of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
State of Society Query
We on the Ministry Coordinating Committee look forward once again to hearing from you about the spiritual condition of your meeting or worship group in your State of the Meeting Report for 2007. All members of our committee read all the reports submitted to us with care and attention, and we hope your meeting will participate this year in this important discernment process throughout New York Yearly Meeting.
“The State of the Meeting report should be,” according to Faith and Practice, “a searching self-examination by the meeting and its members of their spiritual strengths and weaknesses and of the efforts made to foster growth in the spiritual life.” We invite you to look back over the year 2007 in your meeting community, and this query may help in your deliberations:
How do we sense the spirit moving among us?
This is our chance to do some deep searching together in a process of corporate discernment, and monthly meetings use many different approaches to involving as many of their members as possible in this self-examination process. Some publicize the query in their newsletter before they meet together to consider it; some have a meeting potluck where members of Ministry and Counsel record concerns; other meetings ask for reports from each of their committees. Whatever your process, we hope you will consider how to produce a report which reflects the spiritual condition of your meeting.
(If you want to look at the “State of the Society Report,” which is the written result of that discernment process, just log on to the New York Yearly Meeting Web site, ww.nyym.org, and scroll down the left side of the page to “State of the Society” and click it; you will be able to open up the reports for the last ten years. If you need a hard copy, please call me at 914-922-1553 or e-mail dnbwood [at] aol.com, and I will send it to you.)
When your monthly meeting approves your report, the clerk should forward it to the Yearly Meeting office by February 15, 2008. If possible, send it both electronically and in hard copy.
Blessings, Deborah Wood, for the Ministry Coordinating Committee
First Meeting for Discernment
March 15, 2008, Rochester Meetinghouse
This is a reminder that the first Meeting for Discernment will be held on March 15, 2008, at Rochester meetinghouse.
At this year’s Summer Sessions, Friends approved creating Meetings for Discernment as a replacement for the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel. The first one will be held on March 15, 2008. The second will be a designated day of Summer Sessions at Silver Bay. Meetings for Discernment will worshipfully consider:
The Interim Steering Committee asks for monthly meetings to appoint at least one Friend, and emphasizes that all Friends are welcome, and encouraged, to join in this worship and work.
More information in general about Meetings for Discernment is available in the 2007 Advance Report of the Transition Working Group, which can be found on the Yearly Meeting Web site at www.nyym.org/pubs/yb07-08 in the Advance Reports section. Also, please see the article in October 2007 InfoShare at www.nyym.org/spark/is2007.10.shtml#m4d.
Christopher Sammond’s Travel Calendar
December 1, 2007–January 31, 2008
Position Available: Director, Chappaqua Friends Nursery School
Chappaqua Friends Nursery School seeks an experienced, enthusiastic educator to serve as director beginning June 2008. The director administers the day-to-day operations of the school, which enrolls up to 50 children. This is a highly regarded nursery school program for children three to five years old, with an experienced team of teachers, a loyal and committed parent body, and a supportive oversight committee. We seek a director who will lead the school through the exciting process of becoming accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
This is currently a full-time position. The job may also be divided into two part-time positions of director and assistant director.
A successful candidate should have a proven track record as an early-childhood educator and/or administrator, with educational qualifications that meet the NAEYC criteria for a program administrator. Individuals who are able and willing to obtain the necessary qualifications within a set time period will also be considered.
Applications must be received by February 7, 2008. Applicants should supply a cover letter, résumé, and three references. Send to: Karen Warren, CFNS Search Committee, 109 Hardscrabble Lake Dr., Chappaqua NY 10514; r3k2warren [at] aol.com.
Flushing Remonstrance on Display
The Flushing Remonstrance will be on display at the Queens Library at Flushing, 41-17 Main St. at Kissena Blvd. in Flushing, Queens, N.Y., from December 5, 2006 to January 7, 2007. Admission is free. The exhibit is part of a borough-wide celebration of the 350-year old document, which demanded religious tolerance in the Dutch colonial town of Vlissingen (Flushing), in the colony of Nieuw Netherland. The Flushing Remonstrance is recognized as a forerunner to the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Accompanying the Remonstrance's display is a display of photographs of houses of worship from all over Queens.
The Flushing Remonstrance, which can be read at www.nyym.org/flushing/remons.html, was signed in 1657 by a group of freeholders who were protesting a proclamation by the provincial governor, Peter Stuyvesant. The governor forbade the sheltering of Quakers, even for a single night. The townspeople had been guaranteed freedom of worship in the original 1645 charter by the Dutch West India Company. A written protest ("remonstrance") was prepared. It was signed by 31 men at great personal risk. None of them was a Quaker. Several were arrested and heavily fined by the furious governor. In 1661, John Bowne permitted Quakers to assemble in his home in Flushing. He was arrested and deported to Holland. He presented his plea. The Dutch West India Company upheld the promise of religious tolerance, citing that "the consciences of men ought, at least, to be free." They recalled Governor Stuyvesant to Holland. John Bowne returned to Flushing a free man in 1664. The legacy of the Flushing Remonstrance remains to this day.
