Minutes, Spring Sessions 2013

Submitted on 04/06/2013

 

New York Yearly Meeting
Spring Sessions
April 6–7, 2013

Friends Academy, Locust Valley, New York
Saturday, April 6, 2013, 10:00 a.m.

 Jeffrey Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), Clerk
Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale), Assistant Clerk
Andrew Mead von Salis (Brooklyn), Recording Clerk
Karen Snare (Bulls Head-Oswego), Reading Clerk

 

2013-04-01.  Friends fell silent and centered in worship.  From the silence, the Clerk reminded us that we have been called Friends of the Truth.  He said that our practice and process, discovered by early Friends, requires that any and each friend of the Truth must seek and discern that Truth by opening ourselves to God directly.  He on called us to join now in bearing this awesome responsibility of asking God's will and listening for the answer.

2013-04-02.  The Clerk introduced the Friends serving as clerks today.  He presented the agenda for the morning's session. 

2013-04-03.  The Reading Clerk called the roll of regional meetings, and Friends in attendance stood at the call of their region, with all regions being represented.

2013-04-04.  Herb Lape (Westbury), on behalf of the host committee of Long Island Quarterly Meeting, introduced Bill Morris, Head of School of Friends Academy.  Bill Morris welcomed Friends with humor and warmth.  He spoke of the Quaker mission, tradition and watchwords of the School. 

2013-04-05.  Jeffrey Aaron (New Brunswick), clerk of the General Services Coordinating Committee, began that Section's business.  He read the report of Barbara Menzel (New Brunswick), clerk of the Personnel Committee, on the four-month sabbatical of our General Secretary, Christopher Sammond.  It explains the logistical and financial aspects of the sabbatical, which conform to the Yearly Meeting's previously approved policy on sabbaticals.  Friends inquired as to the donation or reimbursement of costs and expenses, and were assured that that is expected as stated in the report.  A report to us on the General Secretary's productive activities on sabbatical is also expected.  The report was received. [The report is attached below.]

2013-04-06.  Jeffrey Aaron introduced Gabrielle Savory Bailey (Chatham-Summit), our Young Adult Field Secretary.  Friends heard her give her report with explanatory comments.  She told us that she continues to serve with joy and passion.  She described the inquiry, information gathering, assessments and ways forward that she has explored.  She called on us to recognize that detail work and constant attention are an imperative, and are also an honor, in developing fruitful personal relationships and connections among people of all ages.  She told us that this attentive work is an act of faith.  The report was received, with gratitude to the Source. (View the Young Adult Field Secretary's report here.)

2013-04-07.  Anita Paul (Schenectady) and Callie Janoff (Brooklyn), two of the Coordinators of Aging Resources Consultation and Help (ARCH), gave their oral report.  They traveled to Farmington-Scipio Winter Gathering, Old Chatham Meeting, and weekend retreats that ARCH has hosted at various locations.  Sixty-five ARCH Visitors have now been trained.  For this year, ARCH has planned a workshop at the Farmington-Scipio Spring Gathering involving music, another workshop based on telling our stories, a focus on prisoners' needs, a liaison with Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in upgrading the ARCH website, developing resources for caregivers, promoting and enabling the use of advance healthcare directives, visits outside our Yearly Meeting, and developing resources on housing for the aging.  They made clear their availability to consult, in person or otherwise, and to accept invitations to present any of a number of workshops.  Callie Janoff emphasized the growth in our spiritual depth and community that this caring work nurtures.  Their report was received.

2013-04-08.  Jeffrey Aaron introduced Susan Bingham (Montclair), our Treasurer.  She offered copies of the final financial report for 2012 and the interim financial report for 2013.  Our operations have proceeded to date in accordance with budgeted expectations.  The reports were received.

2013-04-09.  Jeffrey Aaron next introduced Sandra Beer (Old Chatham), clerk of the Financial Services Committee.  She reminded us that at Fall Sessions 2012 we provided for time to encourage additional revenues to fund specified tiers of important spending in 2013 beyond the amount of the provisionally-approved 2013 budget.  We had established a Development Committee to pursue such efforts.  But now, the Financial Services Committee has foreseen a deficit of $14,500 for 2013, even without any spending on the additional tiers. 

        Sandra Beer told us that we have been cutting back broadly in recent years:  We refrain from giving raises to our staff, we reduce donations to outside organizations, and we limit allocations to our committees.  (View a provisional review of treasurer-managed accounts nd operating budgets, and revenues and expenses for the years 2006–2013.) Due to our limited income, the Committee has recommended that we continue operating under the 2013 budget that we provisionally approved in November, with no spending on the additional tiers. 

