On Tuesday, May 11, 2021, approximately 30 leaders from our quarterly meetings met for the second of three annual gatherings. At this gathering, our Co-Presiding Clerks, Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch and Frank Barch, shared some thoughts on the relevance and importance of quarterly meetings. They noted that quarterly meetings have, “more intimate connection with their members and simultaneously can have greater perspective on the gifts and talents of members as those attributes fit into the large whole of the yearly meeting and beyond.” [Read more…] about Report on Quarterly Meeting Leaders Gathering
Monthly Meeting Management
The Runway to Annual Sessions launched on May 4th. Our first gathering engaged 80 participants who convened virtually to share concerns and hopes regarding the process of re-opening to in-person gatherings by the end of 2021. The evening was facilitated by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s (PYM) Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life, Zachary Dutton, and supported by General Secretary Christie Duncan-Tessmer.
On the evening of Tuesday, March 2, 2021, 98 leaders from monthly meetings met virtually for community and mutual support. The gathering was centered in searching for joy as we transition from a pandemic year. [Read more…] about PYM Leadership Gathering: Building Connections
For Meetings Who Want to be “Found “ by Seekers Everywhere
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is compiling monthly meeting virtual worship offerings to post online. If you are part of your meeting’s leadership team and your meeting has not yet filled out the worship and events survey there is still time to do so. Once you fill this out, we will get the information on your meeting’s page on the PYM website. This will help people find you.
The pandemic has resulted in technology becoming an essential part of many Quaker meetings as in-person worship came to a stop at most meetings. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s (PYM) monthly meetings have had to find new ways to keep the community together through Zoom video calls or Facebook Live videos.
These new ways of worship have had a silver lining; members and attenders not able to typically attend worship in person have been able to join digitally. Digital worship creates a path for long-time members who no longer live near the meetinghouse and seekers new to Quakerism to attend. Many meetings have decided that offering a way for Friends to worship digitally is here to stay, even after a return to meeting in person. For those considering this option, there is technology available to support hybrid forms of gathering that offer a meaningful experience for attending in person and digitally. [Read more…] about Meeting Owl Pro Device: Technology to Support Digital Worship
PYM’s Committee on Friends Education reminds families that monthly meeting members’ children attending or applying to Friends Schools are eligible to apply for educational support for the 2021-22 school year. Funding for all grants comes from the National Friends Education Fund and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting endowment income from the Jonathan Rhoads Fund and other PYM education endowments. [Read more…] about Tuition Aid for Friends Children in PYM Friends Schools
Many local Quaker communities are in the midst of a discernment process as to whether, when and to what extent to resume meeting in person for worship or other activities. A multitude of resources has been shared, and we have included a short list of resources at the end of this message.
Most importantly, make sure you are following guidelines issued by your state government and the Centers for Disease Control. Links to the appropriate websites are also at the end of this message. [Read more…] about Guidance for Re-Opening: Abundance of Caution
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.
The Quaker Life Council has recently approved an updated set of Threads, which are ways of organizing the work and witness that all of the communities in PYM face on a regular basis. The new list is:
- Peace & Social Justice
- Ministry & Care
- Religious Education
- Outreach & Communications
- Governance & Stewardship
[vc_row padding_top=”0px” padding_bottom=”0px”][vc_column fade_animation_offset=”45px” width=”1/1″][vc_message]Please Note: This article was originally published in Concord Quarter’s October 2017 newsletter. More newsletters are available on the Concord Quarter’s website.[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row padding_top=”0px” padding_bottom=”0px”][vc_column fade_animation_offset=”45px”][vc_column_text]Bill Birney’s ancestors came to Delaware County from Ireland in 1849 and were stonemasons and stonecutters by trade. He has a far distant first cousin whose last name adorns a roadway not far from Neumann University in Aston, PA. To say Bill is a stonemason sells him short. As he stands outside of the old meetinghouse about to hew a 12 inch diameter white oak log, he talks easily about poplar floor boards being kilned, the ages of local Quaker outhouses, how to reconstitute centuries old mortar, and the composition of the nearby creek bed that might be used to make new mortar. He seems to be a Renaissance Man of old buildings. And Judy Reese, the docent at Chichester Meetinghouse has snagged him to do this difficult task of restoring the meetinghouse to the condition it was in when it first arrived in Chichester in 1769.
