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. [Read more…] about A Spiritually Centered Continuing Sessions
This is a check-in to see how you and your meeting are doing in these unique times. The physical distancing required by the Covid-19 pandemic has created unexpected opportunities for discerning how to feel connected when physical contact is not possible. Some meetings are also struggling with how to complete their Spiritual State of the Meeting Report given the challenges of Covid-19. We offer some guidance here. [Read more…] about Ministry & Care Letter to Our Meetings
When planning for Saturday, March 28 and youth programs at Spring Continuing Sessions took an unexpected turn with COVID-19, it didn’t take long for staff to shift gears and think about what is important when we gather in our youth communities, and how to recreate that same energy in a virtual setting. Both Middle School Friends and Young Friends gathered virtually during the weekend of March 28-29 using Zoom. MSF brought the positive middle school energy and their typical warm welcome to a gathering with both new staff members and new faces among the youth participants. Young Friends used two meetings to do much of what they usually engage in at gatherings: fun and fellowship, committee work, meeting for business, worship, and loving one another in community. [Read more…] about Youth Programs Zooming!
At 9:45 on Saturday March 28th, Friends began logging into our PYM all All Ages Sessions Worship. By 9:48 we had 50 people; four minutes later we reached 78; and finally we reached 115. Friends used the chat function for helpful messages about how to manage the technology and offered their greetings. Computer screens were filled with images of Friends everywhere, and some five or six friends also called in by phone. It was wonderful for Friends to see everyone.
Jonathan Rhoads, Alternate Clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM), welcomed the community to PYM’s virtual joining in Worship. We were meeting under conditions of physical distancing imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but our virtual community is strong and growing.
Melinda Wenner Bradley, PYM’s Youth Religious Life Coordinator, offered her own message of welcome to the all-ages gathering. She noted that whether families were worshiping in Zoom at their meetings, or together at home, we were all connected by spirit. She reminded friends that even as some hearts may be heavy with our condition, when children are present Friends can be mindful of lightening that weight.
Soon afterwards, we heard, in a humble acknowledgement, that today’s gathering place is part of the traditional territory of the Lenni-Lenape; land where Lenape Tribal Nations people have continuing presence and relationship with their territory. We affirmed the aspiration of harmony between the Lenape people of this land and early Quakers.
Outside many of our homes rain fell, and the sky promised that the land would not suffer drought.
Friends shared several messages of Spirit and hope during the hour of worship. It is Friends’ practice not to record vocal ministry so we’ll simply capture here that the messages included a prayer, a hymn, a biblical passage and gave some shape to the practical and spiritual experience of being in this time.
Melanie Douty Snipes and Johnathan Snipes broke worship with the song “Give me Oil in My Lamp.” It was remarkable to see some 100 faces singing together at one time. After a second song, “Jubilate Deo,” Melanie and Jonathan closed with the African-American Spiritual “Every Time I Feel the Spirit.”
Christie Duncan-Tessmer, PYM’s General Secretary, then concluded our Spring Continuing Sessions with a statement that we Friends of PYM create an “architecture of love in community” when we are together. She offered; “what a joy it is for us to be with one-another in this way. This day has been a perfect illustration of what a yearly meeting is and can be. Each of us–from our home spaces–are joining across the geography of multiple states; we share spirit among us. As we walk across the larger world – we are here together. Be well!”
A group of Friends continued to share their reflections in conversation at the rise of meeting via the zoom call. Friends were reminded that virtual events can be posted on the PYM website and were also invited to log in to other Friends’ Zoom Meetings for Worship as they wish.
Melinda Wenner Bradley noted that Middle School Friends are doing a virtual hangout later today and Young Friends are continuing with their virtual meetings and sharing digital space as well. All Virtual Events are listed on the community calendar at pym.org/virtual-events/
PYM is launching a new digital program of Wednesday Evening Worship for Children and Families at 7:30 each week.
Meg Rose, our Young Adult Friends Coordinator, noted by Zoom chat that Young Adult Friends meet for worship each Thursday.
Friends with pastoral care needs can email our Care and Aging Coordinator George Schaefer.
With rain still falling in the background, our Zoom call closed at 11:50.
The Quaker Life Council approved the following minutes of appreciation as a sincere expression of gratitude to the Friends who facilitated the recent January 26 Threshing Session on Membership and to the monthly meeting that hosted. In addition to continuing a process of discernment about membership that has had many years of seasoning in our wider yearly meeting, this was an opportunity for intervisitation during which Friends from across our yearly meeting community could join a meeting for its worship on Sunday and take part in its community life. Intervisitation is an important part of Quaker tradition because it serves to reinforce the bonds we need in spiritual growth.
It is with very mixed emotions that I share the news with you that Chris Lucca has asked to be released from service as Presiding Clerk for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. In recent months, Chris has struggled to balance health concerns, family issues, and his responsibilities to the yearly meeting. It has become clear to him that he needs to prioritize his physical well-being and focus his attention on caring for his family.
