New York Yearly Meeting
of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Epistle of New York Yearly Meeting, July 2005

August 3, 2005

Dear Friends,

Our Yearly Meeting's annual sessions last week were blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit. At times strenuous, often filled with Life and Power, we felt ourselves held, guided, and sustained throughout.

Attached to this year's epistle to Friends Everywhere, is a minute of witness brought by the Senior High School group to the body in session. As you will see, Friends in monthly meetings are requested to labor with the question of acknowledging the gifts of all God's children; also to share this minute with high school Friends in the meeting.

In the fellowship of peace,

Linda B. Chidsey
Clerk, NYYM

To Friends everywhere—Greetings in the Holy Spirit.

We, 453 adults and 184 attenders at Junior Yearly Meeting, gathered at the Silver Bay Conference Center on Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains for our 310th session. We are a united yearly meeting where Friends from programmed and unprogrammed meetings interact in the Spirit. Our theme, "The Seed Cracked Open: Growing beyond Racism," has been an opportunity to hear a story rarely told: of membership denied to and respect withheld from those of African heritage, of prejudice, oppression, and racism experienced in a faith community which professes equality of all under God/the creator. Irma Guthrie, invited to bring us a message during our opening family worship, reminded us that we all have been hurt by racism and that we must work together to overcome it to be whole. Irma insisted that this work must be done by European American Friends because social power resides with them.

We received the ministry of Vanessa Julye, a minuted minister from Central Philadelphia Meeting traveling under a concern to enable the Religious Society of Friends to grow beyond racism. Using the African tradition of call and response, she described how racism developed, the Truth that racism denies, and the steps that Friends of European heritage need to take to end racism. She charted a path, part of which was presented almost 40 years ago by Friend Barrington Dunbar. His focus was on the wider society; Friend Vanessa put the focus on us: "Acknowledge and accept that we have prejudices no matter how painful this is."

Many Friends in New York Yearly Meeting find it very difficult to talk about racism. When we do, we experience feelings of rage, pain, awkwardness, confusion, guilt, and/or denial. Vanessa challenged us to examine ourselves and our meetings, listening deeply with compassion to one another's stories, and reminding us that the Spirit of God continues to move within Friends to heal the hurts that racism has instilled. Attention to this concern continued in worship sharing for racial healing, a study group, threshing sessions, and a panel and a movie about Bayard Rustin.

We were blessed in Bible study sessions to hear Trayce Peterson, director of Campus and Quaker Ministries at Earlham College, guide us in a reading of the Epistle of James. There was extensive sharing, and we were powerfully reminded of the futility of trying to separate faith from works, of the grievous sinfulness of honoring social distinctions, and that peace is the seedbed of righteousness.

In our business sessions we experienced a spirit-led tranquillity, acceptance, and deepening that allowed us to look at the ways we are working in the world. We continue pruning our structure, making room for revitalization. Friends laid down three committees (Disability Concerns, Women's Concerns, and Latin American Concerns). Our work in these areas continues by other means. Simplifying our structures and containing our costs allows the allocation of greater resources to our monthly meetings. The result is a projected balanced budget with only a tiny increase.

In his first year of service, our new general secretary, Christopher Sammond, visited all regional meetings and one third of local meetings and worship groups. He sees increased life in the spirit of God powerfully at work in this yearly meeting. He emphasized that it is the work of all Friends in our yearly meeting to support our numerous small meetings and worship groups, the best way being through visitation.

This year saw greater participation by young Friends. A panel of six young Friends and two adults spoke on being a Quaker in a non-Quaker world. Young Friends offered thoughtful insights describing Powell House, Junior Yearly Meeting, Friends General Conference's Junior Gathering, and their parents as sources for learning about their own gifts and how to take these gifts back into the non-Quaker world in socially positive ways. The high school group brought a testimony of witness to the equality of all people, which is appended to this epistle. Those present were inspired and responded with joy, thankfulness, and singing.

It was wonderful to hear how the leaders of Quaker organizations in the New York area have been meeting to renew themselves in the context of spiritual searching and to coordinate the witness of Friends.

We were moved by Friends whose inspired witness is supported by the yearly meeting. Each one who spoke to us was a pattern, an example, giving us testimonies of faith in action: addressing poverty, AIDS, and trauma in Africa; building adobe ovens in Honduras; developing pastoral leadership (including HIV/AIDS counseling and Alternatives to Violence Project skills) in Kaimosi, Kenya; nurturing the spirit of incarcerated young women; giving testimony against the death penalty in New York State; and ministering to persons with AIDS in Manhattan.