Additional activities celebrating the Flushing Remonstrance can be found at www.flushingremonstrance.info.
YOUNG ADULT FRIENDS INFORMATION
The November 2007 Spark (www.nyym.org/spark/2007.11.shtml) was devoted to the topic Voices of Young Adult Friends. Continuing this theme, in this issue of InfoShare we are pleased to bring you more news about what YAFs are doing!
Epistle from YAF Retreat
We write to you from Brooklyn’s meetinghouse in New York City during a time of retreat and exploration. Here twelve Young Adult Friends gathered for a conference titled Faith and Practice: Finding Yourself Quaker. We came together Friday evening and remained with each other in the Spirit of worship, play, and sharing until the rise of Brooklyn’s Meeting for Worship on First Day. The hospitality afforded by the meetinghouse space was greatly appreciated, and we were grateful again for having such a welcoming environment in which to join. During the time spent together we have experienced fellowship, nourishment, and support in seeking our paths. The whole of the gathering has been full of gratitude and connection.
Friday evening Friends were encouraged to consider different aspects of Quakerism, and together we collected a list of words that rose in us as we thought about what Quakers are. The list held ideals, ordeals, hopes, and truths. It contained Continuing Revelation and Committees, Seriousness and Lightheartedness, Questioning and Affirming Christianity, Political Awareness, Quaker Guilt, Mysticism, Silence, and Joy. Even as we took it down, we knew that no list could ever be long enough to explain it fully. No list could capture the gestalt…and so we moved to questions.
During the late evening of Friday, and throughout the day on Saturday, we asked and grasped after Truth. We wondered who we were and asked it aloud. Then we wondered what we were if no one agreed. We took pride in our heritage and history and wondered about our future. We struggled with the idea that some are Quaker because of the community it provides and others because of the spirituality. We want to know if one can be had without the other. Would either be complete? We asked if there was a right way to worship; if we should, or could, draw lines to define us; and whether or not there was any joy in worship. We asked what the Divine was. We asked if Divine was. We wondered and we wandered. And we did it all together.
Though we all grapple with difficult questions, it is not as common for us to do this work together and aloud. We found that there was power in speaking these questions into the space and in trying to answer them together. The atmosphere was live and our conversation flowed smoothly from one thing to the next. And yet, for all the variety of topics, there were moments when we knew each other’s experience deeply. In the space of that moment we placed words on our experience and spoke them.
Sewn with threads of Word.
We came for Faith and Practice: Finding Yourself Quaker and discovered that what we were looking for was, of course, in front of us the whole time. Quakerism is about finding. In this moment. Renewing again in every moment. Failing. Trying again. And trying again. In community. In silence and stillness.
To paraphrase Thomas Kelly, a practicing Friend must above all be one who practices a continual returning to inner stillness, who draws the world into the silence and Light found there, and is ready to bring that Light into the world, and is willing to be changed because of it all. A practicing Friend is one who does this and is willing to do it with others. Again and again. We feel called to this. This calls to us.
We are grateful for having had this time to be with one another, to have explored, and to be refreshed. And we are grateful and joyed to be able to share it with you.
In this long moment,
Young Quakers and Business Meeting
As the Youth Ministries coordinator for Friends General Conference I’ve had the opportunity to attend annual sessions of several yearly meetings. This year, I was fortunate that New York Yearly Meeting was among the three yearly meetings that I attended. Yearly meetings have different numbers of young people and incorporate them into fellowship and business in various ways. However, most yearly meetings, including NYYM, are asking the question: How do we create a truly multigenerational, spiritual community where all Friends feel a part of and are engaged with Quakerism?
Having grown up with a small Young Friends group of only six people, I was surprised at how many Young Friends attended NYYM, how many families were present, and that Young Adult Friends continue to come back well after college. When I asked younger Friends why they attended NYYM, they spoke with joy about growing up participating in Powell House retreats and attending Yearly Meeting with their family. They loved returning year after year to reconnect with their community of friends, to worship, play, and enjoy the beauty of Lake George. I was so happy to see families playing shuffleboard, kids hanging out at the beach, and YAFs leading intergenerational game nights. I was awed by the youthful energy and beauty of it all.
Yet there were only a handful of Young Adult Friends present in the business meetings. Even though I enjoyed attending the business meetings, I felt the tension of wanting to be canoeing, swimming, or worshiping outside. This made it difficult for me to be truly present. It seems like a Catch 22: New York Yearly Meeting offers activities that are welcoming to Friends of all ages, but then Friends choose not to be a part of the Quaker business process of the yearly meeting. I recognize that business meetings can be long and tedious at times, but I’ve also experienced how powerful they can be.
