Wednesday, October 10, 2007

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.

1 comment:

Johan said...

I was especially struck by the idea of the prison system as a new form of slavery. Isn't it a conflict of interest to introduce a profit motive into the operation of "correctional institutions"? Some of what I heard during the Multnomah Bible College's "removing the offense from the ex-offender" conference was really eye-opening.