On the evening of Tuesday, March 2, 2021, 98 leaders from monthly meetings met virtually for community and mutual support. The gathering was centered in searching for joy as we transition from a pandemic year.
Facilitated by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s (PYM) General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer, and supported by PYM co-clerks Frank Barch and Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch, the meeting was organized by PYM Community Engagement Team members Olivia Brangan, Melinda Wenner Bradley, TJ Jourian, and Zachary Dutton. The event featured information about connecting our Yearly Meeting community through the events, news, and stories on the PYM website. Discussion was organized around community interests.
The meeting started with worship and a message from the Presiding Co-Clerks, Jean-Marie, and Frank Barch. Some staff-led topics were followed by breakout sessions. The four small group discussions focused on different topics: Building Connections and Community with our Neighbors, Caring for People in Need, Connecting Young People, and What Does Accountability in Community Look Like?
The following content is excerpted from the Clerks’ remarks at the gathering:
Co-Presiding Clerks’ message included highlighting Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports
It’s the season for writing Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports. These are submitted to the Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council which has responsibility for gathering these reports. Ministry and Care then presents them in amalgamated form to the Council for presentation to the yearly meeting in sessions. We take the “spiritual temperature” of our yearly meeting for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, it helps to weave us in community with one another when we know of our collective joys, sorrows, accomplishments, and needs. It allows us to see where there are unmet needs that could be addressed. It helps us to understand how we can help and support each other.
There are queries in Faith and Practice which provide guidance for reflection on the spiritual state of our meeting. Ministry and Care also offers queries specific to each year, which some Friends find useful.
Some Friends have wondered which ones to use, or have asked if they must respond to ALL those queries. Use those queries which best allow your meeting to consider and express where you’ve been spiritually as a community during the past year.
Friends also ask what the difference is between a state of the meeting report and a spiritual state of the meeting report. Although they could be very similar or even the same, state of the meeting reports more often might include meeting statistics (births, deaths, transfers of membership) while spiritual state of the meeting reports are intended to explore how spirit fares with the meeting.
The queries offered by Ministry and Care Committee of Quaker Life Council for this year are:
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.
We understand that some Quarters felt left out when there was no specific mention of their importance in this process. Some Quarters have an established process for collecting their MM reports in order to create a Spiritual State of the Quarter report to share with the YM. I’ve spoken with the Clerk of M&C and confirmed that such Quarter reports are desired and important; indeed, you’ll see an emphasis on this in the reminder email coming soon.
Monthly meetings can support the process by sending your MM report to your Quarter.
Meetings are encouraged to suggest their members attend Continuing Sessions Saturday, March 27th
As Friends are aware, Continuing Sessions will occur at the end of this month: 27th of 3rd month from 9 am till 4 pm.
Please check your registration forms for the schedule of the day, which will include multi-generational worship, programming for youth, our virtual lunch table, and time for the conducting of business. Our business will include reports and looking at ways forward on the questions of Membership, eco-justice, and equity concerns.
We will hear from the Sprint, which has been considering Membership in the morning.
After lunch and youth programming, we will consider way forward with a yearly meeting-wide ministry on eco-justice. We will spend time with our equity work, which will include a report from the Anti-Racism Collaborative, and from the thread gathering on Truth and Transformation which took place this past weekend, as well as from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Sprint, which is just beginning work. You will note that your clerks are calling this “equity” work rather than “anti-racism” work to underline that we are working for something—as well as against something.
Thread Gathering on Compassionate Listening
We also want to lift the importance of the process begun at the (February 27th) thread gathering last weekend….where the process of deep, transformative listening was modeled, followed by time for structured practice.
We have already heard from Friends who found it a spiritually grounded and moving process with the potential to be applied in monthly and quarterly meetings going forward.
Deep listening, grounded in the compassionate heart, can help address situations where there has been wounding and enhance our connections to one another by sharing heart to heart our joys, concerns, needs, and those things we have to offer one another. We expect this work will continue.
Olivia Brangan provided information about making use of PYM’s communications. She discussed … Bridge Contact programs as a wonderful source of communication and sharing across the yearly meeting. She also mentioned various resources like PYM’s weekly email (the “PYM News & Events” e-newsletter), FGC web hosting, and PYM Grants for meetings.
PYM Resource List
Bridge Contacts serve as a conduit or channel between PYM and a local meeting (or quarter, school, or community group) helping to coordinate the flow of information between these communities. This is achieved through an engaged relationship with the activities of the Yearly Meeting. Disseminating information about PYM to the monthly meeting, helping to publicize yearly meeting events, facilitating the collection of meeting information, and attending PYM Continuing and Annual Sessions are the activities envisioned for this role.
PYM’s Weekly Newsletter provides the latest news, events, and program updates from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
Post events on PYM’s community events calendar to promote your events.
FGC offers The Quaker Cloud services to support meeting outreach and community building. FGC can help with the Quaker Cloud, a web toolkit supporting the Quaker community, processes, and outreach.
PYM’s Membership Development Grant supports Monthly and Quarterly Meetings of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in projects that enhance the visibility and outreach of Monthly Meetings in their communities, attract new people to attend Meeting for Worship, increase engagement of members and attendees in the Meeting community, and strengthen and increase membership in Monthly Meetings.
Olivia Brangan’s resource sharing was followed by a small group session on four topics of Building Connections and Community with our Neighbors, Caring for People in Need. Connecting Young People, What Does Accountability in Community Look Like?
After small group sharing, we gathered together as a larger group – each person was asked to write a sentence about the learnings and takeaways from the small group sharing. The hope is for each person to hold this sentence and step into the work you need to do as a monthly meeting community.
Some thoughts Friends shared
How do you prepare the meetinghouse space to benefit the broader local community?
Support our families to make them feel welcome and a part of the community.
(PYM Weekly News & Events) Newsletter!
Just reach out and try.
I hope that when I am 90 years old, that I will be a wonderful champion of ministry for my community.
By being vulnerable, others are also invited into that space to be vulnerable too.
I am showing up.
Membership Development Granting Group has money to give to monthly meetings.
We need to find a better way to be open and receptive to children and families.
Maybe our meeting should adorn our meeting fences with peace and love to show the outside world who we are.
Bring laughter and the joy of the Divine Spirit into the conversation.
My meeting has developed relationships and connections with other local churches.