Sessions Committee

Purpose

The Sessions planning team exists to plan the schedule and events that make up the annual gathering of Friends in New England. The various events which comprise our annual sessions should reflect a careful consideration of the spiritual condition of the wider body, considering where there is life, where there is not, where there are breakthroughs, patterns and examples of the Spirit; what needs careful attention and care, and what needs lifting up and celebrating.

The purpose of Annual Sessions is understood to to be the following:
Friends gather at Annual Sessions to encourage the ministry and spiritual life of the Religious Society of Friends in New England. We seek to gather in ways that are intergenerational, welcoming, and inclusive. We seek to share our experience of how the Spirit is moving, and the ways it is impeded, to learn from each other, to discern how God is leading us as a People, and to experience Divine Love as it appears in our midst and is revealed in our relationships.

We respond to this purpose through: worship, meetings for corporate discernment, workshops, and opportunities for connection, training, fellowship, play, and celebration. At the heart of these events are the meetings for worship with attention to business where we discern how God is leading us as a people.

We seek to plan Sessions in alignment with NEYM’s discerned and minuted commitments, including those to anti-racism (2003), challenging white supremacy (2016), and addressing climate change (2018, 2020)

Procedures

  • Throughout the planning, Friends are charged with removing barriers to participation and increasing accessibility for all Friends, paying attention to race, gender, sexual orientation, age, class, ability and care-taking responsibilities (i.e. those parenting or doing elder or personal care). Planning teams are asked to be mindful, regularly using the following queries in their planning:

    How is this program/event/communication accessible? To whom?  How is this program/event/communication inaccessible? To whom? How can we make this program/event/communication more accessible?  What identities are being centered in how we have planned this program/event/communication? What identities are not centered in how we have planned this program/event/communication? How do we know?

  • Sessions planning will occur by designated groups with differing primary functions, which work will be overseen and coordinated by the Sessions Coordination Team. In addition to more general oversight and coordination, the Sessions Coordination Team will draft an overall Sessions schedule for input  by the other functional groups. The Coordination Team also gives final approval to the overall Sessions schedule, and to any needed changes. The coordination team holds the concern for bringing an intergenerational focus to Sessions planning.  
    • Theme and Speakers Team: This group discerns the theme for the following year’s Sessions, and Speakers. It is clerked by the Sessions Clerk.
    • Program Team: Focuses on Adult programming, typically including Business meetings, Plenary, Worship, Bible half-hours, small group opportunities, workshops, etc. Clerked by Sessions Clerk.
    • Logistics Team: The Logistics Team will translate specific needs of Adult and Youth programs into physical (room size and numbers), communication (including advance docs, newsletters), and administrative (registration and housing) needs. Clerked by Events Coordinator.
    • Youth Programs Team: Focuses on the programming that will be offered for youth at Sessions, including needs of families and youth, and recruitment of staff. This group will be convened by the Events Coordinator.
       
  • In September of each year, the Coordination Team, the Theme and Speakers Team, and any others they choose to invite will meet to consider the Sessions which just happened. They will consider sessions evaluation forms as well as personal experience, to learn from the recent event. What went well, what challenges were there? What changes might be useful or necessary? How was the spiritual life of Friends in New England nourished and encouraged? How was the life and experience of monthly meetings considered and supported? What work and learning is not yet finished that should be carried over into next year’s Sessions? The conclusions from this gathering should be the foundation and touchstone for all aspects of planning for the coming year. This meeting will be convened and clerked by the Sessions Clerk. The meeting should include those involved in the previous year’s planning who are not otherwise continuing in service.
     