Friday's programmed worship lifted us up with deep messages about the divine love and forgiveness that surround us. May you know this presence of love, and may the spirit of God guide your steps and ours in the days ahead.

And, dear Friends everywhere, although the approval of the epistle has always been the end of our yearly meeting sessions, this year Vanessa Julye continued her ministry to us as she reflected that our struggle long into the night to approve this epistle to you was the beginning of the work that we need to do. We were brought low and found how accurate our words in the third paragraph of this epistle are: "Many Friends in New York Yearly Meeting find it very difficult to talk about racism. When we do, we experience feelings of rage, pain, awkwardness, confusion, guilt, and/or denial. Vanessa challenged us to examine ourselves and our meetings, listening deeply with compassion to one another's stories, and reminding us that the Spirit of God continues to move within Friends to heal the hurts that racism has instilled." We ask for your prayers.

Signed for and on behalf of New York Yearly Meeting Linda B. Chidsey, clerk

From the Senior High Group:

We the Senior High School Group of New York Yearly Meeting, encouraged by FGC's minute on gifts in ministry across a range of sexual orientations, wish to relay our full support of the equality of the entire human race. We reaffirm our beliefs in the Quaker testimony of equality in that, despite all differences including but not limited to differences in belief systems, gender, physical attributes, or sexual orientation, everyone has the same Light Within and so deserves the same rights and respect.

Our concern is that each person be recognized for their Inner Light and the characteristics that make them individuals. Our differences in beliefs, race, abilities, and sexuality are the source of our strength as a group. Without them we would not be the wonderfully diverse and original people that we pride ourselves on being. By allowing ourselves to appreciate each person's individuality we give ourselves the opportunity to become closer to the Light, to each individual, and to ourselves.

We request that our witness be added as an appendage to the NYYM Epistle. We also ask that those who read this take the time to search for their own truth in our words. We ask the monthly meetings to labor with this topic and to forward our witness to their high school groups for further discussion. Our hope is to encourage contemplation and digestion of this issue that many of us hold close to our hearts.

Timothy Barner Friends Committee on National Legislation
Sybil Ann Brennan Gainesville Florida Meeting, Southeastern Yearly Meeting
Elizabeth (Buffy) R. Curtis West Falmouth Meeting, New England Yearly Meeting
Nancy Diaz Central Philadelphia Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Pendle Hill
Liberty Goodwin Smithfield Meeting, New England Yearly Meeting
Daniel Hahn New York State Council of Churches
Vanessa Julye Central Philadelphia Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Gloria Kershner Grass Valley Meeting, Pacific Yearly Meeting
Paul Klinkman Smithfield Meeting, New England Yearly Meeting
Donna McDaniel New England Yearly Meeting
Demi McGuire New York State Council of Churches
Clinton Pettus Middle Atlantic Region, American Friends Service Committee
Kathryn Pettus Wilmington Friends Monthly Meeting
Christine (Chrissie) Rizzo Upper NYS Area Office, American Friends Service Committee
David and Perry-O Sliwa Decorah Friends Meeting, Iowa
Carole and Ray Treadway Friendship Meeting, North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative, Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas
Michael Wajda Goshen Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting

Study Groups

  • Building a future free of occasion for war
  • Costs of the Death Penalty
  • Discerning and Cherishing Gifts: The Meeting's Responsibility
  • Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship
  • Healing When Friends Collide
  • On Listening to God—What do you hear?
  • Prison, Children, Families, Communities—and Friends
  • Recording Friends Business and Committee Meetings
  • Statements of Conscience
  • The Lord's Prayer as Spiritual Nurturance

Interest Groups

  • Couple Enrichment
  • Evolving Relationship: Powell House and Old Chatham Meeting
  • Military Draft, Enlistment, and Conscientious Objection
  • Native Environmental Justice Issues
  • Personal Wholeness and Quaker Testimonies
  • Quaker Conference on Torture
  • Quaker Schools: Quaker Outreach
  • Socially Responsible Investing
  • Taking it to the streets
  • Visitation: The Ministry of Presence
  • White Friends Sharing Feelings about Racism

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