Minutes, Fall Sessions 2012

Submitted on 11/10/2012

New York Yearly Meeting
Fall Sessions
November 9–11, 2012

Powell House, Old Chatham, New York
Saturday, November 10, 2012, 10:00 a.m.

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

 

Preface – Clerk’s Opening Comments:  We may not live in a broken world, but the world cries out for our attention.  Not just us alone. But we do have some answers.  We have a wonderful witness.  Both a social witness and a spiritual witness.  And one might even say we have a procedural witness

            - our process of discernment
            - our openness to that of God within
            - our experience of radically embracing our shared humanity.

We live in the midst of empire where success is falsely defined and measured by how much material goods one can accumulate for oneself.

In a world where the cost of a single fighter jet would fund our yearly meeting for half a century.

If we were to look back at the last 50 years, I think we would find that this Yearly Meeting has had more true success, has brought forth more power, and created more positive change than that fighter jet might ever hope to do.

We don’t practice our faith, we live it.  Its not always easy being a Quaker, but personally, I would find it more difficult not to be one. 

There is much to do if we are to be faithful.  We have occasion over the next day or two to do some of that work and to live our faith together.

 

2012-11-01.  Meeting clerk, Jeffrey Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), welcomed Friends and spoke of the wider context in which we meet – a world that cries out for our attention in spirit, witness and practice – Friends gathered in joy and confidence.

2012-11-02.  The Clerk introduced those at the clerks’ table, and reviewed the agenda.   Friends
were given permission to use personal electronic devices to access documents from the Yearly Meeting website.

2012-11-03.  The Reading Clerk read the roll call of meetings by region.  No one from Long Island Quarterly Meeting was present.  They have recently suffered from a major storm affecting power and travel.  Friends expressed concern for Friends affected by the storm.

2012-11-04.  Member of the original Host Committee, Jeffrey Aaron (New Brunswick), spoke of the impact of the recent storm, which made it necessary to change the location of these sessions. Our original host church invited us to return when possible.  The efforts of all who made the transition possible were acknowledged.  Ann Davidson (Farmington) welcomed us to Powell House.

2012-11-05.  Co-Clerk of Aging Concerns, Norma Ellis (Scarsdale), introduced Callie Janoff (attender at Brooklyn Monthly Meeting) the third ARCH Coordinator joining Anita Paul and Barbara Spring.

2012-11-06.  Friends approved Minutes 01-05

2012-11-07.  Clerk of General Services, Jeffrey Aaron, introduced the agenda items that they will be bringing to us this morning.

2012-11-08.  Clerk of the Development Committee Joyce Ketterer (Brooklyn) presented their report.  Funds will be sought from Friends within New York Yearly Meeting.  The amount in the budget - $20,000 - is less than what the Committee expects to raise.  Friends approved the establishment of an annual appeal for New York Yearly Meeting through Spring Session, 2013.

2012-11-09.  Clerk of General Services, Jeffrey Aaron, presented the Treasurer’s Report, in place of Susan Bingham, who is recovering from the storm.  As of 10-31-12 we have received 77% of budgeted income and spent 75% of budgeted expenditures.  Our opening balance was $204,735, our closing balance is $218,811, an increase of $14,076.  Last year this was a negative number.

2012-11-10.  Clerk of Financial Services, Sandra Beer (Old Chatham), presented a provisional balanced budget of $514,954 for 2013 (a $9,133 reduction from last year) with 3 tiers (totaling $23,728) of restored funding should those funds become available.    Friends approved a provisional balanced $514,954 budget for 2013.  Friends asked the Financial Services Committee to report to Spring Sessions with recommendations for the FY 2013 operating budget to allow additional funding.     

[Friends may view the budget on our secure website by logging in (or registering, if you have not done so already) and clicking on "Treasurer's Reports & Vouchers" in the left-hand column.]      

2012-11-11.  Friends approved minutes 06-10.

2012-11-12.  Clerk of the Priorities Working Group, Lee Haring reported that theyhave been working together about a year and a half; and have met with twenty-four monthly and quarterly meetings. At each meeting they focus on three queries:  How is the Spirit alive in your Monthly Meeting? What work, ministry, witness is your Meeting called to? What work do you feel God is calling NYYM to do?

