Spark, September 2011

15 Rutherford Place
New York, NY 10003
New York Yearly Meeting News
Volume 42
Number 4
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) September 2011
Editor, Paul Busby


Wholistic Meeting Communities:
Nurture for the Whole Personhood of Everyone

John Scardina, Purchase Meeting

As a “wholistic educator” (my spell checker doesn’t like this word, but I just can’t get into “holistic” as a substitute!) I have had the privilege over the past 32 years to work in Friends’ schools, honoring that of God in each child as all are growing toward goodness. My own path has included The Whole Earth Catalog, whole grains, “whole brain” learning techniques, and a “whole” lot of playing music with every group I join. So what about the “whole” meeting community: how do we nurture everyone in all ways?

In medieval times (think of the story of cathedral building in Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth) the place of worship was at the center of community life. Rather than a quaint building that comes to life once a week, might we look to our meetinghouses as community centers once again, with opportunities for each part of our meeting family to find connection?

And what of the “wholistic” aspect of meeting activities: do we seek to engage the body, the mind, and the soul? Are there opportunities for yoga class and Zumba dancing, Bible study and book clubs, clearness committee and worship sharing? Based upon the idea that Quakers will bring in new members through attraction rather than promotion, do we invite community groups to share in our space, or do we fret about those 18th-century chairs we don’t want anyone to break? And is there space for messy kids, loud adolescents, and quirky adults? How about 12-Step groups and local political organizations?

One of the teenagers I work with as a psychologist is a member of a Catholic youth group. This group meets twice a week, does a variety of service projects, records original music that gets played in church sometimes, and is seen as “cool” by the teens. We have wonderful youth programs (Powell House, Junior YM) in NYYM, but can we bring that energy back home to our meetings?

As “peculiar” people we Quakers are often seen as “thinking outside the box.” Maybe our own “box” is a quietist dream of worshipful silence in a well-attended meeting room that settles into deep spiritual connection. But what about the crying baby, the nudgy child whose page-turning while reading is driving a nearby worshiper to distraction, and the confused adult who rambles on endlessly?

We, of course, know the answers here; yet questions arise: who is going to have the time and energy to do all these things? With no “paid ministry,” aren’t we different from the Catholic youth group (with a paid youth minister on staff?) Well, Friends, if we say that Quakers abolished the laity and not the ministry, are we not the answer ourselves? And if we cannot tithe financially, can we tithe with our time? If we believe that each of us has gifts to share, can we help our members discern their gifts and thus draw them into the life of the whole meeting? And is there room for all types of worship, all types of activities, and all types of people?

During the Sun Dance—a very powerful ritual amongst Plains Indians—children would poke the dancers with sticks and laugh at their reactions while the dancers were experiencing the pangs of hunger and the rigors of the ritual they believed would lead to spiritual experiences. These children were not sent away—they were instead welcomed as young and innocent members of the community who one day would embark upon their own spiritual journeys. There was no original sin here—something we profess as well. Do we indeed welcome our own children so lovingly into our worship?

Every meeting community is a “(w)hol(e)y experiment” in living life on life’s terms. Each meeting community will find its own rhythm and pace as the dance of life and worship continues. Let us be sure that we look to the whole person—physically, mentally, and spiritually—as well to the whole community—grandchildren to grandparents, single and committed, humans all—as we embrace everyone. Just think of the bumper sticker that says:

god bless the whole world—no exceptions

John Scardina is a parent educator and school psychologist.

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Drawing of Friends standing in a circle
Drawing by Lucy Sikes

Young(er) Friends

Adam Segal-Isaacson, Brooklyn Meeting

I  grew up attending Friends meeting. And so I grew up with the expectation that I, as much as anyone, had a voice in the community. At about age 12, I noticed that there were a lot of adults (the Religious Education Committee) that were making decisions about what I was going to do on Sunday morning. I said that there should be a representative of the children on the RE Committee. They said, “How would you like to do it?” So I did. That was the beginning of my active involvement in Friends. In various ways I’ve been involved since, not always as actively. One of the big questions facing Friends is, How do we engage our youth and young adults in Friends? We need to engage our young people as children, and we need to stay with them as they get older. It is invigorating to see the resurgence of the Circle of Young Friends as a way for young adults, at a period in their lives that is often unstable, to remain connected to Friends. It is wonderful that the Yearly Meeting, after laying down the

Religious Education committee, has seen fit to begin a Youth committee. Experiments like Young Friends in Residence (YFIR) show that there are young Friends who are eager to explore our approach to Spirit. What can we do to assist them in assisting us to grow?

This issue of Spark explores the thoughts and experiences of young(er) Friends, providing us with challenges and inspiration.


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Which Train Is Leaving Next?

Mike Clark, Old Chatham Meeting

Over the years I have been asked many variations of the question: “How can we keep our young people involved in Quaker meeting and get them involved in the business of their monthly and yearly meeting?”

