On a sparkling fall weekend in November, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting convened Fall 2021 Continuing Sessions, offering opportunities to be in Quaker community across generations on multiple days. Friends participated as they were led. The theme for fall sessions and the coming year is: Across the generations as we repair broken foundations, we become unified in beloved Quaker community.
On Saturday morning 68 Friends attended a presentation by Deborah Cooper on how Buddhism had strengthened her Quaker practices. This was followed by a period of guided mediation. After a break for lunch, Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business began at 1:00 PM with a period of worship centered on the sessions theme. Some 81 Friends then shared in business, small group climate change conversations, an update on the work around Membership and Belonging, Quaker Life, Nominating and Administrative Council reports, and a closing tribute to Care and Aging Coordinator, George Schaefer.
At the end, Melinda Wenner Bradley spoke about Author Anastasia Higginbotham’s in person program Sunday at Arch Street Meeting House. She noted that Anastasia’s educational witness as writer for young people is centered in belonging, racial justice, individual and collective liberation, and transformation – all of which are issues of great interest within the yearly meeting.
Approved Minutes submitted by Recording Clerks Jim Herr and Sally McQuail are published below.
Meeting for Business in Worship Minutes – Saturday Afternoon, November 6th
Minutes of the 2021 Fall Continuing Sessions held by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting via Zoom video conference on Saturday, November 6, 2021 with Jean-Marie and Frank Barch serving as co-clerks.
Earlier activities: On Friday evening, we had a multi-generational evening of uplifting and creative musical fellowship led by Molly Hicks of Old Haverford Meeting. And this morning, after a time of worship together, Deborah Cooper, from Germantown Friends Meeting, talked about the connections between Buddhism and Quakerism, after which she led us on a guided meditation.
Worship: At 1:00 PM, we gathered and settled into worship.
Introductions: Frank Barch opened the session and introduced himself and Jean-Marie Barch, clerks, and the recording clerks, Jim Herr and Sally McQuail. He then asked Jane Cadwallader to introduce the elders: Yelena Forrester, Bob Dockhorn, Ed Solenberger, Dana Houghton, Bethann Morgan, Paul Kerr, George Rubin, Ken Park, Phil Anthony, and herself, Jane Cadwallader. Frank asked the Council Clerks to introduce themselves including Jim Waddington, Administrative Council Clerk; Anthony Stover, Quaker Life Council Clerk; Terri Whiteford, Interim Nominating Council Clerk; and Melissa Rycroft, Rising Clerk.
Olivia Brangan, Community Engagement Coordinator for PYM, provided an overview of the technology we will be using today and contacts for assistance if needed.
Worship Sharing: Frank introduced us to our theme for this year, “Across the Generations as We Repair Broken Foundations, We Become Unified in Beloved Quaker Community.” He then asked us to settle into worship sharing to consider how this speaks to each of us.
Although not in our tradition to record messages from worship sharing, we chose to record these messages because they were responses to specific queries. Meeting approved.
A Friend noted that things have changed dramatically, and seem broken, but disruption can be very positive. We are getting an opportunity to tell the truth to ourselves. We will come into new ways of expressing love to each other.
A Friend expressed concern with choices being made, especially about climate change, that will affect our children. Sea levels are predicted to rise considerably and will cause great difficulty. We must do everything we can to help. She urged us to visit the website www.choices.climatecentral.org to see how our individual neighborhoods will be affected.
A Friend noted there seems to be a start and stop in this statement of theme. But she feels the repair needs to go over and over and over again.
A Friend said we need to consider whether things can be truly repaired or if they need to be built anew. Is repair just going to take us back to what we had?
A Friend noted that, in the group of PYM elders, all generations are represented and we need to keep that pattern everywhere.
A Friend noted that it is important to listen to the 9,000 plus members who are not with us today. We need them all to be part of a beloved community.
A Friend noted that Lancaster has done much work on racial justice. He is excited to look at how to get involved locally in something that is global. He is also noticing resilience in the community where he lives. People on the right and the left are pulling together to make our government responsible for upholding good government. Broadly, not just within Quakerism, we can work together.
A Friend noted that to repair the foundation, we need to listen to Spirit as it leads us to do the right thing all the time.
A Friend noted that we are all trying, and that no one speaks the truth all the time.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
Yearly Meeting-wide Witness on Climate Change: Clerk Jean-Marie told us that we agreed at our Annual Sessions to have a Meeting-wide witness. She told us there has been enormous richness in our approach to this witness.
We saw a PowerPoint presentation of actions of Monthly Meetings and the Yearly Meeting as collected by the Eco-Justice Collaborative. (This presentation will be attached to the minutes.) Jean-Marie noted that there are many other things going on, and they will be added to the slide show.
