NYYM Minutes for Fall Sessions

Caldwell College, Caldwell, New Jersey

Chatham-Summit Meeting House, Chatham, New Jersey

Saturday, November 16, 2013, 9:30 A.M.


Jeffrey L. Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), Clerk
Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale), Assistant Clerk
Roger Dreisbach-Williams (Rahway & Plainfield), Recording Clerk
Karen Snare (Bulls Head-Oswego), Reading Clerk


2013-11-01 The Clerk recalled with appreciation the Friday evening program at Chatham-Summit and spoke of the commitment made by those who prepared for, and are attending, these sessions. He reviewed the agenda and introduced those at the clerks’ table.


2013-11-02 Friends were asked to stand as their region was called. All nine regions, quarters & half yearly meetings are present.


2013-11-03 Judith Hinds (Montclair) spoke for the host committee welcoming us.


2013-11-04 Excerpts from “Remembrance of Elizabeth Moger,” prepared by Westbury Monthly Meeting, were read. Friends spoke of how Elizabeth Moger (and her husband, Roy) affected their lives. She was a force of nature. Her memorial minute was prepared by Hanover Monthly Meeting (New England Yearly Meeting) and printed in the October issue of Friends Journal.


2013-11-05 Minutes 1-4 were approved.


2013-11-06 John Cooley (Central Finger Lakes), serving as Clerk of the General Services Coordinating Committee, reviewed the items that will come before us.


2013-11-07 Christopher Sammond, the General Secretary, brought a message in addition to his prepared report. Both the Report and a fuller version of his message are attached.
‘If you always do what you have always done; you will always get what you have always gotten’ was the essence of his message “We have had years of declining membership, eroding capacity for renewal, budget reductions and all the while I have been gently admonishing us to greater faithfulness without offering specific actions. The yearly meeting organization is understaffed, under-funded and lacking in a vision which inspires Friends to support our work.”

      Christopher reported that twenty to thirty percent of active members and attenders make no financial contribution and that many give fifty dollars or less per year. The Development Committee is trying to raise thirty-four thousand dollars (ten dollars per member). Yet he is hopeful, inspired by many examples of what one Friend can do, and signs of growth – new meetings, growing meetings, and greater attendance at this session than at any fall or spring session in many years.

      His vision is of one integral yearly meeting led by the Spirit: one body faithful, discerning, well-led and empowered.

      To support that vision, he told us, we need a Young Adult Field Secretary three-quarter time instead of half time, a Children and Youth Secretary at the same level and a communication director at full time instead of four-fifths time. That’s the base line. It would also be desirable to have a half time Field Secretary for Advancement.

      He concluded with three specific actions for each of us to consider:

1) Engage in daily spiritual practice – more than an hour on Sunday. If you can’t devote 15 minutes a day, examine your priorities.

2) Are you compelled to rise and speak, or are you protecting a project or committee?

3) Financial participation – even a small amount – to monthly, yearly and wide Friends organizations is important. With it we can prosper, without it we will get what we always have gotten.

      Friends spoke with appreciation for the General Secretary’s message.


2013-11-08 Susan Bingham (Montclair), serving as Treasurer, presented her report. Last year the closing balance was $8,000 more than the opening balance. This year it is $18,000 less. There may be several reasons for this. Friends were asked to find out the situation in their monthly meetings and try to eliminate the deficit by the end of the calendar year. The full report is attached.


2013-11-09 Friends received the reports of the General Secretary and Treasurer.


2013-11-10 Matthew Scanlon (Scarsdale), serving as Clerk of Financial Services, presented the draft operating budget for 2014. There are two stories: How does the energy generated by contributions and donations get translated into the work of the Yearly Meeting? How does the energy generated by trust funds get translated into the work of the Yearly Meeting?

      The real problem with our budget is that revenue is not keeping pace with inflation.

      By moving some donations and expenses from the operating budget to related trust funds we will be able to meet our budget obligations during this period of transition.

      A minute from World Ministries Committee objecting to this proposal was read.

Friends continue to consider this matter.


2013-11-11 The session concluded with a period of reflective worship.



General Secretary’s Report

General Secretary’s Message

Treasurer’s Report

Saturday, November 16, 2013, 12:45 p.m.

Jeffrey L. Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), Clerk

Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale), Assistant Clerk

Karen Way (New Brunswick), Recording Clerk

Robin Alpern (Scarsdale), Reading Clerk


2013-11-12. Friends gathered in worship. The Clerk reviewed the agenda for the afternoon session.


2013-11-13. Lee Haring (Bulls Head-Oswego), clerk of the Priorities Working Group (PWG) described the two years the group has spent visiting and listening to 53 monthly meetings, 3 worship groups, and 5 prison worship groups.

      The purpose of these visits is to discover the leadings and priorities of the monthly meetings and to make recommendations for change in the Yearly Meeting. The visits also became a way to begin addressing the feeling of disconnection expressed by many local Friends about Yearly Meeting.

      When monthly meetings were asked about the role of Yearly Meeting, their responses fell into two categories:

            1) what the meetings want the Yearly Meeting to do to help at the local level,

      2) what they want the Yearly Meeting to do as a whole.

      On the local level, monthly meetings would like support that would deepen their spiritual learning and experience. This includes advice on vocal ministry, spiritual leadership, pastoral care, and clerking, and help resolving conflicts within meetings.

      Meetings also asked for help with advancement and First Day School. Increased visitation and enriched contact via Spark and Infoshare are crucial in addressing these needs.

      On a broader level, monthly meetings would like the Yearly Meeting to represent them to national Quaker organizations and speak for them to the media on state, national, and international issues. By publically stating our spiritual vision, the Yearly Meeting could raise awareness of Quakerism.

      The PWG is charged with making recommendations for implementing the priorities they are discovering. Although the process of implementation is not yet clear, the PWG is considering several recommendations that will be presented in full at Spring and Summer Sessions.

      First, we must find more ways to increase contact between meetings at all levels of our organization.

      Second, we need to make the Yearly Meeting’s finances transparent to all, with the goal of increasing involvement at an earlier point in the budget process and clarifying financial decision-making. A draft of a sample consolidated financial report was distributed during this part of the presentation.