Because I am a Powell House youth director many people assume that I know something. I do know what is for snack…sometimes. I know how to tie my own shoes, but not in a way that they will stay tied. So over the years I have had some good, wise answers to the questions, but they are about as effective as the knots I use on my shoes. The idea has come to me that the answers are fine, but we have been asking the wrong questions.

Once I described my role in Friends and the youth program as like the person who sells coffee (Fair Trade coffee, of course), maps, and newspapers in the kiosk at the train station. I greet people as they come and go on their journeys. I provide them with some small things and information that help them on their journey. I help them connect to the next step when they ask for that. I get to hear their stories and share their excitement. I see their passion for life and service.

I see lots of folks of all ages as they go through this train station. Some older ones have been getting on the trains for a long time as they sought social justice, equal rights, a nonviolent society, or many other destinations familiar to Quaker travelers. The younger folks are going through the train station just as often, maybe more often. They are on journeys to those same destinations, but they are getting on different trains that use different routes to get to those destinations.

The question is not “How can I get more people to ride my train?” The question is “Which train are those other people going on and could they use my support for their journey?” We could even ask “Should I ride their train for a while?”

The questions for our monthly and yearly meetings should be:

  • How do we support the journeys of our younger folks?
  • What journeys are they on?
  • Do they want fellow travelers or just a cup of coffee when they pass through the local station?

As we seek to discern the leadings and direction for New York Yearly Meeting, are we seeking even the voices that are not in the room because they are already getting on the next train? Perhaps we should be hanging out (centered, of course) on the bench in the train station to see where the action is.

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Age Is Not a Factor

Gabi Savory Bailey, Chatham-Summit Meeting
Young Adult field secretary

I  would like to bring to Friends what has been brought to my heart. I would like everyone to think about the first two or three things they would say when asked to describe themselves. If you cannot think of anything, how would your friends describe you? Perhaps you thought of your vocation, or that you are a parent, a student, a graduate, a friend, in or out of a key relationship, your gifts, a good listener, an elder, an artist, a musician, a writer, a peacemaker. If it is your birthday, perhaps you thought of your age first. If it isn’t your birthday, you probably didn’t.

In the past few months I have had countless conversations and received many emails that go something like this: “I need __ YAF for __ committee, cause, event.” This is wonderful and the immediate response to my position, and the number of requests I get indicates that there is a real desire to include all generations, to be whole. This excitement is critical, and deeply felt.

I invite you to imagine this scenario. What if someone walked up to you and asked you how old you were, maybe they asked your name too. When you replied that you were 63, they immediately asked you to be on a committee stating that they were looking for two people, between 55 and 65. How would that sit with you? I have experienced a version of this. I can tell you it did not feel good, and did not make me want to serve on that committee. I have also been told that they were happy to have a young person on the committee, instead of stating why they were glad to have me on that committee. When identified merely as someone of a certain age, or who is “young,” I did not know why I was being asked more than as just a body to fill a slot. I want all the people in the meeting who are led to be able to serve as they are led. The tricky thing is that I do not have a pool of YAF from which to draw. I do not know everyone yet, and I may never. I can publicize the request, but this too is empty, because I am not familiar with the work of the person requesting the YAF. I am working on, and praying on, a way that we can make known what work needs to be done, and communicate that widely, past the people who always get asked, to everyone, so that those who hunger for work that fits their needs, get fed. And this is where we will all have to work.

Spirit works through us at all ages. Age is no factor for the work of God. Some of my most valuable moments with Spirit have been with very old and very young people. What mattered was not their age, but the lesson I learned, and the gifts we exchanged. God works through our gifts, and our ability to receive those gifts. But in order to see that work, to know God, I believe we have to listen, get to know and be open to our gifts and those of others. We have to spend time with each other, be present with each other, and help to coax those gifts out if the other is unaware of their own gifts or reluctant to see them. This takes time, and it takes patience. It takes a conscious effort to be open and aware. It is also a tender matter when revealing one’s gifts. It can be difficult to be vulnerable during that process.

So with the passion, the desire to integrate our body, here is my question. How can this happen? How can we channel the enthusiasm into integration of all ages? How do we focus on knowing our gifts? I am sure you can think of some ways. For me it usually happens through activity, action. I know those best with whom I have labored. I get close to people when I work with them, travel with them, worship with them, share a project. In times of action, gifts come forward. There are leaders, organizers, editors, timekeepers, collaborators, braistormers, ministers, people who can make a plan come together. But all these gifts are inspired by action. A goal. Friends have a strong history of action. We have moved mountains. It is the gifts of the Spirit that made that happen. When called Friends answer with that of God.

The powerful thing that can happen when we look at gifts, and get to know others in our community, is that there is a much wider group from which to harvest those gifts. I know it happens all over that the same energetic, enthusiastic, generous people get asked to do work over and over. Mostly because they will say yes, rather than being asked specifically because of their gifts. I believe this is how we see burnout. If we use passion and gifts as the motor, and spirit as the rudder, I wonder how many more people we could include so that the work is light and the blessings are many. I have faith that if the work is strong, and the groups are active, and the word gets out, the right people will be led to the work.

