of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
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.
|Here are excerpts from the minutes approved at Yearly Meeting sessions at Silver Bay in July. The complete minutes are on the NYYM Web site and will be published in the Yearbook. Copies may also be requested from the NYYM office.|
14. Christopher Sammond, General Secretary, spoke, out of the silence, his thoughts gathered from his first year's work with New York Yearly Meeting. Christopher sees, for himself and for us, two concerns to focus on in the coming year: supporting smaller meetings and nurturing new growth. He particularly stressed visitation as one of the best ways to answer both of these needs. He considers this is work for all of us to engage in. If we are to grow in our own spiritual life, we must share it with others. He lays this upon us: to search our hearts and see if we are called to visit a small meeting or a neighbor meeting. He then spoke to the growth and lack thereof in New York Yearly Meeting. From listening to seasoned Friends, he feels that we are not fully integrating newcomers into our communities or giving them reason, beyond what they gather by osmosis, to stay. Deepening our own worship will lead to openings in supporting newcomers. We have drawn in the Spirit and are full; now we are poised to burst forth with Light and intention to nurture the Spirit in others.
22. Regina Haag (Adirondack) described the work of Friends United Meeting (FUM), reminding Friends that New York Yearly Meeting appoints three members to serve on FUM's board. Jens Braun (Old Chatham) reported from the recent FUM Triennial meeting about new emphases established there: evangelism, global partnership, leadership training, and communications. Christine (Spee) Braun (Old Chatham) reported that ... she was encouraged when Retha McCutchen acknowledged the complexity of divisive issues, such as FUM's sexual ethics policy. Spee was helped by recalling George Fox's declaration that such a gathering is held to find out how the truth is prospering among us. She passed on a recommendation from Natalie Braun that we appoint young Friends to attend the triennial meetings.
23. Bowen Alpern (Scarsdale) reported for Friends General Conference's ad hoc Youth Ministries Discernment Committee, formed in 2004. An inspiring consultation was held in March 2005 which revealed that "the Spirit is alive and moving in a powerful and dynamic way through our high school and young adult Friends." A later meeting recommended establishing a new Youth Ministries Program in FGC, to build intergenerational community, nurture high school and young adult Friends, strengthen the communities among them, and facilitate opportunities to live Quaker faith into action.
24. Lucy (Lu) Harper (Rochester) brought forward a minute from Rochester Meeting, endorsing a minute from the Central Committee of Friends General Conference, which affirms the spiritual gifts of Friends of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender identity. Friends considered whether the Rochester minute should be distributed to all monthly meetings, to encourage them to consider this issue. The Nurture Coordinating Committee offered to work further with Lu on the matter. The Clerk invited Friends to remain, for the time being, in a place of discomfort.
30. Paula McClure, clerk of General Services Coordinating Committee, introduced Harold Risler, NYYM Treasurer. Harold presented the Treasurer's Report for the first six months of 2005. Harold reported that income as of July 31 is ahead of that of previous years. Friends received the report.
31. Paula McClure then introduced Thomas Martin, clerk of Financial Services Committee, who described progress on the draft of the 2006 budget. Tom predicted that this year our expenses will be down and equal to our expected income. We seek a balanced budget by 2006. Monthly meetings will be receiving a final draft of the proposed budget in August.
32. Paula introduced Steven Ross (Shrewsbury) of the General Secretary's Task Group, who read the job description of the General Secretary of NYYM. Lenore Ridgeway, clerk of the General Secretary's Task Group, then read a report on the many activities and travels of Christopher Sammond, the General Secretary. Through his numerous visitations of monthly meetings and regional gatherings, Christopher says he has "come to love the people of this yearly meeting," and has implemented substantive changes to communications among meetings, and between them and the Yearly Meeting. Other staff members have found new time to pursue special projects. Efforts are underway to prune some of Christopher's responsibilities so he can focus his energy even better. Friends accepted the report.
34. Ernestine (Ernie) Buscemi, clerk of the Transition Working Group, described the composition and charge of the group. The group offered two minutes for improving the accountability and processes of New York Yearly Meeting committees. The first minute proposes Committee Queries of Accountability.
35. Ernie then offered the second minute, Advices to Committee Clerks. The proposed advices cover such topics as the orderly transition to a new clerk, education of new committee members, developing an annual calendar, and the proper historical preservation of important documents. Friends agreed with the intention and scope of this minute, but felt there was a need to fine-tune the minute before it could be approved. Friends are invited to send written suggestions to the Transition Working Group or attend the interest group offered by the TWG later this week. The edited minute will be brought back to the Yearly Meeting in a future session.
40. The Clerk introduced Anita Paul, clerk of Witness Coordinating Committee, who began the work of the Witness Section by introducing David Kaczynski, who spoke on the New York State death penalty. . . . On April 12, 2005, the Code Committee of the State Assembly voted down reinstating the death penalty. But David cautioned it is not dead, it is only in remission. Therefore now is the critical time to continue putting our opposition before the state government, and he noted several ways for Friends to act and continue this opportunity for nonviolence in the world.
