Artwork by Roma Narkhede
Five years ago, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) gathered at Arch Street Meeting House and experienced the deep call to address racism in ourselves, our meetings, and our yearly meeting.
Since that time, monthly and quarterly meetings have engaged in training and held events for themselves and the public. At annual sessions on Saturday, July 27, Friends minuted the following work that has been done:
Addressing Racism in Our Monthly Meetings: Clerk invited Friends to share briefly with the body about anti-racism work that is happening in our monthly meetings and worship groups. We heard representatives from Green Street, Chester, Harrisburg, Seaville, Swarthmore, and Trenton Meetings and Concord Quarter. Some of these activities included considering our financial investments and how to invest in our local communities, forming reparations working groups, reflecting on the FGC Institutional Assessment report, having external speakers come in, and supporting local food distribution efforts.
PYM’s high school and young adult Friends programs have had a continual focus on increasing knowledge and skill sets around the history and impact of racism; staff have engaged in trainings and strategic planning to create more diverse and inclusive staff communities; the yearly meeting has had Sessions programs, events, and trainings as well as many discussions and much worship centered on how to grow beyond a world that is centered in whiteness.
Overall, there has been a growth in understanding the history, dynamics and presence of racism in the US and within the Quaker Faith. There has also been pain or disappointment when we made mistakes and when we failed to act as quickly or decisively as hoped.
During this period—when the ministry of addressing racism was launched—we were also in the midst of implementing a new governance structure for our community. The PYM-wide ministry on racism had not been anticipated by Friends and the new governance structure didn’t make clear how Friends would hold ourselves accountable to this important ministry and share that with our community.
Our community is currently taking several steps that follow from the 2019 Annual Sessions in July and our experience to date. The minutes of Friday, July 26, state:
Two proposals arose from this meeting: – that we charge the clerks’ group to find a process and a body to take up this work, reviewing the Undoing Racism Group proposal from 2016 and propose a way to fold this work into the structure of the Yearly Meeting, as well as revisit our multicultural audit -that we charge QLC to make available a Truth and Reconciliation process to support Friends of Color who have experienced trauma from our Yearly Meeting.
A diverse group of Friends have been approached about their willingness to serve on this sprint. As the group convenes and moves through its work, news will be shared with the Quaker community through the PYM website.
Last summer, some Friends raised their hands at PYM’s 2019 Annual Sessions to indicate their deep interest in addressing racism and to offer to work on the topics named in the July 26th minute.
The ad-hoc group of volunteers met several times, identified a clerk and offered Continuing Sessions antiracism activities and follow-up homework readings for all Friends in PYM meetings.
The ad-hoc group’s work has benefited our continued discernment. For this we are very grateful.
However, our unstructured approach to convening the ad-hoc group proved confusing as to process and authority. For this, we are sorry.
PYM’s process for establishing groups should include guidelines for how people become members, identify a clear charge, set up clear reporting timelines, and set deadlines for when goals need to be met.
PYM’s Administrative, Quaker Life and Nominating Councils recognize that setting up groups without clear charges, and accountability definitions impedes our opportunities for success.
To be in relationship, members of our Quaker Life and Administrative Councils reached out to all members of the ad-hoc 2019 group and invited them into a conversation held on Wednesday, February 12th.
In the information sharing conversation, the ad-hoc group provided input that will be used by Administrative Council and Quaker Life for the sprint and the truth and reconciliation process. Individuals affirmed their interest in being engaged in whatever form will help the PYM community realize its vision of being a welcoming and diverse spiritual community.
PYM’s Councils will continue to engage individuals as resources and encouraged them to work with their monthly and quarterly meetings. As a result of the conversation, the ad-hoc group will meet again to consider the options available to continue working on addressing diversity and inclusion as individuals or as a group by forming a Collaborative.
Questions? Contact the Clerk of the Administrative Council, Terri Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.