        Friends spoke to that recommendation.  The possibility and the logic in developing new ideas for raising revenue were urged.  Hope and inspiration from Friends in our past and Friends now undertaking our work were recalled.  Examples of Friends' revenue-generating enterprises elsewhere were shared. 

        The same reality can lead individual Friends to focus on heeding faithfully the call of our vision or on following prudently the dictates of fiscal stewardship.  These different imperatives, arising from one Spirit, can seem to vie for primacy.

        Jeffrey Aaron emphasized that the recommendation before us includes the General Services section's plan to work on new solutions in the coming months, so that the currently expected $14,500 shortage might be resolved and a balanced budget might be presented for approval to the Yearly Meeting at Summer Sessions.

        Friends received the report and approved the recommended plan.

2013-04-10.  Passion, bravery, faithfulness and optimistic caution among us were acknowledged in ministry. 

2013-04-11.   The Minutes were read, corrected and approved in stages during the session.

2013-04-12.  Friends returned to silence to conclude the session.

 

Report to Spring Sessions 2013 on the Sabbatical of General Secretary of NYYM

General Secretary Christopher Sammond began a planned sabbatical in mid February with a return date of mid June.  Prior to the sabbatical, he made plans for coverage of staff supervision and visits to selected Meetings.  Steven Ross has been providing weekly supervision and support to Associate Secretary Helen Garay Toppins as a volunteer. His expenses will be reimbursed.  Helen reports that it has been working well.  The office staff are meeting weekly and the office is running smoothly.  Helen is providing weekly administrative support to Young Adult Field Secretary Gabi Savory Bailey and both report that it is going well. In addition, Gabi also speaks with Janet Hough about her work and is pleased with the support she receives.

Prior to beginning his sabbatical, Christopher made arrangements for Callid Keefe-Perry to visit with selected Meetings.  These visits were scheduled to begin at the end of March and he will be paid for the visits as a temporary employee. Janet Hough has volunteered to provide support to Callid and they have met or spoken several times.

The sabbatical will be financially neutral to NYYM.  No additional expense will be carried by the Yearly Meeting.  Any expenditures that are not covered by grants or donations will be the responsibility of the General Secretary and will be covered by a donation by him to the Yearly Meeting.

Barbara Menzel, Clerk
Personnel Committee


 

Friends Academy, Locust Valley, New York
Saturday, April 7, 2013, 10:15 a.m.

 Jeffrey Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), Clerk
Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale), Assistant Clerk
Karen Way (New Brunswick), Recording Clerk
Sylke Jackson (Rockland), Reading Clerk

 

2013-04-13.  The meeting opened with silent worship.

2013-04-14.  The Clerk introduced the Friends at the Clerks’ table and reviewed the agenda.

2013-04-15.  For a space of silent worship we held Stella and Jim Schultz in the Light for the loss of their son.

2013-04-16.  The Reading Clerk presented a memorial minute for Judy Morse of Chappaqua Friends Monthly Meeting. Judy was married in the Chappaqua Meeting House and served actively in the life of the meeting. She had a strong concern for prison work that led to her participation in the worship group at Otisville Correctional Facility. Her optimism and quiet, luminous presence will be missed.

2013-04-17.  A travel minute was read for Judy Meikle of Wilton Monthly Meeting. Judy is traveling in the ministry with a concern for the criminal justice system. She is a death penalty abolitionist and an anti-prison activist. Friends approved having the Clerk endorse the travel minute.

2013-04-18.  A travel minute was read for Rachel Pia, an attender at Syracuse Monthly Meeting. Rachel is traveling as part of a team for the New Meetings Project of Friends General Conference. She is supported by an Anchor Committee composed of at least one member of Syracuse Meeting and members of Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting. Friends approved having the Clerk endorse the travel minute.

2013-04-19.  Minutes 2013-04-13 through 2013-04-18 were approved.

2013-04-20.  Lee Haring (Bulls Head-Oswego) presented the report for the Priorities Working Group. Members of the group met with many monthly meetings, including 13 monthly meetings and 3 prison worship groups since Fall Sessions, “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.” The group has learned that the first priority among Friends is their spiritual community in the local meeting. There is a widespread desire that the Yearly Meeting’s activities be focused on the monthly meetings. Friends told the group that the Yearly Meeting should do more listening than telling, offer more face-to-face visits, and share resources on Quaker practice and inspiration. The working group concludes: God is calling New York Yearly Meeting to become more connected with monthly meetings and individual Friends.

