Spark, January 2022 - Hybrid/Blended Meetings
Start Spreading The News!
Share your meeting’s news, announcements, and upcoming events with the rest of the yearly meeting by sending them to [email protected]. News items will appear in Spark, our printed newsletter, and our weekly email newsletter. Don’t get Spark or our Weekly Updates? Email [email protected] or call 212-673-5750 to get yourself added to our mailing list.
Welcome to Spark Online
The online edition of New York Yearly Meeting's print newsletter.
Download a pdf file of the January 2022 Spark
A note on terminology: "Hybrid meetings" is meant to describe a single meeting for worship that is held in person and via video or phone conference at the same time. The people online and the people in person are together in the same experience of group worship. Some people find the word "hybrid" too technical and off-putting, and prefer the term "blended" meeting. Both terms are used in this issue.
Articles on the Theme: Hybrid/Blended Meetings
- The Experience of Hybrid Worship (So Far), by Howard Nelson and Claire Howard, Poplar Ridge Meeting
- A Resource for Hybrid Meetings: Portal+, by Peter Phillips, Cornwall Meeting
- We Belong to Each Other, by Kathy Czekaj, Manasquan Meeting
- Needs and Recommendations for Hybrid Meetings, by David Coletta, New England Yearly Meeting
- Closed Captioning Quaker Meetings, by David Coletta, New England Yearly Meeting
- Queries for Meetings Considering Hybrid Worship, New England Yearly Meeting
Around Our Yearly Meeting
- Editor's Note
- NYYM Anti-Racism Statement
- Do You Receive the Weekly NYYM Email Update?
- Upcoming Events
- Online Worship
Around Our Yearly Meeting
This issue of Spark, the printed newsletter for New York Yearly Meeting Quakers, was created during an alarming surge in COVID cases due to the Omicron variant, which even vaccinated people are catching in large numbers. Future plans are yet again being thrown into doubt. It is difficult to stay hopeful, though the days will continue to grow brighter (since the winter solstice) no matter what. At press time, we are still hoping and praying to have Summer Sessions at least partly in person.
Upcoming Spark themes:
March: Quakerism in the Future. Today is uncertain, so let's look into the future. What does Quakerism look like? What are your hopes or fears about Quakerism, the Quaker community, and the Quaker experience, in the next several years? Please share your thoughts on the future direction of Quakerism, whatever that means to you.
Spark accepts article submissions of 400-600 words, shorter news items and announcements, and photographs and artwork. Please do share your thoughts and talents with the rest of NYYM! Deadline for the March issue is February 1. Please email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NYYM sends a weekly email newsletter. If you aren’t receiving it, but would like to, please email [email protected].
Please send in your meeting’s news so it can to be shared in the next weekly email update or in Spark.
Stay healthy and safe.
Sarah Way, NYYM
- Mary-Kay Belant—Syracuse
- David Kirkpatrick—Bulls Head-Oswego
- Don Wildman—Croton Valley
- Beth Bugdaycay, to Brooklyn from Morningside
- Tommy Brown, member of Ithaca, on October 30, 2021.
- Dorothy Garner, member of Quaker Street, on August 3, 2021.
- Martin Jolles, member of Ithaca, on September 11, 2021.
NYYM Anti-Racism Statement
A draft NYYM Statement on Becoming an Anti-Racist Faith Community, written by a multi-racial and multi-generational task group, was presented at Summer Sessions 2021 for Friends' reflection and the initiation of an extended period of discernment. Over the coming year, you and your meeting are invited to focus on how you can truly become an anti-racist faith community, and discern what that will mean for you and your meeting. The task group is sharing queries and resources that you may find helpful. You can find these resources at nyym.org/anti-racism-statement, or by requesting a copy from the office at 212-673-5750.
At several points over the next year, NYYM will offer the chance to participate in anti-racism workshops especially arranged for our yearly meeting. Please let the planning team know of your general interest by filling out the Antiracism Training Expression of Interest form, linked to here: nyym.org/anti-racism-statement.
Do You Receive the Weekly NYYM Email Update?
Each Friday an email newsletter from NYYM is sent out to over 1600 people. Past editions are available at nyym.org/weekly-updates. To subscribe, email your name to [email protected].
Read the expanded NYYM news section!
