Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pacific Yearly Meeting

July 30 – August 4, 2007
Redlands, CA

I arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport a little later than I planned. When I tried to check-in on-line I was instructed that I couldn't and needed to report to a ticket agent at the airport. So, my nervousness increased when we arrived to find the airport was packed. The weather had caused several delays and cancellations the night before and was still affecting travel. I got into line. The ticket agent line was moving very slowly so I was not sure if I would make my flight. Especially since I still had security to get through. I saw the security line when we drove up to the drop off area, it was across the bridge all the way back to the hotel. As I stood in line observing the chaos inside the airport Barry walked up. Originally he was just dropping me off, but when he saw the lines he decided to park the car and come in.

I was very happy to see him. His presence helped reduce my anxiety. Everyone in the airport was tense. Frustrated passengers were trying to rebook and the ticket agents were just as frustrated. A woman behind me asked if I would let her in front of me because her plane was scheduled to leave in 15 minutes, since her flight was before mine I did. When she got to the counter she was told that she needed to call USAirways 800 number. The ticket agent next to her was just telling another passenger that she wouldn't get ticketed for the flight same flight because of her mother's inappropriate behavior. The teenager began to cry and the mother increased her nasty behavior. Now it was my turn. My flight was scheduled to board in five minutes. What was my experience going to be like?

Barry and I stepped up to the counter. The mother and daughter were still with the ticket agent beside me. I smiled, knowing that the agent was as stressed as I was right now. I explained that I was instructed to come to the counter when I tried to check-in on the internet. She asked for the credit card used to purchase the ticket. The agent then gave me some news that was both good and bad, my flight was delayed by 2 hours. Now I had more time to get through security and to my gate, but it also meant that I would now make us late for Jean's meeting 1:00 PM at Yearly Meeting session.

I arrived at LAX and was picked up by Jean and Cliff Lester, members of Orange Grove Meeting who drove me to yearly meeting. I was surprised to hear about the many tasks that had for me when I arrived. I was asked to work with Junior Yearly Meeting, middle school Friends, give an interest group and a presentation during business session. I had to do some quick thinking on my feet. I am glad that I brought my computer with me. I was able to put together a presentation for the interest group and print it out in the computer lab.

I spent an evening with Young Friends in Junior Yearly Meeting. The room was full around 60 Friends were present. I was sad to see that there was only one visible Friend of Color in the room. We had good conversations about race, Quakerism, and racism. I was surprised when they could not tell me who John Woolman was. One of the Friendly adult presences had to answer my question. I also felt sad to hear from these Young Friends that they did not feel comfortable talking about Quakerism to their friends. I did enjoy our conversation about race and racism. It was nice to see that almost all of the Young Friends raised their hands when I asked who had close friends of Color. I wondered what I could do to help them be more comfortable with sharing Quakerism with their friends. Our time ended quickly. They asked if I would be willing to return Thursday or Friday. I agreed to return, but they were not able to find a way to schedule another visit.

My interest group was well attended. I was surprised because two Friends from Claremont Meeting came to sessions just to hear my talk. I was surprised during my presentation to be confronted by a Friend who disputed a part of my presentation. She insisted that a quote I used from John Woolman could not have been made by him because he was dead during that time period. I informed her that I trusted my source and believed she was wrong. The next day at lunch a Friend came up to me and handed me a piece of paper. When I looked at the paper it showed John Woolman's dates of birth and death. The woman was wrong, he was clearly alive during that period.

There were two racial incidents. One for which I was support for the person of Color to whom it happened. The other one occurred when I told a European American woman that she could not join us when I met with Friends of Color one evening. We were having an affinity group meeting. Unfortunately, it was in a very public place, but there were no rooms other than our dorm rooms where we could gather. When the woman approached us, I told her that we were having a meeting and she could not join us. It was obvious that she was hurt. I am sorry she was hurt. I was hoping to speak with her the next day, but I did not get a chance to speak with her directly about the incident afterwards. I did see her the next day at lunch, but she was grieving the death of a close friend's daughter. It was clearly not the right time to speak with her then. Several other Friends did because she shared her hurt in worship the next morning. I was not there when she gave her message because I was with the middle school Friends.

Two Friends met with me one night during yearly meeting. They talked with me about coming to the Bay area and doing work with the three area meetings, the school and possibly AFSC this winter or spring. I am holding February and March open for an invitation. I expect to get a formal invitation around November or December.