  • Following this meeting, the Theme & Speakers team should meet to consider: their sense of the spiritual condition of the body of Friends who attended (informed by the meeting described above); their sense of how Spirit is moving (or impeded) in the wider body; and wider input, on both potential theme and suggested speakers. This team should distill that sense to a few words or a phrase for the theme, which will be a simple reflection of the work they believe the body needs.
    • This team will then consider what guests should be invited to speak to the gathered body. While most often over the years we have had a plenary speaker on Sunday, and a Bible Half-hour presenter, this group may be led to suggest a different configuration.
    • This team should present the suggested theme and proposed speakers to the Coordination team for approval. The Sessions Clerk should report these to PB for their awareness. Approval by PB is not necessary
    • Upon approval by the Coordination Team, the Presiding Clerk, with support as needed from the Events Coordinator, will contact proposed speakers to formally invite them. Upon their acceptance, the Presiding Clerk will hand off responsibility to the Events Coordinator, who will ensure appropriate follow up and connections with Friends as needed in order to confirm elders and make all other arrangements for their service
    • Once the theme, speakers, and elders are confirmed, this team (excepting the Presiding Clerk and the Sessions Clerk) can consider that their work is done for the year
  •  The Coordination Team may meet occasionally, as needed, through the fall and winter months.
     
  •  Beginning in earnest by March, the functional teams and the Coordination team should begin to meet regularly to translate the perceived needs into specific events and fit those events into a schedule. Events should include:
    • Opportunities to gather in worship
    • Business meetings
    • Opportunities for learning
    • Opportunities for sharing and relationship-building
    • Opportunities for performance, celebrations, special events, and play
  •  In consultation with the Coordination Team and with approval of the YM Secretary, a variety of stipended positions may be established to hold a particular piece of work, (e.g. registrar, housing coordinator, worship coordinator, tech team lead, BIPOC Opportunities Coordinator). Stipended positions will participate in the appropriate functional team, and will be supported by the appropriate staff person, as identified in their role description.
  • The NEYM Office Manager will set the schedule for required submissions, including invitation to sessions, program schedule for publication, advance documents, etc.
  • The YM Secretary has ultimate responsibility for and oversight of implementation, logistics, financial management, liability, pastoral care, legal, and safety concerns for Annual Sessions.

Composition

A Sessions Clerk will be nominated by the Yearly Meeting Nominating Committee. This individual will clerk the Coordination team, the Program Team, and the Theme and Speakers Team. This person will work closely with the Events Coordinator, creating the planning schedule and the agendas for planning meetings in consultation with the coordination team. This person will hold an overview of the planning process and will facilitate significant decisions, where the Events Coordinator will be more involved in the implementation of those decisions.

Regular participants in each of the following groups will likely include the roles below, but may change based on experience and needs, and will often include the invited participation of other Friends depending on needs for consultation, discernment, and implementation. The Session Clerk, the Presiding Clerk, the Events Coordinator, and the YM Secretary will consult on changes in composition or process that may be needed.

The Program Team consists of the Yearly Meeting Secretary, the Presiding Clerk, the Sessions Clerk, the Worship Coordinator, the Events Coordinator, the Quaker Practice and Leadership Facilitator, and a member of the youth ministries staff.

The Logistics Team consists of The Events Coordinator, the Office Manager, and the Tech Team Lead, and the Sessions Clerk

The Youth Programs Team consists of the Events Coordinator, the Junior Yearly Meeting/Junior High Yearly Meeting Coordinator, the Young Friends Event Organizer, and the Quaker Practice and Leadership Facilitator.

The Theme and Speakers Team consists of the Presiding Clerk, the Sessions Clerk and 4-6 other Friends chosen by the Yearly Meeting Nominating Committee, both for their connectedness to the wider body of Friends, and their ability to prayerfully listen to those Friends’ condition.

The Coordination Team consists of representatives from each of the other teams, plus a consistent representative from the Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness working Group.

Note: The above Purpose, Procedure and Composition document was approved by Permanent Board and presented to Sessions. A one-year authorization to use the above document for this year's planning was approved by Permanent Board on September 25, 2021.  It is expected this document will come again to Sessions 2022, for final approval.

Clerk
Rebecca Leuchak
401-941-4776