They are hearing about the importance of relationship. “Life in our meeting is love and care and support for each other. In many meetings there is a renewed interest in activity in community – in peace, social justice, environmental justice, more participation in local events.  Ministry and witness in a number of meetings is directed to their property, to maintaining or restoring a physical building, or merely finding space to meet, wondering whether they should build a meeting house. Again and again, they hear Friends saying, “When we get together, there’s a good energy and the result makes a difference to the meeting.” One worship group spoke for many other meetings: “Meeting is a safe place to open up and to engage with others through sharing stories, struggles, and triumphs. First Day Schools are a concern of many meetings, who say they need First Day School leaders, but find it hard to get a First Day School going if no young people attend regularly.

When they ask what New York Yearly Meeting can do to help, Friends tell them that the Yearly Meeting can help meetings and Friends learn to deepen worship and ministry within the Quaker tradition. It can also be an opportunity to allow or enable a "critical mass" for work with conflict resolution, or the Alternatives to Violence Program. Also, Friends point out that New York Yearly Meeting can get media attention in a way monthly meetings can’t. Many Friends appreciate connecting with the wider fellowship of Quakers, for example through workshops, and suggest regional gatherings or workshops that are not too far away. One meeting told them that the most valuable contribution New York Yearly Meeting could make to a Monthly Meeting is having events at local meeting houses. They see a hunger for regional programs, which the Yearly Meeting could set up, but which would engage local Friends in organizing and leading them. They often get answers like, “The Yearly Meeting has resources that we could use if we looked at them.” One worship group told them, “The more the Yearly Meeting addresses people’s basic needs, the more Quakerism will help people and spread.”

But what has most impressed all members of the Priorities Working Group is the warmth of the welcome they receive wherever they go, and the joy and exhilaration that they have experienced in this service. Again and again they hear statements like, “It is in the spiritual aspect, more than the social action side of Quakerism, that I would like to have inter-meeting exchanges. Christopher’s workshop helped us focus on developing the spiritual side of ourselves. I would like to have visitations that would continue to expand my/our growth in spiritual awareness.” Friends want to take Quaker spirituality and use it to address issues such as environmental issues or peace concerns. They see Quaker support for their environmental leading and would like the Yearly Meeting to be a way to connect with others sharing this leading. Help with conflict resolution could also come from the Yearly Meeting. Thus our work is much more than mere information-gathering; it is a spiritual exercise.

The Priorities Working Group expects to have two recommendations to make to this body at Spring Sessions about the process by which we set priorities when we review and approve the operating budget.

The Priorities Working Group is considering a recommendation to gather all of the information about financial practices into a consolidated financial report. “We believe a consolidated financial report will, in the words of our enabling minute,  ‘focus the energy and resources of the Yearly Meeting’, and ‘inform our planning and work as a body’ for the ensuing four to six years.”

The Priorities Working Group believes that a periodic review of the use of the Yearly Meeting’s restricted funds, in the light of their original designation, would fill out our picture of the extent of the ministry we are sponsoring, ministry that is being performed in our name. It would also provide us opportunities for periodically reconsidering their use. The Priorities Working Group believes that when we examine and restate our mission and priorities, having digested and synthesized the perspectives of our constituent monthly meetings, the Yearly Meeting will sharpen its focus, deepen our spiritual connections, encourage accountability and engagement with one another, and fuel our love for each other and our shared devotion to the light.

The Priorities Working Group welcomes the insights of Friends from throughout our Yearly Meeting.

The full report is on the website, and will be attached to these minutes (see below), and is commended to Friends.

2012-11-13.  Friends approved Minute 12

2012-11-14.  The Reading Clerk read several announcements affecting our session and Friends departed in peace to reconvene tomorrow morning.

 

 

Anna Curtis Center, Powell House, Old Chatham, New York
Sunday, November 11, 2012, 10:15 A.M.

Jeffrey Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), Clerk
Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale), Assistant Clerk
Roger Dreisbach-Williams (Rahway & Plainfield), Recording Clerk
Jillian Smith (Saratoga), Reading Clerk

2012-11-15.  Meeting clerk, Jeffrey Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield) welcomed Friends.

2012-11-16.  The Clerk introduced those at the clerks’ table, and reviewed the agenda.

2012-11-17.  A Memorial Minute for Elizabeth Hoskins was read.  Friends remembered her kindness and mentoring of Friends new in service.

2012-11-18.  The Consent agenda of Nominations and Release from Service is approved. [Click the following to download the consent agenda.]

2012-11-19.  Assistant Clerk of Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting, Lu Harper (Rochester) presented a Travel Minute which originated with Central Finger Lakes Monthly Meeting and has been endorsed by Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting for Greta Mickey in her work with Friends in the Republic of Georgia.  Friends approved the Clerk’s endorsement of the Travel Minute.           

