With 107 Friends in attendance, Meeting for Business in Worship was held virtually from just before 1:00 to 4:00 PM on the nose during the afternoon of July 31st. The agenda offered the following items of business: Introductions, Climate Change Sprint Report, Epistles 1st Reading, and an exercise on Deep Listening from the Ministry & Care Committee. Friends moved through the agenda with joy and recognition of the magnitude of their work. 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, Saturday, July 31, 2021
At about 12:50 PM, 10 minutes before our meeting was set to begin, Anthony Stover, Germantown MM and Ujima Friends Meeting, read the 2021 state of the meeting report from Hong Kong Monthly Meeting.
Serving as clerk for this time, Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch invited new visitors to introduce themselves: Keith Harvey, Reba Gabel.
Elders for today’s meeting were Paul Kerr, George Rubin, Yelena Forrester, Bethann Morgan; Phil Anthony, .O, Ed Solenberger, and Jane Cadwallader. The Pastoral Care Team was introduced.
We settled into a few minutes of waiting worship to prepare ourselves for the listening which lay ahead.
Climate Change Sprint
Clerk Jean Marie Barch pointed out that fifty years ago, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting began the journey that has brought us to adopting climate change concerns as a yearly meeting witness. The Sprint has worked to fulfill the charge given them in Spring Continuing Session 2021 to bring us specific strategies for way forward in carrying out this witness. Jean-Marie asked us to hear the summary report from Robert Greene, Princeton MM, with the assumption that all Friends present have read and considered the full report.
Robert introduced members of the Sprint, pointing out that many individuals have come before: Bill Cozzens, Germantown MM; Ruth Darlington, Medford MM; Christie Duncan-Tessmer, Chestnut Hill MM; Patricia Finley, Old Haverford FM; .O, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting; Kathryn Metzker, Willistown Monthly Meeting; Christy Tavernelli, Earth Quaker Action Team Board member; and Shelly (Liyiran) Xia, Eco-Justice Collaborative member. Robert pointed out that the task of the Sprint was not to convince anyone of the importance of climate change, but to create a blueprint for 5 specific areas for actual actions. We then saw a video which detailed the Sprint’s report, which is attached to the minutes. After this, Robert recognized that there is a tremendous amount of information presented but he is really only asking for acceptance of the report.
Clerk Jean-Marie thanked Robert for the report and the members of the Sprint for the considerable work that went into it. She noted that, when this Sprint was lifted up by this body during Continuing Sessions in Spring 2021, we charged them with providing the yearly meeting with specifics for the way forward in working on Climate Change. They have presented us with overarching guidance, a complex and thorough road-map to move our work as a community forward with specific areas of work to be engaged by various parts of the yearly meeting community. Clerk noted we are looking at the overarching proposal and not the specifics included in the appendices, and asked if Friends have questions of clarification of the proposal.
We accepted with deep gratitude and approved this work as forming a foundation for our way forward in our efforts to mitigate climate change.
A Friend asked where the resources mentioned in the report are available. A link was posted: http://www.pym.org/sessions/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2021/07/Moving-Together-in-the-Face-of-Climate-Change.pdf. There was also a link to join the growing climate action network https://forms.gle/Nkjtkpns4wQ7whFz7.
A Friend noted that it would be good to publicize this action to help the public know that Quakers have not died out.
Robert urged us to follow the link to the developing climate action network to urge the government to make a difference. A Friend noted that PA is one of the three most crucial states in greenhouse gas emissions.
A Friend urged us to remember the people living in rural areas such as Schuylkill County.
The many specifics included in this document will require ongoing work. We lifted up this Sprint in Spring 2021 to bring us a plan with specifics to signal the way forward. They have done so. We agreed to release the members of this Sprint with gratitude for their work.
Robert Greene again urged us to sign up for the climate action network. A Friend noted the importance of doing action before September.
A Friend urged us to remember that our young people are ready and anxious to help in this work.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
It is our practice to entrust a small group of Friends with the responsibility to listen deeply during our sessions and craft a rendering of how Spirit has moved among us during our time together for us to share with Friends everywhere. This group included Anthony Stover, Germantown MM and Ujima Friends Meeting; Bianca Santini-Dumas, Concord Quarter; David Nuttall, London Grove MM, Western Quarter; Joan Broadfield, Chester MM, Chester Quarter; and Melissa Rycroft, Upper Susquehanna Quarter. The epistle was read by Bianca Santini-Dumas while it was shared on our screens and the group waited for our comments, additions and reflections. Comments made were noted by the Epistle Committee.
A Friend asked that all such documents use common language for ease of understanding.
Before taking a break, clerk gave us this message: Members of Ministry & Care were concerned that Friends would not return after the break for our listening work. Your clerks are counting on you to show them that concern was not valid by returning after the break, no later than 2:30, for this important work.
And we took a break.
When we returned, Clerk Frank Barch told us that to build a stronger Yearly Meeting, we need to develop the ability to listen carefully.
Karen Lighter from Ministry & Care explained that the process of truth and transformation involves deep listening. She explained what the process involves—listening with compassion, helping the other person empty their heart. We heard how to listen. And we heard how this process works with “story-telling rooms.” The speaker tells the story for 3 minutes, the listener tells what he/she heard, and the witness/time-keeper spends 3 minutes telling what he/she saw and experienced.
Karen, Dana Robinson from Ministry & Care, and George Schaeffer, staff for the committee, then gave us an example of this process.
We were broken into small groups of 3 for deep listening practice using this as the query: “How has or could community help you cope with trauma, especially around issues of racial and social injustice?”
When we returned, Dana Robinson asked for people to share what they noticed. Some of the responses included: wish I could do this more; it was powerful; so sorry so many people left; we were in a safe place; felt very much in the Presence. Dana asked us if this is something we can bring into our monthly meetings. A Friend suggested this is very much like a clearness process and can work will with a group. Another Friend said this is a way for real honesty and it can be of help in getting to know our Meeting members.
A request was made for the slide show that Karen put together in advance of this part of the meeting.
Dana expressed thanks for the deeply spiritual thought that we all brought to this.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
We heard a few brief announcements. Clerk asked us to sink into joyous worship together, which we did expecting to meet again on Sunday, August 1, at 9:00 AM.