Sunday, July 15, 2007

Britain Yearly Meeting

May 4-7, 2007

London, England

Barry left for the airport a little after 8:00 AM. He made it to the car rental agency where he returned the van and flew home. Audrey and I purchased an Oyster Card for me to use. The card gave me unlimited travel on the buses and London Underground. Once I had my card we went shopping at Fresh Market (Whole Foods) to purchase more gluten free items. By the time we finished it was for me to go to the International Tea at Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM).

The international tea was a nice idea. It gave me the chance to meet new Friends, recognize and acknowledge old ones, including Viv Hawkins and Thomas Swain. During this time they served us tea and refreshments and introduced us to the clerks of the Yearly Meeting (Martin Ward, Richard Ogden and Lis Burch.) Then all of us from different countries had a chance to introduce ourselves. After the introductions we handed in our travel minutes and were invited to remain in the room for the first time attenders to Yearly Meeting session. I decided not to stay because Viv invited me to join her and Marjorie Hall, a British Friend she knew from Pendle Hill for a tour of Friends House. When the tour took us to the bookstore we searched for my pamphlet, Seed Crack Open, which I had been told would be there. It was. A friend of Marjorie’s, Helen Lockwood, joined us at this point. She purchased a copy which I signed for her. We sat outside of the bookstore for a few minutes to talk and then it was time for the evening session.

The first order of business for Yearly Meeting was accepting the appointment of the Clerks. The second minute focused on giving 85 non members of BYM permission to attend the sessions. The rest of the evening was spent on routine business. We adjourned around 9:00 PM to reconvene in the morning.

Friends in Britain are much calmer and quieter than Philadelphia Friends. I was waiting for the passion, which eventually did come out from a few individuals during the sessions. I counted the visible people of Color on one hand. Audrey joined me at Yearly Meeting for the Swarthmore Lecture, Saturday evening. Audrey West introduced me to Joyce Trotman, an African American elder in Britain Yearly Meeting.

I was invited to participate in a session on Sunday afternoon for BYM attenders to meet Quaker authors who were present at Yearly Meeting. The room was small and filled with more authors than general participants. I found this time together an additional bonding experience as a Quaker author. Each author was given a few moments to talk about their latest publication. I talked about the Seed Cracked Open. I had met many of the authors at Quakers United In Publication. It was nice to be together again.

Viv agreed to serve as my elder for my workshop, Abolition of Slavery: Racism as a legacy of slavery, on Sunday evening. My workshop was well attended approximately 60 Friends came. I was glad that there were several young Friends and people of Color present. Audrey joined me again at Yearly Meeting for the workshop. The format we decided to use was that I talked about Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting’s process for supporting my ministry then Audrey shared her experience within BYM. When she finished I facilitated a quick exercise and then we opened the floor for questions. Our time (one hour) was too short. Many Friends had their hands up to ask questions or make comments who I couldn’t call on because our time was over.

Monday morning Audrey and I went to Friends House together to attend the final sessions of Yearly Meeting. We both were anxious to see what was going to happen in the final "Diversity and Inclusion" session. I am sad to share that we were both disappointed with the report. If you would like to know more about my reaction you can read my article that was published in the May 18th issue of the Friend.

Judy Kirby, editor of the Friend asked me to write an article for them about my reaction to the “Diversity and Inclusion” sessions. I agreed to write one before I realized how soon it was due. The challenge for me was that the Friend is a weekly magazine, so I needed to write the article during or right after sessions. I am not used to having such a short time line.

I enjoyed my time in London at BYM. Friends were very nice to me. I am thankful for the time several Friends took to explain Britain Yearly Meeting procedures, logistics of Friends House and took care of me in other ways. Friends House is a large building with several floors, it was not always easy to find specific offices and rooms. Many local Friends brought their meals with them and ate them in the courtyard. There was one custom which I greatly admired and would like for my Yearly Meeting, Philadelphia, to consider adopting. Britain Yearly Meeting has a wonderful practice of providing meals at Friends House during sessions free to international visitors. In addition to providing me with a free meal, the staff at Friends House made sure that I had gluten free alternatives each day. I am very thankful for the opportunity to participate in Britain Yearly Meeting and to explore Friends House.

I was surprised at the number of Friends I knew there. I did not expect to see two Friends from Philadelphia; Viv, member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting and Thomas (Clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting) who were also present.

I got a chance to meet Michael Booth, a former colleague from Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) who works in the London office. I also took time to visit the FWCC office. In the five and a half years that I worked for FWCC, Section of the Americas, I never had an opportunity to go to London and visit the World Office or the staff. I purchased the last 22nd FWCC Triennial mug, created to raise funds to pay for the costs for the African Friends attendance. I have always like the slogan, "Cooperation is better than Conflict" and the design used to illustrate it. I was able to transport it home safely.

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