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2018-1. Opening and Welcome
The presiding clerk, Fritz Weiss (Hanover), opened the meeting with vocal prayer. “My prayer is to remember that my heart is larger than I know; there is room in it for joy. My arms are stronger than I know; there is room in them for blessings.”
We are on Abenaki land, and we received a greeting from Melanie Brook, a citizen of the Elnu Abenaki Band (originally of the land around Castleton and Rutland) and Chair of the Vermont Commission on Native Affairs:
The clerk then welcomed us to the 358th annual gathering of Friends in New England. He introduced our theme “In fear and trembling, be bold in God’s service.”
2018-2 Clerks’ table
Fritz Weiss introduced the rest of the clerks’ table: reading clerks Jeremiah Dickinson (Wellesley) and Katherine Fisher (Beacon Hill), and recording clerks Rosemary Zimmermann (Bennington) and Jim Grace (Beacon Hill, worshipping at West Richmond Friends in Indiana).
2018-3 Roll call
We called the roll of meetings by quarter. Friends from each Quarter then stood as a body.
We note with joy two new worship groups: Islesboro Worship Group (Vassalboro Quarter) and the Orchard Hill Quaker Worship Group (Northwest Quarter).
North Fairfield monthly meeting has been discontinued; we noted this with tenderness.
2018-4 New Babies, First Time Attendees, and Visitors
We waved hello to the new babies among us, celebrated the presence of first time attenders, and introduced some visitors. Throughout the week the following visitors were introduced and welcomed:
Derek DeJager: Reformed Church of America
Bill Hartman: Lancaster, PA, Everence
Mustafa El Hawi: John Woolman College of Active Peace, Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in Gaza, Palestine
Gloria Thompson: FWCC Executive Committee member
Ruth Reber: Friends General Conference
Hoot Williams: Catskills Friends Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting; Friends of Jesus Fellowship
Lyle Miller: Everence Stewardship Consultant
Duncan Sabwa: East Africa Yearly Meeting North
Judith Nandikove: Nairobi Yearly Meeting and United Society of Friends Women
Salomon Medina: El Salvador Yearly Meeting, Coordinator of Alternatives to Violence Project in El Salvador
Hayley Hathaway (Monadnock): Quaker Earthcare Witness, Publications Coordinator
Emma Condori Mamani: Bolivia, Holiness Yearly Meeting; Friends International Bilingual Center in La Paz, Executive Director
Eden Grace (Beacon Hill): Friends United Meeting, Director of Global Ministries
Kristina Keefe-Perry (Fresh Pond): brings greetings from Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting
Jackie Stillwell (Monadnock): Right Sharing of World Resources, General Secretary
Lorena Boswell: Humboldt, Pacific Yearly Meeting, Friends Meeting at Cambridge, Resident Friend
Wendy Cooler: Baltimore Yearly Meeting and Earlham School of Religion
Eric Hanson: Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Adria Gulizia: Chatham-Summit Monthly Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting
Xinef Afriam: Minister of Hope Community Church, Amherst, MA.
Elaine Emily: Strawberry Creek Meeting, Berkeley, CA
Liz Yates (Yearly Meeting News Editor): Austin, South Central Yearly Meeting
Liana Knight (Durham): Center for Courage and Renewal
2018-5 Introduction to the Theme
Our theme this year is “In fear and trembling, be bold in God’s service.” Leslie Manning (Durham) and Beth Collea (Wellesley) led an exploration of that theme.
Worship opened quietly; we viewed a photo montage depicting scenes from Sessions over the past several years. Several of the pictures were of those who have died in recent years; we were grateful to have another glimpse of these Friends.
...even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. (Psalm 139)
Worship continued in a brief reflection on Psalm 139, quoted above; in song; in performative storytelling of the “faith and play” tradition.
“We are gathered under God's special blanket of Love, that can hold all things … Now we are ready for bold faithfulness.”
2018-6 Youth Programs
We noted that through the week there are actually four concurrent yearly meetings: the Junior Yearly Meeting (JYM); Junior High Yearly Meeting (JHYM); Young Friends (YF); and the adult Yearly Meeting. We celebrated the presence of our youth programs attendees and staff as they left us to go to their own yearly meeting programs.
Patsy Shotwell, a long-time New England Friend, died only days ago, on July 27th. We took a moment of remembrance.
Derek DeJager, ecumenical visitor from the Reformed Church of America, offered a prayer from his church’s book of prayer:
O great God, glorify yourself in all the earth. Be glorified in creation, be glorified in your church, be glorified in our worship here this evening. Though we are so small and you are so grand, help us nevertheless to magnify your name. Help us to make your name and the nature of your grace larger and easier for people to see. Help us to live and worship in such a way that we become like magnifying glasses through which our neighbors and coworkers and children and friends can see you come into focus in ways they may not have seen before. When people ask for an explanation of the hope we have, give us the words to answer thoughtfully and well. When people wonder out loud who Jesus is and why he matters, help us to reply in words that will echo the sweetness of your gospel. Help us to magnify your name, O Lord, so that you may be glorified in all the earth. Amen.2
2018-8 Events Coordinator and Advanced Documents
The clerk introduced us to Elizabeth Hacala, the new Events Coordinator. This is her first Annual Sessions as Events Coordinator; she is commended to our gentle care.
We were reminded to be faithful in the small things in order that we may be faithful in the large things. Specifically, the clerk reminded us to read our Advance Documents and come to business sessions prepared.
2018-9 Visiting the Youth Programs
The clerk noted that we are changing our practice on visiting youth programs this year. Instead of appointing Friends to visit each program, Friends who would like to visit the programs are encouraged to talk with the coordinators of each program. We will have time in each of our sessions to share joys from the youth programs.
2018-10 Closing Worship
The meeting closed with worship, but the worship did not close—we remain in worship all week long, gathered in our various guises.
2018-11 Opening Worship
Maggie Edmondson (Winthrop Center) sang and prayed us into worship.
2018-12 Epistle from Friends World Committee for Consultation
We heard an epistle from the General Secretary of Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), addressed directly to our Yearly Meeting. The Secretary expressed gratitude and joy for the global diversity of Friends, and for the way Friends are “changing the world by actively bringing God's loving presence into illumination.” She shared her hopes for our annual sessions: “We extend our best wishes for a full and gathered yearly meeting. ... May you cherish the love in each other and the great joy of being a Quaker. We bask in God's love and in the unity of the Quaker heart.”
2018-13 Faith & Practice Revision Committee
Phebe McCosker (Hanover), clerk of the Faith and Practice Revision Committee, introduced eight members of the committee who were present. She invited Friends to engage in the work with the committee and to give them guidance.
Committee members Phebe McCosker, Eleanor Godway (Hartford), and Doug Armstrong (Monadnock) talked about their personal engagement with the work of the committee.
The committee is asking for preliminary approval this year to a chapter section on Membership. When a text has preliminary approval, it is used in place of the text of the 1985 Faith and Practice. This gives Friends the chance to get familiar with the text and to suggest changes when the section is considered for final approval.
They are also presenting two draft papers on Pastoral Care, and on Dying, Death and Bereavement. They actively seek and encourage group discernment and input from monthly meetings on these two draft papers, and how these papers speak to the life of our meetings. "Does this draft encourage you on your spiritual path? Does it create space for you and your meetings to find the way forward together, trusting in the spirit of Truth?”
Friends were presented with an excerpt from the Pastoral Care section and given some time to respond to a related query with one or two people sitting near them.
2018-14 Development Committee Report
Christopher Gant (Beacon Hill) and Deana Chase (Westport) presented a report from the Development Committee.
See the committee report for full financial details. In brief, we are doing well in reaching our monetary fundraising goals, with a $200,000 goal for individual contributions within reach.
Development Committee has been working to stabilize the giving patterns of individual donors. Many individuals give widely varying amounts from year to year; if giving became more consistent, future planning would be easier. To this end, Friends are invited to consider making a three-year commitment at a level of giving equal to or greater than the amount of their largest donation in the previous three years. A group of supporters has created a $30,000 matching fund which will match one year’s worth of this commitment in the current fiscal year. Those who cannot commit to repeat their largest recent gift are encouraged to make statements of committed intention as possible.
We are also entering into a partnership with Everence, a Mennonite stewardship organization, for development of a planned giving program.
Questions of money are intertwined with questions of identity and belonging, power and privilege.
How do we simultaneously hold both the concrete financial realities of the Yearly Meeting, and also the ways in which money, power, and privilege have been used to exclude and to control?
We are reminded that our possessions and money are not our own, but that all things belong to God who made them.
2018-15 Ad hoc Challenging White Supremacy Working Group
Susan Davies, clerk of the ad hoc Challenging White Supremacy Working Group of Permanent Board, began by noting that we are here meeting in Ndakinna, the ancestral homeland of the Abenaki People. They bring a yearning for healing the wounds of racism, and a yearning to transform the “spiritual malformation” that permits it.
Fran Brokaw (Hanover) led us in a brief exercise to “Hold Space for Transformation.”
Xinef Afriam (minister at Hope Community Church in Amherst, MA) read his poem “Let us be the Next Flood.”
Susan Davies asked if we can sit in worship as one body if we are still clinging to notions of “us” and “them.” Can we reach for the mutual salvation that awaits when we fully embrace “us”?
We watched an excerpt from a video of Greg Williams, offering a prophetic call to action. Friends were encouraged to watch the full video on the New England Yearly Meeting YouTube channel. Greg said that he has been nurtured by the Society of Friends, but that we have failed as a community to reach into life and take on the power of building a community that is inclusive.
Anita Mendes (Monadnock) read from Alexa Sykes about her exhaustion living in a structurally racist community and the daily experiences of racism.
Carole Rein (North Shore) read from Julie de Sherbinin about what is required for racial healing.
Xinef Afriam read from Vanessa Julye and Donna McDaniel's book Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: “Racial awareness is not static. It is a process. … I hope you will join me in co-creating that blessed community now.”
Will Taber asked Friends to take a moment and answer three queries with their neighbor: "What did you hear? What are you feeling? What will you do?"
2018-16 Closing Worship
The evening closed with a period of silent reflection and worship.
