Minutes, Fall Sessions 2011

New York Yearly Meeting

Fall Sessions
November 12–13, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011, 10:00 a.m.
Doane Stuart School, Rensselaer, NY

Heather M. Cook (Chatham-Summit), Clerk
Jeffrey Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), Assistant Clerk
Roger Dreisbach-Williams (Rahway & Plainfield), Recording Clerk
Sylke Jackson (Rockland), Reading Clerk

2011-11-01. Speaking out of the expectant listening, Clerk Heather M. Cook (Chatham-Summit) welcomed Friends with a message about our seeking to know and understand Divine Power. We are made to be conduits and radiators of Love and Truth, and to need each other. We are deeply connected; when one thread is plucked, the whole fabric is raised up. When the Divine in me meets the Divine in you, the power of Love and Truth expands. With our pipes cleaned with love, may we dance down the street with joy.

2011-11-02. The Clerk introduced those at the clerks’ table, and reviewed the agenda.

2011-11-03. The reading clerk read the roll call of meetings by region, including the newly recognized Genesee Valley Preparative Meeting in Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting.

2011-11-04. Friends were welcomed by Anita Paul (Schenectady) on behalf of Northeast Regional Meeting.

2011-11-05. A travel minute from Wilton Monthly Meeting for its member Judy Meikle was read together with endorsements from New Haven Friends Meeting, Fifteenth Street Monthly Meeting, and Purchase Quarterly Meeting. Her “ministry of kindness” continues as she invites “Friends and others to search their hearts for understandings and openings regarding the criminal justice system in the United States.” Margaret Lechner (Purchase) spoke for Judy Meikle, who could not be with us. Friends directed the Clerk to endorse the travel minute on behalf of the Yearly Meeting.

2011-11-06. Friends approved minutes 01–05.

2011-11-07. Friends heard read,

Worshippers are like the spokes of a wheel. The nearer they come to the centre of all Life the nearer they are to each other. Having reached the centre they become united in a single life through the creative love of God.
—Howard H. Brinton, Creative Worship (Swarthmore Lecture), 1931, 73.                   

2011-11-08. General Secretary Christopher Sammond (Poplar Ridge) reported that continuing to trim our budget beyond what we have done so far is eroding our capacity to nurture, inspire, and represent New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) in the wider world. Continuing on this path is untenable and is not good stewardship of our Society. He gave examples illustrating that we have the financial resources; we just aren’t inspired to use them to support the Religious Society of Friends.
If we have a coherent vision that is grounded in the discernment of our communities and clearly communicated, and if the extent of the need to support that vision, both locally and in the larger Yearly Meeting, is made known, he firmly believes that we will have all of the support we need to do that work. And we will be healthier spiritually for doing so.

In the work of the Priorities Working Group and the Development Working Group, established by the General Services Coordinating Committee at our Summer Sessions, Christopher sees us moving toward a solution that will take several years to bear fruit. The Priorities Working Group has been designing a process whereby we can do this work of listening, communicating, and envisioning together. Expect a request from one of them to visit your meeting.

“I anticipate us drawing together behind a common vision, having a broader understanding of the work we do, and moving into a different attitude and practice around funding our work. If we do this well, we will embark on a different trajectory, one that nurtures our growing edges, one of less stress, strain, and struggle, deeper faithfulness, and more coherent community.”

Putting our funding into perspective, Christopher noted that if members of NYYM made only minimum wage, but gave 10 percent of that to their monthly meetings, we would raise more than $5.25 million. If we gave at this level we could triple the size of our monthly meeting budgets as well as our Yearly Meeting budget. He recalled a single mother in a Meeting he used to belong to, who gave $25 each month to the Meeting even though she had a job that didn’t pay very much and a young son to raise. Her commitment deepened her relationship to the meeting. If we all behaved that way we would be richer for it. And so would our meetings. That will not happen unless and until we are inspired to do so by the vision and the work set before us. We have some work to do to get there. Let us be faithful to it.

There was ministry in response to the report.

Friends received the report, which is appended.

2011-11-09. Assistant Treasurer Carol Summar (Fifteenth Street) presented the Treasurer’s Report. The closing balance is $200,155 with the net change of ($4,403). Last year the net change was ($31,219). This means that cash flow is more even this year. Payments are about the same, +$1,000, but income is higher, +$25,000.
Friends received the report.

2011-11-10. Friends approved minutes 07–09.

