Fall 2018 Continuing Sessions Wrap Up

Continuing Sessions

Some 100+ Friends gathered for Continuing Sessions on Saturday November 3rd, filling the Arch Street Meeting House with children, families, and Friends coming together for business and Quaker conversations.

All of the reports and meeting materials can be found on the continuing sessions webpage and are hyperlinked in the ‘Minutes and Supporting Materials’ section below.

Continuing Sessions Minutes-Nov 3 2018 may also be downloaded as a PDF.


Who Was There

  • Over 100 adults registered and came to sessions.
  • 30 + of our children and youth were present.
  • A strong cohort of Young Adult Friends helped anchor our activities.
  • Walk-ins were warmly welcomed and the parking lot was filled to capacity.
  • Many absent Friends let it be known that they were serving their local communities by helping with political canvassing in advance of Tuesday’s election.

Highlights of the Day

  • Our youth helped care for our land by planting bulbs and raking leaves, then joined together for a kids’ Pizza Party afterwards.
  • During multi-generational time, Friends randomly sorted themselves by picking squares of colored paper out of a basket and then formed groups for query-led discussions facilitated by Young Adult Friends.
    • Query 1: Share your name, meeting, favorite color and favorite animal.
    • Query 2: What similarities do we share and how might our differences bring us together?
    • We then wrote our ideas about Query 2 on colored papers that were loosely assembled into a mock-up of a quilt.
    • Melinda Wenner Bradley held up the ‘paper quilt’ to introduce Yearly Meeting’s new One Quilt One Yearly Meeting project. Every monthly meeting, collaborative, or any other group in our community, is invited to quilt a 10-inch square that will be collected at our March 23rd Continuing Sessions. All of these squares will then be joined together to form a skirt for our clerks’ table at future meetings, representing the unity and variety of our Yearly Meeting.

What We Learned

  • The Bridge Contact program is now launched: Meetings and other communities should contact Wendy Kane to identify their Bridge Contact
  • We met, and listened to each member of the Multicultural Audit Committee talk about their retreat and the work of creating PYM’s Request for Proposals for the Audit. They spoke of:
    • Following the leading of Spirit;
    • Letting love be the final result;
    • Recognizing that racism has a 500+ year-long history;
    • Critically looking at our ourselves and determining where we go from here;
    • Using ‘who we are as a community’ to positively impact the world.
  • Friends were also encouraged to look at the Request for Proposals  (RFP) for the Audit, and forward the RFP to any consultant who might wish to submit an audit proposal.
  • There was a warm and welcoming call to action for all monthly meetings, quarters, Sprints, and Collaboratives to participate in the self assessment phase of the upcoming Multicultural Audit.
  • Our General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer, invited staff to step forward and tell our gathered community brief stories about the impact of PYM’s Resource Friends (George Schaefer), Bridge Contact launch (Wendy Kane), Web News and Calendar Communications (Malcolm McAtee), and Youth Spiritual Formation and  Youth Engagement (Melinda Wenner Bradley).

Minutes and Supporting Materials

Materials

Approved Minutes for Continuing Sessions – November 3, 2018

We began our morning with an acknowledgment of the people whose land we gather on today, the Leni-Lenape, shared by Boone Murphy. Julia Carrigan and Mary Dunham shared the query for today’s session: “How do we as Quakers ground ourselves in trust and love?”

Alternate Clerk Chris Lucca, serving as Presiding Clerk, introduced himself and the rest of the facing bench. We welcomed visitors and those attending for the first time, as well as thanking elders and staff for their service. We were introduced to Ashley who is providing our closed-captioning speech-to-text service.

Nominating Council

Betsy Bayardi reported on behalf of the Nominating Council. She brings greetings from Melissa Rycroft, who is healing at home and would welcome any prayers from the body. The committee has met several times since Annual Sessions, and reviewed 38 names of Friends during that time. There is only one name being brought forward today: Emily Blanck, Mickleton Meeting has agreed to serve on Admin Council for a three-year term. This nomination was approved.

The Council’s report describes some of the concerns that Friends have expressed regarding service to the Yearly Meeting. One theme is that Friends feel more connected to the work of their monthly and quarterly meetings than that of the Yearly Meeting. Others reported feeling put off by what they believed was bad behavior of Friends at previous sessions, and the belief that it was not handled well. Lastly, many Friends expressed that they already feel over-committed with other Quaker and family obligations.

In response, Nominating Council is working with Admin and Quaker Life Councils to consider the roles we need filled, and how they might be reorganized to be more accessible to those with busy lives. We were invited to share with our monthly and quarterly meetings, and social media, if we have a good experience today, to encourage others to join in the work of the Yearly Meeting. We are all PYM; we must remain committed to each other and to continuing to work through our conflicts, trusting each other and God that we will be stronger on the other side.

Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch stood to share her understanding that she would be nominated to serve as PYM representative to Friends General Conference for a three-year term. The body approved her nomination.