Coordinating Committee Weekend
Online, Jan. 28-30, 2022
Coordinating Committee Weekend is a time set aside for all YM coordinating committees to meet. Join people from around the yearly meeting to hear about what’s going on and how the work gets done. Be part of considering how the yearly meeting might use everyone’s gifts and leadings and how each of us, all of us, can reimagine how we build this community every day. Registration will be online at nyym.org/cc-weekend-2022.
Winter Meetings for Discernment
February 25-26, 2022, online
Meetings for Discernment are periods of extended, waiting worship designed to discern leadings and strengthen connections in our yearly meeting. The Winter 2022 Meeting for Discernment will be held in three Zoom sessions on Saturday, Feb. 26. There will be a meeting on Friday evening for first-time attenders and anyone interested in eldership. On Saturday, there will be two sessions for extended worship on our query. The final session will be for reflection on what we've heard and experienced.
Query for Saturday morning and early afternoon sessions:
How am I being changed by the movement of Spirit? Are there ways I am resisting Spirit’s promptings? How does my resistance point me toward that place where I embrace change, where I become changed? How am I being called to attend to the movement of Spirit within?
Corporately, in our monthly meetings and yearly meeting, where are our places of resistance to Spirit’s call? How are we learning to become more imaginative and adaptive? How will we co-create a welcoming and resilient community where all will thrive?
For a detailed schedule and registration info visit nyym.org/mfd-winter-2022
April 1-3, 2022. See page 8.
Powell House Workshops
Powell House is the retreat and conference center for NYYM. Visit poho.org to see the full list of upcoming events and to register.
Friends' Decision Making and Clerking, February 4-6, 2022
This is a workshop for everyone who wants to deepen their understanding of Quaker decision-making. For clerks, it will be an opportunity to learn and sharpen skills. For others, it will be an opportunity to get better grounded in what Quaker decision-making is all about. It is expected that each person will leave the weekend with new energy and enthusiasm for participating in meetings for business, well grounded in both the theoretical and the practical.
For Young Adults
New Children, Youth, and Young Adult Community Director!
Daniela Salazar Monárrez, young adult Friend, has accepted the new, full-time staff position of Children, Youth, and Young Adult (CYYA) Community Director. Daniela's planned start date is January 24, 2022. Many thanks to Daniela and welcome to this new position!
For Children & Teens
New Children, Youth, and Young Adult Community Director! See above.
Albany Friends Young Peacemakers Week
Albany Friends Meeting is again planning to have our annual Young Peacemakers Week, from August 22-26, 2022, at the AFM Meetinghouse. We welcome children in grades 2-8, from 1:30-5:30, followed by a simple meal shared with our families. Our daily activities will reflect our witness to the Quaker Peace Testimony, i.e., a commitment to nonviolence and reconciliation in all spheres of life. The theme will be addressed in typical camp activities such as arts and crafts, music, drama, non-competitive games, and nature-centered projects. There is no specific charge; instead we ask that people contribute whatever they feel is fair. We are looking for volunteers and paid staff, and welcome any applicants! For more information please contact Anita Stanley.
Many of the local meetings in New York Yearly Meeting are holding online or hybrid online-and-in-person meetings for worship every week. Visit nyym.org/online-worship-opportunities for the most up-to-date information.
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)'s Spring Lobby Weekend, March 12-15, 2022
Spring Lobby Weekend offers young Friends and other young people the tools to be effective advocates and the opportunity to connect with others. This March 2022, hundreds of young adults will flood our nation’s capital (in person again, we hope)! They'll learn about immigration policy and then—grounded in new knowledge, skills, and an understanding of Quaker values —they’ll meet with members of Congress. The power of 500 young adults lobbying Congress to pass protections for undocumented immigrants can’t be matched.
Spring Lobby Weekend gives young people an opportunity put their faith into action for the world we seek. You are encouraged to recommend Spring Lobby Weekend to the young adults in your communities. Visit www.fcnl.org/events/spring-lobby-weekend-2022
More NYYM News
New York Faith Communities Respond to Gun Violence
I was invited by the Interfaith Center of New York to join a panel on Gun Violence Prevention as part of a day-long program in New York City on December 1st called “New York Faith Communities Respond to Gun Violence.” They contacted me in my role as NYYM’s Gun Violence Prevention Coordinator and part of the Witness Coordinating Committee. The day was an amazing and energizing experience. It was kicked off by Senator Charles Schumer and a keynote by Queens activist and internationally-recognized peacemaker Erica Ford. My panel was “Theologies of Non-Violence” and included the President of the Buddhist Council of New York.
