Submitted by Kri Burkander, Recording Clerk 2018 Annual Sessions
Please note these are not complete; Sunday’s minutes are not yet included
Thursday Morning session
We began our morning in worship, and then enjoyed Altogether Time, wherein we learned how to greet one another in several languages, and spent time in multigenerational fellowship responding to queries inviting a deeper reflection than “How are you?”
Chris Lucca, serving as Alternate Clerk, welcomed the body to the Business Sessions, explaining that our business will be clerked by himself and the two other alternate clerks, Amy Kietzman and Tom Hoopes. The facing table introduced themselves, and elders were invited to stand and be recognized.
The clerk invited Friends visiting from other yearly meeting to introduce themselves. Windy Cooler is visiting from Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Deanna Meyer Boyd, member of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, introduced herself. She is visiting on behalf of Friends General Conference (FGC).
Missy Smith was introduced as our CARTT – communications access real-time translator. We are grateful for her presence and service to our community.
Friends were invited to review the Discernment and Expectations for Business Meeting. These guidelines help us all prepare ourselves spiritually and practically for the work we undertake as a community.
Friends were informed that there are three affinity spaces designated for Sessions. One is for White Friends working to dismantle racism; one is for Friends of color, indigenous Friends, and Friends of African Descent; and one is for Friends of mixed heritage.
Emily Blanck, on behalf of Salem Quarterly Meeting, read the minute of religious service regarding Sandra Boone Murphy, member of Mickleton Friends Meeting, and her ministry with indigenous people. This minute is attached.
The clerk invited us to settle into a brief but moving worship to honor the life and service of Penny Colgan Davis.
The clerk then shared his prayer that we can honor the pain, frustration, disappointment, and anger Friends have felt within the Yearly Meeting, and set it aside in order to move into a deeper loving and trust in our community.
Melissa Rycroft, clerk of Nominating Council, invited the other members of the Nominating Council to be recognized by the body. She shared the struggle that Nominating Council has faced in their work and invited the community to join in carrying the burden. In seeking a Friend to serve as Presiding clerk, Nominating Council has encountered several challenges. Friends will often say that they cannot serve because they feel inexperienced. This is something that we need to consider as a body – how are we raising up and growing clerks in our midst? Are we willing to take risks, inviting new folks into leadership, and providing the support they need? Friends will also say that PYM leadership seems like a full-time job and can only be done by someone who is retired. The nominating council is working with Admin and Quaker Life Councils to evaluate and perhaps restructure the role of clerk. Friends also say that Friends are concerned about serving as presiding clerk because they do not feel able to clerk this body, fearing that they will encounter poor treatment from the community. Friends were asked to help the Nominating Council in their work, and also to help support whoever is nominated to serve as our next presiding clerk. While there is no current nomination for clerk, Nominating Council expressed hope that a nomination may be brought forward by November.
Nominating Council presented the current slate of nominations, in the report attached. Friends approved these nominations and accepted the report. In response, there were some questions from the body lifting up the lack of clarity about the role of presiding clerk going forward. Administrative Council, Quaker Life Council, and Nominating Council clerks are currently working on revisioning the role of presiding clerk going forward, while seeking Friends to serve. These Friends expect to report back to the body by the end of these sessions. Friends are asked to hold this work in prayer.
Andrew Anderson, Treasurer, presented the attached report, with assistance from Linell McCurry. With a concern for greater transparency among the body and FASB, the report addresses both the restricted and unrestricted budgets, as well as the reserves. Both restricted and unrestricted budgets are balanced and there are six months in reserves. However, only the unrestricted budget comes before the body for approval. The annual fund giving is down, due to the deaths of some of our major donors. Meeting covenants are the single largest source of unrestricted income; meetings are encouraged to consider whether or not they can afford to increase their covenant amounts. Friends are invited to chat with Linell, Andrew, and the Administrative council with any questions or suggestions. Friends approved the unrestricted budget as presented and requested that we engage in a deeper reflection regarding how our budget reflects the strategic directions of the YM.
Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust
Christie Duncan-Tessmer introduced Lynne Calamia, who has stepped into the new role as Executive Director (formerly Director) of Arch Street Meeting House. This has been a productive year of growth for the Meeting House. Highlights include doubling the income received from individual donors and foundations, broadening their outreach to funders, developing a marketing and communications plan, and revisioning the use of space to make the building more accessible. The meetinghouse has welcomed over 11,000 visitors, including over 6,000 schoolchildren from local Philadelphia schools. Tourists enjoy the opportunity to interact with real live Quakers; if Friends are interested in volunteering, no special Quaker history knowledge is needed. There are also opportunities for committee service and research.
Melissa Rycroft shared with us the names of Friends who have agreed to serve on the Epistle Committee. These Friends are Louis Lefever, Joan Broadfield, Gabreell James, and Melissa Rycroft. These names were approved.
These minutes were approved.
Thursday Evening Sessions
Tom Hoopes, acting in the role of presiding clerk, introduced himself and invited the Friends at the facing table to introduce themselves. He described a collection of items placed at the facing table: an empty water glass, which is to remind us to be open to receiving the living waters every day; a piece of rose quartz; and a juggling ball, which is representative of the way in which the clerking team works together and how we as a community juggle our many responsibilities and leadings.
The clerk invited Friends visiting from other Yearly meetings to introduce themselves. Christine Ashley, member of Whittier Friends Meeting (IA-conservative), staff from Friends Committee on National Legislation introduced herself.
The clerk invited Friends who are attending Yearly Meeting sessions for the first time to rise and introduce themselves to the body.
Epistles from Other Yearly Meetings
Melissa Rycroft, member of the Epistle Committee, read the epistle from Great Plains Yearly Meeting, attached.
Plenary – Dr. Amanda Kemp
We were then ministered to by Dr. Amanda Kemp, accompanied by her elder Michelle Brimage from Ithaca Monthly Meeting, who invited us into deeper reflection on how we can engage in the work of racial justice from a more grounded and reflective place. She offered us the tools of Holding Space for Transformation and Reflecting on Yourself. Holding Space for Transformation means that we are grounded in our bodies and in our relationship with God, standing on the ground of our values while opening our heart center for authentic connection with those with whom we disagree. We were encouraged to consider these individuals opponents rather than enemies, for the former offers the invitation for connection rather than demonization. Reflecting on Yourself is a process of reflecting on our fragility, our unconscious bias, our white supremacy, and the contributions of our ancestors. Those in attendance were powerfully moved by the evening’s presentation, and we hope to carry these lessons into difficult conversations moving forward, recognizing the helpfulness of community in this work.
These minutes were approved.
Friday morning sessions
We opened the morning with worship, followed by Altogether Time. First Oliver Brangan shared yesterday’s Youth Programs News, highlighting the many wonderful activities the Childrens’, Middle School, and Young Friends programs engaged in yesterday. The Altogether Time featured multigenerational fellowship offered us an opportunity to listen and be listened to, both with and without the intention to respond.
Amy Kietzman, acting as presiding clerk, welcomed Friends, and reminded us of our practice of using pronouns in an effort to make safe space for Friends who identify throughout the gender spectrum.
The Clerk’s table introduced themselves and their preferred pronouns.
Epistles from Other Yearly Meetings
Louis Lefever from the Epistle Committee shared an epistle from 2017 Lake Erie Yearly Meeting annual sessions.
Ujima Friends Peace Center
Then we had a presentation from Ujima Friends Peace Center, beginning with a slide show featuring members of the community sharing about the role of the Center in their lives. Friends spoke of the Center as a spiritual home, where they have the opportunity to worship with other Friends who look like them. Friends spoke of the power of a space where they can be unapologetically black and unapologetically Quaker. They also lifted up the important work of the Center in outreach and service to the community.
Ayesha Imani then shared highlights of the work of the Center since its founding in 2017. Starting out as a worship community, Ujima Friends were quickly led to survey members of the surrounding community seeking how to be of service to their neighbors. Responses have included developing a culturally responsive version of the Alternatives to Violence Project, the Mptapo curriculum, which is being shared with schools throughout Philadelphia; women’s book clubs; renter’s rights education; and operating a summer Freedom School. Through regular grocery giveaways, the Center has helped over 1100 families in the last eight months. The Center serves a critical role in our community as a Black Quaker presence. The miracle of the Ujima Friends Peace Center keeps unfolding, as members continue to gather in fellowship, listen to Spirit, witness to the community, and work toward the revitalization of Quakers. While White Friends are encouraged to contribute to the work of Ujima Friends through financial contributions, White Friends were also challenged to forge connections with those members of our community who may look like them, but feel that they have been forgotten.
