Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s (PYM) 341st Annual Sessions Week has begun. With it comes the energy and spark of virtual fellowship, business, worship, young people’s gatherings, young adults programs, affinity groups, bible study and many opportunities to grow and extend your connection to faith.
As has been customary for the past few years, Sessions began with a two-day Spiritual Formation retreat led by .O. To learn more about the deep work done during those two days, please read our news story. If you missed this one and want to join a future retreat, the Spiritual Formation Collaborative is offering a new retreat next fall from October 15-17 which will be held at Pendle Hill.
Held remotely for a second year, Annual Sessions welcomed about 270 Friends who were signed up as of Wednesday. Registration is not closed and new registrants who sign up in the morning (before 12:00) can still receive a link for the afternoon and evening’s programming.
To arrive informed, choose among the more than 23 advance documents on the PYM website and learn about the initiatives Friends are engaging with. All 55 State of the Meeting reports have been placed there as well: they are organized into PDFs by Quarter.
While Friends may not have time to read everything, several Sprint reports speak to the three big initiatives our Community is engaging around at this time. These issues are; inclusion and belonging, climate, and addressing racism (featured in the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Sprint report). All three sprint reports are currently on the Advance Documents Webpage.
Our presiding Clerks Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch and Frank Barch note that Meetings for Worship with attention to business are sacred spaces and actions taken there “speak”. They invite everyone’s participation:
The actions on which we unite as a body when we are in Meeting for Worship with attention to business are our faith made manifest. What we choose to do is a reflection and demonstration of what we believe; just saying it, however clearly or eloquently, is not enough. These three actions spring from the same root. Come to Sessions and help us tend to the fruits of our beliefs.
PYM General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer observes that God is calling us to do vital work together.
She says that “one of our Strategic Directions is to facilitate PYM-wide witness and social action. My experience of this Direction is that God used it to tell us to Get Ready because we are about to be called to do some vital work together. We never got the chance to settle into a discernment process to seek what that calling might be – three concerns were handed to us, one after another: Address racism, create space for belonging and interrupt climate change. This Annual Sessions shows us how we’ve been preparing and puts the three concerns in front of us to take concrete next steps.”
Important to the business of Annual Sessions are our leadership council’s reports back to Friends.
The three PYM councils are Administrative Council, Nominating Council, and Quaker Life Council. These sketch the business and faith matters that have made up the month-by-month activities of the yearly meeting during one year of very intense activity.
Their reports reflect the issues thrown at communities by the Covid-19 pandemic that are outlined in the State of the Meeting Report. This report notes: “political strife, a heated Presidential election, and the social uprising following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police are key events that touched everyone in 2020.” Overall, more than 100 meetings and worship groups with about 12,000 Friends are “living into social witness” as the Spiritual State of the Meeting report puts it.
The Quaker Life Council has shared six reports on all aspects of our yearly meeting. These cover Collaborative work, Friends Counseling, Programs, yearly meeting’s spiritual state, Ministry and Care, and Youth Programs Advisory. There are also the 2022 Budget documents and an important Ujima Friends Meeting’s Minute of Declaration and Commitment.
Friends are urged to take some time to become informed.
Brief Report on Wednesday’s Events
The afternoon of Wednesday July 28th offered choices of affinity groups or worship sharing. The worship sharing, which attracted 22 Friends centered on the query:
How does our Faith help you to open your heart in order to engage in the important work of the yearly meeting, specifically around Antiracism, Climate Change, and Membership and Belonging?
PYM’s Presiding Co-clerks, Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch and Frank Barch, welcomed almost 140 Friends into the virtual Keynote space. Community Engagement Coordinator, Olivia Brangan, introduced Friends to Lucas Richie, Grants Associate, to do a word cloud exercise about their meetings and the question of what made Friends feel connected to the world.
The keynote, which will be covered in a story later in this week, was followed by sandra boone murphy’s land acknowledgment and lengthy worship before we broke for the evening a little after 8:30 PM. Look for more about the evening in Friday’s reporting.