Minutes, Spring Sessions 2010

Submitted on 04/10/2010

New York Yearly Meeting
Spring Sessions
April 9–11, 2010

Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York
Saturday, April 10, 2010, 10:00 a.m.

                    Heather M. Cook, Clerk
           Joseph Garren, Assistant Clerk
           Roger Dreisbach-Williams, Recording Clerk
Sanford Segal, Reading Clerk

2010-04-01.     The meeting gathered in joy and settled into worship.  The Clerk welcomed the body, speaking of the mystery and grace of gathering for worship and attention to the affairs of the Yearly Meeting, and of those who cannot be present and are holding the meeting in prayer.

2010-04-02.     The Clerk introduced those Friends at the clerks’ table and reviewed the schedule and agenda for the sessions.

2010-04-03.     The Reading Clerk called the roll by regions.  All nine regional, quarterly and half-yearly meetings were represented.

2010-04-04.     A minute of travel was returned by Newton Garver (Buffalo).  The minute was endorsed by the Yearly Meeting in November 2007.  Newton reported on his experience in support of the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund.   He gave one example of how assistance from the Fund meant that a young woman no longer had to choose between taking the bus to school or eating lunch.

2010-04-05.    The meeting received a minute of travel from Rochester Monthly Meeting, endorsed by Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting, for their member Susan Regen to carry her concern for encouraging the practice of forgiveness.  This minute was first issued in 2006 and renewed in 2008.  Friends authorized the Clerk to endorse this minute of travel.

2010-04-06.    The meeting received a minute of travel from Rochester Monthly Meeting, endorsed by Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting for their members Mary Kay Glazer and Mark Moss to carry their concern for couples enrichment work.  This minute was first issued in 2002 and renewed in 2004 and in 2007.  Friends authorized the Clerk to endorse this minute of travel.

2010-04-07.   “Be still and cool in your own mind and spirit from your own thoughts, and you will feel the divine source of life in you turn your mind to the Lord God.  And in doing this you will receive his strength and life-giving power to quieten every storm and gale that blows against you… Therefore be still for a while from your own thoughts, your own searching, seeking, desiring, imagining, and rest on the divine source of life within you so as to rest your mind on God himself and to come close to God.  You will then find strength from him and find him to be a present help in time of trouble, in time of need, and to be a God at hand.” (Rex Ambler. Truth of the Heart: An Anthology of George Fox. London: Quaker Books, 2001. 25.)  Friends heard this invitation to deeper worship.

2010-04-08.            The Clerk reported on the status of work directed to the Clerk by the Yearly Meeting:

New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) minute 2007-04-06 was distributed with a cover letter in March of this year.

As directed by NYYM minute 2009-04-04, the Clerk has met the Department of Veterans Affairs’ requirements to register as a legitimate religious organization.  The registration is renewed every three years.

                NYYM minute 2009-07-50 was sent as directed with a letter at the end of July.

NYYM minute 2009-11-39:  The Clerk forwarded this minute in stages, beginning in late December and completed in mid-March.

               NYYM minute 2009-11-36:  Liaison expects to report to our session tomorrow.

The full report is attached.

2010-04-09.   “Our worship is a deep exercise of our spirits before the Lord, which doth not consist in an exercising the natural part or natural mind, either to hear or speak words, or in praying according to what we, of ourselves, can apprehend or comprehend concerning our needs; but we wait, in silence of the fleshly part, to hear with the new ear what God shall please to speak inwardly in our own hearts, or outwardly through others, who speak with the new tongue which he unlooseth and teacheth to speak; and we pray in the spirit, and with the new understanding, as God pleaseth to quicken, draw forth, and open our hearts towards himself.” (Robert J. Leach, ed. The Inward Journey of Isaac Penington. Wallingford PA: Pendle Hill, 1943. 26.) Friends heard an invitation to deeper worship.

2010-04-10.    Jeffrey Aaron (New Brunswick), clerk of General Services Coordinating Committee, introduced the work of the section.  He spoke of the possibility of hiring two consecutive temporary part-time interns to consolidate networking, coordinating and outreach among young Friends in the Yearly Meeting.  This will not affect the budget.  Plans are to use the Youth and Young Adults Fund, which is not a part of the budget, but is under the care of the Advancement Committee.  Any questions or other input can be addressed to Christopher Sammond, General Secretary; Helen Garay Toppins, Associate Secretary; Christine DeRoller, Co-Director of Powell House Youth Program, Heloise Rathbone, Clerk of Personnel; Jeffrey Aaron, or any member of the Young Adult Concerns Committee. If and when the first intern comes on board, all meetings will be informed.