For me, the highlight was the Peace Walk through Harlem. The faith leaders in the conference all met at the corner of 116th St. and Frederick Douglass Boulevard and walked down 116th, stopping at key sites and praying quietly and loudly in support of this neighborhood and engaging the local residents we met. Our stops included a number of historic churches, the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market, and several retail sites that had suffered from gun violence.
I ask all NYYM Friends to remember the terrible damage and trauma that gun violence brings to every community. If you want to take action, I will help you to consider what makes sense in your own meeting and community. I am available to assist at the monthly, quarterly or yearly meeting level.
Open Letter on Voting Rights
Don Badgley, clerk
Dear fellow Friends,
We are deeply concerned about the many states that have already passed laws that will make it harder to vote. Our faith teaches us that all people have worth, and this leads us to stand against attempts to limit any eligible voter’s right to exercise their political freedom at the polls.
We are reaching out to Quaker Meetings to ask if you, our fellow Friends, will join our efforts to advance voter rights. The House of Representatives passed the John Lewis Voter Rights Advancement Act (HR 4) in August. This act does a great deal to address voter restrictive state laws, and we are urging our senators to advance this act. Without this legislation all other legislation we Quakers care about is in danger. Each of our states' senators hold the future of this legislation in their hands.
In 1965 a now-deceased member of our Poughkeepsie Friends Meeting was among those non-violent Civil Rights protesters marching for voter rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. We are saddened that this struggle still continues. Please join us by reaching out to your senators in support of the John Lewis Voter Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) and also in support of the Freedom to Vote Act (S.2747) which complements the VRAA. There could be no greater tribute to the life's work of Congressman John Lewis and all those who paid so dearly to gain equitable access to voting rights. May the Light within ALL eligible voters be allowed to shine brightly as they participate in our democracy.
NYYM Calls for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty
New York Yearly Meeting has joined faith institutions and faith leaders from around the world in a letter calling on governments to develop and implement a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. The call is being coordinated by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (FFNPT) Initiative, a coalition which includes over 900 civil society organizations. Clerk Elaine Learnard and General Secretary Steve Mohlke signed the letter on behalf of NYYM as an interim action. Read the letter at fossilfueltreaty.org/faith-letter.
The faith letter was written by people from the Laudato Si Movement, Greenfaith, the Interreligious Council of Kenya, Kairos Canada and Dr. Rowan Williams (ex-Archbishop of Canterbury). At the time NYYM signed, about 46 institutions and 145 individuals had signed the letter, including AFSC, Quakers UK, plus Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian and interfaith organizations. If you are a faith leader (pastor, religious educator, etc) you can also sign as an individual.
The faith letter is the most recent call coordinated by the FFNPT Initiative, and will be released in early 2022. Earlier calls came from 101 Nobel Laureates, from over 2500 scientists and researchers, and from parliamentarians (elected officials) from all corners of the world, following the lead of parliamentarians from “Least Developed Nations” who initiated the campaign in 2017. In 2020, cities and sub-national governments also began passing resolutions endorsing the treaty.
New Brunswick Meeting Sells its Meetinghouse
New Brunswick Meeting
New Brunswick Monthly Meeting began as a worship group in 1927. It was accepted as a monthly meeting within Shrewsbury and Plainfield Half Yearly Meeting in 1954. The history from 1954 until 1984, when it purchased its building at its current location, is fascinating, but is too long for this column. Our history is available on inquiry.
In 1984, the meeting purchased the building at 109 Nichol Avenue, where it currently gathers, across the street from the Cook-Douglass College campuses of Rutgers University. The building was originally a duplex built around 100 years ago by the grandfather of meeting member Jeffrey Aaron, who was raised there as a child. Around 1956, one apartment was divided into two small apartments, one upstairs and one downstairs. The meeting met downstairs, which was soon remodeled to make it fully accessible for members and visitors, although the children still needed to meet in the basement.
In 2011, a new, larger meeting room addition was completed which allowed for greater attendance and enabled first day school to meet on the same floor in the former, smaller meeting room.
Since that time, unfortunately, active New Brunswick Friends have declined in numbers and aged to the extent that the building maintenance and tenant responsibilities have become too great a burden. Friends decided to sell the building with the hope that we could rent back the same area that we currently use. We have succeeded in that effort, selling to the tenants in our larger apartment in a very amicable deal that includes a five year lease for us with three additional five year renewal options. We closed on the purchase on November 30, 2021, in a deal in which the landlords became tenants and tenants became the landlords.
