The Runway to Annual Sessions 2021 begins on Tuesday, May 4, and runs through July 24. The Runway to Annual Sessions are the weeks that lead up to Annual Sessions week (July 27 – August 1) and is filled with workshops, gatherings, youth programs, a multigenerational documentary viewing and discussion, a Young Adult Friend retreat, a Collaborative Fair, Q&As, and reports from PYM representatives to other Quaker organizations.
Olivia Brangan, Community Engagement Coordinator, shares what to expect from Runway to Annual Sessions in the following interview:
Olivia, this is the second year you have done the Runway to Annual Sessions – a series of workshops and gatherings each week from May to July. What are you most excited about?
The connections that are nurtured through yearly meeting engagement and our wide network of Quakers (both locally and beyond our geographic region) is one of the most exciting pieces about the Runway for me. I feel blessed to support this work and witness and provide this engaging virtual space for our yearly meeting with the whole PYM Community Engagement Team. It includes not just workshops but other types of gatherings–like the collaborative fair and the opportunity for representatives to other Quaker organizations to be together for fellowship in one virtual space.
The way we gather virtually has provided so many more opportunities to meet Friends from other yearly meetings and global spots in Canada, Europe, and South America. The Runway will be a gift to unwrap in terms of how Friends continue these relationships and shape ongoing connections.
How will Friends learn about ‘The Runway’?
There are several ways to stay informed about both the Runway to Annual Sessions and also Annual Sessions week. Friends both in and outside our geographic region will receive two postcards – the first will arrive in mailboxes the first week of May – to outline the engaging and high-impact programs scheduled from May to July.
The second postcard, scheduled to reach mailboxes in early June, will highlight Annual Sessions week.
Sessions week starts with our Spiritual Formation retreat, and it features All Ages Worship, multigenerational spaces, Youth Programs, Young Adult Friend spaces, Affinity Groups, Bible Studies, plus five keynote presentations, all deeply rooted in our Sessions theme.
An excellent resource to access stories and events in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is our News & Events email. This is electronically distributed each Thursday and covers the week’s news and forecasts compelling events. We highlight what is coming up for the next week, both for the Runway, as well as featuring other stories and events that are posted on the PYM website.
Melinda Wenner Bradley, Youth and Religious Life Coordinator, has broad and regular conversations and emails with youth and families across the yearly meeting. Friends may also access up-to-date information on the PYM calendar and the Annual Sessions page of PYM’s website.
Bridge Contacts, whose role is to be a conduit of information between their meeting or worship group and the yearly meeting, can also share events and stories weekly.
What areas will Annual Sessions and the Runway be covering?
This year’s theme, which is “Uproot Injustice, Root Justice,” will be woven into all aspects of our ‘Runway’ of events, as well as the week of Annual Sessions. Workshop facilitators are engaging with the theme and weaving it into both their presentations and the work and witness they are sharing with the Quaker community.
The theme will be very present throughout our worshipful business meetings and multi-generational spaces, as we continue our work on the three major concerns before our yearly meeting: Addressing Racism, Climate Change, and Membership and Belonging.
What is your opening event?
All Friends are invited to the opening event: ‘Gathering on Re-Opening Our Meetings’. Friends will reflect on the query:
What are our biggest challenges and biggest opportunities when we re-open?
Participants will share concerns and hopes regarding the possibility that our society will re-open to in-person gatherings by the end of 2021. We’ll revisit the notes of a meeting that took place earlier in the year about hybrid gatherings and explore the possibility of developing re-opening guidelines for meetings and other local Quaker communities.
How will you handle the overlap with FGC programs? And…before we close – is there anything else?
The Runway to Annual Sessions is pausing all programs from June 26 to July 3 to make space for Friends to participate or present workshops at Friends General Conference’s Gathering.
There are so many opportunities to connect with Quakers and engage in our deeply held, spiritual work together over the next few months. Please do sign up for our emails and continue to check out the offerings on our calendar. It is so easy to connect right now! I look forward to zooming with you!
Image Credits: Pixaby