2010-04-11.   Susan Bingham (Montclair), Treasurer, presented the Treasurer’s report.  As of December 31, 2009, the closing balance was $204,119, with a net change of $115.  In 2008, the net change was $594, in 2007 $2,914. The February 28, 2010 closing balance is $174,972, with a net change of -$30,939.  In 2009, the net change at the same period was -$30,723; in 2008, -$22,821.

2010-04-12.    Sandra Beer (Old Chatham), clerk of Financial Services Committee, presented the revised  2010 operating budget: income of $520,440; expense of $516,150.  Friends spoke to possibly restoring support to other Friends’ organizations and in support of representatives to these organizations should funds become available.

Friends approved the 2010 operating budget (attached).

2010-04-13. Christopher Sammond (Bulls Head-Oswego, sojourning at Poplar Ridge), General Secretary, presented his report. He reminded us that we are part of a larger religious society, interconnected and interdependent.  He shared numerous examples of how we support and are supported by other Friends’ bodies.  Many of these organizations are laying off staff and even contemplating laying themselves down.  If what we have received from Friends is precious to us, we need to support it.  If we truly believe that Friends’ work in the world is a treasure, part of the solution to what besets this ailing world, don’t we want, as Woolman said,  "To turn all the treasures we posses into the channels of universal love…”

The barriers are within.  Money is not the issue.  If we respond to what we are called to do the resources are there.  The sense of scarcity is a spiritual issue. We still lack a unity of vision, a vision that individual Friends can get behind and want to passionately support.  When we have that, then we will have clarity, even joyful clarity, to support that vision with all the time, talent and treasure we have at our disposal.

2010-04-14.    Jill McLellan (Central Finger Lakes), co-clerk of Nominating Committee, presented the following nominations of Friends outside the Yearly Meeting for service on the Oakwood Friends School Board of Managers.

2010-04-15.     Friends approved Sheila Lunger, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, for the Oakwood Friends School Board of Managers Class of 2011.

2010-04-16.    Friends approved Phillip Richmond, Baltimore Yearly Meeting, for the Oakwood Friends School Board of Managers Class of 2011.

2010-04-17.    Friends approved Ralph Skeels, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, for the Oakwood Friends School Board of Managers Class of 2012.

2010-04-18.       Friends approved the minutes for the morning session.

Attachments

  • 2010 operating budget
  • General Secretary’s report
  • Clerk’s report on status of directed work

 

             General Secretary’s Report – April 2010

At Fall Sessions last year, we struggled to find clarity on how to fund the work underway at a Yearly Meeting level.  As we did so, words like “vision,” “mission,” “priorities,” and “support” were prevalent.  We formed an ad hoc committee to look at “who we are, how we are led, and how we support the work of those leadings and needs”.  In the first meeting of that group, one Friend who had also served on the Ad Hoc Committee on the Function of the Yearly Meetingmade an interesting observation.  She noted that while we were, ten years later, looking at some similar questions, the context was completely different.  At that time, that committee was addressing concerns about how to regenerate life in the Yearly Meeting.  She observed that now we have so much going on that we are struggling to prioritize and fund it.  In many ways, we have succeeded ourselves into a whole different set of problems.  This is actually cause for some celebration.

            I saw an article the other day about the upside of a down economy being that it forces us to look at our values and our direction.  I see our nation as a whole wrestling with those questions, and most non-profits looking quite hard at issues of vision and mission- who we are, what we are called to do, and how to get there.  Many of our Monthly Meetings have been engaging those questions, and I see us as a body doing the same, pausing at a crossroads, seeking direction.  We are in a new place.  We have settled.  We have deepened as a community.  We are readying for the next chapter.  How do we move into that future with conscious intention?   We have been pushed to do so partly by economics.  But I think we need to be doing that work regardless of economics, and I am glad we are doing it. 