      Third, the PWG is looking to identify which elements in the Yearly Meeting structure should be laid down. The short answer is: Everything that doesn’t benefit monthly meetings or act on their behalf. The PWG will make its final report at NYYM Summer Sessions, 2014.

      Friends spoke in response. There was excitement about the change that could come if we truly decide to be faithful to the priorities of the monthly meetings. We will need to let go of some familiar forms and invent some new ones. This is an opportunity to reinvent a Yearly Meeting better tuned to the life of the Spirit.

      Another Friend noted that Friends will need to venture out from their monthly meetings to do this work, reaching out to like-minded individuals across the expanse of the YM. And all this internally focused effort takes place in a world beset with many external problems.

      The full report is attached. Friends received the report.


2013-11-14. Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale) presented the report of the Meetings for Discernment Steering Committee. The two most recent Meetings for Discernment were held on March 2 and July 23, 2013. The next one, which will be the 13th Meeting for Discernment in the series, will be held March 1, 2014 at Purchase Monthly Meeting.

      The March queries that guided the extended worship of the Meeting for Discernment were similar to those asked by the Priorities Working Group in visiting monthly meetings; for example: what work does God call us to do, as individuals, as meetings, and as a Yearly Meeting? The committee is working to make sure all queries used in Meetings for Discernment are available online, plus the reports on each meeting.

      At Summer Session 2014, the Steering Committee expects to recommend continuation of the Meetings for Discernment. Because the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel has been suspended, Meetings for Discernment provide an important venue for Friends to consider the concerns of the Yearly Meeting more deeply.

      When the Steering Committee was first created, there was an expectation that it would also be able to consider minutes from monthly meetings and support individual leadings. Although this has not yet happened, the Meetings for Discernment have become an important part of the spiritual life of the Yearly Meeting, and Friends have expressed much gratitude for the opportunity of extended guided communal worship.

      The full report is attached. Friends received the report.


2013-11-15. Buffy Curtis and Liseli Haines (Mohawk Valley Monthly Meeting) testified to the wonderful experience of the Two Row Wampum paddle from Troy to Manhattan, culminating at the U.N.

      The event celebrated the 400-year anniversary of the signing of the Two Row Wampum treaty between the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and European settlers. Illustrated by two parallel rows of purple wampum woven on a white background, the treaty was a commitment to friendship between peoples living in peaceful parallel forever.

      There are plans under discussion for a river trip from the Onondaga Nation to Washington D.C. next September. Buffy and Liseli expressed much gratitude to the many Friends who participated. What the Two Row Wampum experience taught was that we are of many minds but one heart—a lesson for all people, including New York Yearly Meeting.


2013-11-16. The Minutes for this session were approved.

Meeting closed after announcements and a period of community worship.



Priorities Working Group report

Meetings for Discernment Steering Committee report


Sunday, November 17, 2013, 9:00 a.m.


Jeffrey L. Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), Clerk

Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale), Assistant Clerk

Andrew Mead von Salis (Brooklyn), Recording Clerk

Sylke Jackson (Rockland), Reading Clerk


2013-11-17. Convening at 9:00 a.m. directly out of our morning worship, the Yearly Meeting turned its attention to the agenda presented by the Clerk.


2013-11-18. The Reading Clerk read the memorial minute of Rahway-Plainfield Meeting for Marianne Adler Longstreet, who died at age 92 on December 23, 2012. An emigrant from Austria on the eve of war, she became a Friend in 1941. A decades-long member of Manasquan Meeting, she became a certified nursing home administrator. She managed our Yearly Meeting Friends Home (the McCutchen) in North Plainfield, N.J., for 24 years, always active in professional associations and committees. The gracefulness of her adaptable, warm manner enriched her many friendships, led her into caring beautifully for gardens and animals, and gained wide professional recognition.

      Marianne's generosity of spirit was remembered as Friends worshiped.


2013-11-19. Irma Guthrie (Perry City), on behalf of the Ministry Coordinating Committee, introduced a proposed Apology to Afro-Descendants, explaining its background, features, language, testing and revisions in her presentation. The introduction is attached. After several years of consideration by our monthly meetings and further seasoning, the Apology was now brought to us by the Ministry Coordinating Committee for discernment and approval. Charley Flint (Rahway & Plainfield), of the Task Group on Racism, read the text of the Apology to our silent assembly.

      Some well-considered and heartfelt comments and suggestions arose from the floor. The impetus and labor that brought us this Apology were valued and appreciated. A strong sense of a call to speak our truth was felt, and wide approval of the need for this Apology was voiced. Yet some Friends also saw deficit in the inherent limitations of the very act and effect of apology, troubling references in the text itself, or error in some of its premises. We acknowledged that we encompass inevitably varied opinions and experiences, but also asked whether the Yearly Meeting must be a white body to issue this Apology. Upon consideration, we were not in unity to adopt the proposed Apology today.


2013-11-20. After the preceding Minutes were heard and approved, Friends put aside our remaining agenda to rise in expressions of regret and grief. Our poorness in spirit has inflicted pain, and has continued to do that today. We heard experiences of the possibility and power of collective apology and institutional forgiveness, and we resolved to do more to proceed. We began by explicitly inviting all our Friends back into our embrace.

      Even while acknowledging the need to complete our essential business, the Yearly Meeting devoted itself to prayerful and receptive worship. Messages of challenge, humbleness, repentance, and even of hope came, leading us to reconsider whether we could unite in approving the Apology or committing to another step forward. We recognized that our words must speak our mind, while true unity must live in our hearts. Understanding that our Minute is not enough, we united in approval of the proposal to adopt and issue the Apology, and committed the Yearly Meeting to further action.

      Alanna Badgley, and Ron Peterson (speaking on behalf of his Monthly Meeting), were recorded as standing aside.

      The apology reads as follows:

Apology to Afro-Descendants

We the NYYM of the Religious Society of Friends apologize to Afro-Descendants* everywhere for Quaker participation in the terrible acts of enslaving your ancestors and for the destructive effects that those acts have had on succeeding generations.

Slavery is an abomination. We regret that Friends participated in or benefited from slavery. This included trafficking of human beings from Africa, capitalizing on the products of their labor and suffering, and being enriched by an economy based on chattel slavery. We apologize that NYYM allowed its members to hold Africans and their descendants in bondage up until 1777, when Friends were directed by the YM to manumit the people they held in slavery.