View a downloadable/PDF version of the report here.
The bulk of this report is made of minutes of exercise taken by PYM Recording Clerk, Jim Herr. The minutes review the proceedings of the day. Following the minutes of exercise, the report contains a transcription of collections of “advice to the yearly meeting” in response to several queries that participants wrote down in small groups. Find in Appendix A the advance documents that were provided ahead of the threshing session.
Find a letter below from the new PYM Ministry & Care Committee of Quaker Life Council. The letter went to our community on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, describing the value of Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports as the capstone to the spiritual self assessment process, and requesting engagement from all of the communities in our yearly meeting.
As one of its very first tasks, the new Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council has turned attention to the Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports. Friends may wonder why. We believe that the annual custom of conducting a spiritual self-assessment deepens and enriches our spiritual community.
These reports support monthly, quarterly and ultimately the yearly meeting in moving toward shared understanding of and greater obedience to Truth. Gifts and needs can be identified and shared through this process, both internally for each meeting and throughout the yearly meeting as a whole. Concerns expressed in the spiritual state of the meeting report can evoke support from and provide guidance to other meetings. With wider awareness of needs, more appropriate allocation of resources becomes possible at all levels.
Crafting a Spiritual State of the Meeting Report is a transformative opportunity for the meeting, and can serve to draw the community together more closely. Meeting members and attenders can profit from sharing their spiritual condition and relationship with the Divine and looking together at experiences that have enriched them throughout the year. Communication of felt needs allows meeting members and attenders to express their yearnings and learnings within the meeting community and to share them with the broader fellowship of the yearly meeting.
Issuing a Spiritual State of the Meeting Report detailing the process a meeting community undertook and the insights that resulted helps the wider Quaker community. When we see what others are celebrating, mourning, and witnessing across our yearly meeting, we can be inspired and moved in our spiritual development. We benefit when we learn we are not alone in our spiritual journey.
We continue to support the process outlined in 2018 by the Quaker Life Council for developing and sharing Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports:
• All monthly meetings are encouraged to craft a Spiritual State of the Meeting Report and forward it to their respective Quarterly Meetings.
• Quarterly Meetings are encouraged to craft their own Spiritual State of the Meeting Report and to forward it along with the reports of their monthly meetings to the Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council.
• Worship groups and any other communities that are part of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting may also submit a Spiritual State of the Meeting Report, forwarding it directly to the Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council.
• If desired, monthly and quarterly meetings can use this online form to submit their state of the meeting report, either by responding to the questions, or by inserting or appending your report to the form. Friends can also email their reports directly to the PYM office, or mail hardcopies to: Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council, c/o Zachary T. Dutton, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 1515 Cherry St, Philadelphia, PA 19102.
• The Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council will read every State of the Meeting Report that it receives and use the reports as a basis for its assessment of the state of the spiritual and religious life of our whole yearly meeting community.
• Based on these communications, The Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council will submit its own State of the Meeting report to QLC to be presented at the July 2020 Annual Sessions and then shared widely with Friends thereafter.
Friends may desire some direction in developing a Spiritual State of the Meeting Report. It may be helpful to consider the meeting’s journey in worship, religious education, witness in the world, preparation for worship and work, pastoral care, ministry, vocal ministry and also those operational processes which have been supports or stumbling blocks throughout the year. Meeting communities may also refer to the queries in our new Faith & Practice as a guide for conducting a spiritual self-assessment and for writing the state of the meeting report.
The Ministry and Care Committee of QLC is interested in the spiritual life of your meeting. In addition to the elements outlined above, we would be interested to learn of specific issues of concern your meeting has experienced in the past year. How has God led your meeting to face and address conflict and/or misunderstandings when they have arisen? How is your meeting community thinking about the purpose and importance of membership? Has the meeting undertaken any anti-racism work, large or small, that your meeting might be exploring? What are those learnings and yearnings particular to your meeting that you would be willing to share?
The Ministry and Care Committee of QLC plans to review state of the meeting reports in late May 2020; in order that the committee may provide a summary report to QLC in time for their June meeting, please submit your report by May 15, 2020. Meetings who have not responded to this invitation by that date may also receive direct inquiries from the Ministry and Care Committee of QLC in order that the experience of as many meetings as possible can be reflected in the Spiritual State of the Yearly Meeting Report. We acknowledge that every monthly and quarterly meeting has their own way of writing and managing their State of the Meeting Reports, and ask to receive whatever commentary best reflects the current spiritual state of your meeting at this time using the suggestions in this email as guidance where you find them useful.
Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch, Clerk
on behalf of the PYM Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council
Minutes prepared by Recording Clerk, Kri Burkander and approved in Sessions
PYM Continuing Sessions, November 2, 2019
We gathered back together in worship after our morning program, which grounded us in an appreciation for our gifts and our community, and nourishing fellowship over lunch.
Continuing Sessions reporting is broken into two reports. This web story on the activities of the morning, and the full minutes of Meeting for Business, taken by Recording Clerk, Kri Burkander, with accompanying reports, all in PDF format.
