New York Yearly Meeting
Fall Sessions

November 13–15, 2009

Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey

Saturday, November 14, 2009, 10:00 A.M.

Heather Cook, Clerk
Joseph Garren, Acting Assistant Clerk
Elaine Learnard, Recording Clerk
Robin Alpern, Reading Clerk

2009-11-01. The meeting remained gathered following morning open worship. Out of the silence, Clerk Heather Cook (Chatham-Summit) greeted Friends, saying she felt God’s love, the pulse of the universe beating among us today. She shared an image of each of us bringing our stick of fire for today, to be part of—and witness to—something much greater than what we can do on our own. As a Yearly Meeting we hold each other accountable as we do our part in the world, with love. She asked if we are willing to offerwhat we have brought, and let it go, and to become the unconditional love that we experience from the Divine. She introduced those at the clerks’ table.

2009-11-02. The reading clerk called the roll, asking Friends to rise by regional meeting. All regions were represented.

2009-11-03. Jotham Bailey (Chatham-Summit), of the host committee of All Friends Regional Meeting, welcomed us and shared the hope that at the rise of Sessions, we feel empowered to do our work in the world. He provided some information for the practical aspects of the day.

2009-11-04. The reading clerk read a history of Somerset Hills Monthly Meeting prepared by Carol Coulthurst. The history is attached.

2009-11-05. Barbara Menzel (New Brunswick), clerk of Shrewsbury-Plainfield Half-Yearly Meeting, reported that on September 19, 2009, at the Shrewsbury-Plainfield Half-Yearly Meeting, Somerset Hills Monthly Meeting was laid down. Its members have transferred to other meetings (primarily Rahway & Plainfield), and the funds in its accounts have been distributed to the other meetings in the Half-Yearly Meeting. Somerset Hills Worship Group is meeting at the Episcopalian Convent of St. John the Baptist in Mendham, NJ, under the care of Rahway & Plainfield Monthly Meeting, as approved by that meeting on September 20, 2009. Carol Coulthurst is serving as a contact person for the Worship Group. Friends received this report.

A Friend reported having grown up in the neighborhood of Somerset Hills Monthly Meeting and, though he never attended, he was aware of the Quaker presence. The life of a monthly meeting, he said, is never wasted.

2009-11-06. The minutes were read and approved.

2009-11-07. The reading clerk read #14 of the Advices and Queries from Faith and Practice of Britain Yearly Meeting:

Are your meetings for church affairs held in a spirit of worship and in dependence on the guidance of God? Remember that we do not seek a majority decision nor even consensus. As we wait patiently for divine guidance our experience is that the right way will open and we shall be led into unity.

2009-11-08. The Clerk introduced Jeffrey Aaron (New Brunswick), clerk of General Services Coordinating Committee (GSCC), to bring forward the business of that section, noting that its origins lay in supporting the work of the Witness, Nurture and Ministry coordinating committees. Jeffrey remarked that as he has begun his work as clerk, he is deeply moved by the work that has gone before on General Services and by the on-going work of the yearly meeting.

2009-11-09. The GSCC clerk introduced Treasurer Susan Bingham (Montclair), who gave the Treasurer’s report. As of October 31, 2009, the closing balance of the operating fund was $143,018 and the net difference between income and expenses was (-)$60,986. This net is greater than we usually have at this time of year; she reminded us that in 2008, the difference was (-)$13,391. She noted that this gap narrows every year in November and December, and she expects the same to happen this year. The full report has details on all funds, section and committee expenses and income, and is on the NYYM Web site or you may contact the Treasurer to obtain it. Friends received the report.

2009-11-10. The GSCC clerk introduced Steven Mohlke (Ithaca), clerk of the Financial Services Committee, who began by saying that though it would be a great relief if he could announce that the budget were balanced, he cannot. Noting the ways the budget affects Yearly Meeting work, he imagined what could happen by doubling the budget (additional staff or youth/young adult programming, removing financial barriers to attending Sessions, making solid commitments to wider Quaker bodies), saying that none of this money, in his view, would be wasted. Were we to cut the budget by half, while we would still be a yearly meeting, much of our work would die on the vine. He pointed out that some of the ways the budget gap has been narrowed this year are unsustainable, as they rely on funding that has come from our endowment or from funds that must be replenished in future yearly meeting budgets.