2011-11-11. Financial Services Committee clerk Sandra Beer (Old Chatham) presented a proposed operating budget for 2012 with a deficit of $14,000. She reminded Friends that the work of Financial Services depends on the discernment of coordinating committees. Concern at Summer Sessions around available funds led to a request from Financial Services Committee to coordinating committees that they reduce their budgets by 5 percent. She echoed the general secretary’s concern that expenses have been reduced below the level of good stewardship and that the problem is not expenses; it is on the revenue side. The revenue includes $4,000 in direct support from individuals to Yearly Meeting (outside of meetings’ covenant donations), which is not a usual source of funds for the operating budget. The Meeting is asked to apply any surplus from 2011 directly to 2012 instead of adding it to the reserve.

Friends received the report.

2011-11-12. Following approval of Minute 2011-11-11 and announcements, the Meeting settled into worship, from which we departed for lunch, expecting to resume our session this afternoon.


Saturday, November 12, 2011, 3:45 p.m.
Doane Stuart School, Rensselaer, NY

Heather M. Cook (Chatham-Summit), Clerk
Jeffrey Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), Assistant Clerk
Andrew Mead von Salis (Brooklyn), Recording Clerk
Karen Snare (Bulls Head-Oswego), Reading Clerk

2011-11-13. Friends heard read,

Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God, whereby thou wilt receive his strength and power from whence life comes, to allay all tempests, against blusterings and storms. —George Fox. Journal. J. L. Nickalls, ed. 1952, 346.

2011-11-14. The Clerk introduced those at the clerks’ table and reviewed the agenda for the afternoon.

2011-11-15. The reading clerk read a memorial minute for Elizabeth Ann Pearson of Albany Meeting. Liz died at age 86 on September 30, 2010. She was born, and lived most of her life, in New York State. Her concerns for dispute mediation, civil rights, and peoples’ justice led to witness in which she was arrested many times, vigiled and walked often, and worked to build enlightened institutions. Her life was a very public example to all, as well as to Friends everywhere. From the silence, Friends recounted examples of her faithfulness, trust, service, tirelessness, and infectious radiance.

2011-11-16. David Herendeen (Easton), convener of the Oversight Committee for the Recording of Gifts in Ministry, established by the Ministry Coordinating Committee, presented a recommendation that we record the gifts in ministry of Alice Houghtaling of Schenectady Meeting. Our Clerk reminded us that, pursuant to new procedures, such action falls to the New York Yearly Meeting rather than the Yearly Meeting on Ministry & Counsel, since that body has been suspended since 2007. Alice Houghtaling’s pastoral studies program had led her to serve in a ministry of pediatric palliative care. Alice has clear gifts as a compassionate listener and caregiver, with an ability to bring the gift of presence into relationships and to treasure the “holy” in the other, and an ability to express deep inward insights with clarity and freshness. The Oversight Committee has met with Alice Houghtaling and has come to appreciate her gifts. Friends approved the recommendation.

2011-11-17. Friends considered the practice of recording gifts in the ministry, which was intentionally included in our practice at the time of the merger of our Hicksite and Orthodox yearly meetings. Different standards of practice over the intervening years were cited, and some times were recalled when the recording of gifts has served a need and some times when it had not. Friends were not in unity with regard to asking that the Ministry Coordinating Committee consider our practice and bring its discernment back to us. Further dialogue among us all was encouraged.

2011-11-18. Friends approved minutes 13–17.

2011-11-19. The proposed Yearly Meeting operating budget for 2012 as presented in our morning session was addressed. The love of Friends for our programs and the need to support them in many areas where we know they make us vital were voiced in living language. Some expressed conviction that we could surely raise more money than the sums budgeted for 2012 to be received as covenant donations and other gifts. Meanwhile, it was noted that some additional income could merely erase the budgeted deficit without restoring any budget cuts, and some challenged us to assert faith and trust in divine purpose for us such as will lead to the impetus for income to fund our work. The matter was held over to the next day’s session of our meeting.

2011-11-20. Friends approved minute 19.

2011-11-21. Friends concluded in brief worship at 5:40 p.m.


Sunday, November 13, 2011, 10:15 a.m.
Powell House, Anna Curtis Center, Old Chatham, NY

Heather M. Cook (Chatham-Summit), Clerk
Jeffrey Hitchcock (Rahway & Plainfield), Assistant Clerk
Roger Dreisbach-Williams (Rahway & Plainfield), Recording Clerk
Alanna Badgley (Poughkeepsie), Reading Clerk

2011-11-22. The Clerk introduced those at the clerks’ table and reviewed the morning’s agenda.

