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Saturday Evening, August 2, 2014
2014-01 The New England Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends gathered on Saturday evening, August 2, 2014, for its 354th Annual Sessions, held this year at Castleton State College in Castleton, Vermont. This is the first time that New England Yearly Meeting has met in the state of Vermont. Our theme this year is “You are my witnesses,” from Isaiah 43:10-12 and 44:8. The presiding clerk, Jacqueline Stillwell (Monadnock) welcomed us. How are we wit nesses? What is our witness? What are we witnesses to?
2014-02 The presiding clerk introduced the other members of the clerks’ table: Karen Sánchez Eppler (Northampton) and Will Taber (Fresh Pond), recording clerks; Andy Grannell (Portland) and Susan Davies (Vassalboro), reading clerks.
2014-03 The reading clerks read the roll of quarterly and monthly meetings. Friends stood when their quarter was called and waved when their meeting was called. We noted with joy that people from Middletown Monthly Meeting, Bennington Monthly Meeting, Wilderness Monthly Meeting and the new Poultney Worship Group were attending for the first time in many years.
2014-04 Jacqueline Stillwell welcomed us to our new space and invited us to consider all of the changes that are happening within and around us. Sometimes we can get stuck in our old roles. Take a moment to consider how we are growing into new roles. Change can sometimes make us grumpy. We can also see change as opportunity for adventure and to be transformed.
2014-05 The clerk asked those who were attending New England Yearly Meeting for the first time to stand and be welcomed. We welcomed with particular joy Arthur Francis Zimmerman (South Starksboro) and Elias Quentin Hipp (Amesbury), who were born since our last Sessions.
2014-06 We welcomed the following visitors to New England Yearly Meeting Sessions this year:
Norge Alvarez, Puerto Padre MM, Cuba YM
Joseph Andugu, Central YM, Kenya
Beverly Archibald, New York YM
Leila Archibald, New York YM
Steve Bradley, Ottawa MM, Canadian YM
Susan Elliot, Chester MM, Philadelphia YM
Elizabeth Gates, Lancaster MM, Philadelphia YM
Thomas Gates, Lancaster MM, Philadelphia YM
Julian Martinez Alfonso, Bocas MM, Cuba YM
Anne Pomeroy, New Paltz MM, New York YM
Niyonu Spann, Chester MM, Philadelphia YM
Gretta Stone, Doylestown MM, Philadelphia YM
Jacob Stone, Doylestown MM, Philadelphia YM
Elizabeth Yates, FM Austin, South Central YM
Leon Zealand, Alexandria FM, Baltimore YM
Margaret Cooley, Woolman Hill Retreat Center, Mt. Toby MM, New England YM
Barry Crossno, FGC, MM of Friends Philadelphia, Philadelphia YM
Laura Everett, Massachusetts Council of Churches
Lucy Duncan, AFSC, Philadelphia YM
Sharon Frame, Friend in Residence, FM at Cambridge, New England YM
Kate Gould, FCNL, FM Washington, Baltimore YM
Eden Grace, FUM, Beacon Hill MM, New England YM
Christine Greenland, Tract Association of Friends, Plymouth MM, Philadelphia YM
Barbara Price Monahan, FCNL, New London MM, New England YM
Brian Eric Moon, FGC, Pacific YM
Jeff Perkins, Friends Fiduciary Corporation, Philadelphia
Jenny Rowe, Friends School of Portland, Monte Verde MM, Costa Rica
Addy Simwerayi, AFSC, Concord MM, New England YM
Gloria Thompson, FWCC Region One, Section of the Americas
2014-07 John Humphries (Hartford), clerk of Sessions Committee, introduced Sessions staff and volunteers and thanked them for their work. We had an excellent response—by way of the registration form—to our request for volunteers.
2014-08 Noah Baker Merrill (Putney), Yearly Meeting Secretary, introduced the Yearly Meeting staff: NiaDwynwen Thomas (Beacon Hill), Young Friends/Young Adult Friends Coordinator; Jeffrey Hipp (Amesbury), Communications Director; Sara Hubner (Gonic), Information Management Assistant; Frederick Martin (Monadnock), Accounts Manager; Beth Collea (Wellesley), Religious Education and Outreach Coordinator; Gretchen Baker-Smith (Westport), Junior Yearly Meeting/Junior High Yearly Meeting Coordinator; and Kathleen Wooten (Lawrence), Sessions Coordinator. We are grateful for all of the work that they do on our behalf throughout the year.
2014-09 Betty Ann Lee (Westport), JYM Sessions Coordinator, Gretchen Baker-Smith and NiaDwynwen Thomas introduced the Youth Program staff by program. As the staff was introduced, the members of those groups left to attend their programs. Kimberly Walker-Gonçalves (Northampton), Childcare Coordinator, introduced the childcare staff and Beth Collea introduced the Family Neighborhood.
2014-10 Jacqueline Stillwell encouraged us to read the Advance Documents in preparation for our business sessions. They contain much information about the exciting work that has been done by committees and individuals throughout the year.
2014-11 We concluded our evening with brief worship and adjourned to Anchor Groups.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
2014-12 During Sunday afternoon’s plenary session, Niyonu Spann wove together song, story, and her own prophetic voice to tell resonant truths about the difficulties we face in effecting justice. She spoke about the power of what she called “gracious acts of recognition” to transform divisions, pain, and differences into truth and mutual understanding. “Lord don’t take away these stumbling blocks,” she sang, “but lead us all around them.” Witnessing involves both an inward sensing (seeing, hearing, touching, experiencing and, most of all, that pause of attention that notices wrongs) and an outward action (speaking, writing, intervening). There is a tension, a dual register, in every moment of witness. We live in a nation and a time rife with illusion, powered by lies and denials; it is our responsibility to work to see through these illusions to truth. Niyonu taught us to sing “I can see through illusion, I can see ALL I can see through illusion” which called for syncopation, an act of learning to step out of the comfort on the beat. Singing in what for many of us may have been an unfamiliar rhythm felt risky. We need to depend on each other to sing together. Together we find our way around the stumbling blocks in and amongst us. Niyonu named many of these stumbling blocks: waste, greed, war, homophobia, racism, lies, distrust of each other, a blindness to how these have roots in our own Quaker communities and interactions. She described and modeled the tenderness and honesty of listening for the multiple frequencies and tones, the varied beats, in every encounter. To witness to the truth in a faith tradition that recognizes continuing revelation calls for just such open hearts and prophetic voices.
2014-13 Out of waiting worship, the reading clerk read excerpts from the 2014 Epistle of Northern Yearly Meeting. “Spiritual hospitality was the theme of our gathering. We explored ways that monthly meetings and worship groups can reflect spiritual hospitality, recognizing how we create holy spaces for listening and challenging each other and the benefits of dispersion of authority and learning from new voices. Spiritual hospitality is our personal statement about God in dismantling the barriers of the world.”
2014-14 The reading clerks reviewed guidelines for meeting for worship for the conduct of business from the Advance Documents. Jacqueline Stillwell reminded us of the importance of providing a safe space for all to speak. She encouraged us to be patient with each other.
2014-15 The clerk introduced the Unity Agenda which will be considered later in the week. Friends are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Unity Agenda and bring concerns or questions to the Friends named for each item. More general issues can be raised with the presiding clerk. Items on the Unity Agenda about which there are significant concerns will be removed from the Unity Agenda and brought to business meeting for corporate discernment.
2014-16 Friends approved the following visitors to the Youth Yearly Meetings and to Young Adult Friends: Ages 0–4, Suzy Klein-Berndt (Northampton); Grades K–2, Anne Nash (Wellesley), Tom Bagdad-Peyton (Cambridge); Grades 3–4, Skip Schiel (Cambridge); Grades 5–6, Mary Gilbert (Cambridge), Rebecca MacKenzie (Quaker City Unity); JHYM, Mary Anne Ruppert (Hanover), Bonnie Norton (Wellesley); Young Friends, Carolyn Stone (Wellesley), Phil Veatch (Fresh Pond); and Young Adult Friends, Regina McCarthy (Wellesley), Jan Hoffman (Mt. Toby).
2014-17 The reading clerk read the list of people who are not able to attend Sessions due to age or illness. Cards will be available near the Information Desk to send greetings to these Friends.
2014-18 The reading clerks read Minute 2013-52, in which we pledged ourselves as individuals and meetings to consider the moral and spiritual implications of how we benefit from and have been harmed by the Doctrine of Discovery. Rachel Carey-Harper (Barnstable), clerk of the Racial, Social and Economic Justice Committee, read the following query: “What part of this work has touched your heart, has touched your soul?” We entered into a period of worship-sharing on this query.
The committee offered themselves as resources and invited the Yearly Meeting to continue on this sacred healing journey. We must open ourselves to transformation.
2014-19 Jan Hoffman, clerk of the Faith and Practice Revision Committee, joyfully presented an interim Faith and Practice, a work in progress now in book form. There are printed copies available for every meeting and worship group and the text is also on the web site. This book is further evidence of a rising energy in the Yearly Meeting. This work has been undertaken in the committee’s faith in the Inner Guide, continuing revelation and that we can be guided together.
Section 1 contains all of the chapters that have received preliminary approval.
Section 2 contains the appendices. The appendices have not yet received preliminary approval from Sessions. The committee encourages Friends to review the appendices and provide feedback on them. Section 3 contains an essay on moving forward to the remaining chapters.
If you find a mistake, let the committee know. Friends are invited to continue engaging with the committee as it continues its work.
2014-20 Our Secretary, Noah Baker Merrill, reflected on the work he does for the Yearly Meeting. He shared how powerful and vital the spiritual work of administration is. Administration is the encouragement of our ministries. Noah finds nourishment in seeing and feeling where the life is among us. In his travels among us he does a lot of listening.
We live in creative tension and this creative tension allows us to grow. We live in a world of dramatic change. The things that used to work don’t seem to work anymore and we need to find new ways. We are profoundly conservative in looking to the cloud of witnesses who have come before us. We are also profoundly progressive in our openness to what God is calling us to now. What does it mean to live into a new world?