He talked about the structural challenges in the budget process, that there is not a specified person who has the authority to say, “We have sixty good programs and these are the fifty-five we are going to do this year,” nor do we have an overall vision that would allow us to prioritize together. Financial Services is not hearing that the work being done is bad but rather that monthly meetings cannot sustain the cost at this time. He also hears support for the work despite the costs. He noted that there continues to be disconnection, from a faith perspective—a moving away from God—with committees vying with each other for the same pot of money, and monthly meetings not understanding the work of yearly meeting. He suggested that people could choose to connect around budgets and money, as individuals or monthly meetings. For example, one might pick a budget line one doesn’t know much about and learn about it, share one’s own money story with honesty and courage, or support one’s monthly meeting in providing scholarships for attending Yearly Meeting events.

Financial Services has made the important transition from “assessment” to “covenant donation,” and a critical piece of this transition is communication. Financial Services has worked hard to name the programs of NYYM, calculate costs, and get that information out to monthly meetings. Something not yet done is to receive feedback from monthly meetings and turn it into priorities that determine the work of NYYM. He told us that four years ago he stood in his monthly meeting and asked what NYYM was all about. Responding to that still small voice within, in search of the answer, he ended up as clerk of Financial Services. He closed with the picture of how, when we talk about our monthly meeting budget, we really listen to one another and try to understand, not with a fear that something will be taken away but with the desire to know what is necessary to do our work. His sense is that if we did this in Yearly Meeting, we would not have to cut anything, because all our work would align and feel like one. Friends rose to speak their thoughts about the yearly meeting budget process and challenges. The Clerk reminded us that time is allowed for us to consider the proposed budget in all three business meetings of Fall Sessions, if necessary.

2009-11-11. The reading clerk read #12 of the Advices and Queries from Faith and Practice of Britain Yearly Meeting:

When you are preoccupied and distracted in meeting let wayward and disturbing thoughts give way quietly to your awareness of God's presence among us and in the world. Receive the vocal ministry of others in a tender and creative spirit. Reach for the meaning deep within it, recognising that even if it is not God's word for you, it may be so for others. Remember that we all share responsibility for the meeting for worship whether our ministry is in silence or through the spoken word.

2009-11-12. The GSCC clerk then called on Christopher Sammond (Bulls Head-Oswego), the General Secretary, to address us. Christopher began with a thank-you to all who held him in prayer during his personal difficulties this summer, saying he has felt that he has been carried on a cloud of prayer. He then talked about how monthly meetings are changing how they deal with the question of money, some moving from passively receiving money to active fundraising that has been, for some, transformative. He raised the question of whether we are ready to let go of what we are and what we have been and move on to what we can become. He told us that he hears from those interested in being Friends that they are finding it hard to find a way into a monthly meeting. He has heard from people such as those who are Christ-centered, or with limited means, or with good incomes, or young, or who are people of color, or people right-of-center politically, or people who were formerly incarcerated, that they must struggle to stay or become part of us. If we can move away from our set of narrow requirements for who can be Quaker, we will not have to do much more to have advancement. Let us stop trimming the roots of our little tree, plant the tree by a stream of living waters and let it grow. Friends offered ministry in response to the General Secretary’s message. Friends received the report. His written report is attached.

2009-11-13. The reading clerk read #19 of the Advices and Queries from Faith and Practice of Britain Yearly Meeting:

Rejoice in the presence of children and young people in your meeting and recognise the gifts they bring. Remember that the meeting as a whole shares a responsibility for every child in its care. Seek for them as for yourself a full development of God's gifts and the abundant life Jesus tells us can be ours. How do you share your deepest beliefs with them, while leaving them free to develop as the spirit of God may lead them? Do you invite them to share their insights with you? Are you ready both to learn from them and to accept your responsibilities towards them?

2009-11-14. The Clerk welcomed the Junior Yearly Meeting, who had joined us from their sessions, and who make us more whole by their presence.