2012-11-20.  Clerk Jeffrey Hitchcock reported on actions taken in the name of the Yearly Meeting since our last session.  In August Christopher Sammond signed an Interfaith Resolution Concerning the Dangers of High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in advance of an interfaith service “Blessing of the Waters” held on September 6 at Cooperstown.

2012-11-21.  Clerk of Witness Coordinating Committee Mary Eagleson (Scarsdale) reported on the state of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (hydrofracking) in New York State.  Albany, Butternuts, Genessee Valley, Ithaca, Rochester and Scarsdale Monthly Meetings, and Farmington-Scipio Regional Meetinghave prepared minutes on hydrofracking.  The Witness Coordinating Committee welcomes minutes from other meetings as they are prepared.  Suzanne Blackburn (Genesee Valley) presented the following minute on hydrofracking.

New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends Minute on Hydrofracking

New York Yearly Meeting has considered the potential consequences of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (also known as HVHF, horizontal hydrofracking, or fracking) in New York State. We oppose hydrofracking in New York State and beyond. We urge our political representatives to prohibit the practice of HVHF in New York State. As Quakers, we experience the Divine through loving and truthful relationships with all people and all creation.  After extensive efforts to inform ourselves about fracking we have concluded that it is inconsistent with our faith and practices which include a commitment to integrity, community, equality and care of God’s creation.  We observe that the natural gas industry and government agencies have placed financial gain over the health of our communities and the environment.  We see no legitimate reason to exempt hydrofracking from existing laws protecting water, air, land, and health, as is currently the case.  In other states where horizontal hydrofracking has been performed, it has resulted in the loss of vast amounts of fresh water, the release of toxins into the environment, damage to communities, and cost to the tax payers. 

We support legislation and incentives which promote research, development, and use of renewable and sustainable energy; support local farms and farmers; protect the air and water; enforce accountability for industries that risk environmental harm; and create economic policies that promote work for New York State residents that they can do in good conscience.  We urge all citizens to thoughtfully consider the long term effects of hydrofracking on the water, land, local economy, infrastructure, services, and the community as a whole.  We are encouraged by the many communities coming together to seek a way forward based on truth and respect.  We are called to stand against fracking, and invite others to join us in opposition to this practice.

Friends spoke on activities around hydrofracking in New York State, the danger to water quality and the importance of developing renewable sources of energy.

2012-11-22  Friends approved the proposed minute on hydrofracking.

2012-11-23  Mary Eagleson presented the following action agenda in response to the approved minute

We, the task group of Witness Coordinating Committee charged with creating this minute suggest the following actions:

·       We ask that the NYYM clerk and general secretary disseminate this minute widely through press releases, letters to our elected officials, to other yearly meetings and other Quaker organizations.

·       We charge our representatives to the New York and New Jersey Council of Churches to bring this concern to those bodies, and to advocate for those bodies getting under the weight of this concern.

·       We urge Friends to examine our own lives to discern the seeds which might inadvertently support the practice of fracking, and, to the degree possible, do what we can to limit or eliminate those seeds.

·       We ask Friends to prayerfully consider adding their names to the list of people, started in part by Friends, who have made a public commitment to join with others to engage in non-violent acts of protest, as their conscience leads them.  The link to this list is as follows: http://www.dontfrackny.org/pledge/

 

Friends responded to the recommended actions, and asked that we include listening to those who support hydrofracking, particularly the economic impact.  This is the first step in a larger effort to consider if Friends are called to a new testimony on how we shall seek to live.

2012-11-24  Friends are in unity with the action recommendations.

2012-11-25  Friends approved minutes 15-24

2012-11-26.  Steering Committee of Meetings for Discernment Clerk, Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale), reported on the Meetings for Discernment held in the last year and the queries for the next Meeting, which will be held on 3/2 (snow date 3/9) at Brooklyn Monthly Meeting.

2012-11-27.  Nurture Coordinating Committee Task Group on New York Yearly Meeting-Chwele Yearly Meeting partnership member, Gloria Thompson (Manhattan), reported on the background of contacts between New York and Chwele Yearly Meetings.  Friends heard the report.

2012-11-28.  We rejoiced in hearing the report from the four New York Yearly Meeting Friends who attended the FWCC Conference in Kenya during April 2012 and then visited with Friends in Chwele.  In our continued discernment Friends spoke of concerns, possibilities, faith, and the rich rewards of this proposed relationship.  Friends acknowledge an opening to an ongoing relationship between New York and Chwele Yearly Meetings.  It is too early to define what that relationship will be.  We are listening to how we are being called into this relationship.  We ask that the Task Group convey the sense of the Meeting to Friends in Chwele.  Friends who feel led to attend the Chwele Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions in August should contact the Task Group.