We are being called into wholeness in many ways. How can we more fully include the whole human family? We are working toward healing religious trauma and the divisions among Friends. We must embrace the whole of who we are across all ages. NEYM has worked to develop and nurture our younger members. We also need to encourage the gifts and roles of our elders. We need to allow younger members to take up fuller participation in our work and we need to encourage our older members to see how they can become elders and mentors.
Noah, taking a tomato and a tomato stake in his hands, said that we, as a Yearly Meeting, have spent a lot of time working on our stakes. But our stakes make no sense without the tomatoes that they allow to grow and flourish. All our work on finances and structures only makes sense if it supports the vines that produce the fruit.
Monday Morning, August 4, 2014
2014-21 We heard the 2014 Epistle from the Friends Association for Higher Education and Friends Counsel on Education joint conference at Haverford College. They are actively searching for ways to reorder attitudes and actions towards justice, challenging the obsession with money that so often diverts decision-making attention away from ethical concerns.
2014-22 Beth Collea (Quaker Youth Education Committee), Dorothy Grannell (Portland, Friends World Committee for Consultation–New England), and Cynthia Ganung (Wellesley, Puente de Amigos Committee) reported on the collaboration of these three NEYM committees to publish a Spanish translation of the Friends General Conference Faith & Play youth religious education curriculum. This was in response to requests from Friends first in Cuba and then in other Latin American Friends communities.
Beth told the story of how the translation came about using the format of the curriculum, placing colorful felt figures on a board to illustrate and perform the tale. When our words and actions don’t match, it feels like a broken place inside. When we don’t keep our promises, our hearts remind us. That’s one way we can feel the Light at work within. Beth told of a Friend wrestling with how to live into a big promise to make connections with Friends who lived far away and believed different things. Spirit planted a “leading tree” to share our Quaker experience through translating, publishing and disseminating stories. Other leadings of other Friends in and beyond New England have created a grove of leading trees around this one that have helped to spread these stories titled, Jugar llenos de fe (“to play full of faith”).
This project exemplifies the FWCC goals of connecting Friends, crossing cultures, and changing lives. The power of this project was testified to by the words of Friends in Cuba and Bolivia who had called for and who have now begun to use these materials. The initial leading for outreach rose in Beth Collea; FGC released the copyright to Faith & Play; Obadiah Brown/Sarah Swift Benevolent Fund, Mosher Book and Tract and monies from three committees and some individuals helped cover the costs of production; Benigno Sánchez-Eppler (Northampton) and Susan Furry (Smithfield) translated the text; David Botwinik designed the book; Robin Mohr for FWCC’s Section of the Americas and evangelical pastor Ken Comfort (Reedwood Friends Church, Northwest YM) took on much of the administrative work of disseminating Jugar llenos de fe in Central and South America; and Caryl Menkhus Creswell (West Hills MM, Northwest YM) has helped to train Latin American youth workers in the book’s unusual teaching method. The process of translating these stories, produced out of our liberal Quaker perspective, and sharing them with more Christ-centered and Evangelical Quaker communities has called for much deep learning, listening and tenderness. This is another way that the leading trees of this collaborative project continue to sprout.
2014-23 The clerk invited quarterly meeting clerks to speak at Sessions. We heard reflections on how the Spirit is moving in our quarterly meetings.
Connie Kincaid-Brown (Hanover), clerk of Northwest Quarterly Meeting, shared that Northwest Quarter, like the Yearly Meeting as a whole, has been doing the work of structural reorganization. They have created new committees that seem to be working better. Changes in traditions of time and place of gathering have led to enlivening new experiments.
Dorothy Grannell, clerk of Falmouth Quarterly Meeting, reported that Falmouth Quarter consists of six meetings and one worship group, two quite large and four small. Two of the six are pastoral meetings so there is much diversity in forms of worship within this Quarter. Durham Meeting is seeking a new pastor. In recent years the Quarter decided to rescind a recorded gift of ministry, a painful process that put great demands on Ministry and Counsel. The laying down of the Oxford Hills Meeting was another painful process for the Quarter and one that revealed the ways in which the Quarter had not been as attentive as it could have been to the health of all its meetings.
Marian Baker (Weare), clerk of Dover Quarterly Meeting, reminded us that North Sandwich Meeting, formerly of Falmouth Quarter, joined Dover Quarter several years ago. There are now five meetings in Dover Quarter as well as a worship group and a preparative meeting. Some are large meetings where some members feel little need for quarterly gatherings. The Quarter meets on the fifth Sunday of the month, whenever those occur. This year the listening session for concerns about FUM proved a time of true healing and a renewal of communication between meetings.
Jay O’Hara (Sandwich), recording clerk of Sandwich Quarterly Meeting, read a report from Sally Fritz (West Falmouth), clerk of Sandwich Quarter. She reports that there had been real revitalization for the Quarter through a spirited gathering about recognizing our role in the revitalization of the earth. The Quarter was drawn powerfully together by speaking honestly to the queries “When the realm of God is on earth, how will we live? What keeps us from living that way now?” The powerful sense of community felt in that gathering has not been sustained. It is clear that there is pain in some of the Quarter’s monthly meetings and that the Quarter is not being used as a resource.
Susan Davies, Ministry and Counsel co-clerk of Vassalboro Quarterly Meeting, reported that the work of balancing structure and ministry remains a complex dance. After a period of jubilee in which the Quarter laid down committees, the Quarter has now reconstituted Ministry and Counsel, Finance Committee and Gifts and Leadings Committee, and a coordinating team to assist monthly meetings in hosting quarterly meeting days. They do not have a presiding clerk of the Quarter but have experimented with clerks of the day to provide opportunities for building clerking skills. There are 13 monthly meetings in the Quarter, many of which have fewer than ten members. The Quarterly Meeting is an important source of community for Friends in northern Maine, and 10 of the 13 meetings regularly participate in Quarterly gatherings.
Dwight Lopes (New Haven), clerk of Connecticut Valley Quarter, reported that the mix of small and large meetings in this Quarter proves to be both a strength and a challenge. New London meeting has only five or six members. They considered laying the Meeting down, but have decided they want to continue. They welcome visitors and prayers. The Quarter has been holding an annual residential meeting at Woolman Hill. The Quarter has been working to recognize and articulate stewardship responsibilities on climate change, approving this minute:
Quaker testimony urges Friends to be good stewards “so that future generations may inherit an earth on which they can live in hope and dignity” (NEYM Faith and Practice, 1985, p. 189). It is time to urgently affirm the overwhelming scientific consensus that greenhouse gases released by human activity are causing climate change, that these changes threaten life in our planet as we know it, and that we have a responsibility to address the very real threats that will impact both rich and poor. Those on earth who have contributed least to this crisis are likely to suffer most from it. While systematic change is necessary, we cannot wait for governing bodies to do what is needed: change must begin with individuals and groups of people acting together. As Friends living in a high-carbon society we have a special responsibility and opportunity to live up to our testimony of stewardship.
We believe that although the problems we face are large, complex, and overwhelming, following our faith can lead us to unity and hope.
Friends are encouraged to move from this affirmation to specific action as led.
Do you revere all life and the splendor of God’s continuing creation, and are you actively addressing the habits and expectations of your culture that threaten the extinction of many species, destroy habitat, cause water and food scarcity, hunger and weather-related economic dislocations? Are you committed to passing on a habitable planet to future generations and is this evident to others in how you live and how you witness?
Do you live in possibility, knowing that with the Spirit “way may open”? Do you acknowledge the scientific facts of global warming and that it is impacting everyone on the planet—rich and poor? Do you witness to yourself and others that we have a responsibility to act in ways that encourage adaptation to current realities and that will help mitigate the severity of global warming. How? Why? When?
Do you take whatever small steps are within your present capacity, trusting that if you follow the truth you have, more will be given you?
1. What changes in your lifestyle are reducing greenhouse gases and what might be your next steps?
2. What are you doing to help your meeting reduce its carbon footprint?
3. Are you uniting with others who share your concern for stewardship? Do you bear public witness to the Spirit and the urgent need to reduce carbon use and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? How? Why? When?
- Are you meeting and working together with others in your monthly meeting and/or your communities?
- Are you reaching out to other faith communities to encourage and support work on climate issues at local, state, federal and international levels?
- Are you open to a Voluntary Carbon Tax or other actions to move public opinion and governments toward better stewardship of all resources?
5. If you have investments, have you divested from fossil fuel companies? If you have a pension fund, have you asked the directors to divest from fossil fuel companies? Are there organizations you are affiliated with that you could urge to do so?
The presiding clerk asked Friends to carry this minute back to their monthly and quarterly meetings, with the hope that it might be seasoned over the coming year.
In reflecting on these reports from quarterly meetings, we heard commonality of problems and found useful ideas to borrow, confirming the value of this conversation.
We heard from the floor that Rhode Island-Smithfield Quarter’s spring meeting was cancelled. It has four member meetings, including one pastoral meeting. Two meetings are committed to remaining vital even though small in number. Salem Quarter, our largest Quarter in terms of membership, did not offer a formal report.
2014-24 Holly Baldwin (Fresh Pond), clerk of Permanent Board, described the responsibility of Permanent Board to carry the work of the Yearly Meeting between Sessions. In 2013 at the request of Sessions, the Permanent Board appointed the Structural Review Committee to examine the organizational structure of our Yearly Meeting and to address a number of growing concerns about the ability of NEYM’s current structure to adequately support our work and vision.
Members of the Structural Review Committee, Honor Woodrow (Beacon Hill), Alana Parkes (Beacon Hill), and Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill), asked the body to serve as “infograms” to display the demographics of our Yearly Meeting, making visible how many of our meetings have fewer than 20 members, and that only 14 meetings have more than 80 members; indeed these 14 meetings contain half of the membership in NEYM. These human “infograms” were also used to display the enormous committee burden of our present structure: NEYM has 28 committees, more than any other yearly meeting in the United States.
