[saymaListserv] Philadelphia YM Epistle

Quakerkristi at aol.com Quakerkristi at aol.com
Fri Aug 11 21:17:59 JEST 2006


 
 
Gretchen Castle, Clerk
 
Greetings to Friends everywhere from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Annual 
Sessions held Seventh Month 25-30, 2006, at DeSales University, Center Valley, 
Pennsylvania, where our theme was “Worship - Always Coming Home.”
 
Niyonu Spann, Dean of Pendle Hill, and her singing group, Tribe I, challenged 
us from the moment we began our opening session, under a great white tent, on 
a sticky summer evening. Powerful images, both sung and spoken, reminded us 
that we make our journeys step by step. That many parts make the whole 
creation; which was expressed in the lyric: “Many stones can form an arch; singly 
none, singly none.”   We do not make a journey, nor form an arch, without giving 
over to God. Only by giving over to God can we dig deep into our roots; to seek 
and speak a 360-degree truth, to look at the whole we have been and the whole 
we are called to be.
 
We sang with passion and joy “Study War No More.” Niyonu asked us what it 
means for Friends to study war no more. We must own the whole truth of the 
legacy of our ancestors. We want to believe that we are leaders in peace and 
justice. But how can we be the Friends of the Underground Railroad and the Friends 
of the back bench, where people of color were once forced to sit to worship? 
How is the back bench alive today? What does it look like now?
 
We cherish Friends’ process. But sometimes we also dismiss the truths of 
others with the swish of the phrase “Quaker process.” We must ask that we might 
be shown our 360-degree truth, so that we can change, so that we can be the 
whole we are called to be. There is a yearning that all in our faith community 
come to experience the enveloping love of God in all we do together. We have 
once again been strongly reminded of the call to a greater relationship to our 
roots which are the basis for a more radical Quakerism in which Love and Peace 
radiate out into the world. We have not only been called to be a gathered 
people, but to gather people to us.
 
Friends seek a deep waiting worship. In his talk about the gathered Meeting, 
speaker Tom Gates encouraged us to lead lives of worship; to come to Meeting 
prepared to serve rather than expecting the worship to serve our own spiritual 
needs. We should ask: “How can I become the kind of Friend my Meeting needs me 
to be?”
 
Our five standing committees reported to us through epistles on their work 
and the amazing activities of working groups under their care. In our monthly 
meetings we are experiencing rich worship and fellowship even as we endeavor to 
always take these deeper. Our religious education flowers throughout the year. 
The blossoming at this our yearly gathering is particularly vibrant as our 
gathering was designed to be multigenerational. We are so grateful to our staff 
and volunteers who make all of these things possible. The greatest blessing of 
our time together has been spending time with our children and Young Friends 
at these sessions. Their openness and generous affection brings us great joy. 
With them we are led toward a deeper communion with the Light.
 
Sadly, in the past year our interim meetings for discernment have been 
extremely difficult and painful. The process of Quaker decision-making is 
challenging even for the most experienced Friends. Boundaries have been questioned and 
tested. But, a process of healing has begun, and it is hoped that as we move 
forward we will all hold each other and ourselves in the Light, toward a renewed 
obedience to the Spirit. We are ever cautioned to season our words with love 
and forbearance. Most of all we must always be learning the important 
spiritual discipline of listening to and trusting that of God in one another. 
 
We grieve the suffering, loss of life, and decimation of all God’s creation 
by violence, particularly in those places where our own government has 
participated in or perpetuated the destruction. During the session in which this 
concern was addressed, a large butterfly fluttered through the tent seemingly 
representing our current ministry of peace: ever moving yet fleeting in its ability 
to make a lasting change on the organized use of violence in the world. We 
reached unity on a minute reflecting our reaction to the recent devastations in 
Israel and Lebanon. This minute was proposed spontaneously from the floor of 
the session and the responding ministry was very powerful. Our minute will be 
attached to this epistle.
 
Other matters of great concern to us include the relationship between the 
yearly meeting organization and our Quarters, funding our yearly meeting 
activities, supporting the education of Friends children, global climate change, and 
same-gender marriage. The issue of same-gender marriage is an emotional one. 
Great care was taken through our process to really hear each other before taking 
action on a minute that had been brought before us. On our last evening 
together, as a mysterious orange crescent moon was seen setting through a hazy sky, 
we labored to find the right minute. Finally the Spirit led us home largely 
through the leadership of the Young Friends in attendance. It was a deeply 
moving experience. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in session approved a minute 
affirming same-gender marriages. 
 
We had come full circle back to the call on our first evening together to 
address discrimination in our midst today. We have come one step closer to the 
whole we are called to be. We were tender to the need to engage our member 
Monthly Meetings in further dialog about same-gender marriage. So we will ask them 
to respond to this minute that we may continue this at next year’s annual 
sessions. Our joyful worship that night ended with glorious Spirit-led singing 
which rose out of the silence.
 
Earlier in the week, during an afternoon storm burst several of us were 
covered up by wind-blown collapsing tents. Thankfully all emerged unharmed. Indeed 
we all were covered by the refreshing atmosphere of our time together 
expressed in the following lines:
 
Much joy, many happy faces
Much pleasure, many good embraces,
Acts of random kindness
Appreciations of uniqueness
Much willingness to share and listen carefully
Opportunities to grow into the loving community we seek to be.
 
Submitted in faith, with hopes of peace for all,
 
 
Gretchen Castle
Clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
 
 
 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, gathering 
in session on July 29, 2006, at DeSales University in Center Valley, PA, mourns 
both the victims of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon that is now underway and the 
victims of Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel. We mourn our government’s support 
for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and its opposition to an immediate ceasefire.
As Friends we believe there is that of God in every person. We call upon all 
parties to the conflict to immediately cease fire and we call upon all 
governments and groups to stop supplying weapons to combatants. 
As American Friends in the United States we call upon our own government to 
call for an immediate ceasefire and to stop supplying weapons to Israel. As 
Friends, we have always opposed the export of arms and weapons for any purpose 
and instead have worked for the peaceful resolution of deadly conflict.
We call upon all the people in this conflict to see that peace is the way, 
that every ceasefire is good, and that gunfire, rockets and bombs take us from 
the way and desecrate God’s sacred creation.
We call upon Friends to stand with the courageous people in Israel, Lebanon 
and Palestine and other parts of the Middle East who are calling for a 
ceasefire and peace. We encourage Friends and meetings to consider urgently how we 
might act to bring about a ceasefire and negotiations for a just and lasting 
peace.
 
Connie Blood 
Executive Assistant to the 
 General Secretary 
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting 
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