Minutes, Fall Sessions 2010

Submitted on 11/13/2010

New York Yearly Meeting
Fall Sessions
November 12–14, 2010

Flushing Meetinghouse, Flushing, New York
Saturday, November 13, 2010, 10:00 a.m.

Heather M. Cook, Clerk
Margaret Obermayer, Acting Assistant Clerk
 and Reading Clerk
Roger Dreisbach-Williams, Recording Clerk

2010-11-01. The meeting remained gathered following morning open worship. Out of the silence, Clerk Heather M. Cook (Chatham-Summit) greeted Friends with prayer, asking Friends to open our hearts, listen in humility, act with courage, and deepen in faithfulness. She invited Friends to practice self-discipline when discerning whether to speak to the matters coming forward. She introduced those at the clerks’ table and reviewed the agenda.

2010-11-02. The reading clerk called the roll, asking Friends to rise by regional meeting. All regions were represented.

2010-11-03. Andy von Salis (Brooklyn), of the host committee of New York Quarterly Meeting (NYQM), welcomed us and brought greetings from the clerks of the quarterly meeting who could not be with us. This is the first time that NYQM has hosted Yearly Meeting at the Flushing meetinghouse, the site of the first session of New York Yearly Meeting in 1696.

2010-11-04. Portions of the 2010 epistle of Intermountain Yearly Meeting were read. They sought the meaning of service in these challenging times: Is service different in the twenty-first century? Are the tools different? Are they, as a Meeting, called to engage in service? What are the gifts and challenges of giving, and of receiving? They also approved minutes on immigration and the use of military force after years of heartfelt threshing and waiting for the Spirit’s leading.

2010-11-05. The Clerk reported on an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)/New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) joint statement “A Call to Understanding and Peace,” issued in August in response to the proposed Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan. It was sent by AFSC to the White House in September, in response to a request for statements on the proposed mass burning of the Qur’an in Florida. The statement is attached and is posted on the Yearly Meeting Web site.

2010-11-06. General Secretary Christopher Sammond (Bulls Head-Oswego, sojourning at Poplar Ridge) presented his report: Funding for the Young Adult Friends Field Secretary position is not yet in place. We are clear that this work we are called to do and we need to support it.

2010-11-07. Clerk of Sessions Committee, John Cooley (Central Finger Lakes), presented their report on 2010 Summer Sessions. Attendance: 574 (620 in 2009), including 127 Junior Yearly Meeting participants. Over $13,000 was raised to support Friends’ attendance at Yearly Meeting Sessions, and more than 80 of us received assistance. Suggestions for themes and plenary speakers should be shared with Sessions Committee by the middle of January.

2010-11-08. We heard the words of Isaac Penington: “There is that near you which will guide you. Oh, wait for it, and be sure that you keep to it.” —quoted in Traveling In, Douglas V. Steere, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #324

2010-11-09. Treasurer Susan Bingham (Montclair) presented her report. The closing balance as of October 31, 2010 is $178,000, a net change of -$27,411. This is better than last year when the net change was -$61,000. The net change in 2008 was a little more than -$13,000.

2010-11-10. Clerk of Financial Services, Sandra Beer (Old Chatham), presented their report. The proposed budget for 2011 is set at $516,311, based on what Friends have been willing to commit. The meeting approved a balanced budget and held off considering the minute until the afternoon.

2010-11-11. We heard the following from Britain Yearly Meeting Faith & Practice:

Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God’s guidance and offering counsel to one another?
—Britain Yearly Meeting Faith & Practice, Advices and Queries #27

2010-11-12. A travel minute for Margaret Lechner (Purchase) was presented. Deborah Wood (Purchase), a member of her support committee, provided background information on the travel minute for on-going work with the Alternatives to Violence Project in Latin America. The Clerk was directed to endorse the travel minute.

2010-11-13. The minutes of the morning session were approved.

2010-11-14. Following the reading of the announcements and a period of open worship we closed for lunch to resume our prayers for discernment at 3:45 p.m.

