2019 Minutes of Annual Sessions

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Saturday Evening

2019-1. Opening and Welcome

The presiding clerk, Fritz Weiss (Hanover), opened the meeting with vocal prayer. We often end our meetings with shaking hands, but this year let us begin that way. Let us remember that we are one body, gathered in God’s presence.

2019-2 Clerks’ Table

Fritz Weiss introduced the rest of the Yearly Meeting clerks: Rosemary Zimmermann (Bennington) (accompanied by her five year old son, Arthur), Peter Bishop (Northampton), Gina Nortonsmith (Northampton), and John Humphries (Hartford). The clerk introduced the elders for Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness who are accompanying the clerks this year: Melissa Foster (Framingham), Polly Attwood (Cambridge), and Eppchez Yes (Northampton).

2019-3 Roll Call

We called the roll of meetings by quarter. Each quarter was assigned a color, and as the name of each meeting from the quarter was called, Friends from that meeting waved a coordinating streamer in the air.

We noted that Lewiston Monthly Meeting in Falmouth Quarter has been laid down.

2019-4 New Babies, First-Time Attendees, and Visitors

We celebrated the new babies among us and welcomed first-time attendees. Throughout the week the following visitors were introduced and welcomed:

Wendy Cooler, Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Laura Everett, Massachusetts Council of Churches
Carl MacGruder, Strawberry Creek Monthly Meeting, Pacific Yearly Meeting
Mica Estrata, Strawberry Creek Monthly Meeting, Pacific Yearly Meeting
Gail Thomas, Santa Monica Monthly Meeting, Pacific Yearly Meeting
Anne Collins, Stillwater (OK) Monthly Meeting, Quaker Religious Education Collaborative
Liz Yeats, Austin Monthly Meeting, South Central Yearly Meeting 
Dancan Sabwa, East Africa Yearly Meeting North
Elaine Emily, Strawberry Creek Monthly Meeting, Pacific Yearly Meeting
Lyle Miller, Mennonite, Everence Financial Service
Andy Albertini, Director of Development from Ramallah Friends School
Sarah Kennedy, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Su Penn, Red Cedar Monthly Meeting, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting
Ashliegh Dodd (no affiliation given)
Melanie Gifford, Adelphi Monthly Meeting, Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Meg Boyd Meyer, Stony Run Monthly Meeting, Baltimore Yearly Meeting, former staff of Ramallah Friends School
Arthur Boyd, Stony Run Monthly Meeting, Baltimore Yearly Meeting, former staff of Ramallah Friends School
Judith Nandikove, Quaker Religious Education Collaborative, Nairobi Yearly Meeting
George Lakey, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Adrian Moody, Head of School, Ramallah Friends School
Gillian Hoskin, Ramallah Friends School
Gloria Thompson, FWCC, Manhattan Monthly Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting
Esther Quispe Yujra La Paz, Bolivia-Holiness Yearly Meeting
Emma Condori, La Paz, Bolivia-Holiness Yearly Meeting, Executive Director of the Friends International Bilingual Center
Jim Fussell, Friends Meeting of Washington, Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Frank Barch, Schuylkill Monthly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, FGC visitor, presiding clerk of FGC central committee
Jean Marie Prestwidge Barch, Schuylkill Monthly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, FGC visitor, clerk of FGC’s Committee for Nurturing Ministries
Mary Kay Glazer, North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative)
Mey Hasbrook, Kalamazoo Monthly Meeting, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting
Alan and Sharon Lightner, Gunpowder, Maryland, Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Anne Pomeroy, New Paltz Monthly Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting
Jackie Stillwell, Monadnock Monthly Meeting, Right Sharing of World Resources
Susan Lofland (no affiliation given)
Marisa Egerstrom (no affiliation given)
Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco, Congressional Advocate, FCNL Native American Advocacy Program
Nils Klinkenberg, Beacon Hill Friends House
Nancy Shippen, Fresh Pond, Friends Peace Teams
Amanda Kemp, Lancaster Monthly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Angela Hopkins, Ithaca Friends Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting, Friends Center for Racial Justice

2019-5 Introduction to the Theme

Maggie Nelson introduced us to our theme this year, “Provoke one another to love.” This theme is drawn from Hebrews 10:4-5, as quoted in Margaret Fell’s “Epistle to Convinced But Not Yet Crucified Friends.” Fell writes, “Now Friends, deal plainly with yourselves and let the eternal Light search you, and try you, for the good of your souls … It will rip you up, and lay you open, and make manifest that which lodges in you … Therefore, dear Friends … consider one another, and provoke one another to Love and to good works, not forsaking the Assembling of yourselves; but exhorting another, and so much the more … Dwell in love and unity, in the pure eternal Light; there is your fellowship, there is your cleansing and washing.”

Maggie, expanding upon this passage, mentioned that at the time of Margaret Fell’s writing, the word “provoke” meant to draw out. Her epistle calls us to be vulnerable. It nudges us to bring out more of the love that is within us and reminds us that here, this week, we can do that for one another. 

2019-6 Youth Programs

Four threads run concurrently through the week of Yearly Meeting Sessions: Junior Yearly Meeting (JYM); Junior High Yearly Meeting (JHYM); Young Friends (YF); and the adult Yearly Meeting. We gave thanks for the presence of our youth programs attendees and staff as they left us to go to their own Yearly Meeting programs.

Although we no longer formally appoint visitors to the youth programs, we have continued to be mindful of intergenerational connection, in ways both formal (intergenerational tables at meals) and informal (casual drop-ins at youth programs, arranged with youth staff).

2019-7 Secretary Reflections

Yearly Meeting Secretary Noah Merrill witnessed to how he has seen the Truth prospering among Friends over the past year, in New England and beyond.

In his reflections, Noah encouraged us to “live as if the Truth is true,” even though our society tells us to live a lie. We live society’s lies when we believe that we are alone, that we do not need each other, that the only power is power-over, that we are not all infinitely beloved children of God. We are invited into a greater truth: that death is not the end, that there is deep hope on the other side of despair, that we are deeply beloved, that the only real power is the transforming power of God. 

Sunday Evening

2019-8 Opening Worship

Maggie Edmondson (Winthrop Center) prayed us into worship. She called on God, “whom we know by many names and no name,” to help us work faithfully as parts of a whole, to encourage one another, and to respond to news of violence and hatred in the world with fierce love. She called on us to listen to one another with open hearts and open minds, and to commit ourselves joyfully to the discipline and the love that is required of us.

2019-9 Greeting from Laura Everett 

Laura Everett from the Massachusetts Council of Churches greeted us, the “convicted but not yet crucified” Friends. She thanked us for the unique contributions of the Society of Friends and reminded us to avoid the pitfall of “terminal uniqueness,” of turning our uniqueness into idolatry. The challenges we face are the same as those faced in every church. She invited us to gather on September 20 to commemorate 400 years of black resiliency. 