We need our new structure to help us provide a faith-filled witness to the world. Our new structure should have ample space and flexibility for listening to and doing God’s will. We need a structure grounded in Spirit-led eldership that provides transparency and accountability for our finances and our processes of leadership and discernment. We seek a structure that will support all of us in living whole, Spirit-led lives.
The Structural Review Committee will draft a model for a new organizational structure and share it with regional gatherings and across the existing committees of the Yearly Meeting before bringing it back to Sessions for discernment in August 2015. Throughout the coming year the committee will provide space for continuing threshing of potential organizational structures and work to include the perspectives of as many Friends as is possible.
2014-25 Recognizing the financial pressures facing the Yearly Meeting, the Permanent Board charged Finance, Personnel, Development, and the Coordinating and Advisory Committees to develop a path towards financial sustainability. At its meeting just before Sessions, Permanent Board endorsed the Financial Sustainability Working Group’s efforts toward accountability and long-term planning.
The following Working Group members presented a Financial Sustainability Progress Report: Noah Baker Merrill, Yearly Meeting Secretary; Holly Baldwin, clerk of Permanent Board; Ben Guaraldi (Beacon Hill), Treasurer; Fritz Weiss (Hanover), member of the Personnel Committee and Supervisor to the Yearly Meeting Secretary; Sara Smith (Concord), clerk of Development; Jeremiah Dickinson (Wellesley), member of the Finance Committee; and Muriel Farrar (Gonic), clerk of the Finance Committee.
Last year at Sessions, we recognized that our expenses had grown greater than income and initiated a five-year process to bring expenses and income into proper alignment through urgent but achievable change, and without drastically curtailing the ministries central to our communal and spiritual life. The plan initiated last year entailed accepting deficit spending over a five-year span at a rate that would draw our reserves down, but would give us time to build capacity so that by 2018 we could anticipate income exceeding expenses, allowing us to then begin to rebuild our reserves. One year into this experiment, the Working Group reported measurable progress on reaching these goals.
The presentation to Sessions illustrated both accountability and transparency in this process. The Minute from 2013 outlined the following five specific steps that NEYM has begun taking to shift to a long-term model of financial planning.
- Transparent long-term financial planning.
The budgeting process consulted more widely than in prior years, consulting with 15 different groups. This presentation is but one of many efforts to engage in long-term financial discernment with the gathered Yearly Meeting and with its constituent parts.
- Shifting the Yearly Meeting Secretary’s work plan to spend more time on development.
During the past year the Yearly Meeting Secretary’s job description was shifted so as to devote 10% of his time to development work. This work is not, in fact, separate from other spiritual and community-building aspects of his job, since development conversations center on our visions and hopes for the vitality of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.
- Strengthening the Development Committee.
The Development Committee’s budget was increased to enable their work, and they have made good use of these funds. New print materials and the new web site have strengthened our capacity for outreach and communication.
- Improving technological and administrative support for Development efforts—and for other work of the Yearly Meeting.
In the launch of the new web site and the new database this year, the Yearly Meeting has made effective improvements in our communication, visibility, and administrative tools. All this was achieved through the hard work and skill of Jeff Hipp, for which we are grateful. The benefits of the web site and database are already being felt in many aspects of NEYM work and communal life beyond the financial.
- Strengthening the relationship between monthly meetings and the Yearly Meeting.
Permanent Board agreed to carry this responsibility. A significant increase in inter-visitation by staff, committee members, and Permanent Board members has brought news of fresh life and strengthened community among a widening circle of Friends. These actions were undertaken initially in an effort to build capacity and to increase our income. Permanent Board and the Working Group also recognized that these actions were good in and of themselves because they strengthen all our ministries.
In this first year, through these intentional actions to build infrastructure, connections, and financial capacity, the Yearly Meeting has not only increased our capacity, but has already reaped increased donations. Individual giving exceeded our budget by 31% in FY2013. At this point, this year’s donations are 38% higher than they were at this time last year. Several monthly meetings have increased their giving as well. The committee expressed gratitude for all the ways that individual members and monthly meetings have responded to this challenge. The Working Group showed a video of Friends from across the Yearly Meeting speaking in joyous, funny, intelligent ways about the wonder of our life in all its diversity. As our Yearly Meeting Secretary shared with us Sunday evening, these are the beautiful, delicious tomatoes whose growth is the reason we do the work of erecting all these financial stakes.
Slides provided a progress report from the Treasurer, comparing our projections last summer to our current expenses and income. Last year’s Sessions income was lower than expected, and some forms of income—like retreat fees—probably cannot be increased as hoped, but the increase in individual giving exceeded expectations and expenses were slightly lower than budgeted. The result is that FY2014 current income and expenditures come very close to those projected.
This year Sessions, with the new “pay as led” structure, seems to have brought in significantly more income than anticipated. Projections for the next four years call for monthly meeting and individual giving to increase by 4% in FY2016, and 5% in fiscal years 2017 and 2018. If we meet these goals, income will meet expenses by FY2018 and reserves (not counting the Legacy Gift Fund) will be drawn down to just over $105,000. (Last year, we predicted the reserves might be drawn down to $90,000).
Following this report the Financial Sustainability Working Group asked that the gathered meeting affirm this process by approving these four statements:
- We ask Permanent Board to bring to Sessions each year a report on the progress toward financial sustainability and the long-term financial health of the Yearly Meeting. This will allow the Yearly Meeting in Session to evaluate and discern whether we have made sufficient progress to continue on this course.
- We commit to each doing our essential part to increase giving from individuals and our monthly meetings.
- We prioritize maintaining the ministries of the Yearly Meeting, anticipating that our deficits will be drawn from our reserves in the short run. We ask Finance Committee to present budgets that support the ministries we have prioritized.
- Once our budget is balanced, we prioritize creating surpluses to replenish our reserves.
Friends accepted the report with gratitude. After a time of clarifying questions we held consideration of the four statements until later in the week.
Comments from the gathered body noted that the shrinking numbers of Friends attending worship is an important aspect of our financial and spiritual health that needs to be included in reports and accountability as we move forward. Concern was raised about the proportion of monthly meeting giving compared to individual giving and that this be intentionally considered and planned.
2014-26 In closing worship Friends heard a memorial minute for John Carey, Barnstable Friends Meeting.
Monday Evening, August 4, 2014
2014-27 The reading clerks read the 2013 Epistle from Ireland Yearly Meeting. The theme of the Yearly Meeting was “Living in the Spirit,” taken from 1 Corinthians 2:10: “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” Their keynote speaker challenged them to worship Jesus “a little less and listen to him a little more.”
2014-28 The reading clerk read a letter from Peter Shumlin, the Governor of Vermont, welcoming NEYM Sessions to the Green Mountain State and recognizing Friends leadership in a number of progressive issues in the 19th and 20th centuries, and in particular, the movement for marriage equality.
2014-29 In preparation for our continued discussion of financial issues, the presiding clerk shared some words from a NEYM Treasurer of more than a decade ago: “On our spiritual path we should manage money in right order as a discipline in managing power and control, both personally and corporately. What is even more important is to manage our lives in the Spirit and not to put the power of money ahead of the power of the Spirit.”
2014-30 On Monday morning we heard and accepted a progress report from the Financial Sustainability Working Group. At that time we did not seek approval of the four statements they brought to us affirming their process. The clerk asked us to consider those statements and to think together more generally about the path to financial stability charted by the Working Group. A Friend noted that at this Yearly Meeting we have talked about witnessing, and the difficulties of speaking our truth and seeing through illusions. The relation between Finance Committee, Personnel Committee, Development Committee, Permanent Board and their relative authority is unclear. How are other parts of the Yearly Meeting participating in this decision-making?
In the priorities process 15 different groups in the Yearly Meeting, including monthly meeting treasurers and elders, Young Adult Friends, and many Yearly Meeting committees, were consulted. In order to increase income we need to increase membership in our monthly meetings. Part of addressing the financial sustainability challenge is building our foundation and growing the monthly meetings.
We did not approve a path to financial sustainability last year; we only received and minuted reports about our financial situation. One of the hopes of the Financial Sustainability Working Group this year is that we might approve the general notion of long-term financial planning. NEYM’s budget arises out of a priorities process in which it is clear that the Yearly Meeting’s priority is to support 0ur ministries. This process continues to seem opaque to many in the Yearly Meeting. The goal of a priorities process is powerful, but some feel that the sharing around this plan has not been as rigorous and open as it needs to be. Even as we worry about transparency and inclusion in our budgeting practice, we also know that it is good process to release commit tees to do work and to trust them to do so.
Budgeting year to year without a bigger context leaves us budgeting year to year without a bigger context. Friends recognize the relation between immediate and long-term planning. One Friend noted that reserves are crucial. Allowing our reserves to go much below six months of operating expenses—e.g., $400,000 for an approximately $800,000 annual budget—is in this view irresponsible. Another Friend noted that reserves are for a rainy day, and asserted that this is that rainy day. A long-range planner and demographer described the presentation of the Financial Sustainability Working Group as a careful long-range plan. Friends noted that there are priorities evident in our budgeting process, especially priorities of staffing programs for our youth. The present leadership of our Yearly Meeting is young; they are the future of the Yearly Meeting, a sign of how we are building the base. Trusting them and their energetic commitment to building our income capacity and long-term planning is part of the process of building the base.
Friends were not clear to approve the four statements brought to us by the Financial Sustainability Working Group.
2014-31 The Yearly Meeting Treasurer, Ben Guaraldi, presented his reflections on the past year. He has a two-fold job: to keep an eye on our financial picture and to educate us so that we can understand the financial context of our decisions. We had a challenge budget in FY2013; we did not know where $38,000 of our income was coming from. The challenge turned out to be even larger than expected because Sessions revenues came in well below budget. This would have left us with a $60,000 deficit. Fortunately, individual contributions came in 31% over budget, which cut our deficit to $30,000. It could have been better but it could have been a lot worse.