(minutes re: QLC Process for Minutes)
Open Space Technology
Wade Wright invited us to attend tonight’s Open Space Technology session. This experiment is a way for the Yearly Meeting to hear how the Yearly Meeting is building the beloved community, which was felt by the Sessions Planning Committee to be an excellent way for our Yearly Meeting to learn more about our individual passions and leadings, and to grow closer together.
We began the morning celebrating the life and service of Penny Colgan-Davis. This meeting was followed by Youth Program News, shared by several members of the Youth Programs. They have a rainbow unicorn sprinkler! Then we engaged in multigenerational Altogether Time, reflecting on experience of the “Help Help”, “Thank you Thank you”, and “I love you I love you” prayers in our lives.
Elders, visitors from other yearly meetings, first-time attenders at Annual Sessions were introduced. Dana Holland was introduced as our Communications Access Real-Time Translator (CARTT) for today’s sessions.
QLC re: Minutes of Concern
The corrected minute regarding QLC’s process of addressing Minutes of Concern, with a few modifications, was approved.
Minute of Service
Deb Wood, from Concord quarter, read a minute of traveling service for Michael Wajda. This minute was endorsed by Goshen meeting, Concord quarter, and Friends present minuted their approval of endorsing this minute on behalf of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
General Secretary Report
Christie Duncan-Tessmer, serving as General Secretary, then gave her report. We were reminded of our seven strategic directions. We observed that we hadn’t heard them as a group since they were first approved. We need to grow our capacity to move into those strategic directions. In turn, moving in those directions helps us build our capacity. Her report focused on three areas: Staffing, data, community. There has been significant work in reorganizing staffing for greater capacity. We heard about the Community Engagement Coordinator and Youth Engagement Coordinator positions as examples of that. These positions expand PYM’s capacity to respond to the sprints and collaboratives, and the needs of meetings and their children, respectively. Other new positions include the Meeting Engagement Coordinator, Director of Human Resources and Inclusion, and the Associate Secretary for Advancement and Relationship. With regard to data, PYM is building their capacity to build their gifts and skills reservoir, which will support the work of Nominating Council and help us to better serve one another. Lastly, with regard to the community, PYM is building their capacity through developing the Resource Friends program. This program allows PYM to identify Friends with particular gifts that can be leveraged by other monthly and quarterly meetings. Christie shared her reflection that PYM might be struggling with our capacity to address racism. There are some Friends who have chosen not to attend Sessions because they feel like we’re not doing enough on this issue; there are others who choose not to attend because they feel we are focusing too much on this issue. This has implications for our fundraising as well. She shared her observations about patterns within the body when we are wrestling with issues of racism; she invited us to build our capacity by stepping into the complexity, finding our voice, and sharing in the ambiguity and discomfort that allows for growth. Friends received this report with appreciation.
Plenary – Walter Hjelt Sullivan: “What is PYM called to witness at this time in history? What does it mean for us to be faithfully in relationship to each other as we look outward at this time?”
Walter spoke to us about the Covenant Relationship, reflecting on the extent to which it requires both firmness and gentleness; Confidence and receptivity. A confidence without receptivity is not true confidence. A receptivity without confidence is not true receptivity. There is a complementarity. We were led in a Breema body exercise, as well as reflection on several scriptural passages. We joined in groups of three to worship share on our experience of that body exercise, as well as queries related to the covenant relationship and prophetic voice. We were left with the following queries:
What is the posture you would like to take? How would you like to show up? What kind of covenant relationship do you wish to nurture with PYM?
Friends expressed gratitude for Walter’s presentation.
Multicultural Institutional Audit
tonya thames taylor presented as clerk of the Steering Committee. She offered her reflective report, sharing her experience of convening the group, and the struggles the committee faced in coming to unity on a path forward. What appeared to be a straightforward task became a fraught process encountering resistance and suspicion from the body. She encouraged us to return to love and friendship, and restore our faith in the work of the spirit, even when it doesn’t conform to our deadlines or look like Quaker process. She encouraged us to slow down and listen to Spirit as we move forward.