            In the past five years, we have grown significantly in the work we are trying to support and be faithful to.  As we have added new things, little by little, one at a time, it has been easy to lose track of how much has changed.  As we pause at this crossroads, I think it is helpful to realize just how much we have grown.  Here are just some of those new initiatives:

  • YFIR- the Young Friends In Residence Program
  • ARCH- Aging Resources Care and Help
  • Significant growth in prison ministry, from supporting new prison worship groups to greater collaboration with the Alternatives to Violence Project and the American Friends Service Committee, to more intentionally engaging with the NYS Department of Correctional Services, to creating a response team to support incarcerated Friends dealing with medical crises or those who are dying.
  • Meetings for Discernment
  • After laying down the Religious Education Committee, the Spiritual Nurture Working Group, Task Group on Youth, and then the Youth Committee, and the First Day School Working Group all arose to address this crucial work.
  • We have improved Spark, expanded and improved Info Share, and constructed a new website.
  • We have begun addressing the work of College Outreach
  • We restructured the Coordinating Committee on Ministry and Counsel, creating a more effective working body addressing the spiritual life of our community.
  • We started offering programs for our youth at Spring and Fall Sessions.
  • The Circle of Young Friends has become considerably more active, with greater attendance at Summer Sessions, a dynamic Young Adult Concerns Committee, and greater interest in being an integral part of the life of this Yearly Meeting.
  • The Committee on Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation has been doing dynamic work.
  • We created a project- based budget, enhancing understanding of how Friends money is spent in support of the work of the Yearly Meeting.
  • We completely revised the personnel handbook.
  • As a body, we have engaged in significant witness against torture, war, and immoral recruitment practices.
  • We totally revamped our auditing system.
  • We have supported Friends witness in Indonesia and the Republic of Georgia.
  • We began having singing weekends twice a year, which have drawn Friends from across the Yearly Meeting, joining hearts as we join in song.
  • The gatherings of the Friends in the Spirit of Christ group have expanded, welcoming Friends from other yearly meetings to its annual gathering.

            We have added a lot.  And all of these new initiatives have required varying amounts of staff time to get them up and running, and/or to provide administrative support on an ongoing basis.  So we have increased program without increasing the total number of staff hours.  In fact, this year we reduced the Communications Director position by 20%.  (This was not due to the economy, but because, given other priorities for staff, I could not justify one full time equivalent (FTE) for communication in a staff of only 3.5 FTEs.  I had hoped to use the savings from the reduction of the Communications Director position to provide much needed staff support for Young Adult Friends.  Unfortunately, we had to use those savings to close the budget gap this year.)

            As we as a body continue to expand program, and I believe that we will, we will need to be more and more creative with staff time. Your staff and the Communications Committee are looking at how to streamline production of Spark, and the new website should be less labor-intensive, allowing us a further reduction in the Communications Director position.  And Helen Gary Toppins and I continue to look for ways in which volunteers can do some of the work now done by staff. 

            Our Treasurer will be bringing us some very good news.  Despite a difficult economy, we were able to close the year in the black.  This was due to the staunch support of our Monthly Meetings and to our being extremely careful with expenses, significantly under-spending our budget.  In a time when many of our Monthly Meetings were struggling to make budget, they chose to honor their commitment to support the Yearly Meeting.  I am deeply grateful for that. 

            We are at a pivotal time in the Society of Friends.  Many of the institutions that sustain our wider society are really struggling.  Some examples: Friends Journal has raised serious questions about being able to continue.  AFSC had to cut its budget in half last year, and laid off many staff, including closing the Syracuse office.  FGC has laid off staff.  Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has laid off staff.  FCNL has laid off 25% of its staff.  In May, Great Plains Yearly Meeting will be looking at whether or not to lay itself down.  Pendle Hill is struggling.  FUM, operating with a skeleton crew for several years, began a restructuring retreat last fall with the question of whether or not to lay the organization down. 

            If Friends Journal closes, it will be a loss for all of us.  If FUM is laid down, we will all be the less for it.  Laying down Somerset Hills is a loss for all of us.  We might not feel the change, the loss, right away, but when part of what nurtures our collective life has been lost, it impacts all of us.

