Puente de Amigos

Purpose

Puente de Amigos Committee (Bridge of Friends) fosters a spiritual relationship, based on mutual respect, equality, and love between New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) and Cuba Yearly Meeting (CYM) to which both meetings have been corporately called. Since 1991 the relationship with Cuba Yearly Meeting has been an important part of the religious life of New England Yearly Meeting, and the committee works to support the continuation of this ministry.

Procedures

The full committee meets for business 2–4 times during the year, including meetings at Annual Yearly Meeting Sessions. Puente de Amigos has an Executive Committee that makes needed decisions between committee meetings. There are also ad hoc Orientation and Discernment Committees formed to work with New England friends interested in representing NEYM in Cuba that can bring recommendations to the full committee, as there is a rigorous discernment process for those seeking a religious visa.

The Puente de Amigos committee builds relationships with Cuban Quakers by arranging exchanges of religious visitors between the two yearly meetings and encouraging ongoing connection through pairings of Cuban and New England monthly meetings called sister meetings.

The committee arranges for delegates from Cuba Yearly Meeting to attend NEYM Annual Sessions and to visit local meetings and participate in other Friends activities. It provides simultaneous Spanish interpretation at NEYM Annual Sessions, and offers a number of activities that highlight our relationship with Spanish-speaking Friends, such as hosting a “Puente table” at meals for those interested in meeting the visitors from CYM and facilitating a Spanish language anchor group. When possible, the committee also invites Cuban Friends, who are in the United States on other business, to visit New England. This work is supported by relationships with other Friends’ organizations that are interested in knowing Cuban Friends, such as the Friends United Meeting, the Miami Friends Church, and the Friends World committee for Consultation-Section of the Americas. The committee works to maintain relationships with these organizations.

Intervisitation pushes us to seek discernment and to learn from others. When gathered together with Cuban Friends—our siblings—members of the committee wrestle with emotional topics such as the balance between truth-telling and confidentiality and the implications of material wealth on relationships with beloved Friends who have fewer economic resources. Together we participate in programmed and unprogrammed worship, which may include singing, Bible reading, and vocal prayer, as we invite God’s presence to guide us.

The committee is explicitly authorized by the Yearly Meeting to raise funds to cover costs involved in religious visitation between the two yearly meetings. They may address needs for material assistance as identified by Cuban Friends (such as medicine and eyeglasses). These efforts should be coordinated as part of the development efforts of the Yearly Meeting as a whole. Any commitments which may have legal ramifications, such as an application for a travel license or a representation of Yearly Meeting commitments in support of a Cuban traveler's visa application, must be authorized by the clerk of Permanent Board, the Presiding Clerk, or the YM Secretary. In such cases the committee is responsible for understanding the situation and providing advice and recommendations to the Permanent Board or the Presiding Clerk.

Committee Resources

Composition

  • Puente de Amigos Committee has nine members serving staggered 3-year terms. Members may serve a second consecutive term. It has been the stated practice to have anyone who has served six years in a row to take at least one year off.
  • Clerks are appointed for a 3-year term. The clerk’s term on the committee may be extended to permit them to serve the full 3 years.
  • The committee establishes an executive committee of past clerks and emeritus members who can make time-sensitive decisions at the clerks’ request between Puente Committee meetings. The decisions are then brought to the next Puente meeting. The executive committee is confirmed annually by the committee.
  • Because of the special skills needed by clerks of Puente (Spanish, familiarity with the law and procedures involved in sending representatives of NEYM to Cuba) it’s advisable for the clerk to have been involved with the work of the committee before they are named. It is helpful to select and train a rising clerk from within the committee. The Nominating Committee will consult with Puente members before the Nominating Committee names an individual to serve as the rising clerk.
  • The committee collaborates with the Yearly Meeting Nominating Committee in finding members for the committee. Sometimes there are Friends who are willing to stay on the committee and/or have asked us to be on the committee who we recommend to be nominated.
  • The committee collaborates and has linkages with Permanent Board and with the FWCC and FUM committees, and to the Yearly Meeting body as a whole.
Co-clerks
Em McManamy & Carolyn Stone