Laura also shared that the Massachusetts Council has organized an Ecumenical Prayer Calendar and that throughout this month they pray for New England Yearly Meeting. “We remember especially this day the New England Yearly Meeting. Bless them and their congregations. We give thanks for the spiritual gifts that these sisters and brothers in Christ share with all your people. Remind us that these ministries are for your whole church in your whole world. May the God of peace give us peace at all times and in all ways …”.

2019-10 Elders for Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness

The elders for Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness explained their purpose and roles to us. Their role is not to call people out or to propose solutions, but to open the way for the Yearly Meeting to discern the next faithful thing for us to do, as a body and as individuals. This will not be a comfortable experience, but Friends are urged to be not afraid.

2019-11 Faith and Practice Revision Committee

Phebe McCosker (Hanover), clerk of the Faith and Practice Revision Committee, as well as members Doug Armstrong (Monadnock), Marion Athearn (Westport), Rachel Cogbill (Plainfield), Susan Davies (Vassalboro), Eleanor Godway (Hartford), Eric Edwards (Sandwich), and Maggie Edmondson (Winthrop Center), reviewed for us the charge of the Faith and Practice Revision Committee and the background of its current work. 

They presented us with the chapter on Membership, asking for preliminary approval. This chapter came before Sessions last year. The committee is also working on a draft chapter on marriage and will be looking forward to our input on that for the next Sessions.

The chapter on membership, particularly the section on dual membership, has been rewritten after comments on the floor last year.

Dual membership is a difficult topic for our Yearly Meeting; the subject has come before us multiple times. Last year was the first time we had the opportunity to hear what each other thought about it. We did not find unity at that time.

Monthly meetings have reported a large variety of opinions on dual membership. Some have minuted approval of dual membership, others are profoundly uncomfortable with it, while some have come to reject the concept of membership entirely in order to be “welcoming to all.”

The clerk reminded us that in the preface to Faith and Practice which has been approved, it is clear that Faith and Practice is a “devotional resource and a handbook of procedures … designed to be a helpful guide,Dad gave not a rigid instruction manual.” Friends expressed several concerns with the chapter, mainly having to do with the nature of membership. Individual cases will sometimes be difficult, but in each case the meeting is seeking the will of God for the individual and the community.

Friends approved the preliminary acceptance of the revised chapter on membership, aware that membership is a confusing and complicated topic and one in which there are differing understandings.

Monday Morning

2019-12 Epistle 

We heard the Epistle from Britain Yearly Meeting, held at Friends House, London, on May 4–7, 2018.

Encouraged by the voices of younger Friends among us, we have united joyfully, to embark on a Spirit-led process of revision [of the book of discipline] from much-loved foundations. We know that this will take time and energy. We are clear that we have the resources to undertake this, while continuing our witness in the wider world. 
In listening to one another we have been both inspired and challenged by our religious diversity. Viewed from a distance, our Quaker community may seem like a single body. Up close, it sparkles in its infinite variety. Diversity in our beliefs and language is a richness, not a flaw. We each choose our own words, and together our stories make a whole. We are not only individuals, but also part of a church. We want the language of our book to be accessible, and also to reflect the wealth of our tradition, and of our experiences today. 
Making space to reflect our religious diversity may be painful. We should not shy away from expressing who we are. We accept our vulnerability. We need to be tender with one another, balancing truth in one hand and love in the other. By listening open-heartedly to one another, we will hear where words come from. 
Change brings both excitement and apprehension. We have faith that our Quaker processes will help us follow the leadings of God, and take us where we need to be.

2019-13 Greetings from Cuba

Our Friends from Cuba have again been barred from visiting, as our government refuses to grant visas to them. We therefore received their video greetings with mixed emotion—sorrow at their absence, and joy at the way the love of Christ, aided by technology, helps us maintain our Puente de Amor across barriers of distance and politics. We cannot be separated by governments or by oceans. 

2019-14 Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness

The Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness Working Group (elders Polly Attwood, Eppchez Yes, and Melissa Foster, and working group members Lisa Graustein [Beacon Hill], Lorena Boswell [Cambridge], Becky Jones [Northampton], Pamela Terrien [Westport], and Heidi Nortonsmith [Northampton]) shared the work they have done thus far this year, as well as the work they will carry forward this week. 

The working group isn’t composed of experts. They are facilitating a process that encourages everyone’s wisdom and gifts and celebrates inclusion and the shared work. They invited each of us to notice patterns of oppression so that we, as the corporate body and as individuals, can discern faithful next steps. The group invited us to participate in the many opportunities to engage in this work. They reminded us that this is an experiment and we will learn from both our messiness and from our faithfulness.

2019-15 Treasurer’s Report

Shearman Taber (Northampton) gave the treasurer’s report. Those who wish to communicate with the treasurer should email [email protected]g. 

He noted, with admirable humility, a significant error that he made in his report: Reserves are actually substantially below the numbers required by Yearly Meeting policy, and this fact was not correctly reflected on all lines of the balance sheets. He and the Finance Committee are working to ensure that such errors do not occur in the future, and concerned members are directed to that committee for further discussion. We appreciate and love our treasurer even when he makes mistakes, and our forgiveness for the error was expressed by the body.

Specifically, the “Net Surplus/Loss” amount for last year was not correctly transferred to the “Working Capital” line, which, along with our Quasi-Endowment fund, comprise our reserves. This “Net Surplus/Loss” line showed a loss of $48,000. Thus, our reserves were actually $176,000—which is $38,000 below the $214,000 required by policy. Based on the FY19 and proposed FY20 budgets, we will begin next year with reserves of $168,000, or $52,000 below the $220,000 required by policy. 

We remain on track with the projections that we made five years ago. At that time, we forecast that FY ’19 was the year that our reserves would reach their lowest point, well below the amount required by policy. We had also projected that our finances would “turn the corner” this year, and indeed, we are close to balancing the budget—but only if giving stays on track.

The treasurer’s full report is appended. (See page 47 of the Minute Boo2019-17k)

2019-16 Finance Committee

Bob Murray (Beacon Hill) presented the FY ‘20 budget for the Finance Committee.

This is the first year that the newly adopted funding priorities process was used to create the budget. Therefore, the budget reflects some modest increases from last year in order to align the budget with those corporately discerned priorities.

We supported the priority of funding “learning, practice, and leadership” by shifting Nia Thomas’ work to that of Quaker Practice and Leadership Facilitator, and including funds to continue the work of Maggie Nelson as Young Friends Events Organizer.

We supported full participation of parents at business meeting by extending the hours of childcare at Sessions, and we increased the funding for childcare concomitantly. 

We supported Yearly Meeting communications by continuing funding for social media and graphic design.

We supported an increased capacity for financial management by funding a 3-hour/week increase in the account manager’s hours. 

The budget details are appended. (See page 27)

As we reflected on the budget, we gave thanks for the long years of service that Eileen Cummings (Winthrop Center) gave to this work.

2019-17 Good News from Africa

Beth Collea (Wellesley) and Judith Nandikove brought good news about a growing shared ministry between East African and North American Friends. Judith expressed her gratitude for Yearly Meeting support of this work and for the sense of connection it fosters between Kenya and New England. Judith also lifted up the ministry of women in the three Swahili-speaking Friends Meetings in Quebec. Great appreciation was expressed for the years of service of Marian Baker (Weare).

