Each year Philadelphia Yearly Meeting shares an Epistle at the close of Annual Sessions. Below please find the yearly meeting’s 341st Annual Sessions Epistle.
To Friends everywhere:
Greetings from the 341st Annual Sessions of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), held for the second year virtually via Zoom. The pandemic continues to affect the ways in which we find community, but we joined together excited to spend time with our Quaker family and engage with our work.
Annual Sessions began with a retreat offered by the Spiritual Formation Collaborative. Rooted and grounded in Spirit, we listened to each other deeply, remembering that in all our differences and diversities we are family. Our theme was “Uprooting Injustice, Rooting Justice,” and the opening plenary exhorted us to “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6.8).
Over the course of six days we gathered to worship, attend to our business, and deepen community in Bible study, affinity groups, and worship sharing. Our youth gathered separately for their own programming. We miss spending time with them each day to hear updates and share in worship. We look forward to the return to gathering in person, so all ages can be together.
Our keynote presenters invited us to transform ourselves and our Quaker communities. Nikki Mosgrove, our first speaker, invited us to engage with oppressed communities and our neighborhoods through equitable investment. On the second night, Pam/Tommy Greenler shared their inspiring spiritual journey to full identity. They shared the courageous insight that, “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag” (RuPaul Charles). The following evening, Mai Spann-Wilson shared a cycle of poems from his experience as a Black man. He challenged us to reflect upon inclusiveness through education for all ages in “radical truth” on an even playing field.
In the first keynote on Saturday, Cherice Bock asked us to think about “What do we as Friends require of each other?” She motivated us to think of our place in our watershed as we act to become “hubs of community resilience” answering climate change. Later that evening, Sa’ed Atshan delivered a dynamic talk about constructive conflict and the metaphor of the dance to describe his experience with Friends Central School, the occupation of Palestine, and his identity as an LGBTQ+ activist.
Our business sessions took up major proposals on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Climate Change; and Membership and Belonging. Each sprint came well prepared to build upon the work from prior sessions. These three sprints proposed the following:
- a course of action for our anti-racism work and commitment to engage in real, tangible measures to transform our communities;
- a one-year trial of at-large membership, an effort to welcome and embrace those who have not found a spiritual home in a monthly meeting;
adoption of climate crisis and climate injustice as a yearly meeting ministry, complete with
- comprehensive playbooks for individuals, households, monthly and quarterly meetings, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
- With divine help from the Spirit moving among us, we enthusiastically approved each proposal.
We have seen the working of Spirit this week. We joyously celebrated hearing a Minute of Declaration and Commitment of the new Ujima Friends Meeting. The Worship and Care Committee led us through an exercise that helped reveal the value of deep listening to racial and social injustice. Throughout these Annual Sessions, we have heard a call to grow, change, evolve, and transform, both individually and collectively.
We leave Annual Sessions with an awareness of the work ahead of us and a commitment to move forward with our transformation. This is when we begin to apply the lessons, use the resources, and uplift the members of our community who have identified themselves as ready to serve. We recommit ourselves to the necessary work to help build the beloved community as we embrace the discomfort of growth and transformation. We are more than just Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, we are family.