The Epistles of Baltimore Yearly Meeting

The texts of Baltimore Yearly Meeting's recent Epistles 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.

2011 Yearly Meeting Epistle 2011 Young Adult Friends Epistle 2011 Young Friends Epistle 2011 Junior Young Friends Epistle
2012 Yearly Meeting Epistle 2012 Young Adult Friends Epistle 2012 Young Friends Epistle 2012 Junior Young Friends Epistle
2013 Yearly Meeting Epistle 2013 Young Adult Friends Epistle 2013 Young Friends Epistle 2013 Junior Young Friends Epistle 2013 Women's Retreat Epistle
2014 Yearly Meeting Epistle 2014 Young Adult Friends Epistle 2014 Young Friends Epistle 2014 Junior Young Friends Epistle 2014 Women's Retreat Epistle
2015 Yearly Meeting Epistle 2015 Young Adult Friends Epistle 2015 Young Friends Epistle 2015 Junior Young Friends Epistle 2015 Women's Retreat Epistle
2016 Yearly Meeting Epistle 2016 Young Adult Friends Epistle 2016 Young Friends Epistle 2016 Junior Young Friends Epistle 2016 Junior Yearly Meeting Epistle 2016 Women's Retreat Epistle
2017 Yearly Meeting Epistle 2017 Young Adult Friends Epistle 2017 Young Friends Epistle 2017 Junior Young Friends Epistle 2017 Junior Yearly Meeting Epistle 2017 Women's Retreat Epistle

Reported to Annual Session at Frederick, Maryland 8th Month 6th Day, 2017

To Friends Everywhere,

The theme of this 346th Annual Session was “Growing Towards Justice - Acting on Faith.” Growth, Justice, Action and Faith were each featured as we met. In particular, we noted our growth and growing pains as we sought racial and ethnic diversity, inclusivity, and leadership. Young Adult Friends were a constant presence in business meetings in light of their many committee positions. Young Friends and YAFs were Reading Clerks at every business session. Junior Yearly Meeting had the theme of “Courage to be Fair.” This year’s Annual Session was free of charge for children 8th grade and under, a new practice to allow more families to attend.

Our Spiritual State of the Meeting Report began with a section written by York Friends Meeting, emphasizing diversity and caring for one another:

We are all stewards of this garden of grace. In order to care for ourselves and the community, each of us at various times has shouldered a spade, a rake, a hoe, a watering can, or any tool necessary to keep us thriving. The evergreens of winter, the carpet of early spring flowers, the showy blooms of summer and the wispy asters and changing leaves of autumn, reminded us of the diversity and beauty amongst us and all of God’s creation.

Our Growing Diverse Leadership Initiative has moved us to consider who attends in our local meetings and the ways they are engaged. We have attracted to our camps more ethnic minorities, as both campers and counselors, by providing opportunities and the support needed to make their participation positive and satisfying. Many of them have begun to be represented in local and yearly meeting activities. For example, a group of campers hiked 14 miles and camped in the nearby yards of local Friends to attend yearly meeting sessions such as our intergenerational plenary on Nonviolence and Social Action for All Ages. Their leadership in that plenary enabled a dynamic, cross-age discussion defining what justice and nonviolence mean and the ways Quakers deal with injustice. They were instrumental in our creation of spiritually based — and highly creative and artistic — posters with messages to promote peace and justice. The energy and delight in the whole group was palpable!

As part of the Growing Diverse Leadership Initiative report, Lauren Brownlee, Dyresha Harris, and Marcy Baker Seitel described “sharing a vision and acting together on the path to the beloved community.” As we strive to become an anti-racist community, we must be willing to lean into our discomfort, which is where our learning zone is. As Friends considered approving this Epistle, we had a concern about the use of the term “anti-racist,” which was heard as negative; Friends were in agreement that the strongest possible language should be used, but not in agreement of what that language was. We heard a sense that the term “anti-racist” is appropriate; we heard that simply ‘addressing’ racism is too weak, while ‘seeking to end racism’ is too optimistic. We heard the sense that our response to racism might be to challenge it, to confront it, to correct it and to heal the disease of racism.

The overall intent of these Growing Diverse Leadership efforts is to increase and enhance diversity and inclusion is “Strengthening Transformative Relationships in Diverse Environments” (STRIDE). Lauren spoke of noticing “a desire for deepening this work among local meetings.” We are working on taking away the barriers to participation of Friends of Color and of Young Adult Friends.We envision a Quaker community that is multicultural, multiracial, equitable, and inclusive.

We also focused on racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion through a panel on Ending the School to Prison Pipeline. Panelists were experts in juvenile law, conflict resolution, re-entry, public defense, and restorative justice. Friends acknowledged both the need for courage to take a stand (and to know where and how to take a stand) and the need for sustaining the spiritual basis for why we do this. Not all our outreach and inclusion efforts end happily. We heard the final Spiritual State of the Meeting report from South Mountain Friends Fellowship where Patapsco Friends have supported a very powerful prison ministry. Due to prison downsizing in Hagerstown, it has been laid down. Friends hold in the Light all those affected by this change.

And there is evidence of work still needed:

The report from our representative to Friends United Meeting noted that changes in FUM’s acceptance of gay and lesbian people - which may seem slow - might be compared with the many years BYM has been spending on the revision of our Faith and Practice and on efforts to increase the diversity of participation and membership in Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Friends in both arenas asked, “Can we give each other more time?”

On Saturday, the body approved a Minute urging our government to refrain from consideration of the use of force in regard to North Korea, an urgent and timely response to saber-rattling during this very week.

Friday evening’s Carey Lecture on Race, Poverty and Privilege: Working for Justice in Divisive Times was given by Shan Cretin, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee. She traced some aspects of American history relating to racism and poverty and also her personal journey in becoming aware of racism and her own privilege. It’s hard to admit, she noted, but I am here on the backs of people who have been exploited. “What can we do now,” she asked, “to repair the damage done to those seen as ‘other’?” Shan had worked in minority communities until a Black Panther told her that if she wanted to make a difference, she needed to work in her community. “We black folks can take care of ourselves. Your white community needs to change.” The concept of shared security, embraced by both AFSC and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, provides a framework that leads to healthy, just relationships--at all levels. It means, “If we really feel secure, we don’t have to dominate.”

In this time of upheaval and distress in our country and the world, Friends found comfort and, indeed, joy in coming together to work on topics and issues of mutual concern with an ever-present spiritual underpinning. References to the distressing politics and political, economic and social divisions in the world were common during our week. Even so, Friends focused with energy on a great range of topics and experienced a sense of growth and learning, deepened understanding and access to the Light.

Epistle of Young Adult Friends
Accepted 8th Month 6th Day, 2017

Disclaimer

It is not in the practice of Friends to send an Epistle out to the world with disclaimers, chapters or appendices. However, there are times when such add-ons become necessary. In this case, necessity stems from the 346th Annual Session of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (BYM), where Friends failed to unite behind the phrasing, “as we strive to become an anti-racist community,” within BYM’s General Epistle.

For those unaware, Young Adult Friends (YAF) is a youth group within BYM that serves its community members aged 18 – 35. This year our personal Epistle was written by the YAF community as a whole rather than a separate committee and we were quite proud of the work put in crafting a summation of our community. That Saturday night, when we approved this Epistle, the most traumatic occurrence of Annual Session was a failed workshop idea resulting in sixty individually wrapped eggs sitting in our fridge. By Sunday night, while our Epistle was undoubtedly still egg-cellent, it was clear it was meant to serve as a vessel for a greater message.

Chapter One of this document is our epistle as approved by the YAF community and read to the Greater BYM community during Annual Session. Although it may seem frivolous in light of what follows, it stands as a record of a community built on unconditional caring, love and trust, who celebrate each other’s gifts, and who support each other fiercely. It is this community that gives our members strength to speak out. Which leads to Chapter Two, a letter written after much reflection, worship and care summarizing one Young Adult Friend’s personal view of Sunday’s Business Meeting.

Appendix One is a transcript of the message said Friend, Becca Bacon, originally gave to BYM that Sunday with closing comments by Jennifer Vekert, another Young Adult Friend. Becca is the current Co-Communication Coordinator for YAF while Jennifer is its Co-Clerk. These titles are not included as aggrandizements, but rather to illustrate that both are deeply committed to the Society of Friends. Appendix Two is the write up for this year’s Annual Session theme, Appendix Three is the General Epistle as originally presented with the relevant paragraph highlighted and underlined, and Appendix Four is the paragraph as it was revised. We present these as historical documents of what took place.

At this time, Young Adult Friends would like to express thanks to the following Older Adult Friends for their roles throughout this incident. Ken Stockbridge, BYM Clerk, and a Quaker Process Geek who was able to make the best of a dumpster fire of a Business Meeting. Pierce Hammond, member of the BYM Epistle Committee who spoke calmly and forcefully in favor of the term “anti-racist.” Ned Stowe, who unobtrusively ensured sobbing YAFs were given needed privacy. Jeannette Smith, who provided indispensable refuge and pampering to a distraught YAF for 24 hours straight while they worked through some weighty matters. We are grateful to them and call on other Friends to look to them for examples of how to be a good ally.

Young Adult Friends also take great pride in the excellent comportment and strength of message from the Young Friends Community and appreciate their support on this issue. We urge them to keep up the good work and want them to know we are here for them as well.

Lastly, Young Adult Friends would like to state that, while we are far from perfect, we resolutely declare ourselves to be anti-racist community. It is to our great sadness, confusion and rage, that we cannot unequivocally say the same of Baltimore Yearly Meeting at this time.

Chapter One:
The 2017 Young Adult Friends Epistle

In the Beginning, there was Maggie.

Then the rest of us showed up.

Two Thousand Seventeen was a year of egg-clectic growth for Young Adult Friends. This Year YAFs: Graduated with degrees in psychology, computer science, and textiles; received a certification in massage therapy, got swole, started a business and a novel, began the process of becoming a sign language interpreter, became clerk of a Monthly Meeting, focused on personal health, joined the circus, rafted on an air mattress, became a horrifying mirror of my mother’s life, and got better at knitting.

Young Adult Friends gathered in January of this year for an intimate winter conference, with games and food aplenty. Fibbage and one night ultimate werewolf encouraged hilarity and close community. Although our Friends came and went, Adelphi Monthly Meeting provided a nesting space where we could safely roost for the winter… conference, which facilitated close companionship.

In May Young Adult Friends gathered at Langley Hill for an active adventurous weekend. Friends attended the Pride march which included a brief stop at no justice no pride, a fancy dinner, sign making, and a test run of the Growing Diverse Leadership YAF survey. We talked about how to utilize our budget effectively, whether or not we should meet more than 3 times per year (eg. single-day workshops), and hatched a plan to keep better connected.

Annual Session included many egg-citing activities. It is no egg-ageration that YAF found themselves unable to conduct a Moment of Silence without cracking up. We whisked fire and rain to settle into Meeting for Business. We were unable to egg-nore the importance of the Plenary speaker’s hard-boiled reporting on racial justice issues. We a-poached the rising seniors to take them out for ice cream and introduce them to the sunny side of YAF.

We started cracking on creating handbooks and guidelines to pass our wisdom on in a less scrambled way. YAF exists to provide support and community to Quakers in a turbulent time in our lives. We are far away from each other, and swamped with responsibilities, and maintaining community is difficult and scary and hard. We share concerns about being represented, while at the same time sharing concerns that we are asked to serve in roles simply because we check a box.
In the end, there was Maggie and 60 eggs.

Chapter Two:
More: A Letter to the YAF Community by Becca Bacon

Dear Friends,

Some of you may have heard or seen mention that something occurred at BYM's closing Business Meeting but are without the full picture, while others may have no prior knowledge of the event at all. For that reason, I am writing this letter so folks may have the chance to be properly filled in as things go public both in the BYM Yearly minutes and as an addendum to the YAF epistle. We as a community are spread far and wide but we are a community nonetheless. When something this monumental occurs, we must look to one another for support and understanding.

As many of you know, BYM recently gathered for their 346th Annual Session at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. This year, the theme was "Growing Toward Justice – Acting on Faith." Keynotes for the week consisted of a panel discussion on "Ending the School to Prison Pipeline," a plenary on "Nonviolence and Social Action for All Ages," and a lecture titled "Race, Poverty and Privilege: Working for Justice in Divisive Times." Daily workshops and reports were also given around these themes, though there was opportunity lost in bringing focus to subjects such as substance abuse or the ever-important topic of mental health and the stigmas around it, with priority going to the other issues listed in this year's theme instead. I mention this not only as contextual background to the events that followed, but so that y'all can understand just how much time and attention was given solely to the discussion of racial dynamics in the United States throughout the week.

That Sunday's Business Meeting, debate cropped up due to personal semantic opinions regarding the Epistle. In particular, one Friend stalled on the phrasing, “As we strive to become an anti-racist community,” asking that he be recorded as standing aside. As expected, this quickly became the hotbed issue, with opinions coming from all sides. Friends argued for a move away from this "negative phrasing" for more "positive" ones, such as "multicultural," "multiracial" and "inclusive." Suggestions were made to rather state we are a community who "challenges," "confronts" or "strives to heal the disease" racism. Debate and divisiveness were so great, Epistle Committee was asked to take some time to rewrite the offending section while the rest of the community waited in reflective worship for these compromising changes.

It is important to note that, at this point, the issue had dragged on for approximately an hour, with an Epistle Committee member––a Young Adult Friend––in tears. It's a reality difficult for me to write, knowing our Greater Community was so self-involved in the issue that no visible thought was given to a Friend in obvious distress over the subject matter, instead choosing to leave her in public throughout the argument's duration instead.

Folks should know that while the above paragraph was by no means easy to write, following it up has been infinitely harder. For a week, I have struggled to figure out the best way to share my involvement going forward in this story. This is not an experience I relish having to relive, even just in writing, nor is it one I particularly want to publicly share far and wide. It is personal, and painful and mine.