Much of our income comes in between Sessions and the end of our fiscal year on September 30, so any figures from this year are very preliminary. In general, income is $70,000 ahead of where it was last year at this time. Most of this is due to receiving at least $40,000 more in Sessions fees than we did last year. Provided that Friends and meetings continue to give as they have in the recent past, the Treasurer believes that we shall meet our budget for income and we may perhaps even have a deficit smaller than the $50,000 that we budgeted.
We have $303,000 in operating reserves, or about 5 months of our annual budget. That is a small part of our $2.2 million in assets, including board-designated and permanently restricted funds. That $2.2 million includes the $1.1 million which is the Legacy Gift.
The Treasurer has been working hard and his support committee encourages him to slow down and to realize that all this work is not his to do alone.
2014-32 Muriel Farrar (Gonic), clerk of Finance Committee, introduced the FY2015 budget. Naming the fear in the room, she recognized that budgets can be scary. What if we do not meet our goals? Does NEYM have the capacity to meet the increases in giving that our budget requires? Can we change our Yearly Meeting culture and meet the challenge to give more?
The Finance Committee expressed appreciation for the tremendous efforts of the NEYM Treasurer, Ben Guaraldi; Yearly Meeting Secretary, Noah Baker Merrill; and Accounts Manager, Frederick Martin, in providing clear and comprehensive financial information and support for the Finance Committee. They have a concern that, without additional help, the needs of the Yearly Meeting may overtax our staff and our volunteer Treasurer. The Finance Committee feels there is an urgent and immediate need for an Assistant Treasurer and seeks help in locating candidates.
Jeremiah Dickinson presented the draft FY2015 budget in two forms, as a pie-chart program budget and as a traditional line-item budget. The program budget categories presented do not match up to individual line items because they include such things as the allocation of staff time. This is a challenging budget to bring and the Finance Committee worked hard on it. In the end the committee was in unity with the budget they are bringing forward, although two members stood aside because of concerns over the size of the deficit. The Finance Committee had been instructed to not include any income from the Legacy Gift funds received from the sale of the New England Friends Home in constructing the FY2015 budget.
Principal issues of concern raised by the draft budget were a budgeted 60% reduction in contributions to FGC, FUM and FWCC, and the inclusion of additional staff time in a deficit budget.
The projected deficit in the FY2015 draft budget is $59,554.
Friends were encouraged to take their questions, feedback, and advice to the listening sessions hosted by the Finance Committee before the budget comes back to us for final approval.
2014-33 In our closing worship Friends heard a memorial minute for Eleanor Plank, Storrs Friends Meeting.
Tuesday Morning, August 5, 2014
2014-34 We heard the Epistle from the midwinter gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns—striving to be a radically inclusive beloved community. They testify to their experience of how diversity enriches and strengthens their gathering, beginning a dialogue about how to welcome “all those whom society excludes as ‘queer’ for any reason,” including the challenges of being differently abled physically or mentally. They wrestled with the ways oppressions of race, nationality, theology and ability entwine with issues of gender and sexuality. Describing the courage of Friends claiming their identities as both gay and Christian they “are reminded to not turn our backs on these Friends or the communities in which they seek belonging.” In worship they felt the deep call “to let our first motion always be to love, especially in response to fear and hatred.”
2014-35 The clerk spoke to the dynamic tension between our concern for the events in the wider world and the attention we are giving to our internal structures and housekeeping. We have faith that this structural and financial work will prepare the ground from which our ministry will grow and witness in the wider world.
2014-36 We heard reflections from our Yearly Meeting staff.
Beth Collea, Religious Education and Outreach Coordinator, spoke of the Friends that she has met who are re-ordering their lives around the leadings they have felt and their relationship with God. She spoke of a 4-year-old who said, “If you hear the voice you follow it.” When asked if he had heard the voice the boy said, “No, but my brother has.”
Nat Shed (Vassalboro), Friends Camp Director, spoke of the privilege he has coaching campers. As they are returning home he reminds them that their parents really do have good intentions. He advises them that their parents think that they are two years younger than they are, and they think that they are two years older than they are. These four years make a large difference. He also spoke of the joy of working with the young adults who are serving as counselors. He tries to help them find their counselor voice, so they can speak with integrity. He is working to leave the Camp in good shape as he moves towards retirement in a few years.
Jeffrey Hipp, Communication Director, told two stories about the web site. He is often asked if there will be a search tool on neym.org. He thought that search on the new web site worked well. One day he went to the web site without logging in as administrator and found it didn’t work. In spite of his desire for radical equality he was not prepared to give administrator privileges to the entire world. He is working to make search work for everyone.
He told of a home-bound Friend who has asked to be added to many mailing lists because she is no longer able to attend Sessions. After the new web site went up, he got a message from her thanking him for the new web site. She found the recordings of Michael Birkel, and listening to them she felt as if she had been there. The web site allows people who are not able to be with us in person a seat in our community.
Sara Hubner, Information Management Assistant, said that, working 8 hours a week, she feels like a "semi-professional" Quaker. She receives a lot of bits and pieces of information from many people and organizations. She has to sort this information and put it where it belongs on the web site or in the database. When her job interview started with meeting for worship, she knew she had found the right job. Actually, her job is not about data. It is about people, and making and strengthening the connections between them. Life is not about what happens to people, it is what happens between people.
Frederick Martin, Accounts Manager, said that he is the person who handles the money as it flows in and out. He admitted that sometimes this work can be boring. He warned Friends of his dry sense of humor and mentioned that he identified with the suffering servant mentioned in the Bible Half Hour. The transition to the new accounting software caused delays in the processing of expense reports because banks are reluctant to issue credit cards to non-profits. He lives at the intersection between our sense of integrity and the processes of the world.
Gretchen Baker-Smith, Junior Yearly Meeting/Junior High Yearly Meeting Coordinator, reported that this is the first time that she has attended adult business meeting in her 22 years of attending NEYM Annual Sessions. She showed us the bird cage that she uses during art meditations in JYM. She tells the children that they can take the bird on their shoulder that says that they cannot do something and put it in this cage. After they are done they can take it back out if they want to. This year as she moved into a larger role, she found that she had forgotten to put her own birds in that cage. She has felt surrounded by love from the rest of the staff this year. She read a letter from a 4th grader who concluded “You are my person, I care for you.” Extraordinary things happen when you surround yourself in love.
2014-37 Sara Smith from the Development Committee thanked Nancy Haines (Wellesley), past clerk of the committee, for all of her work this year. Sara feels that she is stepping into large shoes. In FY2013 we not only met our budget goal of raising $97,000 from individual donations but exceeded it by 31%, raising $126,000 for operating expenses.
The Development Committee passed out donation envelopes while leading us in a spirited rendition of NEYM’s ode to joy:
Joyful, joyful, we are joyful, Friends have given gen’rously
Friends gave more and more Friends gave
Gifts have poured in plentif’ly.
We met last year’s goals for giving
We are full of thankful praise,
Now’s the time to thank each other
Raise our arms and shout hoorays.
Joyful, joyful, we are joyful,
Ministry and Life abound,
Yearly Meeting’s full of Spirit,
Let us raise a joyful sound.
Let’s all pledge to one another,
We’ll give as our means allow,
We’ll support the work we treasure.
We can do it, I and thou!
2014-38 Margaret Cooley (Mount Toby), clerk of NEYM Ministry and Counsel, called specific attention to the efforts of three Ministry and Counsel working groups: the Resources Working Group, the Pastoral Care Working Group, and the Intervisitation Working Group, and asked us to appreciate their work and to hold them in the Light.
For the past year Ministry and Counsel has been experimenting with new, unwritten, forms of sharing the variegated experience of the Yearly Meeting with the gathered body. Ministry and Counsel’s preparation of the NEYM State of Society presentation has been like a garden tour, walking between the beds seeing what is in bloom and where fruit has withered on the vine, bending tenderly over plants that are dying, and celebrating new sprouts. Ministry and Counsel has read the State of Society reports of 33 monthly meetings and 3 Quarterly meetings. It has also received reports from the youth programs and the Young Friends Ministry and Counsel. Four friends appointed by Ministry and Counsel—Gina Nortonsmith (Northampton), Carl Williams (Plainfield), Avery Nortonsmith (Northampton), and Marian Baker—read all these reports, and spoke to us out of worship about the spiritual condition they witness in the Yearly Meeting.
A common concern appeared in many reports that committee staffing was falling short in both monthly and quarterly meetings compared to expectations from previous years, even as the same communities showed great vibrancy and joy in their worship and in their gatherings. Are we tethered to the past in our visions of good stewardship or are we chained to the past? Don’t we need to prepare ourselves for the future, to think about who we are now and what we wish to do now? There are more experiences coming. Some of the new things coming may be differences of background, experience, and belief, as well as differences in the condition of the world and technological differences. No more weeping and wailing, let us be open to who we are today.
All living things have cycles and seasons. Gritty diversity creates tension. We often forget that Jesus said, “my yoke is easy, my burden light.” We can be joyful not in spite of our condition, but because of it. When we are young we call and God listens. Later God calls and we listen. Ultimately we listen and God listens.
Diversity has been a central topic of consideration in Young Friends. Friends may have witnessed Young Friends hugging. The ease of our affection is one of the joyous aspects of the community of Young Friends. But we have been wrestling this year with how some may experience embraces differently. We have been discovering ways to carry the joy of our love for each other in ways that are careful to make space for consent. We have also been wrestling this year with gender identity. We have begun marking our nametags at Sessions with the pronouns with which each of us prefers to be addressed, making visible that our gender identity is an aspect of ourselves that we can name and choose. As is true for many older Friends in Yearly Meeting, Young Friends are looking around for new elders. Some of our leaders have left and we recognize that we need to step into those roles ourselves and to welcome the next generation moving into Young Friends. We appreciate the ways in which NEYM can create a safe space cordoned off from the busyness of our lives. We have been using this space not only as a refuge but also as an opportunity for deep seeking about difficult issues in the world. Wrestling with theology, including non-theist understandings, has been an important strand of these discussions. This is one issue that NEYM as a whole needs to carry tenderly. Young Friends are taking on more important roles in NEYM. Two Young Friends are now members of Permanent Board.
