The Gen.Sec Tour is underway! I’ve eaten potatoes* with Friends from two meetings and am looking forward to the next three.
Each Tour Date starts off with Friends indicating on large maps of the PYM region which meetings they have visited. This gives a colorful picture of the intervisitation practices in our meetings (Let us know where you’ve been! Log your visits from the 2014-15 year on the PYM website). Then we sit down to eat –baked potatoes with topping provided by Tour attenders. Some of my favorite toppings that Friends brought include chard with goat cheese and candied bacon – amazing. Each of the tables included a raw potato and Mr/Mrs Potato Head pieces to play with (we were pretty excited about the whole “potato” theme when we were planning this event!). After dinner and a little bit of worship I use the metaphor of setting the table to share my vision of the yearly meeting. With the remaining time I respond to Friends’ questions.
Last week’s Tour date at Centre Meeting in Delaware, Western Quarter, and tonight’s date at Gwynedd Meeting in Pennsylvania, Abington Quarter, were lovely experiences of vibrant community. There were more than 70 people from over 25 meetings at each of the events. We barely fit in the room at Centre! One of my favorite things about both events is that I knew about a quarter of the attenders and the rest were new faces. It is a joy to meet so many Friends who are enthusiastic about our Yearly Meeting – and who look forward to having a good time with other Friends.
Each event included a time for questions. This was very short at Gwynedd because there were so many people to go through the dinner line that the program started late. I’ll share a few of the questions and abridged responses here:
- How is our financial health? Are we still in trouble?
I was really glad to be asked this. We have been in a solid, healthy place for several years now. The financial crisis we went through was so hard and so significant that most Friends knew about it – but it seems that not everyone knows that we are in a good place now. We have had a modest budget surplus for the last two years. Our Capital Reserves are fully funded. We have established an Operating Reserve Fund with the goal of holding $1.2 million in it and it is already 75% funded. We have an imprest balance (a “safety cushion” of money in our checking account) equal to three months’ expenses and we have a line of credit, just in case. In order to maintain this solid position we need to maintain, and increase, the level of giving to the Yearly Meeting.
- What is the hardest thing we are facing now?
There are two things that come to mind first: 1) as the new Five Year Plan is implemented, we will simplify and we won’t continue to do all the things that we do now. Letting go of things we love and are attached to, even when we are committed to simplifying, will be hard. 2) Giving attention to racism. We live in a culture which institutionally includes racism. There is so much energy moving toward this effort in our community – there is a richness of so many people involved in this work. And yet engaging in this conversation and this effort is hard. It’s hard for people of color and for white folks. There are many perspectives, experiences and emotions regarding racism. I am keenly aware that even as I talk or write about the effort of attending to it, I worry that I might be hurting someone with the words that I use or the direction that I go – I need more language and tools for this and I think I’m not alone in that need.
- What would be the most gratifying accomplishment you can envision for your first year of service?
What a good question! This is one I want to think about more in order to articulate a single most-gratifying-outcome. In early December our staff will have completed all of our goals for the coming year and I’ll share more with you at that point. The answer will involve evidence that meetings are in tighter community and more Friends of different ages, races and experiences are more active in the Yearly Meeting community although I’m aware that this is really a more appropriate goal for a multi-year period.
- What is your favorite musical?
West Side Story. I have fond memories of being allowed to stay up late to watch it on TV and crying and crying at the end.
There are three Tour dates left! Come join us at one of these:
- Sunday, November 16, Millville Meeting, 11:00
- Friday, November 21, Princeton Meeting, 7:00
- Sunday, November 23, Lancaster Meeting, 4:00
*Actually I spend dinner time walking around the room talking with people – I eat my potato at the end of the evening!