Gathering in Beloved (Hybrid) Community
Friends of all ages from across Philadelphia Yearly Meeting came together on Saturday, November 5, for our first fully hybrid (online & in-person) Sessions! Our Sessions theme “Living with our neighbors, growing into beloved community,” was alive in our community as we worshipped, played, discerned, and listened with care to one another and for Spirit moving among us. There were 250+ registrations with Friends attending from 67 local (monthly) meetings and visitors from six other yearly meetings.
The weekend was anchored by online worship sharing on Friday evening, focused on queries related to the Sessions theme. Thank you to Sessions Coordinating Committee for their service in listening deeply for this theme, which we will continue to explore at Spring Continuing Sessions and Annual Sessions in 2023.
Gratitude for Service
Gratitude was shared during the weekend and afterward for the many Friends who worked together to plan and implement the day, including the elders and pastoral care support who were both on site at Arch Street and online, the many staff and volunteers who were our valiant “Tech Team,” and the leadership team including presiding clerk Melissa Rycroft (Upper Susquehanna Quarter) and rising clerk Nikki Mosgrove (Trenton Meeting).
The clerks held our worship and business with spirit-led care and good humor as they collaborated with others at the clerks table to navigate a hybrid gathering. The intention in their planning for how to be inclusive of voices both online and in the room at Arch Street was gratefully noted. Minutes from business on Saturday will be posted as soon as available. Thanks also to the staff of Arch Street Meeting House, who worked alongside staff from the Cherry Street office of PYM to prepare and host in the spaces at the meetinghouse.
During the course of the day on Saturday, we heard reports and presentations that opened new paths for us to consider questions about belonging — in our meetings, in the wider Quaker world, and as neighbors in the local communities our meetings inhabit.
During meeting for worship with attention to business, we heard a report from Barry Crossno, General Secretary of Friends General Conference, on the membership and future of the Religious Society of Friends here in the US. The slides from Barry’s presentation will be included with the minutes from November 5. In the General Secretary’s report, Christie Duncan-Tessmer (Chestnut Hill Meeting) invited us to consider how “Belonging is the Beginning.” A staff presentation posed the question, “What if Quaker meeting was like IKEA?,” and we were asked to consider how Quaker practices might change to create experiences of inclusion and belonging for those already among us, and those seeking a spiritual home.
Who is our neighbor? A panel presentation and discussion on Saturday afternoon explored connections and relationships between local meetings and their wider communities. How does beloved community grow in interfaith spaces and opportunities to serve one another? The panelists included Friends from Kennett Meeting and State College Meeting, and Trenton Meeting alongside their neighbors HelpSelf and Chosen Generation Church, represented by Dr. Lawrence Boyd.
It was remarked on several times from the clerks table or podium that we are at the beginning a conversation with each other to address these questions.
Joyful News & Voices
We also heard in the General Secretary’s report the joyful news of a matching gift to support pastoral care in meetings, including yearly meeting-wide programs and local meeting resources focused on Bible study and intergenerational worship. A worship and care “care package” for the Yearly Meeting! Learn more about this generous gift to our community from a PYM family.
We also heard the joyful voices of children and youth at these Sessions — at Arch Street under the care of the wonderful Youth Programs staff on Saturday, and over Zoom during All Together Worship on Sunday. On Saturday, PreK to 12th graders played and created together on the theme, “Love My Neighbor.” On Saturday, there were games, stories, conversation, art, and a scavenger hunt for “neighborliness” in the Arch Street Meeting House neighborhood. They finished the program day with the creation of a mural illustrating ideas about being neighbors.
All Together Worship
More than two hundred Friends joined from their homes and meeting houses for All Together Worship on Sunday. The time in waiting worship opened with us learning how to greet one another with “Good morning, friend” and the word “neighbor” in American Sign Language. We listened to a group of diverse voices share verses from the Bible related to loving our neighbor. During the waiting worship that followed, several messages grew out of the readings: lifting up the roots of the Gospel references in Leviticus, wondering how we are also called to love our enemy, and including nature in our call to care for neighbors.
Thank you for a wonderful Fall Continuing Sessions, many and all!
- Spring Continuing Sessions, March 11, 2023
- Annual Sessions, July 26-30, 2023