            We are one body.  Different parts nurture the whole.  This is not empty rhetoric, but what I see every day.  I see how Friends grow in their service to FGC, FUM, AFSC, etc, and then bring those skills back in service of their Monthly Meetings.  I learned how to clerk by watching excellent clerking at FGC’s Central Committee.  At a recent retreat at Powell House, I met two women who were new to Friends.  Each had come to Friends because their child had attended a Friends school, and now they are regular attenders.  Some of our most active young adult Friends were nurtured by Friends high schools.  The two strongest meetings in Long Island Quarter are associated with the Friends schools associated with them. Most of the Friends active in the Spiritual Nurture Working Group were nurtured by School of the Spirit.  Powell House, Pendle Hill, and Earlham nurture many of our Friends, rekindling their spiritual fires, giving them much to give their Monthly, Regional, and Yearly Meetings.  I have initiated sharing some ideas on development from New England Yearly Meeting with Financial Services and a whole-meeting approach to conflict developed in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting with our Conflict Transformation Committee.  Other yearly meetings here and in Europe are taking careful note of what we are doing with Meetings for Discernment.  A peace curriculum developed by Friends from Western Yearly Meeting and Northwest Yearly Meeting is going to be used in elementary and secondary schools in Kenya.  We are connected.

            We are all interconnected, in one Society.  We advance, or we don’t, as a whole.  As we pause at this crossroads time, I think that part of our work will be to look at how we as individual Friends are supporting our Society as a whole.  , how much do we want to support that?  If we really believe that Friends work in the world is a treasure, part of the solution to what besets this ailing world, don’t we want, as Woolman said,  "To turn all the treasures we posses into the channels of universal love…”?  Most of us, myself included, are a long ways from that.  I think we need to look at that, particularly now.  Balancing our budget at the expense of the wider Religious Society is a short- sighted solution.  If we treasure this Society, of which we have been entrusted a small part, we need to support it.

            And while these are certainly hard times, and likely to get harder, I do not believe that our difficulty with budget is due to a lack of funds or a down economy.  The economy has merely focused our attention on a problem we have been living with for some time.  We still lack a unity of vision, a vision that individual Friends can get behind and want to passionately support.  When we have that, I have no doubt about our clarity, even our joyful clarity, to support that vision with all the time, talent and treasure we have at our disposal.

            I was recently talking with a Friend about the condition of our Yearly Meeting.  She asked how I saw our condition.  I said that I saw us at a place of decision, one where we would need to decide upon whether we would put our energies into maintaining what is, or worse yet, trying to recreate what was, or if we would be willing to step into the stream of where we are being called to.  There is little life or power in maintaining; even less in recreating.  If we are to be faithful, to grow, we must be willing to step into the vision that God has already prepared for us, which we have not yet seen.  May we have the courage and wisdom to do so.

Post Script:  Our clerk has asked Friends who were charged with certain duties over the past five years to report back to the body on how we executed those charges.  Some years ago, then clerk Ernie Buscemi and I were charged with the task of taking the concern of Meeting the Minimum Needs of All to the wider world, Quaker and otherwise.  We soon became clear that asking the two busiest Friends in the Yearly Meeting to address a task as vast as this was not a good model to proceed from.  We also felt that if the Yearly Meeting as a whole were really to engage with this work, that it needed to be owned more fully in the body, supported more broadly.   We suggested that Witness Coordinating Committee take this under their care, and they were clear to do so.  There is a task group addressing this work under their care.

 

Yearly Meeting Clerk’s Status Report on Directed Work

April 2010

In April of 2007, the meeting directed the clerk to forward a minute originating in Prisons Committee about revising parole policy to the New York State Council of Churches, its affiliates, the governor of New York State, and others as recommended by Prisons Committee. Due to the situation at that time in the state government and the Department of Correctional Services, Prisons Committee discerned that it was best to hold off on sending the minute. In March of this year, changes in Albany gave the committee the confidence that the time had come, and the minute was distributed as directed along with a cover letter. (NYYM minute 2007-04-06)

In April of 2009, a Friend from Central Finger Lakes Meeting was minuted as feeling called to work for peace in the role of chaplain in the Veterans Administration. In endorsing her minute, the Yearly Meeting directed the clerk to register as required with the VA that we are a “legitimate religious organization.” These requirements were met in July of 2009 to the satisfaction of the VA. The clerk is in contact with the Friend, who unfortunately is having difficulties communicating with the VA. At the moment the work is not advancing as hoped.  The clerk will be mindful about ensuring that the registration is renewed in three years, as required, regardless of that Friend’s status, in case this leaves way open for another Friend who feels a similar call. (NYYM minute 2009-04-04)

In July of 2009, the meeting directed the clerk and general secretary to forward a minute of concern originating in Prisons Committee about the practice of shackling incarcerated pregnant women during childbirth.  The minute was sent with a letter at the end of that month to the governor of New York and the New York State Council of Churches, as directed. (NYYM minute 2009-07-50)