2011-11-23. Friends expressed appreciation for the host region’s hospitality, naming the thorough planning and hard work that Friends put in to make sure that there were helpful signs and floor plans to follow; friendly faces to greet us and answer our questions; and abundant good food to restore us between sessions. Friends appreciated the school site, with excellent spaces for committees to meet, working microphones, and the ability to stretch lovingly. Deep gratitude was expressed for the loving concern for the infant in our midst, as well as for Friends’ stepping in when others were unable to continue the planning for the gathering. Having Powell House available was an added pleasure for the session.

2011-11-24. The consent agenda was presented for approval without discussion as is our practice. Friends approved Minutes 25 through 28 in accordance with the consent agenda.        

2011-11-25. Friends approved the following nominations for service to the Yearly Meeting:

Committee for Conflict Transformation 2014: Jack Cuffari (Montclair)
Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee 2013: Lucinda Antrim (Scarsdale)
Epistle Committee 2013: Kathryn (Kate) Moss (Fifteenth Street)
Committee for Black Concerns 2013: Ella Holmes (Brooklyn)
Committee for Conscientious Objection to Paying for War 2014: Andrew von Salis ’08 (Brooklyn)

2011-11-26. Friends accepted the following requests for release from service:

Eleanor Novek (Manasquan): Communications Committee 2012
Arlene Reduto (Easton): Elsie K. Powell House, Inc. 2014
Natalie Braun (Old Chatham): Young Adult Concerns Committee 2012
James Hall (Collins): Indian Affairs Committee 2013

2011-11-27. Friends approved the Handbook page for Ministry Coordinating Committee.

2011-11-28. Friends approved the revised Handbook page for Nominating Committee.

2011-11-29. A memorial minute for George Seiler was read. George was a beloved member of Saratoga Friends Meeting, and before that Montclair Monthly Meeting, after having been an active attender at Scarsdale and then Morningside Monthly Meetings. His down-to-earth blend of emotional openness, mental acuity, and sense of humor provided strong yet tender guidance to individual Friends and Meeting projects. Friends spoke of his ministry through music and the delight that he brought to us.

2011-11-30. Priorities Working Group clerk Lee Haring (Bulls Head-Oswego) reported on the group’s activities since their first face-to-face meeting at Summer Sessions, having been created at Spring Session (minute 2011-04-34). They plan to meet with as many monthly meetings as possible. Friends received the report. Friends spoke to the strength and integrity of the core structure of the Society and challenged us to follow our core practice. Is the structure we have being used wisely and faithfully?

2011-11-31. Friends heard read,

Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God. —St. Ignatius

2011-11-32. Friends approved applying any surplus from fiscal year (FY) 2011 to FY 2012 rather than directly into reserve.

2011-11-33. Friends approved the proposed $504,667 operating budget for FY 2012 with a $14,206 deficit.

2011-11-34. Friends asked the Financial Services Committee to report to Spring Sessions with recommendations for the FY 2012 operating budget to close the deficit and allow additional funding for expenditure tiers similar to our practice in recent years.

2011-11-35. In approving this budget Friends acknowledge that we take active responsibility for the financial health of our Yearly Meeting and will respond to Financial Services with additional covenant commitments before Spring Sessions.

2011-11-36. Friends approved Sylke Jackson (Rockland) to serve as an alternate delegate to the Friends World Committee for Consultation gathering in Kenya in April 2012.

2011-11-37. A travel minute from Purchase Monthly Meeting for its member Margaret Lechner was presented along with endorsements. Her continuing “Ministry of Facilitation and Leadership” with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) and Friends Peace Teams leads her to “communities where violence is tearing away at the fabric of the spirit.” Margaret led us through an opening AVP exercise and then spoke about helping to produce the first AVP International Gathering in Latin America, of facilitating workshops with someone formerly incarcerated at a maximum-security prison, and of the lives that have been and are being changed by AVP. The Meeting directed the Clerk to endorse the travel minute on its behalf.

2011-11-38. Sessions Committee clerk John Cooley (Central Finger Lakes) reported that more than 115 Friends were in attendance at our sessions. Complete numbers are not yet available.

2011-11-39. Friends approved these minutes.

2011-11-40. The Clerk spoke about the fabric we continue to weave of the story of who we are. Some of these threads are golden and bright; others are made of our struggle to be a loving community. It is all present. Let us carry it out in the world, shining.

2011-11-41. The Meeting ended its business at 12:35 p.m., to reconvene at Purchase Monthly Meeting for our Spring Sessions, April 13–15, 2012. Expectant worship continued.

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