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On Pastoral Care at Annual Sessions
“...So watch your hearts and ways; and watch one over another, in that which is gentle and tender, and knows it can neither preserve itself, nor help another out of the snare; but the Lord must be waited upon, to do this in and for us all...”—Isaac Penington, March 4, 1667
It is my hope that as we gather at our Annual Sessions for a time of refreshment, connection, and decision-making about our shared work, all those present are able to find what they need, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We are living in challenging times, and many of us may feel isolated and in despair. While the Spirit is at work, and through our time together in “that which is Eternal” many of us may find Peace, Serenity, and Joy, for some of us that experience may yet feel far off. It is my hope that each of us gathered can take responsibility to make space for and hold tenderly the varied emotional conditions among us and within ourselves throughout our time together, and to do what we can to encourage and care for the grief, joy, pain, laughter, tears, jubilation, anger, enthusiasm, frustration, deep love, and disappointment that will surely all be present with us during this time.
In my service as clerk of Ministry and Counsel for New England Yearly Meeting I feel that I hold a particular responsibility for overall care of our collective spiritual condition. This is something that I carry with me throughout the year, but which becomes tangible in a different way when we come together for a gathering like this. And while it is my hope and my belief that with God’s help our shared contribution toward holding and loving one another makes a difference, I also know that for many of us there are times where this may not feel sufficient and we need extra, more explicit support.
To that end, there are many, many Friends who are doing the work of caring for us as we gather this year, and several who have agreed to serve in a particular capacity this week. I hope this letter will help orient you to some ways in which—thanks to the dedicated, thoughtful and prayerful work of many Friends—we have been preparing to care for the spiritual and emotional condition of Friends gathered at Annual Sessions.
Support available to Friends throughout the week includes:
On-call Pastoral Care Team
(Coordinated by Abby Matchette [Burlington, VT, Friends Meeting])
At New England Yearly Meeting Sessions this year, Friends will have access to an on-call number to contact Pastoral Care. The number will be stewarded by a team of Friends: Abby Matchette, Carolyn Stone (Wellesley), and Elizabeth Szatkowski (Portland), whose gifts will provide for our community, in a prayerful and sustainable way, a ministry of presence. Principally, the function of the Pastoral Care team at Sessions is less about “program” and more about attending to the individual pastoral care needs of persons of all ages as the way opens, or as needs arise, during our Annual Sessions. A Pastoral Care team member may respond to a need for spiritual direction, attentiveness to emotions rising, loss or transition challenges, or there may be a request from staff to attend specific age-group clusters, larger settings for program delivery, worship, and/or worship-sharing. In each of these instances attention to prayer and respect for confidentiality are to be carefully observed. More information about how to contact the pastoral care team will be provided at Sessions.
(Coordinated by Kevin Lee [Westport, MA, Friends Meeting])
"…Friends seek to identify and to encourage in individual members the gift to minister or to counsel or to coordinate or to advance a discussion in the spirit of God. Thus leadership in the meeting is widely shared, and the full body profits from that which each member can contribute." —NEYM Faith & Practice, 1985, p. 110
In the manner of Friends and as the Spirit may lead, Kevin will attend to the spiritual, emotional and pastoral care needs of young people, their parents, and other Friends during Sessions, remaining open and prayerfully responsive to a "ministry of presence" during Sessions. He will be available during program hours, and in case of crisis or emergency, during non-program hours. He will be available for meetings as requested by staff, and attend as requested age-group clusters or larger settings for program delivery, worship, and/or worship-sharing. Kevin will also be a resource person for youth-related activities, games ,and discussions related to the theme of Annual Sessions. Kevin can be reached during Sessions via the Information Desk, by calling or texting (preferred) his cell (508-742-8709), by asking any of the Youth Program Coordinators to contact him during program hours, by leaving a note on the message board, by reaching out to him during each morning's opening worship within the JYM program, through email at [email protected], or by catching him on a golf cart. You can also contact Kevin before or after Sessions through email or by calling his cell. This number is confidential and good for voice mail, or text, at any hour.
(Coordinated by Paul Spence [Mt. Toby, MA, Friends Meeting])
For the second year, Ministry and Counsel will be holding a Sacred Space for Yearly Meeting Sessions. Appropriately located near the center of campus at the Coffee Cottage, it is meant to be a place of refuge and sanctuary as well as a Sacred Center through which the Meeting for Business can be continually held in the Spirit. All will be welcome at this resource throughout the week.
(Coordinated by Jennifer Swann [South Berkshire, MA, Friends Meeting and NYYM])
This year New England Yearly Meeting is offering for the first time a “healing center” for those who feel they might benefit from opportunities to receive energy work, massage, compassionate listening, or other types of healing. In this space you will find a variety of practitioners whose gifts of healing are expressed in a number of different modalities. The healing center will be open during certain hours each day (see the Yearly Meeting News for updates) and is not intended for those seeking medical care. Please be sure to read the guidelines/expectations for the space before stopping by to make an appointment.
Opportunity to share and process our experience of naming and noticing patterns of oppression and faithfulness
(Coordinated by Lisa Graustein [Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting])
Join the Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness Working Group, Monday through Wednesday, for our drop-in Anchor Group (see the Yearly Meeting News for location). This will be a time to talk about the patterns of oppression and faithfulness we are noticing, share how the practice of noticing is impacting us, and explore ways to interrupt the patterns we are encountering in ourselves and others. You can come for one, two, or all three days—whatever works best for you.
Thank you so much to all of the many Friends who are working to help make this Sessions a place where we can all feel honored, heard, loved, known, and cherished as the beloved children of God that we are. I know that each of us can bring that into all the spaces we inhabit this week, and I hope we will accept that invitation.
In Faith and Service,
Honor Woodrow (Framingham, MA, Friends Meeting)
Clerk of New England Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel