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Orientation of those coming to Yearly Meeting for the first time
The Yearly Meeting itself is an organization that exists year-round, and holds plenary sessions once a year. During the rest of the year, any important decisions that can't wait for next year are handled by the Permanent Board, a large committee with wide representation from all parts of New England (click here for "NEYM: A brief description").
Purpose of Yearly Meeting Sessions: worship, business, and fellowship.
It can be a somewhat different experience from our home meetings. We hear new voices. There are many worship opportunities, programmed and unprogrammed: early morning worship, First Day worship, worship-sharing, and brief periods of worship following scheduled speakers.
We hear reports from committees which have business to present, including the Finance Committee (the budget), the Permanent Board (decisions made during the past year and recommendations for Sessions), Ministry and Counsel (the State of the Society), the Nominating Committee (nominations of officers and committee members for the next year), etc.
How does business come to the Sessions? Through standing committees or quarterly meetings, or because the Yearly Meeting requested in a previous session that the matter come up again.
Other business matters include writing epistles (letters of greeting to the wider Quaker world); concerns which have been passed along by Yearly Meeting committees or quarterly meetings for possible action; hearing memorial minutes; and reports from our school, assisted living facility, and camp.
Meetings are asked to appoint up to five representatives not to vote, of course, but to assure wide representation in the meetings for business where decisions are made. if you are one, please find out where to sign in.
Nearly a third of those attending Yearly Meeting are children and young people. Three age groupings (Junior Yearly Meeting (YM), entering grades K through 6; Junior High YM, entering grades 7 through 9; and Young Friends YM, entering grade 10 through graduating High School seniors) hold their own parallel Yearly Meetings on campus, appoint officers, take minutes, and write epistles. Young Adult Friends, while part of the adult Yearly Meeting, and very helpful as volunteers, also take the time to meet. Parents or accompanying adults are responsible for the younger children when they are not in regular programs. Pre-K child care by volunteers is offered during the day, but volunteers are needed! Parents have to make arrangements among themselves for child care at other times so they can attend meeting events.
Sessions Is Also a Religious Conference
A lot goes on, and we are not expected to do everything that is on the schedule! Some of us have been known to disappear for afternoon naps.
Because this is our "Jubilee" year and we are laying down "business as usual," we will not be having some of our usual program events, including Bible Half Hour talks, a Keynote address, nor committee meetings.
Clerks of Yearly Meeting are appointed by the Yearly Meeting on recommendation of the Permanent Board. Clerks take office at the close of Sessions. They are the Presiding Clerk, two Recording Clerks, and two Reading Clerks.
At some time look at the exhibits of the work of committees and Friends organizations and institutions. The scope of activity may be surprising; enlarge your knowledge of our Quaker world. Artists also have an exhibit.
The Bookstore is a wonderful feature of Yearly Meeting. A committee of volunteers who know their way around library work and book selling organize a large selection of Quaker and related books for sale, sent on consignment by Quaker booksellers and publishers. Perhaps you should get there soon before some of your favorite books are sold out. Bring back something for your meeting and First Day School. There are also some popular craft items.
The Yearly Meeting program is planned by the Sessions Committee, starting soon after the one just past. The committee evaluates how it all went. Your written evaluation notes are all carefully read; please fill out the sheet before leaving. Ideas for speakers and workshops are welcomed.
Every few years Sessions move to a new site, for various reasons; any new site is first carefully investigated by a site selection committee and approved by the Sessions Committee. The Yearly Meeting Secretary has primary responsibility for negotiating and making arrangements with the college. We, not the college, do the registration. As you know, the program fees, in addition paying the cost of room and meals, is used to cover all the expenses of holding these Sessions. Preparing for and working during the Sessions is an important part of the job of our salaried employees. Yearly Meeting relies a great deal, also, on unpaid volunteers; perhaps you can help in some way: see the posted list of jobs.
The information desk will also handle Lost and Found. Basic information you need to know is included in the main announcement and registration material sent out to the thousands of individuals (members and non-members) who receive The New England Friend. (If you are not on that mailing list, ask your meeting clerk tactfully why your name and address was not sent to the Yearly Meeting Office).
The Yearly Meeting Office is in Worcester, year-round, but moves itself temporarily, probably at great effort, to the site of Yearly Meeting Sessions. The Administrative and Communications Secretary with the help of volunteers handles the many office details necessary in the course of the Sessions. A daily news sheet, the YM News is produced. Be sure to get a copy at breakfast. (The first issue, however, is given out when you check in Saturday).