of each referral providing a description of the referral, the general response, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the process. In the event that a referral is a long term process, the Council may request periodic updates.
  3. Immediately share with Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life any occurrence that may have a significant effect on the constituency or the larger community.

The expectations for Resource Friends will vary across the different areas of expertise and depend upon the reasons for which the Resource Friend is being engaged. They may be involved in an ongoing relationship with a constituency or they may be relied on for short term needs and simply engage in email or phone correspondence, or visit the constituency one or two times.

Sprints

SprintsSprints allow our community to respond to leadings in the moment. They provide agility in addressing a specific need as soon as it arises and help to get the job done quickly. They last no longer than 1-6 months; the shorter the better. This time frame allows Friends jump on board for a project, participate in something meaningful to them, and then move on without extended commitment.

Examples of Sprints might include organizing an event like a weekend retreat or a social action/witness; meeting intervisitation or other gathering; or developing a document or set of resources for Friends on a particular topic.

Formation of Sprints

Sprints may be formed by any structure of the yearly meeting including Councils, Collaboratives, Threads, or Committees. Friends who identify a need and have the skills to address it can form a Sprint under the authority of any structure or substructure of the yearly meeting. The supervising structure is responsible for setting the goals and timeframe for the Sprint.

How Friends Get Involved

Sprints may be formed by any structure of the yearly meeting including Councils, Collaboratives, Threads, or Committees. Friends who identify a need and have the skills to address it can form a Sprint under the authority of any structure or substructure of the yearly meeting. The supervising structure is responsible for setting the goals and timeframe for the Sprint.

Job Description

Summary

Sprint participants each bring a skill or experience to the table that is needed in order for the task to succeed.

Key Responsibilities

  1. Participants must be willing to participate in a series of conference calls/video chats or in-person meetings over a period of time extending no longer than 6 months and ideally shorter.
  2. Each participant is expected to actively help move the project forward at meetings and between meetings.
  3. There is usually a convener, clerk, or team leader who calls meetings and clerks meetings.

Committees

CommitteesCommittees provide ongoing attention and expertise to help keep us moving along in key areas. Committee members are appointed and supervised by the Councils. They support work and activities that are required year after year, and which are difficult for the Councils to manage alone.

Examples of possible committees include: a Committee to review and revise Faith and Practice; a Committee to review the Collaborative reports, or a Committee to review the yearly meeting budget.

Formation of Committees

Committees are formed by either Council at the Council’s discretion. When formed, the Councils enumerate the goals of the committee so its progress can be measured by those goals moving forward. Periodically, the Councils will review the Committees under their care to support them and to determine whether the goals of that work are being met and continue to be needed.

How Friends Get Involved

Committee members are appointed by the Councils, which may request help from Nominating Committee in making these appointments if desired.

Friends interested in serving on Committees should complete a profile in PYM Connect which feeds the Skills and Gifts Pool which the Councils and Nominating Committee will refer to in order to find appropriate members. Additionally, Friends who have relevant skills and experience and are interested in service on a particular Committee are invited to let the appropriate Council know that they are willing to be called on.

Committees are expected to prepare communications about the progress, achievements, discoveries, and concerns of their work so that others in the yearly meeting community can be aware of it. The contact information for the clerk, or other designated contact person, will be public so that any Friend in our yearly meeting can be in touch with the committee.

Job Description

Summary

All Committee members will possess skills, experience, and/or spiritual gifts necessary to achieve the Committee’s specific tasks, goals, and outcomes. They will work collaboratively to do significant and necessary work for PYM.

Key Responsibilities

  1. The Council that created the Committee will clarify the primary responsibilities of the Committee.
  2. Committee members will work to sustain what the Council has assigned them in a timely and responsible manner.
  3. Committee members shall report back to the Council with results of their work, and uphold the needs of the whole yearly meeting in all that they do.

Bridge Contacts

Bridge-ContactsBridge Contacts help PYM Friends connect with the movement of Spirit across our extended community. They keep up-to-date with the news, events, leadings, and activities in our yearly meeting network, and connect their constituencies to it. Bridge Contacts proactively identify opportunities for collaboration and make introductions. This work of paying attention to “how Spirit is moving among us” is critical to our healthy functioning as a connected yearly meeting, and so every constituency in the yearly meeting is encouraged to appoint a Bridge Contact.