43. Anita interviewed Kathleen (Katie) Lynn, who visited Kenya with her grandmother Kate Lawson. Katie told how these people, who have so little, cherish deeply what they have. They worked in a clinic with mothers with AIDS, and attended the support group for these mothers who needed to find someone to take care of their children once they were gone. Katie urged us all to want for nothing, as we have so much; we must cherish our families, and we need to be as happy to be alive as the many Kenyans she met. Katie hopes to return to Kenya someday to teach.
44. Anita introduced Helen Garay Toppins (Morningside), who spoke of her witness of tutoring incarcerated girls, inspired by seeing a slave ship exhibit where the sight of shackles for babies and young children angered and pained her deeply. By happenstance after leaving the exhibit, she read the story of John Fairfield, a 19th-century white southerner who gave his life in defense of black liberation. Fairfield's life story inspired her to ask God what she too could do. God answered her by leading her to work with incarcerated teenage girls, tutoring them and preparing them for college and careers. Hanging behind the clerks' table was artwork the girls had done to illustrate their poetry. Helen ended her message by reading a poem "Dear America" written by one of the girls.
45. Anita introduced Ernie Buscemi, who has worked for twenty years with AIDS patients. She spoke of her call to this work beginning with sitting and holding babies while they died of AIDS. She feels she is a vessel for God's love, and her many years of work have given her life lessons: gratitude and forgiveness, and the ability to pray in a loving communion with God. She will do this work for as long as she can do this work.
56. Jeffrey Aaron, for Sessions Committee, presented a minute about rescheduling our wintertime Representative Meeting, approved by the General Services Coordinating Committee, the Sessions Committee, and its Representative Meeting Subcommittee, describing the minute as the result of a long and wide process of discernment. The minute recommends that the planned dates for future Representative Meetings be moved from the first weekend in December to a weekend that falls in November, two weekends before the day called Thanksgiving. The minute further recommends that the first representative meeting with the new date be scheduled for fall 2007, in order to provide sufficient time to schedule those dates with a local host committee. Friends approved this minute, with its suggested change.
57. Melanie-Claire Mallison, clerk of Nurture Coordinating Committee, brought forward two recommendations: that the Committee on Disability Concerns be laid down, and that the Yearly Meeting appoint a resource person for such concerns, under the care of the Nurture Coordinating Committee. Friends approved the recommendation. At the suggestion of the Nurture Coordinating Committee, Sarah Faith Dickinson (Butternuts) was appointed as the resource person for disability concerns for a term of one year, ending in 2006.
58. Melanie-Claire brought forward two requests from the Women's Concerns Committee: that this committee be laid down, and that a women's concerns contact and budget line be maintained under Nurture, or another appropriate Coordinating Committee. The requests bear the approval of the Nurture Coordinating Committee. Friends approved both requests. At the suggestion of Nurture, Anne Liske (Albany) was appointed as a resource person for women's concerns. . . .
87. Anita Paul, clerk of Witness Coordinating Committee, again brought forward the proposal to lay down the Latin American Concerns Committee. Witness is in the process of choosing an individual to serve as focus person for Latin American concerns. . . . Friends approved. . .
This summer, in a spirit of love, we attended the 310th New York Yearly Meeting. We came, in the words of Vanessa Julye, our African American keynote speaker, to "seek God's will together as we cracked open the seed of racism." We heard stories of interracial childhood friendships and of scientists attesting that we are all one. We affirm these stories. We also experienced some difficult but healing conversations. However, what we want to lift up in this open letter is the reality of racism today.
Some Friends in NYYM are not aware of the history of racism among Friends and how that history impacts us today. Vanessa Julye and Donna McDaniel, authors of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship, focus on the relationship of Quakers of European descent and African Americans in North America from the precolonial times to the present. They write "Research has revealed ambivalence and ambiguity in Friends' relationships with African Americans throughout their history." And that "North American Friends who, even as they strongly advocated for the freedom and education of enslaved African Americans, were reluctant to invite African Americans into membership into their own Society."
Working on increasing Friends' awareness of racism, as a step toward its eradication, is difficult, exhausting, and painful. As Black Friends, we experienced much pain and anger at this summer's Yearly Meeting sessions. Nevertheless, we still want to continue to address these issues. In order to nurture our continued participation in Yearly Meeting sessions as we do this work, we are asking that in 2006 Friends of Color have a time and place to discuss concerns with each other in an area that is separated from other Yearly Meeting activities.
We want to include the Yearly Meeting's children in this work. They are our future; they are more flexible and less set in their belief systems and behavior. The sooner we can increase their awareness of racism, its effect on all of us, and the importance of eradicating it to restore our humanity, the sooner it will happen.