And it's for that very reason I must. At that moment in time, in an auditorium full of people, my voice alone was the one The Spirit called upon to deliver some much-needed perspective on the subject. Perspective that only I and three other people in that room could even begin to give.

I wasn't ready at first. My usual default for these instances is to react sardonically, using a worn-down sense of humor to try and hide the twitch I develop every time the community turns its focus toward subjects such as equality, diversity, social justice, racial privilege and the like. When the argument persisted, I remained silent still, the twitch now as uncontainable as the knot of emotions being tugged to the forefront inside of me. Years of pent up frustration, pushed aside pain, held back words and tired resignation eventually came spilling out in the form of tears until I could stand to be in the room no longer.

I took up refuge under the door frame of the auditorium's main entrance at first; there I was close enough to hear the discussion but far enough away I couldn't see the faces of those speaking any more. I was found by another YAF who never left my side from that moment on, comforting me in my grief and shielding me from any stares I might have attracted. Without him there, I am unsure whether The Spirit would have had chance to reach me, so unsettled my heart was on its own. For that reason, I will never be able to thank him enough for holding me both in his arms and in his Light throughout the ordeal, giving me the strength and headspace to do what I needed to do, or for the protective, steady presence he provided in the aftermath as well.

When the room settled in worshipful wait, so did we, moving to sit against the back wall of the auditorium. It was there, when the outside world ceased to bluster, that I could finally hear within. Quiet at first, then louder and louder, fragments of sentences kept making their way into my thoughts until there were so many I had to write the words down just to keep them straight. Overcome by an urgency I couldn't explain when the revised Epistle was read, I was suddenly worried that the argument would wrap up before I was able to finish piecing together my statement. As a birthright Quaker, I realize now I should have known, unfortunately, there was no fear of a quick resolution by this community. By the time I was as ready as I was ever going to get, multiple Friends had since gone on recorded stating their displeasure with the rewrite. Several were now standing aside in light of the revised epistle. One of these older Friends went so far as to ask that he be removed from Epistle Committee altogether if the words “anti-racist” were removed.

Since then, I have recounted the event to a select few, each time likening the incident to a powder keg just waiting to explode. All it needed was a spark. All it needed, apparently, was me.

My words can be found attached though Friends will have to trust me when I say the current of emotions running through that room the day it was first read (with shaking hands and faltered speech) were what gave them true impact.

The explosions they created were swift to follow. I had barely retreated back to my place of refuge when the YAF on Epistle spoke. Those of you who have spent even a modicum of time with her know that she holds back no punches, so it should come as no surprise just how raw and passionate the words of one Jenny Vekert were. In a message only lacking in a mic drop at the end of it, she informed the meeting that, along with other things, she had never been more ashamed of the Greater BYM community in her life and promptly walked off stage.

The body was just beginning to sort through this one-two punch when the Young Friends community delivered a final blow. While most of the YFs in attendance had already departed as one from Business Meeting, needing time to prepare for their own closing worship, their two Reading Clerks for the day remained. Removing themselves from the Clerk's Table, they joined the rest of the body to deliver their eldering. They chastised the Greater BYM community, denouncing them as a positive role model for Quaker process and practice in light of continuing negative patterns over the years regarding how it as a body conducts itself. Stating their support for YAF, they too revealed their disappointment in the community on this day. Over the past week, they have continued to lend voice to the issue, sharing their thoughts through social media.

The rest of Business Meeting—as is most of the two hours spent on the topic—is still a blur for me. I admit to not remembering the resolution reached, or whether there was any at all. In giving my message, I had stood up in front of my community and accused it of racism, no matter how casual or accidental, citing my own experiences as an example. And in doing so, I had shattered not only the feeling of unconditional love and safety I had always claimed to have within the Greater BYM Community, but I had shattered myself as well.

There are many things I could say about how I felt that day, and the next, and the next. I could admit that I have yet to go one day since without bawling my eyes out or wishing The Spirit could find someone else on whom to call. That I feel so broken inside I don't even know where to start in picking up all of the pieces or whether they'll ever fit back together properly again. That I don't recognize the visibly haunted girl I and others see right now or know the woman she might become throughout all of this.

Instead, I will focus on what's most important – what to do going forward. And what exactly is that, you might ask? My answer is the one word The Spirit has been burning into my head for the last seven days: more.

Do more, say more, divulge more, push for more, teach more, change more, give more, expect more, reach out to more, more, more, more, more.
If some of y'all are already sick of my usage of that word, just imagine how I must feel by now. Unfortunately for me, since last Sunday, there have been no other words quite as able to temporarily lessen the turmoil I currently feel inside either.

So, more it is. I have yet to figure out what exactly that all entails, but this letter––divulge more, reach out to more––seems like a good place to start. If I keep moving forward in the way I think The Spirit is calling for me to do, I'm gonna need some backup. I'm gonna need folk to hold me and all of my many pieces together as I purposefully decimate them further. To help reach into the mindsets of many for the possible payout of maybe only changing the views of few. To metaphorically roll up theirs sleeves and prepare to get elbow deep messy in an issue far greater than any one of us alone. To act upon more as we are each led.
Because the truth of the matter is, I may be the spark, but we are the flame.

Author’s Note: It has been confirmed by Ken Stockbridge that the General Epistle with its revised paragraph was approved at Annual Session. For more, his summarization of the issue and Annual Session can be found in his BYM Fall 2017 Interchange article “Listening, Ready to Be Changed.”

Appendix One
Transcript from Sunday Business Meeting

Becca Bacon:

I love this community. Which is why it is all the more painful to have been hurt by it, not only today, but in the past as well. For a community that often totes the importance of change, diversity and inclusion, argument drags on over the semantics of a word when we still have so far to come regarding the greater challenge of practicing what we preach.

Just this week, I had the privilege of being greeted by a Friend in passing with the phrase "hola," the only word spoken by them in our exchange. Innocuous enough, but just damaging enough all the same, especially when added up time and time again over the years.
More disheartening was my experience during a speaker event on racial privilege several years ago when one of the leaders of the discussion approached me during the small group discussion time to make sure "I was understanding the English okay." She had confused me for a visiting Friend, whose only similarity to me was a matching skin tone.

It is easy to laugh or brush these interactions off in the moment, but they add up and, over time, they fester. The issue at hand is difficult. Messy. It is more than talk, and to quibble so fiercely over how to define this phenomenon shows just how much work we still have to do within first.

I beseech Friends not to lose sight of the bigger picture for the sake of pushing personal opinions on a topic many will never fully be able to understand.

Rather, I ask that they recognize there are many ways to approach and define the matter and strive to find the middle ground in between this argument instead, so as not to lose the raw state of our community that is hidden there.

Jennifer Vekert:

Young Adult Friends would like to append Rebecca Bacon’s comments to our Epistle.

We had no problem being “anti-slavery” but there are more people enslaved now then there were in 1860.

We had no problem being “anti-war” but not when it is within our own communities.

I have never been so ashamed of this community.

Appendix Two
Original 2017 Greater BYM Epistle

To Friends Everywhere,

The theme of this 346th Annual Session was “Growing Towards Justice - Acting on Faith.” Growth, Justice, Action and Faith were each featured as we met. In particular we noted our growth and growing pains as we sought racial and ethnic diversity, inclusivity, and leadership.

Our Spiritual State of the Meeting Report began with a section written by York Friends Meeting, emphasizing diversity and caring for one another:

We are all stewards of this garden of grace. In order to care for ourselves and the community, each of us at various times has shouldered a spade, a rake, a hoe, a watering can, or any tool necessary to keep us thriving. The evergreens of winter, the carpet of early spring flowers, the showy blooms of summer and the wispy asters and changing leaves of autumn, reminded us of the diversity and beauty amongst us and all of God’s creation.

Our Growing Diverse Leadership Initiative has moved us to consider who attends in our local meetings and the ways they are engaged. We have attracted to our camps more ethnic minorities as both campers and counselors, by providing opportunities and the support needed to make their participation positive and satisfying. Many of them have begun to be represented in local and yearly meeting activities. For example, a group of campers hiked 14 miles and camped in the nearby yards of local Friends to attend yearly meeting sessions such as our intergenerational plenary on Nonviolence and Social Action for All Ages. Their leadership in that plenary enabled a dynamic cross-age discussion defining what justice and nonviolence mean and the ways Quakers deal with injustice. They were instrumental in our creation of spiritually based — and highly creative and artistic — posters with messages to promote peace and justice. The energy and delight in the whole group was palpable!

As part of the Growing Diverse Leadership Initiative report, Lauren Brownlee, Dyresha Harris, and Marcy Baker Seitel described, “sharing a vision and acting together on the path to the beloved community.” As we strive to become an anti-racist community, we must be willing to lean into our discomfort, which is where our learning zone is. The overall intent of these efforts is “Strengthening Transformative Relationships in Diverse Environments” (STRIDE). Lauren spoke of noticing “a desire for deepening this work among local meetings.” We are working on taking away the barriers of participation of Friends of Color and Young Adult Friends.

We also focused on racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion through a panel on Ending the School to Prison Pipeline. Panelists were experts in juvenile law, conflict resolution, re-entry, public defense, and restorative justice. Friends acknowledged both the need for courage to take a stand (and to know where and how to take a stand) and the need for sustaining the spiritual basis for why we do

Not all our outreach and inclusion efforts end happily. We heard the final Spiritual State of the Meeting report from South Mountain Friends Fellowship where Patapsco Friends have supported a very powerful prison ministry. Due to prison downsizing in Hagerstown, it has been laid down. Friends hold in the Light all those affected by this change.

And there is evidence of work still needed:

The report from our representative to Friends United Meeting noted that changes in FUM’s acceptance of gay and lesbian people - which may seem slow - might be compared with the many years BYM has been spending on the revision of our Faith and Practice and on efforts to increase the diversity of participation and membership in Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Friends in both arenas asked, “Can we give each other more time?”

On Saturday, the body approved a Minute urging our government to refrain from consideration of the use of force in regard to North Korea, an urgent and timely response to saber-rattling during this very week.

Friday evening’s Carey Lecture on Race, Poverty and Privilege: Working for Justice in Divisive Times was given by Shan Cretin, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee. She traced some aspects American history relating to racism and poverty and also her personal journey in becoming aware of racism and her own privilege. It’s hard to admit, she noted, but I am here on the backs of people who have been exploited. What we can do now, she asked, to repair the damage done to those seen as “other”? Shan had worked in minority communities until a Black Panther told her that if she wanted to make a difference, she needed to work in her community. “We black folks can take care of ourselves. Your white community needs to change.” The concept of shared security, embraced by both AFSC and FCNL, provides a framework that leads to healthy, just relationships--at all levels. It means, “If we really feel secure, we don’t have to dominate.”

In this time of tremendous upheaval and distress in our country and the world, Friends found comfort and, indeed, joy in coming together to work on topics and issues of mutual concern with an ever-present spiritual underpinning. References to the distressing politics and political, economic and social divisions in the world were common during our week. Even so, Friends focused with energy on a great range of topics and experienced a sense of growth and learning, deepened understanding and access to the Light.

Appendix Three
2017 Greater BYM Epistle: Revised Paragraph

As part of the Growing Diverse Leadership Initiative report, Lauren Brownlee, Dyresha Harris, and Marcy Baker Seitel described “sharing a vision and acting together on the path to the beloved community.” As we strive to become an anti-racist community, we must be willing to lean into our discomfort, which is where our learning zone is. As Friends considered approving this Epistle, we had a concern about the use of the term “anti-racist,” which was heard as negative; Friends were in agreement that the strongest possible language should be used, but not in agreement of what that language was. We heard a sense that the term “anti-racist” is appropriate; we heard that simply ‘addressing’ racism is too weak, while ‘seeking to end racism’ is too optimistic. We heard the sense that our response to racism might be challenging it, confronting it, correcting it and to heal the disease of racism. We envision a Quaker community that is multicultural, multiracial, equitable, and inclusive.

Epistle of Young Friends
Accepted 8th Month 6th Day, 2017

At our first conference of the year, where we welcomed new friends, Charlottesville Friends Meeting hosted us. For a workshop, a Friend lead us in improvisation activities. Then, we went to a local playground and played games with our community. We split into small groups and held a Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Substance Abuse, talking about how alcohol affects the integrity of our community. Later we introduced our new members to the tradition of Coffeehouse, an open mic where people can show off talents. After that we had a dance party and went to bed. On Sunday, we gathered for worship with Charlottesville Friends Meeting.

When Friends gathered again at Friends Meeting of Washington, American Indians protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline bill led an activity about how to protest and the different roles involved. We then went to a park and participated in Twinlympics, a partner-based competition game. After that, Young Friends had a short and refreshing dance party. In the morning, we worshiped with Friends Meeting of Washington.

Friends gathered for our third conference of the year at Sandy Springs Friends School. There we had a workshop on gender and sexuality, which ended with a fishbowl activity, a question-answer group-based discussion. Our Nominating Committee met for the first time to discuss nominations for the next year’s Nuts and Bolts Committee. On Saturday night, we had a movie viewing of Pirates of the Caribbean, and our annual Love Feast. We then joined Sandy Spring Friends Meeting for worship.

At our fourth conference of the year, which was hosted by Homewood Meeting House, we had a workshop on canvassing with Jamie DeMarco and Nicki Richards, who are representatives from Maryland’s Clean Energy Jobs Initiative. During the workshop, Friends also had the option to write letters to our members of Congress. We then practiced protesting on the front steps of Homewood and were led in song by a passerby dressed in full cosplay. Later, we had a mini Coffeehouse. We then ended our conference with Meeting for Worship with Homewood.

At our last conference of the year, we met at Adelphi Friends Meeting. We had two workshops; one about the moral spectrum, and a second one coming at the end of the conference, which was about standing up straight and saying “no.” We then approved the nominations for Nuts and Bolts Committee. We shared joy on Saturday by dressing up, with some YFs trading identities for the day. We then had grad circles for seniors and we ended the night with a dance party. For our last activity of the year, we met with Adelphi Friends Meeting for worship. As seniors left, they took with them their senior books, filled with positive messages and memories for the seniors from the wider community.

