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.
The author of this post, Zachary T. Dutton, serves our yearly meeting as Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life. He is a white cisgender gay man working (imperfectly) to dismantle oppression in all its forms. He is a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting.
While many Friends share Zachary’s concerns, the views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting as a whole. Check out the Rainbow Railroad for information on one way to support international LGBTQ+ people. The PYM Website contains further resources on its page for Peace & Social Justice. [Read more…] about In Solidarity with LGBTQ+ People
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.
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
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
A reflection on Beyond Complicity: Awakening Anti-Racist Intentions, a series Toward Racial Justice and Fearless Faithfulness. A called gathering took place on Nov. 18, when Mickleton Friends Meeting intentionally listened to Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, chapter 3, The Truth About the First Thanksgiving. The books author, sociologist James W. Loewen, presents examination of Eurocentric and mythologized views of American history.
From Loewen’s perspective, we examined our strong-hold on the belief that the American holiday, Thanksgiving, holds a place of welcome for all individuals and faiths, some of us able to accept that the holiday holds myths that continue to minimize Native Nations peoples. We compared various maps, exposing how “discovery” of empty lands might be shifted when simply compared to maps void of political boundaries and marked with cultural features of the peoples living in specific regions.
The self-examination of perspective called us to remain as open as possible toward being transformed as we walk out into the world as myth-busters, dis-clothed of defensive cloaks, speaking Truths. We walked away with unity that giving thanks is not bound to one day. Surrounded by light, blessings abound, and gratitude is rightly ordered, freely available to everyone, if and when one might choose to see and acknowledge.
Seekers are invited to visit Mickleton Friends; First Day (Sunday) meeting for worship begins at 10am; also open to the public, the next examination of Beyond Complicity: Awakening Anti-Racist Intentions will take place December 16, 2018, ~11:30, after rise of meeting and fellowship. We will listen to Bryan Stevenson’s TED Talk, We Need to Talk About An Injustice paired with Martin Luther King, Jr’s Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change.
Love and labour within Salem Quarter was released into our wider religious Society of Friends with PYM’s First Contact Reconciliation Collaborative. During the kick-off workshop at Annual Sessions 2017, participants leaned in toward understanding Tribal Sovereignty. Recently, following the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) convention in Denver, outreach was initiated by “extended family,” Rev. Dr. JR Norwood (Nanticoke-Lenape), co-chair for NCAI’s task force on federal recognition, to tribal allies, the SQ Indian Affairs Committee. Pastor Norwood brings to Friends’ attention the Nov. 2nd screening of PROMISED LAND, hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in conjunction with the NCAI and the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes (ACET.) The documentary is an award-winning social justice documentary that follows two tribes as they fight for the restoration of treaty rights they’ve long been denied. In following their story, the film examines a larger problem in the way that the government and society still looks at tribal sovereignty. Pastor Norwood will be part of a post screening panel discussion at NCAI; details are posted on the PYM calendar. Coming First Contact Reconciliation Collaborative events will continue to help shed light on denials of tribal sovereignty, human rights, and social justice. The FCRC website offers a variety of “growing edge” opportunities; we are open to hearing how we might further serve Friends.
Blessings from Indigenous Peoples’ Day Philly 2018, a two-day celebration within Lenapehoking! Members of Indigenous organizations in Philadelphia came together providing a second year’s acknowledgment & celebration of their Indigenous cultures, shinning light on their unique presence in Philadelphia.
During the Friday evening Teach-In at Friends Center, Chief Brooks (Delaware Tribe of Indians, Bartlesville, OK) and Rev. Dr. J.R. Norwood (Nanticoke-Lenape, Bridgeton, NJ) spoke of Lenape Tribal history, culture, religion, and contemporary concerns; Christina Marie González spoke of Taíno identity and cultural development among Puerto Ricans and their homeland Borikén/ Puerto Rico; Peruvian musician, Richie Olivera, performed Andean Music using native South American instruments accompanied by a backing track; the short film “First Light,” an Upstander Project, focused our witness of genocidal “removal” practices – Indian children being taken from their homes and its inherent trauma; and finally, Felicia Teter closed the Teach-In with intentional reflective inquiries toward “breaking the cycles of abuse…so that we may all finally be free.”
The following day, in Hunting Park, during a mini-powwow, prayers and celebrations of cultural beauty unfurled – Nanticoke-Lenape Tribal Nation drummers, hoop dancer, grass dancer, womens’ fancy dancer; Andean musician; Taíno dancers and table display of cultural lifeways; Aztec dancers; Inter-tribal dances where all were invited to participate.
We can say WANISHI (Lenape) to express our gratitude for the work bringing everyone together. Being present, building relationship, matters. As way opens…may love and light guide a potential IPD Philly 2019!
Photo: Nanticoke-Lenape Fancy Dancer c) 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED s, o’scheyichbi
At a recent meeting, the Quaker Life Council considered and celebrated the expression of Quaker Faith & Practice that is our Ujima Friends Peace Center. In the year that it has existed, the center has forged profound connections with the community in which it is located in North Philadelphia. Friends at the center established a summer freedom school, teaching young people an adapted peace curriculum called the Mpatapo Curriculum, which synthesizes African principles and Quaker values. The Ujima Friends Peace Center community also offers tenants’ rights classes every Saturday at 11am and organizes a monthly food give away. The community meets for worship every Sunday, and many PYM Friends who are members at monthly meetings also count themselves as members of the Ujima Friends Peace Center. Learn more about the center at ujimafriends.org.
As stated on their website, the work of the Ujima Friends Peace Center is to reduce violence and provide a safe haven with educational, cultural and recreational opportunities for adults and young people. The [center] is a ministry of the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent.