2018-17 Epistle from Sierra-Cascades
Out of worship, we heard the epistle from the Inaugural Annual Sessions of Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting. They acknowledged mixed feelings at the beginning of their journey, starting as it did with a forced separation from Northwest Yearly Meeting, as well as their feeling of being held in grace in seeking new way forward. They prayed to “be good soil even as we are good gardeners, trusting God to give the increase.”
Two New England Friends, Kristina Keefe-Perry (Fresh Pond) and Rosemary Zimmermann (Bennington), traveled in the ministry to Sierra-Cascades. They carried a letter of introduction from the presiding clerk, and the clear intention to join these Friends in prayer, worship, and fellowship.
2018-18 Greetings from Cuba
We received video greetings from Cuban Friends who were appointed to visit our Yearly Meeting in recent years but were denied visas.
“The bridge of love is not broken; everything is possible with God.”
~Alisa Pavón, Pueblo Nuevo
~Yerandis Ricardo Reyes, Pastor, Puerto Padre
~Julio Rubio Sales, Gibara
~Enelda Saldivas Medina, Banes
~Elsa de los Reyes, Vista Alegre
~Alexis Gonzalez, Pastor, Banes
We learned that Alexis died two months after the messages were recorded.
2018-19 Initial Nominating Report
Penny Wright (Hanover), interim clerk of Nominating Committee, thanked the many Friends who are completing terms of service and Friends who have agreed to serve a second term. Nominating Committee slates are posted on campus for Friends to review before new appointments are brought for approval later in these Sessions.
There is still a plethora of opportunities for Friends to discern whether they are led to serve. Suggestions to the committee are welcome, and appointments can also be approved at Permanent Board in September if the discernment is not finished at Sessions.
2018-20 Treasurer’s Report
Shearman Taber (Beacon Hill) presented the Treasurer’s Report. The Treasurer’s written report is available on page 11 of the Advance Documents, and outlines in detail the state of our reserves. This includes the impact of the transfer of the funds from the sale of The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution to the general fund.
2018-21 Introduction of the Budget
Bob Murray (Beacon Hill), Finance Committee Clerk, introduced the budget. He noted that the Friends Camp budget will be approved in the fall by Permanent Board. The Finance Committee welcomes input from Friends before the budget is presented for final approval, including at a scheduled listening sessions.
2018-22 Report from the ad hoc Long Term Financial Planning Committee (LTFPC)
Ben Guaraldi (Beacon Hill) gave the report from the LTFPC. See their written report on page 39 of the full Minute Book.
In Sessions 2014, the Permanent Board was directed as follows (NEYM Minute 2014-47):
See also minutes NEYM 2014-25 & NEYM 2014-30.
Permanent Board created the LTFPC and charged it with carrying out this directive.
In recognition that long-term financial planning could not be done without a clear sense of the purpose and priorities of the Yearly Meeting, in 2015 the LTFPC brought a statement of the Yearly Meeting purposes and priorities which was approved (minute NEYM 2015-64). The committee has worked since then to establish the necessary elements of continuing long-term financial planning and have helped standing committees of the Yearly Meeting to take up this work.
The committee is now clear that the work is now complete, except for ongoing work delegated to Finance Committee, Development Committee, and Permanent Board: Finance Committee has brought a balanced budget and is using multi-year budget projections, there is a robust development program underway, and Permanent Board has accepted responsibility for an annual funding priorities process to guide the budget planning.
Friends were briefly introduced to the new funding priorities process under the care of Permanent Board. Flow diagrams representing the old process and new process are included below. [See page 11 of the full Minute Book.]
2018-23 Closing Prayer
Noting that it is Hiroshima Day, the meeting closed with a prayer for peace and an extended period of open worship.
Eden Grace (Beacon Hill) prayed us into worship.
2018-25 Epistle from Cuba Yearly Meeting
We heard the epistle from Cuba Yearly Meeting, gathered this year around the theme "A church that grows in love and seeks the Truth.”
Cuban Friends felt great joy in renewal, in recognizing new ministers, and in receiving visitors to the annual sessions from New England Yearly Meeting: Cynthia Ganung and Roland Stern (Wellesley), Fritz Weiss and Len Cadwallader (Hanover), and Diego Low (Framingham).
A minute challenging the policies of the U.S. government that limit the interchange between our faith communities was simultaneously approved by Cuba Yearly Meeting in their annual sessions and by the Permanent Board of NEYM.
Out of worship, we heard that we have failed, repeatedly, to hear the pain of those among us who live in fear under white supremacy. When we did hear the pain, we continued with our agenda.
How can we continue on in the midst of suffering?
How can we tear down the vessel of domination we have become and rebuild it, plank by plank, at sea?
Where do we begin? We begin where we are, in all our brokenness. When do we start? We start now.
We must scrutinize both our beliefs and also the structures of NEYM. By these structures we are complicit in the white supremacy that adds to the danger of many of our members. We have responsibility for this pain.
2018-27 Secretary’s Report
Noah Merrill (Putney), Yearly Meeting secretary, reported that he had felt exhausted, angry, and heartbroken, that the world was falling apart, and that he had lost the ability to connect with the Spirit. He has found that many other Friends have felt the same. When we give our focus to the evils of the world, we lose the ability to be an instrument of love. The invitation to transformational love is greater than any of the powers and principalities of evil. We are bound by love and not by hatred. We need to find the way to be beacons of light, outposts in enemy territory.
Some are led to build up our meetings and some are led to action in the world. It is only by holding together the dynamic tensions that we can open ourselves to fall into the hands of the living God. Each individual is given a place, not where they can most successfully assert themselves, but where they can best perform their service. We need to seek not ego, but community.
We do not have a community that listens to the yearning of all hearts. We have a community that struggles, and fails, and falls. But we have the hope, and in that hope we live.
2018-28 Friends Peace Teams
Nancy Shippen (Fresh Pond) testified to the faithful ministries of the Friends Peace Teams (see their written report, page 60 of the Minute Book). She also introduced us to Salomon Medina, Friends Peace Teams Peacebuilding Coordinator for El Salvador.
FPT seeks to work in solidarity with the communities they serve, grassroots to grassroots, not coming in with a fixed agenda. By seeking, testing, and supporting leadings from local individuals and from local partner organizations, they hope to facilitate healing from trauma, and to deconstruct historical legacies of exploitation, racism, and oppression.
FPT would love to see more engagement from within our Yearly Meeting, and offered us many opportunities to serve. Both Salomon and Nancy are eager to share their work with Friends in ongoing conversation. Nancy welcomes invitations from local meetings.
2018-29 Minute on Nuclear Weapons
Susan Vargo (Northampton), clerk of Connecticut Valley Quarter, came before us with a minute of concern from her Quarter.
Connecticut Valley Quarter asks the Yearly Meeting to receive this minute, endorse it as seasoned, and send it to the other quarterly meetings. Quarters are invited to engage with this concern and to welcome Tim Wallis (Northampton) and Vicki Elson (Northampton) as they travel under concern to promote a ban on nuclear weapons.
We ask that the clerk distribute this minute to other meetings in the Yearly Meeting and to encourage meetings to invite Tim and Vicki to visit.
2018-30 Minute on Criminal Justice Reform
Kristina Keefe-Perry (Fresh Pond), clerk of Salem Quarterly Meeting, introduced the Quarter's minute on Criminal Justice Reform. As she did so, she acknowledged the prophetic ministry that the body has heard on the urgency of addressing white privilege and supremacy. She presented the minute, but not without struggling to understand how she should respond to this ministry.
Quakers introduced reforms and innovations, from their involvement in the beginnings of the penitentiary system in the 18th century to the present day. The Walnut Street Jail, built in Philadelphia in 1790, is considered the birthplace of the modern prison system. At Walnut Street, each cell block had 16 one-man cells. In the wing known as the “Penitentiary House,” inmates spent all day, every day, in their cells.
Felons would serve their entire sentences in isolation, not strictly as punishment, but as an opportunity for spiritual reformation and seeking forgiveness from God. With good intention, Friends unknowingly invented solitary confinement. Auburn Prison (another Quaker innovation) gave birth to the first maximum security prison—Sing Sing, in the Hudson Valley.
William Penn and John Bellers were active in prison reform in England and the Pennsylvania colony. In the 1800s Elizabeth Fry started the Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate (London) to promote rehabilitation, education, and job training. In 1975 Friends worked with men incarcerated at Green Haven Prison and Dr. Bernard Lafayette, an associate of Martin Luther King, in developing the Alternatives to Violence Project, which provided over 1,000 workshops in 103 prisons during 2016 alone.
As contemporary Quakers, it is important to us that we acknowledge our contribution to the penal culture in our nation and that we name the injustices in the current prison system. Friends believe that each person is divinely endowed with individual and social worth and should be treated humanely, with dignity and respect, regardless of their circumstances in life, or their behavior towards others.
Recent innovations in restorative justice have shown that alternatives to punitive justice are possible. Alternatives to incarceration, treatment for addiction and mental health, educational opportunities, and social emotional learning have all been found effective in turning lives around. Building a culture of positive growth instead of a culture of command and control is an essential step.
Every year, in Massachusetts and federally, progressive legislation is introduced that begins to improve our broken penal system. We intend to become aware of that pending legislation and become involved as citizen activists and voters. We support comprehensive criminal justice reform in Massachusetts that will promote restorative justice, support alternatives to incarceration, reform the pretrial process, and reduce the criminalization of poverty and race.
As a community of faith we have discerned a call from God to the work of peace, justice, and reconciliation. We recall the words in Hebrew Scripture: “Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” (Isaiah 58:12) Some among us are called to work with people in prison. Some are called to work with our legislators to introduce criminal justice reform. Some are called to help reintegrate former prisoners into society. Others are called to offer education about our broken system. And always we strive to live in the Life and Power that takes away the occasion of violence and war. We invite you to join us in the work of repairing and restoring our communities by reforming our criminal justice system.
We ask that the clerk distribute this minute to other meetings in the Yearly Meeting as received and well-seasoned. Friends approved.
A Friend asked that we also recognize how the criminal justice system and policing falls disproportionately on people of color and the poor. This is part of systemic racism.