In November of 2009, the meeting directed the clerk to forward a minute of concern supported by Witness Coordinating Committee about accessibility to quality medical care in the US to the monthly meetings and elected officials, and, with the help of the Communications Committee, to the media within the Yearly Meeting area. This work was accomplished in stages, with the letter going to the elected officials in late December, to meetings in early January, and to the media in mid-March. (NYYM minute 2009-11-39)

Also in November of 2009, the meeting directed Liaison Committee and the general secretary to return with a proposal for a process for the yearly meeting to discern who we are, how we are led, and how we support the work of those leadings and needs. Liaison expects to report in our session tomorrow. (NYYM minute 2009-11-36)

 

Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, NY
Sunday, April 11, 2010, 8:30 a.m.

Heather M. Cook, Clerk
Joseph Garren, Assistant Clerk
Karen Reixach, Recording Clerk
Sanford Segal, Reading Clerk

2010-04-19.       The meeting gathered in a generous period of silent worship.

2010-04-20.       After introducing the individuals at the clerks’ table, the Clerk presented the consent agenda for consideration. Friends approved minutes 21-27 in accord with the consent agenda.

2010-04-21.       Friends approved the nominations and received the requests for release from service.  The nominations and requests for release can be found following the minutes of Spring Sessions.

2010-04-22.       Friends approved a change to the Yearly Meeting Handbook, “Funding from Outside Sources,” in the General Services section, Committee Guidelines, Section D “Financing,” item 6, which will now read (change in bold):

6. The proposal developed in accordance with the guidelines above shall be considered by the appropriate section coordinating committee. It shall be considered first on its merits, then for its relationship to other funding interests of committees in the section and for the appropriateness of seeking outside funding. If the coordinating committee approves, the proposal will be presented to the General Services Coordinating Committee and the NYYM Trustees for approval or further seasoning on issues including, but not limited to, insurance, payroll, liability, taxes, employment status, and other possible legal issues.

The NYYM Handbook is available on-line at nyym.org or in paper copy by request to the Yearly Meeting office.

2010-04-23.       Sessions Committee, General Services Coordinating Committee, and Ministry Coordinating Committee recommend a change to the Handbook, moving responsibility for responding to behavior concerns at Summer Sessions to Sessions Committee from Ministry Coordinating Committee.  Friends approved.

2010-04-24.       Friends approved Advancement Committee’s recommendation for $1,500 from the Lockport-Brinkerhoff Fund to Housatonic Monthly Meeting.

2010-04-25.       Friends approved the Advancement Committee’s recommendation of $2,221.02 to Poplar Ridge Monthly Meeting from the Lockport-Brinkerhoff Fund.

2010-04-26.       Friends approved the release and transfer of the current balance (approximately $300) held in the Gospel Order Packets Fund to the Women's Fund, effective immediately.

2010-04-27.       In order to support one or more named representatives to attend a special joint Friends United Meeting (FUM) General Board meeting in Kenya in July 2010, Friends approved transfer of $500 from the “FUM Representatives to Triennial” budget line to the “FUM—Representatives to General Board” budget line.

2010-04-28.       “So, Friends are not to meet like a group of people about town or parish business, either in their men’s or women’s meetings. They are to wait on the Lord, sensing his power and spirit to lead them and to establish an order among them that will bring credit to him. Then, what ever they do, they will be able to do it to being praise and credit to God, and they will do it together, united in faith and in the spirit, and in the fellowship made possible by the order of the gospel.” (Rex Ambler.Truth of the Heart: An Anthology of George Fox. London: Quaker Books, 2001. 65.) Friends continued in deepening worship.

2010-04-29.       John Cooley (Central Finger Lakes), clerk of Sessions Committee, indicated that this Spring Session is the last one presently planned for Chautauqua Institution.  Farmington-Scipio will continue to host Spring Sessions periodically, at a location to be determined, and could come back here someday.  He reported that at this year’s Spring Session, 94 individuals were registered, including  3 preteens and 5 teens.  Twenty-nine contributions to assist with expenses totaled $382, and $571 of assistance was provided to 10 individuals.  Seventeen committees requested space.