Judy Reese ran into Birney when she and Paul Indorf from Swarthmore Meeting, paid a Quakerly visit to a Darby Meeting for Worship in Chester Quarter. Judy had researched bids for a Chichester restoration of half of the meetinghouse, which had become home to a family of industrious gophers and hoards of termites. Judy and Concord Meeting had been looking at these bids from a few modern contractors. Prices were high and the replacement materials would be all modern. Bill was doing restoration work at Darby Meeting. In talking to Judy and Paul, he asked to bid on the project. One of his selling points: he’d be using all materials that were originally used in the building’s creation, utilizing tools from that era. White oak joists, poplar wall and floorboards; and he’d even sift through the ground to dig up and reuse the original mortar and plaster pieces hiding centuries below. Birney would approach the restoration as an ancient craftsman. He would also be available to do educational demonstrations of the tools, techniques, and materials. Judy had found an anonymous donor, related to one of the original members from 1769, who would pay the costs. He was especially interested when he saw Birney’s bid that honored the history of the Chichester Meetinghouse.
Bill Birney has a bit of a quirky appearance and a personality to match. Judy’s a bit quirky also (just look at that Judy-size Bouvier service dog which unapologetically follows her around). But both of them are very smart people who deeply favor learned trade skills and Life experiences over advanced degrees. Birney trained in restoration under the direction of Richard “Tucker” Mackie of Cecil County, Maryland, a well-known local historian and politician. One of his historic properties served as Birney’s restoration apprenticeship. As Bill related, “The first timbers I ever hewed out were white oaks from his farm in Cecil County while he watched, critiqued, corrected, and finally approved. I knew Mr. Mackie all of my life and he told me about many of my relatives all the way back into the thirties”.
Judy’s conversation with Bill at that first meeting convinced her he not only had the knowledge and craft to do the work at the meetinghouse but also the heart. His bid was acceptable and Concord Meeting approved him starting the work. A small committee has been formed to oversee the work which includes Ray Hamilton, Concord Meeting’s treasurer, as well as Judy Reese, Paul Indorf, Nancy Webster, and Ryan Berley. The anonymous donors are also part of this group.
Birney’s assessment of the project came after floorboards had been torn up and much of the walls removed, thus making it hard to exactly duplicate the original. Besides the replacement of the floor under-structure (white oak joists), the floorboards and wainscoting (paneling), there are shutters to restore, a latrine to put back in order, and a chimney to repair. Some floorboards on the eastern side of the building must also be replaced. Birney aims for as authentic a replacement as possible. That includes reusing all the old nails, the original shutter hardware and mortar and plaster. He and his co-worker, Robert Martin who is a blacksmith, have developed a method to restore the hardware to usable condition. The plaster and mortar can also be reconstituted through a burning process.
Authenticity can only be complete if you use the tools that were common in the mid eighteenth century era. Bill’s team, which also includes Travis Brooks, uses the following: felling axe, broadaxe, foot adze and a froe. They are from the mid to late 19th century for the most part. In producing the floors and wainscoting, they will be using handplanes and handsaws back at Bill’s shop in Maryland. Notice that these are all hand tools. Electricity at the site is unnecessary. When I interviewed Birney onsite, he and Robert were busy hewing a 14 foot 12 inch white oak down to a 6 x 6 joist using nothing more than a broad-axe and manly grit. It was quite impressive.
The result of this work will be a meetinghouse that is back to pristine condition, something that comes up to the level of a National Historic Register site. Judy is looking forward to the day when residents from that part of the county who last had an active Quaker meeting over a century ago, can come visit the property, listen to talks on early Friends and the impact they had on the local community, and watch demonstrations of historic construction techniques. There will still be much to do once this restoration is finished. There is talk of restoring the 2 story barn that is 50 yards way and doing work on the 7 acres of woodland in the back to make it walkable, Judy Reese is always on the lookout for financially abled and interested f/Friends to help.
–Rich Ailes, Middletown Meeting (all photos by Rich Ailes)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]