Below are prayers for this week. It was an idea to offer these along with a sense of why these prayers were meaningful to the people who shared them. [Read more…] about Prayers for this Holiday
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
General Secretary Report – Autumn 2020
Program and Ministry:
- Fall Continuing Sessions was held by Zoom on its regularly scheduled date, which fell on the Saturday after the election. In anticipation of having not knowing in advance what would be happening in our world on that day, Continuing Sessions focused on worship and youth programs only. It postponed business until Tuesday, December 8.
- Over 160 Friends gathered for worship with storytelling and traditional waiting worship. The election results were called during our worship.
- Participation in afternoon events was decreased as a result of the election results. Some Friends joined together for lunch by zoom in small groups. Some Friends returned for worship sharing in the afternoon.
- Youth Programs Virtual gatherings for Children & Families, Middle School Friends and Young Friends took place in the afternoon.
Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust preserves, operates and interprets the meetinghouse and grounds which will serve to increase public understanding of the impact and continued relevance of Quakers and Quaker history. Executive Director, Sean Connolly talks to us about his work at the historic Meeting House.
You’re new to this leadership role as educator, museum curator, historian and the manager of an important tourist site; what first drew you to this job at historic Arch Street Meeting House?
I’ve been at a real crossroads in my career for several years. I’ve been looking for an organization to lead that fits with my morals, an institution that is on the cusp of expansion and a historic site that is quintessentially Philadelphian. Finding the opportunity to work at Historic Arch Street Meeting House has been remarkable because it met all of those personal goals.
I also already had a deep history with the Arch Street Meeting House. For years I had been working with the guides at Arch Street to help facilitate tours from Historic Philadelphia. Returning to Arch Street in this new capacity gives me the opportunity to continue to make those connections with other historic sites in Philadelphia and help bring Arch Street Meeting House to life.
Everyone says there are remarkable stories and important Philadelphia and Quaker history at Arch Street. Tell us what most surprised you when you started.
Luckily, I already knew a lot of the basic history of Arch Street Meeting House. But it’s finding the small stories that relate to Arch Street that are the most surprising and exciting. I’ve been privileged to be able to interview several people about the more contemporary history of Arch Street Meeting House over the past several months.
Certainly, one of the most memorable moments has been interviewing Councilperson Curtis Jones for some background information on our upcoming exhibits. Our conversation quickly went down a long and fascinating rabbit hole relating to his experiences with Quakers in the 70s.
He told me about coming to Arch Street and meeting Quakers who helped him evaluate his choices and get involved in politics. For a young Black man growing up in Philadelphia at that time, the acceptance he experienced from Quakers was really important for him.
Hearing his personal testimony was special and helps remind me how important places like Arch Street can be, not just for Quakers, but for people all over the country.
You’re coming up on six months in your new role. In reflecting on this time what have been some of your challenges and what do you see as successes?
These past six months have certainly shown me how quickly time flies. One of the biggest challenges has of course been the pandemic.
Arch Street is such an important stop for school groups and seeing those tours disappear has certainly been challenging for the site, but also personally for the staff. So much of what the staff has done in the past has been about helping to facilitate in-person field trips. However, I am so proud of how the staff quickly pivoted and we have had some big successes in the past few months as a result of this pivot.
By reimagining several grants and donations we are putting the final touches on a Virtual Field Trip for students. This will give us a lasting asset for engaging students from around the country and the world.
We’ve also been successful in bringing in some key staffing grants which allowed us to stabilize staffing during the pandemic and actually expand, we’re about to hire a new staff member later this month.
Four years from now, how do you see Historic Arch Street Meetinghouse ‘coming into its own’?
Historic Arch Street Meetinghouse has been poised to position itself as one of the must-see sites in Philadelphia. As we wrap up our Exhibit Area Design Plan this will propel us into a new era at Arch Street. Easy wayfinding and outdoor exhibits will open up the site for visitors to explore. This in turn will drive visitorship inside and increase field trip opportunities.
My hope is that with more regular hours, a more informed visitor experience, and an expansion of events Historic Arch Street Meeting House will become a staple for all visitors to Philadelphia.
The pandemic has impacted all of us, with Covid 19 in mind what programs and projects can people expect from Arch Street in the next year and how will visitors be learning about Arch Street from a distance?
The pandemic will certainly continue to affect Arch Street in the short term, but it’s not slowing us down. We have regularly scheduled virtual programs every few weeks and we will open again to the public Thursday-Sunday starting the first week of March.