Our day began with a short period of worship and an acknowledgement, given by Boone Murphy, that the Arch Street Meeting House land upon which we gathered is the ancestral homeland of the Lenape People. Amy Taylor Brooks, Clerk of Quaker Life Council, then welcomed Friends to Fall Continuing Sessions.
Zachary Dutton, Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life, opened the morning session with Melinda Wenner Bradley, Youth Religious Life Coordinator, who led Friends in a Faith & Play story. The story was centered on the gifts that we bring to our meeting communities and how we are embraced by circles of self, our meetings, our Quarters, and our Yearly Meeting. We have other, overlapping circles, of family, community, friendships, and neighbors.
To tell the story, Melinda broke it into ten sections, which a multi-age group of volunteers read out loud. As is common with Faith & Play storytelling, hearing the words made them resonate more deeply, and a feeling of listening fell upon the community.
While pieces of the story were read, Melinda built a picture using pieces of colored felt and graphic representations of people to create a “big” version of the story on an easel for everyone to see.
As the narrative concluded, Friends felt its Truth.
Melinda broke the assembled multi-generational body into conversational groups of two and three asking them to share with each other those parts of the story that resonated.
Participants were then given an exercise – to draw or write about the Query – “What gifts do you have to share with your family, your friends, and your meeting community?”
People formed groups of five to eight people, and one by one, talked about their individual gifts. Some gifts mentioned were; service, music and singing, love, optimism, humor, gratitude, listening, truth telling, empathy, stewardship, writing, discerning, unconditional love, cooking, and recording.
As individuals in community, Friends were asked; “What gifts have you discovered and what gifts have you been given in your meeting?”
Stories emerged in conversations. One Friend told about how the leak of a meeting’s heating system, and the destruction of the floor, led to an investment that allowed them to rebuild the kitchen in addition to repairing the heating and the floor. It was an example of the gifts of community in solving the problem by creating a center of ‘oneness’ and acting together – from that center. Another Friend noted that their Monthly Meeting’s placement of them on a committee led to very meaningful work across all of the local churches.
As the morning exercise continued, Friends reformed in wider groups to consider queries related to gifts in their quarters, collaboratives, and within the Yearly Meeting body.
One Friend shared how she had been allowed to have dual membership – in both her original monthly meeting (now at a distance) and the one she was currently living next to. That same Friend noted how she brought the gift of the pre-retreat concept to our Yearly Meeting from her prior yearly meeting. Being embraced in two Friends communities allowed her a powerful sharing of good ideas from one to the other. A different Friend noted how the gifts of others had helped him move beyond his own status quo with respect to non-violent action. A fifth said she’d benefited from being part of a multi-generational community that allowed her to see how people could deal with aging throughout a long and rich life. She felt that being part of meeting members’ life journeys helped her to better understand how she should move forward in facing those same challenges.
The exercise closed with the reminder that gifts from others open us up to the vast diversity of life.
We bring to this work a willingness to listen, and by listening, know we are all part of something much bigger. When Friends go deep like this, they arrive at a ‘different place’ and individual differences tend to fade away.
Friends who participated in the morning’s activities noticed there is always a feeling of conflict between staying with the warmth and local connection of home meetings, versus heading to monthly, quarterly, or yearly meeting gatherings elsewhere and missing meeting for worship at home. Having the possibility of belonging to a bigger gathering makes the broader ‘Quaker meeting’ feel real. A Friend noted that she makes it a practice every August to visit other meetings, by worshiping with them, she can “feel the spirit” around the yearly meeting. She finds this very enriching.
Zachary Dutton drew the morning’s activities to a close by thanking Melinda for her work. He asked the group to help carry the deep and grounded feelings of the morning forward and to use the morning’s work to hold the “spiritual center” of our community during meeting for Business. We then entered into a period of worship during which several messages were shared. We then broke for lunch, during which families reunited, Friends mingled at tables and Bridge Contacts from about 25 meetings met to connect with each other and provide feedback to Olivia Brangan, Community Engagement Coordinator.
We closed our day with presentations from Middle School and Young Friends who’d spent the afternoon working with the query: “Who are we as Quakers.” They lifted up their own self-portraits—drawn on rolls of brown paper—and shared them with all assembled.
PYM’s youth, who attend Fall, Spring and Annual Sessions, are at the heart of the future of our Faith, and their self portraits are an example of sharing we hope that meetings across the yearly meeting will follow. So far, we’ve received two self-portraits from meeting communities; they are posted on our website. We hope there will be many more.
Friends then said goodbye to one another, checking in, sharing hugs and farewells. Early Friends used to ask: “How does the Truth fare with thee?”, and as we head into fall and winter holidays we hope that we continue to hear from Quaker communities who are counting numbers of Friends in worship ‘on the benches’ each Sunday, and offering more self-portraits posted to the PYM website. We also hope that more Friends will come to our Sessions, so that we have a center of strength and unity as we engage in our Faith and its practice.