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2010 NEYM Sessions Advance Documents, (UPDATE including Junior Yearly Meeting and Jr. High Yearly Meeting Retreat Coordinator's reports, page 13, and an updated Nominating Committee slate, page 30) posted August 5, 2010 with the schedule, campus maps, agenda, staff and committee reports, Nominating Committee slate, proposed 2011 budget, and more. . .
Introduction to the Advance Documents, by Linda Jenkins, presiding clerk
An explanation of why these Sessions are so different this year
Our Quaker tradition arose in the recognition that God, the unknowable, calls us always. Isaiah (in 6:8, for example) is one who hears God’s ever-present call: “Who shall I send? Who will go for us?” Early Quakers, the ones we like to remember, lived their lives in answer to this call. Like Isaiah, they responded, saying: “Send me.” And they went, succeeding in bringing about religious freedom and other social justice reforms because they were clear in their hearts, about their beliefs, and committed to preach those beliefs with their lives, going to jail and suffering persecutions of all manner.
There is a sense among many of us that we are not living our lives in this way and that we want to do better. Like early Friends, do we know and expect that as the Spirit can permeate the dark, disordered places in our individual hearts and lives, as well as in our communities? Do we believe that we are freed by opening to the Spirit? And can we act in accordance with that Spirit? Do we put enough weight on our belief that the core of our practice is to hear Spirit’s voice and obey it? Do we believe that then justice flows, through and by us?
These teachings are part of what George Fox and other early Friends knew by the name of Gospel Order. Gospel order is the right-ordering that was prophesized in the practice of Jubilee (Leviticus 25). Both are about hearing God’s voice and acting in obedience to that voice. This is a life-work that we embrace this year. To help us, the Yearly Meeting has sent to each monthly meeting a copy of the Pendle Hill Pamphlet by Sandra Cronk called Gospel Order: A Quaker Understanding of Faithful Church Community.
Many people have been planning Sessions 2010 and, in this process, have been seeking to help each other practice the teachings of Jubilee and Gospel Order. The beginning was in not assuming God wants us to do things the way we have done them in years past. There is the hope that the result may be six days unlike anything we have experienced before.
An expanded version of the Speakers and Agenda Subcommittee of Sessions Committee, including the clerks of Young Friends and Young Adult Friends, met approximately once a month since December to discern this year’s business. This discernment working group finds this year’s business is the discernment of what God calls us to. What is the state of our religious society? What activities and behaviors are we called to lay down? What does God want us to do with the time and resources in our care? Instead of having meetings for worship for the conduct of business, we have meetings to hear and answer God’s call. All our usual business will appear for consideration on a Unity Agenda. (See pages 8-9 in the Advance Documents for more details). The recurring vision has been that these blocks of time are to be open, waiting worship. Some of them include Young Friends and Young Adult Friends in new, more active roles.
Instead of workshops and worship sharing groups, there are Jubilee Seminars and daily Anchor Groups. In the Anchor Groups, one thing we may do together is contemplate and explore the opening we experience in the meetings to hear and answer God’s call.
Instead of Bible Half Hours, we have intergenerational worship each morning. In the afternoons, there are open blocks of Jubilee Time for rest and re-creation, as well as for self-organized meetings and activities. Tuesday evening we will celebrate our community in singing together.
Indeed, there are so many changes this year that we might all get first-timer stickers on our name tags!
I ask for your prayers, patience and good humor as we continue to explore our faith together experimentally. And please fill out the evaluation forms to record your experiences and suggestions.