In that vein, I ask you to get to know each other. Talk to other people. What would happen if you went through your meeting directory and listed the gifts of each person in it? Could you do it? If you could not, maybe you would go out of your way to fill in the holes and get to know the people you left blank. Please do not be shy about spreading the word about your work. We are all working together. I would like to see this Yearly Meeting work from a point of power, focusing on gifts, not age, to continue the work of the Spirit. I leave you with a query.

How are we faithful to the leadings and gifts from God, nurturing those in ourselves and others, regardless of age, encouraging and supporting each other at each stage of life? 

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Mother with children by tree
Illustration by Lucy Sikes

What Our Young Friends Know

Kate Lawson, New Brunswick Meeting

In the last 30 years I have had many opportunities to speak and visit with young Friends of our Yearly Meeting. I’ve had conversations at my monthly meeting, during YM Fall, Spring, and Summer Sessions. I am always impressed with the spiritual wisdom, integrity, and caring for community that these young Friends demonstrate. During this year’s NYYM Summer Sessions I took the opportunity to query the Young Friends attending Junior Yearly Meeting in 5th through 12th grades. Once again their responses have exceeded my very high expectations.

Here is the query and the responses the young Friends offered. We used a modified Claremont dialogue, allowing each person an opportunity to speak or not as the Spirit led. Most of the young Friends contributed. This list of responses is quite long because I have not edited or removed any answers. I feel that each response came from a sense of worship and all have equal weight. Some were laced with humor.

The query: What does it mean to be a Quaker?

  • Seeing the light in everyone.
  • Being able to accept the silence and peace. (“Make like a Quaker and shut up.”)
  • Being open to new and varying ideas.
  • Involves understanding of importance of community both small and large.
  • As a youth being a Quaker is less the practices and more the ideas behind it and being youths with it. More inclusive and different than other groups I have been with.
  • Accepting everyone for who they are. If you have troubles with someone you learn to grow with it instead of “giving up” and saying, “I don’t want to be with that person.”
  • Where your individual voice is important.
  • Living your life through love before anything else.
  • Experimental religion doesn’t matter if you practice it playing with friends or going on a hike or whatever.
  • Pretty sure it involves being barefoot.
  • Quakers are people who act.
  • People think you ride a horse and buggy.
  • Oatmeal.
  • Friends to all.
  • Living Simply.
  • Hugs.
  • Trusting and depending on one another.
  • Looking at stuff through different perspectives.
  • Apple juice.
  • [While passing the bottle of apple juice around] Sharing saliva.
  • Community.
  • Acceptance.
  • Love.
  • Quakers don’t need cups—they kinda do.
  • Complete equality.
  • Goldfish crackers.
  • Respect for life.
  • Antiwar.
  • Thought.
  • Independence.
  • Open minded.
  • Playing fair.
  • Laughter.
  • To not go off to war and respecting other countries and stuff.
  • You believe everyone has a little bit of God inside them.
  • Being in an awesome, peaceful, community where you try to look for God in everyone.
  • You want to have Peace on Earth and you work for it little by little.
  • Being able to find God wherever.
  • You believe in God and you believe war is wrong. You support peace.
  • You don’t have to be a Christian, you can be a Buddhist or something else.
  • A person who doesn’t want war.
  • People who do not believe in war and try to stop war.
  • Trying to help the world in every way possible like planting a tree in your backyard.
  • A person who doesn’t believe in violence.

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Gifts Are Everywhere, Especially in NYYM

Andy Heimer, Ridgewood Meeting

In December 2010 I was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It has progressed to the point where I need a wheelchair most of the time. Spending seven days at Silver Bay for Summer Sessions felt more important than ever. I still yearned to participate in Junior Yearly Meeting (JYM) as I had done for the past three summers. So I became a JYM resource, which meant that I would be available to any of the groups that wanted to add me to their schedules. What I had to offer was an open and frank report on what was happening to me.

Early on I decided that my week away would be relaxing, fun, and spontaneous. I had no agenda other than meeting with three of the six JYM groups. I was going to “go with the flow.” After some first-day jitters, I consciously chose to trust that “way would open” moment to moment. Examples abound that show what a good choice this was. I did not know ahead of time who would be pushing my wheelchair or helping me do the things that I’m no longer able to do myself. At every meal while I was at Silver Bay, someone materialized and happily offered to feed me. I made new friends this way. I found that many of the young Friends were able to perform this task intuitively and even more empathically than some of the adults. I made humorous observations such as noting that most people are very tentative when pouring a glass of liquid in someone’s mouth. Had I not spoken up, I might have gone thirsty during the week (actually, straws, proved to be the way to go). Early one morning, a neighbor from a nearby room at the Inn happened upon me in the hallway where I was attempting to attach the footrests to the wheelchair. She was, admittedly, “not a very mechanical person”; yet with my verbal instructions and her perspicacity, we got the job done. Whenever I got a ride in one of the carts there was someone glad to lift the wheelchair onto the back. At the beach, at least six people would show up to help me in and out of the water.