            The Priorities Working Group is thus considering several action items. First, the Yearly Meeting could offer assistance to the monthly meetings on fundamental spiritual topics, such as vocal ministry and clerking.  Second, the Yearly Meeting could do a better job with practical advice and help with many topics, including fund-raising, curricula, grounds management, and advancement. Third, the Yearly Meeting could continue to improve communication with the local meetings. Finally, Friends are suggesting that New York Yearly Meeting be an instigator of spirit-led change and a spearhead for our testimonies to the world.

            This work is still in progress. The Priorities Working Group will continue visiting monthly meetings and will expand its outreach to regional groups within the Yearly Meeting. Friends are invited to join the working group in this important project.

            Friends asked that the full report be attached to these Minutes and proposed that it be printed in SPARK. Friends also spoke to the importance of intervisitation and the possible continuation of the intervisitation function after the working group’s planned completion in Summer Sessions 2014. Friends received the report. [The full report is attached below.]

2013-04-21.  The Consent Agenda was presented for approval without discussion, as is our practice. Friends approved minutes 2013-04-22 through 2013-04-25 in accordance with the Consent Agenda.

2013-04-22. The addition of a page in the NYYM Handbook on “Committee on Conflict Transformation” was approved. The page is attached.

2013-04-23.  A revision to the “Nurture Coordinating Committee” page in the NYYM Handbook was approved. The revised page is attached.

2013-04-24.  Friends approved the following nominations for service:

Patricia Chernoff (Morningside), Quaker Earthcare Witness, 2014

Jane Simkin (Poplar Ridge), Representative to Rural and Migrant Ministries, 2015

2013-04-25.  Friends received the following requests for release from service:

Sandra Clark (Shrewsbury), Representative to NJ Council of Churches, 2013

James Bacon (New Paltz), Indian Affairs, 2014

Vivi Hlavasa (New Paltz), Indian Affairs, 2013

Joyce Ketterer (Brooklyn), Young Adult Concerns, 2013

Thomas Rothschild (Brooklyn), Committee to Revise Faith and Practice, 2013

Amy Savage (Syracuse), Representative to Quaker Earthcare Witness, 2014

H. Wayne Williams (Brooklyn), Communications Committee, 2015

2013-04-26.  Minutes 2013-04-20 through 2013-04-25 were approved.

2013-04-27.  Irma Guthrie (Perry City), clerk of the Committee to Revise Faith and Practice, explained the need and the process of creating a definition of Worship Groups for Faith and Practice. The following definition was presented as a First Reading:

When Friends or other seekers choose to worship together on a regular basis, whether in the community or in a prison, they may form a worship group by requesting the care of a nearby monthly, quarterly, regional, or half-yearly meeting.  A committee of care and accountability should be appointed by that meeting to assure the conduct of the worship group in the manner of Friends. The care committee for that worship group should include meeting members or attenders who attend the worship group regularly.  Attenders at the worship group should be familiar with the ways of Friends faith and practice; new attenders should be welcomed.

Attenders of a worship group may apply to the monthly meeting providing care for the worship group for membership in the Religious Society of Friends, or for marriage, in accordance with the process used by the meeting to which they apply, and the guidance offered in this Faith and Practice.   If the worship group is under the care of a regional, quarterly, or half yearly meeting, they may apply for membership or marriage to any monthly meeting in that region, quarter, or half yearly meeting.

A worship group (sometimes called an indulged or allowed meeting) may hold material or financial assets, and may receive and disburse funds on behalf of its attenders. It may also conduct business, such as choosing a treasurer or clerk, and prepare business and forward it to the meeting under whose care it operates.

Friends noted that prison worship groups actively contributed to the development of this definition. Other topics included a clarification about the need for such a group to associate with a monthly meeting or regional body to be considered a part of NYYM, and a suggestion that the definition might explicitly mention campus worship groups. These comments were received by the Committee.

2013-04-28.  Anne Pomeroy (New Paltz) of Ministry Coordinating Committee reported on the committee’s progress in considering the practice of recording gifts in the Ministry. There is both interest and diversity of opinion about recording gifts in NYYM and on the Committee. The topic was explored in a threshing session and interest group at Summer Sessions last year, at Powell House in the fall, and in SPARK. There is a desire to support Friends gifted in ministry while also fostering the recognition and development of other gifts. In our current practice, monthly meetings can ask the Yearly Meeting to record one of their members as gifted in ministry. This is very important for some meetings, and not for others. The Committee asks that Friends continue to worship on this topic. For now, we will continue our established practice of recording gifts in ministry. Friends received the report.