2018-31 Minute on the Poor People’s Campaign
Susan Davies (Vassalboro), co-clerk of Vassalboro Quarter, presented the Quarterly Meeting's minute on the Poor People's Campaign (see their written report on page 25 of the full Minute Book). As she did so, she acknowledged and grieved for the unhealed trauma caused by systemic racism that has been expressed in these Sessions.
The 2018 Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is actively engaged in confronting systemic racism, systemic poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation, as it works to shift the distorted moral narrative of our country.
The minute from Vassalboro Quarter includes the request that NEYM become an endorsing partner of the national Poor People's Campaign. Discernment on this was stopped when parents needed to leave to pick up children. The clerk asked Friends to be ready at a later business session to consider whether NEYM is ready to do so.
2018-32 Epistle from Great Plains Yearly Meeting
We heard the epistle from Great Plains Yearly Meeting. They are programmed and unprogrammed, pastoral and non-pastoral, and they encompass the spectrum of Friends in the United States—Evangelical, Friends United Meeting (FUM), Conservative, and Friends General Conference (FGC). They know they are different and they choose to be in fellowship, seeking in intervisitation to support each other through ministry “from a place of love and with a commitment to deep listening. God is not done with Friends on the Great Plains.”
2018-33 Permanent Board Report
Ben Guaraldi, member of Permanent Board, gave the report from Permanent Board on behalf of Sarah Gant, the clerk of Permanent Board. Sarah’s mother has been taken severely ill, and Sarah has left Sessions to be with her. We hold both Sarah and her mother in our continual prayers.
Ben then offered a responsive prayer from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.
For the aged and infirm, for the widowed and orphans, and for the sick and the suffering, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
That we may end our lives in faith and hope, without suffering and without reproach, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
Ben Guaraldi shared that Permanent Board had made the decision to release the funds received from the sale of The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution to the general fund. These funds had been restricted by Permanent Board “until the future of our archives and future expenses related to our archives are clear.” (Permanent Board minute 2015-53). Permanent Board released these funds without consulting with the Archives and Historical Records Committee (A&HRC). Permanent Board and the A&HRC will meet jointly this fall to review this decision. Ben reported that Permanent Board had a full and productive year and referred Friends to the Permanent Board report in the Advance Documents for more information.
Permanent Board brings forward several items for approval.
The following items are on the Unity Agenda and will come forward for approval later in the week: the purposes, procedures, and composition of Friends Camp Committee, Archives and Historical Records Committee, and Faith in Action Committee.
2018-34 Publications and Communications Committee
Permanent Board recommends laying down the Publications and Communications Committee, while directing Coordinating & Advisory and Permanent Board to consider how to better support publications in New England.
P&C had dwindled to one member—the clerk, Mark Barker (Concord). No other members were forthcoming. Currently the Mosher Book and Tract fund is being managed by the Permanent Board until a new structure for supporting publications is approved.
Sessions is not in unity with laying down Publications & Communications. We ask Coordinating & Advisory and Permanent Board to discern how publication and the ministry of the written word could be more fully supported and to bring a proposal next year.
2018-35 Rising Clerk
Permanent Board brought forward a name for Rising Clerk.
We experienced a painful dissonance between our repeatedly stated desire to reject white supremacy and, simultaneously, the appointment of a white man as Rising Clerk.
The Clerks’ Nominating Committee has asked a variety of people to consider serving. The role of clerk demands time and resources which have proven to be an obstacle to most Friends of color, most Friends with financial constraints, and most LGBTQ+ Friends.
We labored, at some length, about why this is.
The Presiding Clerk carries an absurdly heavy workload for an unpaid volunteer, a workload that can seem daunting to anyone with a full-time job, anyone who does not have a fully supportive partner, anyone with small children, or anyone who is not financially secure.
We place impossible social demands on the clerk. We seem to expect the presiding clerk to please all constituencies simultaneously, never to say an unguarded or intemperate word, to absorb the anger and pain of the body.
We assume that the presiding clerk can easily summon all of the resources needed to perform these tasks. And then we wonder why our clerks, repeatedly, are people of privilege.
We need to stop.
In order to make room for marginalized voices in Yearly Meeting leadership, the answer is multifaceted.
We must keep asking those who have been marginalized to serve. We must hold people of privilege accountable when they inevitably fail to be perfect, as we all fail. We must support our clerks more fully. We do not yet know what this might look like, but we do know we are always called into fuller support and love. And we must examine how our practices and structures work to exclude the marginalized from positions of leadership.
To begin this examination, the body asked for a time of discernment to discuss how we might implement accountability and confront systemic white supremacy and privilege in Yearly Meeting leadership. How do we name gifts and consider resources of those we ask to serve? What can be done better to reflect our intentions to be a fully inclusive community? This meeting was then scheduled for the next day of Sessions, and the report from this discernment was received on Thursday, August 9, 2018 (see minute 2018-53).
2018-36 Earthcare Ministry Report
Mary Bennett (Worcester) and Rebecca MacKenzie (Quaker City Unity) gave the report for the Earthcare Ministry Committee (EMC). See their written report on page 46 of the full Minute Book.
At Sessions last year, we approved the following minute (2017-67):
The Earthcare Ministry Committee is not bringing back a request for NEYM to sign or endorse the Paris climate accord. It’s become clear we’re not ready at this time to consider that request. Instead we’re offering the following, which requires no action today.
At Sessions this year we reaffirmed the 2016 Climate Minute, indicating that we will, “pray, wait, and act with a focus and fearlessness appropriate to the urgency of the times.” The Earthcare Ministry Committee believes that setting concrete goals to reduce our emissions in line with a maximum 1.5°C global temperature rise (the aspirational goal of the Paris climate accord) would be helpful for our next steps. The committee will coordinate collecting carbon emission data as a basis for proposing a percentage emissions reduction goal for the Yearly Meeting. That proposal will come back to Sessions in 2018 for consideration.”
EMC has faithfully carried out this charge and now brings us the following proposal:
New England Yearly Meeting gathered in Annual Sessions at Castleton University, August 2018, approved the following.
All NEYM members and constituent meetings are encouraged to assess their carbon emissions using the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative’s carbon calculator. This will create a baseline assessment of NEYM’s carbon footprint.
Multiple tablets are available as a resource to help individuals and meetings perform this assessment. These baseline assessments should be completed by December 20, 2018.
After performing this baseline assessment, individuals and meetings are asked to commit to a 10% carbon emissions reduction over a one-year period ending on December 20, 2019. The recommended carbon calculator also contains a long list of possible actions to reduce a carbon footprint. Of paramount importance, Friends are asked to prayerfully engage in these suggested carbon-reducing actions as led to either begin or continue the journey toward creating ecological and social justice for all of God’s creation, living into the Beloved Community.
Marginalized communities are often disproportionately impacted by global climate change. Meetings are further encouraged to seek ways of helping our neighbors who may not have the resources we do to also act to reduce their carbon footprint.
EMC is prepared to serve as a resource for meetings to complete the baseline assessment and to offer information about how to perform an energy audit. Please contact Stephen Gates at [email protected], or visit climatecalculator.org/ClimateCalculator.html.
2018-37 Epistle from Western Yearly Meeting
We heard the epistle of Western Yearly Meeting. With the theme of “joined by every supporting ligament,” they looked to strengthen their local meetings, knowing that “strengthening requires action,” and remembering “that love and the Spirit of God sustains us.”
Greg Williams (Beacon Hill) prayed us into worship.
2018-39 Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Minute 2017-42 of NEYM Sessions was read.
As Quakers, we reaffirm our unconditional support for the wellbeing and protections of all threatened individuals in our community, including, especially at this troubled time, Muslims and undocumented immigrants.
We urge our government to reaffirm our country’s founding values, especially freedom of religion; to affirm our welcome to peaceful refugees and immigrants; to reject bigotry and xenophobia; and to adopt laws and policies that respect the humanity and dignity of all people.
We call on our fellow community members to join us in defending human rights for all, working toward nonviolent religious and civic sanctuary that protects all who are vulnerable, and striving together for compassion, dignity and safety for everyone.”
Judy Goldberger (Beacon Hill) and Mary Hopkins (Fresh Pond) are engaged with this work in the Yearly Meeting, and reported back to us on how well we, as a Yearly Meeting, have been living into this charge.
The presenters asked Friends to stand if they have engaged in a variety of ministries and actions, both of monthly meetings and of individuals. Many who were present stood. Immigrant justice is an enormous and multifaceted body of work that calls on a diversity of gifts. It is a witness very much alive in New England.
The presenters asked the Yearly Meeting to formally endorse and support the formation of a working group to gather those engaged in the ministry of ongoing justice work with immigrants and refugees—however openings occur. The body approved this request.
We are reminded that we are not listing a catalogue of concerns—we are stating and restating one concern: how we live with faithfulness into the kingdom of God.
2018-40 Legacy Gift Committee
Suzanna Schell (Beacon Hill), co-clerk with Jean McCandless (Burlington) of the Legacy Gift Committee, acknowledged the many Friends present who have received grants or been in groups that have received grants. Many projects have been funded in areas including climate change and sustainability; meetinghouse projects; challenging racism and supporting indigenous people; and ministry, education and outreach. We watched a slideshow of pictures from these projects, accompanied by live music from Peter Blood-Patterson.
Friends responded with a deep sense of gratitude for the work of the committee and for the leadership of Suzanna Schell. Friends celebrated the creative and spirit-led work that the Legacy Gift Committee has helped to lift up.
2018-41 State of Society
Honor Woodrow, clerk of M&C, read the State Of Society report.
(See full report on page 88 of the full Minute Book.)
The body accepted this report with gratitude. We then settled into a period of worshipful reflection.
2018-42 Epistle from Piedmont Friends
We heard the epistle of Piedmont Friends Yearly Meeting. Feeling their gathering was both deeper and larger, they were grateful that their new yearly meeting had grown in size and in spirit. The strength of their witness and the power of the Light evident in their Young Friends led them to optimism about the future of Friends.
