Ministry & Counsel Gatherings Concern

by Mary Pagurelias
Brooklyn 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


Dear Friends,


The following is written by me, and comes from me as an individual.


What is NYYM doing to help our local and regional M&Cs (Ministry & Counsels) and pastors engage in those difficult conversations about racism other than naming a committee to draft a statement on becoming an anti-racist faith community, and then reproducing it in Spark?


Was a committee formed by NYYM to initiate conversations regarding concerns and issues directly related to racism and anti-racism efforts at the local levels?  We do know, because we read the State of the Meeting reports that spoke to the pain felt by many, many Friends, that, as an institution, NYYM did not spread its wings to envelop and hold with tenderness those Friends who were and continue to be in pain.


During Summer Sessions, we experienced an “othering” that teaches us that we are not yet a sanctuary when a Black Friend was singled out to speak first because that Friend is Black; an “ouching” where a white Friend was way too eager to “police” the rest of us—certainly, this is not something that would occur in a sanctuary; and the Friend who reminded us all that a meeting for worship, with a concern for business is not the place to “ouch” anyone. It is a time and place for WORSHIP. From comments I have been privy to, that Friend may have been wrongly eldered. Each of these events have torn us further apart and have eroded any sense of “safety” and “sanctuary” while speaking from our places of authenticity.


Not one of us is perfect. Not one of us is an expert on this journey. Why, as a Quaker meeting, we “other” and “ouch” and then wrongly “elder” the Friend who reminds us that we are in WORSHIP. We are all damaged. We are all products of institutional and internal racism on more levels than we can even imagine. I will say that our hearts are pure and filled with love for all. I will even say that I believe that in time we can heal—not in my time, not in Quaker time, not in NYYM time either, but only in the time of that which is eternal.


I am a member of the Ministry and Pastoral Care committee that works with local and regional ministry and counsel committees. It supports these groups in their work of loving and caring for their communities. This committee also pays special attention to those serving the yearly meeting in pastoral roles. 


I write this as a member of Ministry and Pastoral Care’s sub-committee that is charged with hosting M&C gatherings. We had been ready to have a Saturday afternoon gathering in order to provide a safe space for discussion on becoming an anti-racist faith community.  As a reminder, this committee is not a committee of activism. It is about providing “opportunities for Friends who are currently serving on local or regional ministry and counsel committees to speak with one another, pose questions, share best ideas, and provide mutual support.”


I am not clear, and surely not easy with undertaking these “anti-racism” efforts based on the incidents described above, and those that I have not described.