Women's Retreat Working Group Annual Reports
The text of recently received Annual Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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In January of 2015, Herndon Friends Meeting women stepped forward in unity to plan the retreat for January 2016. Our first order of business was to select a location. The retreat has been held at Skycroft Retreat Center in the mountains west of Frederick for the past six years. It has been a low‐cost facility that served us well, with one exception: it is a difficult place to navigate in snow and ice, especially for women who are aging or who have disabilities. When we learned that Skycroft was raising its rates by about 30%, without a commensurate upgrade in the facilities, we decided to look around and determine if there was a more suitable location.
After researching several options, we settled on Pearlstone Center, just northwest of Baltimore. Its rates were in line with Skycroft’s new rates, but the facility was an enormous improvement in safety and accessibility, size of meeting rooms, and quality of food. Our one main concern in choosing Pearlstone was the per‐person pricing structure. The flat fee at Skycroft allowed planners to set a price for the retreat which would guarantee meeting the flat fee, and then registrations beyond that would be put towards scholarship aid, speaker fees, sundry retreat costs, and donation back to BYM. Pearlstone’s per‐person fee meant that we would not have that pool of money to work with in planning the retreat and awarding scholarships. We decided not to offer a discount to first time attenders. Pearlstone required a final head count 14 days prior to the event, which meant we would be unable to offer refunds, or allow for late registrations, after mid‐January. We opened registration early, in October, to allow for more time to meet our minimum target registration of 125 women. Pearlstone required us to specify room assignments, which was a very good idea considering that we were full and which allowed us to room women together upon request. However, it made the process more time‐consuming for the person organizing the assignments. All these challenges were made much easier by the fact that the Pearlstone staff are amazingly nice, responsive, patient, and accommodating.
Scholarships are an integral part of supporting women in attending the Women’s retreat; to this end, we approached the Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee of BYM to request $1000 in scholarship aid as part of the budget for 2015.
The registration process for the retreat was handled by the BYM administration. Although there were a few technical glitches (including several registrations that women said they made but which did not appear in Wayne’s system, leading to a certain amount of panic, and payments that women made that were also not credited), it was a smooth process working with Wayne. By mid‐December, we were at maximum capacity, around 180 attendees, with an additional 15 commuters. We needed to move to a waiting list. This brought up our next big conversation: How big is too big? This being our first time at Pearlstone, we decided that we were at our maximum, although Pearlstone could have accommodated more women as commuters. We did not know if the main gathering room or dining room would be too crowded if we began adding additional beds in some of the motel rooms, or allowing more commuters.
In the final analysis, we could have increased the size to about 210 women, if we had converted some of the motel‐style double rooms into triples, which is an option. Financially, the retreat took in about as much money as went out. We didn’t use the $1000 scholarship fund that had been set aside by M&PC. We would have taken in more if not for a mistake we made that led to undercharging the women in the EcoCabin. There were a few women who did not pay all they owed; we dealt with that by letting it go. We did not have any money leftover to compensate BYM for the enormous amount of time that Wayne spent on this retreat. Per our written cancellation policy, which stated that we wouldn’t be able to offer refunds within the last two weeks, we did not refund money to several women who cancelled within the last 48 hours. In the case of other women who had cancelled prior to that, we were able to fill their spaces from the waiting list and refund their money.
The process of approving women’s requests for financial aid was a nerve‐racking one. On one hand, we didn’t want to know the reasons for women’s requests, but women often felt compelled to give reasons, which we felt was embarrassing or undignified. On the other hand, we didn’t know whether or not we would have the funds to grant their requests, and felt awkward promising money that we didn’t know we would have. Partway through this process, Friends Journal published an article from New England Yearly Meeting about their experiences with a “pay as you are led” model for everyone, which resulted in enough money for their annual session. It might be a model worth trying.
Carol Beigel also started a conversation about having two retreats, one more northerly and one more southerly, to address the issue of the retreat getting too large. We asked women to respond to this on our post‐retreat evaluation, and the overwhelming response was to keep us all together. Women felt that there would not be the interest or capacity to plan for two retreats. Women who were in favor of two retreats indicated that they would try to attend both!
We created a new website, which was easier for us to use and maintain, and created a link to it on the old website. We had requested $85 for funding the new website, but decided that keeping it free and linked to the old website was not a problem.
Overall, the retreat at Pearlstone was a success. The weather cooperated, and women were fed, body and soul. Our theme of “Lighten Up! Sharing Love, Light, and Laughter” was supported by workshops on topics as diverse as forgiveness, making sun‐catchers, and healing through humor. The Saturday morning plenary was given by Erin Doland, who spoke about lightening our material burdens from a spiritual perspective. Group activities included Sacred Circle Dancing, Chanting, the Coffee House (talent show), and Hymn Singing. Worship sharing groups met three times throughout the weekend. Helen Tasker steered the epistle committee, and the epistle is included in this report.
On behalf of the women of Herndon Friends Meeting,
Inga Erickson and Margaret Fisher
No report received.
No report received.
