Minutes, Fall Sessions 2013

Submitted on 11/16/2013

 

New York Yearly Meeting
Fall Sessions
November 15–16, 2013

Caldwell College, Caldwell, NJ &
Chatham-Summit Meeting, Chatham, NJ

 

Saturday, November 16, 2013, 9:30 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

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.


 

Saturday, November 16, 2013, 12:45 P.M.

 Jeffrey Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), Clerk
Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale), Assistant Clerk
Karen Way (New Brunswick), Recording Clerk
Robin Mallison 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.


 

Sunday, November 17, 2013, 9:00 A.M.

 Jeffrey 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.

Attachments related to the Apology to Afro-Descendants

Introduction to the Apology to Afro-Descendants by Ministry Coordinating Committee.

Background notes on the Apology from the European American Quakers Working to End Racism Working Group.

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. (View the BQEF Handbook page here.)

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. (View hte WCC Handbook page here.)

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 for a Peace Tax Fund board (2014)
    Frederick Dettmer, Purchase Meeting
Prisons Committee (2016)
    Robert Martin, Poughkeepsie Meeting
National Consultative Committee of William Penn House (2016)
    Anthony Christopher-Smith, 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. (View the 2014 budget here.)

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.