2019-18 Nominating Committee

Jackie Stillwell (Monadnock) gave the report from Nominating Committee. While many opportunities remain open, the committee will not be bringing further nominations for approval later in the week. 

This is a conscious decision made both to facilitate more faithful discernment, and also to avoid a perceived pressure to “fill slots” rather than discern gifts. Therefore, Friends who begin a discernment process during the excitement and energy of Sessions are asked instead to complete that discernment process in the more reflective space of their home and local meeting. Additions to the slate will be brought to Permanent Board for approval throughout the year.

2019-19 Development Program

Noah Merrill thanked us for our participation, prayers, encouragement, and contributions for our shared ministries. 

This year we are charged with raising $593,500. Friends who have already made three-year pledges or have become monthly donors will bring us to within $56,000 of our goal. There are some who have suggested that this goal will be a stretch, but this is the number we are led to request in order to support our ministries. The Yearly Meeting does need more income. This isn’t a problem to be fixed; it is a culture to be nurtured—a culture of abundance, of equity, and of joy.

Monday Afternoon

2019-20 Opening Worship

James Varner sang and prayed us into worship.

He asked our Heavenly Father to open our minds and our hearts and exhorted us to practice our belief that there is that of God in everyone. He asked God to inspire us to show fire in our hearts, fire of love, and reminded us that it is “I and thee” who need to carry this love and do what God wants us to do as Quakers.

2019-21 Epistle

We heard the Epistle of the 91st Assembly of the Yearly Meeting of Friends, “Quakers” in Cuba, excerpted here:

The 91st assembly … has for its theme: “A church that grows in love and seeks the Truth”; inspired by the text of Ephesians 4:15: “Rather, following the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” The church feels the joy of a generational renewal which is beginning to evaluate in a critical way how it carries out its mission, with initiatives that help to improve our work and with a greater commitment to accept the challenges of our context. ...
We also feel joy at the presence of brothers and sisters from New England Yearly Meeting, with which we have built a “Bridge of Love” for the past twenty-six years, responding to the Voice of God. For us, this Bridge is a symbol of what humanity can do to build a world of peace, justice, unity, and love. … This idea generated a minute which recognizes the value of the Bridge of Love between the yearly meetings of New England and Cuba, and opposes the measures taken by the government of the United States which limit the interchange between these two faith communities. 
May the Lord of Love and Truth inspire us to be living testimonies of this understanding which, like the wind and the sea that can reach everywhere, may extend to all the men and women of the world.

2019-22 Absent Friends

We called to our attention those Friends whom we usually see among us but who are absent this year. As is our custom, postcards expressing our affection will be sent to those Friends. 

2019-23 Clerking Practices and Structures Working Group Report

Last year the Yearly Meeting charged Permanent Board to look at clerking practices and structures. Nia Thomas (Northampton), Martin Zwirner Forsythe (Beacon Hill), Ed Mair (Amesbury), and Fran Brokaw (Hanover) of the Clerking Practices and Structures working group have brought to us a preliminary report (see “Ad Hoc Working Group on Challenging White Supremacy” on page 49 of the Minute Book) and will come back to us later asking for approval of specific recommendations.

We accepted the working group’s report with gratitude.

2019-24  Witness Session 

Adam Kohrman (Wellesley) and Ben Guaraldi (Beacon Hill), as two of the three members of the Disruptive Behavior Committee, led us in celebration of witness done by Friends among us. In between messages, they played riffs from Sunshine of Your Love, Stairway to Heaven, and Smells Like Teen Spirit on two electric guitars. When this was perceived by some Friends as disrespectful, they switched to leading us in a chorus of “Praise God!” and “Hallelujah!”

Charles Simpson (Burlington) talked to us about the Burlington Meeting “deep time” project. Burlington has built a relationship with the local Abenaki band. The fruits of this relationship include public art, most noticeably an art installation at the Burlington Airport giving voice to the Abenaki story and experience of history. Burlington Meeting has established a garden growing heritage strains of corn and vegetables, and has participated in public forums and celebrations of the Abenaki in northwestern Vermont. 

Diane Dicranian (Midcoast) told us about the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, a national call for moral revival. They have organized concerts, protests, and civil disobedience around the issues that cause poverty. Friends from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts who are active in the Poor People’s Campaign stood and were recognized. The Yearly Meeting is an endorsing partner of the Poor People’s Campaign (Minute 2018-52). 

Maggie Fogarty (Dover) told us about Dover Monthly Meeting reaching unity on becoming part of a sanctuary network. Their work included reaching out to other faith communities and providing training in how to deal with Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE). One day, a family with two young boys came to Dover Meeting seeking a “safe house” after agents of ICE had come to their home. It was with deep joy that the monthly meeting was able to say “You are welcome here. We have been waiting for you.” 

Skip Schiel (Fresh Pond) of the Israel/Palestine Working Group told us about his decade long ministry using his photography to document the story of those Palestinians who have been internally exiled. The working group has been writing articles and hosting programs about Friends in New England who are carrying a concern for the people of Israel and Palestine.

Tim Wallis and Vicki Elson (Northampton) told us of Tim’s work with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and their collaborative work to help secure passage of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. They worked with their own monthly meeting to divest from companies producing materials for nuclear weapons and are now traveling to other meetings. They are also distributing publications, Warheads to Windmills: How to Pay for a Green New Deal and A Quaker Guide to Nuclear Ban Treaty Alignment.

Judy Goldberger (Beacon Hill) told us of her work doing support and accompaniment of migrants and immigrants. Judy, an obstetric nurse, began by listening to the stories of Spanish-speaking mothers of new infants, and then branched out to working with the wider immigrant community. She is now the Director of a pastoral visitation program in a house of corrections. Mary Hopkins (Fresh Pond) told us of marrying an immigrant and then learning that she would not be able to get him a green card. (He has since become a citizen.) She shared with us the joys and the pain of her work with the Boston Immigrant Justice Accompaniment Network.

2019-25 Puente de Amigos 

Em McManamy (Amesbury) and Maggie Fogarty reported to us on behalf of the Puente de Amigos committee. Their annual report may be found in the Advance Documents. They led us in singing a song celebrating the Bridge of Love, composed this year by Cuban Friend Jesus Leyva. This was recorded and will be sent back to our Cuban Friends. The refrain in Spanish means “Bridges, build more bridges,” and the song conveys a sense of how important our connections with Cuban Friends are to each of us. 

We also heard four brief reports from Friends who have traveled to Cuba this year.

Erica Brinton and Lisa Solbert Sheldon (both of Hanover) traveled to Cuba in November. The group of five from Hanover Meeting spent a week with Hanover’s sister meeting in Havana, and a week among Friends in eastern Cuba. They reported that their worship time in Cuba was full of heart and Spirit. 