I was not able to meet with my worship sharing group on the last day of sessions because I spent a second day with the middle school Friends. They invited me to return to continue our discussion about racism. I enjoyed my time with them. It made me wonder about having a youth version of our book, Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship written. If I am asked to work with middle school Friends again I will be better prepared to share Quaker history with them.

I have received an informal invitation to return to Pacific Yearly Meeting next year.

The Lester's took me home with them after yearly meeting. We had a nice dinner, I dangled my legs in their pool (I forgot to bring my bathing suit) and enjoyed the warm, quiet evening. I went to bed around 10 because I had to be at the airport at 7:00 AM. The Lester's graciously drove me to the airport Sunday morning. I was sad that I couldn't say until Monday so that I could attend Orange Grove meeting with them, but I needed to fly to Dublin on Thursday so I wanted to return home. Thankfully my flight home was smooth and uneventful.

New York Yearly Meeting

“Stewardship: Our Earth, Our Mind, and Our Soul.”

Silver Bay, NY
July 22-28, 2007

This was my third summer at New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM). As I was getting ready to drive up to Silver Bay with my co-worker, Emily Stewart, I found myself looking forward to seeing specific people and curious about who was going to be in my worship sharing group this year. I was also hoping that the weather was as warm this year as it was last year. It had been in the 90's during the day most of the week. I was happy while the majority of the Friends there were miserable. The YMCA is located in the Adirondack mountains, so they do not have air conditioning in the buildings. I didn't have to wear my fleece that week!!

This was Emily's first visit to NYYM, so as I drove I shared some of my experiences with her. We arrived at the YMCA Camp around 5:15 PM. Several Friends greeted us as we walked to the porch to get in the registration line. Once we had our keys we went to the front desk to get a map to locate Emily's cabin. After dropping our suitcases in our rooms we parked the car and walked to dinner. I ran into Helen who asked me about the worship groups leaders meeting. Apparently there was a meeting for the worship group leaders that began at 5:00 PM. Needless to say I was clearly very late, but I just found out about it, so I told Emily I would catch up with her later.

When I arrived at the location for the meeting it had obviously ended. There was only one person, the facilitator, left. We talked for a few moments, then I went on to dinner. There I was greeted by Noel and Daisy Palmer, Margaret Mulindi, Beverly Archibald, and Rosetta Graham from Baltimore Yearly Meeting. It was a treat seeing Rosetta, she had not come to the last few Fellowship Gatherings, and I had missed seeing her.

After dinner we were welcomed by the director of the YMCA, and NYYM Clerk, Ernie Buscemi. We ended the session with worship.

The worship sharing groups meet at 9:00 AM each morning beginning the first (Monday) morning of yearly meeting, meeting on the last (Saturday) morning is optional. There were approximately, 30 Friends signed up for the Racial Healing worship sharing group, so we divided the group into three sections. I lead section#2 which met inside Brookside, which conveniently was my dorm. Since I am not an early morning person it was something I greatly appreciated. There were 8 people in my worship sharing group. One of the participants was only at yearly meeting for the beginning part of the week. We had a good group of Friends. We spent the week addressing Advices and Queries that focus on Equality from the Faith and Practices from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Britain and North Pacific Yearly Meetings.

Monday afternoon I met with 8 members of the Task Group on Racism to help them with their plans for their workshops at Powell House this year. They are sponsoring three weekend workshops two of which will be at Powell house. The themes for the workshops are:

Where are we? (As individuals and a yearly meeting)

Where are we going?

How do we get there?

They needed help identifying facilitators for these sessions. I needed to hear more from them before I could recommend anyone. Their goals are to build community among people in NYYM working on this issue and to help the yearly meeting move forward on eradicating racism in the yearly meeting. When our time ended we all agreed that we still needed to continue our conversation, so we scheduled a meeting on Friday afternoon.

In business meeting on Tuesday morning, Emily gave a report on the FGC Youth Ministries program. Then there was a Listening Session to help them move forward in their understanding of their position as members of Friends United Meeting. They spent the time addressing the queries:

"How do we as NYYM understand our own differences in theology that undergird our different understandings of gender."

"In FUM, as in much of the Quaker world including our own Yearly Meeting, the Orthodox/Hicksite split has never been truly resolved. What does this lack of resolution mean to us at this time? What work
might it call us to?"

They clearly had a lot to say to one another. Only certain voices were heard in this session. Their clerk assured them that this was not their last chance to talk about this issue. She informed them that there will be other chances and today was only the beginning of their process.