Examples of possible constituencies with Bridge Contacts include: monthly meetings, quarterly meetings, worship groups, Committees, Collaboratives, and Young Adult Friends.

Identifying Bridge Contacts

Every constituency appoints a Bridge Contact in their own manner

How Friends Get Involved

Friends wishing to serve as a Bridge Contact should speak with their own constituency.

Of course, every Friend is welcome and encouraged, to view all yearly meeting communications, and notice where connections between individuals, constituencies, and our work might be made.

Skills and Gifts Pool

Implementation-Committee-008Our community is brimming with Friends who possess an enormous array of gifts, skills, and interests. The Skills and Gifts Pool is a database which allows us to know about Friends’ abilities so they can be called on to participate in relevant activity in our yearly meeting network.

The Pool is accessible to Nominating Committee, the Councils, and Staff. The public aspects of it may be accessed by anyone (through PYM Connect Online Conversations profiles).

Formation of the Pool

The Pool is created from the profiles of Friends who create a profile with PYM Connect’s Online Conversations.

How Friends Get Involved

Friends wishing to be considered for engagement in our yearly meeting structures such as Collaboratives, Sprints, Committees, or Resource Friends can complete a profile with PYM Connect’s Online Conversations.

Administrative Council

Implementation-Committee-010With divine assistance the Administrative Council maintains the health and integrity of the finances, property, personnel and long-term vision of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. It ensures that resources are well managed in a sustainable manner.

Quaker Life Council

Implementation-Committee-009With divine assistance the Quaker Life Council maintains the health and integrity of the community, spiritual depth and relationships within Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. They watch over yearly meeting activities, including nurturing meetings, supporting corporate work for peace and justice, bringing members across meetings together to collaborate on projects of common interest.

Overview: Strategic Directions

Connect Friends and meetings to one another so that we may experience vibrant, spirit-led faith community

We will share among us the wisdom, creativity, and resources of our meetings and Friends, so they may resonate throughout the whole community and allow us to thrive in relationship with the Divine. Individuals and meetings will give time, gifts, and experience in service, and in turn receive new insight, grounding, and friendships, directly and indirectly enriching their meetings and their own spiritual lives.

Connect Friends across the yearly meeting through effective communications and technologies

We will connect Friends across the geography of PYM and with Friends from the wider world, in order to carry our concerns together. We will do this in a manner that allows everyone, without travelling, to participate in the life of the community.

Develop and widely communicate clear messages about Quakers and PYM

We will send boldly into the world the message of our distinctive Quaker faith and practice, so that we are known not only for our historic witness but also for our present action, encouraging others to join us, and so that all may be inspired.

Simplify and focus governance and administration

We will use our finite resources of volunteer time and energy to focus primarily on God’s work, and to sustain our extended community. This process will simplify our structure and processes, clarify roles, responsibilities, authority, and accountability, and reduce the number of things we do. Thus, we will create new opportunities for access and participation, open to anyone with the skills, experience, and will to serve, regardless of time and travel limitations.

Broaden community and deepen relationships in our yearly meeting

Because we are all interconnected, we seek to increase a sense of belonging to an extended family of Friends. To be effective and whole, we need each other. Our personal experience of being a Friend is deepened by worshipping, discerning business, and sharing community beyond our home meetings. Friends of all ages, locations, and interests will have ways of entering the community and will feel glad they’ve participated.

Facilitate PYM-wide corporate witness and social action

As seekers of Truth, we expect to be called to action. Together, as a PYM community, we will witness to the Light, contributing to transformational work in the world. We will encourage and support one another in taking risks together, as we make an impact on our society. We will enhance our effectiveness by focusing our corporate action on fewer, clearer goals.

Ensure our communities are welcoming and safe for all people

We will look courageously into the roots of inequity in our culture, be willing to see and feel the pain it can cause, and choose to do whatever is necessary to take risks and to change. We will dismantle imposed barriers in our yearly and monthly meeting structures and activities, which impede our experience of God within our communities and within ourselves. We seek to make the congregations inside of our meetinghouses reflect the beauty and diversity of the world outside of them.