2018-43 Unity Agenda
Friends gave approval to the Unity Agenda, which includes accepting reports from staff, boards, committees, and representatives; purposes of quarterly meetings—in the past and today; memorial minutes; and time-sensitive statements.
The clerk noted that the report from Coordinating and Advisory Committee failed to specifically state that the remaining committee purposes will be brought to Annual Sessions after being approved by Permanent Board. The clerk also clarified the source of the document “Purposes of Quarterly Meetings—in the past and today” which represents the work of a two-year consultation with the leadership of quarterly meetings by the presiding clerk.
The unity agenda also includes approving Yearly Meeting committee purposes, procedures and composition (see page 44 of the Minute Book); approving clerks nominations; approving authorization to make edits and corrections; and approving the bank resolutions.
Bank Resolutions Minute
The following resolutions are brought by the Finance Committee:
- That Shearman Taber be appointed New England Yearly Meeting treasurer for the ensuing year or until a successor is appointed and qualified.
- That Kathryn Olsen be appointed New England Yearly Meeting assistant treasurer for the ensuing year or until a successor is appointed and qualified.
- That Robert M. Spivey 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 Shearman Taber, Yearly Meeting treasurer, be authorized to open and close bank accounts in the name of New England Yearly Meeting as needed.
- That Robert M. Spivey, Friends Camp treasurer, be authorized to open and close bank accounts in the name of Friends Camp as needed.
- That Shearman Taber, NEYM treasurer; Kathryn Olsen, NEYM assistant treasurer; Sarah Gant, Permanent Board clerk; and Noah Merrill, 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 signatures of two signers from the list above.
- That Anna Hopkins, Friends Camp director; Robert M. Spivey, Friends Camp treasurer; and John Reuthe be authorized, individually, as signers of the Friends Camp bank accounts, except those checks for greater than $10,000, which shall require the signatures of two signers from the list above.
Presiding Clerk and Clerk’s Table Nominations
The Permanent Board presents the following slate to begin service at the close of sessions 2018:
Presiding Clerk: Fritz Weiss (Hanover)
Recording Clerk: Rosemary Zimmerman
Reading Clerk: Gina Nortonsmith
Reading Clerk: John Humphries
Minute to Authorize Edits and Corrections
Friends authorize the presiding, recording and reading clerks to make and approve edits, clarifications and corrections to the minutes of NEYM Sessions 2018.
Listed below are the public statements issued by the presiding clerk and Yearly Meeting secretary since 2017 Sessions, in keeping with Minute 2015-57.
These were sent via e-mail to local meetings and shared on social media. They are also posted on our website.
For Such a Time as This
We are four white Quakers serving in positions of leadership in our faith community. Our spiritual communities across the six New England states include people of many races, ethnicities, sexual and gender identities, national origins and backgrounds. We who write to you are called to speak to those in our faith community and beyond who share with us the privilege that being perceived as “white” in this society affords. This is a message from us as white Quakers to white Quakers, white people of faith, and white people who live in the United States of America in 2017.
In this historical moment, as in so many before, the voices, bodies and spirits of people of color are rising in witness, struggle and liberation whether we as white people join them or not. The essential question is whether—at such a time as this—we who benefit because of our “whiteness” will accept in a new way the Spirit’s call to act for justice and wholeness, asking for God’s guidance with every step.
Our Quaker spiritual ancestors testify to the experience of how we can be painfully “convicted” when we see the true nature of our lives illuminated in the Light of God. This is one such moment of conviction for us, and we are compelled to share it.
At such a time as this, alongside many throughout our world, we condemn the acts of hateful, racist, anti-Semitic violence and terrorism in Charlottesville and elsewhere in recent days as contrary to the will of God, the witness of Jesus, and all that is holy. God is Love, and we witness that this Love is stronger than hate, fear and death. We speak this truth to that of God in each one of the white nationalists and pray that their hearts will be changed, trusting that even now there can be transformation.
Yet even as we are appalled by the horrific events in Charlottesville, we must not allow ourselves to forget the centuries-old foundation and present economic and political reality of white supremacy. Even as the torches tore through the night in Charlottesville, and as our prayers and voices joined the call for healing and justice, we bore the marks of privilege. We bear them today. Each of us who this society sees as white stands on a corrupt foundation. Our worldly power, material wealth and inherited perception of ourselves as being normative and central to history are rooted in this painful truth. This is not just about white supremacists “over there”—it is about the ways in which we too have been formed and benefited from the myriad ways whiteness oppresses whether we like it or not, whether we are aware of it or not.
None of us who benefit from a “white” identity have clean hands or pure hearts. The recent events in Charlottesville and elsewhere offer a monstrous mirror for us. May we find the courage not to turn our eyes away from this mirror, comforted that we aren’t like “those” white people. There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but we are promised that by allowing our lives to be illuminated, convicted, and held up by Truth, a way can be made where it seems there is no way. In this searching and struggle, the souls we save may well be our own.
This is indeed a time for grieving, a time for prayer, and a time for turning again toward Love. This is a time for showing up with humility, courage and steadfastness—seeking relationship with those engaged in this work for the long haul. This is a time for being willing to make use of the privilege we have inherited in small and large ways, to risk some greater pain, discomfort and loss with an eye toward transforming the systems of domination that cause the ongoing suffering of so many. This is a time to affirm and live the Truth that God’s Love is stronger and more powerful than all the forces of hatred, division, isolation, numbness and fear that hold this country hostage. This is a time to act precisely because we don’t have to—because comfort is the payment we receive in exchange for our spiritual lives in the devil’s bargain that is white supremacy.
Tearing down these structures and systems of domination—the spiritual powers of white supremacy in our hearts, in our faith communities and in our society—is not something white people must do out of a sense of altruism, for those who suffer most. In this historical moment, once again God offers us the possibility that even in the face of centuries of injustice, there could yet be redemption for white people. Casting out the seeds of white supremacy so deeply rooted in our society and in our hearts is work we must take up each day.
The in-breaking of the reign of God reveals a vision of equity, justice, and joy: white supremacy has no place in God’s plans.
The work of dismantling white supremacy is our responsibility. It’s time to live as if the Truth is true.
Frederick Weiss, Presiding Clerk Noah Merrill, Yearly Meeting Secretary Sarah Gant, clerk of the Permanent Board Honor Woodrow, clerk of Ministry and Counsel
Statement Responding to Shootings in Florida
Again, our hearts are broken by news of a school shooting.
Galen Hamann of Providence (RI) Meeting, Director of Friends Education at Moses Brown School, writes to us asking: “What do we say to our children who ask why schools aren’t safe places?”
She shares the first query raised by the students in the school’s Letting Our Lives Speak group: “How many kids have to die before we take action?”
Each tragic episode challenges our faith and calls us to live it ever more deeply. We mourn with communities who have recently lost children to gun violence. We mourn with communities—especially communities of color—who have been losing children to gun violence for many years and whose work to end it has gone unrecognized by those in power.
New England Friend Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation, calls us to move beyond “thoughts and prayers” to bold action.
Participants in our Young Friends program—teenagers from across New England who had planned to be on retreat in March in Hartford—have chosen to join the nationwide, youth-led “March for Our Lives.”
This is not a time to restate facts or to make new arguments about the need to prevent gun violence. We are called to testify to Truth, even when it may seem impractical or unpopular. William Penn reminds us, “Truth will not lose ground by being tried.”
As Quaker faith communities across New England, can we still proclaim as Friends did in 1660, “We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever; and this is our testimony to the whole world...”?
New England Friends are deeply engaged in the education and nurture of youth. In our youth ministries retreats, at Friends Camp in Maine, Moses Brown School and Lincoln School in Providence, Friends School of Portland, Cambridge Friends School, Friends Center for Children in New Haven, and at Quaker gatherings large and small, children and youth are cherished. In our local meetings and in our families we strive to create communities where all are safe, where all are loved and where all belong.
But our testimony as Friends is not that we can create safe harbors in an otherwise dangerous world. Our testimony is that, wherever we are, we can hear and heed the promise of the voice that speaks in Isaiah 11:9, “They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain... .”
We affirm that the whole world is the Holy Mountain. As a people called to faithfulness, we strive for a prophetic life that lives as if the Truth is true, that God’s Reign is here, now. Children and youth deserve to be safe in every part of their lives.
Friends, let those of us who are adults tell the children and youth in our lives what we will do to witness to this today— and let our words become actions.
Let us keep writing letters, making calls, joining demonstrations, and standing up. Let us counter the lie that violence is best met with more violence. Let us risk for love what some so readily risk for hate. Let us advocate for effective laws and regulations to prevent gun violence. Let us join our neighbors and rise with the fierce faith that inspires bold action.
In a blog post, Doreen Dodgen-Magee, a Friend from the Pacific Northwest who has lost family to gun violence, writes:
We can ... take small but powerful steps to usher in ripples of justice, love, and action. While they may seem small, such actions carried out boldly, consistently, and over time can disrupt a system that has become overly passive about violence and ... overly permissive about guns. I must believe that each of us, small and insignificant as we may seem or feel, have a part to play in creating a country and a world where the love of self and other reigns. Where we are willing to stand up for the rights of our neighbors and children to feel and be safe. Where we are willing to have difficult discussions and to listen and to be open to being moved. Where we can communicate effectively about our values, thoughts, and feelings and have the skills to handle the strong emotions of anger and rage. Where we feel capable of handling conflicts within us or between us with our words rather than with weapons.
The foundation of our witness is knowing where to stand— in the Life and Power of God’s Love—and to stand there together; with strength and courage, not giving up.
Fritz Weiss, Presiding Clerk
Noah Merrill, Secretary
2018-44 Friends Camp Report
Friends Camp Director Anna Hopkins gave the Friends Camp report.
The Camp has had its largest summer ever. Interest in camping is high nationwide, and this is reflected in Friends Camp enrollment and, therefore, finances.
In recent years Friends Camp has centered on issues of inclusivity, particularly inclusivity of race, gender identity, and class. The names of camp sessions now reflect the names of Friends of color. A new gender-expansive bathroom and cabin have been successfully completed.