We abhor the decades of terror and legalized racial segregation that followed the abolition of slavery declared in the 13th amendment, which was ratified in 1865. The amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This exception gave rise to a justice system that disproportionately targeted and incarcerated Afro-Descendants, a practice which continues today.

We acknowledge in sorrow that those of us who enjoy a high standard of living today are still benefiting from the unpaid and underpaid labor of enslaved peoples and their descendants. We deeply regret that even after emancipation, despite the Quaker testimony of equality, Friends schools denied admission to Afro-Descendants and many Friends meetings enforced segregated seating. We regret the effects that those policies had and continue to have on all of us.

Over the centuries, some individual Quakers and Quaker groups have joined efforts to end slavery and eradicate racism and have supported African Americans in their struggle for civil and human rights. We honor the work of these Quakers and are moved to follow their example. Thus we re-commit ourselves to the testimony of equality as regards Afro-Descendants. This work will include challenging existing racist assumptions, and educating ourselves about the direct relationships between the past enslavement of Afro-Descendants and current conditions in the United States.

We recognize that this apology is a step towards healing and trust, and that more openings will follow as we strive with DIVINE assistance to discern what we as Quakers are called to do to bring about justice and reconciliation in our beloved community.

* Afro-Descendants is a term now officially in use by the United Nations to identify the more than 250 million descendants of enslaved Africans dwelling in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Slavery Diaspora.


2013-11-21. We approved our last Minute of this morning. The Clerk invited Friends to join Chatham-Summit Meeting in devoting the room to its regular 11:00 a.m. meeting for worship.


2013-11-22. After worship, welcomes, thanks and announcements with Chatham-Summit Meeting, we returned to our business agenda at 12:15 p.m.


2013-11-23. The Consent Agenda was presented by the Clerk. The following Minutes 24 through 27 were approved in accordance with our consent agenda process.


2013-11-24. Friends were asked to approve the Handbook page for the representative to the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund board. The page was approved.


2013-11-25. Friends were asked to approve revisions in the listing of constituent committees, resource persons and representatives in the Handbook page for the Witness Coordinating Committee. Friends approved the revisions.


2013-11-26. The following Friends were nominated for service in committee or other positions, respectively. These appointments, each ending in July of the specified year, were approved:

Faith and Practice Revision Committee (2016)            Sara Niccoli, Brooklyn Meeting

Development Committee (2016)                                            Linda Hill Brainard, Fifteenth St. Meeting

Financial Services Committee (2014)                                  Luc Douyon, Albany Meeting attender

Financial Services Committee (2014)                                  Albert Hsu, Wilton Meeting attender

Sessions Committee (2016)                                                       Cheshire Frager, Flushing Meeting

Nurture Coordinating Committee (2016)                          Jennifer Perry, Rochester Meeting

Nurture Coordinating Committee (2016)                          Janice Ninan, Collins Meeting

Member of the Powell House corporation (2016)       Pierre Douyon, Albany Meeting

Member of the Powell House corporation (2018)       Meredith Downey, Chappaqua Meeting

Member of the Powell House corporation (2018)       Catherine Wald, Amawalk Meeting

Member of the Powell House corporation (2018)       Cheshire Frager, Flushing Meeting

Member of the AFSC corporation (2016)                            Robin Whitely, Chatham-Summit Meeting

Black Concerns Committee (2016)                                        Wilma Campbell, Rochester Meeting

Indian Affairs Committee (2016)                                             Thomas Rothschild, Brooklyn Meeting

Representative to the National Campaign                      Frederick Dettmer, Purchase Meeting

for a Peace Tax Fund board (2014)                                        

Prisons Committee (2016)                                                          Robert Martin, Poughkeepsie Meeting

National Consultative Committee                                        Anthony Christopher-Smith,

of William Penn House (2016)                                                  New Brunswick Meeting


2013-11-27. The Yearly Meeting was asked to release from service the following Friends under committee or other appointment, respectively. These releases were approved:

Advancement Committee (2015)                                           Margaret Webb, Binghamton Meeting

Trustee of the Lindley Murray Fund (2015)                      Todd Tilton, Westbury Meeting

Member of the Powell House corporation (2014)       Susanrachel Condon, Old Chatham Meeting

Member of the Powell House corporation (2015)       Carol Holmes, Brooklyn Meeting

Young Adult Concerns Committee (2014)                         Rebecca Sue Nellenback, Poplar Ridge Meeting

Witness Coordinating Committee (2014)                         Newton Garver, Buffalo Meeting


2013-11-28. Richard Eldridge, believed to be a member of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting although on the rolls of Fifteenth Street Meeting, was approved by Friends for appointment to the Oakwood Friends School Board of Managers for a term ending in July 2016.


2013-11-29. John Cooley (Central Finger Lakes), clerk of the General Services Coordinating Committee, reported that the 2014 budget proposal presented to us yesterday morning has been re-examined by the Financial Services Committee, as well as many other involved Friends. Matthew Scanlon (Scarsdale), clerk of the Financial Services Committee, brings a revised proposed budget, reflecting certain changes that were enumerated on a new "Amendments" page of the proposal.

      The budget was approved. The Clerk was directed, as proposed with the budget, to ask the General Services and Nurture Coordinating Committees to write to Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, Friends World Committee for Consultation, and Oakwood Friends School to alert them to the decrease of donations to them in our 2014 budget from the 2013 level, and to suggest that those entities consider applying to New York Yearly Meeting endowment funds, such as World Ministry and Lindley Murray, for specific project aid in 2014.


2013-11-30. The Reading Clerk read the Chwele Task Group's brief report. Friends discussed its plans. The Task Group seeks more Alternatives to Violence facilitators. The report was received.


2013-11-31. The World Ministries Committee commended to our attention their minute, which is read by the Reading Clerk, as follows:

In grateful recognition of the love and dedication given by Newton Garver to the Andean Quakers in Bolivia, the NYYM World Ministries Committee is in unanimous agreement that, in his honor, we establish a scholarship for two Bolivian Quaker students each year to attend a university-level course of study.

The students will be selected by the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund, which also will administer the scholarships. This scholarship program will be reassessed by World Ministries Committee after ten years, at which time the process and funding will be reviewed for renewal and any necessary changes.