On Tuesday someone invited me to go to the men’s worship-sharing group. Having never been part of one before, I was eager to go. My participation proved to be one of the more profound experiences of the week. The winds kept blowing to keep my sails filled. I met the yoga teacher at breakfast the first day and went to his meditation class that week. I met a Friend there who ended up becoming a new friend. I was enriched by entrusting things to any breeze that came along.

One day I had a question for our clerk. She brought it to the Liaison Committee that met daily before sessions, who, in turn, suggested the names of some Friends to sit with me and help me to discern my leading. They ended up “floating” with me when we had a chance clearness committee in the lake. This essay is the result of that meeting.

My physical losses seemed to draw forth others’ strengths and gifts. By putting myself in the hands of a community of almost 600 Quakers I received the greatest amount of support and nurturing imaginable. That of God was manifest in each of the encounters that I was blessed with during my week at Silver Bay.

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Young woman on tractor
Photo by Elizabeth Pozo

What Is the Young Friends in Residence Program?

Anna Obermayer, Binghamton Meeting

Whenever I’m asked what the Young Friends in Residence program (YFIR) does I usually rattle off a long list of projects we’ve worked on, classes and workshops I’ve taught, youth retreats we’ve facilitated, and events we’ve attended. It sounds impressive, and rightfully so, since all those things are impressive accomplishments that have allowed us and other Friends to grow and connect more deeply. Those things, however, aren’t really what the Young Friends in Residence program “does” or for that matter “is.”

When the program first started in the fall of 2009, everyone involved came to the project with their own ideas and expectations for what YFIR was all about. The New York Yearly Meeting YFIR Committee had held a vision of what the program was going to be for years. The Friends at Perry City Monthly Meeting, YFIR’s host Meeting, had their own expectations for what the YFIR interns were going to do. Of course all three of us, the first group of interns, had our own ideas and hopes for what we wanted the program to look like. I’m sure God had a plan too, and of course, this being life, only God’s plan ended up happening.

I can’t remember what I originally thought we, as a program, were going to all be about. The only thing I remember is that it wasn’t what we ended up with. Because the YFIR program, it turns out, is about living deeply into community.

Through my time with the YFIR program I have experienced community at a very deep and amazing level. Not just the kind of community where Friends come together to play games and have a good time, although that is certainly part of it, but community where Friends take the risk to share with each other about those things that can be hard to share. It allows for the kind of community where Friends talk about what they truly believe in, their personal spiritual journey, what makes them come alive, and what makes them afraid. YFIR creates space for young adult Friends to sit around a kitchen table, share a meal, and talk about language and how to use language to talk about God and how to bridge theological and linguistic barriers. Since becoming a YFIR intern I have been privileged to be part of the process of community building that allows young Friends to share deeply about serious issues that concern them. It also creates a space where older Friends can discuss, sometimes heatedly, the fundamental theological underpinnings of our faith. The kinds of community I have experienced are ones where people take the chance of being genuine and a little fragile with each other. Through this program I have been allowed to be a part of how Quakerism helps us live into a place where we can put aside our differences to talk with love, compassion, and passion about the things that are the most important to us.

These conversations don’t happen just once or twice but over and over again, every day, until we know each other on a very deep level. These intense experiences of community may not happen all the time. We YFIR interns, youth and older Friends that make up these moments of true connection, are after all only human—so we’re not perfect at the living in community thing yet, but that connection is there and it is real. The kind of communities I have been part of through YFIR aren’t just about sitting in meeting for worship, or those feel-good moments during workshops or potlucks, but a real, living, breathing, beautiful, compelling, and sometimes frustrating experience that I think of as living together in Spirit.

In truth, I think, that is what the Young Friends in Residence program really “does”: those moments of intense wonderful community is what the program is really “all about.” It creates these spaces, and the chances for us to learn how to live with each other in a truly deep and connected way. It’s a chance that in my experience we don’t get very often in our society, and yet these kinds of connections are what we desperately need—what the world desperately needs.

It is my hope that in five, or ten, or twenty years when we look back at the start of the YFIR program and ask “Were the people involved faithful to what Spirit was calling them to do?” we don’t look at how many youth retreats were offered, or how many kids came, or how many meetings participated in the workshops or classes, but look instead at these communities and moments of true connection.

All of us as Friends should be striving to grow these communities, in our homes, in our monthly meetings, in our yearly meetings. Community building at this deep level isn’t just the work of YFIR but of all of us. YFIR, though, is a tool with which to do this, and one I’ve seen work. It is also a tool that allows young and young adult Friends not only to participate as full members of these vital communities but also to take the lead in building them. YFIR is about Friends of all ages partnering together to work, play, and have hard conversations that make us stronger and closer rather than pulling us apart. I have grown so much and learned so much being a part of that.

