Welcome to Sessions – Wednesday and Thursday

Annual Sessions

By Tara Rubenstein and Grace Sharples Cooke; photos by Frank Barch

PYM Community Engagement Team Members Tara and Meg staff the welcome table

Margaret Fell – who is called the “mother of Quakerism” for her essential role in the early movement-  had a gift of hospitality. She opened her home, Swarthmore Hall, to Quakers for worship.

This year at Annual Sessions we are practicing the legacy of hospitality ministry. We want you to feel welcome and loved and celebrated!

Community Engagement Team sets up a welcome sign

Before Sessions started, PYM staff member Tara Rubenstein was part of a team working hard to transform Brower Student Center into a sanctuary for play, worship and connection. Tara loves this kind of work.

Making a space feel sacred helps hearts open into the deep and necessary work of our spiritual community.

As usual, the PYM staff team who do set up ran to a nearby Target for last minute supplies. Staff were in high spirits with anticipation for the start of Sessions. On an impulse, we decided to add “welcome outfits” to the list of supplies.

Celestine Richardson, PYM’s Accountant, and Artist in Residence Eric Anthony Berdis share a moment near the welcome table.  Eric is dressed in a ‘welcome team’ jumpsuit from Target (in rainbow colors no less!)

As Friends started walking through the door, we all felt this effort reflected in smiling faces. Maybe it was the unicorn hats and brightly colored outfits. Maybe it was the new welcome table with games, quilts, meditation cushions and candy. Or maybe it was just the joy of seeing old and new Friends. Whatever it was, the Welcome table is Tara’s new favorite place to be. If you are here at Sessions, Tara hopes you all come by!

After people arrived and got settled, we met Wednesday evening in Plenary for worship. Melinda Wenner Bradley led the group in reading a very powerful Faith and Play story.

Thursday morning, Melissa Rycroft, Nominating clerk, and Chris Lucca, Clerk of Yearly Meeting opened Meeting for business by speaking to the slate of nominees offered for confirmation, their gifts and talents, and forwarded a list of Friends for approval.  Linell McCurry, Associate Secretary for Business, and Andrew Anderson, Treasurer, presented the budget, which Friends approved. Andrew then introduced General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer, and Grace Sharples Cooke, Associate Secretary for Advancement and Relationship to speak about fundraising.

Grace noted that in the past five years 73 donors had died, leaving fewer donors, but that the remaining donors were giving about 9% more this year – positively impacting the annual fund by $18,000. The fiscal year will end September 30, so there is still time to give.

She also noted that we are doing new projects, like the June Quakers Got Talent fundraiser which raised $10,000, some special project fundraising, and the launch of a new Legacy Fund which both conserves donor stories and principal through bequests and living gifts in the $1,250-$250,000 range.

Terri Whiteford, Clerk of Administrative Council, was warmly welcomed in her new and well-organized approach to clerking Administrative Council. Friends spoke warmly of Terri’s predecessor, Bruce Haines. Terri then spoke to the work before her and the forthcoming report and film presentation by Granting Committee Clerk, Ken Park. Ken shared what the Granting committee does, noting how Friends could increase the principal of restricted funds by making gifts and bequests. Ken then presented a film on a Providence Meeting outreach event supported by the Membership Development Grants this year.

Friends then turned to Harry Bryans, Clerk of Finance Committee, who offered a minute to transfer the Millington Burial Ground to the town of Millington, MD, which Friends approved. Young Adult Friend then forwarded a concern about future stewardship of the Quaker Faith.

In the early afternoon of each Annual Sessions day we hope to publish a summary of the past 24 hours. These news reports are no substitute for the official minutes taken by Jim Her and Kri Burklander. These will be posted in the Minutes section of the website as they are released.