In New York too many young people locked up in detention are children of color charged with nonviolent offenses. They come from the poorest neighborhoods and the lowest performing schools. The New York State Court of Appeals has ruled that the state has been short-changing city public school funding for years. Governor Pataki is contesting the ruling.
Although New York State is majority White (62%), its prison population is majority Black and Hispanic (82%). They too come from the poorest neighborhoods with the lowest performing schools. Most have substance abuse issues. But instead of being treated in drug rehabilitation programs they are incarcerated in upstate New York prisons. We can also follow the shackles from the plantations to the projects to the prisons in Connecticut and New Jersey.
In drawing state legislative districts, New York uses Census Bureau data that counts the state's urban Black and Hispanic prisoners as residents of the mostly White and rural prison counties rather than as residents of the home communities in which they resided prior to incarceration, and to which they will return. According to the National Voting Rights Institute: This practice has an historical parallel and bears a striking resemblance to the original "Three-Fifths" clause of the United States Constitution, which allowed the south to obtain enhanced representation in congress by counting disenfranchised slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of congressional apportionment.
We will continue to work on removing the shackles that bind us and we invite all Friends of Color to contact us at email@example.com. We encourage Friends of European descent, who are led to participate in this work, to contact White Friends Working to End Racism at firstname.lastname@example.org. We ask that the NYYM Black Concerns Committee compile a resource list that Quakers can use in advancing this work. We ask that the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent post our open letter on their Web site. And last, but certainly not least, we ask that those gathering for the August Many Gifts One Spirit Retreat for Friends of Color, pray for Friends working to achieve a blessed and whole community.
María Arias (Brooklyn)
Ernestine Buscemi (Morningside)
Frederica Azania Clare (15th Street)
Charley Flint (Rahway & Plainfield)
Cora Mighty (Unadilla)
Stanford Mighty (Unadilla)
Tracy Parham (Rahway & Plainfield
Leroy Mahesh Thomas (Scarsdale)
Helen Garay Toppins (Morningside)
To my joy, and well, relief, the week played out beautifully for my fellow young adult Friends. For some, the week's activities of group sessions, field trips, and meetings were a completely new experience since the group had been inactive for the last few years. Others were CYF returnees, now seasoned young Friends who rejoiced in the group's return and (consciously or not) took on the role of "elders" in the bunch, helping others begin to rebuild this community.
The group, like so many others, has had its highs and lows through the years, waxing and waning with involvement as circles sometimes do. When I was in high school I would join the Circle of Young Friends from time to time in their games nights and (always a little bit in awe) began to meet the attendees and learn more about the group. The group was intended not only as a transitional group for young people in the Yearly Meeting who were "in between" the Junior Yearly Meeting and the greater meeting at-large, it was also a strong and loving community for people whose lives, between the ages of 18 and 35, are often in a time of constant change and movement. The group was a place of support and friendship. As I watched people graduate and begin to spread far and wide throughout the country and world, I was impressed by the tight bonds people created and the lengths to which people would travel to be a part of it. The Circle of Young Friends seemed to be an expression of a deep commitment to the Quaker testimony of community.
Once I graduated from high school I quickly found myself a part of this highly mobile demographic and was swept up into the frenzy. By the time I returned to Yearly Meeting, however, I realized that the formal organizational structure for the Circle of Young Friends had become inactive. Saddened, I spoke with other young Friends and found that they were similarly grieving the disappearance of CYF. We decided that it was time to take up the torch and get the group going again. Not only did we want it to exist for ourselves, but also we didn't want the next generation to miss knowing the pleasures of a strong support structure for the young adult community.
Most of us had little or no experience running a committee, let alone starting one up almost from scratch. Unfortunately, the binder that is typically passed down from clerk to clerk of the Circle of Young Friends with information, minutes, and history about the group was caught in a fire and burned some years ago. Fortunately, past committee members and individuals from the greater yearly meeting including staff member Helen Garay Toppins stepped up to guide us and give us words of encouragement as we learned and felt our way through the first year.
The result was an amazing week indeed. Through laughter, bonding, and planning, the 30-plus young Friends who attended Yearly Meeting 2005 worked to reconstruct and rejuvenate our community. I was moved by the week's success and am looking forward to the group's future. Almost literally, the Circle of Young Friends is on its way to rising out of the ashes like a beautiful (but of course, plain and simple) phoenix and taking off with great wings.
We young adults are not without our struggles however; due to a lack of organization over the past few years we have lost track of some of our peers, and we are, by nature, transient and unable to commit to long-term responsibilities. As well, young Friends struggle with feeling marginalized among Yearly Meeting adults. Nonetheless though, the first step toward remedying this issue is for the young people to bond with each other and rediscover our collective voice.
Thank you to all who have supported the Young Friends and to those who continue to contribute time, talent and guidance. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact the committee at email@example.com.
