We are again in a time of shift.
This time, we are asking how, when, and why our gatherings are hybrid, virtual, or in-person. We have much to learn about the needs in our community and we hope Friends will unite in seeing this as a time of experimentation and learning. At this year’s Spring Continuing Sessions, the morning Meeting for Business will be hybrid (more details below) and our regional afternoon program will be in-person only.
This time of adjustment is a tender one.
Do we worry that not all Friends will feel able to participate? Yes. Do we plan to go back to the way things were before Covid? No. The call to return to gathering in-person is filled with challenges. We hear the longing expressed by many voices to share physical space, to include children and youth, and to have the kind of interactions that are only possible face-to-face. And we also hear the voices of Friends saying, “I am no longer able to participate in person for reasons of health, mobility, time or expense. Joining virtually enables me to attend when I would not otherwise go.”
As we hold both of these truths, we look forward to a future where there will be a balance. Some events will be entirely virtual. Some entirely in-person, and some hybrid.
Across PYM there are wonderful examples!
Listening to Friends sharing at Thread Gatherings and Quarterly Meeting leadership meetings, checking in with local meetings about the spiritual state of their meetings, a Resource Friend responding to technology needs to support hybrid worship — across the Yearly Meeting, our community is finding ways to gather that use a variety of choices, and sometimes more than one. These are as varied in some ways as our meetings themselves, but in all cases there is thoughtful preparation and care for community going into the planning.
Recent examples include a Quarterly Meeting held online, with “pop up” in-person gatherings in some local meetings joining the Zoom link for meeting for business or meeting for worship on Zoom with the Quarter. In one case, the concern about not having a children’s program online was assuaged by the religious education clerks in the Quarter sharing resources around a theme that they could all connect with together during the month, and the invitation to join other families for intergenerational meeting for worship in person, linking with worship on Zoom.
We’re doing it, Friends!
“Why not ALL hybrid,” you ask?
Like other Yearly Meetings, we are also learning that hybrid is wonderful and has its own limits for large-scale, yearly meeting-wide gathering. Hybrid gatherings demand a great deal of staff time, outside expertise and support, and a program that is designed to engage both online and in person. It is, to some extent, like creating two events that run at the same time and require care and support in ways that are unique. The difficult truth is that this is not possible or, for many participants, preferable. So we will continue to hone our hybrid skills and use this model with care.
Please join Friends gathering for our Spring Continuing Sessions on March 11, whether online in the morning for Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, or at a regional gathering in the afternoon. On Sunday, PYM will host All Together Worship from meetings and homes again, 10-11am. See the schedule for Saturday and register.
In the same spirit that many of us came together in community online in these last three years, let’s reach out and draw an even wider circle of Friends into the embrace of our community this spring, gathering in beloved community.
Sessions Coordinating Committee, supported by Sessions Coordinator Tara Rubinstein, are collaborating on the plans for upcoming Sessions! We look forward to being together on March 11 for Spring Continuing Session, which include regional gatherings on Saturday afternoon, and All Together Worship on Sunday. And then onward to Annual Sessions — a blended program online and at the College of New Jersey, July 26-30.