Overheard at Annual Sessions Day 2

Annual Sessions

Grace Sharples-Cooke has been asking friends at Annual Sessions to share a bit about themselves while finding their way around the new campus. If you had been there to listen in on those conversations, here is a sample of what you would have overheard from these friends:

Gabbreell James is here from Green Street Monthly Meeting. A lifelong Friend, she grew up with her mother’s example of commitment to Quakerism and the social justice causes she finds so meaningful. In addition to bringing a deep commitment to Quakerism to Sessions, she also brought her wardrobe of Quaker t-shirts. We ran into her wearing one that said, “This is what a Quaker looks like.” We can’t wait to see what she’ll be wearing tomorrow.

Gabbreell say that she likes the fellowship at Sessions and the way it connects her to what is happening in the Yearly Meeting. Plus, she says, “we came because my daughter likes it; she likes being in Middle School Friends.” Gabbreell works for the city of Philadelphia and she is an active Friend at both the monthly and yearly meeting levels. As a mother and full time career woman she hasn’t had the time to accept a role as time intensive as clerk—though she’s been asked—but she’s clerked the hospitality committee, which she considers essential to all meetings, and she has done workshops on how to build community at the invitation of a number of PYM meeting communities.

Every year she puts on a barbecue at Green Street meeting just to have a chance to feed and be with the community she loves. As she puts it; “hospitality is vital to community, because meeting is more than worship: it is worship and community. And a community needs sustenance – they need something that allows them to stay and be together and talk. If there is no food, you are definitely not going to keep families. Meeting should be a place you are not rushing to leave, and if there isn’t food, people are going to be rushing to leave (for lunch). I’ve seen it all over PYM – someone shows up, they do their hour of worship, and they’re out the door. They are gone.” And that, Gabbreell feels, is the point at which communities start to diminish and lose engagement.

Sue Dietz, says she comes to Sessions to support the work she does at Medford Meeting, where she teaches first day school, serves on property committee and is co-recording clerk. Like many Friends, she wears many hats, all of them satisfying, or challenging, in different ways. Just now she says the work of property committee requires the most effort, which is a not-uncommon issue for most meetings. Old buildings need to be brought into compliance with ADA requirements, kitchens need renovation to support fellowship, first day school sites need updating, and the list goes on. PYM has a granting program to support such needs – for more about grants go to www.pym.org/grants.

Tom Peterson, of Unami Meeting, serves on PYM’s Administrative Council. He says “when people ask me about coming to Yearly Meeting, I tell them that the most important stuff happens in the hallways and at the tables.” He is here with his parents, Ruth and Charlie Peterson, who got married during World War II, are members at Abington Meeting, and still engaged in PYM committee work. Charlie is now 97, is active on the Peace and Concerns Standing Committee, and seems twenty years younger than his age. Ruth is in her early nineties, and is full of wit and humor.

Carter Nash, one of our Granting Group stalwarts, a PYM rep to the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, and a member of our Sessions Coordinating Committee, was feeling the community had achieved some resolution with the collective approval of our revised Faith and Practice at yesterday’s Plenary Session and Meeting for Business. “We’ve done what we can with Faith and Practice; there may be some other revisions that can be made, but in today’s world, they can be made on-line. Another version of it can be printed with any of those changes incorporated into it.” Carter said that as Plenary convened there were still “concerns about the racism issue not having a high enough profile in it … that issue was raised,” but people came together to do what they needed to do to give the community the book it needs right now.

Carter is a member at Harrisburg Meeting so his commutes to PYM meetings and events are over greater distances than most PYM members face. His love for PYM, and for Quakerism is clear, and he has been a great help in moving PYM forward.

Michael Robertson—who is both a member at Princeton Monthly Meeting, and a professor of English at The College of New Jersey—came to participate in a workshop on Mercer Street Friends yesterday, and will be returning to Sessions on Saturday to do the traveling workshop tour of Trenton’s food banks.

The author of two award-winning books: Worshipping Walt: The Whitman Disciples (Princeton UP, 2008) and Stephen Crane, Journalism, and the Making of Modern American Literature (Columbia UP, 1997), this was Michael’s first time at any Annual Sessions. He said he was really pleased that the PYM community opted to convene at the TCNJ campus and ensure there was a local focus to many of its workshops. Overall, he said, “it’s fabulous to come here and see how interested people are in what Quakers are doing in Trenton.”