Macci Schmidt (Northampton) and Gina Nortonsmith went in January with two Amherst College students to assess and inventory Quaker archives in Cuba and to advise on curation.

Jackie Stillwell and Noah Merrill traveled to Cuba in February for Cuba Yearly Meeting annual Sessions and travelled among meetings in Cuba. Jackie was serving as Noah’s elder as he traveled there in the ministry. 

Mary Beth Toomey (Wellesley) and Nora Spicer (Beacon Hill) joined with some Friends from Framingham to travel in April to assist in rebuilding the Wilmington School, which is being rehabilitated to become a community center. They renewed and strengthened long-standing relationships with Cuban Friends.

Friends recognized the long service of the former clerks of the Puente de Amigos Committee, Len and Mary Anne Cadwallader (Hanover).

Tuesday Morning

2019-26 Epistle

We heard the epistle from Aotearoa-New Zealand.

The climate emergency is a spiritual crisis for us and is exercising both our hearts and our minds. On the one hand we are concerned that in gathering and communicating locally, nationally, and internationally we enlarge our carbon footprint. On the other we wish to make our Quaker voice heard clearly and effectively at local, national and international decision-making forums. 
“We drink from wells we did not dig. We warm ourselves at fires we did not kindle.” (Deuteronomy 6:11) In doing so we have a responsibility to take on the role of kaitiaki (guardians) for resources and leave the world a better place for those that follow.

2019-27 Permanent Board

Sarah Gant (Beacon Hill), outgoing clerk of Permanent Board, gave her last Permanent Board report in that role. 

At Sessions 2018, we approved the following minute:

Permanent Board recommends laying down the Publications and Communications Committee, while directing Coordinating and Advisory and Permanent Board to consider how to better support publications in New England.
Publications and Communications had dwindled to one member: the clerk, Mark Barker (Concord). No other members were forthcoming. Currently the Moser 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 and Communications. We ask Coordinating and 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.

Permanent Board has done as requested, and presented this proposal for supporting publications:

Supporting the publication of Friends’ testimony to the transforming power of God in our lives—both in writing and in other media—is and will continue to be a vital aspect of the ministry of New England Quakers. The document below seeks to articulate policy and process for support of publishing projects by New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.
Process for Identifying and Coordinating Support for Publications
The Yearly Meeting office manager will serve as the primary point of contact for all prospective publications projects. The office manager will receive inquiries, assess scope, and match projects with resources as appropriate. The office manager will also welcome referrals or suggestions on publications projects, including from local meetings, quarterly meetings, Yearly Meeting committees, and Friends active in public ministry. The office manager or secretary may take initiative to approach prospective authors to encourage them to consider a publishing project. 
Friends who are interested in publishing relevant content (or suggesting that content created by others be published, or that content on a specific theme be created) are encouraged to contact the office manager, who will help the inquirer to determine what support is needed. 
After developing a sense of the scope and nature of support the project may involve, the office manager will consult with the Yearly Meeting secretary about the proposal to determine what support the office can offer. 
The Yearly Meeting secretary will coordinate and, if possible, approve Yearly Meeting support for publishing proposals in a manner consistent with the policy on grants, ensuring coordination, consistency, and consultation as appropriate, and seeking further discernment and counsel where helpful or needed. 
Depending on the complexity, purpose, and needs of the project proposed, the office manager may be able to offer editorial support or may refer the caller to individuals who proofread, edit, and design; to a print house; or to Friends publishing houses such as Barclay Press, FGC, FUM, and Pendle Hill.
The office manager will be a participating member of Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP), maintaining that connection on behalf of Yearly Meeting.
The office manager will maintain a written guide for format and style for print and internet content publications, such as use of abbreviations and acronyms, capitalization, and language conventions.
Overall policy and standards for publications will be developed by staff, seeking expertise and input as needed, and presented to Permanent Board as needed for review, input, and approval.
Publications Resource Group
The office manager will maintain a list of Friends with expertise relevant to publications projects who have agreed to be contacted by the office manager to consider offering their skills, experience, and gifts—either individually or as part of a small team—with specific projects. 
Friends serving as part of this “publications resource group” will serve (as called upon) as an ongoing resource for the office manager in identifying Friends to assist those seeking help with a publication, and for advising on publications-related matters as requested. The members of this group will be selected and supervised by the office manager. Though Friends serving in these roles may never meet together as a whole group, their meaningful service in this way will be publicly acknowledged. This group may include people who are not part of our Yearly Meeting (such as members of QUIP).
Promotion and Education Regarding Yearly Meeting Support for Publications
Proposals or recommendations for publications will be publicized and solicited through the Yearly Meeting website, social media, and the email newsletter. In these and other ways, Yearly Meeting will encourage writers to contact the Yearly Meeting office for help with developing publications and finding ways to share the message of Friends. Invitations to propose projects and information regarding the process will also be included in training for committees and other volunteer service.

Friends approved this proposal.

2019-28 Mosher Book and Tract Fund

As above, the Permanent Board took over management of the Mosher Book and Tract Fund until a new structure for supporting publications was discerned and approved. This has worked well. Of note, Permanent Board recently approved a disbursement from the Mosher Book and Tract fund for the purposes of marketing the Spanish-language edition of John Woolman’s Journal, which was translated by Benigno Sanchez-Eppler and Susan Furry (both of Northampton).

Coordinating and Advisory recommends that the Permanent Board retain this overall responsibility and oversight, delegating responsibility for proposal development and funding recommendations to the office manager and Yearly Meeting secretary. (See page 34 of the Minute Book)

Friends approved.

2019-29 Laying Down of Publications and Communications Committee

The body was then asked whether we were ready to lay down the Publications and Communications committee. 

Friends approved.

2019-30 Funding Priorities

In May 2018 Permanent Board (PB) approved a “funding priorities process” to guide Finance Committee’s budget discernment.

In the current budgeting process, Finance Committee drafts a budget starting in January/February; brings the budget to the PB for comment in May; edits the budget; then brings the budget to Annual Sessions for approval in August. There is currently no formalized way to incorporate into the annual budget process the wide-ranging discernment ongoing in the broader Yearly Meeting.
In the newly proposed funding priority process, the Yearly Meeting secretary is asked to prayerfully integrate a wide range of ongoing consultation and discernment ... into a formal set of annual funding priorities. This annual workflow would be shepherded by Coordinating and Advisory Committee, and the resultant proposed funding priorities would be brought to the November meeting of the Permanent Board.
At that November meeting, PB would then further discern those proposed priorities. Based on that discernment, PB would give direction regarding financial priorities for the coming fiscal year’s budget to Finance Committee. ... The Finance Committee would receive this direction in advance of their January/February meeting, when the Yearly Meeting secretary would present the first draft of the budget. In this way, Finance Committee could better incorporate the priorities and discernment of the wider Yearly Meeting into its ongoing budgeting process.

This is the first full year that this process has been followed. As mentioned earlier in the Finance Committee report, the Board discerned priorities of funding increased financial management capacity, expanding childcare at Sessions, improving communications, and developing leadership practice and learning. Pursuant to our practice of transparency, PB lays before the body the fruits of this procedure. 