2009-11-15. The GSCC clerk introduced Heloise Rathbone (Brooklyn), clerk of the Personnel Committee, who presented a report from the Personnel Committee on the General Secretary’s 2008 request for a change in the language of his written job description. The report is attached. Friends received the report.

2009-11-16. The GSCC clerk introduced the clerk of the Sessions Committee, John Cooley (Central Finger Lakes). He reminded Friends that Summer Sessions will be a week earlier than usual: July 18–24, 2010, at Silver Bay YMCA of the Adirondacks, pending contract approval. The report is attached. Friends received the report.

2009-11-17. The reading clerk read #7 of the Advices and Queries from Faith and Practice of Britain Yearly Meeting:

Be aware of the spirit of God at work in the ordinary activities and experience of your daily life. Spiritual learning continues throughout life, and often in unexpected ways. There is inspiration to be found all around us, in the natural world, in the sciences and arts, in our work and friendships, in our sorrows as well as in our joys. Are you open to new light, from whatever source it may come? Do you approach new ideas with discernment?

2009-11-18. Friends approved the minutes of this session, with the understanding that they would be revised to condense the descriptions of reports that are available in writing.

 

Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey
Saturday, November 14, 2009, 3:45 P.M.

Heather M. Cook, Clerk
Joseph Garren, Acting Assistant Clerk
Roger Dreisbach-Williams, Recording Clerk
Robin Alpern, Reading Clerk

2009-11-19. As we settled into worship, the reading clerk read Advice and Query #8 from Britain Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice:

Worship is our response to an awareness of God. We can worship alone, but when we join with others in expectant waiting we may discover a deeper sense of God's presence. We seek a gathered stillness in our meetings for worship so that all may feel the power of God's love drawing us together and leading us.

2009-11-20. The Clerk introduced those at the clerks’ table.

2009-11-21. The Consent Agenda, which was distributed on the Yearly Meeting’s global e-mail list earlier in the week and has been available in hard copy at the registration table since this morning, was presented for approval.

Friends approved nominations and requests for release from service (see below).

Friends approved a separate minute for Paula McClure’s service as Assistant Treasurer (see below).

Friends approved changes to Sessions Committee Handbook description, releasing reading clerks and recording clerks from the committee, and increasing the number of at-large members from seven to nine.

Friends approved changes to “Funding from Outside Sources” in the General Services section of the Handbook.

 

Appointments to Service

Assistant Clerk 2010: Joseph B. Garren, Brooklyn
Ministry Coordinating Committee 2010: John Perry (’09), Bulls Head-Oswego
Committee to Revise Faith and Practice 2012: Shirley Way (’09), Central Finger Lakes
Sufferings 2012: Catharine Thomas (’09), Chatham-Summit
Personnel 2012: Keith Johnson (’09), Chatham-Summit
Sessions 2012: Martha Gurvich (’06), Wilton
Epistle 2011: Noel Palmer (’07), Westbury; Elizabeth Gordon (’09), Binghamton
Friends United Meeting 2010, alternate: Ann Davidson (’09), Farmington
Oakwood Friends School 2012: David Eskin, (’09), Purchase
Elsie K. Powell House Inc. 2013: Louise Tiano (’08), Rochester
Committee on Conscientious Objection to Paying for War 2012: Ann Geiger (’09), Butternuts
Indian Affairs 2012: Grace Perez de la Garza (’09), Fredonia
New York Council of Churches, Chaplaincy Board 2011: Alice Houghtaling (’09), Schenectady
Quaker Earthcare Witness Representative 2012: Elizabeth (Buffy) Curtis (’09), Mohawk Valley

Releases from Service

Advancement, co-opted as clerk: Chad Dell, Manasquan
Committee to Revise Faith and Practice 2012: Noel Palmer, Westbury, listed in error
State of Society 2010: Janice Ninan, Collins
Aging Concerns 2011: Linda Chidsey, Housatonic
Aging Concerns 2012: Glen Bibler, Brooklyn
Epistle 2011: Gale Swiontkowski, Amawalk
Indian Affairs 2011: Marcella Younger, Rockland
Quaker Earthcare Witness Representative: Kristina Keefe-Perry, Rochester
Quaker Earthcare Witness Representative 2012: Patricia Chernoff, Morningside

2009-11-22. On July 23, 2009, New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends approved Paula R. McClure of Montclair Monthly Meeting as an Assistant Treasurer.

