A Friend in Western Quarter told me last month “it feels like the yearly meeting is getting smaller!” She said it with a huge smile and radiating enthusiasm. “Can you tell me more about that?” I asked, because I felt like her words did not mean what I thought they meant (Princess Bride, anyone?). She knew exactly what she meant.
It turns out that tonya thames taylor (Fallowfield Meeting) has been active in her home meeting; she had also stepped into the community of her quarterly meeting; but she had never felt a kinship with the yearly meeting. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting seemed like something “out there” that wasn’t relevant, unless perhaps one served on a yearly meeting committee.
However, she went to the 2015 GenSec Tour during which I visited 5 regions and had dinner with more than 300 Friends over 17 days last Fall). At the dinner she attended tonya met people outside her quarter and she heard the yearly meeting described simply as the extended family of all Quakers in this region who are living our faith in our everyday lives. On the tour (and every chance I get!) I invited everyone to visit two other meetings sometime this year.
My new friend joined in our Intervisitation movement and went to worship at another meeting – and when she got friendly with another corner of the yearly meeting, she felt closer to it. Then she met other Friends from far away who came to visit her own meeting – and as she talked with them she felt their corner of the yearly meeting was a little closer to her.
This January our clerk, Jada S. Jackson, called a special business meeting for us to discern how we, as a faith community, are being led to address racism. tonya now had a sense of her extended family of Friends and attended that meeting – along with 400 other people! She met more people, heard more messages and experienced the sense of a gathered people.
Finally, that vague idea that the yearly meeting was “somewhere out there” shifted to being “right here” in a real way. And when she could see it, it felt “smaller.” It feels like a community of people who are living up to the measure of Light given to them. She knew herself to be a vital part of the powerful, grounded and needed people who experience the Divine Spirit within and among us that is Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
Our numbers are holding steady and our sense of ourselves as a connected community is growing. And, in a paradoxical way, it feels like we are getting “smaller” … in a very powerful way. Absolutely Conceivable!