Reflecting on her years as PB clerk, Sarah mentioned her deep gratitude for the prayers, love, and support of the “web of faithful friends” who have upheld her during times of grief and trial. 

We accepted Sarah’s report with immense gratitude for her years of joyful and faithful service. We were grateful, also, for the way a pattern of oppression was noticed during this report, was received with grace, and immediately altered.

For further detail, please see her written report (page 48), including the reports of three Permanent Board subcommittees: the Ad Hoc Working Group on Challenging White Supremacy, the Clerking Structures and Practices Working Group, and the Student Scholarship Granting Subcommittee.

2019-31 FGC Report

We heard the report from Frank and Jean Marie Barch, visitors from Friends General Conference (FGC), along with two of our appointed representatives to the FGC Central Committee, Eppchez Yes and Peter Nutting (Vassalboro).

We heard about FGC’s financial difficulties over the past several years, the subsequent cuts to staff and programs, and the struggle towards financial sustainability. However, FGC is clear that their purpose is not primarily to balance their books, but rather to support the life of Friends. Despite hardship, this work has not ended. The current programmatic priorities for FGC include the FGC Gathering; the ministry on racism, including the Institutional Assessment on Racism; connecting constituent meetings; support of youth; and religious education, as carried out by the spiritual deepening program. We heard in particular about FGC’s Institutional Assessment on Racism, and the ways this might apply to Yearly Meeting work. Many working groups of FGC meet virtually in an effort to “steward resources of time, talent and carbon.” Friends are invited to become more involved in the work of FGC. 

A detailed written report on FGC’s activities over the past 5 years (see “FGC Activities Over the Past 5 Years: A Brief Annotated Listing” on page 29). We accepted this report with gratitude for the many ways that FGC has touched our lives.

2019-32 Jean Zaru

We heard a recorded video message from Jean Zaru (Ramallah Friends Meeting).

Tuesday Afternoon

2019-33 Jonathan Vogel-Borne (Friends Meeting at Cambridge) prayed us into worship, energizing us with a call-and-response of Amen! Hallelujah! and giving thanks for blessings, even those that don’t feel good. He asked God, in this moment and in this time when walls are coming up everywhere around us, to hold us.

2019-34 Epistle

We heard the epistle from Wilmington Yearly Meeting. 

We gathered this year, in Maryville, Tennessee, knowing that at the rise of Yearly Meeting we would be diminished. Through the course of discussions over the year since our last annual sessions we have wrestled with the expressed desire of several Meetings to disaffiliate from the Yearly Meeting, their Quarterly Meeting, or both.
Our way forward during these sessions was laid out for us:
... because there are Friends in our Yearly Meeting who cannot remain in fellowship with those holding other points of view related to scripture, it is time to consider moving toward separating peacefully and lovingly. If it’s time to say goodbye to one another, then let’s do it in love. If we cannot reconcile all opinions, let us endeavor to unite all hearts—by loving God and loving Jesus.
As we considered, by turn, the requests of five Meetings to disaffiliate with the Yearly Meeting, we were covered by a spirit of love and humility. Mixed within that worshipful love for God and brotherly love for one another, however, was deep grieving. How do we reach an understanding of what has happened to us? What do we do with our shared history? How do we part ways with kindness, forbearance, and blessing? 
In the act of mourning our separation while blessing our disaffiliating Meetings, Friends surrendered our desire to lecture and judge, to make our own special points, to win over other Friends. We agreed that Biblical interpretation is at the heart of our uneasiness and distrust, and that we are not able to come to the same place in how we read the scriptures, or in how we view the autonomy of the Monthly Meetings and the authority of the Yearly Meeting. This is evidenced by our disagreement regarding the proper Christian understanding of marriage.
Both those remaining, and those disaffiliating, acknowledged that each group was acting with integrity, from a deeply-held commitment to faithfulness, striving to live the faith of Friends as they had learned it. Perhaps if we had been more surrendered to Christ’s teaching, division could have been avoided.

2019-35 Staff Reflections

Nia Thomas has been serving as Young Friends and Young Adult Friends coordinator; this spring she took on the newly created role of Quaker Practice and Leadership Facilitator. She is trying to act as a map for people, letting them zoom out and see what lies past the edges of our Quaker world and to zoom in and let seekers find their way around their own small Quaker neighborhoods. 

Maggie Nelson is serving as Young Friends Events Organizer, taking on many of the tasks that Nia carried until recently. She sees herself as a container, hoping to be empty enough to be filled by the lives of Young Friends. She reminds herself always that it is not her job to fill the container, but to trust the Young Friends to bring their Light to fill the community. There is a saying, “If you trust the people, they become trustworthy,” and that is especially true of high school students. She also sees herself as a bridge. The different threads of our youth programs can sometimes feel like isolated bubbles, and by being present, Maggie helps them all to feel part of the whole circle of Friends. 

Gretchen Baker-Smith (Westport) is the Junior Yearly Meeting and Junior High Yearly Meeting Coordinator. Her ministry is one of being in the trenches over the long haul. She has been reminded this week of how longevity of relationships across someone’s growing up is an extraordinary gift and contains empowering, transforming possibilities. So many of today’s leaders were once children in her care, whose potential was clear to her even then, and some of those children now have children of their own in our youth programs. The dirt of her feet is a symbol of the ways that her work with children means getting down in the dirt and knowing their lives. She reminded us to pay attention to those around us, particularly the young people, and welcome them in. Belonging is about being seen and known. 

Frederick Martin (Beacon Hill) is Accounts Manager for the Yearly Meeting. He spoke to us about integrity. He thanked our treasurer for his honesty and transparency earlier this week. He described the integrity of working together in the office, and also of re-membering, pulling things back together that have been dismembered, including working to include people who may face barriers to participation. The integrity of the Yearly Meeting gathering is also very important for him.

Sara Hubner (Gonic) finds that sometimes, “no matter the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees” [Victor Hugo]. As our Office Manager, she finds herself working with the database and recognizes the names of many people she knows from Sessions. This is a form of prayer as she holds each one in the Light. She is grateful for Friends around New England who keep in touch with her, and for the relationships she is developing with committee clerks, meeting clerks, recording clerks, and others who do so much volunteer work for Friends.

2019-36 Requests from Northwest Quarter Concerning Gaza and the West Bank

Carl Williams (Plainfield), clerk of Northwest Quarter, read us minute 2017-46, which Sessions approved two years ago. Northwest Quarter is asking us to reaffirm this minute. 

