This has been quite a full week, at the 358th Annual Sessions of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers). This particular post is a direct reflection on how support has worked for me this year from Fresh Pond Meeting. I carry a minute of travel from my meeting, and am supported with a specific support committee, and much prayerful help from the wider meeting body.
Here is a video of some of our Fresh Pond Friends – not at Annual Sessions (from our Facebook Page).
I can’t completely cover how our meeting members were used at Annual Sessions. I saw them all over the place. For example:
Friend Kristina shepherding and facilitating the plenary sessions. Her framing lead us into the deeper worship that allowed us to be opened and to listen.
Friend Bruce was approved as rising clerk – with an intense two days of wrestling and concern – not for Bruce’s skills and faithfulness to the leading, but with the continuing questions of how we can both so deeply feel a rightness in this moment of naming a white cisgender man to this place of leadership – and yet be so deeply committed to the work of naming the white supremacy that does not allow us to see gifts equally and support them fully in our community and the wider world. He handled this with quite a bit of grounded prayer and presence and grace that I will use as example in the future. Actually, I’m not sure how he “kept his cool” but I think God figured it out for him. 😉 Here’s a calmer moment of current presiding clerk and rising clerk. Bruce will now begin following Fritz around all year. Keep him hydrated please.
Friend Phil served as a fine example to our youngest and newest Friends in child care (lots of them!) and shared their epistle with the body with grace and humor grounded in much Love.
Friends Laura and Lynn once again joined with the JYM program, a faithful example of nurture and some really tough behind the scenes work that has contributed for years to our youth feeling loved and listened to.
Friend Will spoke to concerns in meeting for business and Permanent Board, also in his new role as internal nominating clerk. This will be a steep learning curve I suspect even for a seasoned Friend with those gifts – in a time of many shifting changes and lenses in our body of Friends.
Friend Robert was all over the place in small conversations, in openings of support, sharing his wider background with work with the AFSC and committing to bring back this work of connecting and witness among Friends to our meeting, the Boston area, and beyond.
Friend Christopher serves on our Sessions Committee – the planning takes place all year. I didn’t get a chance to do much more than say hello in passing to him, but every time I saw him he was in conversation with folks that seemed like it was being fruitful. That has been my experience of this Friend as I have known him through the years. His commitment to Earthcare witness as an imperative on his heart is a key piece of our need.
Friend Nancy brought news of AVP work to us all. In a report, in a workshop, and in many conversations and meetings in the dining hall about next steps. Our broken world needs her gifts with AVP and she was networking them this week.
Friend Mary brought immigration news – how we are attending to this work in our own meeting communities, and how we might better connect that work so we are all lifted up and helped. Her report (with Friend Judy from Beacon Hill) was so wonderful – they asked us in the gathered body to stand if we were in a meeting that did various kinds of work. As we stood up and sat down, and looked around and saw all the Friends who were involved in varied ways (knowing they represented so many more not in the room) we made the work visible. We will need this care going forward as we unite further in such challenging work that requires community.
Friends Maille and Nahar contributed to youth programs. Nahar read an epistle to the gathered body! I would be nervous about that. I cannot really claim to know enough to share their stories. Ask them please.
“New to Friends” Paula also attended! Hooray! When I spoke with her she was enjoying her experience. I hope we continue to give her the support she needs to learn and love us in our community.
So there’s the first half of my story. I apologize for leaving out some stories – these are highlights, and we will hear this more fully in meeting for business from our designated representatives to Sessions. Below is a video I made with lots of Friends’ photos – including some folks from Fresh Pond Meeting.
Here’s the second half. Yes, these particular Friends were in this particular geographic place. But they all carry the support of the meeting. And where were others who were not there at Sessions?
A few years ago, when I was in the midst of working as NEYM staff at sessions, and was new to Fresh Pond Meeting, I received a reminder of great encouragement. I was told that as we gathered for opening worship on Sunday at Sessions, Friend Erica would be at home at our meeting, holding care of worship, as she often feels led to do on that particular day. That year I could strongly feel her presence miles away in that work. Every time something got hard for me, I remembered that another Friend on “Team Fresh Pond” was caring for worship somewhere else geographically, while with us ALL spiritually. It was of great comfort and hope to me, and I have shared that story as I travel among meetings. That is how I feel when traveling – carrying my travel minute from Fresh Pond.
BUT WAIT! Even more good news! Just now I have learned of an addition to my story – Friend Cathryn also traditionally shares the care of worship, and logistics of setting up during that worship day when many of us are at Annual Sessions. I’m glad I wrote this story. I’m not at all surprised that Friend is on that team on that day (and many other days as well).
So what I hope we consider, is that perhaps we were ALL in our places, as we are called to be faithful. Some of us in this particular year were away at the gathering we call Annual Sessions. Some of us were at Fresh Pond Meeting doing the work of listening in worship there. Some of us were not at worship anywhere on that morning – because we know we can always access the Divine wherever we are, and we might have had to sleep in to prepare for more work later in the day, or recover from caring for a family member or working the night shift.
In out tradition as Friends we do not “keep days” for a reason. Every day is sacred. But more than that, every YOU is sacred too – and that of the One who calls you to work and rest in whatever season it is time for.
I was so happy to be here this week, and share my stories of travel and love and support for and from Fresh Pond Meeting. I’m more grateful simply to be a part of a messy, faithful community that is growing into getting things as faithful as we can be. We still (and always will) have much work to do in being welcoming, in seeing that of God in others that come to our meeting, and lifting up the gifts and ministries we are given through individuals to hold as a body. But it feels like the Invitation to do this is being heard by many, and still being offered to others. In my tenth year of being a Friend, it is good to have felt this perspective and a clear sense of “home”in this place. Thank you Friends!