The sense of Young Friends was that we struggled with connectedness. This was primarily due to problems -- old and new -- as well as ongoing business throughout the year. Our community has made several decisions on positive ways to move forward and improve the state of Young Friends.

At Annual Session, we introduced a new group of rising freshmen into the Young Friends community. Throughout the week we played many games, including capture the flag with Junior Yearly Meeting and Junior Young Friends. We introduced committees, and formed two ad hoc committees. We then held two workshops, one on protesting and how to express information to your representatives in government, and a second on nonviolence and the Bystander Effect. Throughout the week, Young Friends connected with the wider community with Produce Department, a Plenary Session, the Carey Lecture, and the All-Age Celebration. We also held two “date” meals where people could connect on a one-on-one level with another Friend. Young Friends had a spa day on Saturday with the Young Adult Friends. We also held a Coffeehouse for the entire community, where Friends showed off talent. We had a dance party on the last night.

Young Friends would like to thank all the Friends and Meetings who have supported and hosted us throughout the year.

Love and Light,

Young Friends

Epistle of Junior Young Friends
Accepted 8th Month 6th Day, 2017

To Friends Everywhere -

The Junior Young Friends (JYF) week started out strangely. It was mellow…too mellow. We greeted the new JYFs, played some cards - and then it was time for the first dinner of Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) Annual Session 2017. Evening Program came along: we played Apples to Apples, ran around outside, the usual for JYFs. Then the horror began.

By the time the next afternoon rolled around, a fort had been made with ottomans, chairs, a table and a window. Chairs were flying through the halls, with crazy children (including myself) riding them. Swimming was underwhelming, but then it was time to set up for the labyrinth, which we finished just as it started to thunder (again!). The overnight was pretty mellow and so was the water balloon fight that followed it. So we sent off out eighth-grader and ended the year.

Until next time,

Clerk, Jake Regal, on behalf of JYF 2017

Epistle of Junior Yearly Meeting
Accepted Eighth Month 6th Day, 2017

Dear Friends All over the World,

At this years Annual Session, we loved being able to run around and play outside on the Hood Campus. Eating their dining hall donuts every day was very good.

The All Age Celebration was a great way for us to get to know each other and a lot of adults. We all probably loved eating the ice cream the most. We had fun gathering around the parachute to bounce then run in and out underneath. We showed the grown-ups how to make pom-poms which you can squeeze when you are stressed and we found out that we have a professional pom-pom maker in BYM!

Afternoon and Evening Program is always fun with Legos, playdoh, more pom-poms, and especially the Thursday afternoon swimming trip.

The Kindergarten class read lots of books. A favorite was the Curious Garden about spreading pretty garden around a dull, ugly city to make the city beautiful. Sharing is fair. They loved playing with the playdoh and Legos

In the second and third grade class we heard Friendly Play stories about George Fox and John Woolman and read a chapter book about the Underground Railroad. These stories told us about people who were brave and helped others who weren’t treated fairly. We played fairness games to learn that equal is not always fair. But most of all we enjoyed playing in the forts that we made.

In the fourth and fifth grade class we enjoyed planning our day and telling how we felt about what happened the day before in a “roses and thorn” session. Our teachers changed what we did so we had more roses and fewer thorns . We named ourselves The fearless Fourth and Fifth Graders (FFFG) and loved playing cooperative games and making bunk beds into forts. We took water bottles and snacks into our forts. We read Felix Stands Tall and the School Showdown as part of our discussion about bullying and the JYM theme “ The Courage to be Fair.”

The Junior Yearly Meeting

2017

Epistle of Women's Retreat
Approved January 27, 2017

29 January 2017

Dear Friends near and far,

The weekend of January 27-29 2017, 175 Friends representing 28 meetings gathered at the Pearlstone Center to reflect on the theme of “Quaker Wisdom: Echoes In Our Souls."

Out of gathered silence on Saturday morning, our plenary singer Paulette Meier shared the words of Quaker thinkers, set to music. Paulettee reminded us that a deep and thoughtful exploration of Quaker spiritual roots can strengthen us collectively and individually. Particularly resonant this weekend in light of political developments were these words from James Naylor:

"Art thou in darkness?
Mind it not, for if thou dost it will feed thee more.
But stand still, and act not, and wait in patience
Till Light arises out of Darkness and leads thee."

We were grateful for Paulette's strong voice-- and for the chance to add ours when we joined her in song.

As morning workshops began, we gathered to write, celebrate, knit, heal, and process the election. How warm it is to hold the Light to each other when we all need it. We reflected on radical simplicity and how to heal in a post-truth world.

In small groups, in worship sharing, we felt wisdom transfer between the old and the young. It is powerful to be near the deep anchors of our elders, and inspiring to hear wisdom come from the younger members of our body. Many of us turned to the Light and waited faithfully in it. This Experiment with Light drew 90 of us together in a new way.

In the afternoon, workshops continue as a source of thought and reflection. Many Friends joined in worship sharing and discussions about the Women's March on Washington earlier this month, and how Quakers are led to respond and act. Some of us participated in chanting, welcoming the mysteries that opened in our hearts. For those who needed a chance to stretch, walks on the Pearlstone grounds past the pond and signs noting flora and fauna were rejuvenating.

At dinner on Saturday, Young Friends and Young Adult Friends discussed how we can carry these communities with us to our adult years. We marveled at how Friends can learn from each other across age lines, and planted seeds of thought on how to do so more intentionally in the future. our conversation sparked many ideas, including walking worship sharing groups, and Young Friends announced interest in helping plan the next retreat alongside whichever meeting(s) take on planning for next year.

Other groups gathered in the lounges and in front of the fireplace to read books from the book swap and knit pink pussyhats. We were reminded how joyful it can be to gather for the purpose of action when times are uncertain.

After dinner, over 100 women gathered in three circles for Sacred Circle Dancing led by Maggie moon. We danced to great spiritual traditions from around the world and ended with a chant, created by Marcelle Martin and Besty Krome at Pendle Hill: "Abide In Me."

The joy continued in an evening talent show, now called "meeting for Worship with a Concern for Performance." We started laughing and guffawing as the show began. We basked in original song and stories. Friends noted a strong presence of...ukuleles! And as Mary Campbell noted, "You will all be able to get to bed by Quaker midnight."

Amid the levity, we feel a somber tone weigh in on our conversations as a new Administration takes office in D.C. Fatigue and grief mix in with the joy of seeing one another. We are troubled to hear that the "Muslim ban" has become a reality. We each struggle to balance the need for outward action with the need for inward renewal. And we take heart in our unity together as we return to homes and actions led by the Spirit.

In Love and Light,
Baltimore Yearly Meeting Women's Retreat


Reported to Annual Session at Frederick, Maryland 8th Month 7th Day, 2016

To Friends Everywhere,

At a time when the greater world finds itself in upheaval, over 400 Friends (with approximately fifteen percent of the body being first time attenders) gathered in Frederick, Maryland, for the 345th Annual Session of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. During the week, in plenaries, workshops, individual conversations, and Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business, we considered the many ways in which we are called not only to respond but to plan for action. This sense of change was enhanced by being at Hood College for the first time where we savored the shifts and transformations in the air.

The opening retreat, led by Nancy Bieber of Lancaster Meeting, called our attention to willingness, attentiveness, and responsiveness, three strands of spiritual discernment which braided their way through the week’s deliberations, workshops and activities, with each taking precedence at varying turns.

A sense of movement further permeated our time together. In Business Meeting, we worked to discern our future by: furthering the Growing Diverse Leadership initiative; welcoming a new General Secretary, Ned Stowe; continuing to raise the issues of our impact on the environment by asking Friends to calculate their own and their Meeting’s carbon footprints; and, hearing the Healthy Organization and Purposeful Evolution (HOPE) Committee’s recommendations for organizational structure change and definition which would support and nurture the work of our committees, staff, and local Meetings. We adopted a budget which supports our values of care of the environment and transformation of our youth into adults unafraid to express their Quaker values in action, and took on rethinking the apportionment formula, or the Methodists to determine financial contributions by Meetings to the Yearly Meeting, as a challenge for the coming year.

Our first plenary speaker, Christina Repoley, told us that young people need something deeper than values: they need an attachment to something greater to live in this world. Quaker tradition tells us this is possible. We need to be prepared and pay attention when moments of clarity happen. The ad hoc Growing Diverse Leadership Committee (GDLC) reminded us of the need to be intentional in growing our inclusiveness, which includes looking at ourselves and our practices that present roadblocks which many of us do not easily recognize. Although the opportunities are sometimes uncomfortable, we are guided by the GDLC to be courageous as we examine our Monthly and Yearly Meetings.

We were deeply saddened by the racist behavior of local police enforcement that was encountered by Friends of Color at the Friends General Conference Gathering. It heighted our awareness of how much work there is to do in removing obstacles to inclusion in our Yearly Meeting.

We were further emboldened to experience and express courage during our Carey Lecture. Our speaker, George Lakey, emphasized the importance of rising to the occasion when opportunities outside of our comfort zone present themselves, and challenged us to turn fear into excitement. He stressed the importance of community and fostered our natural instinct to reach out our hands to those around us in times of chaos and uncertainty through stories of his past.

Throughout the week, our time was enriched by the presence of visitors from Britain Yearly Meeting and Indiana Yearly Meeting as well as representatives from Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and the American Friends Service Committee. Visitors from several other Yearly Meetings and organizations also deepened our connections to other Friends.

Suggested change to our Vision Statement was brought forward by the Working Group on Racism report, in which a proposed paragraph on our aspirations to become a more diverse Meeting was added. Friends grappled with the connotations that certain words hold and, therefore, which ones would be best suited to accurately convey the sense of the body regarding diversity. Discernment on the matter lead to strong feelings by various members of the community though an undercurrent of excitement could be felt by the body for the minute and the work done by the Working Group on Racism. Ultimately, the proposed addition was approved by the Yearly Meeting as, from it, a clear need to express class as an issue going forward was recognized.

We celebrated the richness of the programming for our children and youth and shared in their joy at being together at Annual Session, though we noted the dwindling number of the youngest children with concern. We give thanks to both the adults who have contributed their time and talents to our young people and to the young people who, in turn, have shared their time and their talents with us. Friends of all ages were invited to explore “the Light within us” through deep discussion and spirited singing in an intergenerational Plenary led by Jen Cort and Lauren Brownlee.

At this year’s Annual Session we have both begun and continued a number of changes in the Yearly Meeting. One Friend shared the conviction that faith does not ask us to pass through a place where it will not guide us. We were challenged to have the courage to step into the future, which assures that there will be still more change to come. We go forth with an open heart and the confidence that we can carry our part of the “joyful burden of love”.

In the Light,
Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends

Epistle of Young Adult Friends Accepted 8th Month 7th Day, 2016

Dear Friends,

Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends (YAFs) first came together in 2016 the initial weekend in January to celebrate the wedding of Erik Hansen and Windy Cooler, both beloved members of Adelphi Monthly Meeting and its greater Yearly Meeting. After much dancing and merriment, we traveled onward to the William Penn House for the second half of the weekend to gather as a community and discuss how to effectively communicate our Quaker faith to those around us. Way Open was provided in the form of a workshop led by Josh Wilson, Patapsco Monthly Meeting, and consisted of three parts.

The first was an activity in which we sat in two circles, the inner facing the outer, and talked about an aspect of our spirituality with the person across from us. After five minutes, one of these circles would rotate and we would discuss a new aspect with a new partner. The second part of the workshop allowed for small group discussion, where Friends reflected over a series of quotes relating to the various Quaker testimonies before discussing the ones that spoke to us on an individual level as so moved. Finally, groups came back together as one to share with each other the words found within the previously smaller setting.

Aside from this workshop, Young Adult Friends engaged in a variety of activities, one such being a morning spent in the Eastern Market in DC where we both window-shopped and participated in a rousing community- oriented game. As is tradition, we also gathered for a meal out, bearing the reward of local cuisine and lively philosophical discussion on the nature of our interpersonal relationships through the use of hypothetical situations that might affect them. Wrapping up our conference, Friends caravanned to the nearby Friends Meeting of Washington to join their Meeting for Worship before departing on their separate ways Sunday morning.

Regrettably, due to both unforeseen circumstances and confused dialogue, the Young Adult Friends community did not hold a summer conference this year. We hope that other Young Adult Friends communities around the world will take a lesson from our mistakes as needed and recognize the value of creating clear channels of communication within their community as we continue to establish ones within ours.

Another lesson in planning that can be learned from our mistakes is one in properly finding appropriate gathering spaces as seen when YAF joined together again in early August at Hood College for Baltimore Yearly Meeting Annual Session 2016. As this was a new location for all, we struggled to adapt and find new common spaces that would allow us to further foster a deeper sense of community. Still, despite these difficulties and the countless responsibilities shared among us (the few, but mighty), Young Adult Friends found a way to come together for business meetings, meals, a meet and greet with FCNL, and other activities. Dialogue between YF and YAF on redefining our relationship between the two communities was also begun to reflect the evolution and growth of both.

Highlights of the week included the discovery of Pretzel Pizza Creation (a well-liked replacement for our late night pizza ordering), intergenerational events such as All-Age Celebration and Produce Department, and plenty of ice cream. Knowing no limits to our creativity, one member of the community proposed the idea of creating a text-based game inspired by Annual Session which should be online by Annual Session 2017.

Despite the many challenges we were faced with this year, Young Adult Friends continues to be a close-knit body of big “F,” little “f” Friends. Though our lives remain ever busy both in and outside of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, we continue to prioritize offering support and encouragement for one another along our separate yet connected journeys. As always, we are grateful for the continued advice and support of the Yearly Meeting, and for one another.

We hope you will further follow us through our photo documented adventures on instagram via @bymyoungadultfriends or https://www.instagram.com/bymyoungadultfriends/

In Love and in Light,
Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends

Epistle of Young Friends Accepted 8th Month 7th Day, 2016

Dear Friends,

BYM Young Friends have drawn yet another year filled with caring, trust and love to a close.