2017-46 Friends gathered at New England Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions at Castleton, Vermont, August 6–10, 2017, attest to the following: 
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) testimony on peace, justice, and nonviolence is based in our experience of the divine in all of creation and within all persons. Thus, we are deeply troubled by the suffering and injustice caused by the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and we are concerned that our government perpetuates that violence by continuing to send billions of dollars of military aid to the region.
We call upon our nation to:
Cease sending United States military aid and selling weapons to the entire Middle East.
Continue diplomatic efforts with all parties and remain in dialogue even with those who have acted violently.
Join the international court system and accept its jurisdiction.
We call upon all nations to:
Work with the United Nations Security Council to end military aid and arms sales from all outside countries to all parties in this conflict.
Support the United Nations efforts to bring justice, peace, security, and reconciliation to all parties in the conflict.
Take measures to assure that international laws are applied universally.
We call upon all individuals and communities to:
Support and learn from the many organizations that bring Israelis and Palestinians together for justice and peacemaking.
Examine how anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and privilege affect our understanding of the conflict.

Friends approved reaffirming this minute.

Northwest Quarter also asks us to request that monthly meetings and quarterly meetings consider whether they have lived into this minute, particularly as it applies to Gaza and the West Bank. This issue weighs heavy on the hearts of many here, but the request now is specifically for meetings to consider this, not to take it up ourselves at this time. 

Friends approve making this request.

2019-37 Recommendations from Ministry and Counsel Regarding the Friends United Meeting (FUM) Personnel Policy

Honor Woodrow (Framingham), clerk of Ministry and Counsel (M&C), played a segment of a recording from Pastor Mike Huber (West Hills Friends Church, Portland, OR) entitled “On Authority and Listening in Love,” reminding us that discernment in a meeting for business is the work of love, of listening for God’s spirit speaking through one another, even those with whom we disagree.

While M&C was not able to unite with the Racial, Social, and Economic Justice Committee’s minute regarding the FUM personnel policy, they found it had life and should be heard by Sessions. 

Minute from Racial Social and Economic Justice Committee Presented to NEYM M&C May 2019
Racial Social Economic Justice Committee asks New England Yearly Meeting to minute formally its opposition to FUM’s conditions of employment. Let us be clear, the main issue is the moral injury of the hiring policy as it stands now, not with the Yearly Meeting’s policy of withholding contributions to FUM. We value our relationship with FUM, especially the good work it has done in many countries. However, we also value the equality and inherent worth of all individuals including members of the LGBT community. LGBT people are vital to the life of our Yearly Meeting. We hold the hope that the personnel policy will evolve to include the worth of all those who seek to do God’s work in the world.”

Friends approved affirming the life in this RSEJ minute and that the sexual ethics portion of the FUM personnel policy causes pain and suffering to LGBTQ+ Friends, and to all Friends by creating an obstacle to all fully being in the beloved community.

2019-38 Ministry and Counsel recommended that Sessions direct the Yearly Meeting clerk to write a letter to the presiding clerk of FUM, expressing the pain and sorrow we feel in the FUM personnel policy, and recommending that the FUM governing board continue to explore a faithful alternative.

Friends approved so directing the clerk.

2019-39 Ministry and Counsel recommended that Sessions request that our representatives to the FUM General Board, in consultation with representatives from other yearly meetings, including those who may have different opinions than our Yearly Meeting, work to develop a proposed alternative to the current policy. 

Friends approved.

2019-40 Ministry and Counsel (M&C) considered the possibility of making a direct recommendation in regard to the withholding policy. M&C was aware that if the policy is not approved for another year it will no longer continue and was clear that M&C could not come to unity on supporting the renewal or discontinuation of the policy.

Friends labored with the history of this withholding mechanism, shared feelings about the deep divisions within our community, and labored with the question of whether or not to extend the withholding mechanism. Friends divisions were clear and Friends did not name a clear path forward. Friends approved having the clerks preparing a minute of exercise, to be brought back Wednesday morning

Wednesday Morning

2019-41 Epistle

We heard the epistle from Ohio Yearly Meeting Conservative.

God spoke to us through his servants. He has invested in us as a miracle. If we are faithful, we can see ourselves that way. God warned us that the enemy uses deception, distraction, discouragement and division. Of these, the most dangerous is division. We were also cautioned about pride, arrogance and self-centeredness. But all these dangers are dissolved when we look inward. It is through the inward search that we will find Him and His cross. Inwardly, we find the strength to pick up that cross and carry it ...
... Given the contentious climate in our country, Ministry and Oversight agreed to write a letter encouraging our nation to return to the ways of Christ. It was difficult to find wording that did not add to the country’s divisiveness but instead promote the loving care of all humankind. When hope seemed to totally escape them, a Friend rose to propose language that united them and our Lord’s hand became evident.

We also heard a quote from Toni Morrison, whose death was announced yesterday.

The conventional wisdom of the Tower of Babel story is that the collapse was a misfortune, that it was the distraction or the weight of many languages that precipitated the tower’s failed architecture, that one monolithic language would have expedited the building and heaven would have been reached.
“Whose heaven,” [the old woman] wonders, “and what kind?”
Perhaps the achievement of paradise was premature, a little hasty, if no one could take the time to understand other languages, other views, other narratives. Had they, the heaven they imagined might have been found at their feet.

2019-42 The clerk extended apologies to the body for failing to recognize Marian Baker in the discussion about FUM on Tuesday afternoon. The clerk read excerpts from a letter from Marian: 

Our theme is “Provoke one another to love.” As one in New England who has been amazingly blessed by God to travel widely within our yearly meeting, within other FUM meetings across North and Latin America, and within East Africa, I have a different experience and viewpoint than many of you. I was one of your representatives on the FUM Board when the original personnel policy was approved. … Through United Society of Friends Women I have also experienced the pain of many women who belong to other FUM meetings that have split over the issue. I know the pain that has been caused when Americans go to Kenya or Uganda and assume we know more than the Friends we are visiting in such a different culture. In countries where one is dealing with fundamental issues like, “do we have any source of safe water?” … Let us not try to control others with our money. Let [us] not judge and condemn others. May we humbly reach out in love, willing to listen with both North American fellow members of FUM as well as with African members of FUM.
Even more important is willingness to reach out to other FUM Yearly Meetings to ask to pray deeply together and to seek God’s will together and serve God in these issues, rather than serve our human desires. Let us reach out in humble love towards every human.
I will continue to hold you all in Christ’s Light throughout Wednesday. [Signed] Marian Baker

2019-43 FUM Withholding Mechanism

The clerks brought back a draft proposed minute addressing the FUM withholding mechanism. 

The clerk’s sense of the meeting is that the body accepted the following minute.

New England Yearly Meeting is not in unity to further extend the withholding mechanism. The mechanism was established by Minute 2009-54, which specifies that “this process is to be in force until September 30, 2010, unless explicitly extended by the YM in its Sessions next year.” It was extended several times, most recently in Minute 2014-69, which extended “... the FUM financial withholding policy for the next five years, to be re-assessed no later than NEYM Sessions in August of 2019.” Without unity on the floor of 2019 Sessions to extend it further, the mechanism ends.
Out of respect for the discernment of meetings that have approved budgets which incorporate the withholding mechanism, and in order to afford monthly meetings the time to incorporate this change into their annual budget discernment, we set the date for the expiration of this mechanism for October 1, 2020.

A number of Friends stood aside from this minute. Others were unable to unite with it.