Those Friends who have served with Newton Garver have been inspired by his vision and his untiring work toward non-violence, equality and dignity for all people. We look forward to the success of those who will receive these scholarships.


2013-11-32. This afternoon's Minutes were heard, corrected and approved. Friends adjourned at 1:00 p.m., to convene again at our Spring Sessions on April 5, 2014, at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, New York.



Introduction by MCC to Apology to Afro-Descendants






General Secretary Report

Fall Sessions, 2013


Challenges and Opportunities


It is clear the future holds opportunities- it also holds pitfalls. The trick will be to seize the opportunities, avoid the pitfalls, and get back home by 6:00.

                                                                                                            Woody Allen


      We are at a juncture in the life of this yearly meeting which does hold both great promise and significant challenge. On one level, some of our capacity has eroded, and continues to erode.

Š      We continue to decrease in numbers, at about the rate of 1% per year. This affects the strength of many of our monthly meetings to do their work and meet their budgets, and affects their capacity to support the yearly meeting’s work and budget as well.

Š      Our average attendance at Sunday worship fell by almost 13% last year, with decreases in attendance in twenty-five of our monthly meetings.

Š      I know of several meetings who have considered doing Quaker Quest, but decided that they did not have sufficient energy to take on that level of inreach and outreach. Some have considered a more scaled down version, which holds some promise. Others fear they have grown too small even for that.

Š      Many of our meetings no longer have First Day Schools, and have struggled to attract and retain young families because there aren’t enough other children there for the meeting to be a nurturing place for their children.

Š      Some meetings have questioned how many committees their diminished numbers can support, and are making hard decisions between work they see as important, and Friends being stressed and stretched too thin.

Š      We have laid down two meetings in the past five years, and there are several more that are down to very small numbers.

      These are some of the challenges that are upon us. We continue to ignore them at our peril, and to the detriment of the precious legacy offered us by our Quaker forebears.

      At the same time, I see reason for great optimism. As I have seen and our Young Adult Field Secretary has reflected back to us in some of her reports, there is great life and vitality in this yearly meeting.

Š      We have greatly increased our capacities in our practice as Friends, reclaiming the positive role that those with gifts as elders can play. This has deepened and enriched our worship and our business.

Š      We just celebrated the opening of a new meetinghouse, the second in as many years.

Š      Attendance has increased in sixteen of our meetings, and stayed the same in twenty-two.

Š      In each of the last three years we have added new worship groups.

Š      The two (count ‘em, two) young adult Friends active at 15th Street Monthly Meeting decided to hold a brunch once a month for other young adults. The group is now up to forty, and is a significant presence in the meeting.

Š      Many of our meetings report a depth of worship which is vital and nourishing.

Š      Some meetings which had been concerned about their shrinking numbers are now glad to be welcoming newcomers who are staying.

      We need to be willing to be present to both of these realities, neither ignoring the serious challenges before us, nor losing heart in facing them. God is still powerfully at work in us. We need to be concerned, and to act accordingly, but not from a place of fear or of being overwhelmed by the challenges.

      Four years ago I warned of the budget crunch we are now facing. At the time, I said we needed to focus on Vision, Communication, and Development in order to proactively address the coming problem. At that time I thought we had at most two years for the yearly meeting as an organization to do the work necessary in these areas to avoid where we now find ourselves. As it turned out, we had some anomalies last year, with several monthly meetings giving us sizeable covenant donation checks which should have fallen in the previous year. And this year, we were able to shift the pay period for salaried staff from our being paid before we work, at the beginning of the month, to after we have done our work, at the end. These anomalies bought us some time, allowing us to maintain a flat-line budget.

      In the meantime, we have not been idle. We have revamped how we do communication, and hired a new Communications Director. We spent several years designing a process for discerning a grass-roots vision for our work as a yearly meeting, and the past two implementing that process through the Priorities Working Group. We have formed a Development Committee, and they have begun their work addressing what Michael Wajda, Development Director of FGC for many years, calls “the ministry of money.”

      In all these areas, we are about two thirds of the way through the process necessary whereby, in the words of Woody Allen, we can avoid the pitfalls, and avail ourselves of the opportunities in front of us. In our slow, deliberate Quaker way, we are doing the necessary work, and have been for these past four years.

      I offer all this to give Friends the context for where we find ourselves now, in a shortfall of over $60,000 in our operating budget, if you include the amount that the Development Committee has been asked to raise. I would not call this a crisis, though it could become one if we don’t continue to act prudently and proactively.

      With the recommendations from the Priorities Working Group, we will be entering into a place of substantial organizational change. At the very least, we will be realigning our priorities so that they are more in keeping with the leadings and needs of the Friends who provide the financial support for the work of the yearly meeting. Quite likely, the vision arising from the work of the PWG will require much more change than that. We are about to launch ourselves away from the shore of the known, and into the area of the unknown. We will soon be in the middle of change, where we cannot yet see the shore we are making for, and can no longer see the shore we took off from. Being in that place of the unknown and unfamiliar is a condition that most of us respond to with anxiety. And in a place of anxiety, it is human nature to want to go back to the familiar, the habitual, the “old normal.” Remember the place in Exodus when the Hebrews, former slaves, forgetting the bone-crushing oppression they had lived with, said “It wasn’t so bad making bricks back in Egypt. Let us go back there. This wandering in the wilderness is too hard.” The pull to try to go back to the way the way things were will be very strong. Resisting its call will require a lot of faith in our being well led by the Spirit.

      The opportunity before us is to become one integral yearly meeting, led by the Spirit, rather than an organization distinct from the monthly meetings which pay for it. This opportunity is to be knit into one body, faithful, discerning, well led, empowered. Can we meet it?

      In the past I have shared this call to faithful community with you in broad and general terms. Today I offer two very specific actions for the days ahead. First of all, when in business here or in your monthly meeting, test and double test your leading to speak. Does it come from the tender heart led by the Spirit? Or does the urge to speak come from some other place, such as our attachment to the way things have been, our perception of “our turf,” “our money,” “my committee,” etc. Can we hold ourselves to the same discipline of the Spirit to speak in our business meetings as we do in our Meetings for Worship? Can we only rise to speak if we are clearly and powerfully compelled to do so? After all, that is our practice, though I often witness us fudging it in our business.