Alex Tsocanos, Wilton Meeting
This year all the evening business meetings were prepared thoughtfully to encourage the attendance of our junior and senior high school Friends. As I looked around the auditorium and into the balcony I saw fresh new faces eager to learn about the Religious Society and our witness.
Each day an "adult" visited the JYM groups to tell them what was going on in the business sessions during their JYM programs. One or two children visited the morning "adult" session to tell us what their groups were doing and announce the names of those children who were missing from their groups. This two-way communication created a closer bond and started the disintegration of the "us–them" feeling.
On Tuesday night a panel of six young Friends and two older Friends discussed the uniqueness of being a Friend in their everyday lives. One junior high Friend had seriously injured her knee earlier in the day and had been taken to the emergency room at the hospital. Later that evening, while in some pain, wearing a full leg brace and needing crutches to walk, she participated in the panel discussion as planned. She is a remarkable example of the strength of Quaker conviction.
After hearing about an issue brought before the body of NYYM, the high school group labored with that concern. With a rich understanding of gospel order, some members of the group wrote a minute of witness. With a bit of adult assistance the wording was clarified. At a centered business meeting, the letter of witness was approved by the high school group. It was then brought to the floor of Yearly Meeting, where it was gratefully received. The high school clerk requested that this minute of witness be appended to the NYYM Epistle. With love and many words of support the request was approved. This was certainly a gathered meeting, which brought forth a deeply felt singing of many verses of "We Shall Overcome."
I have heard that many NYYM Friends do not attend NYYM sessions as they believe it is too expensive. This confuses me because I have compared the cost per day for registration, room, and board with FUM, FGC, and Powell House. The cost of attendance at Silver Bay is much lower than any of these three.
Monthly and regional meetings can provide assistance. The NYYM Advancement Committee provides some financial assistance and the JYM program volunteers are provided assistance when requested. Off-site camping is an option for many who attend.
If you have never attended NYYM Sessions please consider coming next year. As a new attender you will have a blue sticker on your name tag. You may be a bit confused with all the options available to you. If you choose wisely and allow yourself to be welcomed as Friends see your blue dot, you will be rewarded with a wonderful experience.
Attending NYYM Sessions renews my Spirit and dedication for the following year.
Kathleen Lawson, New Brunswick Meeting
Let me begin by confessing that when I hear someone speak of eliminating racism, my initial reaction is to characterize the speaker as well-meaning but naïve and the project futile. I have come to believe that I and everyone else are products of a racist culture and are therefore racist in any number of ways, of most of which we are totally unaware. There are many reasons for commending this view, but it does take on the color of "original sin" (indeed, it may be original sin). It has its down sides. It tends to take me off the hook: it makes my culture rather than myself the responsible agent for my racism. And, it tends to leave me relatively unopen to the possibility of "growing beyond racism". For me, racism has taken on the aspect of largely invisible, but very real, and immutable fact.
I have been trying to reconstruct how I (and I am not alone) came to look at the world this way.
Let me start with some family history. In the late 1940s, my mom was out of college, living in a largely student housing cooperative in Columbus, Ohio. She still has fond memories of those years. The co-op was racially integerated and the project of forging a community beyond racism was an exciting part of the utopian/egalitarian ethos of the place.
Almost 30 years later, I had dropped out of grad school and was living in a largly student housing co-op in Ann Arbor. It too had a utopian/egalitarian ethos, but racial integration was no longer a conscious part of that ethos. The co-op was not segregated: there were two Korean brothers (who tried, unsuccessfully, to bring me to Christ), and two people I later came to understand as being Mexican-American, but there were no blacks. Until two young black women took a room.
Almost 30 years later, I can't remember how long they lived with us. It cannot have been long or pleasant. They did not socialize with us at all. I never spoke with either of them. I never knew their names. When they were in the co-op, they were in their room and their door was closed. This broke my heart then and it breaks my heart now. I did not, and do not, blame them, nor did I, or do I, blame us: it was the way things were. The glorious vision of beloved community that has animated the early civil rights movement had shattered on the immutable rock of American racism.
In the intervening years, I have learned to accept (at least theoretically) my own racism, and to try to ameliorate the effects of that racism. I have also unconsciously learned to live with the ongoing betrayal of one of my most centrally held commitments: the commitment to create a world where the color of one's skin does not matter.
I am not alone. There are many in New York Yearly Meeting who could tell the stories of how they came to give up on the project of building the beloved community. They are not easy stories to tell. They hurt. I believe it might be important for us to create safe places for those stories to be told. We might gain a little freedom thereby. We might become able to recognize that the lessons that we learned in the moment of our pain may not have been the whole of the truth. History did not end in 1965.
It has been four decades since the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee asked its white members to leave. Reading the SNCC position paper "The Basis of Black Power" (available on the Web), I am struck by how influential it was. It articulates my (our?) understanding of the role of racism in American life fairly well. I believe the Black Power movement was both historically necessary and important. But I also wonder if it may not have accomplished some of its work.