We are glad that our tenant relationships have been handled with high Quaker standards so that tenants have been pleased with us as landlords. We anticipate that the new owners will treat us in a similar fashion. Friends are invited to visit us; our address and contact information will not change.
Pastor Trish Eckert Leaves Farmington
Trish Eckert has concluded her 4.5 years of service as the pastor of Farmington Friends Meeting. Trish is grateful for the welcome, accompaniment, and support she received from Farmington Friends. The decision to leave was a difficult one. She writes, "in the wake of COVID it became really clear to me that I needed to live closer to my grandchildren, so I'm relocating back to the midwest. I am sorry to be leaving NYYM." Trish is continuing to follow her leading by serving a Presbyterian church with a committed ministry to people without homes. "My social work career alongside my call to ministry will combine in exciting ways in this new setting," Trish says. You can visit her new church online at www.tippechurch.org/
Report on Fall Sessions Business
Friends met over Zoom the weekend of December 3-5, 2021, to discern the yearly meeting's business and concerns. The budget for 2022 was approved, with an anticipated deficit to be covered by the operating reserve if needed; two Friends stood aside. Friends were again encouraged to consider the draft NYYM statement on Becoming an Anti-Racist Faith Community, available on nyym.org/anti-racism-statement and in the September 2021 issue of Spark.
The NYYM Trustees reviewed the Lindley Murray Trust Fund, which is now considered a private foundation and is therefore required to distribute at least 5% of its value every year. Friends Fiduciary Corporation will serve as Trustees for the fund.
Fred Dettmer reported on the state of the Green Haven Prison Preparative Meeting vs. New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, et al. legal case which asked for the resumption of Green Haven's Quarterly Meetings. The District Court and the 2nd Circuit denied the motion; NYYM is planning to petition the US Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which would order the judicial review of the lower court's decision.
General Secretary Steve Mohlke reported that Daniela Salazar Monárrez (Flushing) has accepted the position of Children, Youth and Young Adult Community Director.
Reports were also heard from the Powell House Directors and NYYM's Nominating Committee. The NYYM's application for a group 501(c)3 exemption from the IRS, conferring the YM's tax exemption to all monthly meetings, will be refiled in early 2022. NYYM's Ministry and Pastoral Care announced the transfer of a Friend's membership from a monthly meeting to the yearly meeting at large.
The clerk and general secretary reported on the interim actions they had taken on behalf of NYYM since the last Sessions: signing onto a letter calling on every national government in the world to sign the Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty, and signing a Trade Justice Campaign letter urging the US Trade Representative to consider eliminating existing trade pacts’ threats to climate initiatives.
Sessions Committee announced that Summer Sessions will be hybrid. The theme for NYYM's 2022 Sessions is "Being Changed, Living Faithfully.”
Buffalo Meeting’s Fundraiser for Afghan Evacuees
Buffalo Meeting held a six week fundraiser this fall to purchase gift cards to Aldi for our incoming Afghan evacuees. As evacuees, these people do not have ready access to many federal programs intended for refugees. They needed and continue to need help from the community. We ran our fundraiser for six weeks, ending October 23, 2021. The generosity was amazing, with donations coming from as far away as Scarsdale. Together over six weeks we raised $4,170.00, which translated into 167 cards for Aldi of $25.00 each. Donations came in from many other meetings besides Buffalo and we are so grateful.
Individual thank you notes were sent to each donor based on the method used to donate. The gift cards are all being given to the International Institute which is one of the five organizations managing this huge task. The gratitude shown by our contact there is something I wish all of you could have experienced. If you want to learn more about the efforts going on in Buffalo for these evacuees, please go to www.wnyrac.org.
Powell House COVID Safety Guidelines as of January 1, 2022
I thought Friends might be interested in Powell House's new guidelines for its in-person events, both to help you decide your comfort level with attending an event and as a possible model for other Friendly in-person events. This has been lightly edited for Spark. — Editor.
We have all been changed over the past 2 years; we are different mentally, physically, emotionally, SPIRITUALLY. We are operating in a different world, with different parameters and expectations. Please know that one of our main goals is to provide space to encounter and live into these changes as a supportive spiritual community. Powell House has always aimed to provide radical hospitality; that is now balanced with the objective of safety for each individual who attends an event. We look forward to reconnecting and celebrating our relationships with each other and the Divine, while utilizing the following protocols.