What is the Young Friends in Residence Program all about? It’s all about living in the Spirit and building something new.

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My Experience with the YFIR Program

Abe Kenmore, Buffalo Meeting

I  have grown up a Quaker—sixteen years ago, when my family left the hospital after I was born, they took me to meeting for worship before bringing me home. Since then, I have served on my meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee, visited meetings across and outside the state, and attended Regional meeting almost every year. But I had almost no experience with the Yearly Meeting, until the Young Friends in Residence (YFIR) program.

My experience working on the Young Friends in Residence Committee has been short but very rich. I have been blessed enough to be on both ends of the program—as an attender at the youth retreats and as a member of the Yearling Meeting committee. Because of this, I have been able to bring my retreat experience to the committee, and bring committee projects to the retreats. But more importantly, the committee has both allowed and pushed me to become more involved in the NYYM as a whole.

As I mentioned, before YFIR I was never involved in the Yearly Meeting. I attended Spring Sessions only when my region hosted them and had never been to Silver Bay. However, I attended Spring Sessions in 2010, and I got to sit in on a YFIR Committee meeting. That summer I attended a retreat, and then was asked to join the committee in the fall. In January I worked out the five-hour ride to Powell House for coordinating committee meetings, and this spring my entire family made the six-hour ride to Sessions at Oakwood. Now I’ve started bugging my Mom to go as a family to Silver Bay.

 I started coming to these session because of the YFIR Committee, but just as importantly, outside of the committee meetings I was finally able to see the larger body of NYYM at work. Indeed, during general business meeting for the Yearly Meeting I witnessed a process that, while not easy, was deeply centered in and around the Spirit in a way I had rarely seen elsewhere.

Being able to work on the NYYM level gave me a broader sense of the Society of Friends outside of my monthly and regional meeting, and it gave me new insight into my own private faith and practice. I believe this experience contributed directly to my fully identifying as Quaker.

I am thankful to all those in the Yearly Meeting who both acknowledged me as a young Friend and treated me as an equal. I would encourage all Quaker youth who feel called in that direction to become involved in the Yearly Meeting—it is a place where the Spirit can be clearly seen at work, perhaps even more than in silent worship, and that experience can be brought home to your regional and monthly meeting and to your own personal worship. I believe that because of being able to work with the YFIR committee, and through that the Yearly Meeting, I have been able to contribute gifts and experiences that were uniquely mine, and I have received ten times more than I ever gave.

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Interested in NYYM Youth Programs?

child planting
Drawing by Lucy Sikes

Dear parents and caregivers,

The NYYM Youth Committee is compiling names of parents and caregivers of youth interested in NYYM youth programs being offered throughout the year. We would like to e-mail you information on events and activities being offered to young people ages 0 to 18, throughout NYYM.

Please send your name, how many children you care for, and their ages to mlariviere [at] We will send information to you as events arise.

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Cornwall’s First Day School

Elizabeth Pozo, Cornwall Meeting

Cornwall Monthly Meeting’s First Day school for the older children of the meeting consists of a very small group of junior high/high school young people with an occasional older sibling who visits. During the last year, we focused on Quaker values. The group joins with the meeting for about 20 minutes of worship on Sundays; then we separate for our own time together. I am all too aware that in our experience, and in the experience of other meetings, teenagers attend meetings sporadically, perhaps not returning on a regular basis until they marry and have children of their own. This makes the time I spend with them bittersweet.

Cornwall meetinghouse
Cornwall Meetinghouse
Photo by Elizabeth Pozo

During several sessions, we discussed the way business meeting was conducted and the structure of the meeting, such as the Meeting for Ministry and Counsel, NYYM, and prison ministry. Although I wasn’t able to convince the group to attend meeting for business, they had some very strong opinions about issues that the meeting was considering, such as the new sign at the front of the meetinghouse and our hoped-for extension, and I brought these concerns to our adult discussions.

We spent some time talking about early advices and queries and the way earlier Quakers conducted their daily lives. Cornwall’s meetinghouse was built in 1790, so it was easy to look at the classic structure of the building (two entrances, two worship rooms) and understand the position of women in the meeting. We also compared earlier advices to NYYM’s current advices and queries, seeing how the second might have evolved from the first. The group talked about how being Quakers affects decisions made in school and among friends. I discovered that at this point in their lives, the solidity of the meetinghouse itself and the Quaker cemetery have more importance for them than the life of the Spirit, which is far less tangible. In the same way, weekends at Powell House are more significant to them than meeting for worship at Cornwall.

Some of our more interesting discussions focused on Quaker traditions. During a discussion about holding a person in need

in the Light, I realized that the young people did not necessarily feel that this had much power. They saw it as similar to saying “God bless you” as a response to a sneeze. Perhaps they hear this phrase too frequently without seeing much follow-through from adults. This certainly led me to question whether it has, indeed, become something that is too easy to say and more challenging to live.