      Second, when you get the request for funds from the Development Committee, please give something. Even if it’s just $5- give something- the cost of a latte. Our goal is for everyone to give something, no matter how small. This is as much about participation and relationship as it is about raising money to support our work. It is our interrelationship which builds the fabric of community, and money is one aspect of being in relationship. And please don’t let your support for the 2014 Appeal diminish support you would have given the Sharing Fund. The first supports the operating budget, and the ministry done through that, and the second supports our witness efforts.

      If we do these two things, guarding the Spirit-led nature of our decision –making, and making our support of the work of the yearly meeting tangible through our action, we will be moving a step closer to becoming the beloved community we are called to be. And we will successfully meet this opportunity, and avoid the pitfalls, even if we don’t get home by 6:00.


Christopher Sammond


General Secretary Oral Report to Fall Sessions,


November 16, 2013


The following is a rendering after the fact of the message that was given to me to share with Fall Sessions. I have tried as best I could to capture not just the words, but the spirit in which the words were given.


      Good morning Friends. I had prepared a written report for you all, and copies of that will be available after the rise of this meeting. But I was up much of last night, with Spirit wrestling with me, and I was given a different report to share with you today. It will contain some of what is in the written report, but not all, so I would encourage you to read that report, as well.

      What I heard over and over again in the night was the adage “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.”

      For many, many years we have had dropping membership, an eroding of our capacity for renewal, and the cutting of our budgets. Throughout my time here, I have given reports naming our condition and gently admonishing Friends towards greater faithfulness, without specific actions recommended as to what greater faithfulness might mean. These have been received with thanks and affirmation.

      “If you always do as you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.” I include myself in that pattern of what we have been doing, so it is my intent to do my part of this process a little differently today.

      Our yearly meeting organization is understaffed, underfunded, and lacking in sufficient vision to inspire support.

      Four years ago at our Fall Sessions, also in All Friends Regional Meeting, we wrestled for four sessions with a $4,000 deficit in our budget. What we recognized and were able to name as a result of that process was a dysfunction in our priority setting. To address that we created the Priorities Working Group, which has been at work since then. What we did not see as clearly at that time were the other implications from our inability to find unity on a budget. We didn’t see that first, we were not led to cut the budget any further, and second, that our vision did not inspire the support needed to accomplish the work in that budget.

Š      The $34,000 the Development Committee is charged with raising amounts to only $10 per active member or attender, or the cost of two latte`s.

Š      A number of years ago I did some rough calculating of what we, in all of NYYM, give to our monthly meetings, the yearly meeting, and to the wider Quaker organizations such as FGC, FUM, AFSC, FWCC, and FCNL. The rough guestimate I came up with was $1.5 million. This comes down to an average of less than $500 per member. Is this all our Society is worth to us?

Š      In talking with monthly meeting treasurers, I have heard that between 20-30% of active members and attenders give nothing at all. Many give between 0 and $50 per year.

Š      Some meetings don’t mention money at all. This has gotten somewhat better in the past few years, but as a whole, we don’t communicate a need for funds to those attending worship.

      We are out of alignment, out of integrity, as to how we do money.

In spite of the serious challenges which face us, which are more fully outlined in my written report, I retain great hope for the renewal we have been seeking for more than forty-five years. I do so because I see the potential realized every day as to what one inspired individual can do. What I see is that the renewal we hope for is SO EASY, if we just try some different behaviors.

Š      I heard this morning of a Friend who goes to Friends who are already more than maxed out, to enlist them in what she is doing. They find what she is doing so inspiring, that they say that they have to join in it.

Š      I heard last night from a Friend who started walking up to newcomers after meeting, and just saying “hi’ to them. Now, instead of them leaving and not coming back, they are returning.

Š      This is the largest Spring or Fall session in years, quite possibly because we have added a youth program, welcoming all Friends to participate.

Š      We have greatly increased our capacities in our practice as Friends, reclaiming the positive role that those with gifts as elders can play. This has deepened and enriched our worship and our business.

Š      We just celebrated the opening of a new meetinghouse, the second in as many years.

Š      Attendance has increased in sixteen of our meetings, and stayed the same in twenty-two.

Š      In each of the last three years we have added new worship groups.

Š      The two (count ‘em, two) young adult Friends active at 15th Street Monthly Meeting decided to hold a brunch once a month for other young adults. The group is now up to forty-five, and is a significant presence in the meeting.

Š      Many of our meetings report a depth of worship which is vital and nourishing.

Š      Some meetings which had been concerned about their shrinking numbers are now glad to be welcoming newcomers who are staying.

      When I look at all of this, and the changes that are happening, I don’t really know if we are still in decline, or if these are the first indicators of the renewal we have sought for so long.

      We will be hearing the results of the Priorities Working Group at Spring and Summer sessions, and I am not clear as to the vision that they will lay before us. But I want at this time to lift up a vision of what I feel we are called to be. I believe we are called to be one integral yearly meeting, not a yearly meeting organization as distinct from the monthly meetings which pay for it. We are called to be one integral yearly meeting, not witness-focused yearly meeting over and against a ministry-focused yearly meeting. Not a yearly meeting devoted to community over and against one invested in deepening our mystical practice. One integral yearly meeting, led by the Spirit. One body, faithful, discerning, well led, empowered.

      What we need for the staffing support to help us to get there, to address the needs we encounter every day, is a ¾ time Young Adult Field Secretary, not a half-time one. And we need a Field Secretary for Children and Youth at the same staffing level. And we need a Communications Director at full-time instead of .8 time. That’s just the baseline, just barely meeting the needs we encounter. A half-time Field Secretary for Advancement would also be important, but is beyond that bare baseline level of support.

      We are heading for a lot of change. Some is already happening, and the Priorities Working Group report will bring more. As we leave the shore of what’s familiar, and launch ourselves into the unknown, there will come a time when the shore we’ve left behind is no longer visible, and the shore we are approaching is not yet in sight. Without familiar landmarks, it will be sorely tempting for us to go back to what is familiar to escape the feelings of fear and anxiety over the unknown. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in Exodus, when the Hebrew people, who had been in crushing, oppressive slavery for generations finally escape and wander in the wilderness. After a time, sick of the uncertainty, the people start complaining, saying “Maybe we should go back to Egypt. Making all those bricks wasn’t that hard, really. Maybe we’d be better off going back.” It’s a temptation, one we’re better off not giving in to.