We have endured 40 years in the wilderness; is it not time to try again to storm the Promised Land. If we are as naïve now as we were then, we are, at least, naïve in different ways. If we fail, let us endeavor to make new mistakes that will make our children's task that much easier when it is their turn to try again. One day the rock will crumble.
Bowen Alpern, Scarsdale Meeting
Brooklyn Meeting is growing in membership. To some degree that is a result of our efforts to reach out to and to welcome new attenders. But it is also due to the influx of young middle-class families and professionals to our part of Brooklyn. We invite the parents of newly enrolled students at Brooklyn Friends School to worship with us on a selected First Day each fall. Almost every time, several families start to attend regularly, get involved in First Day school, in our Peace and Social Action work or our monthly meals for the homeless, and eventually join our meeting.
Like many urban meetings, we are apt to have a number of first-timers and newcomers (as well as seasoned Friends from other meetings) with us most First Days. We don't have a well-defined process for bringing newcomers into the life of the meeting. Some feel that that should be at the initiative of the individual. Others would like a regular program of introduction to the Society of Friends such as Quakerism 101 to be available fall and spring. We usually wind up somewhere in the middle of these two ideas. But suggesting that newcomers attend Yearly Meeting at Silver Bay has also proven to be a great way to bring newcomers more fully into our family.
Glen Bibler, Brooklyn Meeting
I arrived this year feeling a little tired and worn out from the other traveling I'd done during the month of July. But I found myself relaxing and unwinding a bit even as we drove into Silver Bay. The partial week I spent enveloped within the embrace of the mountains, lake, and this amazing community was revitalizing to my soul in several ways:
In my dictionary, a niche is a place where an individual flourishes as it is both supported by and gives support to the entire community, while filling roles that sustain and enliven the individual as well as the community. Through my experiences at our annual gathering this summer, I realize that I am blessed to have found such a place within New York Yearly Meeting. It is my hope and prayer that I continue to reside in this niche for a long time to come!
Regina Haag, pastor, Adirondack Meeting
This year's theme was racism, inviting us to pay attention to both how we fall short, and how we succeed, at being God's people together. The opening speaker disabused us of any rosy notions we had that everything had been all right among Quakers when she told us about the one bench reserved for Afro Americans at a famous Philadelphia meetinghouse in the 1950s where she sat with her mother. The last speaker in closing worship very movingly spoke of the seeds of racism being planted in all people and that only spiritual work is able to root it out.
A week of Sabbath living, of being God's people together, of cherishing gifts in others and discovering the work we need to do in ourselves. What a joy it is.
Anita Paul, Schenectady Meeting
Youth and adults present listed what aspects of the Powell House Youth Program they wanted to share with others. These included things like: the welcome everyone receives; the feeling of inclusion; how everyone participates in the life of the conference and feels needed; the respect for each other and the affirmations of each other. We talked about what we want to accomplish by bringing the program to other locations. We want to make the Powell House experience more accessible to Quaker and non-Quaker youth. We want to build a peaceful community. We want to support kids, to give them a sense of individuality, independence, and confidence and a positive group identity. Our own wish is to offer opportunities for young adult friends to serve the Yearly Meeting and the wider community in a challenging, fun, important way.
Our next step will be to ask Nurture Coordinating Committee for a working group to begin turning this non-word of an idea, "Sproutlings," into on-the-ground programs with names and locations and dedicated wonderful youth leaders of their own. If you are interested in this idea you can contact Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org or Chris at email@example.com.
Alex Haines-Stephan, Mohawk Valley Monthly Meeting
Chris DeRoller, Old Chatham Monthly Meeting
The first recommendations were to lay down Disabilities Concerns Committee, and name, instead, a person as Disability and Accessibility Resource, under Nurture. With the passage of the American's Disabilities Act, many of the issues before the committee have been addressed. And over the past few years, NYYM's Sessions Committee has formed a subcommittee on Accessibility Concerns for Yearly Meeting's sessions. This subcommittee now addresses many of the remaining concerns of the Disabilities Concerns Committee. However, since issues of disability and accessibility do arise outside of Yearly Meeting sessions, Nurture recommends creating a resource person to be available for these concerns. The Yearly Meeting approved this recommendation and we have named Sarah Faith Dickinson (Butternuts) to fill the position till summer 2006.
The second recommendation came from a minute approved by the Women's Concern's Committee which reads in part:
During this period, the activities that the Committee has sponsored have been well received. The annual spring Women's Weekend at Powell House has had less regular attendance than in the past, except for the intergenerational weekends which have been most wise and wonderful. Each of these can be taken up elsewhere within the Yearly Meeting.