One of our more noteworthy conversations, from my point of view, was on Palm Sunday. Discussing Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, knowing that he would be crucified yet doing this willingly, we were led to talk about why we all do things we don’t want to do. For young people, requirements such as chores and course work are imposed by parents and school. I asked them to think of things they didn’t like doing and imagine that they could choose not to do these things. Dealing with each requirement individually, they decided that most of the things that they saw as requirements would be things that they would do voluntarily considering the ultimate value of each task.

At this point, I struggle to encourage other adults in the meeting to spend time with these young people. This would serve two purposes: first, each Friend has an individual journey to share whose significance makes physical the life of the Spirit; second, even those Friends who are convinced that they have no ability to teach would see that the lessons learned by the teacher are as significant as those learned by the student.

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Earthcare: November Spark Theme

Summer Sessions’ theme was “Peace with Earth, Transforming Our Communities.” November Spark will continue this theme, with an issue devoted to Earthcare. Friends are invited to submit articles to the issue’s coordinator, Pat Chertoff, patriciachernoff [at], and to the editor, Paul Busby, paul [at], before October 10.

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Earthcare Talk Sets Tone for Yearly Meeting

Fred Doneit, Poughkeepsie Meeting

The theme chosen for our Yearly Meeting this year, “Peace With Earth: Transforming Our Communities,” was integrated into all aspects of the week’s program, including worship sharing, Meeting for Discernment, interest groups, Bible study, Junior Yearly Meeting activities, and a panel of young leaders who spoke of their concerns and involvements to bring change to a troubled world, held during the Witness Section’s report to the meeting for business. Two special programs were offered: an Awakening the Dreamer symposium, to empower participants for environmental and social-justice advocacy, and a Council of All Beings, an intergenerational campfire ritual.

The plenary speech, given by Anne Mitchell, general secretary of Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW), inspired Friends to expand their understanding of the Peace Testimony to include all Creation and to discern from this understanding their contribution to the growing worldwide movement to protect and restore ecological integrity to the Earth. She reminded us that such movements emerge slowly, but history has shown repeatedly that human goodness and justice will prevail. We may not achieve the goals we set in our lifetime, but we must persevere to sustain the mass movement toward those goals. Our individual calling is not to be successful, but to be faithful.

Anne used her own spiritual journey to give examples of the movements that she became part of: leading a nongovernmental organization to influence policies of the Canadian government, working to end the apartheid policies in South Africa, and now, leading QEW to give Quakers a clear voice in the interfaith movement to see the environmental crisis as a spiritual concern. Her experience with the anti-apartheid movement taught her that ordinary people, joining with faith groups and secular advocacy organizations, can work together to resist and overcome the power of corporations and the governmental bureaucracies and policies that are barriers to change.

She emphasized that we should begin by asking ourselves, “How are we to be true to the Peace Testimony in the 21st century?” “What are the seeds of war that we sow, in the way we live our daily lives?” She reminded us, “We must stand firm in our testimonies and remember that those who would oppose us are also children of God.”

Anne explained the ways that Quakers can become involved, ranging from prayer, to education, to advocacy, to nonviolent direct activism, as well as financial support of organizations that represent our values. All ways of involvement must be grounded in worship and discernment of our calling. She encouraged NYYM Friends to support QEW actively and financially, including subscribing to their bimonthly publication Befriending Creation; becoming informed on eco-justice issues; and bringing their concerns and leadings to their monthly meetings, for discernment and action.

Anne concluded her talk by reiterating that the Earthcare movement is a natural extension of the Peace Testimony; that we all need to become involved in this spiritual concern; and that “we are like the worms—we work underground making the soil fertile; it takes a long time—but there is no doubt that it is a good, and necessary, thing to do.” The entire text of Anne’s talk can be found on the NYYM Web site. 

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Around Our Yearly Meeting


“Pay It Forward” was the theme for Auburn Prison Preparative Meeting’s 37th annual Quaker Event held on September 3, 2011. Over a dozen outside Friends attended. The meetings and worship groups represented were Alfred, Attica, Cayuga, Central Finger Lakes, Morningside, Poplar Ridge, Syracuse, Rochester, and Woodbourne. The food was delicious and an inspiring day of fellowship was had by all.

Cornwall meetinghouse was open all day on Sept. 11, for silent, private prayer and remembrance. Cornwall offered community members a place of peace and solace. Details on their Web site at

The annual Easton Day program was on Sunday, Sept. 11, at Easton Meeting’s south meetinghouse. The theme this year was “Maintaining a Peaceful Heart: A Visit with Cuban Quakers.” More information

Free concerts of the musical oratorio The Song of Job 9:11 commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at Fifteenth Street Meeting on Sept. 9 and Sept. 10. This work combines documentary text of the events of 9/11/2001 and excerpts from the Old Testament book of Job with a classical score. The Song of Job 9:11 was written in the immediate aftermath of 9/11/2001 by composer Danny Ashkenasi. For more information visit

Fifteenth Street Meeting observed the Sept. 11 anniversary. The day’s theme was Our Peace Testimony, and Building a Community Based on Compassion, Nonviolence, and Tolerance. After a potluck, there were conversation groups, a short film, children’s activities, and a spirit-led mandala. The meetinghouse was available for meditation, and there was a silent vigil in the courtyard. Fifteenth Street joined Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship for a service of songs & scripture. More information at

Flushing Meeting held a time for quiet contemplation on Sept. 11, 2011, that was open to the public.