2009-11-23. Christine DeRoller (Old Chatham), clerk of the Young Friends In Residence (YFIR) Committee, introduced YFIR staff members Anna Obermayer (Binghamton) and Franklin Crump. Natalie Braun (Old Chatham), also on the staff, is in Ecuador. YFIR is an emerging program for New York Yearly Meeting, a dual program for young adult leaders and sixth- to ninth-grade youth. The young adults live in intentional spiritual community, participate in the local meeting, and facilitate youth (6th – 9th grade) retreats. The YFIR staff are currently living in Beloved Community House in Newfield, NY, and working with their host meeting (Perry City) leading Quakerism 101 programs and other activities. The YFIR staff expect to run their first conference on December 5th-6th, mostly a planning conference to get input from youth and their parents about the direction the youth programming should take. They are looking for Friends to serve on the support committee, as elders and as spiritual mentors. Friends received this report.

2009-11-24. Frederick Dettmer (Purchase), clerk of Witness Coordinating Committee (WCC), spoke about the Sharing Fund: WCC has set the goal for 2010 at $60,000 and we are part way toward this goal.

2009-11-25. The WCC clerk introduced Elizabeth Enloe, Regional Director of the New York Metropolitan Regional Office (NTMRO) of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), who spoke about the pain of contracting (AFSC program activities have been reduced by half) and closing some offices, as well as about the opportunities that AFSC has for the future. AFSC programs around the world are sharing their experience and learning from one another, rather than working on their own as before. “We are present where people are experiencing violence” has become the unifying theme of all AFSC programs. AFSC is working with NYYM committees who share in this work. Friends asked questions about support for First People programs, rebuilding the budget and support for the organization. Friends received the report.

2009-11-26. Advice and Query #33 of Britain Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice was read:

Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society's conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?

2009-11-27. The WCC clerk introduced wording on a Policy on Bequests to the Sharing Fund, which is available online at nyym.org/witness/wcc/shar-fund-beq-09jul.pdf and has been available in hard copy at the registration table since this morning. An endowment will be created to support the work of the Sharing Fund. Friends received the report.

2009-11-28. The WCC clerk introduced the following minute for consideration:

Upon the discernment of Friends during sessions of Nurture Coordinating Committee and Witness Coordinating Committee, Friends approve transferring the representative to Quaker Earthcare Witness and the Earthcare Working Group from the care of the Nurture Coordinating Committee to the care of the Witness Coordinating Committee. In connection with this transfer, the budget item for an annual donation to Quaker Earthcare Witness in the amount of $150 should be transferred from the Nurture Coordinating Committee sections of the budget and financial reports of NYYM to the Witness Coordinating Committee sections of the budget and financial reports of NYYM.

Friends approved.

2009-11-29. Steve Mohlke (Ithaca), clerk of Financial Services, indicated that Budget Saturday in mid-October ended with a $30,000 gap. Through cuts and fund raising that gap is now $4,000. This is one percent of the budget. We have a short-term problem of how do we get a budget for 2010, and a long-term problem of how do we deal with the unsustainable practices in this budget. The Financial Services Committee recommends that Coordinating Committees reduce their budgets by a minimum of one percent.

The Conflict Transformation Committee reported from the floor that they will reduce their budget to $500 and ask for support from those who use their services.

The Meeting was not ready to approve the proposed budget.

2009-11-30. The Meeting approved further discussions at Coordinating Committee Meetings and with Financial Services as our operating budget for 2010 is prepared.

2009-11-31. The minutes of the afternoon session were read and approved with corrections.

2009-11-32. The Meeting closed with open worship.

 

Chatham Summit Meeting, Chatham, New Jersey
Sunday, November 15, 2009, 9:00 A.M.

