There are opportunities for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting members to share in the stewardship of PYM’s granting funds by joining one of our Granting Groups. Every year, the Granting Committee seeks new members to join Granting Groups for a three-year term.
Young Adult Friends wrote a 2019 Epistle on Membership asking the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to reconsider how membership is defined. They made the point that “a simple model of monthly meeting membership, in which one belongs to a singular community for life, is no longer useful.” This question has sparked reflection and has now risen to one of the three big initiatives of the Yearly Meeting in 2021.
Johanna Jackson, who is 31, came to March 2021 Continuing Sessions at the invitation of our Rising Clerk, Melissa Rycroft. During Spring Continuing Sessions Melissa led PYM through a PowerPoint on the question of belonging and membership in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and welcomed Johanna’s thoughts on what other kinds of Quaker community could be envisioned for our community.
Inspired by their powerful vocal ministry that day, here follows a deeper conversation about belonging with the two of them. [Read more…] about On Belonging: Quakers Can be More Inviting
A Member Reflects on Her Experience
Linda Clark is a member of Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting. As a whole meeting, Chestnut Hill Friends has joined an organization called POWER. In this article, Linda reflects on her experiences working with POWER and why it’s important for meetings across PA to join. If you have questions if your meeting is interested, please contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is POWER?
POWER is an organizing network of faith-based communities who are working for racial and economic justice in a livable world. Check out this YouTube video about their work. POWER has been in Philadelphia for 10 years and has expanded into several nearby counties. Now we are expanding into the entire state of Pennsylvania. I feel encouraged by this, because the state legislature has pre-empted or rolled back some Philadelphia victories, such as the fair funding formula for schools. Being a member of Chestnut Hill Monthly Meeting, I’d like to talk with meetings across Pennsylvania about the joys, meaning, and importance of joining POWER.
What has been your journey working with POWER?
The first time I attended a meeting of POWER, it was still winter in 2017. I saw signs on the telephone poles in my neighborhood, Mt Airy, in Philadelphia. There was a meeting of Philadelphians Organizing to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild in a nearby church. I was, in those months, wondering about the people who had voted for Trump. He had seemed proud to treat people with disrespect. He had said things that were frankly racist and misogynist. I wondered how I could respect, love, and communicate with his voters. Maybe they had voted for him despite these qualities. I was struggling to feel hopeful.
The meeting was in a church hall, and it began with prayer and a talk by a local Mennonite clergyman about hope. I saw people I knew in the crowd, diverse in race and age. I felt at home. We were asked to look at the pictures and newspaper excerpts around the walls. These documented movements, over the past 50 years, for civil rights, peace, and the environment. We went into small groups to discuss our experience with some of these movements. I left feeling hopeful, thankful to God for the feeling of community.
Over the next months, I learned that POWER is a group of congregations organizing for racial and economic justice in a livable world. Busloads of POWER members were going to Harrisburg to campaign for a fair formula for school funding. A group from POWER was joining with another group I worked with, the Earth Quaker Action Team, to push our utility to create local green jobs by increasing the percentage of solar in the energy mix. I learned that POWER had been able to work with City Council to raise the minimum wage in Philadelphia. I was attending trainings in non-violent resistance and found myself murmuring, “let go and let God”, as we practiced marching through a hostile crowd.
Has there been anything challenging about being involved in POWER?
I went to a Martin Luther King day meeting and was given a card that had a check box, asking us whether we would talk with our neighbors about racism. I felt challenged, and checked that box, even though I had learned, growing up in the South, not to bring up the subject. I did begin to start discussions about racism. During the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, I learned in a POWER meeting that almost every county in Pennsylvania had at least one demonstration after the death of George Floyd.
Congregations in nearby counties were forming POWER groups. My own Chestnut Hill Meeting joined, and other Meetings as well. I heard rabbis, priests, AME preachers, imams, and members of the Ethical Society give faith reflections, songs, and scripture readings at the beginning and end of meetings. We met with political representatives, with a focus on the moral basis of our campaigns, rather than on politics. On that basis, we could communicate with representatives of both parties. The impossible divisions I couldn’t understand after Trump’s election began to soften, under God’s love.
Why is it important that other PA meetings join?
I learned that POWER concentrates on changing unjust institutions, rather than on charity, and that leadership is sought among the people most affected by injustice. The basis of a campaign would be one-to-one conversations with people in our congregations and faith groups, discussing what really matters to each other. We practiced talking to voters about issues and the importance of voting.