Green Haven Prison Preparative Meeting holds a monthly discussion on the book Fit for Freedom, not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice by Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye. The group reports that they now have a greater appreciation of the sacrifices Quakers made to educate African Americans, as a result facing persecution and even death.

Old Chatham Meeting screened Budrus Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, at Powell House. The film is about a Palestinian community organizer who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village of Budrus from destruction by Israel’s separation barrier. Success eludes them until his 15-year-old daughter launches a women’s contingent that quickly moves to the forefront. Refreshments and a discussion followed the movie.

Poughkeepsie Meeting will show the academy Award–nominated documentary Food Inc. on Saturday, October 1, at 7:00 p.m. The film is about our country’s food industry and its regulators and the too-frequent lack of concern for human health, farmers, animals, and the environment. More info about the film at

Saratoga Meeting participated in Peace Week held at various venues throughout Saratoga Springs. On Saturday, Sept. 8, a panel of Quakers, peace activists, and Veterans for Peace talked on a panel after the showing of Friendly Persuasion in the Dee Sarno Theater. Saratoga Friends will also have a table at the Peace Fair to be held on Sunday, Sept. 25. Contact

Wilton Meeting’s Quaker Bible study will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. Their prerequisite reading: Engaging Scripture: Reading the Bible with Early Friends, by Michael Birkel. Friends are also encouraged to read The Journal of George Fox and The Journal of John Woolman. For suggested NT Scripture selections contact Wilton Meeting at

Albany Meeting is busy preparing to launch Quaker Quest in 2012. Their planning for Quaker Quest includes an all-day retreat on October 1 at Powell House.

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Yearly Meeting Offices to Move November 1

Jeffrey Aaron, New Brunswick Meeting, clerk, GSCC

An unexpected opportunity arose recently for the Yearly Meeting office to relocate from the basement to the third floor of 15 Rutherford Place, New York City. The vacancy will be created this fall when American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) will reduce the space it uses on the third floor. A preliminary analysis of the costs and benefits of the move were presented to the General Services Coordinating Committee (GSCC) during Summer Sessions 2011, and the Committee determined that such a move may be beneficial from several perspectives, including a possible small long-term financial benefit. The committee authorized its clerk to proceed with negotiations and to make final arrangements if he determined, after further investigation of all pertinent details, that the plan is workable and beneficial to the staff and the Yearly Meeting. The decision was made final shortly after Summer Sessions in negotiations with New York Quarterly Meeting, the building’s owner and landlord, and reported to GSCC and staff.

The space in question is smaller but better laid out and much more suitable and attractive than the current basement facilities. Rent will be lower, but utilities will be higher and the income from our sublessee, Amerinda, will cease. The net annual total rent and utilities expense, including consideration of the loss of the sublease income, is expected to remain approximately the same, or it may possibly amount to a small annual saving of perhaps $1,000. Among the various benefits is the elimination of the burden of being a sublease landlord. There will inevitably be substantial disruption of the offices during October, when remodeling and packing and final relocation preparations will take place. Friends are asked to bear in mind the additional pressures on staff throughout the upcoming months, in particular during October and November. The new lease will be in effect November 1, when the move from the basement should be complete. There will be relatively small remodeling and moving expenses, in contrast to a move to a different facility altogether. It is hoped that much of the preparation and the move itself will be accomplished by volunteers. Friends who would like to volunteer in any way may contact Helen Garay Toppins, office [at]

Our current location comprises a large, inefficient open space plus storage closet and one office plus cubicles. In addition, there is a small open conference space, small kitchen and single person bath, all shared with our sublessee. The new facilities comprise a smaller open space plus three offices plus a larger conference space to be partitioned off, which will be ours alone, plus a much larger kitchen with some storage facilities and two multiperson baths that will be shared with AFSC workers. The proximity of the two Quaker organizations is expected to be beneficial to both. The basement and the third floor are both fully accessible by elevator.

This move is distinct from ongoing consideration of a possible move to a different geographic location within the Yearly Meeting. In ongoing studies of this possibility, it has become clear that there are so many interlocking variables, and so many variant opinions and perspectives, that no clear path forward has yet emerged. This concern will remain open for input as long as we have Friends who wish to pursue it. The clerk of GSCC, Jeffrey Aaron, will accept comments at any time from any Friend who has a question or suggestion to offer concerning the geographic location of the YM offices. To date, no suggestion or proposal has been discerned to be appropriate, financially or in terms of the disruption of the offices and relocation of the present staff, nor has there been a sense by any Yearly Meeting body that any prior proposal has been the right thing for the Yearly Meeting to do.