There was some confusion regarding our presiding clerk going forward. It was clarified that our Alternate Clerk will continue to serve as Presiding Clerk until Nominating Council brings forward a nomination for Presiding Clerk.

Administrative Council

Bruce Haines, clerk of the Council, shared the Council’s report. We accepted the report with gratitude.

A Friend asked about the Staff Voice policy and expressed a concern that the policy not result in a practice of censorship or censure. This concern will be brought back to personnel committee as they continue to discern, with staff input, a revised policy.

Quaker Life Council

Amy Taylor Brooks, serving as Interim Clerk of the council, shared her report. She expressed her gratitude for the invitation to serve, despite her many other commitments. She feels well-nourished and well used through her service to the Yearly meeting, and noted that this service has changed her. While the opportunity to engage at a deeper level sometimes causes trepidation, the discomfort makes room for growth in the Spirit.

A Friend asked about the current status of the work of the Discernment Team. It was noted that the Team’s recommendations helped to inform Annual Sessions, but that QLC will revisit the Discernment Team’s report to see what additional action might be taken.

Friends accepted this report.

Amy introduced the conveners of several collaboratives under their care, who shared updates on their work. Wade Wright reported on behalf of the Spiritual Formation Collaborative; Deb Heile reported on behalf of the Legislative Policy Collaborative; and Pat Finley reported on behalf of the Eco-Justice Collaborative. Lastly, Friends were invited to consider Friends who might have gifts to lend to the Youth Programs Advisory Committee, which is now forming.

General Secretary’s Report

Christie Duncan-Tessmer, our General Secretary, presented her report, highlighting the many ways in which the Yearly Meeting is nurturing relationships across meetings and individuals throughout the yearly meeting. Each highlight was accompanied by a story from a PYM staff member. Our website and calendar are helpful in sharing information, and Friends are encouraged to continue to use the calendar and post information about events on the website. We heard stories about the Calendar, Resource Friends, Bridge Contacts, Thread Gatherings, and Youth Engagement. Friends accepted this report.

Multicultural Audit Steering Committee

The agenda was reordered to provide ample time for this report and discussion. tonya thames taylor, clerk, reported on behalf of the committee, joined by members of the committee on the facing bench. Members introduced themselves and shared some reflections on their service on the committee. The Clerk highlighted the accomplishments they have made since Annual Sessions, including holding a retreat and developing their RFP. We were challenged to think not just about the RFP, but about what we will do with the results of the audit. How will we move forward?

We broke before the conclusion of this business at 12:45pm, recognizing that despite pushing back our agenda to accommodate this lengthy discussion, we needed a break.

We resumed, refreshed, at 1:30pm with All Together Time, during which we gathered in multigenerational groups to share about our similarities and differences, creating a paper quilt. We resumed business at 2pm, taking up the report from the MASC. The body received this report without further discussion.

Youth and Young Adult Programs

Melinda Wenner Bradley reported as a Youth Engagement Coordinator. Her report is attached. There are more than 40 participants in the Youth programs at today’s session, ranging in age from 2 ½ to 18 years old. We took a moment to notice how many of us in the room have been touched by the PYM youth programs over our lives, as children, middle school Friends, Young Friends, Friendly Adult Presences, and parents or grandparents of children. Melinda also shared her deep history with this building and this room, and her sense of feeling grounded in community here. She challenged us to live into better inclusivity in our work, making childcare a priority for our committee work in our monthly and quarterly meetings so that more parents can be involved.

Eleanor Barbe, Jeff Rosenthal, and Mary Tierney reported on behalf of the Young Adult Friends program. They led us first in a worship sharing with queries about how we as individuals nurture love and trust in each other and institutions, noticing our hesitations and the ways in which we hold ourselves responsible for that work. They shared their corporate leading to work with those mobilizing to Shut Down Berks County Detention Facility, as well as efforts to combat xenophobic policing practices. Lastly, we heard What Kind of Times are These, by Adrienne Rich (below). We accepted their report.

What Kind of Times are These, by Adrienne Rich

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

And the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows

Near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted

Who disappeared into those shadows.

 

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled

This isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,

Our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,

Its own ways of making people disappear.

 

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods

Meeting the unmarked strip of light –

Ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:

I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

 

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you

Anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these

To have you listen at all, it’s necessary

To talk about trees.

Friends expressed their gratitude for the service of Chris Lucca, his generosity, sense of humor, and patience with the body. Friends also expressed their appreciation for everyone who came to Sessions today, for their dedication to the work of our beloved community.

These minutes were approved.

Submitted by Kri Burkander, Recording Clerk


Next Sessions – March 23, 2019

Please save Saturday March 23rd for our next Continuing Sessions. Young Adult Friends are planning a special action centered on the Berks County Detention Center (where immigrant children are being housed under poor conditions) and we will be continuing our One Quilt One Yearly Meeting project.