In YF tradition, high school age Friends of BYM gathered for five conferences throughout the year, in addition to holding three Nuts and Bolts Committee (NBC) conferences, and then gathered again for the week of Annual Session.

To start off the 2015-16 year, members of the Nuts and Bolts Committee gathered at Annapolis Friends Meeting the second weekend of September. Our new Youth Programs Manager, Jossie Dowling, continued an impressive transition into her new role, holding an enriching training on clearness committees for members of NBC.

The Young Friends welcomed many new faces into our community during our September conference, held at Adelphi Friends Meeting, including our incoming freshmen. A Friendly Adult Presence, Jamie DeMarco, shared his light and expertise with us in the form of a workshop on climate activism. Committees met with their usual gusto, with the addition of three committees new to Young Friends conferences. These included an ad-hoc Songbook Committee, a Homework committee, and F.I.G.H.T. Committee—a play off of the pop culture classic “Fight Club” and a safe space for Friends to engage in active games. We closed our second night with a Coffee House, overflowing with Young Friends’ talent.

The Young Friends happily returned to Homewood Friends Meeting in November for our annual Thanksgiving Conference. The theme of this conference, planned by two sets of twins, was “Twinsgiving,” and we were each paired with a “twin” of our own. In these pairs we held a Twin Olympics. The tone of the conference was also set by a lovely workshop on positive touch, lead by Steph Bean.

In January, the Nuts and Bolts Committee gathered again, this time at the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Office. This ideal space provided NBC with a place to share their joys and concerns as they revisited Young Friends policies and met with the Youth Programs Committee.

Our February conference, fondly dubbed “Love Con,” this year bore a further title: “Pirates of the Connabean.” We were welcomed onto the campus of Sandy Spring Friends School, which was excited to strengthen their relationship with BYM by hosting us. Our workshop on love was lead by a former Young Friends clerk, Micah Whitney, and many Friends shared personal stories in this safe space. The conference was characterized both by silly pirate themed games and by a serious discussion on our Sex Minute, as we revisited the values of our community.

Our spring “Work Con” was held once again at the Clearing, a property in the care of Richmond Friends meeting. Friends raked leaves, cut logs and cleared trails, with the guidance of Ted Heck, a member of Richmond Friends. In meeting for business we discussed a potential Food Ethics Committee, which would help Young Friends allow Quaker values to inform our purchases. We had a joyful weekend full of easter egg hunts, stories, games and hard work. The conference’s crowning achievement was quite possibly the April Fools prank we played on our Youth Programs Manager, Jossie Dowling.

Friends gathered once again for Grad Con (more like Rad Con) at Hopewell Centre Friends meeting, to say goodbye to our beloved seniors. Our fun clay workshop, lead by Chip Trail, was made possible by an extremely generous donation of clay by Sam Austell. The Hydration Nation Committee, formed earlier this year, made its active debut by holding many fun water games to encourage hydration and to cool off. After a heartfelt and tearful graduation ceremony, we gathered around a beautiful bonfire to send off our seniors with love.

NBC’s Steering Wheel conference is a time for the Young Friends Nuts and Bolts Committee of the coming year to gather, learn their new positions, and begin to work as a group. Although it was hot, Friends’ hearts were warmed further by many productive hours of business.

The following week, Friends gathered at Hood College for BYM’s Annual Session. We welcomed many new faces, lead and participated in intergenerational activities, and attended three enriching Plenary Sessions. We held workshops on Reaching out to Muslim Americans, Climate Change (lead by representatives of the Friends in Unity With Nature Committee), and Ballroom Dancing. We closed out the week by holding an exciting Coffee House for the BYM community and bearing witness to the talent and light deposited so widely across our Yearly Meeting.

We look forward to continuing this witness and living another year in the Light.

Love and Light,
Young Friends of Baltimore Yearly Meeting

Epistle of Junior Young Friends Accepted 8th Month 7th Day, 2016

To Friends Everywhere,

This year in Junior Young Friends (JYF) we enjoyed many fun activities at Annual Session. We explored the new campus while playing our game of Pokemon GO Live! and going on a scavenger hunt. We walked to the Frederick meetinghouse, where we helped pull the morning glories that were trying to strangle some of the flower beds - and then to a local park, where we had fun together and cooled off in the shade on the merry-go-round. For All Age, we did a lot of chalk art and constructed a butterfly shaped labyrinth - our most ambitious one yet - with a little help from former members of JYF. And we rounded out the week by collaborating on getting each other really wet, having even more fun in the process of filling water balloons than we did throwing them.

We also conducted our Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business, at which we planned our overnight and the All Age Celebration. A recurring topic of discussion - both in and outside of Business Meeting - was how or where to release the kraken, getting into the logistics of the scenario, including feeding, housing and raising it. And throughout the week, we asked people a lot of questions, both by interviewing people outside of JYF, and posing them to each other during our fishbowl.

We would like to thank all the YAFs and adults who make the overnight—and the program—possible. Last, but not least, we would like to extend a huge thank you to Kat Darnell for making this whole week a lot of fun - and for making the JYF program at Baltimore Yearly Meeting Annual Session what it is.

Junior Young Friends of Baltimore Yearly Meeting

Epistle of Junior Yearly Meeting
Accepted Eighth Month 7th Day, 2016

The Elementary Grades
Hood College  Frederick, MD

In our elementary grades group, ages 5-10, we did many activities together at Annual Session. We set up our new space with stations for arts and crafts, board games, a village, books, lego and other activities. Many kids played in Friendship Village, which became murder village when we had a fight, and then it became Friendship Palace when we made a big fort around it. In the morning classes, each group had a morning meeting before activities where we practiced discernment for our action. On Wednesday, we taught each other parachute games and practiced discerning action. Together, we learned a song for Meeting for Business. For the All-Age Celebration on Thursday, the kids in the classes had ideas and were getting ready for special tables. Then we took turns running the stations on the night of the All-Age Celebration. On Friday and Saturday, we learned about the Quaker testimonies through books quotations and stories. We made up our own skits together and we presented them for our class. In our free play time we played board games, made pop up cards, made dream catchers, painted, danced, had snack and had lots of table fellowship. Junior Yearly Meeting was a great time for the kids to meet new friends and play with their friends.

Epistle of Women's Retreat
Approved January 31, 2016

January 31, 2016

Dear Friends Everywhere,

Nearly 200 Quaker women (including about 10 non-Friends) gathered on the weekend of January 29-31, 2016 at Pearlstone Jewish retreat center in Northern Maryland for the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Annual Women’s retreat. We gathered to consider the theme of “Lighten up! Sharing Love, Light, and Laughter.” As we gathered Friday evening after sharing a kosher meal together, we were sung into the gathering, joining in chants and rounds, harmonizing together. Songs of ancient origin and tradition helped us experience the timelessness of that which is holy and filled with Light.

As a Jewish Retreat Center Pearlstone’s plenary room displayed sacred text (written in Hebrew, and in translation on the walls) which resonated deeply with us:

“Blessed are you in the city, blessed are you in the field: blessed are you when you come, blessed are you when you leave. I will make a covenant with them on that day, with the animals of the field, the birds of the sky, and the creepers of the earth: and I will banish bow, sword, and war from the land so that all may safely rest.”

We are a community that comes together once a year, during some of the most difficult months. The area that comprises BYM was hit by a record-breaking blizzard the previous weekend, so we were grateful that we were able to arrive at this spiritually safe place. At this retreat each year we find communion with women who also seek ways to deepen their spiritual connections with each other. An immediate trust was developed Friday night in our intimate worship sharing groups where we addressed queries together throughout the weekend.

Our plenary speaker on Saturday morning, Erin Rooney Doland, spoke to us of “The Practice of Lightening up”. As a professional organizer, and also a Quaker woman, she spoke of how she helps people de-clutter their lives of the physical stuff accumulated over years. She shared with a tone of light and loving humor, her own recognition of how ridding her life of stuff also lightened her spirit. She spoke of how in order to put off her de-cluttering task, she researched the issue and found that this holding on to stuff and possessions is something that humans from around the world have been dealing with over the ages, and she shared some of that wisdom with us. She spoke of how distracting the clutter can be, keeping us from attending to matters of Spirit.

By listening to each other deeply we built connections with each other that we will carry back to our meetings, and into our personal lives. We gathered in workshops where we explored and experienced political, personal, and spiritual topics. Our circles of conversations nourish each other’s spirits; by listening and laughing, singing and chanting, dancing and crying, we developed and renewed connections, which strengthen ourselves, our Monthly Meetings and ultimately our Yearly Meeting.

As we made our way through the weekend we examined challenges before us personally, locally and globally. How does this play of light and shadow work in our lives? How do we build and sustain a community which nourishes Spirit? We found some answers, but also more questions. We reveled in the various playful and serious performances in the coffeehouse (our talent show) on Saturday night and ended with worship sharing, and Meeting for Worship on Sunday, leaving a bit lighter than when we came. Over so many years we women of Baltimore Yearly Meeting have found that when our work in the world is held up by a strong circle of connections with each other and with Spirit, our load will be lightened. When we are deeply centered, when we simplify our physical, intellectual, emotional, and Spiritual places then the Light is able to illuminate the path ahead. We wish that wherever in the world you may reside, that you too may find ways to join with others to deepen in Spirit and in doing so, lighten the burdens you and others may bear.

In the Light,

Baltimore Yearly Meeting Women’s Retreat


Reported to Annual Session at Frostburg, Maryland 8th Month 9th Day, 2015

To Friends Everywhere,

As we gathered to work with our theme of Living into Right Relationship, our condition already reflected years of faithful progress in relationship with the creation, each other, and that Spirit that flows in and among us. Attention and labor have been abundantly given to healing relationships distorted by racism, overconsumption and exploitation of the earth and its inhabitants. We gathered in faith that we would discern together how to carry our work forward with new insight.

We were blessed with reminders of the opportunities we have to seek and be open to guidance from Spirit, which calls us into relationship. Our opening retreat raised up connectedness as the essence of relationship. We each bear responsibility for staying connected. The retreat sent us onward with the musical blessing, “Go Thou in Peace.” One of our plenary speakers described worship as communion, wherein we experience the presence of God and discover afresh our kinship with everything. Another speaker described ours as a ”difficult and painful time,” requiring us to act now for the future. We acknowledge that suffering exists in the present. Right relationship lets us see that some have been sacrificed for the benefit of others. Those who suffer need justice rather than charity. Our speaker reminded us that in a troubled present and an uncertain future, “it always seems impossible until it is done.” Our power comes from our relationships.

In Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business, reports and agenda items revealed our Yearly Meeting’s work toward righting relationships distorted by racism. We acknowledge that we need to live in a way that honors and nourishes the created world. We acknowledge the rights of all species to their part in creation.

During our week together, we seasoned the issues before us. Our new clerk reminded us that Spirit will find the voice it needs for Truth that needs to be shared. Visiting Friends connected us to other Yearly Meetings and their work in the world.

The work before us now is not new. Friends are aware that we live in a society that hurts and exploits others. We see the need to match our actions with our declarations, as John Woolman urged. Our final plenary speaker called us to catalyze social change on a large scale. He urged Friends to see ourselves as members rather than masters of creation, and to work to maintain its complexity, which requires harmony and balance.

In some ways our present work is entirely new. Our actions will affect the future in ways that cannot be undone. Discerning way forward is the task before us.
In the Light,
Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends

Epistle of Young Adult Friends Accepted 8th Month 9th Day, 2015

The year began at the end with a post-Holiday winter conference, mere days before the end of 2014, at Patapsco Friends Meeting for a weekend of exploration arranged by our lovely treasurer, Jenny Vekert. A food-themed conference, it challenged all to try expanding their pallet with new and exciting foods and uncharted pairings thereof such as the marriage of bread and pudding and giant bowls of build-your-own Pho several times over. Fortified by this success with such an eclectic food combination, a trip to Lotte, the local Korean supermarket, was swiftly arranged. Once there, YAFs embarked upon the dual missions of eating a lunch consisting only of products they’d never tried before, and picking out even more unknown food to bring back and share with each other later on. With Light and proper Buddy System techniques, no one was lost in the store, although YAFs did leave with more then with they arrived. Later on, Ruth Fitz and other members of Patapsco joined the community for an enthusiastic round of singing, continuing a YAF tradition of winter singing without carols and rounding out the weekend with food for the soul.

In the middle of the year, YAFs gathered at Friends’ Wilderness Center in West Virginia. Whereas the previous conference was rich with food, this conference was rich in nature and much time was spent appreciating not only each other’s company but the great outdoors as well. Amongst the many activities one could engage in over the weekend were a trip to the dedication of the new geodesic dome house, a hike up to the Appalachian Trail and back, and even an expedition to the local fair. YAFs had a wonderful dinner Saturday night with Ken Stockbridge, BYM’s presiding Clerk, who joined in a discussion about spiritual formation within the YAF community as well as the singing that followed it. The YAF community would like to thank Sheila Bach and the Friends Meeting of Washington for helping to make our spring conference a success.

Annual Session was both annual and a session. Despite being plagued by new and inconvenient delivery hours at the YAF community’s favorite pizza place, and being fraught with distraught at the cruel twist of fate that parted us from our Dearest Wayne, YAFs rallied together and drew new strength over the week from each other and from the larger community. In between running between committee meetings, JYM events and Frodo-ing for still more commitments, many a happy hour was spent coloring, sharing tea and Polish candies, and catching up with the year’s events. A new mentoring activity for Young Friends was brought into existence where YAFs answer questions submitted to them about life, school, adulting, and other scary stuff. We also stole all of their couches. Having once looked up to the strong and positive presence the Young Adult Friends community offered them when we were Young Friends, YAF perpetually strives to continue and live up to this legacy. YAFs additionally opened up this casual forum to the Greater BYM community with a Q&A wall in the Bookstore for the greater community to ask their most pressing questions as well. Continuing our educational outreach, we assisted Advancement and Outreach in a workshop on internet outreach.