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Worship about Finances:

Budget Saturday
September 24, 2011
Purchase Meeting

Sandra Beer, Old Chatham Meeting, for the Financial Services Committee

Every year, Friends who serve as treasurers for monthly, quarterly, regional, and half-yearly meetings are convened by the Financial Services Committee at Budget Saturday. This year, Budget Saturday will take place at Purchase Monthly Meeting on September 24. All Friends are welcome to join in the worship. We will meet at 9:00 a.m. for hospitality and settle into worship at 9:30. We expect to adjourn no later than 4:00 p.m.

At Budget Saturday, Friends share ministry on the proposed programs and activities of New York Yearly Meeting, and on the ability and clarity of the monthly meetings to support that work. In worship, our leadings are held in the Light and tested against our sense of the priorities, and our abilities to execute this work.

In anticipation of Budget Saturday, each monthly meeting clerk and treasurer will receive a draft expense budget, with a request that, at their September meetings for worship with a concern for business, each meeting indicate its likely level of covenant donation in support of the proposed work. Each quarter is asked to attend Budget Saturday with an estimate of the expected level of support.

Budget Saturday is an opportunity to share deeply felt ministry, discern the priorities for our work, and to renew our unity of vision as a Yearly Meeting. The Financial Services Committee hopes that many Friends are led to attend and participate in our worship that day.

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This column is prepared from information about membership received from the local meeting recorders.

New Members
Antonia Mary Abram—Fifteenth Street
Thelma Gail Armour—Unadilla
Amelia Becker—Wilton
Maribeth Becker—Wilton
Samantha Bernstein—Wilton
Robert Kendall Brigham—Poughkeepsie
Taylor Church Brigham—Poughkeepsie
Monica Delima Church—Poughkeepsie
Elijah DeCastro—Ithaca
Faith DeCastro—Ithaca
Jeff DeCastro - Ithaca
Margaret Dent—Fredonia
Darleen Farley—Farmington
Michael Halpin—Manhasset
James Jones—Manasquan
Ruth Josimovich—Fifteenth Street
Barbara Kilpatrick—Hudson
Jeffrey Layton—Poplar Ridge
Joanna Claire Maressa—Rochester
Cyndi Marvin—Farmington
Mary Medlar—Unadilla
Margaret Morris—Hudson
Kevin Mowll—Old Chatham
Frank M. Oakes - Manasquan
Rachel Helen O’Keefe—Manasquan
Cindy Palmer—Unadilla
Cazimer George Schillenback—Poplar Ridge
Barbara Sinacore—Albany
Kayla Scott-Tolbert—Westbury
Thomas Scott Shedaker—Manasquan
Benjamin Smith—Fifteenth Street
Sandra Steingraber—Ithaca
Anneliese Truame—Ithaca
Kai Truame—Ithaca
Lynne Truame—Ithaca

Jane Bentley, to Wilton from Stamford-Greenwich
Melissa Blake, to Ithaca from Concord (PYM)
Wende Harper, to Wilton from Stamford-Greenwich
Nancy Hillegas, to Ithaca from Wilmington (PYM)
Caroline Lane, to Flushing from Britain Yearly Meeting
Victor Lane, to Flushing from Britain Yearly Meeting
Arlene Reduto, to Saratoga from Easton
Rebekah Rice, to Saratoga from Roanoke (VYM)
Charles Sirey, to Fifteenth Street from Chappaqua
Caroline Besse Webster, to Bulls Head-Oswego from Hartford (NEYM)

Mateo Antonio Labatut Pronto, on May 16, 2011, to Jennifer Pronto, member of Adirondack, and Rodrigo Labatut.
Adele Ann Squadere, on June 7, 2011, to Nick Squadere, member of Adirondack, and Brittany Abbenante.

Robert F. Albertson, member of Westbury, on August 18, 2011.
Judith Becker, member of Jericho, May 5, 2011.
Charlotte Davenport, member of Westbury, on August 3, 2011.
George Valentine Downing, member of Chatham-Summit, May 30, 2011.
Esther Selke Freiday, member of Manasquan, July 29, 2001.
Evelyn MacLaren, member of Central Finger Lakes, June 28, 2011.
Patricia McMillan, member of Brooklyn, September 2, 2011.
Heili Odlivak, member of Fifteenth Street, July 24th, 2011.
Caroline Pineo, member of Ithaca, April 16, 2011.

Marriages/Covenant Relationships
Margaret Obermayer, member of Binghamton, and Christopher Webb, member of Langley Hill (BYM), on July 9, 2011, under the care of Binghamton Meeting.
Bridget Orozco, member of Flushing, and David Casterline, member of Rahway-Plainfield, on April 23, 2011, under the care of Flushing Meeting.

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