Following the recommended questions provided by the Committee on Committees, and after discernment at the Nurture Coordinating Committee Retreat earlier this year, the Women's Concerns Committee recommends:
Respectfully submitted to the Clerk of Nurture, July 2005
Anne Liske, clerk, Women's Concerns Committee
Nurture Coordinating approved both of these recommendations and brought them to the floor of the Yearly Meeting. The Meeting approved, and named Anne Liske (Albany) as the Women's Concerns resource under Nurture until 2006.
Both resource appointments will begin as full three-year terms in 2006, an we ask that anyone interested in these appointments or concerned about these recommendations, contact Melanie-Claire Mallison.
Yours in Renewal,
Melanie-Claire Mallison, clerk
Nurture Coordinating Committee
I came to this retreat with the words of Julian of Norwich hidden deep in my heart "Sin [or as I like to re-phrase it, brokenness] is necessary—but all is well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." All was well with my soul, but there was numbness to life, a lost feeling, trying to catch my breath, seemingly knocked out of my very core, in the midst of my recent diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis. This disease is of almost mythical proportions in my life. My oldest sister was diagnosed at the age of six, 44 years ago, with juvenile rheumatoid, while my mom was carrying me, the fifth baby in seven years of marriage.
As I sat and reflected on the last night of the Contemplative Weekend at Powell House, these were the queries that begged to be looked at: What is the gift I carry with me from this time of respite? What is the truth revealed by the Spirit in this retreat and regrouping from life?
A foundational truth that encircled the whole weekend for me, and I believe others, was this: In the many there is love, and in the love there is Light, and in the Light there is healing, and in the healing there is power—not power as the world knows it, but power of authenticity and integrity in the journey. Not necessarily wholeness, but beauty in our brokenness, and joy in our tears.
And this Friends' mosaic of faith, which stretches me and at times confuses me, has also blanketed me this weekend with Love. And Light.
Nothing has changed on my external. And yet another sword of self-protection that has long guarded the door to my soul has been brought to the Light. In January, after the Dwelling Deep Silent Retreat at Powell House, I had a vision in meeting for worship that ended with these words of the Inner Christ: "Live in the wound, lift up your heart, open your arms and live in the wound of the world, as I do." It is, I believe, what we are called to be—to be a part of the ongoing process of the goodness of creation, partnering with the Divine in bathing the wounds of the world. To be, once again, naked in our humanness and not ashamed, trusting that in the wounded, risen Christ, or whatever we name that essence, we have been given all that we need for abundant life, and unconditional love; that we carry within the garden of our soul the One who can speak to our condition.
But I had internalized a lie, lodged inside my being, wrapped around the goodness that God fashioned in my mother's fearful womb—the lie that love was limited, and that asking, or desiring, nurture meant that I would be robbing from those who suffer and have much more need of it than I. It was a lie based on the distrustful judgment that creation was most definitely lacking in the very substance of love; a lie that made it difficult to partner with the Divine in the joy that is a part of the Breath of the Spirit.
And this weekend I wonder—does the knowing that brokenness is necessary come from embracing and weeping over our own wounds and then the wounds of our neighbors? Does all is well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well come most truthfully from a heart that knows intimately that love is abundant and there is joy in the Divine? For surely the rivers of sorrow and joy must both run from the womb of God we carry within, must spring from the Well that is the well within us.
So the truth I wait, in expectant waiting, to know how to partner with the Divine in blessing and rejoicing in my personhood, and the personhood of others, asking for the nurture I crave, opening my arms to the wound of the world. The peacemaking with my diagnosis will come, but the true gift is the birthing within my belly of a knowing, head, heart, soul, and body, of the abundance of creation, and the plentitude of love, joining with my experiential knowledge of suffering to form, perhaps, a two-step tension, joy and sorrow, sorrow and joy. Unwrapping my arms from the protective posture of covering my center, trying to hold in what I have been given for fear of deprivation, and opening them instead to love—love coming in, love going out, joy and sorrow entwined in the rhythm of creation. There is beauty in our brokenness, can we be naked in our humanness and not be ashamed?
Angi Crane, Dover-Randolph Meeting
The other two defendants, Joe Donato (Inge's husband) and Kevin McKee, were sentenced to prison terms of 27 months and 24 months, respectively. McKee's sentence has been delayed until October due to medical concerns. Joe Donato will begin his 27-month sentence in February 2006, when his wife is expected to complete her sentence. The three are part of a small pacifist religious society in Mays Landing, N.J.
During the sentencing hearing U.S. Federal District Judge Jerome B. Simandle proposed that the government erase the defendants' past tax liability and allow them to pay a substantial fine equal to that amount or more into the Crime Victim's Assistance Fund. The defendants agreed to this compromise, as it would ensure their money would not go toward military purposes, but the IRS rejected the proposal.
"We would always have gladly paid our full share of taxes if only the government could assure us that the amount we paid would not go to fund war making," said Joe Donato. "The lack of any provision like that forced us to either violate our religion or risk being branded as criminals. At that point, we saw no choice but to honor our beliefs."