2010-04-30.       John described the process for developing a proposal from Sessions for a NYYM Equalization Fund.   Friends approved the following proposal:

The Equalization Fund is established to help members and attenders of Monthly Meetings within New York Yearly Meeting attend NYYM Sessions which they would otherwise be unable to afford.   Like other NYYM treasurer-managed Funds, the Equalization Fund is able to receive contributions, disburse money, and carry over balances from year-to-year. The Fund is outside the operating budget and may receive transfers from the operating budget, contributions from individuals, session registrants and other sources. It will be reported in the yearly accounting of funds, and fully audited in the usual fashion.  The disbursements of scholarship or other financial assistance from the Equalization Fund will be the responsibility of Sessions Committee, which will assign a member to work with a representative of the Advancement Committee and with the NYYM Associate Secretary. They will establish guidelines for the Fund’s use, and a process for receiving applications and notifying applicants of the amount of support determined.  Sessions Committee will review yearly (fall or winter) the need and effectiveness of the fund, current guidelines (or proposed changes), and the need for raising additional contributions.

2010-04-31.       The clerk of Sessions Committee also reported on continuing efforts to make Summer Sessions more affordable.  He described a number of steps to cut costs to attenders for this coming year; this information will be printed in May Spark. If we meet at Silver Bay again in 2011, our schedule will be a week earlier than usual: July 17-23. If we continue using Silver Bay after 2011, Sessions has reserved dates for our preferred last week in July. The working group on site selection has limited results so far, but has not given up looking for a realistic comparison of places, conveniences and prices. They could use the help of another member on this working group.

2010-04-32.       Susan Bingham reported for the Personnel Committee: 

In July 2001 the final report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Function of New York Yearly Meeting made two recommendations for additions to our staff.  We followed their first suggestion, which was to hire a General Secretary.  Their second staff recommendation was for an "Education, Youth and Outreach Secretary (or Field Secretary) who would have responsibility for helping Monthly and Regional/Quarterly Meetings in the areas of religious education (for both youth and adults), youth work in general, and the full range of outreach activities." 

The Yearly Meeting did not act on this recommendation at that time, but since then many Friends have recognized that we need a staff person to support young adult Friends and encourage them to stay active among us. The Personnel Committee has continued to hold this concern.  

Although our staff have done some work with our young adult Friends, as their other duties have allowed, they are clear that much crucial work is not being attended to.  The Personnel Committee understands the effects of the recent downturn in the economy, but is led to raise this concern. For the last few months the Personnel Committee has been working on a proposal to create a Young Adult Friends Coordinator or Field Secretary position.  

The Personnel Committee looks forward to working with all committees and friends in the coming months to clarify this proposal.  At this time they want to inform Friends that this addition to Yearly Meeting staff is being considered.  They would like Friends to keep in mind that the need for a staff person working with Young Adults and finding the funding for it are, in some ways, separate discussions. They intend to move forward with both discussions.

If anyone wants further information or has questions or comments, please contact Susan or anyone else on the Personnel Committee.

Christopher Sammond clarified the relationship between the part-time, temporary interns (Minute 2010-04-10) and the work on this staff position.

Friends were reminded of the on-going conversation about the challenges of being a geographically widespread Yearly Meeting and the possibilities for regionalizing the work of the Yearly Meeting.

2010-04-33.       Friends approved the nomination of Mary Alexander (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting) to the Oakwood Friends School Board of Managers Class of 2011.

2010-04-34.       “And this is my prayer, that your love may grow ever richer and richer in knowledge and insight of every kind, and may teach you by experience what things are most vital.”  (Philippians1: 9-10.)  Friends silently centered in that Love in preparation for further business.

2010-04-35.       The Assistant Clerk introduced Heather M. Cook, clerk of the Liaison Committee.  Heather reported for the Liaison Charge Group, which was established at Fall 2009 Sessions, to discern “who we are, how we are led and how we support the work of those leadings and needs” (Minute 2009-11-36).  The Liaison Charge Group has met three times, and has co-opted individuals with particular expertise or concerns.  The Group is clear that any procedure to guide the Yearly Meeting in setting priorities should be securely grounded in the constituent monthly meetings and informed by the commitment of Friends active in the Yearly Meeting structure, using existing tools such as State of Meeting, meetings for discernment, queries to worship sharing groups at Summer Sessions, and visits to monthly meetings and worship groups. The Group anticipates bringing full recommendations to Summer Sessions.  She continued,

“Preliminarily, we envision a group of Friends comprising the Liaison Committee, at least one member from Financial Services, and several other at-large Friends who are familiar with the broad sweep of the Yearly Meeting. This group would take the information gleaned from monthly meetings and worship groups … to discern and articulate priorities for our programs, which would be reflected in the budget. These priorities would then be sent to monthly meetings for threshing and seasoning before sending them on to the coordinating committees to inform those budgets, and to the staff for creating a work plan to support the priorities.

