Philadelphia Yearly Meeting hasn’t always offered the chance to participate in affinity spaces as part of Annual Sessions, but has increasingly found they meet important needs of our community. They add a unique opportunity to yearly meeting gatherings for fellowship and meaningful conversations
What is an Affinity Space?
Affinity Spaces embrace intentional opportunities for person-to-person or small group engagement, checking in, and community building among Friends who affiliate with others based on shared identities and/or experiences.
How are PYM’s Affinity Spaces Organized at Annual Sessions?
We began by identifying and publicizing a list of options and as part of the sign up process we invited people to offer to lead them. As Friends signed up, and volunteers were led to facilitate, the spaces took shape.
Facilitators were identified by sessions staff for each group as they stepped forward. To ensure confidentiality we won’t be listing facilitator names. This process continued right up to the day the affinity spaces were convened.
What connections are made?
The Affinity Spaces connect folks across the yearly meeting, and even beyond. We’ve had Friends joining from other countries and this is one of the blessings of going virtual. Such spaces embrace allowing folks to join from far away or who might have been intimidated about being seen entering a non-virtual room.
Each affinity space, and what happens within it and beyond is entirely up to each group and their facilitators. Some may choose to continue connecting afterwards while others may decide that space was exactly what they needed and feel settled.
At our 340th annual sessions we were able to offer these affinity spaces:
- Survivors of Sexual Assault
- Black and/or African American People
- Black, Indigenous, People of Color
- Mixed and Multiracial People
- White Anti-Racist People
T.J. Jourian, PYM’s Event and Resources Coordinator, finds convening of affinity spaces very meaningful. He says,
As the organizer of the spaces, I feel incredibly privileged and humbled to play any role in creating spaces for connection and for individuals to be seen, especially for those who may otherwise feel alone or not understood within the community. I believe these spaces offer a pause from the broader world that can be cruel in a variety of ways, a breather to refuel on their resiliency, as well as a sense of accountability, solidarity, and commitment to shift that cruelty, to alleviate pain and trauma, to dream and envision different possibilities.