      I have three specific things I would ask of you as we prepare to meet the changes already afoot, actions which may help us not act on that very human capacity to want to go back to the familiar, the “old normal.”

Š      Engage in a daily practice. Whatever you do that centers you, helps you to connect to the Divine, and refreshes your spirit, do that for at least twenty minutes each day. And if you don’t make time to do so, notice, without any judgment or self-recrimination, what seemed to be a greater priority that day.

Š      When in business here or in your monthly meeting, test and double test your leading to speak. Does it come from the tender heart led by the Spirit? Or does the urge to speak come from some other place, such as our attachment to the way things have been, our perception of “our turf,” “our money,” “my committee,” etc. Can we hold ourselves to the same discipline of the Spirit to speak in our business meetings as we do in our Meetings for Worship? Can we only rise to speak if we are clearly and powerfully compelled to do so? After all, that is our practice, though I often witness us fudging it in our business.

Š      When you get the request for funds from the Development Committee, please give something. Even if it’s just $5- give something- the cost of a latte. Our goal is for everyone to give something, no matter how small. It is my hope that we would each give something to our monthly meeting, the yearly meeting, and to the wider Quaker organizations. This is as much about participation and relationship as it is about raising money to support our work. It is our interrelationship which builds the fabric of community, and money is one aspect of being in relationship.

      If we do these things, I believe we will be stepping into the kind of yearly meeting we are called to be. We will be preparing ourselves and our community to live into the changes being asked of us.


Thank you.

Christopher Sammond


Treasurer's Report Fall Sessions 2013


Good day Friends


I am Susan Bingham from Montclair Monthly Meeting


Copies of the October 2013 reports are available with the other materials near the registration table for you to pick up. The full report is for review only – please leave at least one copy at the table for others to look at. The double sided one page summary is available for you to take. If you need a copy of the full reports, I have several with me. It is also available on the web site or I can send them electronically to you.


The rounded totals are (exact amounts are in parentheses for the minutes)


The opening balance was $205,000                        (204,908)

Total receipts for the year are $379,000                 (378,838)

Total Disbursements are $397,000                         (396,592)

Closing Balance is $187,154                                   (187,154)


This is a net change of -$18,000                              (-17,754)


At this time in 2012 the net change was +$8,000.   (+8,026)



Priorities Working Group Report


Dear Friends:



      The Priorities Working Group was established at Spring Sessions 2011. By minute 2011-01-35, the Group was charged with responsibility in five areas:

a)    To gather the sense of the monthly and regional meetings and of individual Friends as to how the Spirit is at work among us and where it is leading us as a society of Friends in the immediate future;

b)    To distill those insights and discern from them a proposed Statement of Leadings and Priorities that is both prophetic and workable;

c)     To reflect those insights and priorities back to our constituent regions to ensure that the Working Group has discerned accurately;

d)    To report its findings to the Yearly Meeting Body and to lead the process for considering and approving the Statement of Leadings and Priorities; and

e)     To design a process to assess the implementation of these priorities.

This report is submitted to Fall Sessions 2013 in partial fulfillment of these charges.]


      Two years ago we launched our plan to visit and listen to monthly meetings. We have reported to you about it at every session since. The visits have proceeded well. We have now visited three worship groups (Brooktondale, Philipstown, Greater Canandaigua), five prison worship groups (Cayuga, Auburn, Attica, Green Haven, Sing Sing) and fifty-three monthly meetings (we’ll spare you the full list). From reporting to meetings and to each other about the visits, we have begun to reach clarity on our formal statement of leadings and priorities, which we are to bring before you in spring and summer sessions. We have also begun to identify potential changes in organization and practice that are needed to support the leadings and priorities. This report includes a first look at possible recommendations.

      Changes are also needed to respond to the disconnect between monthly meetings and the rest of the Yearly Meeting. Many monthly meetings, we observe, feel detached from the rest of the Yearly Meeting. They put themselves in one category and the Yearly Meeting organization in another; they do not feel part of a “we” that is the whole of New York Yearly Meeting. Indeed, during our visits, the Priorities Working Group has been referred to as a group of "Yearly Meeting Friends," separate from local meetings and somehow different from the local meeting. This disconnect inhibits the best functioning of the Yearly Meeting. It limits the full realization of a beloved community that embraces and serves us all. Consequently, we shall recommend realigning New York Yearly Meeting, so that by addressing the priorities and leadings of the monthly meetings, Friends will rebuild that beloved community.


I. Priorities we see now

      When monthly meetings speak to the Priorities Working Group, they call for two kinds of priorities: what monthly meetings want the rest of New York Yearly Meeting to do for them, and what monthly meetings want it to do that they can’t do alone.


A. What would local meetings like the rest of the Yearly Meeting to do for them?

      Because local Friends see us, and many of you, as belonging to the “Yearly Meeting Organization,” they primarily want the organization to help them locally. They say gratefully, “You came and visited us,” or “Visits are wonderful.” Most of the meetings we visit wish for more contact with those they identify as “Yearly Meeting Friends.” Again and again, meetings tell us that worshiping together is their priority, saying, "For many of us, worship is what holds our lives together.” Friends treasure the support that their Meeting provides to members and attenders--the "love and care and support for each other," the deepening of each person through worship and spiritual growth. Spiritual deepening and spiritual learning appear to be their first priority. Hence they would like advice and information about deepening meetings for worship, perhaps by "sending Friends to deepen our worship." When they think beyond their local meeting, they ask that assistance and guidance from the broader Yearly Meeting be brought to their own regions. Several meetings want help with vocal ministry and clerking. "Spiritual leadership," said one, asking for "help learning Quaker process, practice and beliefs." They also want advice on pastoral care for members, and on resolving conflicts within a monthly meeting. Their worship would be deepened, they say, if Friends from other meetings came to visit and connect with them.

