An Elder’s Reflection on NYYM Summer Sessions

by Anne Pomeroy
New Paltz Meeting

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


The theme for NYYM Summer Sessions 2021 was “Becoming a Sanctuary Where Spirit Dwells.” The theme names that we are not yet a sanctuary for all. Emily Provance in her plenary address invited us to live into becoming sanctuary. What ways might we carry this invitation into our lives now?


As I reflect on Summer Sessions, I saw us be human and step into the messiness. I heard many voices lift up experiences of exclusion. I heard a real desire to be ‘one’ body. I also felt how some people did not feel included in that ‘oneness’ and experienced these words as ‘othering.’ I saw real work being done to address racism in individuals and as a collective. I heard apologies for harm caused and heard acceptance of apologies. This is all part of the work of becoming sanctuary.


As unique individuals with unique experiences we naturally experience difference. Expressions of difference sometimes harm others. As a yearly meeting we can no longer ignore that we have and do hurt one another, even in our worship together. When we harm one another in public, it ripples through the community. To be 'one' body we need a way to name and address the harm we cause AND we need to learn how to treat one another better. In the article, the author lifts up particular places of harm. I invite the readers to consider who else was affected in these instances. How can we be 'one' without marginalizing others?


One aspect of eldership is naming the truth, guided by the principle that truth without love is violence and love without truth is sentimentality. When we listen generously, with ears of the heart, we hold open possibility and can hear the truth that another is adding to the truth we are seeing. Scolding and shaming in any form is not a function of eldership. We are each responsible for our words and deeds and their impact. Additionally, the journey to sanctuary asks us to notice patterns of faithfulness and patterns of the dominant culture that oppress. This naming is also a function of eldership. For me, I need my community to be one which reflects where I might not yet see these patterns. Continuing revelation asks me to be open to how Spirit is leading. 


At Sessions, I learned from the messiness, the worship, and the missteps. I am hopeful about the ways we as a community can become a living sanctuary as we truly see and honor each person.