At the end of their prison terms, McKee and the Donatos have been sentenced to supervised release during which they must file overdue returns and pay all federal taxes. The defendants will appeal this decision on the grounds that it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1994 Congressional enactment which ensures that the government must use the least restrictive means possible to further its interests when its power infringes on sincere religious exercise.
"This case highlights the need for a way to collect taxes from conscientious objectors that respects their beliefs," said Timothy Godshall, outreach director for the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF). "Since 1940 conscientious objectors have served their country nonviolently instead of going to war. It's time that the U.S. allow alternative service for drafted tax dollars." NCPTF advocates for legislation that would allow conscientious objectors to pay their federal taxes into a fund earmarked for nonmilitary purposes only. Called the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act (H.R. 2631), this bill has 38 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.
Adapted from an NCPTF article at www.peacetaxfund.org
The Quaker Initiative to End Torture (QUIT) has initiated the following
Three things you can do:
Our intentions are simple: Torture must be stopped, especially the torture that is done in our name with our tax dollars. We feel that educating ourselves is the first work and then choosing actions to oppose torture—both are spiritual responsibilities.
It's our hope that a well-planned conference can inform without overwhelming and develop a wide variety of actions toward changing laws/policies and toward rehabilitation for both survivors and perpetrators. The revelations this spring that children as young as nine years old are held in detention and tortured by Americans make this work imperative.
We join a great many others in process:
|Note: Letters to the editor are presented when space is available. Letters raise and explore topics of concern to NYYM Friends. As in any Quaker forum, views here are uncensored, should be expressed briefly and gently, and may discomfort some Friends. The Communications Committee welcomes unsolicited manuscripts of opinion or reporting and will publish material that seems provocative and timely.|
That is how we Friends (Quakers) have addressed people, including Kings and Queens, for over 300 years. We called ourselves The Religious Society of Friends of Truth and Light in early days, but because of our habit of waiting for the Spirit before speaking in our Meetings for Worship, which often caused us to shake or tremble with emotion, we were called Quakers by others. Since so many people used that name for us, whether in mockery or not, we decided to adopt it for use along with our formal name, Friends. That is still the case today, as well. For instance, The American Friends Service Committee, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, calls its newsletter "Quaker Action."
In our long history, we have been in the forefront of equality for women, abolition of slavery, peaceful methods of solving problems, fair and publicly stated prices for goods and services, use of tea, coffee and cocoa instead of alcohol, and simple, plain living, among other things.
It causes us great pain and anguish to see our name claimed by your company, when you say in your ads: "We're Quaker®," as if we have no right to our own name, and your claim only adds to too many people's idea that Quakers are dead and gone, and/or, as in your current series of ads, "cute" statues placed in positions and situations very demeaning to such Quakers as George Fox or William Penn, on whom the original ads in the 1800s may have been based.
Worst of all, the phrase "Find your inner oatmeal" seems sacrilegious to us, parodying one of our most basic tenets: that Inner Light or "that of God" that everyone possesses and must seek to find and mind.
We want you to know how much the current ad campaign hurts us and we ask that you stop it immediately. No more "To the victor goes the oatmeal" with a statue of a Quaker surrounded by cheerleaders, no more "Add a little Quaker goodness to their morning sunshine" with the statue in front of the principal's office where children are waiting to see the principal, no more "Find your inner oatmeal," and no more "There's more than one way to get your Quaker a day!"
We Quakers are living human beings, with a long history of deep caring for others and selfless actions for the common good. We deserve better treatment than your ads give us.
Thank you for your attention and consideration. Please give us your response as soon as possible.
Ann K. U. Tussing
The reason Friends found the laboring to be so difficult, so seemingly irresolvable, was because we—and those of like mind—are on the horns of a dilemma for which there is no resolution at this moment in history. All society's labels that categorize us by "race" are arbitrary, racist and in disrepute, yet if we do not recognize that society views us within these categories whether we like it or not, we are being willfully naïve. These were the two contending concerns. There is no question that those of us who are regarded as "white" receive special privileges that are often denied to those of us who are deemed "black." And yet, as soon as we begin to call ourselves by those labels, we are, by default, using racist language and implying that we agree with the use of these odious and unscientific categories—whether we actually do or not. Clearly, neither option is satisfactory, yet there seems to be, at this time and place in history, no third option.
E. M. Thelwell, Jamaican born Professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts, recently observed on Democracy Now (www.democracynow.org), that he only became "black" when he set foot in the United States. Do we want to reinforce that syndrome by continuing to label him and others? Of course not! Do we want to pretend that that reality does not exist for him and for others every day? Of course not!
As soon as we recognize this conundrum and accept it, we can move forward in unity, as uneasy as we all may feel. Insisting on calling each other by these categories—or refusing to do so—misses each valid point. Friends, I truly believe that we are very much in unity against racism. Moving forward requires that we recognize that unity. From there, we can work to learn all of the aspects and history that we each need to understand in order to combat this monster.