The Clerk echoed tonya’s concern that this committee was not provided sufficient support when it was tasked one year ago. It was proposed that perhaps this committee might be taken under the care of Quaker Life Council.
We opened the floor to listen for the Spirit’s guidance in how to move forward. We heard from members and former members of the Multicultural Institutional Audit Steering Committee, as well as others with reflections on the process and suggestions to move forward. Recognizing the time, Clerk Tom Hoopes proposed a listening tent to help to season this issue, and we will return to this issue again this evening.
These minutes were approved.
Saturday evening sessions
Over ice cream cake, following dinner, Friends joyfully celebrated the publishing of our revised Faith and Practice.
We were greeted at the facing table by seven Young Friends, who led us into worship. Chris Lucca, acting as presiding clerk, shared his joy at this surprise, and recalled George Bailey’s joie de vivre after the transformative events of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. He expressed his sense that a joyful transformation has happened among us this weekend.
The facing table introduced themselves, and then the elders were asked to stand and be recognized. Additionally, those Friends who had attended the Spiritual Formation retreat prior to Sessions were asked to stand, as they have also indicated their willingness to serve this community as elders. We are held in loving prayer by many in our midst.
Dana Holland, our Communications Access Real-Time Translator was introduced.
Epistles from Other Yearly Meeting
Joan Broadfield, member of the epistle committee, read the epistle from the 12th Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference.
Minute of Service
Barry Scott, joined by Lola Georg, O, and Hollister Knowlton, read the minute of service for Viv Hawkins, generated by Central Philadelphia, and endorsed by Philadelphia Quarter. Friends received this minute.
Youth Programs Sprint
Kri Burkander, convenor of the Youth Programs Sprint, reported on behalf of the sprint. This group was charged almost two years ago to articulate a Vision, Mission, and Governance Structure for the Yearly Meeting Youth Programs. The Vision and Mission Statement were shared with the body in March, and subsequently underwent further revisions. The revised version was brought to Quaker Life Council and approved. While it requires no further approval by this body, it was felt that because it is for the whole Yearly Meeting, it should come before the body. There was enthusiastic approval, and Friends were invited to come under the weight of this work. The governance structure is still being refined, and, as it is a policy document, will be approved by Quaker Life Council.
Melissa Rycroft, Joan Broadfield, and Louis Lefevre presented the draft epistle for feedback. Friends offered suggestions and edits. These will be incorporated and the epistle will be brought back tomorrow for approval.
Melissa Rycroft, clerk of the Nominating Council, reported back regarding the proposed plan for moving forward on the issue of presiding clerk following these Sessions. Between now and November, the role will be filled by the alternate clerk, with the support of the clerks of Administrative, Quaker Life, and Nominating Councils, and the Treasurer. Nominating Council will continue seeking someone to fill the role of presiding clerk between now and November sessions. The role of presiding clerk at November sessions will be filled by the alternate clerk. A Leadership Sprint (which will be composed of two nominated members each by Administrative, Nominating, and Quaker Life Councils) will consider revisioning of the presiding clerk role. This proposal was shared for consideration and feedback and will be brought back for approval tomorrow.
Update from work on Multicultural Audit Steering Committee
Over 100 Friends (the majority of Friends in attendance today) came to the listening tent this afternoon to further season the work of the multicultural audit steering committee. This was a powerful time of listening, opening our hearts to new truth, and healing.
We returned to this issue in the evening session. While this committee has not met the deadline set out in the minutes from Annual Session 2017 when they were charged, we recognize that hard work takes time. We are wrestling with issues that are centuries old, and we believe that this is God’s work. We heard from members of the Steering Committee who expressed their commitment and renewed dedication to the work and each other. The Committee asked the body to have faith in the group and trust their process. They also requested the support of PYM to hold a retreat, during which they can gather in fellowship and healing, reorganize and refine the work of the committee, and identify any additional needs that the Yearly Meeting might address. We minuted our support and love for the work of this committee, as well as committing funds to support a retreat. This minute was approved.