2013-04-29.  Minutes 2013-04-27 and 2013-04-28 were approved.

2013-04-30.  Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale), clerk of the Steering Committee on Meetings for Discernment, reported on the Winter Meeting for Discernment held March 2, 2013, at Brooklyn Meeting House, attended by about 70 Friends. Out of deep worship, Friends raised up topics such as recovery from Hurricane Sandy, the value of Occupy Wall Street, prison worship groups, prayer groups, and concern for the environment. A full report will appear on the NYYM website. The steering committee is also considering the future of the Meetings for Discernment and how their function can best be supported in the structure of the Yearly Meeting. The committee is preparing a several queries to guide the Yearly Meeting’s exploration of this issue.  Friends received the report.

2013-04-31.  The Clerk introduced a letter from Chwele Yearly Meeting (Kenya), which was read by the Reading Clerk. There is a task group in NYYM and a partnership committee in CYM considering a sister relationship between the 2 yearly meetings. The Chwele committee thanked NYYM Friends for school books and raised up hope for peace in Kenya and intervisitation between the Yearly Meetings. Friends offered additional information about work to support and fund this connection. A report from the working group is anticipated for Summer Sessions.

2013-04-32.  Melanie-Claire Mallison (Ithaca) of Sessions Committee reported that 89 Friends participated in these Spring Sessions. As new clerk of the Spring-Fall Sessions subcommittee of Sessions Committee, she looked forward to creating a vital program for children during Fall and Spring sessions, and hoped for input from Friends on how best to do this.

2013-04-33.  Friends offered thanks to the hosting committee of Long Island Quarter for the excellent hospitality this weekend.

2013-04-34.  The final minutes were approved.

2013-04-35.  We closed with a period of worship.

 

 

NEW YORK YEARLY MEETING

Priorities Working Group

REPORT TO SPRING SESSIONS 2013

            Since Fall Sessions, the Priorities Working Group has continued to carry out its charge from two years ago, “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.” Today we tell you our present insights into New York Yearly Meeting’s priorities. Since our last report, at Fall Sessions in November, we have met with thirteen more meetings: Orchard Park, Kendal-on-Hudson, Manasquan, Saranac Lake, Chatham-Summit, Bulls Head, Albany, Schenectady, Manhasset, Fifteenth Street, Morningside, Manhattan, and Westbury. We have also been asked about visits to prison worship groups. So far we have visited three, Auburn, Cayuga and Sing Sing. In all visits we focus on three queries: First, How is the Spirit alive in your Monthly Meeting? Second, What work, ministry, witness is your Meeting called to? And third, What work do you feel God is calling New York Yearly Meeting to do? These queries are as useful to us as they were when they were used at the recent Meeting for Discernment. In our meeting visits, we spend most of the time listening to local Friends. We are as likely to hear things like “We want to partner with Chewele YM in Kenya as well as New York Yearly Meeting” as we are to hear, “Because of our geographical location, most of our focus is local.”

Ÿ            When we ask the first question, “Where is the Life in your Meeting; what ministry and witness are your Meeting and individual Friends engaged in?” we hear again and again that Friends’ priority is their involvement with the spiritual community of their local Meeting, from which Friends derive their primary sustenance. Although for some Friends, the meeting is subordinate to other activities, many tell us that their meeting is central to their lives. Gathering on First Day is an opportunity to be enriched by spirit and receive the support of other Friends. Also, in some meetings, the life is felt to center on children and First Day School. In others (I quote from one meeting), “the meeting provides spiritual support for Friends doing work outside the meeting, and then they in turn bring those experiences back to meeting, enriching them all.” Nurturing our local meeting is a top spiritual priority for many of us.

            I’ll come to our second query in a moment. Our third query, “What are your hopes, expectations and leadings for our Yearly Meeting as a whole?  What work is God calling our Yearly Meeting to do?” brings us back to the first one. Friends want those who are led to be active in New York Yearly Meeting to connect more meaningfully with monthly meetings and individual Friends. This theme has been sounded many times in our visits. The expectation is that the Yearly Meeting’s activities should be either in support of, or on behalf of, the monthly meetings, and not unconnected with meetings’ spiritual condition and leadings.  As stated at a visioning exercise held at Coordinating Committees’ weekend on January 25, “a yearly meeting that articulates our faith, teaches our practices of centering, aids our preparation for worship, and helps us recognize gifts in ministry.”