I recently heard the executive director of POWER, Bishop Dwayne Royster, describe a hope, an imaginative image, that children were playing in a playground, that parents of all races and faiths and socioeconomic levels were chatting and laughing together, that children were not afraid to jump into puddles because the water was not poisonous, and that when a policeman approached the group, no black person was afraid. A vision of justice and peace.
Some More Information on What POWER Has Achieved
- Presented a series of 8 virtual Town Halls on “Imagining Civilian Oversight of the Police”. Included organizers, academics, and those running policed oversight boards across the country.
- Philadelphia voted “yes” to the Independent Civilian Police Oversight Commission and “yes” to end unconstitutional stop and frisk. The police department started a series of trainings about valid reasons for stopping and valid reasons for frisking, and when citizens must be released.
- Supported the “Driving Equity Bill” which prohibits police from stopping vehicles for minor motor vehicle code violations.
- Testified in City Council on Oversight of Police Agency demands, for the City contract with the FOP, and our support for changing Act 111.
- Joined a fast, a rally, and car caravan to release those incarcerated in prison, because COVID could be a death sentence.
- Signed onto the Driving PA Forward Campaign to make sure all immigrants can get a Driver’s License in PA.
- Promoted the Safety We Can Feel Survey
- Worked with allies on building public safety through the allocation of some resources from the police budget to social services.
- Organized trainings and actions against education apartheid in 6 counties.
- Cultivated relationships with PA legislative leaders
- Increased to 79 house co-sponsors of 100% fair formula funding bills.
- Prominent press across state linking unfair funding to structural racism.
- Supported school board directors to launch statewide group for fair funding.
- Staved off two bills that proposed using tax dollars to subsidize the state’s fossil fuel industry.
- Organized to shine a light on PECO’s failure to plan a green energy future and instead to continue investing in environmental racism. An Administrative Law Judge ruled that PECO’s regulators have to take into consideration our arguments about the disastrous juncture of the climate crisis and extreme inequality.
- We won two rounds of protecting the moratorium on all utility shut-offs for people burdened by poverty during COVID.
- Installed two new co-chairs: Rev Daniel Eisenberg and Vanessa Lowe.
- Created a new subcommittee for Affordable Housing.
- Built and grew the Affordable Housing subcommittee
- Continued our work on the Wage Review Board
- Clergy Caucus formed – meeting weekly, offered trainings on 1-1s, principles of power, and a history of POWER.
- Over five congregations and more individuals have joined POWER Lehigh Valley.
- Clergy provided support at various polls in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
- Held first action on white Christian clergy and white supremacy in the church and participated in an emergency action at the Lehigh County Government Center in Allentown to demand that the election counters continue counting every vote until the work was done.
- Participated in a “Count Every Vote” event in Bethlehem.
- Organized a prayer vigil in Allentown for the peaceful transition of power and to maintain that every vote is sacred and every vote matters.
- George Floyd Prayer Vigils in Lancaster City and Columbia – over 400 people in prophetic prayer.
- Founded LIVE FREE Campaign as a result of George Floyd and Ricardo Munoz killing in Lancaster.
- Clergy lead Pray-In at Fulton Bank to demand that the bank and business leadership take action on racist policing.
- Fulton Bank agrees to meet with POWER Clergy to negotiate towards business leadership to change Lancaster policing policy.
- 15 Business leaders, led by Fulton Bank CEO Philip Wenger, attend Summit Conference with POWER Lancaster County Clergy and agree to ongoing meetings.
- Research Action with Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace – 20 clergy pepper the Mayor with questions on Lancaster city police practices.
- Census education through food pantries and local congregations.
- Began the transition from being clergy-led to lay/clergy led through the creation of an Interim Steering Committee and changed the name of Clergy Leaders to Faith Leaders Group.
- Recommended changes to Bucks County Board of Election Commissioners to increase voter turnout, make website accessible, and improve access to drop boxes.
- Thousands of voters contacted through education and turnout strategies, assisted local residents in voting, and enlisted and served as poll workers and Judge of Elections.
- Communicated POWER messaging “Every Vote is Sacred” press release to Bucks County state and County government, press contacts and partnering organizations.
- Education legislative team met with several legislators and got important commitments
- Organized a faith service outside the Convention Center as voting took place.
- Collaborated with trade unions and others to create a celebration of democracy and voting attended by thousands on Independence Mall.
- 300 people trained in Soul Force: Non-Violent Direct Action.
- Scenario planning sessions that resulted in an infrastructure of Working Groups.
- A network of Democracy Pods capable of quick response.
Photo Credit: Featured Image by Nico Becker from Pexels.
The story below was previously published in the Merion Friends Meeting April 2021 Newsletter. The article was written by Janet Frazer.