Friends Camp is a haven, a place to play, a place to be a child in a safe and inclusive environment—and a haven where youth can develop the spiritual identity and the interpersonal skills needed to navigate an often frightening world.
Friends Camp is financially healthy. The camp’s budget is prepared in the fall after the summer season and approved by Permanent Board in the fall.
Anna shared a montage of photos of Friends Camp in sessions to share the joy words could not convey.
We celebrate the gifts that Friends Camp brings to the life of Friends.
2018-45 Faith & Practice
Phebe McCosker (Hanover) reported for the Faith and Practice Revision Committee that based on Friends’ comments, there were some changes to the draft membership paper; these changes are available in print.
There was wide and deep affirmation for the amazing work done by the committee.
There was a concern about the section on dual membership, since Friends have a distinctive understanding of the nature of divine/human interaction. Other faith bodies may understand this interaction differently, resulting in a firm and different understanding of such things as original sin, the sacraments, and the atonement. If members of the Religious Society of Friends can belong to another religious body as well, are we declaring that Quakerism has no theological claim on the nature of divine/human interaction, that we accept the beliefs of any or all other bodies in such matters?
It was also noted that we tend to talk about membership as an event, but we do not talk as much about what happens before and after. It might be helpful to widen the scope of the chapter in this way.
The body as a whole was not in unity with this concern, but Friends were not ready to approve the chapter.
2018-46 Final Budget Approval
Bob Murray (Beacon Hill) brought back the budget for final approval.
The Yearly Meeting has intentionally approved deficit budgets for the past few years while the ad hoc LTFPC had done the work of building the structures for financial stability. In 2017 the Finance Committee committed to bring a balanced budget to Sessions this year. This year, Finance Committee did indeed bring a budget that was balanced: in part because of the development work which has resulted in an increase in donations by individuals and monthly meetings, in part because we did not choose to immediately re-hire for the Religious Education and Outreach Coordinator position; and in part because we reduced contributions to FGC, FUM, and FWCC. Finance Committee is clear that they recommend a balanced budget this year, and recommend against drawing down our reserves.
The body discerned that, despite our desire for a balanced budget, cutting contributions was not the right way to achieve this. We are willing, if necessary, to draw down our reserves in order to maintain our contributions at current levels. Our contributions to FGC, FUM, and FWCC demonstrate our priorities and our fellowship with these organizations. This will not result in a deficit budget if Friends increase their contributions to the Yearly Meeting sufficiently to meet this obligation. Some Friends were not in unity with this decision, especially citing a concern for future generations. However, the sense of the meeting was clear.
Sessions therefore directed the Finance Committee to restore the contributions to FGC, FUM, and FWCC to their FY18 levels, recognizing that this may well result in a deficit budget if we do not receive a corresponding increase in donations.
With that understanding, Friends approved the budget.
2018-47 Directive to Permanent Board re: Priorities Funding Process
Pursuant to our new priorities funding process, Sessions directs Permanent Board to consider budget priorities and planning in light of our concerns around white supremacy and colonialism.
2018-48 Laying Down the ad hoc Long Term Financial Planning Committee
Friends approved laying down the ad hoc Long Term Financial Planning Committee with gratitude and celebration.
2018-49 First Reading of the Epistle
Jay O’Hara (West Falmouth), LVM Shelton (Plainfield), and Sheila Garrett (Putney) introduced and read the first draft of the Epistle.
Friends expressed awe and gratitude for the work of the committee.
2018-50 Epistle from South Central Yearly Meeting
We heard the epistle of South Central Yearly Meeting. Gathering with the theme, “Lift Hearts and Spirits to the Light,” they experienced a lighter tone in business, the light of revelation in expanding what they had believed to be their limits, and a lightening of their burdens. There they have known the inexhaustible Light which will guide and sustain them.
2018-51 Nominating Committee Report
We heard an updated report from Nominating Committee (see page 84 of the full Minute Book), and Penny Wright, clerk of Nominating, expressed gratitude for the many Friends responding and presented us with a final slate for approval.
The body approved.
2018-52 Poor People's Campaign (Vassalboro Quarter)
We returned to consideration of the following minute proposed by Vassalboro Quarter.
New England Yearly Meeting gathered in annual sessions at Castleton University in Vermont in August 2018 approved the following minute.
The New England Yearly Meeting recognizes the work of the Poor People’s Campaign as a Spirit-led public witness. We encourage meetings and individuals to unite with the Poor People’s Campaign by working to change the war on the poor to a condemnation and eradication of poverty itself, and to become involved through volunteering, organizing and/or financially supporting the coming together of many people across many different spectrums to further the witness of the Poor People’s Campaign. Meetings and quarters are urged to discern whether they are led to make the formal commitment to endorse the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign by publicly declaring agreement with the principles, vision, goals, and activities of the Campaign (poorpeoplescampaign.org/index.php/fundamental-principles/) and fulfilling the additional commitments cited by the Campaign. New England Yearly Meeting further re-commits to the recommendations of minute 1968-53, “Concern for Awareness,” to educate ourselves about the sources and causes of systemic poverty and racism, especially as these malformations reside within ourselves. Through active support, engagement and prayer, we unite with efforts to build a beloved community where all people are loved and cared for.
We further approved signing on as an endorsing partner of the Poor People’s Campaign.
Fran Brokaw, of the Clerks’ Nominating Committee, brought two suggestions:
First, that the Yearly Meeting examine the roles and job descriptions of the Presiding Clerk, the clerks’ table, and other sizable clerking roles, to consider how a wider range of people might be able to perform these roles in the future. Ways to address this might include redistributing some responsibilities, considering new or different ways of having our body held and our clerking done, new and creative methods of supporting the clerks, providing childcare for a clerk who has young children, providing transportation, providing a stipend for the clerk, having co-clerks, etc. It is suggested that a working group to examine this be established under the care of Permanent Board.
Second, that the Yearly Meeting develop a practice of appointing people who will observe, name and reflect back to us long-standing, unseen patterns and practices that result in our complicity in oppression. Development of this practice should proceed under the care of Ministry and Council. This will be a paradigm shift for our Yearly Meeting. Whatever practice or practices we adopt should start soon, before our next Annual Sessions, and should then be evaluated continuously and improved as we are able. We hope that once observers have been identified and trained, committees could then request such an observer. This might be especially useful for committees like Ministry & Council and Permanent Board.
Friends approved the following:
We instruct Ministry & Council to develop a practice to appoint people who will observe, name and reflect back to us long-standing, unseen patterns and practices that result in our complicity in oppression. This recommendation will then be brought back to Permanent Board.
2018-54 Rising Clerk II
Leslie Manning (Durham), clerk of the Clerks’ Nominating Committee, read from NEYM 1985 Faith and Practice:
The Clerks’ Nominating Committee brought the name of Bruce Newman (Fresh Pond) as Rising Clerk. Friends approved.
2018-55 Appreciation of Speakers
In turns, we were exhorted, blessed, encouraged, inspired, and challenged by this year’s Plenary speakers and Bible Half Hour presenter.
Sarah Walton (Vassalboro, sojourning at Atlanta Friends, Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association), Adria Gulizia (Chatham Summit, New York Yearly Meeting), and Meg Klepack (South Starksboro) gave the plenary address as a panel. They each reflected on the theme of Sessions, “In fear and trembling, be bold in God’s service,” as well as maxims 540 and 548 from William Penn’s Some Fruits of Solitude: “It is as great Presumption to send our Passions upon God’s Errands, as it is to palliate them with God’s Name,” and “Love is the hardest Lesson in Christianity, but, for that reason, it should be most our care to learn it. Difficilia quae pulchra.”
Their full remarks are recorded and available to the public on YouTube.
Diane Randall gave the Bible Half hours, also on the Sessions theme, and incorporating her experiences at FCNL. The full recorded series of Bible Half Hours is also available online at the same website.
We give abundant thanks to all of the speakers who have so enriched our time together.
2018-56 Report of the Events Coordinator
Elizabeth Hacala, Events Coordinator, reported about Sessions. The weather this week provides an allegory for her experience: “The mist is clearing and the light is shining.” We had a robust attendance of over 620 persons this year, slightly above last year. There were 85 first-time attendees, and 109 attendees 0 to 17 years of age.
Noah Merrill updated us on the success of our "pay as led" system. Since we adopted this system, it has worked very well for us. Some yearly meetings, including Intermountain and New York, have now adopted the system, and other yearly meetings and gatherings are in the process of considering it. This year we are running about $9,000 behind what we had budgeted, and Friends are encouraged to consider additional contributions to help close this gap.
2018-57 Approval of the Epistle
LVM Shelton (Plainfield), standing with Sheila Garrett (Putney) and Jay O’Hara (West Falmouth) of the Epistle Committee, read the revised draft of the Epistle.
With deep appreciation for the work of the committee, Friends approved (see page 89 of the Minute Book).
2018-58 Youth Programs Joys
During our business sessions throughout the week, we allocated time to hear joys about our youth programs. They included:
Childcare has mostly male caregivers who are willing and able to be very nurturing.
Young Friends and Young Adult Friends learned about the radical nature of Jesus.
Junior High and Young Friends had a joint program on community. They played games, sang songs, and shared in small groups about community.
I sang songs and taught songs with the Kindergarten through Grade 2 group. At supper and breakfast kids ran up to me and asked again for the songs.
I accompanied a young child in his nap. You can see in childcare the gifts that are rising in our community: music, leadership, sharing.
Here and in our home meeting children are participating. I brought my child here and I now see them in a new way as others see them.
I talked with second- through fourth-graders about consciousness objection. They were engaged. They had questions and opinions, and we had a great talk.
2018-59 Thanks to Castleton University Staff
We are so very grateful for the hard work of Castleton staff, who have gone above and beyond to welcome and support us. We would especially like to thank Israel Dudley, who provided technical assistance to our presenters, speakers, and clerks’ table. Our business could not have moved so smoothly without your help. Thank you.
2018-60 Closing Worship
As business concluded, the children and youth entered, singing. We joined them in song. We then heard the epistles from the week, from child care through adult sessions.
We closed 2018 Sessions in worship, proposing to meet next year August 3–8, 2019, at Castleton University, Castleton, Vermont, and encouraged to attend the Living Faith gathering on October 27, 2018, in Hartford, Connecticut.