The 2013 Women’s retreat was again held at Skycroft Conference Center in Middletown, Maryland on the weekend of January 25-27. This year’s organizing team was comprised of women from Friends Meeting of Washington (DC): Mary Campbell, Debby Churchman, Robinne Gray, Susan Griffin, Jean Harman, Martha Solt, and Faith Williams.
Mindful that the BYM region is large and that many Friends at the outer reaches of our geography often have farther to travel, the organizing committee made a good-faith effort to seek out a location in Virginia. We were in touch with several potential retreat sites, but found none that were available, affordable, large enough, ADA accessible, heated in winter, etc. Skycroft has proved popular in recent years – and people like their food – so we opted to keep the retreat at this location.
Echoing the title of a current popular book, the 2013 theme was Play, Nap, Feast! to underscore that the weekend is indeed a retreat, not a conference or even a time to “improve” oneself. The organizers made some adjustments to the schedule, adding “down time” so that attendees would have two unstructured hours during the weekend. In an effort to boost overall attendance and geographic representation, the committee made an extra effort with publicity, mailing color flyers to many Monthly Meetings and reaching out to one contact from each Meeting that has not had anyone attend the retreat in recent years. We also wanted to make a special outreach to Young Adult women and to new attendees, so we offered a $30 first-timer discount. Financial aid was available, and we asked Friends for a minimum self-payment of $80, which was half the cost of dorm bunk accommodations for the weekend.
As the retreat drew near, the weather forecast began to call for snow on the Friday of our arrival. Recalling the time some years ago when Skycroft closed in the middle of the Women’s Retreat weekend due to a snowstorm, we grew concerned. (That difficult year, retreat participants had to travel home on snowy roads, BYM refunded retreat fees to those who made the request, and the Yearly Meeting still had to cover the rental costs). This year’s organizers kept a close watch on the weather and were in frequent contact with Skycroft staff. We also put a cancellation policy in place. On Thursday and Friday, we sent email bulletins to all registrants urging them to arrive early and use roads that the staff assured us would be plowed. Skycroft graciously allowed us to arrive earlier than our contract specified to and congregate in their office space until our rooms were cleaned and ready. We were grateful to Skycroft for making this accommodation, and to the retreat participants, who were patient, calm and collegial as we waited in somewhat cramped quarters.
Because the panel plenary was so well-received at the 2012 retreat, we opted to use the panel format again. The 2013 plenary speakers were: Joan Anderson (Carlisle); Deborah Haines (Alexandria); Anna Rain (Adelphi); and Margaret Krome-Lukens (Williamsburg). We were grateful to them for sharing from their experience.
Women’s Retreat Metrics for 2013
Skycroft rental cost: $22,400
Final number of Attendees: 134
On-site registrations: 6
Cancellations: 5 in advance; 2 due to weather
Financial aid requested/granted: 7 attendees requested a total of $460
First-timer discounts used: 39 (x $30 = $1,170)
Event surplus: $3,040
Amount collected in donations: $2,128.25 (includes refunds foregone)
At the end of the weekend, women from Annapolis Friends Meeting and Patapsco Friends Meeting stepped forward to be the volunteer co-organizers for the 2014 Women’s Retreat.
2013 Epistle Committee: Annie Carlson (Goose Creek), Deborah Haines (Alexandria), Helen Tasker (Frederick)
Waves of the Presence permeate
Rising us up and breaking
Tumbling, engulfed and
Everyone’s story-our own.
To Friends Everywhere:
This is an organic annual Gathering of Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) Women—an ebb and flow of fellow seekers. We come to be rejuvenated by the Light that seems to shine more brilliantly when we worship, sing, listen, play, dance laugh and cry together. Our stories of triumphs and tribulations and the journey toward love inspire and nurture each of us in different ways. This year our host meeting, Sandy Spring (Maryland) invited five women of BYM to share their journeys.
These Quaker women remind us that when we attend to the spirit the courage to act rises.
Bette Hoover (Sandy Spring) shared her journey, and included the vignette from a Native American Grandmother answering a young woman: “How do I know when I’m on my path?” “Just look at your feet!”
Susan Call from Bethesda Meeting shred her story of how over time she came to know that God was accompanying her, whether she was aware of it or not.
Ramona Buck of Patapsco Meeting, told the story that sometimes conflict seems like a monster, but we should walk to it and through it, and on the other side an elegant solution can appear though we may not see it at first.
Mosi Harrington of Adelphi meeting reminded us that there are billions of children of God. Accompanying others on their journey may be all that is needed. We do not have to be brilliant to be effective, but dogged. Show up. Dance into our power!
Pat Schenck (Annapolis Meeting) reminded us that the enemy of power is worrying about what others think of us. Although we are each unique children of God-we are not better or worse than anyone else is—just unique.
As we told our stories to each other, we felt the ebb and flow of our connections. We carry forward a renewed sense of Spirit.
Listen, Plan, Affirm
Create, Play, Sing
Share, Dance, Eat Talk
The Women of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Annual Women’s Retreat
From Skycroft Retreat Center, Middletown Maryland
No report received.