With 82 Friends in attendance, Meeting for Business in Worship was held virtually from just before 1:00 to just past 4:00 PM during the afternoon of July 29th. The agenda offered the following items of business: Introductions, Epistle Writing Committee, Administrative Council and Treasurer’s reports, the 2022 PYM Budget presentation, and the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Sprint Report and work. Minutes follow with thanks to the PYM recording clerks, Jim Herr and Kri Burkander.
Minutes of 341st Annual Sessions of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Held by Zoom video conference, Thursday, July 29, 2021
At 12:50 AM, 10 minutes before our meeting was set to begin, Melissa Rycroft read a portion of the epistle from Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting.
The clerks’ table introduced themselves, including Frank Barch and Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch, Schuylkill MM, serving as clerks and Jim Herr, Lancaster MM, serving as Recording Clerk. We settled into a few minutes of waiting worship to prepare ourselves for the listening which lay ahead.
Others in service to our Yearly Meeting introduced themselves, including the clerks of Administrative Council Jim Waddington, Salem MM; Quaker Life Council, Anthony Stover, Germantown MM and Ujima Worship Center; and Nominating Council, Terry Whiteford, Downingtown MM. Elders for today’s meeting were Phil Anthony, Chestnut Hill MM; Bob Dockhorn, Green Street MM, and Jane Cadwallader, Lancaster MM. The Pastoral Care Team was introduced. Our General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer, Chestnut Hill MM, introduced herself.
The following people have agreed to create our outgoing epistle for these sessions: Anthony Stover, Germantown MM, Philadelphia Quarter; Bianca Santini-Dumas, Concord Quarter; David Nuttall, London Grove MM, Western Quarter; Joan Broadfield, Chester MM, Chester Quarter; and Melissa Rycroft, Upper Susquehanna Quarter. These members were approved.
Olivia Brangan gave us a brief tech review to insure it serves us well.
A report was presented in advance of the meeting and is attached to these minutes. Jim Waddington, Council Clerk, said there were only 13 members of the Council and after these sessions, with three leaving, there will only be 10 of a possible 15 members. He urged us to consider helping the Council do its work. Anyone feeling led would be appreciated.
Much of this year was spent in catching up, to an extent. They had two strategic visioning sessions with the other two Councils. In the end, they all expressed concerns to balance concrete work and self-assessment; to listen particularly to Monthly Meetings; and to work to involve more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). Much of the weight of the Council has been under the care of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Sprint.
Clerk Frank Barch thanked Jim for clerking this council and expressed appreciation to all its members. He affirmed from first-hand experience that the work is done well.
We accepted the report with great appreciation.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
Treasurer and Budget
Friends had had the opportunity to read the report from our Treasurer and also time to ask questions about the budget during the Budget Runway Event last week. Andrew Anderson, PYM Treasurer, said he misses us all in person rather than in this “Hollywood Squares” Zoom format. He quoted a friend who said “Andrew, community is not something you find, it’s something you make.” He mentioned the impact accelerator fund, which had to be worked through with Friends Fiduciary, with much help from Christie Duncan-Tessmer. There was a PPP (Payroll Protection Program) Loan and Linell McCurry, PYM Associate Secretary for Business and Finance, explained its forgiveness with the attached presentation. Andrew then told us that we went from a defined-benefits plan to a defined contributions plan, which will help personnel and budget planning. Linell gave us an overview of the budget. Andrew then showed a brief slide show with chocolate as a metaphor for the Yearly Meeting’s assets to give us some context.
A Friend asked about the money held by others, which we do not own, but accept and use the income. A Friend asked about ways to use donor restricted funds. Linell explained that the restrictions are written and information on those for Monthly Meetings will be available from Friends Fiduciary. We also heard that many of the restricted funds are used by the Granting Group.
A Friend told us that moving from a defined benefit to a defined contributions plan has moved risk from the YM to the employees who control their pensions. We need to provide financial advice and education to help them manage that risk. Christie told us this is the case. And we have a high level of contributions.
A Friend expressed appreciation for the clarity of the report. She also expressed concern that the chocolate used for the slide show is from Hershey, which has corporate practices not in keeping with Friends’ values. She urged Andrew to use equal exchange chocolate in the future. Andrew said he will come under the weight of this concern and use something different next year.
Friends approved the budget as presented. And accepted the treasurer’s report.
Andrew talked about the strategic questions of giving and the legacy fund that were brought up at the time before sessions. Christie told us more Friends gave to the YM in 202o than in 2019, a pattern not seen in several years., and gifts were larger than before, for which she thanked us all. This has allowed us to build relationships. Now we’re ramping up our work with planned giving. Grace Cooke told us about the Legacy Fund’s origins in 2019. Principle is permanently restricted and income goes to the general fund. Those who are named are given stories, which will be held in perpetuity. Grace also told us about other funds and types of gifts. Her presentation is attached to these minutes.
These minutes were read, corrected, and approved.
We took a break and returned to some settling worship.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Sprint was lifted up by Administrative Council in September of 2019 and they reported on their work during Spring Continuing Sessions, 2021. An advance report was prepared for these sessions.
Zachary Dutton, Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life, offered a video of a TEDx Akron talk by Kenyona Matthews about the challenges of “diversity” and the benefits of inclusion. He then went on to talk about the work of the Sprint and review the Sprint’s report, which is attached to these minutes.
Clerk Jean-Marie thanked Zachary, members of the Sprint, and the many other people involved. She pointed out that the group has proposed several specific actions as way forward. Rather than consider these actions, she first asked for questions.
A Friend asked about the term midwives. Zachary noted that this term has a spiritual and feminist grounding, with an understanding of hard work necessary, which will be important in the process. Another Friend asked about how much of this process is going to be aimed at all of us or at the staff. Zachary said it’s important that we be doing both, with an understanding of power structures. A Friend asked about the number of people needed to fill the roles. Zachary admitted that it has been challenging in the past to find people willing to work with us because we have not reckoned with our past harm. At this point we’re only looking at 2-3 midwives. The hope is that, if PYM truly gets behind the Truth and Transformation process, we may find people more willing to help. Another Friend noted that we must encourage Friends of European decent to work harder at this. A Friend noted that the people who have done the hurting will have to be the ones in Transformation. This painful process can be helped with midwives. A Friend encouraged us to hire people to serve as midwives. A Friend asked how we can communicate the work of the Sprint to Monthly Meetings and Quarterly Meetings. Zachary said there are many communications channels, which will be used. Jim Waddington noted that our plenary last night with Nikki Mosgrove asked us to work together on the societal problems. He said we can speak powerfully about things that need to change outside as well as work internally.
Clerk Jean-Marie pointed out that we are in relationship with each other and we want these to be authentic and based on connection. The report before us points the way forward and gives a place to begin. We approved the report and the principals involved
A Friend urged us to keep from injuring ourselves in ways we have in the past in a country that is fragmented. Another Friend noted that only 1% of PYM is involved with this process at this time and expressed hope that the other 99% will buy into it. Clerk expressed hope that we will all have hope. She suggested we will have time on Sunday morning to consider some proposed practical ways we may move work forward. A Friend urged us to be aware of a common pattern of wanting to work on the easier outward work which may take away from a focus on the harder inner work, even as we give voice to affirm the hard work.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
Clerk expressed appreciation that we have done something very important. We heard a few brief announcements and ended the meeting with a period of worship, expecting to meet again on Friday, July 30, at 1:00 PM.