So that was the year and as awesome as it was, YAF wouldn’t be much of a community without the awesome support they receive from the greater BYM community. While there are many people to thank, Young Adult Friends would like to extend their special gratitude to Ken Stockbridge. Ken has been a cheerful presence in our lives for many years, on intervisitation trips and singing retreats and always making time to listen. To honor him, we would like to present him with a plaque which reads, “Dear Ken. Thank you for all of your love and support. Sincerely, Young Adult Friends.” We hope you will treasure it always, as we will always treasure you.

As always, with Love and Light,
The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends

Epistle of Young Friends Accepted 8th Month 9th Day, 2015

Dear Friends,
This past year the Young Friends met several times in various locations to share our Love and Light. This year was filled with transitions of the community, including a very large influx of new members and the departures of many beloved ones. Our year was filled to the brim with dancing, worship, queries, singing, and new friendships formed, all while old friendships were strengthened.

The first Nuts and Bolts Committee retreat of the year was held at Gunpowder Friends Meeting where we learned how to properly facilitate a clearness committee. We also used it in practice by holding a clearness committee for an incoming Young Friend. In business meeting we developed a new way to integrate new attendees, called “Con 101” run by our members at large.

The whole Young Friends community began our year in late September at the lovely Langley Hill Meeting House by greeting Friends new and old. Our September conference was filled with bubbles, capture the flag, a one man rendition of Les Mis, our first coffee house of the year, and speed dating to integrate the incoming Friends to the community. There was plenty of love and light to go around which was carried in our hearts throughout the year.

Our annual Thanksgiving conference is special in many ways, one because it is the time that our alumni return to us to share again their joy and laughter. This year we also had a merfolk themed conference, spearheaded by our mermittee (i.e. merfolk is a gender neutral word for mermaid), a committee for the merfolk by the merfolk. The workshop on fracking, led by our own Friendly Adult Presence Polly Heningger, opened our minds and hearts to the environmental issues prevalent in our society. We used the wondrous kitchen in the Adelphi Meeting House to make delicious pizza and sweet potato biscuits (that’s what I said), which kept us fuelled for some fun-filled paper bag skits.

The second Nuts and Bolts Committee retreat was held in January at Herndon Friends Meeting where we discussed the year so far, held peer evaluations, and met with the Youth Programs Committee to discuss the budget. We also played capture the flag, soccer, and ultimate Frisbee in a nearby park.

Although all our conferences are filled with love and light, our February conference is one of the most attended and love filled cons. The ambiance of this conference was set by the quiet snowfall around the light filled Homewood Meeting House, and the laughter of Friends frolicking in the snow. Our workshop focused on sex and sex education, providing a safe environment for us to come to comprehend this serious topic. We also had worship sharing, played ultimate Frisbee, and received the melancholy announcement that our former Youth Programs Manager Alison was to make her departure. It may have to do with the fact that it’s held over Valentine’s Day weekend, or that we have so many hearts to share it with, but we love the special spirit that always seems to surround our marvelous love con.

In April we boarded a bus and headed out to Richmond Friends Meeting’s campsite, known as “The Clearing,” for our annual work con. As service we cleared trails, chopped wood and made signs. One order of business that came up early in the weekend was the creation of a communal social networking account (instagram). Named after a beloved Friendly Adult Presence, known as “Erikbrokemyheart,” run by the Young Friends as a way to keep in touch in-between conferences. We also proposed a query on the importance of this community and our self-governance because Friends felt there was a lack of initiative taken by members. Since this conference is the least attended of the year, due to both distance and timing, we held a discussion on the status of work con; why people to did not attend, and if we should continue it in future. We decided to continue this conversation at our final conference of the year, to let those who don’t attend work con have a say.

Our final con of the year, also known as grad con, was held at Hopewell Centre Friends Meeting, providing us plenty of space to frolic outdoors. We finished the tabled discussion, and decided to continue holding work/bus cons because the service we do is important to the wider community, and we are able to reach out to Friends further away. We had another workshop led by a Friendly Adult Presence, Amrit Moore, where we made personalized, screen printed tee-shirts. Throughout the weekend there were many haircuts and head-shavings, most of them were decided then and there. We ended this con as we always do, with a tear and tissue filled graduation ceremony, but this time the ceremony was not only our seniors. We said our final goodbyes to our Youth Programs Manager of the past six years, Alison Duncan. We thanked her for her time, and wished her well with her next adventure.

At steering wheel, our last Nuts and Bolts Committee retreat of the year, we said hello to our new Youth Programs Manager of the year, Jossie Dowling. This retreat was held at Fredrick Friends Meeting, and is designed for job training. We slid into our new roles without a hitch, and then we headed to Annual Session.

Annual Session began with a new role in the BYM community for Young Friends; starting Tuesday we began our roles as reading clerks. That evening we held our first Meeting for Business where we started off by introducing ourselves. The more we attended the wider community’s Meeting for Business, the more we applied their practices to our own Meetings, strengthening our spiritual community. We held four workshops throughout the week; screen-printing, conscientious objecting, gender-right relationships and equity, and experimenting with light. Our committees, including Handbook, Produce Department, Coffee House, Epistle, Mermittee, Prank, Friends In Giant Heated Tantrums (a.k.a. FIGHT), Do Good Deeds, Nuts and Bolts, and Dance Party Playlist, met every day to discuss their business, and many produced results that were shared with this whole community. Intergenerational activities included the All Age Celebration, Produce Dept., and Capture the Flag, and were shared with lots of laughs. After a year of both losses and gains, we posed the query “How may we channel our love for people and things that have departed, towards embracing the new?” and heard impactful responses which helped many through their transitions. As previously mentioned, we held an ad-hoc Prank Committee to prank the Young Adult Friends before our open house with them. Many post-it notes were shed and furniture was left upside-down, to the confusion of the YAFs.

We are looking forward to the upcoming year, and can’t wait for the community to continue to grow and flourish.
Love and light,
Young Friends of Baltimore Yearly Meeting

Epistle of Junior Young Friends Accepted 8th Month 9th Day, 2015

To Friends Everywhere:

This year Junior Young Friends enjoyed many fun activities at Annual Session. We started our week with the people that were here making tie-dye t-shirts. We held our own business meeting, where we decided on our clerk and recording clerk, plus things to do at the overnight and the All Age Celebration. One issue we addressed was the time needed to make the labyrinth - and to fix this problem, some JYFs volunteered to trace it while the rest of the group played capture the flag. However, because of the rain, they had to retrace an entirely new one the day of the All Age Celebration, in an entirely new spot.

The rain also affected the annual swimming trip, so some of us had the fun experience of swimming in the rain at the community pool (while having the pool entirely to ourselves!). In the JYF class, we enjoyed two field trips, as well. One was to a farm that provides vegetables to the university dining hall, Frostburg Grows, where we moved trees, learned about compost, and helped prune and pick tomatoes. The second one was to the planetarium, where we learned many cool facts about telescopes and found out that Pluto had recently been reinstated as a planet!

We had a scavenger hunt that led all over campus - and, after tallying creativity and success points, had a 'Quaker tie' as the end result. Throughout the week, we folded many, many paper cranes, as part of the Yearly Meeting's effort to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima by folding 1,000. We learned about creation stories from around the world, in one of which, when God created man and buffalo, buffalo killed and ate man - and in many of them we noticed similarities. Lastly, we ended our great week of JYF with our overnight, where we played manhunt and sardines, and some joined the YFs for capture the flag. In the morning, we got to enjoy watermelon for breakfast because Dylan was able to cut one open with a plastic knife.

Epistle of Women's Retreat

January 25,2015

Dear Friends Everywhere:

One hundred and sixty nine women journeyed to Skycroft Retreat Center nestled on an Appalachian mountaintop in Middletown, Maryland to gather for the 21st annual Baltimore Yearly Meeting Women’s Retreat for the weekend of January 23-25, 2015. The vitality of our strong community was enhanced with the presence of more than 50 women, young and old, attending the retreat for the first time. We explored the theme of Connections: To Ourselves, To Each Other, and to the Spirit. As we gathered Friday night, winter weather swirled around us, enveloping us in a snowy freezing fog. We journeyed, knowing that the skies—and our hearts--would open to manifest the Light.

As we gathered for the opening, we took roll call by Monthly Meeting and generations. We are not a body that gathers to make decisions, but a body that gathers in fellowship to renew our spirits during some of the darkest days of the year. Our singing, chanting, and sacred circle dancing reflect the unity of Spirit, as we connect and blend tenderness and vulnerability, with strength and clarity. Laughter and tears envelop us, like the weather outside awes us with its power to make us measure every step, or make us stop and cherish the beauty of God’s Creation.

Small worship-sharing groups focused our time together, at the beginning middle and end of the weekend. Friends from Adelphi Monthly Meeting lovingly organized the gathering, planning workshops, worship sharing, and interest groups for us to consider the theme. Many of us find this retreat to be a safe place to try new things and to test our leadings, by offering a workshop or an interest group, or sharing a story or song at our Coffeehouse. In workshops, we explored Connections through art, writing, bodywork, meditation, and learned about Quaker history and social justice. Artists and craftswomen brought their works to share, and the brilliant displays of pottery, jewelry, handspun and dyed wool and wool works, as well as photography garnished the edges of our main gathering space, brightened our spirits.

At our Plenary session on Saturday morning, we were blessed to have performance artist Kim Hanley speak to us as Lucretia Mott, early Quaker abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights. We were reminded of her power-and the power of other early Friends-who spoke from a conviction of Spirit with authority and love, with gentleness and strength, and a certitude of faith that was the cornerstone of early Friends’ meetings. Though many of us had read or heard of Lucretia Mott, having her in our midst was powerful, reminding us that Quaker women’s authority came not from men or sects, but directly from the Light of God. Friend Lucretia led by example, inspiring us to speak up and speak out, working and witnessing for equality.

We understand the power of listening to each other’s experiences, the experiences of our foremothers, and the experiences of Friends around the world. We honor the women who have spoken Truth to Power through the centuries and who continue to do so around the world—some in our own midst, some across the globe.

The fog and snow lifted, mirroring our soaring spirits. The ice sparkled on the branches silhouetted against the blue sky, reminding us of the cleansing and healing in being close to Nature. It is in this faith community that we can gather, center, connect, and then move back into our meetings and the world, able to reflect the Spirit more vibrantly.

Even though we may not know you, we sense that the connection we have in Spirit is a connection to explore, celebrate, and cherish. The Truth that Lucretia Mott spoke of is available to us all, and when we gather in community, we are nourished and strengthened by the Vitality of the Spirit. We hope that you find a restorative healing power when you gather in your Quaker community, as we are blessed to have here on this mountaintop in Maryland.

With love in The Light,

The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Women’s Retreat

Betty Ansin Smallwood, Langley Hill
Barbara Platt, Sandy Spring
Helen Tasker, Fredrick


Reported to Annual Session at Frostburg, Maryland 8th Month 10th Day, 2014

Annual Session 2014 photography by Nony Dutton

To Friends Everywhere,

Friends gathered for the 343rd annual session of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, from Eighth month, 4th to 10th, on the campus of Frostburg State University, in Western Maryland. Our theme this year was “Transformation and Healing”. Our opening retreat focused on bringing our differences into the light. We were reminded that the only constant in life is change, and that change can generate conflict. The word “discernment" kept arising for us as we were led to consider new ways of seeing our differences as something that has the potential to strengthen or even transform our relationships. These themes continued to nourish us throughout the week. Morning Bible study, in-spired by a passage from Luke (6:28) - “bless those who curse you” - encouraged us to expand our understanding of who is part of our beloved community. Worship sharing groups also met each morning to consider queries centered on healing and transformation.

Sue Regen, carrying a travel minute from Rochester Monthly Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting, shared with us her ministry on “Forgiveness as a Spiritual Practice”. She led us through a guided meditation called The Arms of God Prayer, moving us towards opening our hearts to someone with whom we are struggling. On Tuesday afternoon Mark Tayac, founder of the Tayac Territory Singers and Dancers, and his son Naiche Tayac, shared with us the culture and music of the Piscataway nation, reminding us that American Indians are still here among us. He spoke of how the drum is the heartbeat of life, and that all people everywhere have the same heartbeat. One of our Friends from Kenya shared that the dances made him feel at home. Earlier in the day, the delegation from Friends Theological College, in Kaimosi, Kenya had blessed us with the message “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”

Margery Post Abbot, a released Friend whose ministry is supported by the Mult-nomah Monthly Meeting in Portland, Oregon, spoke of how “power over” dominates and demeans, while “power of the light” enables us to walk side by side as equals. She reflected on the power Margaret Fell knew as the source for transformation of the human heart, and of the world. She shared a vision of “the wild power of love let loose in the world” and called us to witness to a new way of being, faithful to the new creation.

Our meetings for worship with a concern for business moved us toward healing and transformation. We approved a minute on inclusion, affirming the right of all individuals, including transgender people to understand and express themselves with authenticity and integrity. We shared our deep concern for the child refugees crossing the United States border, for those who are unjustly incarcerated, and for those who are suffering in Israel and Palestine. We agreed to bring back to our meetings a concern for climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. We welcomed our new Development Director, and approved our first ever capital expenditure budget and plan. Together, we worked on building a “mini cabin” as a fundraiser for our camping program. We heard of the “ministry of presence” that will be the new focus of our long-standing intervisitation program, and received a report from our Vision Implementation Committee, urging us to take simple, achievable steps to strengthen our connections with each other. We were reminded when reports come before us, to look for that of the Spirit, not the fatal flaws.

Our Presiding Clerk Betsy Meyer completed her term of service. We joined in a joyful and tearful appreciation, and a hymn based on the 23rd psalm.