Approved Committee Purposes, Procedures, and Composition
Archives and Historical Records Committee
Archive and Historical Records Committee establishes and maintains the collection policy which advises meetings on the care of their records, encourages both meetings and committees to donate copies of these records to the Special Collections and University Archive (SCUA) at the W.E.B. Dubois Library, University of Massachusetts, on a regular basis. The committee is responsible for the ongoing relationship with SCUA, as articulated in our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The committee is responsible to direct the focus and support the work of the Outreach Archivist, who works directly with Yearly, quarterly, monthly and preparative meetings, Yearly Meeting committees, New England Friends institutions, and individual members of the Yearly Meeting. This is an aspect of our testimony of stewardship. Recognizing that Friends’ faith is a non-creedal one, and that the expression of that faith is embodied in the records of our actions, the committee promotes the study of Quaker history to the end that Friends may find guidance in their past for their witness in the present. It encourages meetings to utilize the resources of the archives in answering their financial, property, and biographical, or other questions historical in nature.
The committee recommends appointment of an Outreach Archivist, in conjunction with the secretary of New England Yearly Meeting. The secretary supervises the Archivist. The committee consults with the Outreach Archivist on priorities for outreach regularly. Committees members will also participate and work with the Outreach Archivist. The committee meets monthly or quarterly by video conference. The committee submits an annual report to New England Yearly Meeting. The committee reviews the relationship with the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (SCUA) annually as well as the currency of the MOU, and recommends any changes to the NEYM Permanent Board. The committee serves as a resource to SCUA when questions such as copyright use arise as outlined in our MOU.
- The Committee includes a group of 5 to 6 Friends with skills and perspectives regarding the collection, preservation and research of historical records, named by the Nominating Committee in consultation with the Archives and Historical Records committee and approved by the Yearly Meeting.
- The committee works with an Outreach Archivist and the NEYM Office Manager.
- The clerk of the committee is appointed by the committee, in consultation with Coordinating and Advisory Committee and approved by the Yearly Meeting. The Yearly Meeting secretary is responsible for supervising the work of the Outreach Archivist.
Faith in Action Committee
To support the public witness of Quakers in New England. To listen for where Friends from across New England are active, to amplify what is happening locally, to connect Friends with each other, to help form networks among Friends who carry related concerns, to highlight and share the news of Witness among Friends, to listen for where Spirit is moving us. The Faith in Action Committee does not do, oversee, or own the work of witness in New England Yearly Meeting; rather, it connects those who are active in witness.
- Listen—(quarters, monthly meetings, Earthcare Ministry, the Committee on Racial, Social, and Economic Justice [RSEJ], Legacy Gift, Prophetic Climate Action Working Group, Friends working for immigration justice, Israel-Palestine working group, etc.). The committee will subscribe to the various listservs and newsletters of these groups, and will use social media and websites to help the committee stay informed about the work being done. When invited or when opportunities arise, members of the committee will attend meetings of quarters, monthly meetings, committees or groups active in witness to learn more about their work, or to help them connect with others.
- Amplify—The committee will use the tools available (the NEYM monthly e-mail newsletter, social media, etc.) to share information about witness that is occurring among Friends in New England.
- Form ad hoc networks—The committee will connect Friends who are carrying the same or related concerns. The committee will invite Friends to share among each other lessons learned and challenges faced.
- The committee will serve as a resource to the presiding clerk and secretary when drafting time-sensitive public statements.
- The committee may be called to consult with the clerk of Permanent Board to inform discernment about distributions from the Fund for Sufferings.
- The committee will work with the Yearly Meeting staff to make use of Yearly Meeting resources (newsletter, Zoom, Salesforce, etc.) as appropriate to support amplification and the forming of networks.
- The committee will consult with the presiding clerk and secretary about where Spirit is moving among Quakers in New England. This may include assisting in developing the agenda for annual business sessions, or preparing items to bring to the gathered body.
- The work of the committee continues throughout the year and does not wait on committee meetings. The committee will meet once in September to coordinate the work for the coming year and once in May with the presiding clerk to consider what might inform the agenda for Annual Sessions. Additional meetings may occur as scheduled by the committee clerk, but the bulk of the work is done through ongoing conversations and communications among committee members.
- Three Friends named by Nominating Committee and approved by the Yearly Meeting for staggered 3-year terms, renewable
- Clerk named by Nominating Committee, approved by the Yearly Meeting
The committee seeks individuals comfortable and skilled in communication, facilitation, and listening. The committee maintains linkages with the witness and ministry committees of the Yearly Meeting (Earthcare Ministry, RSEJ), Legacy Gift, Ministry and Counsel, and with the presiding clerk and secretary. The Committee maintains linkages with quarterly meetings and with monthly meetings.
Note: These purposes and procedures will be reviewed by Coordinating and Advisory and brought back to the Permanent Board for review after one year.
Friends Camp Committee
The Friends Camp Committee has stewardship of Friends Camp, supporting and facilitating the Camp mission of providing a unique outdoor camp for spiritual, emotional and creative growth. The Committee helps assure the Camp is a caring and accepting community that embraces the faith and practices of Friends as one of many ways of helping youth discern a true and healthy path into adulthood with group worship, recreational activities, artistic pursuits and work projects. The Yearly Meeting delegates duties and responsibilities for oversight of the camp operation to the Committee.
Meetings of the Friends Camp committee shall be held three or four times each year, at a reasonable time and place designated by the clerk. As needed, the clerk may designate additional meetings.
The Friends Camp Committee meeting held between the end of Sessions and November 15th shall be designated the Annual Meeting. During the Annual Meeting the Executive Council, committee chairs, and committee memberships are defined and will be in place until the next Annual Meeting.
A quorum for the Friends Camp Committee shall be 50 percent of the current active members. A quorum for any of the committee sub-committee meetings will be at least two participants. Members participating remotely will count as part of a quorum.
The Friends Camp Committee has a clerk, a recording clerk, a supervisor of the Camp Director, clerk of Buildings and Grounds, and a treasurer, with the Camp Director serving ex-officio. These positions make up the Executive Council. Any committee member may hold two or more of the committee positions, except the clerk, who may not also be the Treasurer. The Executive Council can conduct business on the phone, on the internet, or face-to-face, if a majority of the members are able to participate in the meeting. As needed and between Friends Camp Committee meetings, the Executive Council may set important and time-sensitive policies in the areas of personnel, safety, and finance. The responsibilities and tasks of these positions are set forth in Appendix 2 of the Friends Camp Governance Document.
The Friends Camp Committee has five standing sub-committees. They are: Finance and Development, Personnel, Building and Grounds, Health and Safety, and Program and Evaluation. The responsibilities and tasks of the sub-committees are set forth in Appendix 3 of the Governance Document.
All Camp Committee members are expected to join at least one of the standing sub-committees and to attend virtually all the Friends Camp Committee meetings. In addition, non-committee member volunteers may be asked to join one of the five standing sub-committees. Members of these sub-committees who are not on the Friends Camp Committee will have the option to serve without terms or limits on the length of service.
The Friends Camp Committee and clerk may set up additional sub-committees and appoint additional non-committee members to sub-committees, as it is deemed necessary, to help fulfill the mission and objectives of Friends Camp.
The Committee ensures the duties and responsibilities outlined in the committee position descriptions and the committee descriptions are carried out effectively to promote the mission and objectives of Friends Camp.
The Committee conducts its business in the manner and practice of Friends. As guidelines for their process and their discernment of policy, they use the Faith and Practice of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends and the governance publications of the Friends Council on Education.
The Committee provides supervision and evaluation of the Camp Director. They define the scope of authority of the Director and the limitations of what the Director can and cannot do.
The Camp Committee has the responsibility and authority to define the vision, values and the short- and long-term objectives of Friends Camp. The Director defines and implements the tasks and actions needed to accomplish the objectives that have been outlined by the Committee.
The Committee receives reports on the financial health of the Camp from the Camp Treasurer at each of its meetings, approximately quarterly.
The Friends Camp Committee adopts, and from time-to-time reviews and amends, fiscal policies and procedures that govern internal controls and other significant aspects of a sound fiscal operation to assure that Friends Camp will have sound financial controls that substantially conform to generally accepted accounting principles.
The Committee assures that regular professional financial reviews are conducted every third year or as needed, in concert with the Yearly Meeting Operating Division.
The committee receives a proposed budget prepared by the Director and Treasurer in late August or early September, including both operating and capital components. The Director then meets about this budget with the Yearly Meeting secretary and Yearly Meeting treasurer. Following this consultation, and with the Yearly Meeting secretary’s and Yearly Meeting treasurer’s endorsement, the Camp Director submits the proposed operating and capital budgets for approval by the Friends Camp Committee at its September meeting. Finally, the Committee forwards this budget to the Yearly Meeting Permanent Board for approval at its September meeting.
Given the compressed time frame for budget development, if agreement is not reached, the Camp Committee and Permanent Board will endeavor to approve a provisional budget. This would allow concerns to be addressed and the Camp to operate for the first two months of the fiscal year. Final approval would then occur at the Permanent Board and Friends Camp Committee meetings in November.
The Camp Committee submits an annual written report to the Yearly Meeting.
- Committee members are nominated by the Friends Camp Nominating Committee and approved by Yearly Meeting for terms of up to 3 years.
- The Friends Camp committee has at least 7 and not more than 15 members appointed for 3-year terms, with eligibility to be reappointed for two additional terms, or up to 9 years total.
- The Camp Director and Yearly Meeting secretary serve as ex-officio members.
- At least two-thirds of the members of the Committee will be members or active attenders of a monthly meeting in New England Yearly Meeting.
- The terms are organized into classes of up to five members so that one-third of the committee is appointed or reappointed each year.
- Friends Camp Committee Members who are given a midyear appointment will be assigned by the recording clerk to one of the three classes and will serve their first Friends Camp Committee term for one, two, or three years, based on openings in one of the three classes.
- The clerk, recording clerk and supervisor of the Director are selected from membership of the Camp Committee and are approved by the Yearly Meeting.