 

Flushing High School, Flushing, New York
Saturday, November 13, 2010, 4:00 p.m.

Heather M. Cook, Clerk
Margaret Obermayer, Acting Assistant Clerk
Elaine Learnard, Recording Clerk
Sylke Jackson, Reading Clerk

2010-11-15. Out of the waiting worship, we heard the following:

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things…
—1 Peter 4:8–11

2010-11-16. In the morning session, Friends heard a report from the Financial Services Committee on the proposed budget. Following that session, Financial Services brought the following to clarify their sense of the morning’s discussion.

Friends approved the proposed 2011 budget of $516,311, which includes expected income of $516,311, including anticipated covenant donations of $459,398.

The approved budget also includes, in the event that the anticipated revenue exceeds $516,311, the expenditures set forth in the prioritized tiers on page 7 of the proposed budget document. Any additional revenue will be used as follows: Tier One would be funded proportionately to its items, up to a limit of $10,000; then Tier Two would be funded proportionately to its items, up to a limit of $16,650; and finally Tier Three would be funded proportionately to its items, up to a limit of $6,650.

The determination of the final anticipated revenues for 2011 will be brought to Spring Sessions by the Financial Services.

Friends approved the budget with these understandings. The approved budget is attached and posted on the Yearly Meeting Web site.

2010-11-17. Friends heard a call to bring back to their monthly meetings the invitation to engage in further discernment about strengthening support for the ministry of the Yearly Meeting as reflected in the work proposed in the three priority tiers. The activities described in these items will be undertaken only if the additional funds are received from increased covenant donations or from earmarked contributions.

2010-11-18. Friends further directed Financial Services to compose, and the Yearly Meeting staff to send by postal mail, a letter to each monthly meeting explaining how additional covenant donations would be used to fund the activities described in the three tiers, should additional donations be forthcoming.

2010-11-19. The Meeting approved minutes 20 through 23 in accord with the consent agenda.

2010-11-20. Friends approved the following nominations:
Nurture Coordinating Committee (at large), 2012: Alexander Haines ‘10 (Mohawk Valley) [see Minute #24 below]
Aging Concerns, 2013: Carol Summar ‘10 (Fifteenth Street)
Elsie K. Powell House Committee, 2015: Elizabeth Powers ‘10 (Brooklyn), Margaret Morgan-Davie ‘08 (Mohawk Valley)
Young Friends in Residence, 2011: Abraham Kenmore ‘10 (Buffalo)
Rural and Migrant Ministry Representative, 2011: James O’Barr ‘01 (Cornwall)

2010-11-21. Friends approved these requests for release from service:
Listed in error:
Young Adult Concerns Committee, 2011: Amy Savage (Syracuse)
Young Adult Concerns Committee, 2012: Sarah Brown (Rockland, attender), Kayla Clark (Old Chatham), Tim Holmes (Old Chatham)

Release from service:
Advancement Committee, 2012: John Menzel (New Brunswick)
Assistant Clerk of the Yearly Meeting, 2011: Joseph Garren (Brooklyn)
Financial Services Committee, 2011: Mary Williams (Bulls Head-Oswego)
Friends General Conference Representatives, 2013: John Menzel (New Brunswick)
Elsie K. Powell House Committee, 2011: Virginia Haines (Mohawk Valley)
Youth Committee, 2012: David Eskin (Purchase), Monica Eskin (Purchase)
Witness Coordinating Committee (at large), 2012: Linda Chidsey (Housatonic)
National Religious Campaign against Torture representatives, 2012: Patricia Chernoff (Morningside)
Quaker Earthcare Witness representative, 2012: Elizabeth (Buffy) Curtis (Mohawk Valley)

2010-11-22. Friends approved the creation of the General Secretary Supervisory Committee, including the recommendation that the existing General Secretary Supervisory Task Group members continue as Committee members, retaining the existing class arrangement.