Our Yearly Meeting is full of joy and love this year, and blessed with the beauty of being in Vermont together and waking up with birds. Our programmed meetings are shrinking. Some are being laid down. Some of our pastors are struggling with their roles and with their callings. Loss of our programmed meetings would narrow our theological richness in New England.
How are we supporting callings amongst us? We can all learn from the youthful leadership of NEYM. This is a wonderful model of rising to leadings. We need to nurture those leadings. It is good that we love each other, but we must be sure also to respect each other and listen to each other.
2014-39 Margaret Cooley reported for the Ministry and Counsel Working Group on FUM. In 2009, in response to serious concerns about the sexual ethics portion of the FUM personnel policy, the Yearly Meeting adopted a policy that allowed monthly meetings to withhold the portion of their Yearly Meeting contributions that would go to FUM.
This year the FUM Working Group has done three things. They have collected information on this issue and posted it on the NEYM web site. They have collected personal stories that were printed in the New England Friend and posted to the web site. This information is also available in printed form from the Yearly Meeting Office. They have held eight listening sessions during the course of the year.
During these listening sessions they were surprised, and somewhat uncomfortable, to find that they have heard what feels like a sense of the meeting to make a recommendation to the Yearly Meeting. Friends accepted the report of the M&C Working Group on FUM. We will return to a consideration of their recommendations at a later time.
2014-40 In our closing worship Friends heard a memorial minute for Mary Snieckus, Hartford Friends Meeting.
Tuesday Evening, August 5
2014-41 Jon Watts combined video lectures, slam poetry and the skillful notes of his guitar to tell of witnesses from Quaker history in ways that demonstrate the resonance of the historical acts of nakedness, truth and resistance for our present ways of living. He spoke of the need to strip ourselves so that we may be vulnerable. Standing in our nakedness and vulnerability, we find ourselves clothed and protected in something new. He told, and sang, of Solomon Eccles, a songwriter and musician of the 17th century who burned his music and instruments in a public bonfire when he became Quaker. Later, Solomon Eccles walked naked through the streets of London with a basket of burning coals on his head. What we actually do, rather than what we say, is an indicator of our true priorities. Do we value our frappuccinos more than world peace? Are we willing to strip away everything that stands in the way of what we claim to be the most important things in our lives? Are we willing to give up everything that keeps us from living in the dominion of God?
Wednesday Morning, August 6, 2014
2014-42 Out of gathered worship we heard together a memorial minute for Alanna Connors, Fresh Pond Meeting.
2014-43 We heard a travel minute from the Yearly Meeting Visiting Committee of FGC for Eric Moon and a travel minute from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Monthly Meeting for Thomas Gates, who is leading the Bible Half Hour at our Sessions.
2014-44 Holly Baldwin, clerk of Permanent Board, and Suzanna Schell (Beacon Hill), clerk of the Ad Hoc Legacy Gift Discernment Committee, accompanied by members of the committee, brought us the committee’s proposal for how to use the Legacy Gift Fund, an unencumbered fund that the Yearly Meeting received from the sale of the Friends Home. The changes over recent years in our relationship with the Moses Brown School and the closing of the Friends Home are a source of sadness, but also of realism, truth, and learning. Since 2012 the committee has engaged in a broad consultative process throughout the Yearly Meeting of listening for how the Legacy Gift Fund can best nurture the new life in our spiritual community. In this process NEYM has asked ourselves crucial questions about stewardship and has clarified our sense of vision and calling. As we share our dreams with each other we recognize the vitality and large visionary reach of our dreams. We have explored the meaning and demands of good stewardship, and this process has helped the Yearly Meeting as a whole to reflect on how we carry our funds and our leadings.
- The Ad Hoc Legacy Gift Discernment Committee brought three specific recommendations to the body and asked for approval.
- The immediate release of $100,000 to Friends Camp for the retirement of its mortgages and for infrastructure improvements.
- The establishment of the Legacy Designated Fund (LDF) with $750,000—only the interest on these funds will be available for use—and the Legacy Undesignated Fund (LUF) with the remaining balance (approx. $350,000) which we will expect to spend down as it is called upon.
- The establishment of a Legacy Gift Committee to develop procedures and oversee the disbursement of monies from both of these funds.
The presiding clerk asked the body for clarifying questions. Friends asked how long we anticipate holding on to the Legacy Gift. We were told that Friends from Cuba were surprised by this proposal and remarked that if the church is not outspending its income, it is not doing the work of the church. The security of holding savings can be an impediment to the work of the Spirit. Friends asked what restrictions we were putting on the use of these funds. Any restrictions we put on the use of the Legacy Gift are restrictions that we have made and that we can change. The specific guidelines on the uses of these funds have not been drawn up yet. We remain open to seeing what sorts of ministries of NEYM and, more generally, what Quaker work in New England might be funded from this source. These funds are to support the ministries and emerging Light of Friends in New England. How will these guidelines be developed and administered? We are a community of doers. In order to prevent the appearance of self-dealing, let us consider adding to the discernment process those who would not directly benefit—perhaps by adding Friends from outside our Yearly Meeting to the new committee. A Friend noted that the money in this fund comes from the sale of land that ultimately came to us through the Doctrine of Discovery, and asked that we consider the reparations that might be appropriate out of this sale. How does our use of these funds, and indeed of all Yearly Meeting resources, reflect our testimony of integrity?
We accepted the report of the Ad Hoc Legacy Gift Discernment Committee. The clerk informed the body that this proposal would come back to us for approval later in the week and urged individuals to approach the Ad Hoc Legacy Gift Discernment Committee with questions and comments.
2014-45 Holly Baldwin, clerk of Permanent Board, reported that we review the Purposes and Procedures for all our committees every three years. She brought the revised Purposes and Procedures for the Friends Camp Committee for approval. She reported that this year Friends Camp received accreditation from the American Camping Association for the first time.
Jeremiah Dickinson from the Ad Hoc Friends Camp Governance Committee reported on the proposed revisions to the purposes and procedures for the Friends Camp Committee. The Friends Camp Committee is different from other committees because it is responsible for the liabilities of running a camp and it deals with the management, acquisition and disposition of property. The committee needs people with specific skills and to include non-Friends, such as people from the South China community, who have an interest in the Camp.
The closing and sale of Friends Home raised significant concerns about Yearly Meeting’s oversight of programs under its care. At the prompting of our current Friends Camp Director, Nat Shed, and with his full support and participation, Permanent Board established an ad-hoc Committee on Friends Camp Governance. Working from an understanding that Friends Camp continues to be a vital ministry of the Yearly Meeting, the ad-hoc committee sought to clarify and strengthen the relationship of Yearly Meeting and Friends Camp. This revised Purpose and Procedures for Friends Camp Committee is the result of that work. A more detailed document, the beginnings of an Operations Manual for the Camp Committee, that outlines more fully committee responsibilities and structures was also developed and is available on the NEYM web site.
Purpose: The Friends Camp Committee ensures that the mission of Friends Camp is fulfilled and acts on behalf of New England Yearly Meeting to ensure that these areas of oversight and fiscal responsibility are attended to properly. The Friends Camp Committee is part of the governing structure for Friends Camp, and shares its duties and responsibilities with the Permanent Board, the Yearly Meeting Sessions and, on a limited basis, the Yearly Meeting Secretary. In recognition of the Camp’s unique place in the Yearly Meeting organization, the areas of responsibility are delineated:
1. Initiation of the sale and purchase of property will be by the Committee. Final authorization will be by Permanent Board.
2. The hiring, probation and dismissal of the Camp Director is the responsibility of Sessions or its designated representative. Supervision and evaluation of the Director is the responsibility of the Committee.
3. Permanent Board will implement and maintain a successful nomination structure for the Friends Camp Committee.
4. NEYM Finance Committee will provide ongoing financial oversight, with regular professional reviews every third year, or more often as needed.
5. Approval of all loans, lines of credit, and mortgages lasting more than twelve months or beyond the end of the fiscal year will rest with Permanent Board.
6. All payments and debts that cannot be paid out of Friends Camp accounts will be appropriately assumed by the NEYM general operating accounts.
7. The Committee will define and implement the vision and short and long-term objectives to fulfill the mission of Friends Camp as determined by NEYM at Sessions.
8. The Committee will arrange for outside review every third year by the American Camp Association’s accreditation system, the cost to be included in the NEYM operating budget.
9. The Committee will coordinate with Permanent Board to convene an ad hoc Friends Camp Review Committee every five years that will focus on one or more queries, such as: What is the mission of Friends Camp? How are Quaker values integrated into the programs and schedule at Friends Camp? What is the financial health of Friends Camp? What is the condition of the physical plant at Friends Camp? Is this work an ongoing and vital ministry of the Yearly Meeting? Or any other issues of interest or concern.
Procedures: Friends Camp Committee members shall be appointed by the Friends Camp Nominating Committee, which shall consist of two persons appointed by the Clerk of the Friends Camp Committee and three persons appointed by the Internal Nominating Committee of the Yearly Meeting Permanent Board. Appointments to the Friends Camp Nominating Committee shall be for two years, with an option for reappointment.
When making appointments to the Friends Camp Committee, the Nominating Committee for Friends Camp will seek members who have experience and skills in finance, development, property management, personnel, business/not-for-profit leadership, education, accounting, law, youth services, and Quaker service and process.
The number of Friends Camp Committee members shall be at least seven and no more than fifteen, at least two thirds of whom shall be members or active attenders of a Friends meeting in New England. Meetings of the Committee shall be held three or four times each year after the manner of Friends.
Friends approved the Purposes and Procedures as presented as a working document. It will be brought back to us next year. One Friend stood aside from this decision out of concern for legal liability issues.