“We are clear about broad strokes of the financial aspect of this work, but not yet about particulars. The budget process and the process for setting priorities need to be separate, but we acknowledge that they interrelate and inform each other. They recognize the need to consider revising the schedule by which we create our budget so that there is more time between the formation of the proposed budget and its final approval.  This would allow more time for monthly meetings to discern how much money to contribute to support the programs growing out of the concerns and leadings of our diverse community.

“We will continue to meet as needed—and as we are able!—to see how Spirit moves us as we seek to be faithful to the measure of Light we are given.”

2010-04-36.       “We wait in the quietness for some centering moment that will redefine, reshape, and refocus our lives. It does seem to be a luxury to be able to give thought and time to the ups and downs of one’s private journey while the world around is so sick and weary and desperate. But, our Father, we cannot get through to the great anxieties that surround us until, somehow, a path is found through the little anxieties that beset us. Dost Thou understand what it is like to be caught between the agony of one’s own private needs and to be tempest-tossed by needs that overwhelm and stagger the mind and paralyze the heart?” (Howard Thurman.The Centering Moment  Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press edition, 1980. 85.) Worship continued as Friends sought the Center.

2010-04-37.       Frederick  Dettmer (Purchase), clerk of Witness Coordinating Committee, reported on the Truth Commission on Conscience in War, held March 21 and 22 at Riverside Church in Manhattan.  Fred, Ernestine Buscemi (Morningside) and Naomi Paz Greenberg (Flushing) were named as representatives of NYYM. A number of other Friends and friends of Friends participated.  The public session on Sunday began with powerful testimonial presentations by veterans, who found and voiced their conscientious objection under the most trying circumstances.  Fred said that he was disappointed that representatives of Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups felt they needed to justify Just War theory.  J.E. McNeil, executive director of the Center on Conscience and War, reminded participants that the government seeks to dictate rights of conscience, but in fact it is the individual, not the government, that determines one’s duty to his or her conscience. The journalist Christopher Hedges also spoke on the horrors of war.  Fred also noted that many of the participants insisted that they were not “pacifists” even though the logic of their beliefs and stated positions indicated that they could not support any wars.

During the working session on Monday, the commissioners and those who had spoken on Sunday focused on the next steps in gaining recognition for rights of conscience, with particular attention to selective conscientious objection, especially by soldiers.  April InfoShare contains a report on the sessions, and can be found at nyym.org/spark/is2010.4. Other information is available on the website conscienceinwar.org.  He indicated that there are plans for an interest group and a showing of the film Soldiers of Conscienceat Summer Sessions.

2010-04-38.        Fred also updated Friends on the activities with which Witness Coordinating Committee or its constituent Committees were charged by the Yearly Meeting body:

Meeting the Minimum Needs of All (minutes 2005-12-17 and 2006-04-20):  Witness Coordinating Committee has taken this concern under its care, and a task group of Witness is now addressing this work.

Death penalty (Minute 2007-04-09):  Thanks to the efforts of Friends and others, New Jersey has abolished the death penalty.

Committee on Conscientious Objection to Paying for War has printed and is distributing a pamphlet that includes NYYM's amicus brief from Dan Jenkins's case. (Minute 2008-04-09)

Work in Sakartvelo (The Republic of Georgia):  Peace Concerns Coordinator Greta Mickey (Central Finger Lakes), with Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) New York staff Shirley Way (Ithaca), will be leaving in May to continue work on the meeting’s behalf with Friends in the Republic of Georgia.  Greta and Shirley plan to help Georgian Friends develop an AVP workshop program, and, with the assistance of a grant from the Sharing Fund, the AVP Manual is currently being translated into Georgian for this purpose.

2010-04-39.       Fred reported for the Sharing Fund, and listed a number of efforts recently funded.  He noted that the fundraising goal for the Sharing Fund was not met in 2009 and that Witness Coordinating Committee, with the help and generosity of NYYM Friends, will be working harder to meet the goal in 2010.

2010-04-40.       The minutes of this session were approved.

2010-04-41.       The meeting returned to silent worship.