We enjoyed times of play and laughter, including a high energy all-age celebration featuring ice cream and a candlelight labyrinth, and our sometimes raucous Saturday evening coffee house. The presence of our children and young people among us, and the visibility of our thriving camping program, are a continuing source of energy and joy. We treasure the feeling of family we experience here in Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

Our Clerk shared a message that seemed to capture where we find ourselves:

In so much of what we do as a worshiping community, we are wandering in the wilderness together, seeking Divine guidance, or we are in exile together, struggling to articulate a common understanding based on our experiences of the Divine. We feel frustrated when we cannot see where we are going or agree on the end product. But we have to realize that the journey is more important than the destination. It is the journey together that makes us a worshiping community. And on the journey we are healed and transformed.

As we undertake this journey together, we are challenged by words shared with us during our memorial meeting: “Who will take up the work that this Friend has laid down.” Perhaps the answer lies in a song the children shared with us in spoken word and Sign Language:

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Epistle of Young Adult Friends Approved 8th Month 10th Day, 2014

Annual Session 2014 photograph by Nony Dutton

For Twenty Thirteen - Fourteen:
A Long-Form Haiku
In winter we came
and gathered amongst our Friends,
warm in Washington.
 
We had three workshops.
Tory Smith and Liv Henry
discussed policy.
 
They taught us about
combating the use of drones
via lobbying.
 
We were pleased to have
Bill McPherson, Pulitzer
Winning journalist.
 
We sat in the sun
and listened to his tales of
war and history.
 
Then Friends from ad hoc
Vision Implementation
Committee joined us,
 
for apparently,
Friends struggle talking to YAFs,
so we lent our help.
 
That night we relaxed,
playing games and sharing love,
grateful for our Friends.
 
Homewood held May Con,
and though our numbers were small,
many joys were shared.
 
Chuck Vekert discussed
combat and PTSD,
sharing ways to cope.
 
This was followed by
a trip to the Museum of
Art in Baltimore.
 
That night we ate out,
a long-time YAF tradition,
this time Golden West.
 
Annual Session
was spent with Friends young and old
working together.
 
In Business Meeting
we continued to struggle
with the YAF Facebook,
 
contemplating change
because of technology
and the internet.
 
But we still worshipped,
swam and played games with Young Friends,
and went out to lunch.
 
As YAFs keep growing,
we would like to thank all Friends
for love and support.
 
As many may know,
kindness can move great mountains,
and though we struggle,
 
it is nice to know
we always have each other,
together as Friends.
 
In love and in light,
B.Y.M. Young Adult Friends
Refrigerator.

Epistle of Young Friends Approved 8th Month 10th Day, 2014

Annual Session 2014 photograph by Nony Dutton

This year, the Young Friends community gathered together for five conferences and Annual Session, consisting of enlightening workshops and fun activities, which helped to foster a greater community. As we welcomed the rising 9th graders and entered the new year, Young Friends discussed important issues that the community faced as well as assessed how to best support outside communities.

In September, Young Friends reunited at Adelphi Friends Meeting with smiles and laughter, setting a joyful atmosphere for the conference. We enjoyed a workshop on journalism that stressed the importance of reporting issues that have very little press coverage, such as the self-immolation of Tibetan monks. This also focused on finding the truth through Quaker values along the journey. In response to a letter from PCYM, Young Friends addressed gendered sleeping spaces and how attempt to be inclusive of all gender identities so that we can greater foster a community of love and light. This letter included our minute on sexual activity and our views on how gendered sleeping spaces enforce heteronormativity and isolate our Queer community. Friends enjoyed a dance party in the evening, and wrapped up their activities with a game on sharing world resources during First Day School in the morning.

Friends met again in November at Friends Meeting of Washington for a weekend filled with playgrounds and comfy Adirondack chairs. Young Adult Friend Jossie Dowling resented a workshop on connections and relationship webs. This flowed into a discussion on privilege and how class affects the world, including among Friends. We reflected on homelessness and the diversity of income levels in the community. This opened our eyes to how all of the members of our community lived. Also at November Con, Friends helped Campbell Plowden send medical supplies to the Center for Amazon Community Ecology indigenous tribes in the Amazon Forest by selling candy bars. We also helped Young Friends, who were doing work in South Africa, by donating soccer supplies for a child's summer camp.

In February, Friends convened at Stony Run Meeting for a postponed Love Con. Young Friends attended a workshop on trans*issues led by a woman name Chloe Schwenke who works as the vice president of global programs for the organization Freedom House and with the trans* communities across sub-Saharan Africa. We learned that to be yourself, it takes courage and self-confidence. The feelings of trans individuals in our community were also brought to light and supported in a trans-friendly sharing group.
Come April, Friends were bused to State College Meeting in Pennsylvania for work con. After arriving after midnight on a cold and rainy night, Friends went to bed without Meeting with a Concern for Business. The following day, some young friends were driven to Shaver's Creek Environmental center to do service, while other young friends stayed at State College to do landscaping. Friends learned how to do multiple yard work skills such as chopping wood, building wood piles, planting seeds, and cleaning out ditches. The service combined with the physical labor cleansed us spiritually and mentally.

At the last conference of the year, Young Friends met at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting. In the midst of final laughs with friends and reflecting on the seniors' best moments, we enjoyed a fulfilling workshop on consent led by Maggie Dorr. In addition, we watched aerial dancing by a talented Young Friend and hosted a prom. On Saturday evening, we said a tearful good-bye to the graduates and praised their many achievements past and to come.

During Annual Session this year, Young Friends gathered to have a productive and fulfilling spiritual experience. Our workshops included conflict resolution, self-reflection through journaling, and self-care and Pilates. These workshops helped us to reach consensus with greater ease and comfort. We attended two plenary sessions, which included a lecture on power made manifest and the American Indian culture of the Piscataway. Friends also played fun games such as wink and unified capture the flag with Junior Young Friends and Young Adult Friends. We also had exciting midnight swims and an entertaining coffeehouse. For a fun intergenerational treat, Young Friends planned small group sessions including icebreakers and games to unite the various diverse age groups of the community, which is known as Produce. We had some enlightening business meetings which included queries on the usage of technology and the inclusion of neighboring communities on campus. Questions were also posed on how to make All Age Business Meeting a more engaging experience for Young Friends and the broader community alike.
The only issue that came to the Nuts and Bolts committee was that the name "Executive" sounded too corporate and exclusive for a community that is built on openness and acceptance. In light of that matter, the name has officially been changed to Nuts and Bolts Committee (NBC). Overall, there were no major problems that were pertinent to the health of the community.

In conclusion, this community was filled with a lot of light and love. Young Friends grew not only in their knowledge, but also in their understanding of issues relating to privilege, consent, gender identity, and underrepresentation. We helped support others through fundraising, community service, and conversation, which helped Young Friends expand their greater appreciation of life and the community.

Epistle of Junior Young Friends Approved 8th Month 10th Day, 2014

Annual Session 2014 photograph by Nony Dutton

Over the week of Annual Sessions, we, the Junior Young Friends of Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM), participated in many fun and educational activities offering opportunities for transformation and growth. From the beginning of this great adventure, we began as we intended to go on by using our hands and feet to tell people about ourselves.

Educational activities were an important part of the adventure. We had a fishbowl where we explored our differences and were rewarded with gummy bears. We learned about how doodling helps us pay attention and afterwards took our doodling journals with us everywhere. We chose two clerks (Daphne Hemilly and Lily Valdez-Lane) and a recording clerk (Robert Finegar) - and had a business meeting. We designed, built and tended a candle labyrinth for All Age Celebration. We attended Produce, where we met more BYM people and learned their names. And Sue Regen, one of the evening speakers, came to our classroom to teach us about forgiveness and how to apologize.

We also did so many fun, but not so educational, things we couldn’t count (or even remember) all of them. Some of our favorites include the overnight, capture the flag, drawing with sidewalk chalk (especially all the HoNks), swimming, and Down, Mr. President (a game where the players each put a finger to one of their ears and the last one to do so gets tackled by everybody else). We also did improv, made t-shirts, and played card games and sports. A recurring theme of our daily name circles was the effect of temperature on our ability to sleep well.

This week of seeing old friends and making new ones was a wonder for us all - and we would like to thank all involved.

Epistle of Women's Retreat

To Friends everywhere:
We send you greetings and hope this letter finds you warm, sheltered, and hopeful.

Over the weekend of January 24-26, 2014, 130 women from meetings across Baltimore Yearly Meeting gathered at Skycroft Retreat Center for our annual Women’s Retreat, to explore the theme: “Wholly/Holy Present: Open. Embrace. Release.” It was bitter cold outside. The plenary room, with its wide windows looking out over Middletown Valley, was full of the color of hats and scarves and knitter’s yarn. The community we build together is like a beautiful crazy quilt, made up of many bits and patches, that keeps us warm.

On Friday evening, we were welcomed by the Patapsco and Annapolis Friends who organized this year’s retreat and introduced ourselves by meeting. Betsy Meyer, Clerk of Yearly Meeting, and Meg Meyer, Clerk of Interim Meeting, read the Yearly Meeting vision statement approved in 2011, and invited us to reflect on it phrase by phrase. Out of the silence we lifted up the phrases that touched our hearts. We reflected on God’s infinite love, and reminded ourselves that we in Baltimore Yearly Meeting are first of all a “worshipping community.”

On Saturday morning, our plenary speaker was Jen Karsten, Director of Pendle Hill. She began with an opening prayer of inviting us to “welcome the gift of our differences.” She organized her presentation around a list of words and names from A to Z—another patchwork quilt to lift our spirits. She told stories of inspiring women, from Granny D to Elizabeth Fry and Rigoberta Menchu. She read passages from the writings of Elizabeth Watson, Zora Neale Hurston and others. She described spiritual practices, and offered bits of practical wisdom. “H” was for “Honoring” ourselves and others: “there are no flaws,” she said, “only differences.” “I” was for “Invite Stories; Share Stories.” We are all unique, she told us. We even worship differently. We need to listen to each other in a way that communicates that we really want to hear. At the heart of her presentation was J for “Journey” She described Joseph Campbell’s typology of the archetypal hero’s journey, from leaving home, to returning home with some precious gift or knowledge. Being a hero, she told us, means giving a part of yourself to something bigger than yourself. Whenever we commit to something, we are starting out on a journey. We need to see within ourselves the possibility of being a hero. “M” was for “Mistake”: Make lots of them, she said. Take risks. “U” was for the Bantu phrase “Ubuntu”, which translates “I am, because we are.” This was a favorite saying of Nelson Mandela’s and one that can serve us well. Knowing our history, and seeking wisdom from our mentors, empowers us to move courageously outward. In conclusion, she reminded us that we are all part of the work of developing our own Quaker culture. She urged us be adventurous, and to engage the known and unknown for the good of all.

Throughout the weekend we gathered again and again for group singing and quiet worship. In worship sharing groups, in workshops, and over meals, we made space to listen to and learn from each other. Much as a quilt might bring us comfort on a cold night, so did our patchwork of encounters. We not only connected with interesting people we had never met before, but we had a chance to hear stories from people we thought we knew--stories that transformed our relationships and deepened our appreciation for each other.

Workshops offered opportunities for yoga, chanting, writing, walking, sharing gratitude, exploring scripture, and remembering the earth. We were invited to a showing of the powerful documentary by a BYM Friend: “Marii Hasegawa: Gentle Woman of a Peaceful Kind,” the story of a Japanese-born American woman who dedicated her life to speaking out against the injustices of war. A Sacred Circle Dance re-affirmed our connection to mother Earth.

Interest group time on Saturday afternoon offered a chance to plan for the future of “Quaker Women and Friends for Sane Gun Laws” which grew out of a concern at last year’s gathering. Another group met to share our experiences with the all-BYM reading project for the year: Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness.”

We were amazed by the creative energy in our community. The foyer and plenary room were lined with tables where Friends displayed their handwork: jewelry, pottery, greeting cards, spinning, weaving, as well as handcrafts from other countries. An arts and crafts room offered space and supplies for us to make our own creations. Bright colors and beauty were all around us.

As the wind howled outside on this ancient mountain our traditional sharing at the “coffee house” talent night warmed our hearts and filled the room with laughter. What a patchwork of women we are! Perhaps what we have made this weekend is a kind of freedom quilt. Our journey is far less desperate than the journeys undertaken by people held in slavery who used quilts to mark the way to freedom, but we are all travellers looking for signposts. May the quilt of our gathered community guide us and warm us along the way.


With love, Baltimore Yearly Meeting Women’s Retreat


Reported to Annual Session at Frostburg, Maryland 8th Month 4th Day, 2013

To Friends Everywhere:

Baltimore Yearly Meeting Friends gathered in Frostburg, Maryland for our 342nd Annual Session during an unusually cool week in August, warmed by the love we feel for each other, and by the Light of God. Our theme for the week was “Growing from Common Roots Toward the Light.”

What are our common roots? How can Universalist Friends and those from a Christian or prophetic tradition find common ground? Can we truly heal the divisions that lie underneath the surface of our Yearly Meeting? An introductory retreat attended by about thirty Friends focused on leadings and witness, spiritual discipline and gospel order. This set the ground for the week where we explored the theme of unity and diversity in business sessions, workshops, worship, Bible study, worship sharing, and plenaries. Perhaps most intensely, we discovered each other’s understandings of our shared faith in individual conversations, as we broke bread or walked together to the next programmed event. As one Friend said: “I came to these meetings prepared to listen, and was moved.”

At our BYM opening session, Presiding Clerk Elizabeth “Betsy” Meyer showed us an Edward Hicks painting of the Peaceable Kingdom, pointing out the long line of Friends in the background, and the little child joyfully presiding among the animals. On Tuesday evening Michael Newheart reflected on the texts and textures of messages offered in Meeting for Worship, based on his experience in his own Meeting. He spoke of “loving to feel the place where words come from,” and reminded us that “power” was even more common in the writings of George Fox than “light.” He urged us to feel the power of God in our minds, hearts and bodies, and to remember that “the power of the Lord is over all.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the Yearly Meeting divided into two groups to focus on a common theme. Friends approximately twelve and older divided into intergenerational discussion circles to explore how we experience privilege or lack of privilege in various aspects of our lives. Those younger than twelve and their families also had a lively exchange about privilege, and what it feels like to be treated fairly or unfairly. We have also embarked on a “one book project”, asking all of our Meetings to read and study The New Jim Crow: An Examination of Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color-Blindness. We were deeply moved by the Spiritual State of the Meeting report from the South Mountain Friends Fellowship, a prison worship group under the care of Patapsco Friends Meeting. Prison might be described as “the closest thing to hell on earth,” the prisoners wrote, “but God is there too.”

