to the Annual Gathering of Pacific Yearly Meeting 2009
Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends will gather for
its 63rd Annual Gathering July 27th to August 1st at Walker Creek Ranch,
Petaluma, California. As we gather together we will be dealing with the
weighty issue of whether or not to hire a Youth Coordinator. At our annual
sessions last year we “approved in principle” the hiring, but Friends felt
there were too many details to work out and the proposal was sent to
Representative Committee, where it was seasoned by representatives sent by
many Meetings in PYM. Many folks have taken part in this process and as a
result the proposal has been changed and is one of the most detailed and
thoughtful proposals to have been placed before us. The ad hoc Youth
Coordinator Committee has done a wonderful job of writing, changing, and
coordinating the discussion of the proposal and at our sessions this year
we will have an opportunity to come to unity on the proposal.
I’d like to take this opportunity to remind Friends that we gather in
faith and hope that the Spirit will guide us to make Spirit-led decisions.
The process is as it has always been. Friends should read and study the
proposals coming to us. The Youth Proposal has been especially season by
Meetings and by Representative Committee. If you have any questions,
please do your homework and contact a member of the ad hoc committee
bringing the proposal to us.
Remember that in our Plenaries we come together to Worship on the Occasion
of Business. In worship, we assume that it is not the Friend who speaks,
but the Spirit who speaks through that Friend. We are not a debating
society, nor does the most eloquent and well-phrased speech carry the day.
We are to listen “behind the words” to the Spirit under them. Please be
respectful of each other. Speak once if called on by the clerk. If someone
has already voiced your concerns, there is no need to speak. When
speaking, speak only to the clerk. Be respectful of other Friends and
assume everyone’s goodwill. Be mindful that every one of our committees
has tried their best to season the work it puts before you. As you
worship, lay your thoughts and ideas about “what should happen” aside so
that Spirit might have room to enter our discussions.
One of the difficulties of being your clerk for the last three years has
been sensing an attitude of distrust that makes it very difficult for us
to do our business together. Often times it’s been difficult to clerk a
process where goodwill seems to have been left at home. Partly this is
due, I think, to how difficult it is to communicate across so many
Meetings and so many committees. I sometimes despair that we’ve gone from
being a community of seekers to being a community of committees. I’ve
sensed a deep unwillingness to let a process move forward unless everyone
has had their say and some feel called to speak to everything! This makes
the process cumbersome and difficult to open to the Spirit.
We also need to remember that “twinkling” (raised hands to indicate
support for what was said) is also not good Quaker process. I’m not sure
where it came into our Meetings, but it has bothered me for a long time.
We need to see it as a form of “voting” with our hands and so is
counterproductive of our process of trying to gather under the Spirit.
Please allow me to try and discern the sense of the Meeting by centering
myself deeply in prayer as I listen carefully to sense where the Spirit
wishes us to move.
One of the exciting things to happen this year is the work of the ad hoc
Futures Committee. I know you’ll find some of their recommendations,
coming out of our Discernment Process, thought-provoking and exciting.
Perhaps there might be time this year to talk about how to implement some
of their recommended changes. I’d also like to lift up the work of the
Ministry and Leadings subcommittee. They have worked diligently on the
question of how Meetings and PYM can support those of us with leadings.
We’ll also hear from Unity with Nature and Rolene Walker will talk about
I look forward to seeing you all this summer… In friendship, Joe