That afternoon I attended one of the several Racial Healing Worships where 12 Friends were present. After the worship I attended the Black Concerns Committee Meeting. Elizabeth Gordon spent the first hour of the meeting reading excerpts from her book, Walk With Us: Triplet Boys, their Teen Parents & Two White Women who Tagged Along.

During the second half of the meeting, the Committee brainstormed ideas for promoting both Walk with us and Fit for Freedom. Black Concerns agreed to sponsor different events for each book in the New York Yearly Meeting area. They also talk about the new form of enslavement, the Prison System.

Wednesday afternoon, I met with six Friends of Color. We discussed colonization in Kenya, the changes in Kenya which have occurred over the past 50 years and learned that African American history hasn't been taught accurately in Kenyan schools. We were just beginning a discussion about Friends United Meeting when it was time to end.

After dinner that evening, I took a walk down to the lake before heading to the evening plenary. This was the first time in my three years at Silver Bay that I had gotten a chance to take a few minutes for a leisurely walk on the grounds. When I got to the auditorium I saw Eden Grace outside. We had 15 minutes before the program was scheduled to begin, so we sat down outside and had a long conversation about Friends United Meeting, their work in Kenya and the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent's decision to go to Ghana instead of Kenya. Eden and I were so engrossed in our conversation that we talked through the program.

Thursday, the Task Group on Racism gave their report on the floor of business meeting. During the afternoon business session a memorial minute was read for Stanford Aston Mighty. He was an African American member of NYYM. I met Stanford and his wife, Cora my first year at yearly meeting sessions. They were a powerful couple. I missed them both last year and this.

Friday afternoon I met a second time with the Task Group on Racism. The group was smaller this time (6 people.) We talked more about the weekends. The group agreed that they saw these workshops as a way to promote racial healing. We agreed that childcare should be provided for all three workshops. Then we talked about the Task Groups expectations for FGC's assistance.

The final business session was at 8:00 PM. There we learned that 709 people registered for sessions, 181 of them were Junior Young Friends and 73 for the circle of Young Friends. 126 were first time attenders. The Circle of Young Friends read their epistle, after which the second reading of the epistle was read and it was approved.

I worked very hard during yearly meeting. A lot of my work was behind the scenes. I attended all of the business sessions to support Ernie Buscemi, my friend and the First African American clerk of NYYM. This was her first year as clerk during annual sessions. New York will hold their sessions next year at Silver Bay again next year, July 20-26, 2008.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Friends General Conference Gathering

2007 Gathering - River Falls, Wisconsin
June 30 - July 7, 2007

The Gathering went well this year. Barry and I flew out to Minneapolis, MN on Friday evening. We were fearful that the plane would be delayed or canceled. We had tickets on Northwest which was experiencing many cancellations due to personnel problems. Several Friends from Philadelphia were on the flight with us to MN. Barry and I had bulk head seats, so we were the first off of the plane. We were fortunate that our flight left and arrived on time. I knew that it would not be possible for us to purchase any food at River Falls at 10:00 PM, so we purchased takeout meals in the airport before heading to baggage claim and the shuttle bus that would take us to River Falls, WI.

We were warmly welcomed by a Friend in baggage claim who explained to us how to get to the shuttle bus. Two Friends from California who had arrived earlier in the evening joined us on the tram to the bus. When we arrived at the bus several Friends, mostly from the West Coast were waiting on the shuttle for us to arrive. The shuttle was scheduled to leave at 9:00 PM, when the time arrived we still did not have everyone on the bus. I knew of at least four Friends who were supposed to be on the bus with us who were yet to arrive. In fact they did arrive five minutes later. We watched the sunset on our drive to River Falls. The Conference Coordinator, Traci and some volunteers were up and waiting for our arrival at the student center. They registered us, we got our room keys from the university staff and the volunteers assisted us with getting to our dorms. Barry and I were glad to get to our room, make our bed and get in it. We both knew that Saturday was going to be a very long day.

Saturday morning, Barry and I borrowed a friend's car. We picked up the boxes for the Center for people of Color and drove them to the building where we unloaded the boxes and I set up the Center. We had our organization meeting Sunday afternoon where we agreed to the following schedule for the week:

Monday 9:15 PM - Planning for Mid-west Gathering
Tuesday 3:15 PM – Read stories
Tuesday 9:15 PM – Gathering for people of Color only
Thursday 3:15 PM – 2nd Read stories
Thursday 9:15 PM – 2nd Gathering for people of Color only

Sunday afternoon I had an opportunity to meet Joy Zarembka, a biracial Friend who has published the book, The Pigment of Your Imagination. It is a Comparative Study of Great Britain, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Jamaica on the family socialization of biracial offspring. Later that evening Joy and David (her father) introduced the plenary speaker, Cecil Nyiramana. She is a Tutsu survivor of the Rwanda genocide. Cecil is the founderof Women in Dialogue, which brings Tutsi survivors of the genocide together with Hutu wives of men in prison accused of participating in the genocide.