The reading clerks presented a draft minute of exercise regarding the FUM withholding policy. After much discussion, the body did not approve. The clerks will continue to labor, and will bring a revised minute of exercise tomorrow morning. 

2019-44 Unity Agenda

Friends approved the Unity Agenda which includes accepting the reports from staff, boards, committees, representatives and other groups from the Yearly Meeting, the memorial minutes, and time sensitive statements. 

The Unity Agenda also includes approving the revised committee purposes procedures and composition, approving Yearly Meeting clerks nominations, approving authorization to make edits and corrections to the minutes, approving the nominations brought to the body by the Nominating Committee, and approving the bank resolutions. 

2019-45 Final Budget Approval

Friends approved the FY’20 budget as proposed by the Finance Committee.

2019-46 Clerking Structures and Practices Working Group

The Clerking Structures and Practices Working Group returned to us with several concrete proposals for discernment, all of which the body approved, as follows.

  1. Endorsing the report and the detailed recommendations, moving the recommendations in the report forward to the appropriate parties for implementation. 
  2. The Yearly Meeting holds an ongoing commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. We strive to nurture the gifts of all; to create pathways to leadership that are accessible to everyone; and to extend opportunities that will foster a broad exchange of diverse ideas and perspectives. We commit to supporting the leadership development of all Friends, without tokenizing them, regardless of economic background, education, race, age, gender, sexuality, or disability. 
  3. The Quaker Practice and Leadership Facilitator should give a progress report at 2020 Sessions. This will increase transparency and accountability, as well as help us keep up momentum even when we encounter obstacles. This will also help us remain accountable to our intentions even when changes take longer than one year.
  4. The overall responsibility for responding to the concerns raised in the report rests with Permanent Board. We expect significant work to happen between Annual Sessions. Because Permanent Board interfaces with other working groups and committees, this will help ensure that changes made are integrated with other changes happening across the Yearly Meeting.
  5. As possible within budgetary constraints, the Finance Committee, treasurer, and Yearly Meeting secretary shall ensure funding for the recommendations and incorporate these changes into planning for future budgets.
  6. We ask Ministry and Counsel to offer support to Permanent Board in creating a working group charged with exploring and naming how our Yearly Meeting currently supports ministry and spiritual life. This working group will identify where support for ministry and spiritual life currently happens and where gaps exist, and then offer recommendations for structures, practices, and manageable leadership roles that would best serve the current needs of Friends. 
  7. During the triennial review of committee purposes and procedures, Coordinating and Advisory shall pay careful attention to how committee structures can best facilitate effectiveness in the work of our Yearly Meeting. In our current organizational culture it is often very hard for us to lay things down, and much easier to say “yes” to new things. We therefore end up with more structures and projects that we can responsibly maintain. We need to learn to let things go.

2019-47 Faith and Practice Revision Committee

We returned to consideration of the paper “Dying, Death, and Bereavement,” which is brought before us for preliminary approval.

Friends approved. 

Wednesday Afternoon

2019-48 Prayer

Abby Matchette (Burlington) prayed us into worship, asking God to help us let go and trust as we step into the hard work before us.

2019-49 Epistle

We heard the epistle from North Pacific Yearly Meeting. 

Our Friend in Residence warned against seeking to be comfortable: white people should not confuse one’s discomfort with lack of safety: at this the room quaked with a gasp of recognition. Language is often a sore point: we wish to be authentic and speak the truth of our experience, but in ignorance we use words that wound others. We know we will make mistakes even as we go forward in a brave way, and feel exasperated by that reality. In follow-up workshops Friends considered how to deal with the manifestations of cultural and systemic bias. We are thankful for the Friends of color that offered resources and open insights while supporting each other in healing. We began to look at a proposed minute supporting engagement to uproot racism. Our worship group discussions helped us look more deeply into the privileges of our educated, Euro-American majority, and to empathize with the sufferings of vulnerable people at the corner of invisibility and exposure.
... We are challenged to make effective witness, to uproot racism from our hearts and our communities now. This is not the time to talk about our ideals; it is the time to act to bring forth actions that manifest ideals we cannot yet see. The Spirit is working among our Beloved Community, leading us to recognize past failures, to acknowledge our progress, and to live up to the Light we now have.

2019-50 Visitors

Nancy Shippen, the Yearly Meeting’s representative to the Friends Peace Teams, reported to us about the work of Friends Peace Teams. She invited us to get involved and to learn more on the Friends Peace Teams website.

2019-51 Report from Friends Camp

Anna Hopkins, Friends Camp director, and Achieng Agutu, a long-time counselor, told us about what is blossoming at Friends Camp and ways that Friends can become involved. There have been enough campers and camp sessions to put the Camp in good financial shape, and this year 100% of the leadership staff returned to their positions from last year. They had an on-time start to our summer in spite of a few hiccups, and it was very good that they had the financial reserves to make needed repairs. New initiatives include a leadership skills program, a developing relationship with Vassalboro Meeting, and a growing understanding of what diversity means to the Camp. There are opportunities for volunteers, and the continued financial support of Friends has been very important. Forty percent of families attending camp this year requested some degree of financial assistance, and this year Friends Camp was able to say yes to everyone who applied for financial assistance.

2019-52 Earthcare Ministry Committee Proposed Minute

Last year, Sessions approved a minute (2018‑36) calling for us to reduce our carbon footprints by 10% over the ensuing year. Earthcare Ministry Committee has provided an online calculator (climatecalculator.org) that individuals and meetings can use to estimate our carbon footprints. Friends have done a good job, but if we are to meet target CO2 levels for the future, greater efforts will be required. 

Emma Condori from Bolivia described for us the effects of climate change on the land and the people of her country, and a visitor from Kenya described the devastation she had seen caused by a cyclone.

Earthcare Ministry proposed a minute that sets a goal for us to reduce our carbon footprint by an additional 10% in 2020, and Friends of comfortable means to reduce by 15 to 20%. The minute also urges Friends to devote an hour a week to influencing others through such activities as letter writing, education, conversation, or art and music. They reminded us that as Quakers, we should be working not just toward practical steps but should commit to an inner transformative journey in our relationship with the Earth. Our loving actions can invigorate us as well as transform the world. 

See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create (Isaiah 65:17-18)
As God’s agents of the “new heavens and a new Earth,” and Friends of Jesus, we are called into bold ministry in restoring a healthy and just place for all to live. 
At 2018 Sessions Friends reached unity on a minute (2018‑36) calling for each of us to reduce our carbon footprints by 10% over the ensuing year. This was, as far as we know, the first time a U.S. religious denomination has set such a goal, and it was in keeping with the 2018 Sessions theme of “to be bold in God’s service.” 
Earthcare Ministry Committee recognizes that the climate crisis is ongoing, and requires even more urgent action from Friends. EMC therefore proposes the following minute for 2019 Sessions:
Friends are encouraged to either begin or continue deepening the inner transition that makes it possible to fully embrace the changes required to reduce our carbon footprints.
Friends in the Yearly Meeting are called upon to reduce their carbon footprints by an additional 10% during 2020. Friends with additional means are encouraged to reduce their footprints by 15 to 20% during 2020.
Meetinghouses, where possible, should be examined for ways to reduce the carbon footprint by 10% in the coming year.
Friends are encouraged to dedicate one hour per week on their “carbon handprint,” i.e., in influencing others to take action on the climate crisis. Friends should discern how they are called to do this, but examples might include writing government officials, creating a song or art work on the climate crisis, and teaching each other and our youth about the crisis.