2012-11-29.  Clerk of Financial Services, Sandra Beer, reported a clarification around the funds in the Young Friends in Residence line in the 2012 budget.  Unspent funds can be transferred to the YFIR fund.  Friends approved.  

 

 

NEW YORK YEARLY MEETING
Priorities Working Group

Report to Fall Sessions, November 2012

The Priorities Working Group was constituted by minutes of the spring 2011 session, charged first 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,” and second “to distill those insights and discern from them a proposed Statement of Leadings and Priorities that is both prophetic and workable.” I shall give you a brief account of our work so far and alert you to two recommendations that will come to spring sessions.

We have been working together about a year and a half; we have met with twenty-four monthly and quarterly meetings. As we told you at Summer Session, in each meeting we focus on three queries: How is the Spirit alive in your Monthly Meeting? What work, ministry, witness is your Meeting called to? What work do you feel God is calling NYYM to do? We spend most of every visit not talking, but listening to monthly meeting Friends. If you ask what we have learned, I’ll limit myself today to telling you some things we have heard. Please don’t think that what I tell you today is a preliminary version of our statement of the leadings and priorities of New York Yearly Meeting. That is still our responsibility for the future. I just want to share with you what we hear, as we are welcomed by one meeting after another.

When we ask, “Where is the Life in your Meeting; what ministry and witness are your Meeting and individual Friends engaged in?,” we get answers about the importance of relationship. “Life in our meeting is love and care and support for each other. “ Supporting youth and families is important to the Monthly Meeting. Some meetings don't feel very connected to the Yearly Meeting, sometimes because of geographical location. Many meetings tell us, “Most of our focus is local.” We notice in many meetings a renewed interest in activity in community in peace, social justice, environmental justice, more participation in local events. Ministry and witness in a number of meetings is directed to their property, to maintaining or restoring a physical building, or merely finding space to meet,wondering whether they should build a meeting house. They tell us, “It’s just a few Friends who take care of the property.” But again and again, we hear Friends saying, “When we get together, there’s a good energy and the result makes a difference to the meeting.” One worship group spoke for many other meetings: “Meeting is a safe place to open up and to engage with others through sharing stories, struggles, and triumphs. “ One meeting experienced substantial energy brought to a meeting by the Young Friends in Residence program. They see YFIR as young people giving back their gifts to the meeting. With that experience, that meeting would strongly like the YFIR program to continue. First Day Schools are a concern of many meetings, who say they need First Day School leaders, but find it hard to get a First Day School going if no young people attend regularly.

When we ask how the rest of the Yearly Meeting can support you in that life, or what New York Yearly Meeting can do to help, Friends tell us that the Yearly Meeting can help meetings and Friends learn to deepen worship and ministry within the Quaker tradition. It can also be an opportunity to allow or enable a "critical mass" for work with conflict resolution, or the Alternatives to Violence Program. Also, Friends point out that New York Yearly Meeting can get media attention in a way monthly meetings can’t. Many Friends appreciate connecting with the wider fellowship of Quakers, for example through workshops, and suggest regional gatherings or workshops that are not too far away. One meeting told us that the most valuable contribution New York Yearly Meeting could make to a Monthly Meeting is having events at local meeting houses. We see Friends hoping for programs like the ones at Powell House, but closer to them geographically. We see a hunger for regional programs, which the Yearly Meeting could set up, but which would engage local Friends in organizing and leading them. We often get answers like, “The Yearly Meeting has resources that we could use if we looked at them.” One worship group told us, “The more the Yearly Meeting addresses people’s basic needs, the more Quakerism will help people and spread.”

I’m afraid none of these remarks and comments convey the one thing that has most impressed all members of the Priorities Working Group. That is the warmth of the welcome we receive wherever we go, and the joy and exhilaration that we have experienced in this service. Again and again we hear statements like, “It is in the spiritual aspect, more than the social action side of Quakerism, that I would like to have inter-meeting exchanges. Christopher’s workshop helped us focus on developing the spiritual side of ourselves. I would like to have visitations that would continue to expand my/our growth in spiritual awareness.” Friends want to take Quaker spirituality and use it to address issues such as environmental issues or peace concerns. They see Quaker support for their environmental leading and would like the YM to be a way to connect with others sharing this leading. Help with conflict resolution could also come from the yearly meeting. Thus our work is much more than mere information-gathering; it is a spiritual exercise.