      Some Friends feel God is calling New York Yearly Meeting to promote advancement, through coordinating the efforts of many monthly meetings. Other needs named by monthly meetings are (1) resources and ideas for attracting new members and retaining their young people, (2) "help with First-Day School planning; how to teach Quaker history to teenagers," and support for First Day School teachers, (3) support for pastors, (4) help with property management, and (5) help with their boards and committees.

      It takes visitation, contact, and money to answer these needs. Meetings express appreciation for visits from the General Secretary, the Young Adult Field Secretary, and the Associate Secretary. Clearly, these visits are something the Yearly Meeting organization is doing well. Most of the meetings we have visited wish for more of it. One Friend welcomed the visit of the Priorities Working Group by saying it could be thought of as preparation for a meeting retreat. Meetings also praise a number of actions already being carried on, mostly by the staff. The Yearly Meeting website is being enlarged to give monthly meetings and their committees access to committee records and resource materials. News of staff activities and monthly meetings is carried in InfoShare, the electronic partner of Spark, which is a potent means for Friends to get news of other monthly meetings, Yearly Meeting activities, the wider world of Quakerism, and upcoming conferences and workshops. More Friends have begun reading both InfoShare and Spark. Monthly meeting Friends think of Powell House as a Yearly Meeting entity and often praise its benefits to youth. And the ARCH program, Friends say, "has been extraordinarily beneficial," as has the work of the Conflict Transformation Committee. In short, the Yearly Meeting, as an organization, is already carrying on activities which Friends value. Funds must be provided to keep these activities going.


B. What would local Friends like the rest of the Yearly Meeting to do on their behalf?

      Mainly they ask for a Quaker voice in public affairs, to the Council of Churches in each state, to state legislatures, to the governors’ offices, to the world. No monthly meeting can speak for "all Friends," but the Yearly Meeting can get media attention for Quaker concerns. Friends ask for a louder voice for their peace witness, earthcare, social justice, income inequality, and prison concerns. Friends also hope that this Yearly Meeting, being one of the few that belong to both Friends General Conference and Friends United Meeting, will maintain its working memberships in both. They urge the Yearly Meeting to advise Friends Committee on National Legislation, American Friends Service Committee, Friends World Committee for Consultation, and other Friends organizations, and to receive and pass back their information to local meetings by sharing it on InfoShare. Generally, Friends want the Yearly Meeting organization to raise public awareness about Quakers in the wider world; to proclaim our spiritual vision and display our spiritually based activism on issues in the world; even to provide a clear statement of our faith. These activities also require funding.


II. Our possible recommendations

      The Priorities Working Group was charged to "design a process to assess the implementation of these priorities" (minute 2011-04-35). We are seeking unity on how to fulfill this charge--that is, how far to go toward designing implementation. We anticipate making recommendations to address both structural and procedural issues. The final content, language and scope of our recommendations, however, is still not clear to us. We are approaching these questions by meeting in worship, seeking the guidance of Spirit.

      A. We expect to recommend ways that the Yearly Meeting organization can be in more frequent and more direct contact with the monthly meetings it serves, expecting to be accountable to them.

      B. We expect to recommend, as an efficient way of removing the sense of distance between monthly meetings and the Yearly Meeting organization, to involve more Friends in the budget-making process. We have agreed that the budget-setting process should begin early each year, at the Coordinating Weekend, in a Spirit-guided manner, and be fully developed by Fall Sessions.

      C. One of our Advices directs Friends to inspect frequently the state of their temporal affairs. Following that Advice, we expect also to recommend that statements of Yearly Meeting income and expense should be easily accessible to all who contribute to its work. Budget statements should transparently reflect the activities of the organization, the cost of major initiatives, the achievements of the various programs, and the way that local Friends can become engaged in them. We have been working with the Financial Services Committee and the Treasurer to make ready a consolidated statement of the Yearly Meeting’s finances. Today we are distributing to you a sample of such a statement. It is intended to help Friends understand better the income and expense cash flow of New York Yearly Meeting. Thereby, more Friends will carry out more of our financial planning, more effectively and efficiently, to ensure that we direct our funds to answer the spiritual leadings and priorities of the monthly meetings.

      D. Finally, we ask: what should be laid down? Based on what we have heard in our visits to this point, the short answer is: Everything that doesn’t benefit monthly meetings or act on their behalf. We shall be testing this answer as we complete our process and prepare for our final report to Summer Sessions 2014. We are questioning whether our current structure contributes to the sense of disconnection between our monthly meetings and the Yearly Meeting organization. We seek to create a unified body based on relationship, transparency, and accountability. We are in discernment as to what changes that may necessitate in our structure.


Lee Haring, Clerk

Priorities Working Group


Meeting for Discernment Steering Committee



Since our last report to this body there have been two Meetings for Discernment, one on March 2 at Brooklyn Monthly Meeting and one on July 23 at New York Yearly Meeting’s Summer Sessions at Silver Bay. Both were occasions of deep worship around queries. Our winter queries paralleled those that the Priorities Working Group asks when they visit meetings. They were: “What are your dreams, yearnings, and hopes for your meeting? What is God calling your meeting to become? What are your hopes, leadings, and expectations for our yearly meeting as a gathered body? What work is God calling us to do together that we cannot do separately?” Our 2013 summer queries focused on faithfulness, revisiting earlier queries along those same lines, and were: “What does it mean to be faithful as individuals? As a gathered body? What does faithfulness mean for a meeting?” There were many messages as Friends responded to these queries, and with the help of elders holding the meeting in prayer worship was deep.

On March 1, 2014, with a snow date of March 8, we will hold our 13th session, at Purchase Monthly Meeting. As usual, elders will gather the evening before to prepare and to enjoy fellowship. Purchase Meeting has appointed a host committee and has recruited help from Purchase Quarter. Registration details and our queries will be in the January Spark, as well as be available on line in InfoShare and at nyym.org.

In our continuing effort to widely share the experience of the Meetings for Discernment, our report from the March sessions and several previous reports are available on the NYYM website under Committees/Meeting for Discernment Steering Committee. Our report on the Meeting for Discernment held at summer sessions, when finished, will also be available on line. We have been working with Steve Davison to allow easier access to Meetings for Discernment information on the website and look forward to our own page when the site is redesigned. On that page we hope to have a list of all the queries that have been used in the Meetings for Discernment, in the hope that Friends might find revisiting them a useful way to deepen their spiritual lives, both corporately and individually.