Lower Merion Township’s official history begins in 1682 after Penn established his colony and sold the land to the Welsh Quakers who founded Merion Friends Meeting. But the area was not empty when these travelers arrived! Quaker Thomas Evan’s son reported that when his father arrived in Merion that year he was thirsty and given a drink of water by an elderly Swede and his wife. Dr. Edward Jones later recalled that shortly after his family’s arrival, “the Indians brought venison to our door for six pence ye quarter .” Thomas Paschal, an immigrant from Bristol, England, who lived at Kingsessing (Southwest Philadelphia) wrote in 1683 that “Swedes provide food and housing for the newcomers but also essential services in negotiating with the native Indians”. So the Delaware Valley was not an unoccupied wilderness when the Quakers arrived.
Like others, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s staff have endured this pandemic year while witnessing persistent violence directed at non-white populations. The latest killing of Daunte Wright by a police officer is another instance of how unsafe it is to live as a person of color in the United States.
The death of George Floyd, and each individual’s loss of life through hate and gun violence is personally felt. The rise in anti Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) violence is addressed in the staff statement below. The statement was welcomed and affirmed by the presiding clerks of the yearly meeting, Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch and Frank Barch, earlier this week.
Granting Committee last week invited members of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Granting Groups – along with Administrative Council members, Young Adult Friend consultants, and staff – to gather online to celebrate those involved in the care and stewardship of the Yearly Meeting’s granting funds and to reflect on their work in the past year. “Celebrating Our Granting Witness” offered Granting Group members from different groups the chance to build community and learn from one another. To begin, Ken Park, clerk of the Granting Committee, led us in a period of grounding worship before passing the spotlight on to Friends presenting on their granting group. [Read more…] about Grantmakers Gather to Celebrate PYM’s Granting Witness on April 1
Warm greetings from the Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council!
We trust this communication finds you well, grounded in Spirit and in your community of faith. This a reminder that if you haven’t already sent yours, we would like to receive the Spiritual Life of the Meeting report from your meeting by May 1, 2021. This will give the Ministry and Care Committee ample time to receive and read what you share, and to craft a document describing the Spiritual State of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and send it to the Quaker Life Council in advance of PYM’s summer sessions, July 27-August 1.
Please also send a copy to the clerk of your Quarterly meeting. Please contact them directly since the Quarter’s deadline may differ.
As a reminder, here are the queries we proposed:
- How have we sustained our commitment to be a covenant spiritual community during this past year?
- What have been the joys and the learnings of this past year and where have we encountered challenges?
- How has our faith supported our social witness?
- How have our community members supported one another?
If these queries do not speak to your condition, please feel free to use the queries found in Faith and Practice (pp.213-14) or to provide us with a narrative that describes your meeting’s spiritual condition at this time.
You may respond directly to this email or use the form on the PYM website.
We look forward to hearing how the movement of the Spirit is faring in your meeting.
In the Light,
Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch, Clerk
On behalf of the Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council
Image: Princeton Monthly Meeting
While we know many Friends will agree with the author of this post, the views expressed here are personal and not a Philadelphia Yearly Meeting statement. Friends within Philadelphia Yearly Meeting are aware that experiences of life differ from person to person. As a faith community, we are undertaking the work of learning more about each other. Within this work, we find that there are ways we will want to change, internally and externally.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has curated trusted links and downloads for more than 100 resources that support Friends concerned with Peace & Social Justice issues. Please educate yourself on how to serve as an effective ally to Trans, Queer, Asian, and Black Indigenous People of Color and read further about how our faith can engage in creating a better world. [Read more…] about A Call for Intersectionality
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting hosted an evening question and answer session with the Eco Justice Collaborative in preparation for the Saturday March 24th Continuing Sessions work on the topic of Climate Change. Here follows an interview with Pat Finley and Ruth Darlington of the Eco Justice Collaborative (EJC) and Anthony Stover, Clerk of Quaker Life Council.
The interview explains how the Quaker Life Council will form a Sprint (a nimble, short-term committee convened around a Yearly Meeting initiative of importance) and the Eco Justice Collaborative will support the PYM community in climate justice work.
[Read more…] about Quaker Life Council and Eco Justice: Pathways to Climate Change Action
Earlham School of Religion has a new graduate certificate: Spiritual Formation.
This 6-course certificate is designed for individuals with undergraduate or graduate degrees in many different fields who want to explore a Seminary education rooted in Quaker thought and practice, without committing to a degree program: new retirees, career changers, those seeking vocational discernment, and others in the midst of transition. The required courses are core courses of the MDiv degree; the certificate can be applied toward the MDiv once finished.