Monday afternoon I attended the Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Racial Healing CMR co-sponsored with the Center for people of Color. I am happy to report there were no racial woundings in this worship. Janice and I also participated in Development’s reception for monthly meeting representatives for FGC. Each program was asked to have a person there to give a brief presentation on the program. Barry and I had dinner with Joy Zatembka Monday evening. Our conversation continued into and through the evening program.

Tuesday afternoon we held FGC's Committee for Ministry on Racism’s Listening Session. We were asked to respond to the following two queries in a worship sharing format:

Query on Wounding:What story can I tell today of my experience of racial wounding at this Gathering of Friends General Conference in River Falls, Wisconsin? What have I done that I felt may have hurt others? What wounds have I felt, that others have caused me to feel?

Good News Query: What story can I tell about my life in Quaker meeting or ways I have seen others interact in the meeting community that show healing around the issues of systemic, individual, or group racism? How has my work allowed me fuller life in the spirit?

Tuesday evening I attended Joy Zarembka’s interest group. The room was overflowing. She talked about many of the experiences she had while gathering the data for her book. Joy also gave a powerpoint lecture in which she asked some provocative questions such as:

a) Do mixed raced people have the option of choosing a race?

b) Does each person choose his/her race or

does society choose race?

c) Are people the same & therefore we should not use words like “black” and “white?”

Friends engaged in a lively discussion. One in which some people of Color were offended. However, the offensive statement was identified as being offensive by a person of Color.

After Joy's interest group, Friends of Color met at the center. It was late, 9:30 PM and we were all tired, but also glad to be together. We shared photos of our family with the group. We enjoyed spending time together so much that we agreed to meet again on Thursday evening also at 9:30 PM.

Thursday early afternoon I attended the session co-sponsored by

CMR and A&O co-facilitated by Jane Berger and La Verne Shelton: Tools for Building Inclusive Community. The room was full and Friends clearly appreciated the session. When we arrived at the Center for reading books to children we were surprised to see that there were no children, but there were a few adults. So Jean Marie and Marvin read to us. It was fun! Once again Friends of Color got together at 9:30 PM at the Center. Several of us were among the group that met on Tuesday night, but there were also some Friends who had not been able to join us then. We spent the time exchanging Gathering stories with each other.

Friday, the last full day of the Gathering during the worship for racial healing sponsored a person of Color shared a racial hurt she experienced in her workshop during the Gathering. I made a point of approaching her afterwards and spent time talking with her. Barry joined near the end of our conversation. Later that evening we packed up the center so that the boxes could be packed onto the truck for their ride back to Philadelphia.

The next morning, Barry and I packed up, took the shuttle to the Minneapolis airport and flew back to Philadelphia. As with our ride to Minneapolis, there were several Friends on our flight.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

After Britain Yearly Meeting

May 8-10, 2007 – Tour of Britain
Audrey and I returned to her apartment after leaving yearly meeting sessions early. Originally we were going to spend the afternoon with her family, but the weather was rainy so the picnic was canceled. Instead, we took a bus down to the Thames River and walked around. It was nice to get some exercise and see some of the typical tourist sites in London.

The first place we went after getting off of the bus was to the Somerset House, an 18th century palace-an imposing mansion built in 1547 by Edward Seymour, 'Protector Somerset' to the Tudor King Edward VI which has been turned into a major cultural hub, where we walked across the court yard through the unique water fountain.I am sure many people over the years have enjoyed walking in the water through that courtyard on a hot summer day. However, as you can see from the above picture of Audrey, it was not a warm day, so I walked carefully doing my best not to get wet. However, this walk brought us closer to the Thames. In fact we were on a bridge that was built across the river. I took several photos as we walked across the bridge. As we walked across the bridge we noticed some unique artwork.