We divided into seven break-out rooms to discuss activism, education, carbon footprint, how this is affecting finances, mourning loss/instilling hope, Monthly Meeting engagement, and concerns about witness. When we came back together, representatives from each group gave a synopsis of their discussion.
Bruce Birchard reported from the activism break-out room, that we need to engage with elected officials, unions, school boards, and to find new tools. All the justice issues need to be tied together. Obstacles to working on climate are no longer technical, but basically political.
Rita Varley reported that the group considering education pointed to the climate action network to foster communication. We need to educate ourselves on where others are coming from, and we need to educate people who represent us. This can be considered part of religious education, particularly considering how young people are very concerned about this issue. It needs to be intergenerational education.
Lynne Piersol reported from the carbon footprint group. There were many suggestions. However, people recognized challenges involved including costs and recycling not working well in Philadelphia right now. A Friend repeated some wisdom from a native American who said without sacrifice nothing will be accomplished.
Betsy Crofts told us about the group talking about finance. Friends Fiduciary shifted to being more proactive in its fund for social responsibility. There was talk about the carbon footprint for PYM, but we must consider costs involved.
Rose Ketterer talked about the mourning/hope group. It is necessary to help develop resilience in young people. There are groups that need to mourn together—monthly meetings, quarterly meetings and the yearly meeting. And, at the same time, there is a great deal to be hopeful about.
Jerry Taylor told us about the group that discussed how this has engaged our monthly meetings. Each member of the group offered ways their meetings had become engaged.
Bill Cossens told us about the group with concerns about the witness. There is concern about the shrinking of Quakerism. Perhaps as we make this subject obvious, we may attract younger people. We need to talk about concrete things we have done and can do. If we don’t take action, future generations will judge us harshly.
We took a brief break.
Quaker Life Council: Anthony Stover told us the charge of the Council is to maintain the spiritual health of the Yearly Meeting. There are seven committees, although there can be no more than 15 members of the Council—and now there are only 8 people involved. He urged Friends to reach out to Nominating Council to help find active young people and people of color. The Council is reviewing their charge so everyone is on the same page. They continue to do the best they can.
Melissa Rycroft told us that the Membership & Belonging group is under the care of Ministry and Care, which is under the care of QLC. There has been a person who has volunteered to be the first person to apply for at-large membership. Melissa urged us to share the link from the PYM website (https://www.pym.org/quaker-life-council/apply-to-become-an-at-large-member-of-philadelphia-yearly-meeting/) for the application with anyone who is interested in Quakerism, but not, in some way, able to join a monthly meeting. A Friend asked how a person can consider community with this style of membership. Melissa told us that there are people who are worshipping with many different groups, and the application asks how they are connecting to a group.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
Nominating Council: Terri Whiteford began by telling us how the Council is structured. Each of the 13 Quarters is to have a representative. Currently there are 4 quarters with no representation. There are also seven at-large members and a clerk, which are selected by Administrative Council. At this time, Admin has approved for nomination Nancy Robbins, Alice Maxfield, and Tracie Trull. We approved these nominations. Rose Ketterer from Newton MM was nominated to join Quaker Life Council. We approved.
Administrative Council: Jim Waddington told us the Council assures that resources of the Yearly Meeting are handled with care. There could be 15 members of the Council; at this point there are only 10. The Council has been talking about extending the terms of the members of Nominating Council to make sure there are enough people involved there. There has been very little response to the Strategic Direction sprint. Admin Council created a new sprint under the care of the Clerks Group to find and assist stewards for the Climate Witness. There has been concern about the extended length of time for members of the Granting Group, however, there is great knowledge within the Group. PYM has, thankfully, purchased cyber insurance. A Friend asked about the Yearly Meeting’s witness on the Racial Justice issue. Jim said the Council is considering this concern and moving forward to address it.
General Secretary’s Report: Christie brought us the news that George Schaefer is retiring from his employment at PYM. She urged us to share single words to express how we appreciate him and/or will miss him. After hearing more than 30 words, George thanked everyone and told us it has been an enormous privilege and pleasure to serve the Yearly Meeting. A Friend new to the Yearly Meeting was appreciative of this process.
Jean-Marie reminded us that there is a very small minority of the members of Yearly Meeting with us today. She asked us, using Worship Sharing, to mention something we learned or something that happened that we will take back with us to our monthly meetings.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
Olivia Brangan offered some announcements about things happening in the near future.
Clerk Jean-Marie told us that we need to move forward, even though it’s not always at the speed she would prefer.
We settled into a brief period of worship.
At 4:08, the Co-clerks thanked us all and said goodbye.
Photo: Longwood Garden mums by G. Cooke