- Volunteers who are not committee members may be selected to serve on Camp sub-committees as needed to fulfill the mission and objectives of Friends Camp.
- The Friends Camp Committee maintains active relationship with the NEYM Youth Ministries Committee through the Camp Director serving as an ex-officio member.
- The Friends Camp Committee coordinates with the NEYM Finance Committee and Treasurer, as outlined in the procedures.
2018 State of Society Report
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. Amos 8:11
The words of the Lord are justice, love, mercy, patience, service, comfort and joy. We find them inscribed deep in our yearnings, suffering, hope, and imagination, often unaware they are a sacred gift. Through them we enact our lives, inhabit our bodies, and work with the materials of the world and of culture. Reminders echo around us in the wordless language of the land, the creatures, and the rhythms of the cosmos. Some of us are reached in one way, some of us in another; at bottom the hunger is the same—to be available, filled up, transformed so as more and more to speak, act, and live as children of the Light. We feel the words as divine intention and a call to follow where it will lead in this time of fear—and hope.
As we have reflected and prayed about the spiritual condition of our Yearly Meeting, we have heard in visits, meeting reports, newsletters, minutes of concern, and prophetic witness that Friends are seeking to live more fully according to the gifts of the Spirit that we are given. The hunger for knowledge and for better access to the wisdom of our community are leading to a widespread desire for adult religious education. The recognition of this need, or desire, in turn is calling out gifts of teaching, writing, and organizing in many meetings. The results take many forms—book groups, forums, retreat attendance, and more. Groups of Friends called to ministry are gathering more frequently for mutual encouragement and guidance to better service. The gift of eldership, which can liberate the life and service of individuals and of meetings, is more widely understood, encouraged, and put into action. We rejoice in the freshness of the life that rises. It stands in bold contrast to the tenor of our times that leaves us at times cold and lost.
The longing for justice, for right living, and for peace that is more than the absence of war is bearing fruit in acts of witness. Friends reach for the commonwealth of God when we stand with the Earth in a time of climate change; stand with refugees, immigrants, and Native Americans in a time of xenophobia; and stand with those who bear the burdens of the economic and social systems in which we are all embedded. One Friend's gift of money to every meeting in New England stimulated the power of imagination, and enabled many meetings to take steps to strengthen their work or presence in the community.
There are, in truth, as many challenges before us as ever. Some meetings feel themselves in decline; some Friends feel isolated in meetings which have not taken the risk of seeing and encouraging the gifts of their members. A number of meetings have made an effort to increase their connectedness within their meeting community and thereby reduce the sense of isolation that some may feel. This has often been coupled with outreach to the communities which surround them. The work to know and see each other more deeply and to reach out to non-Quakers has resulted in a clearer sense of who we are as Friends. It has also been important when meetings have actively shared resources with each other within their quarters and beyond.
There is a constant pressure from the culture and society around us to live individualistically. We feel the invitation to judge, separate, and make distinctions within our communities. Friends struggle to turn the invitation aside and claim instead the blessing of true community so that the common life can flow freely. We are learning that when we allow the Spirit to keep our individualism in check, fuller life and vitality in the meeting are unleashed. Investing in the common life brings blessings that are, for some, surprising and unfamiliar. In true community, the individual's uniqueness, voice, agency, and gifts are affirmed and refreshed with new meaning.
We have been led as a people to walk further and further out on the limb of faith, taking risks in our commitment to address the seeds and practices of white supremacy within us and to respond prophetically and actively to the climate crisis. We see that taking a risk, even a small one, encourages more risk-taking, and as we have read all the news of the Yearly Meeting, risky questions arise: What is the foundation of our hope? How can we speak with confidence about the springs from which our witness, our endurance, our experiments and our joy take their strength? We see that where we are alive to the springs of life, are willing to be foolish in the eyes of the world, to be children in the Spirit, our faith takes us into hard places. In these hard places we see our true condition more clearly. This demands of us both deep inner work and deep outer work. Where will we find courage and capacity to tell that story, and to share what wonders we have found?
- What is the foundation of our hope?
- How can we speak with confidence about the springs from which our witness, our endurance, our experiments and our joy take their strength?
- Where will we find courage and capacity to tell that story, and to share what wonders we have found?
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
(II Corinthians 4:8-9, 17)
To Friends Everywhere,
Greetings from the 358th New England Yearly Meeting Sessions. We sit on lands once cared for by Abenaki ancestors and appropriated by European settlers centuries ago. Today this is the home of Castleton University and dedicated to our use for five days.
Green mountains surround us. The many trees on campus drink in the intermittent heavy rainfalls. It is hot and humid. And we have struggled with this evidence of climate change: The unusual has become usual.
We are 620 Friends, including 109 children and youth and 56 young adults. We are queer and straight, physically challenged and able-bodied, trans- and cis-gender, are descended from the peoples of most continents of our globe, and are of various income levels. Each of us, in our own way, strives for blessed communion of family, old friends, and newly encountered friends.
We are renewed in our connectedness to the wider Quaker world, through visitors and epistles and our own travels. We affirm our commitment to the life of the Religious Society beyond our Yearly Meeting, and we grieve that the US government prevented our Cuban Friends from joining us this week.
Our Session theme is: “In Fear and Trembling, Be Bold in God's Service.”
We are struggling with our own contribution to the white supremacy that has formed a blood-drenched thread in the fabric of this country, since the beginnings of its colonization by Europeans: contributions to systemic racism by us as individuals and by us as the body, assumptions, priorities, and practices of New England Yearly Meeting.
The unusual becomes usual as we bring our margins—particularly those people of color among us and those economically challenged—to the center of our attention.
And we are afraid for our future: the future of the earth that our domination is making uninhabitable and the future of our society, whose government manipulates us into fear by its lies and dysfunction. In dynamic tension with our affliction is our love and commitment to each other. We hope and pray that this difficult process of repair and renewal becomes an opportunity for transformation, swelling into the flood tide of Grace.
Our day begins early. Two Friends head across the lawn to early morning worship—a decades-long tradition for this pair. A member of sessions committee carries material for a photo frame. Memories of this time together. Golf carts emerge to carry some to early breakfast. A fleet of kids on scooters sails by. Life ordinary and Life extra-ordinary at Sessions.
Friends testify to the nature of God and our world, to help us in these challenging times. Sometimes, our God is a subtle God, who nudges us from the margins in a quiet voice. We have been learning to listen at those margins. And we are reminded that the enemy is no person, no matter their position, but within each of us. The norms and values of our culture (the system) hold us all in thrall.
Our business sessions have been challenging and have served as a microcosm of the work we are called to do as a faithful people. We have heard from our Development Committee and the ad-hoc Challenging White Supremacy Working Group. Their reports have begun to reveal the extent to which the orientation of our yearly meeting manifests the culture of white-centeredness and middle-class values in which we sit. Both Friends of color and white Friends have named these examples from their own experiences. We are struggling to honor and begin to assuage the real pain felt in the moment by Friends of color, as well as the fear of loss of privilege felt by white Friends. We see that we are teachable. We are not where we were three years ago. Nevertheless, we must accept and acknowledge that real healing is long-term work.
Healing is spiritual work. Even if salvation comes as sudden epiphany, the cross must be taken up daily. We must turn our whole selves over to God, letting every nook and cranny of our culture and expectations be illuminated.
We have been reminded over and over again this week that the heart of our faith is paradox—that while we struggle we will not be paralyzed. Growing our faithfulness inwardly and being faithful to our outward work in the world are equal imperatives.
In social action, particularly about immigration and climate change, we are gaining coherence and momentum, working together as a body across our region. Friends with strong calls, in these and other concerns, are providing leadership to our Yearly Meeting to manifest the Kingdom of God, in new working groups and in revitalized committees. For these gifts and this boldness we rejoice.
The fire of the week has brought us closer together in love. Our deepening unity is based on ever more shared knowing of one another, and we find such sweetness together in our struggles to be faithful. We are tearing apart and rebuilding a ship at sea. The new ship may not look like the one we came here in, but it will be built with the strong timbers of our tradition.
Conversation and reports during our attention to business show the ties that bind our home meetings. Our memorial meeting bathed us in joy and love for those still on earth, as well as those who are present only in the hearts of those left behind. Ministry arose that halted time and made place irrelevant. We were gathered in the Eternal Now.
We have heard prophetic ministry about the meaning of money in our religious society. We know that money is not the measure of our faithfulness. Rather, we are called to turn our whole lives over to God.
How much do we hold each other accountable? How much are we able to show our full vulnerable lives to one another and place ourselves in the hands of our Meetings, as we struggle to be faithful to God? For example, are we ready to know, hold and support those who are food insecure in our meetings?
Our work challenging white supremacy in our culture and ourselves is difficult, at times jarring and messy. Friends have prophesied boldly. Early Friends were intimately aware of the discomfort of God working in us. A print of Margaret Fell’s words appeared on our podium Tuesday: “Friends, let the eternal light search you, and try you, it will rip you up, lay you open. Provoke one another to Love.”
We are feeling our way towards repentance, imperfectly and, at times, haltingly, but moving nonetheless. We feel God’s mystery working among us, and we know the fear and trembling.
We go forth with a charge to share the good news we have found. In this turbulent week we have known experientially the rock—the inward teacher, the inward Christ, the little bird—upon which we can rely. As we labor against the powers and principalities to manifest God’s kingdom, we turn our lives over to the still, small voice, finding that we, as a community, have everything we need, that we have been given the time we need in which to do our work, and that God can guide us every step of the way. All we have to do is follow.
We receive ministry. We are humbled. We wait in awe, yearning that “all may be lifted up to thrive and flourish in the shared, Life-giving fellowship of the Spirit."
Yours in God’s Everlasting Grace,
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends
Welcome from the 18 children of Child Care. We bring to you the Nominating Slate of 2043.
We have healers and leaders and strong, warm-hearted young Quakers.
We want to thank our parents for letting us go, even when we might have cried just a bit.
This was a year of learning: we learned that a shoe can fit down a storm drain (and we learned that we shouldn't do it—more than once). We learned that dinosaur puppets are not scary and can evolve into one of our most favorite toys. We learned how asking a friend to share the toy that we desperately want, can lead to good things.