As we walked across the bridge we noticed some unique artwork. We noticed a life size sculpture of a man on the bridge and posted on several nearby buildings. We counted around 20 different figures on various buildings. They clearly were recently installed.
After crossing the Waterloo bridge we walked along the Thames. Many people were out doing the same thing. It was not what I would call a warm afternoon, but the weather was clearing and the sun came out. There were teenagers and young adults skateboarding. People were riding the colorful carousel as others watched. A few feet away from the carousel we came upon a woman who was posing as a statue. She was spray painted gold and bronz with metallic paint. I gave her a pound for taking her picture. I thought it was fair because I knew she was an artist trying to make a living by posing all day.

The next item we came upon was the British Airways London Eye. I had seen it a couple times from a distance, this was the first time that I was close enough to ride on it. It looked like a neat ride, but I was not going to stand in a long line and pay $30.00 to ride on this large and flashy ferris wheel.

To the left of the London Eye was the London Aquarium . It was a huge building with lots of room for all types of aquatic marine life. If we had had more time I would have paid the $27.00 fee to see what they keep inside. The building was so large that I needed to wait until we got on the other side of the Thames to take a photograph of the entire building. At the end of the aquarium we needed to walk up a set of stairs which took us up to the street. There I had a chance to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey up close and personal. Both buildings were so
beautiful and large. I was sorry we would not have time to explore them. If I ever get a chance to return to London I will definitely plan to reserve time to explore the aquarium, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. I never got any closer to the palace then the cab ride from Victoria station the first day I arrived.

On the other side of the Thames we came across a memorial to the Battle of Britain (July-October 1940). It was several life size bronze and stone structures. The main piece had a soldier bursting out of it. Someone had placed a silk red flower in the soldiers hand. After spending time reading the inscriptions we continued walking. Next we came upon another monument, this one was for the Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force.

As we continued walking we saw an obelisk and sphinx. These were unusual finds to me, so we stopped and read the inscription. It turns out that the obelisk was presented to Britain in 1819 by Mahommed Ali Viceroy of Egypt.

We completed our walk and ended up back on the bridge we were on earlier to catch another double decker bus back to Audrey's home. We arrived at Audrey's apartment feeling good that we had been able to get some exercise.

When I awoke the next day I planned to spend that morning writing my article for The Friend. I was hoping to visit the Victoria Albert Museum in the afternoon. My friend Liz told me about an exhibit at the Victoria Albert which she had found very powerful and knew I would like to see called "Uncomfortable Truths." The exhibit contained a series of contemporary works in the Museum's galleries and public spaces that raised questions about the haunting and ambiguous legacies of slavery. I was looking forward to seeing it. However, ended up spending all of my first free day writing the article for The Friend instead of touring London. The article was published in the May 18th issue. The important thing is that I was faithful.

On the second day, I took a train to Brighton where I worshiped with Friends during their midweek worship. After worship we ate homemade soup with some of the Friends who remained for lunch. I was not able to eat the bread or dessert available because they were not gluten free. Harvey Gillman gave me a tour of Brighton in the afternoon. Despite the cold and rain we walked around the town. During the tour we walked by Momma Cherri's American Soul Food Restaurant, visited The Royal Pavilion, the Pier and the library. We met Colin (Harvey's partner) for tea in a shop that served gluten free cake and herbal tea. On our way to Harvey and Colin's we stopped at the market to purchase some soy yogurt and gluten free pasta for Harvey to use as a substitute in the dish he was making for dinner. Harvey fixed us a delicious dinner. They have a really nice apartment with a terrace which is covered with flowers and looks out on the town and the ocean. Harvey had a meeting at the meetinghouse at 8:00 PM, so Colin walked me to the train station to catch the train back to London.

On Thursday, the next day, I caught a bus to the tube, to the train station where I bought a ticket for a train to Bristol. I was invited by Marian Liebmannan to see an exhibit marking the bicentennial celebration of the ending of the slave trade at The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum. The museum had an exhibit called "Breaking the Chains - The Fight to End Slavery." The museum was right next to the train station, so I was able to walk there. I found it a very powerful exhibit and highly recommend seeing it. Marilyn and her husband Mike met me at the museum. They were running late so we only had time to eat lunch and have a conversation in a café next door. Before I knew it Marian and Mike were walking me to the train station to catch my train back to London. They were allowed to walk me to my train.

The next day I took the train again, but this time to Gatwick Airport and flew home. In many ways my time in Britain was full and I was really ready to go home. However, I found myself feeling sad on the train ride back to London from Bristol. I had done so much, but there was so much more I wanted to accomplish. I know that if I was meant to do those other things, way will open for them to happen another time. Now it was time for me to return home to my family, friends, colleagues and cats.