Looking ahead to spring sessions, the Priorities Working Group will have two recommendations to make to this body about the Yearly Meeting’s budget, or rather about the process by which we set priorities when we review and approve the operating budget. It is clear to us that the priorities of the Yearly Meeting can be implemented faithfully only if Friends do a better job in sharing information about the work being undertaken in all the "constituent parts" of the Yearly Meeting (Minute 2011-4-33). At present, the operating budget is prepared by the Financial Services Committee, in consultation with the coordinating committees and interested Friends. Then it is presented to Monthly Meetings for their discernment, then to the body for approval. Yet the operating budget reflects only a part of the ministry, nurture and witness of the entire Yearly Meeting. Not included in the operating budget is the work supported by funds entrusted to the Yearly Meeting Trustees, Yearly Meeting Treasurer, Witness Coordinating Committee (Sharing Fund) and other groups within the Yearly Meeting. Nor is information about those funds usually presented during that discernment.

For example, a few years ago, working to produce a balanced operating budget, Friends considered reducing the contribution from the operating budget to Oakwood School from $12,000 to $11,000. What we did not know, as we struggled with this difficult decision, was that, in addition to the operating budget contribution, Oakwood School receives substantial funds from the Trustees (then $74,000) and from the Lindley Murray Fund ($4,700). Another example is Powell House, which receives substantial support from the Yearly Meeting through the operating budget ($65,000 in 2010), but also receives further Yearly Meeting support through funds under the care of the Trustees (over $12,000 in 2010). As a third example, outside Friends organizations (such as Friends General Conference, American Friends Service Committee and Friends Committee on National Legislation) receive support from the Yearly Meeting through its operating budget, but they also benefit from additional Yearly Meeting funds awarded by the Lindley Murray Fund. In fourth place, the work of the committees under the care of Witness Coordinating Committee is supported by both the operating budget and the Sharing Fund, but only the operating budget is presented to friends for review and approval.

There are many more examples of collective ministry, nurture and witness that are supported from multiple sources within the Yearly Meeting. To inform Friends more fully, the Priorities Working Group is considering a recommendation to gather all the information about financial practices into a consolidated financial report. We have consulted the Financial Services Committee, the Yearly Meeting Treasurer, and the Treasurer of the Trustees, and over the next few months, we will be continuing this process of consultation and discernment. Between now and spring sessions, the Priorities Working Group welcomes the insights of Friends throughout our Yearly Meeting. We believe a consolidated financial report will, in the words of our enabling minute, “focus the energy and resources of the Yearly Meeting” (Minute 2011-4-33), and “inform our planning and work as a body” for the ensuing four to six years. (Minute 2011-4-38.)

Our second recommendation will focus on the restricted funds under the care of the Yearly Meeting trustees. We believe the body should periodically review the work of the Trustees with respect to these funds, so as to determine whether we want to maintain the trustees' reinterpretations of their historic designation. Two examples are the Mosher Fund and the Caleb Sutton Fund. The Mosher Fund was originally designated to support the writing of Quaker tracts ("circulating books and tracts inculcating and developing the principles of the Christian religion as preached and practiced by the early Friends"). Now the fund is used to give books to monthly meetings and staff, at summer sessions each year. Perhaps at the time of re-designating this fund, the writing of tracts was deemed archaic. Yet we now have at least one Friend actively writing tracts, and publishing them on his own. The Caleb Sutton Fund was to be used by ministers of limited resources who "shall feel drawn in Gospel love to visit foreign lands." It is not clear from the Handbook, where one would expect to find such information, how these funds are used each year. In fact we now have Yearly Meeting Friends traveling to the republic of Georgia, Indonesia, Colombia and Kenya, who would meet the criteria of this designation. It would be helpful to know how the Caleb Sutton Fund is actually being used. The Priorities Working Group believes that a periodic review of the use of the Yearly Meeting’s restricted funds, in the light of their original designation, would fill out our picture of the extent of the ministry we are sponsoring, ministry that is being performed in our name. It would also provide us opportunities for periodically reconsidering their use. Perhaps the trustees could report each year on a few of the restricted funds.

The Priorities Working Group believes that when we examine and restate our mission and priorities, having digested and synthesized the perspectives of our constituent monthly meetings, the Yearly Meeting will sharpen its focus, deepen our spiritual connections, encourage accountability and engagement with one another, and fuel our love for each other and our shared devotion to the light.

Again, between now and spring sessions, the Priorities Working Group will welcome the insights of Friends throughout our Yearly Meeting, and members of the Priorities Working Group who are present would be pleased to answer your questions or hear your comments.

Lee Haring, Clerk