May the day arrive that humanity looks back in collective disbelief that people ever considered such foolish ideas as race. For now, we are required to walk a tightrope of using racist language categories with utmost discretion, in order eventually to move beyond racism. As we consider what we need to do and to learn, we must remember that only 150 years ago, the term for someone with "one-eighth negro blood and seven-eighths white blood" was an octoroon, now, by default, still "black" or "African-American." This notion is in contrast to those who are deemed "white," i.e. "not one drop of negro blood." Is it any wonder that many Friends cannot stomach the use of such terms? Yet, is it any wonder that those of us—from light beige to dark brown—whom society deems "black" often have to endure disenfranchisement contrasted to those of us—light beige to dark "tan"—whom society deems "white"? Those who perceive skin color as falling into two distinct categories have fallen prey to the racist way of perception.
Let us eschew hatred of all categories of humanity. Let us acknowledge the ugly paradox of racist language and move forward in unity, knowing in our hearts that we are all one, and that to move beyond this situation will take wisdom and wholehearted anti-racist efforts of all. As Friends, let us answer to that of God in each other, that loving aspect which has no worldly attributes at all.
. . . a Friend whom some would still call "Jewish,"
and whose ancestors were therefore not always considered "truly white."
Last night on the news, one of our Congresspeople spoke about the difficulties we face when so many of our taxpayers object to the use of stem cell research on moral and religious grounds. He wanted to know how we can justify asking these taxpayers to contribute their tax dollars to fund research that runs counter to their religious beliefs. I agree wholeheartedly.
However, the issue of having one's tax dollars fund something that is objectionable on moral and religious grounds is not a new one. For more than two centuries we have had taxpayers who oppose war on religious and moral grounds. Those taxpayers have protested, marched, demonstrated, held peace vigils, written letters, appealed to their congressional representatives, and sought to divert their tax dollars to fund projects that are not connected with war. At times, there have been tax "protesters" who have refused to pay their "war" taxes on religious and moral grounds. Those people have been prosecuted and forced to pay their taxes. I understand that after all this time, there is finally a bill being considered that might address this issue by establishing a Peace Tax Fund. I hope this will become law.
I am deeply offended that the beliefs of those who oppose stem cell research (which might lead to medical advances and cures) are so carefully considered, while the beliefs of those who have long opposed war (which brings death and destruction) have been belittled, ignored, and generally trampled upon.
I would be far happier if the government would show equal concern and support for all taxpayers who object to government spending on moral and religious grounds.
Susan H. Wolf Staten Island Meeting
Peter F. Baily – Poughkeepsie
Gail Shaw Burlakoff – Amawalk
Briana Grace Dana – Fifteenth Street
Jason Leonard Dana – Fifteenth Street
Zachary Charles Dana – Fifteenth Street
Christian Dembergh – Catskill
Jenny Dembergh – Catskill
Jean Whiting Doneit – Poughkeepsie
John Elfrank-Dana – Fifteenth Street
James Gowens – Fifteenth Street
Gerri Haan – Butternuts
Richard Haan – Butternuts
Nancy Hayes – Butternuts
Mary Ann Mays – New Paltz
Paul Niebanck – Fifteenth Street
Ben Nordquist – Morningside
Anna Elizabeth Obermayer – Binghamton
Franne Rosenthal – Fifteenth Street
Ben Schlegel – Fifteenth Street
Cynthia Schlegel – Fifteenth Street
Chris Velsey – Saranac Lake
Annika Aiko Wolanczyck – Fifteenth Street
George Fisher, to Fifteenth Street from Conscience Bay
Julia Giordano, to Bulls Head-Oswego from Fifteenth Street
Lara Suzanna Holliday, to Brooklyn from Langley Hill (BYM)
Michael Adam Reale, to Flushing from St. Louis (IYM)
Arlene Reduto, to Easton from Manhasset
Robert Stromberg, to Easton from Poughkeepsie
Will, Lydia, and Gilbert White, to Ithaca from New Haven (NEYM)
George Madison Briggs, member of Easton, on June 27, 2005
Joseph Cannady, member of Wilton, on June 1, 2005
Lydia Crutchley, member of Ithaca, on May 31, 2005
Elaine Germond, member of Bulls Head-Oswego, on March 31, 2005
Joseph Swain, member of Manasquan, on May 14, 2005
Frederick Willits Seaman, member of Manhasset, on March 31, 2005
Brian Doherty, member of Fifteenth Street, and Hiromi Niwa, on March 19, 2005, under the care of Fifteenth Street Monthly Meeting
Eva Marie Pendelton and Patrick Burnhart, attenders of Flushing, on February 20, 2005, under the care of Flushing Monthly Meeting
Lucas Magee, on January 19, 2005, to Robert Magee, Jr, member of Amawalk, and Patti Salone.