Some drawings from the “Build a Team” activity during the PYM Staff Huddle on Monday, July 27.
Each year as we get close to the end of July, staff makes a pilgrimage to the event site for that year’s Annual Sessions.
This is the moment when everything becomes real. We pace out how our five days together will feel, think about tech support, negotiate better cafeteria food or ice cream parties, and plan the welcome tables and our most essential events. We investigate the places and spaces that hold and gather family and youth, or support the Young Adult Friends (YAFs), and nurture us in plenary.
We meet with the hosting institution, finalize all the spaces we’ve rented, and pace through last minute details. We map out golf cart routes, consider conversation tent placement, signage, and settle where workshop events will be. This is the day Annual Sessions becomes most real.
This year, of course, is different, but T.J. Jourian—who is PYM’s Events and Resources Coordinator—convened staff for Zoom fellowship and fun while making a final review of event planning, staffing, facilitators, chat management, phone and email communications during Zoom, pastoral care, and last-minute registrations. Our agenda was concise, and the excitement about the close of the “Runway to Sessions” and the lift-off after months of planning felt good.
We began our meeting with a 20-minute period of worship, led by Care and Aging Coordinator, George Schaefer. Meg Rose, Young Adult Friends Coordinator, led us in a “Build a Team” activity. T.J. offered a quick “go-over” of the final schedule, and Olivia Brangan, our Community Engagement Coordinator, went over Sessions communications and check-ins. We had a last-minute Q&A on logistics with Zachary Dutton, Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life, before closing with a message from General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer.
The activity we did was thought provoking, fun, and artistic. Each of us defined the shape that best described how we were feeling, and then we shared what our chosen shape was and why we chose it. As we did this we mapped all our shapes onto a circle. Our circles were then shared by Zoom.
We celebrated turning the staff “superhero” cape over to Olivia, who has indeed been a superhero to the community as we’ve been coasting down the Runway to Annual Sessions.
We ended the huddle with a message from Christie and photo she shared of her daughter doing a headstand on top of a mountain in Vermont (an apt visualization of our all-digital Annual Sessions in the time of Covid-19 and historic unrest). Her message was inspiring:
We noted several times in this huddle how we, the staff team, will be together at sessions. I invite you to watch for the different ways Spirit shows up with us as we enter our Sessions in such a different way.
I nearly always say at our staff huddle meeting that we are in a covered space at sessions and I find over and over again that when I turn my head to look for what I need it’s always there. I’m curious what that looks like in a virtual space because I’m sure that pattern will continue.
Thank you to … each of you for getting us to this unprecedented space where deep connections are already happening. — Christie
Olivia adds that Sessions can only happen with the care and love of so many on staff and in community: all the Community Engagement Team (CET) with a shout out for Melinda, Meg, and George and their stand-alone programming; the Youth Religious Life program team (GO TEAM!); PYM Leadership; PYM councils and volunteers; essential people who manage granting and the Cherry Street office; Joyce, Shelly, Grace, and Malcolm who do graphic, written, social media, and web communications. Finance folks who manage all the invoices and contracts; plus, pastoral care volunteers and PYM Elders who bind the community together.
Let it be said that we still miss Frank, our life-sized Youth Programs inflatable unicorn, but we have a feeling that somehow Frank will be showing up virtually.