Clerks Zoom Call minutes – 3.17.20
Christie took attendance at 7:01 – initially there were 25 on the video conference plus another 12 on the phone, growing to 61 finally.
Christie read a defining statement from a registrant and then led the digital community in worship.
Defining Statement: The challenging thing about this pandemic is that it pits two of our most deeply held values against each other. The first is the health and well-being of our community. The other is that a direct and unmediated relationship with the Divine is best experienced together, in community, as one body.
After worship, Christie opened with the query “How are we doing as God’s people in the ‘here & now’ and in this space.”
She went on to note that we are not going to solve all problems today. We are going into this Covid 19 response step by step. We can remember that just accomplishing one thing may be all we can manage given this moment in time.
All participants who joined late were asked to register if they had not done so, and then we reviewed how to use ZOOM tools to raise hands to be called on.
Query: We then turned to the question of how do we gather in our communities for worship?
A Friend from Harrisburg Meeting said that they had encouraged people to stay home, but also kept the meeting house open. They offered a Zoom call for Adult First Day School which attracted 15 people and then hosted 10 socially distanced people in the meeting house. On Monday, the worship and spiritual growth committee moved forward to decide that they would continue this practice for the next few weeks. They are doing midweek worship (by Zoom on Thursday nights, so if people need things and want community, they can have that on weeknights. They have two people who have their own Zoom accounts and have shared those accounts with the meeting. They are now thinking they will create their own. Their fiscal year ends June 30th so their stewardship committee will meet electronically to coordinate the end of the fiscal year appeal.
Valley Meeting reported they decided to close the meetinghouse due to concerns about older attenders and hosted a Zoom meeting for worship. Their treasurer purchased a Zoom account and put the link on the meeting’s website with simple instructions. They had good attendance, even from others outside the meeting (people active in the quarter) who saw the announced Zoom worship online. People thought it much more like meeting for worship than they had expected. Zoom worship followed the normal course of worship – and it really did feel like people were together spiritually. The link that got sent out made it really easy to join. Buffalo Meeting has been doing this for the past year and we followed their role model.
We heard that Haverford meeting last week lacked consensus about what to do: some people wanted to connect though they were mindful of the risks, others felt the community should not to meet at all. They felt they could go either way, offering in-person worship to those who came, but asking people to keep 6 ft of distance between them, and washing hands before and after meeting. However they settled on a temporary measure: they did not hold a meeting for worship but left the meeting room unlocked for people who showed up. Since then, they’ve purchased a Zoom subscription and will be moving forward on that basis. It was helpful to hear how the Zoom technology works for 50 people, and in noting potential glitches our meeting could face and might want to address proactively.
Christie noted that PYM’s Zoom accounts can be booked during the week and meetings should sign up via our web link. It’s currently not on offer on Sundays due to our limited numbers of account.
A Friend from Wilmington Meeting wondered about the effectiveness of live Zooming meeting for worship from the meeting house or using Facebook live. There was a conversation about how bringing a camera into the space and how virtual participation might work and if wifi would work. PYM’s Web Manager, Malcolm McAtee answered that generally wifi could be used in this way.
A Friend shared that she opened a Zoom account under her name which her meeting and the EcoJustice collaborative use. She found it helpful to have an account rather than set up a Zoom meeting through PYM because it allows her to have the administrator options.
A Friend from Trenton Meeting noted that some 50% of the meeting was not active on social media or proficient in technology. She imagines it will be hard to get that cohort up-to-speed with technologies like Zoom. She asked if anyone had used conference calling, noting that typically they will have just 10 or 12 people in worship.
A Friend from Medford Meeting reported her meeting organized a conference call for Meeting for Business last Sunday afternoon. They only had two people who didn’t join and they found it very successful. She noted that clear ground rules are needed; for example, speakers would address the clerk and say their name when they wanted to be called on. Christie asked whether the Friend thought that might work in worship. She said it might work if they were just following protocol by only speaking one at time and allowing time between messages.
Christie, who was clerking the meeting then shifted the conversation to a discussion of other ways that meetings had found to gather. For example; through book groups. She then suggested that those meetings with good ideas should share news about how they are meeting during Covid 19 restrictions at www.pym.org/news/share-a-story.
A Friend from Central Philadelphia noted her community (a large meeting) neither met in person nor on Zoom last weekend. Instead, numbers of people gathered in parks, or in their homes, and social hour happened afterwards in the woods, and in phone calls, and that was very wonderful.
A Friend from Radnor Meeting said that the more ways that individuals are given room to voice themselves, the more they feel part of a community. At Radnor they’re considering inviting people who wish to have loved ones ‘held in the light’ to email her; she will then bring that message for them into meeting for worship. This is an idea they are seasoning; they haven’t launched it yet.
One meeting reported that they had hosted a “Google meeting” with a camera in the meeting house. Another meeting said that they have members in Colorado and a Google meeting would be a great way to get Friends at a distance to participate.