We enjoyed our visitors including a juggler and a musician and, at least in verse, a dog named Blue. The bubble bottles were the best we ever had, launching glistening spheres of color that floated among us. The “Spot” books were enjoyed over, and over, and over, and over again while settling down to our naps.
Amongst the toys, tents and scooters we made good friends and practiced waiting our turn.
We want to come back next year.
Yours in peace and joy,
The Child Care Children of 2018
Junior Yearly Meeting K-1
We are New England Yearly Meeting Kindergarten and First grade children meeting in Castleton, Vermont. We had lots of fun. In the garden we released two Monarch butterflies that came out of their chrysalis. Then, we went on a nature scavenger hunt in the woods and over a stream. We found many treasures; different leaves, moss, sticks, acorns, pinecones, and a big chunk of marble. We saw centipedes, ants, birds and mushrooms. One of our friends found and passed around an exoskeleton of a cicada. We read stories about all kinds of families, how to fill our invisible buckets and other peoples buckets. The ten of us created super power capes from t-shirts that showed our super powers. We ran around in the gym because we couldn’t go outside. It was pouring rain and thunder and lightning.
Judith and Marion visited us from Kenya and sang songs with us in English and Swahili. Our grade 5-6 Friends partnered with us to listen to Nancy. She told us stories about the Quaker children that made a quilt in 1997. We found this quilt in storage when we were setting up our classroom. Some of the makers of the quilt are getting married and starting families. We made ice cream with coconut milk. It was really cold to shake and hold. Sometimes we quietly played puzzles, Matchbox cars, built with Legos or drew puzzle people. Some of us made families of puzzle people in different colors and faces. We took turns and worked out how to share wagon rides, building supplies and wait patiently for snacks. We did so many things, even in one day we did so much. Everything we did was fun!
Junior Yearly Meeting Grades 2 through 4
Dear Friends Near and Far,
The Junior Yearly Meeting grades 2, 3, and 4 of New England Yearly Meeting met at Castleton State University in Vermont, US. A group of 23 people attended. We had a terrific time together this hot week. We loved our cool inside spaces and our hot outdoor spaces. Our group explored the theme of “Community, being Bold in God’s service.” What do we do when we are Bold in God’s service? What can we do to be Bold in God’s service? Some answers were have courage, be brave, see the light within each person, be positive, swim in the pool in water over one's head, dive off the diving board and take off one floaty. Other thing we did relating to service were we made two tie blankets to give to refugees in the Northeast and talked about the meaning of Conscious Objection and the decision maybe not to serve.
Some of us went to the bookstore and bought beautiful necklaces, chocolate, books and wooden bowls. We played games. One of them was called Junior Yearly Meeting Ball (JYM Ball) created by one of the staff member many years ago. A new game was developed call, “The Meeting Game,” a take-off from the game “Shipwrecked.”
A special mini community was built out of recycled boxes and tubes was fancy with two banana trees. We all met new people and became loving friends during our time together.
Junior Yearly Meeting Grades 5 and 6
Hello Fellow Quakers,
We are the 5th and 6th Grade Group of New England Yearly Meeting. There are 10 kids and our group and we met at Castleton University in Castleton, Vermont, U.S.A. on August 4-9, 2018. Our theme this year was Listening, Finding Our Gifts, Using Our Voices.
We listened to each other in the big group and in small groups with 3-4 kids. In small groups we talked about how we felt, how our day was going, and told stories about our lives. Some of us talked about our personal meditation practices.
In the big group we played lots of games: kick ball, capture the flag, Zen counting, museum, elbow tag, Ha Ha, big bubble big bubble, telephone, Wa, charades, Beanie Babies, and parachute games. We sang a lot of songs including the George Fox Song, Waltzing with Bears, and Sing Hosanna!.
We enjoyed making tie dyed tee shirts and signing each other’s shirts, clay meditation, learning about lobbying from our staffer who was recently an intern at FCNL, volunteering to carry trays for people who could use help in the dining room, using temporary tattoos, making ugly art that didn’t turn out to be ugly, making ice cream, and watching Butterfly Bob emerge from her chrysalis, gain strength, and fly free.
During free time we liked going to the family bookstore, playing pool and ping pong, swimming in the campus pool, a contra dance, talking with each other and eating delicious food at meals. Having a Coffee House for the whole Yearly Meeting allowed us to share our talents and appreciate other people’s skills.
Some of us went to Afternoon Choices and participated in drama group, did finger knitting or other crafts, did face painting, read, or played with Legos.
We all like coming here because everyone is so nice. We can be ourselves and be accepted for who we are. We made new friends, saw old friends, and had fun.
Junior High Yearly Meeting
Dear Friends from all ends of the earth,
We the Junior High Yearly Meeting of New England Yearly Meeting met in Castleton Vermont at Castleton University from August 4-August 9 2018. Our theme this year was “in fear and trembling be bold in God’s service” and we tried to understand and embody this theme through our actions and reflection this week.
JHYM started of the week by leading intergenerational worship, where we shared anonymous reflections about how JHYM has helped us on our way to overcoming fears. Even though it was often hot we immersed ourselves in many fun outdoor activities like capture the flag, badminton, and tower of power. Some of us would play on the pool table and most of went to, and enjoyed, the swimming pool through our late night pool party on Sunday and free swim. We spent time reconnecting with our high school friends so our 8 graders could further understand the changes that would come in the coming year of retreats and sessions. On Tuesday we had an abbreviated trip to Bomoseen State Park were we had fun swimming, singing, and playing card games until we were faced with a torrential downpour which we then enjoyed from the comfort of a porch while eating delicious ice cream. We made beautiful and uniquely creative shirts in our t-shirt meditation and participated in a paint blot project that taught us about the intricacies of life.
We spent some time reflecting on a letter we received from an older friend about people chuckling at a Junior Higher’s reflection during Sunday morning worship. As a group we had a wide range of reactions about the letter. We know that the chuckling was not meant to be hurtful. We immensely appreciate the dedication this older friend put into this considerate letter and it sparked deep conversation within our community over time.
We wrapped up the week with a coffee house talent show with many fun performances. We said goodbye to our 8th graders at a reflective and thoughtful 8th grade circle. Though we will miss our friends greatly we look forward to having more sleep and going back to our communities back home. This has been an eventful and thoughtful week of love and reflection and we look forward to the joys of next year.
Young Friends Yearly Meeting
Dear Friends Around the World:
We, The Young Friends of New England Yearly Meeting gathered at Castleton University, Castleton VT, August 4th to 9th , 2018. Our theme this year was “In Fear and Trembling, be Bold in God’s Service."
Over the week, we explored the theme both personally and communally and worked to build a stronger and more inclusive group, and to create for each other a safe learning space full of love, joy, reflection, and personal growth.
We first gathered together on Saturday afternoon and started our sessions getting acquainted and reacquainted. Breaking into our “affinity groups,” we ate dinner together and then joined the rest of sessions for an opening celebration. Sunday evening’s program introduced the theme. The Young Friends analyzed quotes that related to fear and service to God. Young Friends brainstormed queries on the theme.
On Sunday, we joined the plenary meeting for worship led by Junior High Yearly Meeting. We sang familiar, high-energy songs. In the Young Friends morning program, we discussed the ways in which fear both fuels and impedes our activism, how it can affect our lives, and how to recognize and address it. In the afternoon plenary panel, speakers invited us to face our pride, recognize leadings, and test leadings before moving forward. Following the panel, some Young Friends played a hot but energetic game of Intergenerational Capture the Flag. Others did crafts or listened and contributed to a friendly open-mic session in the pop-up NEYM bookstore. At the Young Friends Meeting for Business, we added members to nominating committee. We then broke into groups for committee work, with committees for ministry and counsel, nominations, dance planning, selection of themes for the coming year, and epistle writing.
On Monday, the Young Adult Friends joined Young Friends for a presentation on Jesus’s life and teachings. Xinef Afriam and Plenary Speaker Adria Gulizia led us through an exercise on Jesus’s teachings in relation to Quaker ideals. They had us imagine ways we would build community around Jesus’s teachings, or, as Xinef was inspired to refer to it: “Yeshutopia.”
After lunch, we joined electives such as yoga, crafts, swimming or napping. Afternoon workshops included storytelling through nature, silk screen design, and a presentation on Friends Committee on National Legislation and lobbying. For some Young Friends, the highlight of the day was our combined program with JHYM where we sang songs, played games, and reflected in small groups about the work Young Friends has done this year to build intentional community and what the transition into Young Friends is like. We wrapped up the day with a joyous all-ages contra dance.
Tuesday Young Friends shared a worshipful morning hearing stories out of the silence of how young friends have acted with courage and integrity even when it was difficult. Theme team shared their thoughtful and stellar work for the years upcoming retreats. After lunch friends boarded a big yellow school bus and traveled to a nearby lake. A raucous thunderstorm interrupted the trip but the group enjoyed dancing in the rain after returning to campus. Once the lightning drove them indoors, Young friends and YAFs stood on the balconies of their respective dorms, singing between the thunder-claps.
We joined the adult business meeting after dinner which brought up various responses from friends to the need for more inclusive leadership in the Yearly Meeting. Some of our younger members closed the day by joining JHYM lounge.
Wednesday we approved our slate with the added role of media co-clerks. These people will hold the community outside of retreats through social media platforms. In the afternoon, Young Friends attended workshops, some made silkscreen designs, some attended the crowded workshop on clerking, and several joined the workshop titled "Off-white: an investigation of the role whiteness plays in our lives."
Several Young Friends gave moving performances at the coffee house, and then we joined the Young Adult Friends for a dance in the campus center. The dance committee put a lot of work into decorations, lighting, a photo booth, and a great song selection.
We continue to feel hopeful for our future as a community. We will continue to hold each other with love and care as our community transforms. Just as the yearly meeting is seeking to become more inclusive, young friends are also committed to improving our community with love and compassion for each other.
1. All quotations from Scripture are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright ©1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2. Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition, ©2013 Faith Alive Christian Resources.