Redefined clerking roles filled by some new faces
Annual Sessions 2020 saw some important changes in leadership. First, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s (PYM) clerking roles were re-adjusted to be better aligned with volunteer capacities and PYM’s needs, and Nominating Council then proposed a roster of skilled Friends to fill these redefined roles.
Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch and Frank Barch, members of Schuylkill Monthly Meeting, were appointed to a two-year non-renewable term as Co-Clerks of PYM. Our Alternate Clerk, Jonathon Rhoads, was released from his stewardship role clerking for the community with much gratitude. Melissa Rycroft, formerly clerk of Nominating Council, and a member from Upper Susquehanna Quarter, accepted the position of Rising Clerk. James (Jim) Waddington was appointed Clerk of the Administrative Council.
This week we are introducing our new Co-Clerks, with future news stories to follow the Rising Clerk and Administrative and Nominating Clerks. Our Quaker Life Clerk, Anthony Stover (Germantown), was introduced in a news story earlier this spring.
A bit about Jean-Marie and Frank
Jean-Marie and Frank like to say that between the two of them, they have 40 years of combined experience of Quaker clerking, but clerking Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is new to them, and they hope to move PYM closer to those important places where Spirit may be calling the community. They want to use the gifts they have been given to help the yearly meeting discern and hear more clearly how we are being called to move forward in three important areas before us at this time; membership, the environment, and addressing racism.
Jean-Marie reflected on her vision as a Presiding Co-Clerk, “I would like to help us increase both the perception and reality of listening deeply to one another, hearing one another, and feeling heard. I would like to support increased trust across the yearly meeting. I would like to help create a deeper sense of community among us. I would like to help create the systems through which Friends can come to know one another more fully, to learn to name and support the development of gifts, to be able to grow spiritually.”
Frank, who will be stepping down from his role as Presiding Clerk of Friends General Conference in October, is known for his quirky, playful personality. In the past, he was easily spotted around town in his signature red-and-silver Smart Car. It got 46.7 miles to the gallon. He’s a self-labeled technology geek. “If it runs on batteries, I want one,” he jokes. He’s also recently taken up classical guitar. Jean-Marie enjoys cooking, growing things, dancing, making music, creating space to hear people into their truth—to allow them to become more authentically themselves. They are both dog and cat people.
Frank and Jean-Marie currently live in Elkins Park, PA. They first met at Swarthmore College. Jean-Marie went on to attend Bryn Mawr College for an MA & PhD in Clinical Psychology, and Frank attended the newly co-ed medical school at the Women’s Medical College of PA (now part of Drexel, but founded by Quakers for the education of women physicians). He got his first taste serving in leadership as class president, next Student Council Secretary, then President of Student Council. Frank slowly grew into the faith of Friends, leaving behind his Unitarian childhood, only joining Schuylkill Meeting after 11 years of attending. After 36 years in the Philadelphia area, their shared life and careers brought them to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where they found a strong Quaker community, but remained members of Schuylkill Meeting for the 16 years spent in Virginia. After Frank’s retirement, they moved back to Elkins Park two years ago- “We came home” and celebrated their 50 wedding anniversary.
A Quaker childhood
Having been raised by an evangelical Quaker mother and an Anglican father, both born in Jamaica, Jean-Marie knew much about Quakerism but growing up in the US, she also found that unprogrammed meeting was better aligned with her sense of Sprit. Joining the local meeting in Phoenixville felt very natural, and Jean- Marie quickly became active in leadership as they raised two sons, Keith and Seth (both Quakers and alumna of Guilford College and Earlham College, respectively). Frank confessed that while their children were young and he was working long hours as a doctor, it was easy to say no to worship on Sunday, but the faith drew him in, and eventually he not only joined but became deeply active in the meeting and at FGC.
Frank’s hope for PYM is aligned with Jean-Marie’s vision: “With the support and guidance of Spirit and of each of you, I hope we as clerk will be able to hold the container within which Spirit can work, with and through us to bring us closer to the blessed community of which Martin Luther King Jr. spoke—one in which we are each valued and supported in our growth to be the best version of ourselves of which we are capable—and in which together we come closer to doing and to being what Spirit would have of us.”
Experience with leadership roles at a range of meetings
Frank and Jean-Marie are known in a broad range of Quaker circles. They previously sojourned at Valley Friends Meeting, Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM), in Dayton, VA, and served as clerk & recording clerks there. Frank will soon end his clerking of the Central Committee of Friends General Conference. He clerked the FGC Personnel Committee and hopes to share his love and appreciation of Quaker Staff with the PYM staff. Jean-Marie served BYM on their Ministry and Council Committee for four years, three of them as a clerk. She also served at the recording clerk of Schuylkill Monthly Meeting and clerked there for nine years. She has clerked Central Committee’s Nurturing Ministries Committee as well as its Transforming Subcommittee and has served as a member of FGC’s Nominating Committee. She was FGC’s clerk for the Committee for Ministry on Racism, co-clerk of the Youth Ministries Committee, and a member of the Traveling Ministries and Ministry & Nurture Committees. Jean-Marie also served as clerk of the school board for West Chester Friends School. Together, Frank and Jean-Marie Co-Clerked the FGC 2005 Summer Gathering.
Frank and Jean-Marie were surprised by the nomination to serve PYM as Co-Clerks, but they are ready to nurture Spirit and minister to our shared vision these next two years. Clerking and servant leadership, like the gardening, piano playing, and cooking Jean-Marie loves, or the tinkering Frank does, takes care and attention to hearts, minds, and faithfulness to Spirit. It is all this that they bring to PYM; the community welcomes them with gratitude.
Picture: from 2017 Annual Sessions