2010-11-23. Friends approved the laying down of the General Secretary Supervisory Task Group as its duties will be undertaken by the new General Secretary Supervisory Committee.

2010-11-24. Coclerk of Nominating Committee, Jill McClellan (Central Finger Lakes), brought a change to the consent agenda, that Alexander Haines’s appointment to Nurture Coordinating Committee be stricken from the consent agenda. Friends approved.

2010-11-25. The following was read: “… we walk by faith, not by sight.” —2 Corinthians 5:7

2010-11-26. The Clerk introduced Young Friends in Residence (YFIR) Committee coclerk Christine (Chris) DeRoller (Old Chatham), who described YFIR’s mission as seeking to strengthen and revitalize the Religious Society of Friends by addressing three critical areas: keeping adolescents and their families involved in the meeting; providing concrete and substantive opportunities to develop the leadership gifts of members and attenders, particularly among young adult Friends; and deepening the spiritual life and practices of individuals and the meeting.

Chris then introduced Irma Guthrie (Perry City), who spoke about Perry City’s hosting YFIR. Perry City has established a structure and support committee and an anchor committee, and they are working out how much of what kinds of support is needed. The meeting has been enriched by the participation of these young people in the life of their meeting as the interns participate in committees, lead discussions and Bible study, and work with the First Day school. Although Perry City spent more than a year in discernment about whether they could host this work, the rewards of this joint work became clear to them very soon.

Each of the interns spoke about aspects of their experiences. Anna Obermayer (Binghamton) spoke about the clarity she came to in choosing the YFIR internship, about her commitment to this Yearly Meeting in which she was raised, and about the intense spiritual enrichment of having the time and space to get to know and be known by people whose spiritual background is very different from hers. Helen Staab (Purchase), the newest intern with YFIR, spoke about her clearness process for this work and her realization that it started when she was nine years old and attending Powell House programs; her clearness process helped her see this internship as a way to give back in appreciation for all she had been given.

Franklin Crump also came to YFIR after experiences at Powell House and with a desire to create a program that would provide the same safe and nurturing program for young people, both Quaker and non-Quaker, that helped him survive middle school. Franklin hopes that the interns will be able to provide some structure to help the next set of interns not to have to work so hard to get going.

Natalie Braun (Old Chatham) has found that the program has been a source of growth for all involved—the interns, the kids who attend the weekend programs, the youth community that has supported the weekends by helping out, the parents of the kids who come to the programs, and the monthly meetings the kids come from. Starting from the Powell House structure they were all familiar with, the interns have by now come to “own” the structure of their retreats. Each has a theme relating to an aspect of Quakerism. Nathalie sees the program as a seed that needs nurturing.

Chris completed the report from YFIR with the thought that expanding and contracting are part of what a living body does and though we have noted some ways that our community has contracted, YFIR, in a leap of faith, is an expansion.

The YFIR and Perry City reports are attached and posted on the Yearly Meeting Web site.

2010-11-27. Friends heard the following read: “You must love one another just as I have loved you. It is by your love for one another that everyone will recognize you as my disciples.”
—John 13: 34–35

2010-11-28. For the Witness Coordinating Committee, Fred Dettmer (Purchase), section clerk, introduced Jolene Festa (Brooklyn), coclerk of the Prisons Committee, who brought a proposed revision to the Handbook page for the Prisons Committee. This revision adds two items to the list of functions of that committee: outreach to prison worship group members who are in the hospital, and provision of referral assistance for those coming home from prison. Friends approved the revision to the Handbook page.

2010-11-29. Fred then spoke about the Sharing Fund, specifically how the fund has supported Friends’ Alternatives to Violence Project work abroad, such as Margaret Lechner’s work we heard about this morning. He urged Friends to make contributions to the Sharing Fund to support more such social witness work.

