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A Broken People, Healing a Broken Planet
From Linda Jenkins, presiding clerk
350: a significant number. It is the number of years this Yearly Meeting has met. 350 is the number of parts of carbon dioxide per million of air that is sustainable for life as we used to know it on this planet.
350 is also significant in the teachings that bind the Bible together and guided our Sessions last year, as we began to observe Jubilee. Jubilee, described in Leviticus 25, takes place after seven cycles of seven Sabbath years, or every 50 years. 350 is seven cycles of seven Jubilee years. I invite you to review last year’s Minute Book for our reflections on how Jubilee seeks a right order, consistent with divine will. Then, reflect on how that teaching relates to this year’s theme: how a broken people might be called to heal a broken planet.
Perhaps we are awakening to the joy and hope that is always available by resting in divine, loving grace. Such resting is necessarily active and creative, paradoxical as that may seem. Welcoming the Spirit into our midst, we must be channels of divine wisdom, from which spring the miracles of the right action that we celebrate in our Quaker forbearers, who fed the children of our “enemies” after the first and second world wars, who anonymously helped create the Underground Railroad and who have resisted participation in war in so many eras.
To continue our efforts to re-ground and re-order our corporate life, to be the “miracle-workers” needed now, we will again use the Unity Agenda for some items of business. Most of the items we addressed on the Unity Agenda last year we will address that way again. All items of business, whether we address them via the Unity Agenda or in gathered discernment, need our prayer. Please start praying long before we gather in Smithfield.
In using the Unity Agenda, we will create the open space for one or two periods of extended worship and other forms of “ Meetings to Hear God’s Call.” We will give attention to the quality of our worship: How do we conduct ourselves in worship? How do we understand silent and vocal ministry and communicate these understandings to each other? Deepening our shared understanding of groundedness in worship will, with God’s help, provide a firmer foundation for relying on divine guidance as we consider the business before us.
There are business items that we will address in gathered discernment, including consideration and possible preliminary approval of the revised Faith and Practice chapter on Corporate Discernment; Permanent Board’s report of the closure of New England Friends Home and its recommendation to sell the New England Friends Home property; the reports of the treasurer and Development Committee and approval of next year’s budget; the proposed continued availability of a financial procedure for monthly meetings to withhold contributions to Friends United Meeting; and Christian Education Committee’s recommendation and request that we change the name of that committee. We will also hear of Permanent Board and Coordinating & Advisory Committee’s consideration of changes to the Yearly Meeting’s governance structure, including possible multiple yearly gatherings. We will hear eight Memorial Minutes, and we will welcome the new Friends recently born into our community.
Much of the background material for these and other matters is included in the advance documents. Please read, pray, and discuss them.
As a people who believe that every moment is sacred and every task the opportunity for prayer and connection with the divine, some might say that our business meetings in worship are a sacrament. I invite you to the table here this week, to share this "sacrament" — in joyful, loving communion.
In God’s love,
Linda Jenkins, presiding clerk
Linda Jenkins presiding clerk