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.