2014-46 Holly Baldwin from Permanent Board brought a significant reworking of the Youth Programs Committee purposes and procedures for our approval, including a change of name to the Youth Ministries Committee. Sarah Gant from the Permanent Board working group on this issue reported on the changes to the committee’s purposes and procedures. She presented Sam Gant as an example of someone who has grown up in the Yearly Meeting and is now serving on JHYM staff. She too brought tomatoes as a visual example of the fruits of the work of our youth ministries. Sam later demonstrated how the committee juggles its work by juggling these tomatoes.
Half of our JHYM staff at Sessions this year are people who grew up in our youth programs. The single most important factor in a 14-year-old becoming an active adult member of their denomination is a personal relationship with a mentor. This is what our youth ministries do.
Friends approved the following new purposes and procedures of the Youth Ministries Committee:
Purpose: The Youth Ministries Committee oversees the vitality and relevance of NEYM’s youth ministries to nurture the spiritual growth and leadership of children and youth of Friends in New England.
Procedures: The committee acts as trustees to discern program design needs, and to implement and evaluate programming. The committee provides spiritual guidance and oversees right ordering of administrative aspects of youth programs—health and welfare of children; policy and procedures; ethical, legal and fiscal issues. The committee ensures that programs are a partnership between the staff, parents and all members of our spiritual community, and advocates for the needs of NEYM youth, families and youth workers. The committee ensures that programming is vital and relevant to current needs.
The Yearly Meeting (YM) Secretary supervises youth program staff. The staff attend committee meetings to communicate the reality and needs of youth work. The committee supports, mentors and recognizes the staff in meeting the needs of youth ministries. Committee membership should reflect the theological and economic diversity within the YM, and have experience and skills in working with youth.
2014-47 Friends approved the following members of the clerk’s table to begin service at the rise of Sessions 2014:
Presiding Clerk: Jacqueline Stillwell
Rising Clerk: Fritz Weiss (to begin serving as presiding clerk at the rise of Sessions 2015)
Recording Clerk: Will Taber
Recording Clerk: Rachel Walker Cogbill (Plainfield)
Reading Clerk: Susan Davies
Reading Clerk: Andrew Grannell
Friends approved the following four minutes as part of the Unity Agenda:
2014-48 Friends accepted the NEYM staff reports.
2014-49 Friends accepted the reports from our boards, committees and representatives.
2014-50 We approve the recommendations from Permanent Board to continue the employment of Nat Shed as director for Friends Camp and Noah Baker Merrill as Yearly Meeting Secretary for the FY2015 Fiscal Year.
2014-51 Friends approved the following bank resolutions:
- That Ben Guaraldi be appointed New England Yearly Meeting Treasurer for the ensuing year or until a successor is appointed and qualified.
- That Elizabeth Muench be appointed Friends Camp Treasurer for the ensuing year or until a successor is appointed and qualified. The Friends Camp Treasurer will work under the oversight of the NEYM Treasurer and the Friends Camp Director.
- That the NEYM Treasurer be authorized to open and close bank accounts in the name of New England Yearly Meeting as needed.
- That the Friends Camp Treasurer be authorized to open and close bank accounts in the name of Friends Camp as needed.
- That the NEYM Treasurer, immediate past Treasurer, clerk of Permanent Board, and the Yearly Meeting Secretary be designated as alternate signers, individually, of all bank accounts of New England Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, except those checks for greater than $5,000, which shall require the sig natures of two signers from the list above.
- That the Friends Camp Director, the Friends Camp Treasurer, and a designated member of the Friends Camp Committee be authorized, individually, as signers of the Friends Camp bank accounts, except those checks for greater than $5,000, which shall require the signatures of two signers from the list above.
2014-52 Friends approved the revised purposes and procedures for the following committees: Coordinating and Advisory, Development, Earthcare Ministry, Faith and Practice Revision, FWCC Committee, and Publications and Communications. [The text of the Purposes, Procedures and Composition for these committees are included in the Minute Book.]
The Finance Committee purposes and procedures were not ready for approval.
2014-53 Recognizing all the ways that Friends in NEYM are representing us to other Quaker bodies around the world, Marian Baker listed some of the important work we are doing as a Yearly Meeting to building spiritual bridges. To understand our own place in the Quaker world we need to share our experiences of community with Friends elsewhere. Marian, president of the United Society of Friends Women–New England, spoke about her own experiences with the burgeoning women’s meetings in Uganda, watching with reverence their empowering transformations, as women stand tall in ministry.
Len Cadwallader (Hanover) described how our Puente de Amigos builds bridges. Bruce Kay (Storrs) has visited Cuba Yearly Meeting’s new Peace Institute, and Benigno Sánchez-Eppler and Susan Furry have served on the faculty there. Many NEYM Friends, including Len and Mary Ann Cadwallader, Penny Wright (Hanover), Erica Brinton (Hanover), Craig Putnam (Hanover), Fritz Weiss, Paula Rossvall (Hanover), and Jacqueline Stillwell traveled to Cuba this year to attend Cuba Yearly Meeting Sessions and support the new sister meeting relationship between Hanover meeting and the meeting in Havana. Len described a puppet show about diversity presented by the great-granddaughter of the first Cuban Quaker minister. We have tended this deep, multifaceted relationship with Cuba for over 20 years now. This sense of generations of growing trust has been a great source of spiritual growth and joy among us.
Many Friends attended the FUM Triennial and Jonathan Vogel-Borne (Cambridge) spoke of his experience there. He has only missed one FUM gathering over the last 20 years, and felt something different in this one, a true sense of Spirit moving. The General Board of FUM has minuted that they were not in unity with the sexual ethics section of the Personnel Policy. At this triennial, with many African representatives in the room but none from Uganda, the General Board took up the question of how to respond to the new laws in Uganda outlawing homosexuality. The concerns voiced centered on the need to hear from Ugandan Friends. The Executive Board of FUM is now more truly representative than it has ever been, with far greater African representation than ever before. We may still feel need for more transformations, but through its own hard work of restructuring, FUM governance is now coming to truly represent Friends across the world. NEYM Friends Jay Smith (Concord), Leslie Manning (Durham), Ann Dodd-Collins (Winthrop Center Friends Church), Jacqueline Stillwell, Ken Haase (Beacon Hill), Rosemary Zimmerman (South Starksboro), David Haines (Wellesley), Nancy Haines, Kristna Evans (North Shore), Eden Grace (Beacon Hill), and Marian Baker all attended the FUM Triennial.
Nataly Moran (Smithfield), Jonathan Vogel-Borne, Dorothy Grannell, Cynthia Ganung, Elizabeth Cazden (Providence), and Mary Hopkins (Fresh Pond) participated in the FWCC Section of the Americas gatherings this year. Elizabeth Cazden is serving FWCC at the world level, as clerk of the Central Executive Committee. Mary Hopkins reported on the FWCC Section of the Americas gathering in El Salvador, with its enormous variety of nations, variations of Spanish, and diverse forms of worship. Visiting among Friends it is clear that everywhere Friends want more intervisitation, more puentes de amor. There is much we can learn about spirit, about witness, and about good stewardship from our relationships with Friends in other places.
Donn Weinholtz (Hartford) spoke as our representative to both Friends Committee on National Legislation and Friends Association for Higher Education and described the ever-closer interconnection between FCNL’s lobby work and programming and FAHE efforts to foster Quaker values in higher education. The synergy he has found in his work with both organizations demonstrates how we strengthen our ministries when our Quaker organizations work together. Because of George Fox University’s decision not to provide general dorm housing to a transgender student, FAHE reconsidered their plan to meet at the George Fox campus next year. They have now decided to meet there and to prominently include presentations and discussions of transgender identity in their conference programming, an effort to stay in conversation about sexuality and gender identity with Friends from all branches of Quakerism that resonates with NEYM’s long experience as a member of FUM.
We also celebrate the many other Friends who serve as representatives to other Quaker organizations: Marian Baker, president of USFW–New England; Nancy Shippen (Acton), Friends Peace Teams; Will Jennings-Hess (Beacon Hill), William Penn House; Rod Zwirner (Beacon Hill), Quaker Earthcare Witness; Sara Burke (Beacon Hill), Martha McManamy (Amesbury), Carole Rein (North Shore), Ann Nash (Wellesley), AFSC; Susanna Thomas (Storrs), Donn Weinholtz, Kaj Telenar (Wellesley), Rod Zwirner, Scott Drysdale (Hanover), Katherine Fisher (Beacon Hill), FCNL; Penny Wright, David Haines, Don Mick (Hartford), Elise Person (Cambridge), Michelle Riendeau (Wellesley), FGC; Ed Mair (Amesbury), Friends Mutual Health Group (FMHG) Board of Directors.
Many Friends serve as representatives to ecumenical groups: Leslie Manning on the Maine Council of Churches, Betsy Morse (Hanover) and Marian Baker on the New Hampshire Council of Churches, Dorothy Carlsten (Providence) on the Rhode Island Council of Churches, Kathleen Kelly (Cambridge) on the Massachusetts Council of Churches, Rachel Guaraldi (Beacon Hill) as chair of the Board of Christian Peacemaker Teams, and Christopher McCandless (Burlington) on the Vermont Ecumenical Council and Bible Society. Christopher reported that the Vermont Ecumenical Society is struggling with shrinking church membership and attendance in many denominations. The Council has done good work with immigrant communities and in the distribution of Bibles in prisons. Christopher has felt the value of Quaker presence in this organization in modeling Quaker decision-making process. The Council now makes its decisions through consensus, and the practices of silent waiting have crept into the Council’s meeting practices in addition to formal prayer.
FWCC at the world level will be trying something new this year. World Quaker Day will be the first Sunday in October; think about how your Monthly Meeting could participate in this project of learning about Friends around the world.
While we gather here at Sessions this summer Benigno Sánchez-Eppler is traveling in Peru and Bolivia with the FWCC Quaker Youth Pilgrimage.
We recognized that this year a representative to Friends General Conference was not invited to speak in this presentation of our links to the wider Quaker community. They too are a wider Quaker body that does much to support the work of NEYM. We value and recognize the importance of this organization and our rich relationship with it as well.
