Context from the Summer Sessions Minutes

This article is part of a series on the subject. We encourage the reader to read each part to understand the full context:

Context from the Summer Sessions Minutes
Ministry & Counsel Gatherings Concern, an open letter by Mary Pagurelias, Brooklyn Meeting
Response to Open Letter, by Antonia Saxon, Ithaca Meeting
An Elder’s Reflection on NYYM Summer Sessions, by Anne Pomeroy, New Paltz Meeting


Friends who weren't at the Summer Sessions business meeting referenced in the following few messages may feel a bit lost. The selected minutes, below, of the meeting on July 27, 2021, may provide some context. 

— Editor


End of minute 2021-07-27....In reviewing the minutes related to the general secretary’s report, Friends labored over the use of “ouch” in meetings for worship without reaching resolution. A minute of exercise from that work follows the end of these minutes....


Minute 2021-07-31. The following minute of exercise was approved on July 30, 2021. A minute of exercise is a statement of what happened at a meeting when we did not reach unity.


Minute of Exercise:


During the ministry that followed the general secretary’s report, someone said: “...we don’t have pastors…”


Someone else responded: “Ouch. NYYM has pastors and pastoral meetings.”


(We did not hear from the pastors and members of pastoral meetings how this felt to them.)


At an earlier business meeting in these sessions, our clerk had invited us into the practice of saying “ouch” when a harm is noticed. 


The recording clerk read the minutes. The “ouch” interchange was included in the minutes as read.


As we began to consider the proposed minutes, the clerk, practicing a technique used in the afternoon session* of “stacking” or preferencing voices of people who might normally not be heard, invited a Friend of Color to speak before a white Friend who had raised his hand first.  The Friend of Color experienced this preferencing as being singled out for being Black.


As we continued considering the proposed minutes, a Friend questioned the use of the “ouch process” in meetings for worship, describing the “ouch process” as harmful to the gathered Body and dangerous to our worship.


Then followed several messages about the “ouch process,’’ whether to include “ouch” interchanges in minutes, and public “eldering.”


Other Friends held up examples of practices of responding to harms occurring in the body such as New England Yearly Meeting’s noticing patterns of faithfulness and oppression.


Later, another Friend brought back to our attention the unaddressed distress of the Friend of Color who felt singled out by the use of “stacking.” The Friend of Color had called us into the unity in the Spirit that the Friend of Color knows experientially. She shared the pain of her experience of feeling silenced in her meeting when she spoke of meeting as a place of sanctuary. The Clerk apologized for the harm caused by his words.


A Black Friend noted that in the afternoon session white Friends were learning how to “call each other in” to greater faithfulness. The reason we practice “ouch” is so we can learn how to “call each other in” in the midst of the body, where the gathered body can witness what has happened and open the doors to healing. The Friend asked us to do our work of naming and noticing when micro- and macro-aggressions occur.


The clerk closed meeting for business without the body approving the minutes. The clerk invited Friends to remain in worship as long as they wanted to stay.


Out of worship, a Friend shared ministry in which she described a vision of a people gathered on a journey along a rocky road, working together to clear the road.  Sometimes in their energy and zeal, some sent rocks backwards and injured those behind. Some people moved little rocks and some big rocks, working together to accomplish the goal of clearing the road.


The words spoken in the body reflected differences around whether or not to include in the minutes acknowledgement of hurts that transpire during our sessions. Friends lifted up a desire to discern around the use of this type of process.


*a workshop on becoming an anti-racist faith community