Throughout the week, worship sharing queries prompted us to think of our Quaker testimonies as springboards for action rather than merely an opportunity for introspection. In Bible study we reflected on God’s intention that we care for the poor and vulnerable and the strangers among us. An enticing menu of afternoon workshops brought us together around common interests, lifted up new concerns, and challenged us to live our faith more fully. We celebrated 30 years of the Spiritual Formation Program of Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

We acknowledge the enormous expectations we place on our beloved staff, and considered how we can ease their burdens. We were also reminded of the urgent financial needs of some of our treasured programs. Our retirement community, Friends House, is facing the need for substantial building renovations. Friends Wilderness Center, in the mountains of West Virginia, is struggling to meet its ongoing expenses. Our beloved Friend Ann Riggs, whose ministry as Principal of Friends Theological College in Kenya has been embraced by the Yearly Meeting, needs substantial funds to cover the remaining year of her tenure. We see right-ordered support for our staff and programs as a matter of integrity. Our Youth Programs Manager spoke of what a blessing it is to be here, sharing this pain and love as we practice the Holy Experiment. The ministry of visitors sponsored by our Intervisitation Program deeply moved us, as they reminded us to faithfully tend the fire that God has lighted in our hearts.

Consideration of a new Faith and Practice absorbed much of our attention this year. We are enormously grateful to the committee that has labored over the past dozen years to prepare a draft, and particularly for their dedication in visiting nearly all of our Meetings over eight months to discuss the draft and listen attentively to concerns and suggestions. We engaged deeply with each other as we strove to understand what Faith and Practice means and what role it serves. How can a document express our faith? Can we come to unity when our beliefs are so different? We felt that we could not absorb and consider so much new text at once, especially since some Friends still have serious reservations. We agreed to appoint a new committee that will consider what has been written and the concerns that have been raised, and bring sections of a new Faith and Practice to us over a period of several years, for deep discernment.

Consideration of the draft has opened up a conversation about what we believe, and what it is that binds us together. This is an awesome gift. We have already begun the work of acknowledging our differences, and embracing the challenge they pose. By talking openly with each other about our own deeply held beliefs and unique individual experiences, we know we can learn to love each other better. One Friend suggested that we are in a chrysalis stage—a messy interim between caterpillar and butterfly. We embrace our state of transition, and move forward in faith. Our Clerk reminded us that forgiveness is a gift that we give ourselves.

Robin Mohr, Executive Secretary, Friends World Committee for Consultation, Section of the Americas, joined us for the week and presented the Carey Memorial Lecture, ”Growing from Common Roots Toward the Light.” Robin spoke of convergent Friends: Conservative, Evangelical, and Liberal Friends longing to be radically inclusive. She urged us to become “bilingual” in listening to each other’s experiences of faith. She spoke lovingly to the concerns that simmered this week, and gifted us with a hopeful message of what it means to be a people who listen to God. People are hungry for what we as Friends have tasted. We should stop seeing ourselves as refugees and envision ourselves as immigrants shaping our future, living up to the Light that we have. She described the world of Friends as a forest with many groves, growing toward the Light from common ground.

The spirit of our young people lightened our hearts. On Thursday we enjoyed an “All-Age Celebration” which included activity tables, a candle-lit labyrinth, and ice cream sundaes for all. It was a joy to have the entire Junior Yearly Meeting join us one morning to share a report on their activities and lead us in song. The report on our Camping Program, our largest single Yearly Meeting program, was profoundly moving. The directors of the Teen Adventure Foot Program spoke of how rain on a tin roof drowns out every other sound, even a group of teenagers singing at the top of their lungs. “We thought the rain was going to stop,” they said, “we kept thinking it would stop. But after a while we embraced the reality that we were all going to get wet.” When a continuing deluge delayed a planned canoe trip, the campers turned the wait into a joyful, all-inclusive, muddy game of Ultimate Frisbee. Campers who might have felt merely drenched and miserable were instead bubbling over with stories of their adventures, aware of the power of their own voice and action.

Can we be joyful as our children are? When faced with obstacles and controversy, can we not just endure hard times, but rejoice in them? Times of struggle give us the opportunity to explore alternative ways of experiencing joy, and to understand that the Spirit is ever-present. God has certainly been present with us this week.

Epistle of Young Adult Friends Approved 8th Month 4th Day, 2013

To Friends everywhere:

Young Adults Friends had an introductory paragraph.

In January, Young Adult Friends (YAFs) gathered together at Stony Run Friends Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. We were joined by Young Dog Friend Chunsa Macfarlane who was joining us as part of her ministry of keeping toes clean. In the evening we hosted a potluck inviting the greater community to join us for a night of singing though a strict moratorium on Christmas carols was imposed. Friends brought bongos, kazoos and a washtub bass for the event and fun and fellowship was had by all present. Later, Friends gathered for frolicking outside in the snow before deciding hot chocolate was the best thing ever.

Young Adult Friends met once again in mid-May for a cozy gathering at Hopewell Centre Monthly Meeting in Clearbrook, Virginia. Friends engaged in a bit of roadside cleanup for the Meeting, bravely forging onward even in the face of an untimely downpour. In need of a hot meal once done, friends came together to create pirogues from scratch, which quickly became a learning experience for all. The conference additionally featured a viewing of the movie I ♥ Huckabees, complete with a lively discussion on existentialism; an abundance of cookies and cake; an extreme scavenger hunt for the meeting room light switch and plenty of quality conversation.

At Annual Session—held at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland—YAFs live together for a week within a single dorm. Despite this closeness, it often seems that we are farther away from one another than ever. Young Adult Friends hold so many diverse roles within Baltimore Yearly Meeting that scheduling conflicts within the YAF community easily outstrip the number of Skittles on the dorm floor (which is saying something). Young Adult Friends are Friendly Adult Presences, Friends Committee on National Legislation representatives, Junior Yearly Meeting (JYM) volunteers, Annual Session Bookstore Managers, Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee members, Assistant Annual Session Bookstore Managers, Annual Session Photographers, Interim Meeting Recording Clerks, American Friends Service Committee members, Youth Program Committee members, Working Group on Racism members, and Program Committee representatives — and that’s before this year’s nominations go through.

But we power through adversity. We gather together to master essential survival skills such as playing overcomplicated board games, coloring in dinosaurs and Hello Kitty, and completing Advanced Level Three-Person Double-Ricochet Food-Tossed-Into-Each-Other’s-Mouths challenges. We hold joint midnight swims with Young Friends (YFs) and play Capture the Flag with YFs and JYM. We brainstorm new methods of outreach and communication for our community and welcome graduating Young Friends into it by introducing them to the primary perk of being over eighteen: we can leave Frostburg State’s campus to buy ice cream anytime we want. On a more serious note, Friend Nony Dutton spent half an hour explaining cricket and we are still in discernment as to what a wicket is. How’s that?

The past year has been both up and down in attendance as Young Adult Friends work their way through life’s current uncertainties, both within and outside of the community. Even so, it is these same uncertainties that help bond us together and allow Friends from ages eighteen to thirty-five a safe haven where we may hold one another up in our struggles and rejoice in our successes.

Sincerely,
The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends

Epistle of Young Friends Approved 8th Month 4th Day, 2013

Epistle of Young Friends
The Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) Young Friends Community has had a wonderful year full of love, conversation, and – sometimes – actual business.

Last year, we approved a new version of our Young Friends Handbook that Handbook Committee had previously spent three years working on. Already, the newest incarnation of Handbook Committee is hard at work reading, discussing, and editing the document in order to accurately reflect the structure of our community.

Food Committee created a spreadsheet to help food planners choose meals that can be made for over a hundred people in some very small kitchens and shop for those meals effectively.

People met over the year to discuss the Faith and Practice and made suggestions for revisions that were accepted by the Faith and Practice Revision Committee.

This year, Do Good Deeds Committee pledged to give $200 to cover extra luggage fees incurred from taking much-needed medical supplies and clothing to indigenous Peruvian communities. They led a effort during our February Conference to make lasagna and casseroles for a local food pantry near Stony Run Meeting and led a workshop, about physical, mental, and emotional abuse.

Executive Committee has been having an ongoing discussion with the larger community over concerns related to exclusion. We have been working on inclusion throughout all of Young Friends, as we have grown immensely in numbers in the past few years, and it can be difficult for new members to feel welcome. To accomplish this, we follow several policies. Exec meetings, with a few exceptions, are open to anyone who wishes to join, and we have been making an effort to encourage Young Friends to attend. Open door and “croissants not doughnuts” (leaving spaces to sit when people are gathered) policies are in effect at all Young Friends Conferences, to avoid breaking community. When introducing themselves, Young Friends are encouraged to share both their names and their preferred pronouns, so that no one accidentally gets misgendered. Finally, in order to make Young Friends feel safe and comfortable in a community so full of love and surprise hugs, we have been encouraging a policy of asking before contact, and receiving a very clear “yes” before actually initiating, which we call ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT!

Young Friends have five Conferences over the year, in addition to Annual Session. This year, our September Conference was held at Sandy Spring, where we played capture the flag and listened to a presentation by one of our Young Friends about the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage he participated in. November Con was at Langley Hill, where Campbell Plowden led an Alternatives to Violence Project style workshop on community building and gave a presentation on conservation issues in the Amazon. The February Conference, called “Love Con” was at Stony Run with two workshops: one from the Friends Committee on National Legislation and one from the Do Good Deeds Committee. There was also an epic dance party. In March, the Young Friends piled onto buses and traveled down to Maury River, where they did service at Common Ground, where one of BYM’s camps is hosted. Our final conference, in May, was held at Hopewell, where we had a massage workshop and said goodbye to twenty seven seniors in a loving and tear-filled night.

This past week at Annual Session, Young Friends have participated in many activities – Meetings for Business; midnight swimming and capture the flag with the Young Adult Friends; the All Age Celebration; watching the Phantom Regiment; and workshops on a variety of subjects including Quaker testimonies and history, privilege in North American society, the Peruvian Amazon, Right Sharing of resources, and Chuck Kleymeyer’s book, Yeshu.

It’s been a productive and enjoyable year, and we look forward to doing it all over again next year.

Love and Light,
The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Friends

Epistle of Junior Young Friends Approved 8th Month 4th Day, 2013

Epistle of Junior Young Friends
JYF Summarizationification (Epistle) 2013

Hello, we are the JYF’s of the 2013 BYM Annual Session. Over this past week we have learned about our roots, and how they affect us and our community. Our teachers, Melanie, Bill, Debbie, Dave, Ann, Gobind, Michael, Joanna, and Linda have taught us so much about how to treat each other and how to participate in our community. They have also told us many times how we have taught them as well. We have chosen Starling Wolfrum as clerk and William Finegar as assistant clerk. Then, we approved Thomas Finegar as recording clerk and Tadek Kosmal as co-recording clerk.

So many people have come to our JYF room to teach us and tell us about things that they are doing or cool activities. One of these activities included the doodle-ography journals that we had a bunch of fun drawing in during business meeting and long lectures. Melanie shared with us that while doodling we could retain more information then if we were just listening. Secondly, we had Joanna teach us about chalk art. With the chalk we each drew something about ourselves then passed it on to the next person and so on to create two long portraits of what represents us. Joanna also had us cut out parts of a magazine to represent something to do with us and then we drew a picture combining them, there was one that represented us, one that we liked, one that we didn’t like and one that didn’t represent us. Another activity that we did was making roots poems in an acrostic form. An acrostic poem is made up of phrases in which the starting letters make up one word, in this case, roots. Later, Dave gave a seminar on the question, “How do you deal with someone who has a fear that you don’t share about your situation?” that was followed by a discussion. This discussion was inspired by our interaction with a lovely member of the campus police. Chuck Kleymeyer came and shared about his new book, Yeshu, which was a more relatable telling of the New Testament. We went to an intergenerational plenary about privilege and what it’s like to have, or not have a privilege. We were positioned in circles to discuss about the groups which we were part of that gave us privilege and groups we were part did not give us privilege. Finally, we played a game of capture the flag with the YFs and the RYFs in teams of X’s and O’s and we had a lot of fun. The game ended in a quite original Quaker Tie. The last and most important thing that we did was that we practiced approving things… over… and over… and over again.

Overall, the JYF’s 2013 would like to recognize the support of the Yearly Meeting and we hope you rest in the light this coming year.

Sincerely,

Will, Tadek, John Mark, Silas, Hannah, Lily, Kyle, Anna W., Anna A., Starling, Miranda, Andrew, Sophia, Noah, Thomas, The Doctor, Amy Pond, River Song and Captain Jack.

Epistle of Women's Retreat
Approved 1st Month 27th Day, 2013

To Friends Everywhere,

One hundred and thirty Women from Baltimore Yearly Meeting gathered on a cold snowy weekend in north central Maryland for our annual retreat. We meet to weave our lives together, into a tapestry that grows through the years. Some threads drop out of sight for awhile, only to show up later more vibrant, and or stronger. We know that when woven together, the threads—the individual stories of our journeys—create a thing at once beautiful, comforting and strong. We believe that your Spirit, Your Light is a part of our story as well.

During the past year, women from Friends Meeting of Washington planned this retreat around the theme of Play, Nap, Feast. Here, at Skycroft Retreat on a mountaintop in the Appalachians, we met to worship, sing, dance and play, to revitalize our spirits and renew our energy.

