In the short window of opportunity I have before I fly to Ohio for the Friends United Meeting Triennial (July 27-30), I post this unofficial report from NYYM Summer Sessions (July 18-23), just to keep others informed. In the interest of brevity, much that I found important must be left out of this – the meetings of old friends, the profundity of the Bible study sessions presented by Callid and Kristina Keefe-Perry, the sweet calm of the tender atmosphere in the Healing Pavilion, the intimate sharing in my worship-sharing group, the fun and learning had by the Friends in Junior Yearly Meeting; and above all, the sense I had of divine covering over our week together. A powerful witness was made by my friend, a veteran Junior Meeting counselor, who came back to the children this year in a wheelchair and spoke to them about his process of being progressively paralyzed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He seemed to be glowing with love and joy every time I saw him. How does he manage to do that? I thought. How do You manage to make him glow like that, Lord?
What follow are the highlights of our business conducted, as I saw them:
1. The Meetings for Discernment are to continue for three more years, still being considered an experiment. (In my view they’re providing us with an extremely valuable means of “knowing one another in that which is eternal,” to use Fox’s phrase. Last Tuesday’s M.f.D. broke from a tradition we’d established in that it asked Friends to speak from their own individual experience rather than speaking for their home meeting. The query we considered was: “How has your faith helped you to keep your spiritual grounding, hope and optimism while living your witness in the world?“)
2. A new draft Earthcare Advice and Query have been brought forward for a first reading, and we are asked to season them and offer concerns and suggestions:
Advice # __: Friends are advised to acknowledge and celebrate our interconnectedness with the natural world and to share with our children and others our love for God’s creation. We are encouraged to live lives that nurture both ourselves and Earth. We are urged to pay attention to such concerns as population growth, climate change, sustainable energy policies and right sharing of natural resources.
Query #__: Are we engaged in nurturing and deepening our relationship with all creation? Do we make time to open to the Spirit through contact with nature? Do we strive to live in harmony with the earth? How can we transform our lives in witness to our relationship with the Earth, and join with others in active stewardship, realizing that we share one planet, now and in the future?
3. The full text of a Minute on the Tenth Anniversary of the Attacks of September 11, 2001 follows; we directed our Clerk and General Secretary to make them widely known:
Ten years ago members of al-Qaeda used four passenger aircraft as weapons to kill nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. The United States Government’s response was to answer violence with violence. In the ensuing wars, hundreds of thousands more people have been killed. New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) urges everyone to recognize this anniversary as an occasion to remember that there are always alternatives to violence and that there is a Spirit in every human being which responds with gratitude to these alternatives.
The Religious Society of Friends has always upheld the way exemplified by Jesus, who taught us never to return evil for evil, but to love our enemies and pray for them, forgiving them every offense. We confess that we, being human, do not always fulfill this high standard. Nevertheless, we continually strive to discern the guidance of the living God who loves unconditionally, and extends unlimited compassion, comfort, mercy, guidance, grace and revelation to all who ask.
We testify to the world that we disown all wars and fighting with outward weapons for any cause whatsoever. These are never necessary. There are no “just wars.” Among the weapons we renounce are the tongue and pen, when these are used to provoke prejudice and hatred. Neither will we be silenced by fear when we are called to witness against evil masquerading as good. We seek to build a world in which a just peace is possible. We seek the strength to support and keep faith with those who suffer for nonviolent acts of conscience. We live by the gospel of God’s love for all. Join us.
4. Budget Saturday’s coming up on Saturday, 9/24, and as I told the relevant people in my home meeting, the Financial Services Committee will want to know what we think our covenant donation for 2012 will be by then.
5. Ministry Coordinating Committee is sending out to the monthly meetings a draft apology to all persons of African descent for Friends’ past involvement with slavery, segregation and discrimination. We will be asked to labor over it and report back to Summer Sessions 2012.
6. The Indian Affairs Committee asks monthly meetings to invite its representatives to come visit with your meeting over the coming year: in NYYM’s Minute 2010.07.37, from last year’s summer sessions, Witness Coordinating Committee presented for a first reading a proposed minute that calls on the U.S. Senate to ratify the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and repudiates the Doctrine of Discovery. At that time, NYYM directed the Indian Affairs Committee “to share the minute with the monthly meetings and worship groups, together with explanatory and educational materials, and to travel among the meetings to explore with Friends the opportunities and challenges offered by the minute.” The Indian Affairs Committee continues to seek opportunities to travel among the meetings under this charge.
7. The full text of the Epistle from New York Yearly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends / July 18-23, 2011 – Silver Bay, NY follows:
To Friends Everywhere:
Our session opened with the Clerk telling the story of Peter being called from the boat during a storm. This week on the shores of Silver Bay, Lake George, New York, we did feel a sense of being called. A sudden death among us reminded Friends of how fragile and precious is life and how dear our community.
Despite our blessed squabbles and luxuries, we have tried to step out in faith. We became more determined to free the captives and awaken the dreamers (ourselves included) whose careless sleep, left unbroken, will destroy life on the land and in the oceans of this planet. In extended worship, we told our experience clearly and simply. Among those holding the body, there was a sense of elation and of heaven entering.
We are one body, many parts, each indispensible, each with unique gifts. For example, one Friend has the gift of holding another’s sorrow and joining it with hope; another by the same power is granted the gift of speaking hard truths with love; and yet another has the gift of seemingly irrational optimism.
Quaker testimonies also form one body; Earthcare inseparable from peace, integrity, community, simplicity, equality. A rising generation of Friends embodies these testimonies with their vision, and their witness and service in the world.
Where are we in the story? Are we Peter walking in faith? Peter sinking in doubt? Or among the disciples who remain in the boat? In Earthcare and in our other forms of witness, the question continues to rise: What will we each do? What will the Yearly Meeting do?
Other Friends that were up at Silver Bay are invited to add to this bare-bones skeleton of a report.