Ÿ            Now as to the second query: when we ask, “How can the rest of the Yearly Meeting support you?” we are surprised and pleased at one answer we often get, namely what a blessing it is that Priorities Working Group Friends are there to visit. Sometimes we are told, “This meeting feels little connection to New York Yearly Meeting, and we are blessed by your visiting us.” From these two comments we see a priority emerging. That would be to increase face-to-face contact between Friends engaged mainly in local meetings and Friends engaged in the work of the Yearly Meeting. Those who are active in New York Yearly Meeting are to connect better with monthly meetings and individual Friends. Friends want the Yearly Meeting, as a spirit-led organization, to encourage and support the kind of visitation we have been practicing, where there is more listening than telling. This theme has been sounded many times in our visits. The priority therefore is to find paths to taking away all reason to feel that our Yearly Meeting is a place far away, or that it is an event that happens once a year at Silver Bay, and remind Friends that the Yearly Meeting surrounds them as their large spiritual home. God is calling New York Yearly Meeting to become more connected with monthly meetings and individual Friends.

            We have heard specific suggestions for how the Yearly Meeting can help a local meeting. One is to provide them with spiritual inspiration and shared teaching about Quakerism. We have been told that Spark is already a vehicle for keeping NYYM grounded in spirituality, and that the ARCH program and the Young Friends in Residence program ought to be better publicized. But very few local Friends read Spark, and fewer know how to take advantage of ARCH. We conclude that New York Yearly Meeting must make its presence, resources, and skills better known. Meetings are also requesting help with Quaker process, guidance in good clerking, and help with vocal ministry. They seek connection with other local Friends who have similar interests or challenges. At this time, for example, many Friends are seeking divine guidance to help them speak to the dangers of hydrofracking. Other Friends seek more practical information on such problems as the upkeep of older meetinghouses and cemeteries. Evidently the Yearly Meeting is the central body that can give advice on where to turn when looking for others with a witness concern. We are also told that the Yearly Meeting can help Friends travel in ministry. On the financial side, Friends suggest that the Yearly Meeting could aid local meetings to enable children to attend Friends schools.

            The Priorities Working Group foresees a number of action items we may be considering bringing you in future sessions. First is that the Yearly Meeting offer assistance to Monthly Meetings to help them enrich their worship on fundamental spiritual topics, such as guides to good clerking, the role of afterthoughts, guidelines for vocal ministry, principles of meeting for worship with a concern for business, and how to maintain love and cohesion through periods of disagreement or conflict. Yearly Meeting activities might also be planned for locales other than Silver Bay and Powell House. Friends are more eager to attend such activities than they are able to.

            A second action item is doing a better job of providing practical information of immediate use to most Monthly Meetings, such as curricula for First Day School, ARCH resources, fund-raising tools for building repairs and maintenance, cemetery upkeep, insurance, advancement, and increasing their impact on local communities through the peace testimony. New York Yearly Meeting is positioned to advertise, through radio announcements for example, who Friends are and where a Friends meeting can be found.

            A third recommendation may be for the Yearly Meeting to produce clearer, more complete and more user-friendly information on the Yearly Meeting itself. The recent appointment of a communications director expands our use of electronic communication. We can now make Faith & Practice current and accessible online and show updatings in it as these are approved. We can also publish more thorough and more comprehensible information about finances and staffing. Friends want to know more about the services that the Yearly Meeting treasurer, trustees and staff are dedicating to the benefit of our portion of the Religious Society of Friends. Through the Internet, the Yearly Meeting can encourage inter-meeting communications and active intervention in Quarterly and Regional events, by maintaining an inter-meeting bulletin board or listserv. Technology can help engage Friends in Yearly Meeting committees and overcome obstacles such as the time and costs of travel.

            Finally, more broadly, Friends are suggesting that New York Yearly Meeting be an instigator of spirit-led change on our behalf and a spearhead for our testimonies to the larger world of Friends and indeed to the world itself.  Modern communication offers global impact.  The Yearly Meeting’s resources can stimulate Monthly Meetings to speak our truth to the world.

            We welcome your comments. Part of our charge is to reflect our insights and priorities back to our constituent regions, to ensure that we have discerned accurately. Quarterly, Half-Yearly, and other regional meetings over the next year should expect to hear from us and respond. We would also welcome more Friends to join the Priorities Working Group, which continues to be a richly rewarding service for all its members.

 

Lee Haring, Clerk
Priorities Working Group