New York Yearly Meeting How-To Guide
A practical primer on how to participate in our yearly meeting
by Sarah Way
NYYM Communications Director
Quaker business practices can be opaque and difficult for newcomers to learn. The following aims to help new Friends navigate and become more active in their local, regional, and yearly meeting. Though Spirit is rarely mentioned here, all our practices are grounded in Spirit. See Faith and Practice for more.
What if I want…
...to find out who the clerk is, or who, for example, is on the Ministry and Counsel Committee, at my local meeting?
If you are not able to ask someone at your local meeting, you can contact the NYYM office: 212-673-5750 or [email protected]. The online directory at nyym.org/nyym_meetings has a contact number for each meeting. And your local meeting has a copy of the most recent Yearbook, which contains a list of all meetings and their clerks and contact info. (For a continually updated listing, check online.)
...to talk about a concern I have about our meeting for worship?
Talk to a member of your meeting’s Ministry and Counsel Committee, sometimes referred to as Ministry and Oversight.
...to talk about an interpersonal conflict I’m having with another person in my meeting?
If the conflict is in your local meeting, contact the clerk or someone on Ministry and Counsel. The yearly meeting’s Committee on Conflict Transformation can also help you as an individual or your meeting as a whole; email [email protected]. During Summer Sessions, NYYM’s week-long gathering in July, the Circle of Care and Concern is available to help. Members of that group wear green lanyards.
...to learn about and maybe join a committee?
To explore joining a committee, talk to your meeting’s Nominating Committee. Together you can talk about your gifts and where they can best be used. You can get a sense of what’s going on in your meeting by attending a business meeting. Regional and yearly meetings also have Nominating Committees; contact their clerks, or the NYYM office, the Yearbook, or nyym.org for contact information. You may also attend a meeting of a committee you’re interested in. Most committee meetings are open to everyone, but check with the committee clerk before attending, as some committees are confidential.
...to get spiritual help in making a decision about my life or family?
If you have a spiritual-based concern about a decision you need to make or a difficult situation you are facing, you can speak to a member of Ministry and Counsel to request a clearness committee (a short-term, small committee) to help you gain clarity. Clearness committees are also convened for membership, marriage, and leadings in ministry. The job of a clearness committee is to worship with and deeply listen to the focus person and ask questions that will help bring clarity for the decision.
...to bring a new idea (or “leading”) to my meeting?
If your concern is related to “witness” (social justice or activism), and your meeting has a Peace and Social Action Committee, you can bring your idea to them. Otherwise, contact your meeting’s Ministry and Counsel. They may direct you to the appropriate committee for further “seasoning,” or they may recommend a clearness committee to help you prayerfully consider your concern, test that it is Spirit-led, and discern your next steps. After “seasoning,” if your leading requires support or assistance from your meeting, you may be directed to present your idea at the next meeting for business. The meeting may choose to join you in your effort, providing support and guidance. Depending on the nature of your leading, your meeting may write a “minute” (a statement of support). That minute can be forwarded to regional and yearly meetings for their consideration.
...to request financial assistance (also referred to as “scholarship”) to attend yearly meeting gatherings (“Sessions”) or committee meetings?
Starting with Summer Sessions 2019, NYYM is using a Pay as Led method to pay for Sessions. Friends who can pay more are invited to do so, which will help cover attendance for Friends who need to pay less. For Spring, Summer, and Fall Sessions, many meetings have funds set aside to help Friends participate; ask your meeting’s clerk or treasurer. You should request money from your local meeting when you register for Sessions. For Spring and Fall Sessions, if you are part of the NYYM community but not part of a local meeting, or if you need additional aid, you can request financial aid from NYYM’s “Equalization Fund” on the Sessions registration form. Note that registration fees for Spring and Fall Sessions are already “suggested” so this aid is for travel expenses and meals. For travel to committee meetings, request assistance from the committee clerk—some committees have funds set aside in their budgets for this purpose.
How do I decide how much aid to ask for?
The yearly meeting wants everyone to attend Sessions. If you can only afford to spend a certain amount you can request the rest. Use your best judgment.
...to become a member of my local meeting?
Contact the clerk of your meeting or Ministry and Counsel. You will be asked to write a letter requesting membership and will have a clearness committee convened for you.