2010-11-30. Speaking then as the clerk of the Liaison Charge Group, which has been directed to look at a process for discerning priorities of the Yearly Meeting, Fred reported that the group has continued to work since Summer Sessions on a proposal and hopes to bring a proposal to Spring Sessions.

2010-11-31. Fred announced that there will be a Coordinating Committee weekend, the first in two years, on January 28 and 29, 2011, at Powell House, and reminded Friends that it is not necessary to be on a coordinating committee to attend.

2010-11-32. The acting assistant clerk read travel minutes from Rochester Monthly Meeting, endorsed by Farmington-Scipio Regional meeting, for members Kristina Keefe-Perry and Callid Keefe-Perry. Kristina carries a commitment to eldering, to earthcare, and to developing a network of Quaker volunteers, a national movement nurturing leadings in Quaker service where they grow. Callid has been called to learning and teaching about Quaker theology and Christian mysticism.

From Rochester Monthly Meeting, Kenneth Harper spoke about what it is has been like to serve on the support committee for one of these Friends in their work and travel, and about the enrichment that has come from listening to Spirit and understanding how the Spirit is moving through them.

Kristina told us that she was grateful for the many greetings they and their daughter Nahar had received. Giving examples of her work as she has traveled, as a teacher at Pendle Hill, as a partner in peace-building work with members of other peace churches, as an elder, she offered a message about faithfulness and accountability, about eldering that sometimes asks us to carry heavier weight than we think we can (but we can), and about how, as we had just heard from the book of John, it is by our love that we show each other the hands of God as we do this work in the world.

Callid told us how he has tried to give over to inward work and to discipline in his meeting, and of his conviction, through this giving over: he believes Spirit can guide us and is near. Last spring, someone from the Protestant section of the Web site Patheos asked him to write something on his understanding of the Spirit. A poem he wrote in response was then picked up by a major weekly lectionary Web site and used in Pentecost Sunday sermons throughout the country. He left us with that poem:

Bird Shadows/Holy Spirit

My God is in the next room,
cooking unseen feasts
and humming;
moments of ache before rain
when the whole June cloud
is ready to burst through
though no drop has yet fallen;
dandelion blades that insist
adamantly they must reside directly
in the middle of your neighbor’s
blacktopped suburban driveway;
sights of the shadow of a bird flitting
by the sill near the bed of an aging Grace,
who can no longer move but counts herself
lucky because at least she can still see.
This is my God:
expectant and grinning
wild and near.

and with this prayer: “I pray we find the way forward in these days; the kingdom is at hand.”

Friends directed the Clerk to endorse these travel minutes.

2010-11-33. Following announcements, including that the date for the next Meeting for Discernment will be held on February 26, 2011, at Rahway-Plainfield Meeting, the meeting closed in waiting worship.

 

Flushing Meeting, Flushing NY
Sunday, November 14, 2010, 9:00 a.m.

Heather M. Cook, Clerk
Margaret Obermayer, Acting Assistant Clerk
 and Reading Clerk
Karen A. Reixach, Recording Clerk

2010-11-34.The meeting opened with silent worship. Out of the silence, the body heard Psalm 25:21: “May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.”

2010-11-35.Clerk Heather Cook introduced those at the clerks’ table, reviewed the agenda for the morning, and invited the recording clerk for Saturday afternoon, Elaine Learnard, to read those minutes. Friends approved the minutes from Saturday afternoon.

2010-11-36.The Clerk announced that Purchase Quarter has approved laying down Stamford-Greenwich Meeting. We hope to hear a full report from the quarter in the future.

2010-11-37.Clerk of the Sessions Committee, John Cooley (Central Finger Lakes), reported on these Fall Sessions. One hundred twenty-six people attended at least part of the time, including youth. There has been an active youth program. New York Quarter, which is the host for these Fall Sessions, has relied heavily on Flushing Meeting for arrangements. Friends spoke of the joy of hosting and attending Sessions at this historic place.

