Any fundamental decisions regarding the structure, programs, and witness of the yearly meeting are made by the yearly meeting in annual or continuing sessions. All members of its constituent Friends meetings are also members of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. They are encouraged to attend the annual, continuing and other sessions of yearly meeting and participate in worship, fellowship, and decision-making with other members of the yearly meeting. Yearly meeting is enhanced when as many members as possible attend sessions, since this assures a larger pool of wisdom and insight; such participation is also beneficial for the members and their Friends meetings.
Sessions of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting may change in format but always include worship, business sessions, and fellowship. They offer opportunities to share information and concerns from individual members, constituent meetings, yearly meeting committees, and other Friends’ organizations. Epistles, or public letters, from other yearly meetings are read and a small group of those attending sessions prepares an epistle from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting that is approved before the close of the sessions and then sent “to all Friends everywhere.”
Some materials, including the yearly meeting budget proposal, are provided well in advance of annual sessions. Discussion of the budget is most valuable when it explores the spiritual and testimonial implications of budgetary decisions and elicits and weighs ideas that will influence future budgets. Minutes of concern or proposals to undertake action are generally seasoned in advance in a variety of ways. The yearly meeting may unite in support of a minute of concern or in a decision to undertake a specific action, thus endorsing the action on behalf of the entire yearly meeting. When a decision is made to undertake a specific action, a process is developed to ensure that the commitment is fulfilled. Friends receive information, insights, and concerns in a worshipful spirit that often evokes deeply felt responses and new understanding.
The yearly meeting in annual or continuing sessions appoints its officers, the at-large members of the Nominating Council, the elders, the clerks and members of its two governance councils, and the general secretary. Under the 2014 “Re-‐kindling Our Fire: A Five-‐Year Plan for Philadelphia Year Meeting,” the governance councils are the Quaker Life Council and the Administrative Council. Yearly meeting also approves the annual budget. Current information regarding the roles, responsibilities, and terms of office for the yearly meeting officers is in the Governance Handbook, which is available on the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting website (pym.org).
When need arises, yearly meeting members may ask the clerk of yearly meeting to call special sessions of the yearly meeting.
Planning for yearly meeting sessions includes:
- developing the agenda for the meetings for business;
- scheduling plenary, threshing sessions, and workshops;
- making arrangements for the children’s programs; and
- making arrangements regarding the site, technology, transportation, and the many details that contribute to the care and comfort of those in attendance.
Every effort is made to provide financial assistance so that no one feels unable to participate because of limited means.