Weekly Announcement Sheets resume Monday, September 2, 2019
September Business Meeting, 1:15pm, September 8, 2019
October Newsletter Due, Monday, September 16, 2019
October Minutes & Reports Due, Monday, September 30, 2019
October Business Meeting, 1:15 October 13, 2019
Images by Skip Schiel from New England Yearly Meeting Sessions
August 3 through 8, 2019, at Castleton University, Castleton, VT
Children’s schedule — Weighty discussion on the lawn — May I interrupt your lunch? — Speaking in the gathered meeting — The Disruptive Committee — Colin Saxon, Bible half-hour presenter — Lisa Graustein, plenary speaker — Focused discussion at lunch — At the coffee house.
Quaker Culture is Changing: Bringing NEYM back to FMC
By Lorena Boswell
Friends, let the eternal light search you, and try you, it will rip you up, lay you open. Provoke one another to Love. ~ Margaret Fell 1656
The theme for the 2019 New England Yearly Meeting’s (NEYM) Annual Sessions was “Provoke one another to Love.” More than 20 Friends from Friends Meeting at Cambridge attended. Seventeen of us met to debrief and discuss how to bring the many aspects of our experience back to Friends Meeting at Cambridge (FMC). The fact that so many of us wanted to debrief together I believe is a testament to the power of this year’s Sessions.
We identified several themes of the week we’d like to lift up and bring back to Friends Meeting at Cambridge. This newsletter article is one way we are doing so. I hope the snippets below inspire you all to learn more by talking to those of us who attended and/or reading the NEYM minutes and epistle when they are released.
Difference in the Depth of Worship in Business Meeting between NEYM and FMC
Many of us were affected by an overwhelming sense that the Meeting for Business in Worship at New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) is done in love. Some hard and seemingly irreconcilable new items were brought forward, yet they were attended to with a feeling of attentive and caring focus. Many of us noted the same feeling is not as strong at FMC and wondered how and why the two are different. We are curious to explore how to carry this energy home here to Friends Meeting at Cambridge.
Plenary and Empire
Lisa Graustein’s plenary was titled “Empire and the Great Unconformity: Provoking One Another to Love and Re-member God’s Power Through Us.” If you haven’t already watched the virtual plenaries she posted online before the session, I encourage you to do so. We wish you all could have experienced the plenary in person and the recording are posted at NEYM Bible Half Hours and Plenary Recordings.
What we were most struck by was the theme of the power of empire in our lives. One theme that Lisa lifted up was that becoming fully embodied is part of the work of remembering God’s power through us. Empire stays in power by training us to remain cut off from our emotions and Spirit that call us to justice and action. One FMC Friend noted to this end: “I have been practicing being in touch with my body. I hope to bring about change beyond just my brain with this practice.” Many of us felt provoked by the naming of the role of Empire in our lives and hope to continue this conversation at FMC throughout the year in many different ways.
Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness work – Calling in, not out
This year NEYM took on an experiment entitled Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness. Woven throughout sessions was an invitation to step into the work together of changing our culture so that we better notice and interrupt patterns of oppression within our own interactions. There were visitors from 4 other Yearly Meetings to observe the cutting edge experiment that NEYM stepped into this year! This is work Spirit/God is calling us as Quakers to do!
There were workshops, drop in anchor groups, reports from the Working group, and most prominently, 3 noticing elders on the side of the stage. While this had the potential to feel intimidating, overall we expressed feeling, deeply touched, moved and excited by the loving invitation into this challenging work. This was the pattern of faithfulness we collectively embraced. Instead of summarizing an experiment that was woven throughout everything, here are a few noticing of FMC Friends who attended the debrief session:
I am proud of the work we did Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness and wish that FMC could experience that. It’s too hard to convey the experience in a report.
I felt a real follow through from last year; both in Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness and in the nourishment and the bringing of changes to practices, structures and appreciation of clerkship roles. I experienced nourishing changes within clerkships and practice. I even saw the clerk of NEYM eldered within Meeting for Business in Worship and saw him back up and change his behavior.
I got comfortable with the elders (of Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness) though at first they felt like Olympic judges. Eventually they felt like our eyes and ears — and an invitation was extended for me to be so as well.
Doing this work gave some, who have been noticing for a while, permission to speak and others, who are new to the work, permission to step into it.
I felt an environment of love; it changed my experience of being eldered. For example, I was getting into one of the golf carts and noticed a person with mobility needs. I said, “Here, take my seat.” Another person said, “Why don’t we see where she wants to sit?” Instead of hanging my head in shame for the week, I was able to let it go.
I spoke up twice and both times resulted in an ongoing change in behavior. I was surprised at how much closer I now feel to these folks who I interrupted with a loving invitation. As a result, I feel our relationship and the fabric of our community strengthened. I’m grateful to have better tools to know how to say something.
By relaxing into (the process) it became an invitation, a visible reminder of noticing. It was demanding because first, the very act of paying steady attention and second, the process and act of noticing was an insight into the physical toll friends of color endure.
We still have a lot of work to do. One person left Sessions because of the amount of micro-aggressions they experienced. I feel grief and anger at this.
I feel that I’m walking around in a world I couldn’t see before.
Overall our sense was that this is an exciting time to be a Quaker and break open those patterns that need to be rebuilt. We are moved by the recognition that this is all of our work. We hope to bring back from NEYM the courage to be vulnerable at FMC as we provoke each other to love more completely.