The Meeting for Discernment Steering Committee is preparing for the decision the Yearly Meeting will make at summer sessions 2014 on the continuation of the Meetings for Discernment. Meetings for Discernment are charged with carrying out some of the work of the suspended Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel; it is unlikely that that Meeting will be revived, and some provision is likely to be made to take up its work. The Meetings for Discernment provide opportunities for deeper consideration of concerns the Yearly Meeting has agreed to focus on, one of the tasks it was formed to do. As noted above, our winter queries were essentially those that the Priorities Working Group uses, allowing a continuing and deepening consideration of them.

 Other work which was considered possible in the minute which formed the Meetings for Discernment, such as “consider minutes from monthly and regional meetings that reflect their concerns, and support individual leadings that have been seasoned by monthly and regional meetings” (YM Minute 2007/07-38) the Meetings for Discernment have not yet done. We are open to continuing direction. These are some of the roles the Meetings for Discernment now fill: they offer a Yearly Meeting experience to those who do not attend summer sessions, or do not attend the full summer sessions. They are an opportunity for sharing around queries and for hearing the condition both of individuals and of monthly meetings, and they have begun, powerfully, to fill a need for many for a time of guided extended communal worship. In addition, they have proven to be an enriching experiment in eldering.

As the Steering Committee works to understand the place of Meetings for Discernment in the life of the Yearly Meeting we have invited the clerk of the Priorities Working Group to one of our meetings and have followed the work of that group. We feel that the minute we bring to this body in summer 2014 should coordinate with the work of that group and that the Meetings for Discernment should attempt to meet some of the needs they have identified. We have begun to discuss ways that might happen.

At summer sessions the committee held several mealtime talks to listen to Friends’ experiences of Meetings for Discernment. We continue to invite all to talk to a member of the committee. (Ask those present to stand.) We know that opening space for extended worship during the crowded calendar at summer sessions and giving the time and energy necessary to host a winter Meeting for Discernment means that other things may not get done, (although we have heard from others that the work we do together is increasingly enhanced by our worship together in Meeting for Discernment), and we want to listen for God’s will for us going forward. Almost all of what we have formally heard is that Meetings for Discernment are highly valued. There is some confusion about what we are discerning and perhaps some hesitation about extended worship from those who lack that experience, and we may need to work more on educating those new to the Meetings about the practice. But for most of those from whom we heard, the meetings are a highlight of their Yearly Meeting experience.

At the end of the Meeting for Discernment day, there is a time for reflection on the day. All are invited, but those who have served as elder are encouraged to speak first about their experiences. We have found that as the elders ground the meetings in worship, they also are moved. I want to close with a quote from an elder at the March meeting: “I was very aware of the increased level of discipline and trust. Many times I felt I was in a gathered meeting. It feels as though the spirit is doing the holding and it has less to do with me. Usually in the past I’ve felt myself called to hold and encircle the body, but not today. It was a body.”

Lucinda Antrim, Clerk

For the Meeting for Discernment Steering Committee


Introduction to the Apology to Afro-Descendants

Presentation to Fall Sessions



Hello Friends!


Ministry Coordinating Committee is bringing the Apology to Afro-Descendants today for discernment and approval . Copies were available at the registration table along with some background information compiled by the European American Quakers Working to End Racism Working Group. I trust you have had a chance to read over those documents.

This Apology has been many years in the making. The original version was written by the European American Quakers Working to End Racism Working Group, better known as EAQWERS, printed in SPARK in January 2008 and displayed on the Black Concerns table in the summer of 2008 and 2009 where more than 90 Friends signed it indicating their approval.

In January of 2010 the Apology was given to the Task Group on Racism which is under the Ministry Coordinating Committee. At that time the EAQWER group was not in the Yearly Meeting structure and it seemed best to move the Apology through the Ministry Section of the Yearly Meeting. The Task Group brought the original version to the Ministry Coordinating Committee in the summer of 2010. There were mixed responses with several Friends approving it as read and others concerned with where it might be leading our Yearly Meeting. It was referred back to the Task Group for further work.

The Task Group worked on the Apology at its next three meetings and brought a new version to MCC in the summer of 2011. After some discussion and several changes MCC approved the Apology with one Friend standing aside. MCC also approved sending the Apology to Monthly Meetings for their consideration. It was read on the floor of Yearly Meeting prior to being sent out, but was not brought to the body for approval at that time.

 The Task Group on Racism and MCC are deeply appreciative of the work that Friends have done within their monthly meetings to engage with this issue. We acknowledge that meetings created time in their busy schedules to consider this Apology and appreciate that this work has brought us closer as a yearly meeting family. In their discernment meetings either were undecided about the Apology or endorsed it. MCC did not receive reports of any meeting minuteing opposition. Meetings that notified us that they approved the Apology are Albany, Binghamton, New Brunswick, Rahway-Plainfield, Scarsdale, Shrewsbury, Syracuse, and Wilton.

Some meetings referred the Apology to their peace and social action committee; some held after meeting discussions with those who were able to attend; some reported that they had not considered it; and some were led to write their own. The latter group includes Albany and Rahway-Plainfield. Manasquan Meeting wrote their own Minute on Racism with regrets for Quaker participation rather than an apology. The EAQWER group also continued to work on it. The Task Group considered each of the suggestions they received but could not include all of them in the minute.

The most consistent objection came from Friends who are uncomfortable with the word "apologize". We received several thoughtful versions from individual Friends "regretting" our actions as Friends but the Task Group felt strongly that expressing regret falls short of apologizing. When we apologize we admit wrong doing, accept responsibility, and express remorse. All of these are important if we are to begin healing from the effects of slavery on all of us. The Task Group incorporated some suggestions from one of our prison worship groups and wording from a minute on racism we received from Manasquan Monthly Meeting.

We are grateful for everyone's participation in this process and thankful for the time meetings have taken to labor with this issue. It is clear that this is not a perfect document in letter, but we trust and believe that it will open the door in Spirit to better understanding and further healing in the future.

The Task Group reported to MCC on the progress of the Apology throughout 2012 and brought a revised version back to MCC at summer sessions in 2013. MCC approved that version with one small change. That is the version we are bringing to you this morning.


Read the Apology!