Let us follow our leadings and go forth, and not just sit.
2014-54 Lisa Appleton (Mount Toby) from the Correspondence Committee read a draft of our General Epistle.
Wednesday Evening, August 6, 2014
2014-55 Out of our opening worship, the reading clerks read the Epistle from our sister Cuba Yearly Meeting. They affirmed and answered the call to “be the living body of Christ.” They give thanks to God for the continuation of the program of the Cuba Peace Institute. They celebrated the birth of the new Monthly Meeting of Pueblo Nuevo. They received with affection visitors from Monadnock and Hanover Monthly Meetings of New England Yearly Meeting. They are centered on the mission to which the Spirit of the Lord calls us: to serve and heal, to proclaim, to break the chains which bind us and prevent us from responding to the cry of Christ, which is visible in every human face and in the groans of suffering nature. Norge Alvarez from Cuba Yearly Meeting then read, in Spanish, the letter of introduction for our Cuban visitors.
2014-56 The presiding clerk shared with us that something is rising in us, but its shape is not yet clear. This feels both risky and exciting. There are many things in motion among us now. We are afraid that this thing we love might die, lost through deficit spending; we are afraid that it may die through restricting our spending in ways that stifle our ministry and the life we feel bubbling amongst us. We are being called to be transformed into something new that is emerging, that we can’t quite see yet.
2014-57 The presiding clerk read the following minute on long-term planning and financial sustainability:
2014-58 Jeremiah Dickinson reported on the work of the Finance Committee, both in the months before Sessions and here at Sessions. Through listening, they heard concerns about the long-term projections to achieve a balanced budget, about the cuts to beneficences, and about the relationship between income from individuals and income from monthly meetings. The Finance Committee has revised the budget to reflect what they have heard through this listening. At the prior business session, Finance Committee spoke and you listened; at listening sessions you spoke and Finance Committee listened; now let us listen together.
The Finance Committee apologized for the oversight in not communicating with the clerks and NEYM committees office, FUM, and FWCC before making the decision to cut the donations to these wider Quaker organizations to which we belong.
The Finance Committee made specific changes to the FY2015 budget to reflect an anticipated increase in income from Sessions program fees and an anticipated decrease in Sessions costs as a result of our experience at Castleton this year. So we all need to come back next year! $25,000 from the Legacy Gift Fund has been added to enable us to reinstate the gifts to FGC, FUM, and FWCC that were cut in the draft of the budget initially submitted to Sessions. The revised FY2015 budget shows a projected $44,424 deficit to be drawn from operating reserves, rather than the $59,554 shown on the draft budget initially submitted.
2014-59 The revised budget was approved, including the use of $25,000 from the Legacy Gift fund.
2014-60 Friends shared the following reflections after approval of the budget: Money is power, but we need to spend it to build our ministries; it is not powerful if it sits in the bank. We are a church, not a non-profit organization. Just as we heard in Bible Half Hour, the Quaker meetings of the 17th century continued to meet when all the adults were imprisoned; surely we have enough faith that we are held by God and are doing God’s work, to trust that we will not “die.” It is good to acknowledge the fears that have been with us through this process, but also to recognize how our trust and the tempering of our trust are both real and rich aspects of our seeking in our corporate life together.
The decision to take $25,000 from the Legacy Gift Fund in the drawing of this budget was of necessity done with no real time for discernment by the Legacy Gift Discernment Committee. This was difficult for some members of the committee who feel strongly their responsibility to think with care about the use of this gift. Dinah Starr, whose mother, Polly Starr, gave her home with a vision that this beautiful house could be a place of rest and care for the elderly, noted that wonderfully it has been sold in a way that maintains this purpose. She believes that her mother would be glad to see the proceeds from this sale used to help to strengthen the Yearly Meeting and its living visions now.
A Friend asked that in drawing up future budgets the Finance Committee consider increasing the percentage of our budget devoted to committee work. The clerk expressed the gathered body’s deep appreciation for the Finance Committee, their faithful wrestling throughout this budget process, and the Grace and vision that have come to them and to us in this discernment.
2014-61 Suzanna Schell, clerk of the Ad Hoc Legacy Gift Discernment Committee, reported that the committee has undertaken a long, inclusive process to seek guidance guided by the query, “This money is a gift from the past to the future. How could this money help New England Friends answer God’s call?” YAFs and others expressed a clear desire that this gift be an opportunity for us to let the living waters flow through us in new and powerful ways. The Permanent Board has felt growing excitement as they followed the work of the committee. While some of us are thirsting for a clearer sense of vision, others are yearning for a clearer sense of the details of how we will move forward.
Friends were reminded that this is not our money. It is God’s money. We have been given a legacy that is greater than any dollars, cents, pounds and shillings. How are we going to spread that legacy, the legacy of the Word of God that we have received? We were reminded that we are an incarnate body and hold this money in trust.
There was a sense of disappointment expressed that what had started as a quest to capture a bold new vision that would mobilize and energize us, had turned into what appeared to be the establishment of another grant-making body. Yet we need to provide some structure for the use of this gift to provide the channels through which the living waters can flow.
There were some Friends who, while not standing aside, were not fully clear.
2014-62 Holding all of this in our hearts, we approved the following for the Legacy Gift funds: the immediate release of $100,000 to Friends Camp for the retirement of its mortgages and for its infrastructure improvements, and the use of $25,000 as part of the operating funds in FY2015. We approved the remainder of the Ad Hoc Legacy Gift Discernment Committee recommendations (included below), directing the new Legacy Gift Committee to use the first year to develop guidelines and clarity of vision. This new committee will report to Sessions next year before any additional funds are disbursed.
Ad Hoc Legacy Gift Discernment Committee Recommendations
1. The establishment of two designated funds: Legacy Designated Fund A with $750,000, and Legacy Designated Fund B, with the remaining balance (approx. $350,000). Both funds will be used for the specific purposes described below.
- The Legacy Designated Fund A ($750,000) will be temporarily designated for 10 years. An amount from this fund, managed to keep its endowed principal intact, will be released once annually, as a single grant or multiple grants.
- The Legacy Designated Fund A will be reviewed in 10 years to discern whether this designation is still serving the Yearly Meeting or if the funds should be put to another use. Change in the designation requires approval at Annual Sessions.
- The Legacy Designated Fund B will receive the remainder of the proceeds. Assets of Fund B, available in their entirety, will be used for grants and/or loans, and will be available on an ongoing basis, in whole or in part, to qualified recipients during the life of the fund.
- Grants and/or loans from both funds will be awarded to support the ministries of NEYM, both within and beyond New England, and will be made to committees of NEYM, its constituent monthly or quarterly meetings; to bodies of NEYM (e.g., NEYM staff, Young Friends, Young Adult Friends); as well as to individual members of NEYM monthly meetings under the direct care and oversight of one of the aforementioned committees, meetings or bodies of NEYM (e.g., for the release of a Friend to carry out work in the ministries of NEYM).
2. That NEYM establish the Legacy Gift Committee (LGC) to develop guidelines and application procedures for both funds and, once the guidelines are established, to oversee details of the governance, policy, investment and distribution of assets related to both funds.
- The Legacy Gift Committee will be made up of at least six members of constituent monthly meetings of NEYM, ideally with representation from each of the quarters of NEYM, each serving three-year renewable terms. Additionally, the LGC may include Quakers who are outside of NEYM Yearly Meeting.
- The Yearly Meeting Nominating Committee will be responsible for discerning committee members as part of its annual nominating process.
- Some members of the LGC should have grant-making or other philanthropic experience. Members of the LGC should not be vested in any specific use of the funds.
- The LGC will report on its activities at NEYM Sessions each year. Additionally, the LGC will organize a minimum of one workshop per year, funded as necessary by one of the Funds, to educate NEYM on topics related to fiscal responsibility, stewardship, and accountability. Topics could be specific to, for example, accounting methods, creating a budget, reading financial statements, financing capital improvements, fundraising, etc., or of a more general, philosophical nature; for example, exploring what Quaker testimonies and values call to us as managers, employees and volunteers in service to NEYM, its constituent monthly and quarterly meetings, committees and, indeed, the wider world.
2014-63 This gathering approved delegating the approval of the Nominating Committee slate to Permanent Board. The slate will be posted at breakfast and outside this room, allowing Friends to speak with members of Nominating Committee if they have concerns.
2014-64 Out of worship we heard a memorial minute for Gordon Harris, Lewiston Friends Meeting.
Bible Half Hours
2014-65 Tom Gates lived among Friends in New England when he was led to work at the Lugulu Friends Hospital in Kenya. Since then he has lived and worked in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and has written a number of Pendle Hill pamphlets. He has returned to New England to give our Bible Half Hours this year.
On Sunday morning he asked us, “Is your God big enough?” He reminded us that we commit idolatry any time we worship a lesser god. The spiritual life is a successive smashing of images and idols that would limit God. God is transcendent. God is always More. The images of transcendence in the Bible, of a king in the sky who rules over the earth and the earthly kings, may not work for us anymore. But God’s transcendence can still be seen in and through and behind all of the created world. God is still transcendent and we are still called to be God’s witnesses.
On Monday, he asked us, “Is your God close enough?” The notion of a transcendent God became the dominant theme of Christianity at around the time of Augustine. Early Friends were trying to recapture Immanence. Transcendence and Immanence exist in creative tension. God is in us as a witness. Friends spoke of the witness of God in the heart. The Light is not one more thing we see but it is the means by which we see everything. We all must discover this immanent God ourselves; we cannot simply inherit faith. God has no grandchildren.
On Tuesday he asked us “Is our God real enough?” Is God real enough to make a difference in our lives, real enough to transform us? We may not be genealogical descendants from early Friends but we can become their spiritual descendants by adopting their stories as our own. It is possible and necessary to have an immediate relationship with God. If our experience of God has no impact on our lives, it is not true. Early Friends spoke of their Testimony in the singular because the Truth was one. Their life was the testimony. Their whole lives bore witness to the power of the Light. If we are to understand the witness of Friends we must come to understand the terror and the power of the Light. What would Truth look like today? Can we find new ways to do Truth?