This hybrid model allows us to continue to offer virtual programming while also facilitating socially distanced tours of the grounds and Meeting House. We will also start offering exclusive programming, both in person and virtually, over the next year to those who receive our e-newsletter.
The largest project people can expect to see from us in the next year is for work to begin on the Phase One of the Exhibit Area Design Plan. This will introduce new outdoor exhibits so that people can learn about Arch Street even when we are closed. Signage will introduce the site to curious passersby who might have lived in Old City for years but never wandered in.
Most Executive Directors have to wait years to begin moving forward with bold, new plans like this, so it’s thrilling to be able to move them forward so soon!
Where should people go if they want to learn more about supporting this interesting work?
Learn more about the Phase One of the Exhibit Area Design Plan in our follow up story in two weeks!
Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This fall Providence Meeting united around the following statement on Racial Justice and Anti-Racism.
Consistent with our mission, Providence Friends Meeting seeks to involve members and attenders as partners in the ongoing work of racial justice, advancing equity, and undoing the effects of racism. This work requires us to examine and transform our own individual beliefs and actions, the beliefs, actions and policies of our meeting as a corporate body, and to challenge the effects of racism in the larger society. These include, among others, disparities in healthcare, economics, housing, voting access, climate justice, the workplace, criminal justice, and education.
- As Providence Friends Meeting acknowledges and honors the fundamental value and dignity of all individuals, we strive to be a culturally safe space where all individuals and groups are treated with respect in regard to their unique cultural needs and differences.
- We strive to build a pluralist, anti-racist community that encourages participation and leadership among all Friends, and supports and elevates partners and community members most affected by racism and bias.
Providence Friends Meeting resolves to use these queries to further these goals.
- How does our meeting support, model and encourage active and ongoing anti-racism work? How do we move all members forward on their journey to being their best selves?
- How are we working to change the ways that our meeting benefits from privilege and systemic inequality?
- How do we create “space at the table” for all individuals and groups?
- How do we actively consider the effects of our decisions on those who have been harmed by racism?
- How do we use Spirit-led decision making to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion rather than support structures that reinforce inequities?
- How do we carry this work into our worship and committee work?
- How do I regularly examine myself for attitudes and behaviors that indicate any hidden prejudice?
- If someone suggests that something I have said or done is racist or discriminatory, do I listen and consider their point of view?
● How do my lifestyle choices affect the causes of justice and injustice in our nation and the world?
● How do I seek ways to make my local community, state and nation more just and equitable?
● How do I challenge statements, practices, behaviors, and interactions that diminish, demean, disempower, or otherwise harm others and their identities?
How do I do this with loving kindness that honors that of God in each person?
The Quaker Faith has been called a “quiet faith,” by others, but it comes with a practice of acting with conviction, and a belief in being open to the Divine.
Multiple sides of this faith equation were named and discussed in the Philadelphia Inquirer this week, with interviews with the activists Eileen Flanagan and George Lakey, and with Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer. [Read more…] about Quakers in The News: a Centering Faith with Conviction
For those who could not attend continuing sessions, the Clerks’ opening remarks and the land acknowledgement are excerpted in the story below. Please note that the land acknowledgment prayer delivered by s. boone o’scheyichbi uses unconventional capitalization and language.
[Read more…] about Fall Continuing Sessions: Opening Remarks and Land Acknowledgement
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
Pendle Hill and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting held two collaborative meetings for worship on November 3rd, Election Day. The meetings offered a space for spiritual comfort and connection during the vortex of an unusually drawn out 2020 Presidential election. 19 attendees joined afternoon worship and 39 attendees participated in evening worship. Friends joined locally and from places as distant as Canada and the West coast of the United States.
Parents have been holding a lot in these past eight months. In addition to the multiple stressors of life during a pandemic and social unrest and violence in the news and neighborhoods, the intensity of the election cycle is an experience both for us as adults and for our children. Depending on their age, children and teens may be aware of the anxiety of the adults around them and experiencing their own anxiety about the outcome of the election next week. [Read more…] about Parenting + Presidential Election + Pandemic
Karen Tibbals uses her background in market research and Quaker religious studies to help people understand how others–on opposing political sides and with different ethical frameworks–make decisions. This work, like the graphic image above, draws groups with differing opinions into relationship (pink and blue become purple!) Her book can help liberals and conservatives identify the truths they share, and it explains the success of modern societal accomplishments like gay marriage and outlines why guns feel safe to conservatives and scary to liberals. Here we interview her about who she is, and how she came to publish the very helpful books she writes.