2010-11-38. Clerk of Nurture Coordinating Committee (CC), Cheshire Frager (Flushing), offered the proposed Handbook page for the Youth Committee for first reading. After the reading clerk read the proposed page, Friends were reminded that comments to Nurture CC are welcome. It is anticipated that the page will come to Spring Sessions for consideration for approval. The proposed page can be viewed on the Yearly Meeting Web site.

2010-11-39. NYYM Representatives to the combined North American/African Friends United Meeting (FUM) Board meetings, Christopher Sammond and Ann Davidson, reported on the meeting in Mabanga, Kenya, in July 2010, as well as their visitation to the United Society of Friends Women International (USFWI) Triennial and the Quaker Men International Triennial, both held outside Mombasa, prior to the meeting in Mabanga. Their written report is attached and will be posted on the Yearly Meeting Web site.

Their presentation began with a graphic video of what it is like to travel on the roads of Kenya and then was accompanied by photos of the many events and places they visited. Ann Davidson, who first went to the USFWI meeting in Kenya in 1992, reported that well over 1,000 women came together for worship, Bible study, singing, opportunities for service, speakers, and fellowship. USFWI is similar to the women’s meetings among early Friends in offering opportunities for leadership development and engagement in Spirit-led business.

Ann spoke of the healing work that she and Christopher offered, laying on of hands and offering verbal prayer. Ann emphasized that “one of the things I feel is so important is what I can learn from the Kenyan women and the way they live out their faith. The relationship isn’t one way—with me going over and helping/ministering to the Kenyans. I go for nourishment and refreshment in such a way I can’t get anywhere else. I am immersed in the Love and Light and come back filled.” Christopher also spoke of the vibrant faith of Kenyan Friends, and of one Friend’s statement, “We know we have received only a part of Quakerism. We want the rest of it.” He told of holding a question in his heart about how to share the gifts that Friends from United yearly meetings carry in a way that would be helpful to the Kenyans.

Christopher spoke of the work of Friends Church Peace Teams during the postelection violence at the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008. Afterward, victims and perpetrators were forced to live together by the government, and Quakers were entrusted with the work of mediating, a powerful peace witness. Recently, the constitution was being approved in Kenya, and some Friends came to clearness that it was important to maintain a neutral public stance despite their personal opinions in order to remain trusted intermediaries, should those election results engender more violence.

Christopher described being in a small group at the FUM board meetings, made up of North American Friends from both United and Orthodox-only yearly meetings and African Friends. At one point one of the North Americans had just shared an extremely pessimistic assessment of the condition of FUM, and the possibilities for restructuring. He was trying to discern if he was led to share anything in response to that critique, before the group moved on to another topic, when one of the leaders of a Kenyan yearly meeting asked, “Christopher, do you have anything to say?” allowing him to share what he was sitting with. This Friend had worked extensively with Christopher three years previously at the board meetings in Kakamega, where they had labored over different understandings of gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender personhood and ministry.

His sense is that the mood has shifted dramatically, that Kenyan Friends are hungry for what we have to offer. He described several opportunities for service. And while they may benefit from our sharing, we will receive as much, or more, than we give. By coming to Kenya with open hearts, we can be nurtured by the deep faith and joy of Friends there.

Following the presentation, Friends reflected on their own experiences of encounters across cultures. We also noted that our approach of “staying at the table in love” during struggle and impasse (practiced over many years in our own Yearly Meeting and over the last three years with Friends United Meeting) has been affirmed by the 2010 moving experiences described by Christopher and Ann.

2010-11-40. Friends approved the minutes of this session.

2010-11-41. The Clerk concluded our sessions by observing that we have been held, we have received ministry. The first Quaker missionaries came to this area in 1657. Let us be missionaries to our own meetings, to our own communities. Let us speak of what has touched and changed us this weekend. Let us live ever more fully in that Light and Truth. Friends settled into silence in preparation for joining worship with Flushing Monthly Meeting, to reconvene at Oakwood Friends School for our Spring Sessions April 1–3, 2011.

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