On Wednesday he asked us, “In today’s broken world how is love and truth leading us to be doers of the word? In the beginning days of the 21st century, what is love calling us to be witnesses to?” Starting from James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves,” he asked us what we are doing now. Testimony begins with our own spiritual practice, in our own listening. A renewed Quaker testimony might have the following characteristics: It is likely to start small, to be more like yeast than the whole loaf. It might be local in scope and still expressive of a larger truth. We are called to find our success in our faithfulness. It will be personal. It is what we are called to. It will be joyful. Testimony comes from the place where our joy meets the suffering of the world. If our spiritual Truth does not transform us, it is not truth but self-deception.
On Thursday Tom took us back to the days of ancient empires and how the claim that Jesus is Lord was a subversive political statement as well as a statement of spiritual truth. “By the rivers of Babylon, we wept.” It was out of the crucible of exile that the resilient Jewish community of Torah and Sabbath was created. This experience also gave rise to some of the most powerful ancient poetry. America admires itself as the something exceptional, a city on the hill. But we have also become a successor to Babylon. One of the powers of empire is to convince us that nothing can change. History tells us that empires continue until they fall. If we are to be God’s witness, what do we witness to? As peace was a primary focus of Friends’ work in the 20th century, work for a sustainable world will be our focus. We start from a place of gratitude for the world that God has given us. “God did not form the world to be chaos but as a form to be lived in.” Out of gratitude we gain an increased awareness of the world, both the good and the bad. The next step is to recognize our pain rather than to avoid and deny it. What we need to do is to hear within us the sound of the earth crying. We must notice and acknowledge. The third step is to see with new eyes. We must see the new things that God is working among us even now. When we see with new eyes, we will see that it is not a question of us saving the world, but of the world saving us. The final step is going forth. We need to go forth in clarity of vision. How are we called to be God’s witness? What is our testimony to today’s world?
Thursday Morning, August 7, 2014
2014-66 We heard the Epistle from the United Society of Friends Women (USFW), Uganda Yearly Meeting. 150 delegates from Friends’ churches from almost all regions of the country attended, as well as women from other African yearly meetings. Also attending was NEYM’s own Marian Baker, president of USFW–New England. The USFW Uganda Yearly Meeting gathered under the theme “Let us come and reason together.” The gathering was challenged to recognize the distance from God that we create by not tithing and by not giving ourselves fully to God’s work. They shared their experiences with ministries in sustainable agriculture, women’s education, and women’s involvement in evangelism and in income-generating activities. A small yearly meeting, they feel the need for more evangelism for the Gospel to spread more effectively to all people.
2014-67 Out of worship we heard a memorial minute for Andrew Towl, Friends Meeting at Cambridge.
2014-68 Friends accepted all of the memorial minutes heard at Sessions. We expressed gratitude for these minutes and for the luminous Spirit-filled lives they record. These lives have been and are continuing gifts to each of us and to our communal life together.
This year we felt regret that there was not time in our meetings to reflect on and respond to these memorial minutes. We ask Sessions committee to consider how we might schedule more time to reflect on memorial minutes next year.
2014-69 Margaret Cooley for Ministry & Counsel presented a revised version of the proposal to extend the FUM financial withholding policy.
One of the consistent things we have heard over this week is that we are tired of talking about this issue, yet the issue is still with us. Whenever there is space made to talk about our relationship with FUM, Friends come and talk and listen some more. Members of the working group on our relationship with FUM themselves carry many very different perspectives on this relationship. They know that over this year, and indeed over the many years before this one, Ministry and Counsel has striven to listen for the place of unity amongst our many strong feelings.
We are in pain as a body around issues of sexual ethics, both in our relationship with FUM and in the struggles with these issues within NEYM. Ministry and Counsel commended all of the work that is and has been done carrying a wide array of ministries to “sexual minorities” (the term used by the African Great Lakes Initiative). They also commend the work being done by our own working group on sexual ethics. Ministry and Counsel brought forward the following proposal:
We recommend that NEYM extend the FUM financial withholding policy for the next five years, to be re-assessed no later than NEYM Sessions in August of 2019 (and sooner if significant changes occur before then).
We understand that this work is ongoing, and we expect it to continue. Based on what we’ve heard over the past year, and in the past few days here at Sessions, we’re offering the following specific ways forward to provide more accountability for that work.
While the withholding policy is in place, we recommend the following actions:
- FUM Committee report each year at Sessions on any developments within FUM related to the personnel policy.
- M&C report each year at Sessions about developments and activities within the YM related to the personnel policy and to sexual minorities.
- In order to raise awareness of the broader context of FUM and to regularly update Friends around the YM about FUM, we ask the FUM Committee to establish mechanisms for keeping monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings better informed about the activities and services of FUM.
- There are those among us for whom the personnel policy and the continuing persecution of people because of their sexuality causes significant pain. We need to care for those in our midst and in the wider world who live with this pain. We ask M&C and the FUM Committee to provide space for continuing dialogue about the FUM personnel policy and about sexual ethics and include this work in their reports to Sessions.
- We strongly encourage Friends at the individual, monthly, quarterly and yearly meeting levels to consider ways to actively support equal rights regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identification. We ask M&C to identify and implement a mechanism to coordinate resources for monthly and quarterly meetings:
- to learn about and respond to injustices within NEYM and in the wider world,
- to support those affected, directly and indirectly, by those injustices, and
- to provide financial, logistical and spiritual aid to organizations and movements working to promote equal rights and to protect those whose well-being is in danger because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Friends spoke to our recognition that in our prayers over our relationship with FUM, we are engaging with the practices and wounds of racism, elitism, homophobia and xenophobia amongst us. It is the power of those wounds that keeps the struggle with this issue so alive among us, and Friends expressed gratitude for these “stumbling blocks.” We grieve that we continue to need a temporary financial accommodation because we still lack unity on this topic.
2014-70 We recognize that we have been exhorted to take personal action on many different issues during these Sessions. We are reminded that each of us needs to seek direction from our Inner Guide as to which of these actions we are personally led to live into; none of us can diligently witness to all of these ministries at once.
2014-71 Friends testified to the way in which the new “pay-as-led” policy for Sessions registration has wrought a real change toward inclusiveness, a true welcoming of all, whatever they can pay toward Sessions fees. A tax resister reported what an enormous lifting of spirit this new practice brought. Another Friend spoke of how she was able, in her registration, to share with others the abundance which she has received. What may seem a small alteration in our billing practices has proved, in truth, a social and economic justice initiative of real tenderness among us. It appears, moreover, not only to be a more just way to conduct our economic life together, but also has for the first time in many years resulted in session fees income actually exceeding budgeted expectations.
2014-72 We sang together as the children joined us.
2014-73 With a clown nose and borrowed “stubby” hands, Yearly Meeting Secretary Noah Baker Merrill and Treasurer Ben Guaraldi collaborated in reporting Session statistics.
Enthusiastic gratitude was expressed for the work of our Sessions Coordinator, Kathleen Wooten. This job is not a marathon but a relay, and she is very aware of all the many hands among whom the baton has been passed. There are 51 other weeks of the year; this union does not have to end here at Castleton. We still have the keys to the kingdom of God. Room keys, however, do need to be returned by 3 p.m.
709 Friends attended Sessions this year, more than we have had in the last four years. 805 was our attendance record just before 2008, so we are hopeful that we are rebounding. 64 Friends were attending Sessions for the first time. There are many children and YAFs at this gathering, but looking at our age breakdown we are aware that nearly half of those in attendance are over 60 years old.
In this first experiment with “pay-as-led,” 38% of Friends paid the recommended fee, 28% of Friends paid more than the recommended fee, and 34% of Friends paid less than the recommended fee, including some Friends who were able to be with us without any financial payment.
In sum, more people came. For the first time in many years we met our direct expenses for Sessions and substantially contributed to our indirect expenses and staff costs. We received $203,724 in direct Sessions fees, and in addition there were donations to equalization from both individuals and monthly meetings in excess of budgeted equalization expectations.
2014-74 We heard a draft of the NEYM General Epistle and made suggestions for final revisions to the Correspondence Committee.
2014-75 We heard and accepted the reports from our visitors to the other business meetings that are a part of NEYM.
We did not hear a report from the 0–4 age group because the appointed visitor left early because she became ill.
Anne Nash and Thomas Bigda-Payton visited the K–2nd grade. They were impressed that the program was informal but very intentional. Our children are indeed being nurtured and their spirits developed in this ministry of listening, caring and collaborating. God be praised.
Skip Schiel visited 3rd–4th grade. The resource people work to anticipate problems like fidgeting. The children also showed collaboration in making puppets together.
Reb MacKenzie and Mary Gilbert reported on the 5th–6th grade. One young seeker, aged 6, said, “What I’ve learned over time is, if you want to find God, you need to make your mind quiet.” They felt deep support for the staff and their work with these creative and sensitive youth. It is always a pleasure to see and hear young people doing Quaker process.
Bonnie Norton reported on her visit to Junior High YM. She felt nourished in their worship. Throughout her time with them she noticed that they seemed to be comfortable with themselves, each other and with the silence.
Carolyn Stone and Phil Veatch visited Young Friends. They found a caring, tightly bonded group. When a friend speaks, or when they are in waiting for words to come, there is an active silence that is full of engagement. They saw the Young Friends work on being aware that in all groups there are those in the mainstream and those in the margins. In their discussion, they acknowledged their own roles at times in each category. If these are the rising leaders of our Yearly Meeting, then Carolyn and Phil are feeling very good about our future.
Jan Hoffman and Regina MacCarthy visited the Young Adult Friends. One of them played “A Big Wind Blows” for the first time and she learned a number of things. They saw a group in which fun, Spirit-led activity, work for the Yearly Meeting, and worship form a loving community.
2014-76 We heard and accepted the Epistles from all the business meetings that comprise NEYM.