Not until last year, when my job required me to attend a number of business meeting sessions in different yearly meetings, did I begin to see how awesome business meeting could be. Some of the conversations were thought provoking, engaging, and very Spirit-led. There were discussions focused on race, Christian language, and sexual discrimination that made me both proud and sometimes embarrassed to be a Friend. They pushed me to look for Truth in others' beliefs and to stand in my own beliefs. Business meetings are a place to address the challenges Friends face living our testimonies of equality, integrity, peace, simplicity, and community today. I believe that many YAFs struggle with how to live these testimonies in their everyday lives, and have a lot to offer to these conversations. I hope Friends of all ages extend personal invitations to one another, or that younger Friends go in groups to meeting for worship with a concern for business, so that we can all experience what is a fundamentally awesome way of doing business.
I understand that some younger Friends may not be led to business meeting or even to worship at monthly meetings at this time in their lives. The query posed by the Circle of Young Friends during the worship session at NYYM sessions asked, “What is the role of Young Adult Friends in the Yearly Meeting, and how can we all work to nurture it?” One Friend's message really spoke to me. This Friend recognized the different gifts that Young Adult Friends offer, like the ministry of bringing people together for Frisbee games and caring for the children. How do we acknowledge and appreciate all of the diversity of gifts Friends bring to our religious community? Some Friends in their twenties might not attend a monthly meeting or go to business sessions, but they are deeply spiritual and wrestle with what it means to live as a Quaker in their everyday lives. How do we nurture Friends' ministries as they grow and change?
I believe that as a religious society, we are all called to be faithful to keep asking the questions, lifting up different ministries of Friends, and putting out the invitation to help create a multigenerational spiritual community together. It’s important that New York Yearly Meeting keep having worship-sharing sessions on YAF concerns, creating task groups on youth, and offering a loving space for young people to return to every year. It’s also important that younger Friends encourage one another to participate in opportunities, such as business meeting, that challenge us all to be part of a fully engaged faith community.
FGC: Quaker Youth: Speak Thy Truth!
The Friends General Conference (FGC) QuakerYouth Web site has undergone some major changes and is now much more interactive! Our most exciting new feature is a blog for Friends to share their thoughts and experiences as young Quakers. There are also photos from the 2007 New York Yearly Meeting and the NYYM YAF epistle, as well as epistles from young Friends from many other yearly meetings.
Some awesome new features:
Young Adult Friends Conference!
Come connect with other Young Adult Friends from across the U.S. and Canada! Next Memorial Day weekend (May 23–26, 2008) come to Richmond, Ind., for a three-day conference at Earlham College focused on leadings and callings. This conference will explore how we can create a deeper spiritual community and support one another in discerning important life questions.
Young Adult Friends will lead a variety of interest groups, and faculty from the Earlham School of Religion will offer workshops on peace and justice issues and cross-cultural perspectives. We welcome young adult Friends from Friends General Conference and liberal/unprogrammed traditions as well as Friends from Friends United Meeting (FUM), Evangelical Friends International (EFI), and Conservative yearly meetings to participate in this exciting event. Let’s come together to worship, play, pray, laugh, and talk about our beliefs as Friends.
This conference is supported by Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. A planning committee of young adult Friends from different branches of Quakerism is organizing the event. For more information on upcoming events, please check out www.fgcquaker.org/qy or contact Emily Stewart at emilys [at] fgcquaker.org.
Conflict Transformation Workshop at PoHo
The Committee on Conflict Transformation of NYYM will again offer a Powell House workshop, the weekend of February 15–17 2008. This workshop will address the ways in which we can respond affirmatively and in love when a meeting or a committee finds itself in conflict with a "difficult person." We will consider what makes a person "difficult" and what aspects may at different times be in the person, in those reacting to the person, and in the situation itself. We will learn and practice how to listen in ways most likely to bring a positive response, offering affirmation for the person but not the "difficult" behavior. How do we best balance the needs of the person and the needs of others in the meeting or committee? When do we need to ask for professional help?
Time will also be set aside for private meetings with committee members to discuss particular situations in your meeting or committee. And there will also be time for fellowship, worship, joy, and laughter.
Powell House Events
NYYM Task Group on Racism Retreat—Rubye Braye, Jan. 4–6, 2008
Silent Retreat “Dwelling Deep: An Extended Meeting for Worship”—Linda Chidsey, Jan. 18–21, 2008 (through Monday lunch), cosponsored by the School of the Spirit Ministry.
Pastoral Care—Mickey Edgerton & Dortha Meredith, Feb. 1–3, 2008
Quilting from the Center—Kathie Greenwold, Anne Pomeroy, and Anita Paul, Feb. 8–10, 2008
Dealing in Love with Difficult People … in Our Meetings and Beyond—sponsored by the Conflict Transformation Committee, Feb. 15–17, 2008
Clerking: Serving the Community with Joy & Confidence—Arthur Larrabee, Feb. 22–24, 2008
AVP Basic Conflict Resolution Workshop: Level 1, Feb. 22–24, 2008
Earth in the Headlines: How Are We Called to Respond? —Marshall Massey, Mar. 14–16, 2008
Work/Messiah Sing & Celebration, Mar. 21–23, 2008
Holy Resistance, Sacred Surrender—Mary Kay Glazer, Mar. 28–30, 2008
Building and Holding Safe Spaces