Understanding that this is not a commitment for individuals to each reduce our carbon footprints by 10%, but rather an encouragement to work together towards this overall goal, Friends approved the minute.

2019-53 Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness Working Group

Friends approve continuing the work of the Elders for Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness through the coming year under the care of Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel.

The Working Group asked to continue in its current configuration for one more month. Friends approved.

A report from the Elders for Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness appears on page 35

2019-54 Ramallah Friends School

Eden Grace (Beacon Hill), Global Ministries director of FUM, introduced Adrian Moody, Head of Ramallah Friends School (RFS). He shared with us stories of staff and students at RFS and told us of the school’s accomplishments. RFS provides an education unparalleled in Palestine, using the International Baccalaureate curriculum, and has sent students to colleges around the world, including Ivy League schools. They were the first school in that part of the world to educate girls, they educate students with disabilities who are stigmatized elsewhere, and they offer subsidized education to the children not just of teachers but also of operational staff. Their students will be the adults engaging in the peace process in the future. RFS was founded by Friends from New England and continues to exist because of our support.

2019-55 First Reading of Epistle and Feedback 

LVM Shelton (Plainfield), Brianna Hallowell (Vassalboro), and Jay O’Hara (West Falmouth) presented a first reading of the Epistle. Friends were invited to give feedback directly to members of the Epistle Committee.

Thursday Morning

2019-56 Epistle

We heard the epistle from Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting.

In our business and committees, we are working on establishing our organizational DNA and on holding space for healing from the traumas of the past. Our speaker for the weekend, Benigno Sanchez-Eppler, under the care of New England Yearly Meeting, shared with us in a way that spoke to our condition of bravely facing into the work of healing. His words were a balm to our souls, reminding us of the ways in which we can draw upon our experiences of wounding to better carry the healing light to others among us.

2019-57 State of Society

We heard the State of Society report, which included quotations from monthly meeting State of Society reports as well as queries for reflection.

As Friends, we are called to stand centered in hope and not despair. Divisions and obstacles have no power over the vision we share and the work we carry out with Divine Assistance. We are aware that we are and will be imperfect on this path but know that in our brokenness, Light enters and leads us through the power of Love to transformation and Grace. In the words of Margaret Fell: “Friends, let the Eternal Light search you, and try you, it will rip you up, lay you open. Provoke one another to Love.” 

(See full report and queries on page 87 of the Minute Book.)

We received the report with gratitude for the faithfulness of these Friends. Others shared their experience of the joy and faithfulness we see around the Yearly Meeting.

2019-58 Minute of Exercise on the Yearly Meeting Relationship with FUM

We heard again the minute of exercise presented by the clerks.

We know that every person is deeply beloved in the eyes of God. We unite unequivocally in our love and care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Friends, and hold a particular concern for their lives and ministries. We continue to seek the ways we can best support these Friends in New England, around the country, and around the world.
We are clear that the FUM personnel policy causes harm to LGBTQ+ Friends, as well as all Friends who are sexually active outside of heterosexual marriage. Furthermore, the personnel policy suppresses the ministry of these Friends, causing loss to the wider body. We seek forgiveness for the extent to which we are complicit in this. 
All of this we hold to be true, and yet we also unite in our desire to continually engage with the wide diversity of Friends worldwide. We are a part of FUM, we love FUM, and we wish to live in our community with love and integrity. 
In our struggle to hold these two unities in tension, for several years we have extended a temporary withholding mechanism (see minute 2009-54) that allows individuals to know that none of their money will go to FUM. 
The withholding mechanism has served a meaningful and helpful purpose. For a decade it has supported the freedom of conscience of some Friends within our Yearly Meeting, and also given us a reprieve from the tension and division that the FUM personnel policy has created in our communities. During this period, significant work was done, seeking greater unity and understanding.
As the withholding mechanism expires, we have heard any number of proposed possible mechanisms that might allow us to hold in tension both the freedom of conscience of Friends exercised by the personnel policy, and the deeply held desire to remain in community with FUM. Given our lack of unity, we are concerned that any alternative proposal drafted in haste on the floor of Sessions will not be seasoned, will not allow input from individuals not present at Sessions, and would be an obstacle to finding the opportunity that God is giving us. We hope that a properly seasoned proposal may rise through our established structures (e.g., a minute from a monthly meeting seasoned by the quarter) and be brought to Sessions 2020 before the withholding mechanism finally expires. What new opportunity, what new possibilities, are we now being called into?
As we move forward, let us listen to one another and to that of God within one another. In the words of Toni Morrison, let us “take the time to understand other languages, other views, other narratives.” Let us seek that greater place where God’s full measure of grace is poured out. 

A number of Friends stood aside from this minute. Others were unable to unite with the minute.

2019-59 Events Coordinator Report

Elizabeth Hacala gave the Events Coordinator report. 

This is the first time she has felt like she could bring my whole self to her work. “Sessions is a vessel, and we can fill it; a map, and we can follow it. It is a 359-year relationship, and an opportunity to remember. It is a prayer, and we can pray it.”

Elizabeth reported that this year we had 638 attenders (slightly more than 2018), including 114 children and youth, and 69 “first-timers.” We had 54 visitors, compared to 38 in 2018.

Her report was received with immense gratitude for all of the work it takes to coordinate an event with as many moving parts as Sessions.

2019-60 Appreciation of Speakers

Friends expressed their deep appreciation to Colin Saxton for bringing the Bible Half Hours; to Lisa Graustein for Presenting our Plenary; and to Jean Zaru of Ramallah Friends Meeting for sending a video message from Ramallah Friends Meeting. All of this ministry was recorded and will be posted on the Yearly Meeting website.

2019-61 Thanks to Castleton Staff

Friends also expressed thanks to the Castleton University staff for their friendly and enthusiastic support. In particular, we extended gratitude to Olliver Young, our dedicated Clerks’ technical support person, and MacArthur Stine, Castleton’s Director of Technical Service. 

2019-62 Epistles

We heard the epistles from our youth programs: Childcare; Junior Yearly Meeting groups K–1, 2–4, and 5–6; Junior High Yearly Meeting, and Young Friends.

LVM Shelton (Plainfield), Brianna Hallowell (Vassalboro), and Jay O’Hara (West Falmouth) read the New England Yearly Meeting Epistle. With deep appreciation for the work of the committee, Friends received this reflection on our condition and our work together. (See “Epistles” on page 89)

2019-63 Closing Worship

Friends closed in worship, purposing to meet again at Castletown University, August 1–6, 2020. Our new presiding clerk, Bruce Neumann, offered a closing prayer.