A total of 81 Friends gathered for a morning of worship at continuing sessions on Saturday November 7th. Presiding clerks, Jean-Marie and Frank Barch welcomed convening Friends, as participants joined and “box after box” appeared on Friends’ computer, I-pad and I-phone screens.
Speaking words of truth, compassion and comfort, Jean-Marie set the tone of what became a deeply satisfying two hours of worship.
In many ways it felt like a watershed meeting. The decision to postpone meeting for business to December 8th led to a grounding of Friends’ time at Continuing Sessions solely in worship, youth programming, community lunch, and afternoon worship sharing.
Rising clerk, Melissa Rycroft introduced herself and the clerks group (drawn from Administrative, Nominating, and Quaker Life clerks) was named. George Schaefer named pastoral care resources and the team of elders who hold our community in care both named themselves and were greeted. The General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer supported community by being present and available throughout the day, and Community Engagement Coordinator, Olivia Brangan gave a technology/event briefing that helped set expectations for the day.
We began with a Land Acknowledgement and a Story
All-ages meeting for worship opened with a deeply spiritual land acknowledgement prayer given by s. boone o’scheyichbi. This was followed by a contemplative story told in the manner of Godly Play/Faith & Play, based on the Pendle Hill pamphlet* by William Taber, “Four Doors to Meeting for Worship.”
Youth Religious Life Coordinator, Melinda Wenner Bradley, shared the story with simple materials (see photo) and invited us to wonder about the story as we settled into waiting worship. Friends might also explore Taber’s work in this article from Friends General Conference: Four Doors to Meeting for Worship.
As Friends across generations and geography settled into silence, the sense of sacred community was strong. By the time meeting ended at 12:00, the 2020 election had been called by all major news media outlets, and there was cheering in Philadelphia, Elkins Park, and other neighborhoods.
Community Lunch & Youth Programs
Friends broke before reconvening for community lunch, with about 20 friends sharing 45 minutes for sustenance, connection, and fellowship.
Younger Friends (Kindergarten to 12th Grade) gathered together in the afternoon for their own program led by Youth Programs staff Aeryn Luminkith, Alix Vallery, Crystal Hershey, Elizabeth Croce, Kristin Simmons, and Olivia Chalkley.
The time began with a getting-to-know each other activity; Friends described what they like about fall and played a game–drawing and sharing something that was on their mind. The main activity was creating an autumn picture frame. Materials had been mailed to registrants before the weekend and were supplemented with supplies found in nature (like leaves and twigs) to create beautiful frames that could hold photos of loved ones.
Small Group Worship Sharing and Closure
Small group worship sharing was the final activity for all Friends. The 45 minute long session was devoted to the following queries, with about 28 Friends participating.
What new understanding has this time with God and with the Friends gathered given me?
What will I take into my daily life and into the world?
How do I become the presence of God in the world—God’s eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and feet?
Friends can bring these queries–and the continuing sessions experience–more deeply into their faith communities by sharing their personal takeaways with people in their meetings or worship groups.
At the close of the small group session, Lilia, a Friend from Ottawa Monthly Meeting, was welcomed and asked to introduce herself. Lilia greeted those Friends present. Having spent time in Pendle Hill in high school she considers PYM another “home” to her and was glad to be in the virtual room.
Jean-Marie closed with thanks to all Friends and a reminder to register for the upcoming December 8th meeting for business with attention to worship. There will be some nominations brought forward, a general secretary’s report, and clerk’s report on progress from the three questions shared with monthly meetings for discernment and feedback.
*A story based on Pendle Hill pamphlet #306 by William Taber is under development by Faith & Play Stories, Inc. with the permission of Pendle Hill.