With 102 Friends in attendance, Meeting for Business in Worship was held virtually from just before 1:00 to about 4:15 PM during the afternoon of July 30th. The agenda offered the following items of business: Introductions, Quaker Life Council Report, Nominating Council Report, Ujima Friends Meeting Declaration, and the Membership and Belonging Sprint Report. Minutes follow with thanks to the PYM recording clerk, Jim Herr.
Minutes of 341st Annual Sessions of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Held by Zoom video conference, Friday, July 30, 2021
At about 12:50 PM, 10 minutes before our meeting was set to begin, Bianca Santini-Dumas, Concord Quarter, read the epistle from Aotearoa/New Zealand Yearly Meeting.
Serving as clerk for this time, Frank Barch invited new visitors to introduce themselves: Nicole Santos, Jonathan Evans, Robert Greene, Ruth Darlington, Melanie Monk, and Lilia Flick from Canadian Yearly Meeting and Canadian Young Friends Yearly Meeting.
Elders for today’s meeting were Phil Anthony, Chestnut Hill MM; .O, Central Philadelphia MM, Bob Dockhorn, Germantown MM, Ed Solenberger, Upper Susquehanna Quarterly Meeting, and Jane Cadwallader, Lancaster MM. The Pastoral Care Team was introduced.
We settled into a few minutes of waiting worship to prepare ourselves for the listening which lay ahead.
Quaker Life Council
Clerk Frank Barch introduced Anthony Stover, Germantown MM and Ujima Friends Meeting, Council Clerk of Quaker Life Council. A report, and many attached documents, were presented in advance of the meeting and are attached to these minutes.
Anthony introduced all the members of the Council, including members who have joined this year and those who have left or are leaving their service.
A Friend said she is looking forward to the Truth and Reconciliation process. A Friend expressed appreciation for Anthony’s support of the Spiritual Formation Collaborative. She also asked if this Council has too many things to be considered. Anthony appreciated this observation and hopes to work with QLC, as well as Nominating Council, on the difficulty.
A Friend asked if there might be ways needed to strengthen communication. Anthony pointed to the pandemic as adding additional challenges, and the Council continues to work to improve in this area.
A Friend noted the Spiritual Reports of the Monthly Meetings, and hopes they help to show the state of the Yearly Meeting and all of its challenges.
A Friend asked about the need to be able to perceive actual challenges, more than just what is detected. Anthony replied that the YM website shows what is being worked on in the Council and it’s all very transparent. A Friend also replied that we are open to hearing the truth from God. Another Friend noted that we must appreciate, and be part of the healing, of people who feel they have been hurt.
A Friend noted intergenerational trauma and intergenerational defensiveness. Another Friend noted that different people, with different nervous systems, determine truth differently. Truth is liquid. It’s imperative that we be able to hear, whole-heartedly, what our brothers and sisters are saying—nervous system to nervous system. Let us pray for more integration, to transform our fear.
A Friend noted that through multi-generational worship we can all be nurtured.
A Friend noted that, in situations of being hurt, with Spirit guidance and communion, she can get through.
Clerk Frank Barch asked us to receive these messages and settle into some appreciative worship. He then invited all of us to consider joining in the very important work of Quaker Life Council.
We accepted the report from Anthony with great appreciation.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
Friends had had the opportunity to read in advance the report from the Council, which is attached. Clerk Terri Whiteford told us of them many ways she has served the Yearly Meeting. She explained that she had agreed to be part of the Councils, after greatly appreciated being asked, to find ways to do the most good. And she has felt challenged in many, many ways, working with people who are Spirit-led and very willing to deal with the uncomfortable. PYM has a voice and authority, and we want to give people access to this voice through Nominating Council. There is a lot of work to do, but there is also a great deal of resource available. She urged us all, when someone approaches us, to participate in this important work. In fact, if people are not asked but feel inspired to help, she asked us all to contact Council Clerks or the Clerks of the Yearly Meeting.
Terri went through the list carefully, telling us a bit about the many people, and Clerk received approval for each group in turn.
Terri expressed appreciation to all who are leaving service at this time.
Clerk Frank expressed great appreciation for all the people who have agreed to serve, and in particular to those who have completed their service.
A Friend expressed appreciation for Margaret Mansfield’s work with FCNL since the 1990s.
There were a few corrections noted and made to the Council’s list.
A Friend asked if there is an interim nominating process to keep Council slates full. Terri explained that people can be accepted at continuing sessions as well as annual sessions. Individuals can also be guests at Council meetings.
These minutes were read, corrected, and approved.
We took a break.
When we returned, clerk Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch asked us to settle into worship to prepare the space for things to come. She then introduced Ayesha Imani.
Ujima Friends Meeting
Ayesha thanked everyone who has been so supportive since the inception of the Ujima Peace Center. She then read the minute of Declaration and Commitment of the Ujima Friends Meeting, which is attached.
We received this minute with great joy. Clerk Jean-Marie noted that Ujima Friends have wondered about the ways we will choose to be in relationship with one another. Over the coming months, let us each ponder, seek and find ways to share our responses to that question with one another. She noted that this minute has been available on our website, and will stay there for much time to come.
A Friend asked if Ujima is still meeting by Zoom. Ayesha said they are, though some are meeting now in person. She said people are welcome to join them, though she wants to make sure the majority worshiping together there are people of color and/or those from the neighborhood. People need to contact the clerk of the Meeting.
These minutes were read, corrected, and approved, with an understanding that the Recording Clerk and Ayesha will work on correcting a bit of the wording.
Clerk Jean-Marie then introduced Melissa Rycroft to talk about the Membership and Belonging Sprint.
Membership and Belonging Sprint
Melissa expressed appreciation for the great work of this Sprint. She asked us to think of all the different ways others may have experienced this subject. And she urged us to be aware that people have shared very personal and sensitive experiences.
Melissa told us a personal story about her boyfriend who is far more bothered by mosquitos than she, and she used this as a metaphor for some who find the process of membership painful. We then got to see the questions people were asked in the process of assessing this subject.
Melissa went into detail about some of the many challenges people have had with membership. And when she went into the application for at-large membership, she noted that many of the requirements are more than what people may experience in monthly meeting membership. However, those who are accepted into at-large membership will be full members.
Clerk Jean-Marie expressed appreciation for the great work of this Sprint.
A Friend asked about other Yearly Meetings that have broken the pattern of Monthly Meeting membership. Melissa explained that the Sprint explored the work of New York Yearly Meeting’s at-large membership and have learned from their experience.
A Friend asked about marriage and at-large members being members of other religious organizations. Melissa told us that the subject of marriage will have to come up in the future, and no one will be asked to change their affiliations during this first trial year. She said it’s hard to imagine all the possibilities until the doing.
A Friend asked if there might be a standing clearness committee, and Melissa said this will be left to QLC.
Another Friend noted that some young adult Friends are connected through other Quaker groups and wondered if there is a young age level for these at-large members. Melissa explained that the Sprint’s contacts have been of many ages.
A Friend noted that QLC is understaffed. Melissa said some of the people on the Sprint want to continue as part of the process and will merely change whose care they are under.
A Friend expressed hope that this may allow people from other faith communities to be part of our community.
We approved the report of the Sprint, and we granted approval of a one-year trial of a mechanism which will allow the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to offer membership held by the yearly meeting. Quaker Life Council will hold this trial under its care and may choose to assign direct management of the process to Ministry and Care Committee or another group QLC may choose to create.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
We heard a few brief announcements. Clerk expressed gratitude for all the depth of time together and ended the meeting with a period of worship, expecting to meet again on Saturday, July 31, at 1:00 PM.