Heather Cook, Clerk
Joseph Garren, Assistant Clerk
Elaine Learnard, Recording Clerk
Sandy Segal, Reading Clerk

2009-11-33.    The meeting opened with silent worship. Out of the silence, Clerk Heather Cook read from Isaiah 55:1–3 (New Revised Standard Version). She introduced those at the clerks’ table, reviewed the agenda for the morning and expressed deep appreciation for the work of the host committee of All Friends Regional Meeting.

2009-11-34. The reading clerk read #17 of the Advices and Queries from Faith and Practice of Britain Yearly Meeting:

Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people's opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.

2009-11-35. Steve Mohlke (Ithaca), clerk of the Financial Services Committee, summarized the budget proceedings to date. All four Coordinating Committees reported that they have committed to reduce their budgets by one percent, which means that Financial Services has a balanced budget to recommend. The details of the actual cuts will be available to be approved at Spring Sessions. Friends approved the proposed 2010 budget of $520,440, which includes expected income of $520,440, including the anticipated covenant donations of $458,350.

2009-11-36. Sandra Beer (Old Chatham), the incoming clerk of the Financial Services Committee, brought a recommendation that the Liaison Committee and the General Secretary be asked to propose a process to guide the Yearly Meeting in discerning who we are, how we are led and how we support the work of those leadings and needs. The Liaison Committee is asked to bring this proposal to Spring Sessions. The Liaison Committee is encouraged to co-opt other members to help in the development of this process. Friends approved.

2009-11-37. The minutes were read and approved.

2009-11-38. The reading clerk read #15 of the Advices and Queries from Faith and Practice of Britain Yearly Meeting:

Do you take part as often as you can in meetings for church affairs? Are you familiar enough with our church government to contribute to its disciplined processes? Do you consider difficult questions with an informed mind as well as a generous and loving spirit? Are you prepared to let your insights and personal wishes take their place alongside those of others or be set aside as the meeting seeks the right way forward? If you cannot attend, uphold the meeting prayerfully.

2009-11-39. Frederick Dettmer, clerk of Witness Coordinating Committee (WCC), reported that a minute on access to health care was approved by Brooklyn Monthly Meeting on October 4, 2009, was endorsed by New York Quarterly Meeting on October 25, 2009, and was forwarded to the Yearly Meeting. Similar minutes have been approved by other monthly and regional meetings. Following discernment, Witness Coordinating Committee proposes the following minute:

We are deeply concerned that the medical treatment currently provided in the United States is beyond the reach of many people.

Our belief is that every person should be treated compassionately. Each of us has unique value, and all deserve to live to the best of our potential. Health care is a basic necessity of life that our society has an obligation to provide.

Every person should have access to quality medical treatment. We seek a just, sustainable, and simplified health care solution.

The Clerk of the Yearly Meeting is directed to (1) send a letter containing the Minute on Access to Health Care to all relevant elected Federal officials, (2) forward the Minute to the monthly meetings, inviting them to take action on the Minute as they discern to be appropriate, and (3) in consultation with the Communications Committee, send the Minute to media within the areas encompassed by New York Yearly Meeting.

Friends approved this minute. Friends asked that the minutes show that the minute brought forward from Brooklyn Monthly Meeting was first labored over and approved by Buffalo Monthly Meeting.

2009-11-40. The WCC clerk referred the body to the written material provided concerning becoming a cosponsor of a commission being formed to hold a hearing (in March 2010 at Riverside Church in New York City) to investigate and issue a report on rights of conscience among persons in the military. He then brought the following minute for consideration, based on the WCC Minute #11-09-04:

New York Yearly Meeting (1) approves becoming a cosponsor of the Truth Commission on Conscience in War, and (2) asks the Clerk of NYYM, the Clerk of Witness Coordinating Committee, the Committee on Conscientious Objection to Paying for War, and the Peace Concerns Coordinator to carry this concern forward, including naming representatives.

Friends approved.

2009-11-41. Friends approved the minutes of this session.

2009-11-42. The Clerk read from Isaiah 55:12:

For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

2009-11-43. Friends settled into open worship in preparation for joining worship with Chatham-Summit Monthly Meeting.