When you arrive, your temperature will be taken and questions about recent symptoms and exposure will be asked. Please have your vaccination record ready to be photographed; COVID vaccination IS REQUIRED as of Jan. 1, 2022. You will be given a “rapid test” to ensure that you are not sharing any virus particles. Then you will get your room assignment. You will have your own room for sleeping, if at all possible—exceptions for family group members, or those who have agreed to have a vaccinated roommate if necessary.
During a retreat, follow 2 of these 3 guidelines at any time:
- Wear a mask—plan on wearing masks in all sessions indoors
- Stay 6 feet apart from one another whenever possible
- Be outside
Rooms utilized as group meeting space will be vacated and aired out for 15 minutes at the conclusion of each session. Hand sanitizer will be available in all public room entryways—please use it!
Meals: when below 40 degrees or in inclement weather we will be indoors at tables with no more than 3-4 people spaced out at each table. WE WILL SERVE YOUR FOOD. Please stay out of the kitchen! Only our staff will make coffee, do dishes, and serve food.
You will also be rapid tested on Saturday evening to help determine that you are not carrying the virus.
Utilize this advice from the Powell House youth program: communicate with the people around you and actively participate in building a culture of consent and communication around Covid-19:
Be Kind: Treat each other lovingly, with an open heart and an open mind. Remember that we’ve all just been through a difficult time in our own ways.
Be Aware: Make an effort to notice and adapt accordingly to the comfort level of the people around you.
Be Curious: Meet people with curiosity as you learn about each other’s perspective and comfort level. Ask questions to yourself and others as you seek to understand what is best for the safety of the group.
Be Brave: Recognize and honor your boundaries, as well as the boundaries of others. Stand up for yourself and each other if those boundaries are crossed.
Blessings, Dennis and Regina Haag, Powell House Co-Executive Directors
Oscar Mmbali Update: A Swiftly Growing Quaker Meeting in Belize City
15th Street Meeting
Imagine a Sunday morning on the south side of Belize City. A young man is seeking a place to connect, wanting fellowship in the midst of busy-ness, needing a place of safety in a neighborhood often interrupted by gang violence. A quarter mile from the port, off a dirt road thick with trucks, is Belize Friends Center. He’s heard of this place; his neighbor comes here and invited him once. A sign says “worship Sundays, all welcome,” and he can hear laughter inside. So he opens the door.
Within, he discovers a room full mostly of men like himself—very young men, at least half still teenaged boys—who have gathered to sing, read scripture, and share silence. A few families and elders are present as well. They greet him warmly and fetch one more plastic lawn chair, and then it’s time for church to start.
This pattern has repeated innumerable times since the summer of 2017, when Oscar Mmbali visited New York Yearly Meeting. Oscar, a Kenyan, was on his way to Belize to serve Belize Friends Church as pastoral minister and community organizer.
Some of you will remember the presentations he gave, but I doubt that any of us imagined his ministry would blossom as it has. In his first three years, Oscar worked with the neighborhood community to organize an ongoing effort to reduce tensions between youth and police officers—a campaign that ultimately resulted in significant changes to the policing system in Belize—and to raise awareness about human trafficking in all its forms. During this time, the church grew exponentially, with so much of its membership comprised of teenaged boys that, eventually, the boys themselves took over many of the necessary leadership roles, with Oscar’s guidance. The boys so frequently invite their friends to church that transportation for everyone has been a problem. When the pandemic began, Oscar and others at the center formed a feeding program for families associated with the church, providing food and basic sanitary products as the unemployment rate approached 70%.
This year, Oscar has been cultivating gifts of ministry in two Belizean Friends—Christopher Luben and Clifton Major—and has been supporting their efforts to receive formal training as virtual students of Friends Theological College. Because Christopher and Clifton are both locals, the church’s community outreach efforts have been able to increase. Christopher often walks through the area, meeting neighbors, offering encouragement, and inviting people to church. Clifton, who is a police officer, is using his pastoral training to support victims of violence who seek help from authorities, and he’s exploring ways in which he and others might establish ongoing healing ministries for those who need it.
As a member of the Friends United Meeting board, I’m amazed every time I hear a report from Oscar. He is so attentive to, and responsive to, the needs of the community around him. You can learn more about Oscar and his work on the FUM website: www.friendsunitedmeeting.org/about-us/field-staff/oscar-mmbali Sign up to receive Oscar’s monthly newsletter here.