Christie noted that PYM staff member to support youth religious education and programs, Melinda Wenner Bradley, had assembled resources for meetings facing Covid-19 issues into a Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/ValiantTogetherQuakerRE/. She also asked Christie to share that Godly Play has stories you can watch at www.godlyplayfoundation.org/
Melinda wanted Friends to know that PYM’s April 18th family meet-up is not cancelled – it will still happen electronically, just not in person. Melinda said our PYM staff are all thinking about ways to include more children and families in electronic programming through live bedtime stories, the middle school scavenger hunt, and other new ideas. Questions are welcomed. Melinda’s Email is: firstname.lastname@example.org please share this with people in your meeting who do youth programs for a rich supply of ideas and information.
The conversation turned to the work of Olivia Brangan, PYM’s Community Engagement Coordinator. Olivia noted that PYM’s team is developing Zoom instructions to post online, and we hope to have this up soon for everyone.
A participant noted that Zoom had been a sharp tech curve for her, personally, and she actually envies churches that can film whole services without tech anxiety. Yet, she feels that having a camera in worship can be intimidating. She said that our Covid-19 ‘social distancing’ is very isolating and it’s hard to see how technology is going to overcome that. Though she is willing to try anything, she acknowledged her apprehension.
Christie agreed that it is a tough adaptation, whether in terms of learning the equipment or getting used to the lack of people nearby. For some, a tech solution is simply not their cup of tea.
The group then re-centered itself into stillness and reflection time with this question: How do we hold a deep sense of community relationships in our hearts while we are in our own homes?
Silent Reflection Period
After a period of silent reflection, A Friend from Newark Meeting noted how the group was able to get ‘really quiet’ together on Zoom through the convener’s ‘mute all’ function and that was nice. He asked if there were ways for people to unmute themselves and Christie noted that there were.
A Friend from Concord Quarter noted that learning how to use Zoom is like shifting to decaf coffee: you first need to try it, to get used to it. He suggested meetings start with ‘practice Zoom meetings’ during the week and that designated tech helpers volunteer to be present via phone to walk individual people through the zoom meeting as necessary.
One participant said that she would always prefer to have meeting for worship in person. She expects that in her meeting’s case they can meet in very small groups and maybe sit six feet apart in local homes. If everyone does their meetings at the same time, there will be a sense of the worship community. In fact, last weekend, people in her meeting did meet in a park outside (always maintaining good distance).
Another participant noted that he was thinking about something in the book Inherit the Wind – the telephone was a wonderful invention but eliminated the charm of distance. He added we just need to think about our challenges in new ways.
It was noted that Quakers have a defsdep tradition—one that is centered in letter writing and epistles—to fall back on, and that these times can lead us to tap into that history.
On the upside of social distancing and Zoom meetings for worship, one Friend said that a daughter at Berkeley Friends Meeting participated in Sunday worship via Zoom and was able to see all her meeting friends in their own spaces with their pets. She reported feeling surprisingly connected to them all through digital worship.
A Friend at Middletown meeting observed that while he was retired and weathering the economic consequences of Covid-19 more easily than others, younger Friends who are business owners are facing hard times. He wanted to raise up the fact that there are emergency funds from PYM – that people in dire straits can apply for and be helped through hard times. He added that maybe people who are comfortable could contribute to that fund to help other people.
Christie confirmed that the fund he mentioned goes through General Secretary and not our usual granting groups so that we can move quickly when someone is in immediate, dire, need. It’s a one-time ‘tide you over’ type of grant. Grants are based on need and average around $1500. Meetings who wish to know more should email Christie for information at email@example.com
The fund is well-resourced and comes from the John Martin Trust (it’s not accepting additions just now).
In closing, Christie identified a thought she heard the group being surprised by. This was the powerful way that electronic connection can actually work despite some intrinsic barriers – like tech knowledge and digital access.
She also heard the group having fewer ideas that addressed lack of proximity without electronics, which she noticed as being our hardest sticking point. In addition to people meeting in socially distanced groups in their homes at the same time, Christie noted that people might wish to connect through the sharing of epistles as Friends used to do before we had easy transportation and communication tools.
Finally, Christie said that “our experience of the Divine is that Creation is a source of inspiration—where something beyond us moves us into a generative space.” She hopes that our Quaker community will welcome that Divine inspiration into our space together as we face the challenges of Covid-19.
She left us with one question that will be the focus of our next Zoom call: “What of Friends who are in need; what of our caring for them?” This thread was lifted up by some meetings as an issue. Given the topic, it is hoped that Clerks of meeting care committees will join us.
Christie also urged Friends to share their experiences by writing up their stories and posting them to PYM News feed! “We want and need to know what all of us are doing in this space that we share every day. We’ve been knitting something together in this call: let’s fully note that experience in closing this week’s call.”
The call concluded at about 8:20 PM.
COVID-19 (coronavirus) Updates
For status updates on PYM programs that have been affected by covid19 (coronavirus), and our efforts to respond, please visit pym.org/COVID19.
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