The word Ujima conveys the intention to make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together. At its meeting held on Saturday, September 15, 2018, the Quaker Life Council honored this intention by recognizing that the Ujima Friends Peace Center is an imperative part of the wider body of PYM of Friends. The center’s ministry expresses a central message of Quakerism: with worship and spiritual practice at its core, it is possible for faith to reveal insights in unexpected and liberating ways that bring us closer to justice. Indeed, the emergence of the Ujima Friends Peace Center has tremendous historical significance. This is the first worshiping Quaker community conceived of and maintained entirely by Quakers of African descent. The center was envisioned first by the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent in their 2016 Minute Regarding State Sanctioned Violence. Read the full minute here. Some excerpts of the minute are included at the end of this story.
The Quaker Life Council approved the following minute of action:
“Friends around the table gave joyful and tearful spirit-led testimony to how Ujima Friends Peace Center in a short period of time has changed the neighborhood around the Peace Center, the lives of individual Friends, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Friends sensed the joyful presence of the Spirit being witnessed and fed at Ujima. QLC sensed Spirit calling members to support the programs and efforts of the Center. Supporting the Center is in alignment with PYM strategic directions. Members acknowledged that the Ujima Friends Peace Center arose from a 2016 minute from the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent. The minute exemplified a minute of concern with clear action and designated resources committed to following it through. At the time, there was not a clear path for bringing a minute of concern to PYM.
1.Friends APPROVED $10,000 to Ujima Friends Peace Center from its General Fund and $5,000 from the Strategic Reserve Fund.”
The Ujima Friends Peace Center has asked that we hold their ministry in the Light. They are happy to hear from friends through email or receive words of encouragement through the mail.
For those who are interested in donation, you can give through their website here or by mailing a check made out to Ujima Friends Peace Center at 1701 W. Lehigh Avenue, 19132.
Excerpts from the 2016 Minute on State Sanctioned Violence:
“We grieve the loss of any human life, including the lives of police. However, the presence of the police too often seems like an occupying force designed to protect and serve an invisible elite instead of protecting those who reside in our communities. We also recognize that the violence and tragic killing of innocent civilians have touched so many in our communities. We believe that these evil forces cannot be overcome through retribution and retaliation, and can only be overcome through respect, resources and love. Jesus taught us that the love of God and our neighbor is the greatest commandment.”
“In the absence of real opportunities for employment and economic self-sufficiency underground economies rise up in our communities to fill the gap. People in these economies are criminalized and prosecuted even though they are only seeking to provide enough resources to support their families. We realize that we cannot have a meaningful conversation about ending racial oppression without also addressing classism, joblessness and wealth inequality.”
“In response to these realities, we, as Quakers and as people of African descent call for the following:
…2. PEACE CENTERS. The development and support of “peace centers” in our communities which will provide safe havens and educational, cultural and recreational opportunities for young people in our communities. Quaker Alternatives to Violence trainings can be redesigned to be rooted in the cultural experience of African people. These centers will function as spaces where Quaker worship and values can be modelled and developed…”
As Friends, we understand that scripture uses stories about the natural world to describe the spiritual life. But, do we ever consider the facts of our biological existence as containing stories that can also illuminate our spiritual journey?
For O., a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, carrying this query for pastoral ministry awakens joy in her heart. It raises important questions: Are we transformed by the power of love, during our biological conception as human beings? Might our lives be a measureless love story about creation?
It is a story that starts with sensational vibrations and biochemicals, in a catalytic universal converter. From a single body we evolve into an ever-unfolding system, recreating songs of universal rhythms. This transformation from the singular, the body, to the cosmic, conforms elegantly to the central tenets of physical and psychological evolution.
“We are, as conscious beings, a vital part of the environment. Spiritually and physically, we all exist as essential elements entangled within creation’s evolution. This entanglement lives in our bodies even if our minds have forgotten it,” says O.
O feels that this inquiry “…is an invitation to a holistic creation parable that we have all lived. I share this as a supplement to the Book of Genesis,” she says. It is a theology that retains Quakerism’s core insight regarding the creative power of the Dark and the Light and places it within a contemporary biological framework.
“Life begins in the heavenly body, of a generous universe! We forget how our miraculous journey as egg and sperm played out in the body of our mother’s womb. From inception we are attuned towards connection and cooperation. This cosmic womb functions as a part of the body of the world to express God’s compassion.
It’s how life is delivered to earth,” continues O. The word compassion in English comes from the Hebrew word (Ra-chamim) meaning womb. So, what do we do with this new narrative; what point of view might this information spur from the controlling ego?
It is here that the story can come to life for Friends. The Light can move us from egocentricity to love of God in others and ourselves, this we know. The function of this new creation story is to give us an awakened awareness of our role in the re-creation of our lives.
“It leads to an awakening to a more intimate and deeper relationship to our breathing that guides us towards our ability to be still, to pause and to listen viscerally. This process supports us in remembering that our only purpose here on earth is to love.
“For me,” says O, “if you are not loving me (or your neighbor) you are violating me (and the neighbor by breaking the laws of love), in one way or another. And if I am not loving you I am violating the laws of Love, the very laws that created the universe as a unified living eco-system.
“So, it is a new/old story of our creation. And, it is ultimately about soul care. It awakens the wisdom of the body. The inspiration of the spirit to guide us to giving care to the soul, our own and others. Through breathing into this this new personal/cosmic story (within this miraculous eco-Body of God) we are called to be alive and open to the creative and transforming power of love.”
O is available as a PYM Resource Friend in Ministry & Care to share her ministry with Friends. She can be reached at loveworks24.7@gmail