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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.
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.
We heard the Epistle from Britain Yearly Meeting, held at Friends House, London, on May 4–7, 2018.
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.
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.
We heard the Epistle of the 91st Assembly of the Yearly Meeting of Friends, “Quakers” in Cuba, excerpted here:
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).
We heard the epistle from Aotearoa-New Zealand.
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 has done as requested, and presented this proposal for supporting publications:
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)
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.
2019-30 Funding Priorities
In May 2018 Permanent Board (PB) approved a “funding priorities process” to guide Finance Committee’s budget discernment.
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).
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.
We heard the epistle from Wilmington Yearly Meeting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
We heard the epistle from Ohio Yearly Meeting Conservative.
We also heard a quote from Toni Morrison, whose death was announced yesterday.
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:
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.
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.
- Endorsing the report and the detailed recommendations, moving the recommendations in the report forward to the appropriate parties for implementation.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
We heard the epistle from North Pacific Yearly Meeting.
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.
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.
We heard the epistle from Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting.
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.
(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.
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.
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.