At our plenary on Saturday morning, four panelists shared how they find ways to replenish their souls. As they each spoke, it became apparent that their threads are interwoven with ours. Joan Anderson shared her stories of living through World War II and the Cold War, witnessing world events that touched her life. She brought to life events in the 1940’s some of us have only read about in history books. Deborah Haines shared her experience with the Bible, speaking about how she gains a deeper sense of being a part of the stream of humanity as she reads, re-reads, and weaves these stories of long ago into her spiritual life. She has learned much about the world as she realized that the Bible was not necessarily written from God’s point of view, but from the point of view of people exploring their encounters with the divine. Anna Rain shared how, after years of feeling inadequate at sports, she discovered modern dance, finding that the communion of music and physical activity “kinesthetically connected” her to Spirit. Margaret Krome-Lukens, the youngest panelist, spoke of her awareness of the “blessed unrest” that drives her, and all the work we must do if we are to heal our planet. She contrasted the “vacationland of self-care” we in America use to escape from stress and responsibilities, and the self-care that nourishes us through connection and vulnerability. She spoke of her own struggles with darkness, and the blessing of letting the walls down, so that energy and light can flow freely among us. The panel helped us open to new understandings of ourselves and our place in the fabric of humanity. As Joan said, “my story is your story.” We know that many women around the world--locally, nationally, and internationally—spend their lives trying to fulfill the needs of others with far fewer resources than many of we BYM women may have.

We who gather here together have many different needs and gifts. We are wounded souls, comforters, mentors, creators, healers, weavers, seekers. We realize that the ability to gather with each other is a blessing. We are mindful and deeply appreciative of the women among us who bring concerns each year for us to hold in the Light and act upon. Some Friends gathered throughout the weekend to consider the film “Half the Sky,” which documents the work of individual women organizing actions to halt violence against girls and women in their communities. Others met to consider what we can do as Quaker Women to add our voices to the outcry against gun violence here in the United States.

Gathered on this mountaintop, we strengthen each other and ourselves, so we can continue to weave the tapestry of our lives and witness in the world. We have been nurtured by song and dance, tears and laughter, conversations and waiting worship, learning and teaching, creating and listening. We know that as Quaker Women we have much wisdom in the Spirit to share, and act upon. Though we are only individual threads in the tapestry, there is a divine energy that weaves us into a pattern beautiful beyond our understanding. We see women everywhere lifting up a new vision of what the world could be. We long to hear your stories, so that we may be woven together.


Reported to Annual Session at Frostburg, Maryland 8th Month 5th Day, 2012


To Dear Friends Everywhere,

As athletes from all over the world gather in community in London at The Olympic games—an event celebrated by our Young Friends in an exuberant “coffee house” on Saturday night--we think of Friends around the world. Baltimore Yearly Meeting gathered in Frostburg, Maryland, for our 341st annual session, with 340 Friends of all ages present, including many first-time attenders. Our worship sharing, Bible studies, workshops and plenaries wove around our theme of “Spirit-led Social Action,” as we sought to discern the difference between political or secular social action and Spirit-led social action. How do we recognize the difference between the two in ourselves, in our meetings, and then in the world? How can we keep our actions centered in the Spirit, which is the best community builder and community organizer of all?

During the pre-session retreat, Clinton Pettus of the American Friends Service Committee asked us to consider what it means to be Spirit-led, and helped us explore our own experiences of Quaker social action. True Quaker social action, he told us, doesn’t take on easy problems, doesn’t ask us to choose sides, and always holds out the hope of reconciliation. He challenged us to see those we serve as powerful in their own right, only awaiting the chance to speak their truth and find their own way forward.

In plenaries, reports, and worship sharing we heard from Friends who have felt led into social action guided by spirit. Jolee Robinson spoke of living in the segregated South when she was a child, and feeling that African American people shouldn’t have to step off the sidewalk to let her pass. When she was eleven, she stepped off the sidewalk herself, her first witness for social justice, and the beginning of a lifetime of witness. Even as children, she told us, we can know what is truthful, kind and just. Micah Bales reminded us that a group of activists not grounded in Spirit can easily turn into a mob. He spoke of how he and others worked to bring Quaker practice to the Occupy DC movement, answering a real hunger for the sense of grounding and purpose that comes from Spirit-guided witness. He reminded us that God has a call for each of us; God has a call for Baltimore Yearly Meeting. He expressed his hope that we will be blessed in listening this week.

We heard how our camping program contributes to the spiritual and personal growth of campers and staff, and helps build the vitality of our Yearly Meeting. The co-directors of Camp Catoctin reported that in seeking to promote diversity they are working with the query: How can we become a community made up of very different people, not just a community that welcomes different people in? The camps help children discover their spiritual life, their capacity for friendship, and their inner strength. During our afternoon intergenerational program, Linda Garretson shared with us camp stories and songs, capturing the love, joy, and spirit of the BYM camping program. She engaged us in a game that sent 200 people of all ages scurrying around in search of their comfort, stretch and panic zones. We saw how different we are, and how much the same. As an old union song--now a camp song--says: “Drops of water turn the mill…singly none, singly none.” We are profoundly grateful for the energy and spirit of the 68 youth through high school age who enriched our sessions this year.

Throughout the week we have been made aware of many injustices that demand our attention. Not far from these beautiful hills, there are nonviolent activists being jailed and beaten for protesting against mountaintop removal. We were invited to visit an art exhibit drawing attention to the destructive impact of fracking on the Dunkards Creek watershed. During our all-ages celebration on Thursday evening, our Junior Yearly Meeting dramatized the need for prisoner visitation and support, as well as engaging us in games, creativity, and ice cream.

Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation, spoke out of the silence to present the Carey Memorial lecture. She spoke of her conviction that “a Spirit-led life leaves us no choice but social action.” She reminded us that we are charged to love God and love our neighbors. We need to relate to everyone: the neighbors who irritate us and disagree with us as well as our family and friends, and also our legislators and their staff. God’s love is always there. All we need to do is relax into it, to find the strength we need. On Saturday we heard that our Peace and Social Concerns Committee has committed to visiting local meetings during the coming year, to engage in a corporate search for Spirit-guided ways to address the conflict between Israel and Palestine. We are grateful for this challenge and opportunity.

We have struggled this week to discern how to use our resources wisely, and in a manner consistent with conscience. We have received with joy the “first reading” of our new Faith and Practice, which is being sent to all our meetings for their discernment over the coming year. We have been challenged to offer ourselves in self-giving love, to practice a ministry of presence, to listen deeply, and to risk vulnerability. We heard from our General Secretary, Riley Robinson, stories about people who helped him see himself as part of a community when he felt like someone who didn’t belong. He urged us to be more inclusive, and to welcome and care for those who may feel like outsiders among us. He reminded us that we may be able to give someone else just what they need and receive from them just what we need. We often receive gifts of the Spirit where we least expect them. As our Clerk of Trustees reminded us: “If you don’t have doubtful accounts, you haven’t been extending yourself far enough.”

We have heard afresh George Fox’s challenge:

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.
(George Fox, 1656)

In the Light,
Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends

Epistle of Young Adult Friends Approved 8th Month 5th Day, 2012

To Friends everywhere;

This past year, the Young Adult Friends gathered for two conferences. The first, held in January at Homewood meeting; and the second, held at Shiloh Quaker Camp during the month of June. At Homewood, they participated in many group-bonding activities such as nail painting, folk dancing, and going out to dinner in restaurants with a frighteningly large collection of mannequins. There was also a workshop where they learned a great deal about Carl Jung and Jungian theory.

At Shiloh, there was a workshop led by Young Adult Friend Adam Heinz, about salt, light, and his trip to Kenya for the sixth World Gathering of Friends. There was much swimming, drinking of tea, and dancing to 80s cassette tapes during this weekend, and some unfortunate YAFs were even chased down by a rogue Snuffleupagus.

In August, once again Young Adult Friends convened at Frostburg State University for Annual Session. Following tradition, Young Adult Friends proceeded to decorate the dorms with an abundance of paper bunnies and flowers, and continued to adorn themselves with temporary tattoos of Hello Kitty and Batman. Meanwhile, Nony was fortunate enough to have an intervisitation session with another group at Frostburg, namely the cheerleading coaches. Their first business meeting on Tuesday night was opened with watching an episode of the kids’ show, Adventure Time, and a reading of the great saga, The Snuggle Bunny. This book proved to be their inspiration for the conference; finding their own “Snuggle Bunny.”

YAFs continued their efforts to nurture Young Friends in the ways of playful Quakerdom. They shared games such as capture the flag and sardines, swam with Young Friends at midnight, and shared a fantastic workshop with Jon Watts. Every year Young Adult Friends take rising YAFs out for ice cream to get to know them and introduce them to the community. After produce department, a fun evening full of games and getting to know people, YAFs decided to continue their tradition of pranking the YFs during their business meeting. This time, the matter was discussed with FAPs. After blowing up at least two hundred balloons, YAFs took them up and filled two of the YF bathrooms. It provided many laughs and proved to be a fun evening activity. YAFs later returned to their dorms to find a room full of saran-wrapped and bubble-wrapped furniture, and would like to applaud the Young Friends for their pranking skills.

Once again, Young Adult Friends were distressed with the unfortunate realization that their knowledge of Gianni’s Pizza hours was less than complete, and they went hungry in the wee hours of a Thursday morning. This mistake, however, was set to right on the following evening with a dinner out at what has now come to be one of their most faithful pizza parlors. To prove that YAFs are still very much in existence, they hosted a nail painting table at the All Age Celebration on Thursday evening. The table was wildly successful and was enjoyed by all ages. Jenny’s birthday was August 5th and YAFs had a dance party with balloons containing inner lights and made pie in celebration.

And they all lived Quakerly ever after…and they all hope to snuggle through the long, cold, winter.

With Love and Light,
The Young Adult Friends of Baltimore Yearly Meeting

Epistle of Young Friends Approved 8th Month 5th Day, 2012

Dear Friends,

We hope this epistle finds you in good health and good spirits. The 2011-2012 year has been a tranquil one for Young Friends, relatively devoid of difficult or stressful issues. We’d like to extend our thoughts and our love to the Friends of Intermountain Yearly Meeting in their time of loss. We’re holding you, and all struggling Friends, in the light.

The Young Friends kicked off their year with a conference at Adelphi Friends Meeting in September. Friends may remember that last year the Young Friends struggled significantly with the sharp increase in attendance of our conferences and the lack of community investment that came along with it. To many, September con felt like the first conference where Young Friends were able to have a highly-attended but still Spiritual conference. Over the course of the weekend, YFs engaged in a variety of fun activities, from the “Color Group Olympics,” to a workshop on community investment led by Alison Duncan, our wonderful Youth Programs Manager. At September Con, the YFs first implemented last year’s decision to worship at every conference. On Saturday night we enjoyed each other’s talents in a diverse and fun-filled coffeehouse.

In November, Young Friends were joined at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting by last year’s graduates at the Thanksgiving Conference. Friends discussed policies and practices that could increase our sustainability, like using mess kits instead of disposables dishware. Fueled by delicious chili, Young Friends had a great square dance. Unfortunately, the plumbing of Sandy Spring couldn’t accommodate a hundred people, and we had to make a series of desperate calls to Port-a-pot companies. Thanks to the heroic action of one company (which Young Friends honored with a standing ovation), the community could continue to excrete.

The traditional February Conference (Love Con) fostered community, friendship and love. In the beautiful library of Homewood Friends Meeting, the Nominating Committee met and began the nominating process for the following year’s Executive Committee. A “speed dating” exercise helped Friends learn obscure things about each other. Our workshop, a frank discussion with an opinionated and hilarious expert on sex and relationships, was informative and fun. It was especially interesting to compare generational perceptions of appropriateness and what constitutes classy behavior. Young Friends also played kickball at a nearby park, built a giant pillow fort, cracked open and ate a coconut, and had a combination ice cream social/dance party.

Although we usually hold our April gathering on a farm and do outdoorsy community service, this year we gathered at Friends Meeting of Washington in downtown DC and opted instead for more urban stewardship through the William Penn House. Some YFs beautified parks, others planted trees and did stream restoration, and still others did maintenance work in William Penn House itself. Throughout Con, Young Friends held a mock Hunger Games, which kept us alert and vigilant. In the evening, we enjoyed a Coffeehouse that included skits, songs, yoga exhibitions, and a multitude of other talents.

After last minute news about a dangerous construction situation at Hopewell Centre Monthly Meeting, we scrambled to secure a new place to meet in May. Thanks to the generosity of Goose Creek Friends Meeting, we were able to relocate. We took advantage of the weather by playing, singing, and even sleeping outside. We also made a visit to the Goose Creek itself, cooling off in the secluded stream. Thanks to a workshop on Shiatsu massage technique and energy manipulation led by a lovely woman named Celeste, Young Friends left this conference more balanced and relaxed than ever. In our traditional graduation ceremony, Young Friends bid goodbye to our leaving seniors. Amidst tears, we raised up their gifts, shared happy and silly memories, and wished them well in their futures.

At Annual Session, the Young Friends spent an exciting and exhausting week learning, playing, working, pranking, and rejoicing in one another’s inner light. The very first night, Handbook Committee met and continued the process of thoroughly revising the Young Friends handbook to ensure that it accurately reflects the current state of our community. Throughout the week, the committee continued to revise and update the handbook, a proud hallmark of our self-governance. Other important committee work took place in the Produce Committee, which facilitated intergenerational play; The Coffeehouse Committee, which put on a spectacular and hilarious talent show; and The Food Committee, which worked hard to make it easier to feed a hundred teenagers for a weekend. The ad hoc Prank and Flashmob Committees kept Annual Session silly, and the glorious and intelligent Epistle Committee wowed everyone with their brilliance and awesomeness.

A few highlights of this year’s Annual Session also included a workshop on the current political state of Syria and a musical and spiritual workshop led by Jon Watts and his partner in ministry, Maggie Harrison. Young Friends also participated in a difficult and cleansing yoga workshop led by the lovely Anna Rain. We tried to reach out to the greater BYM community as much as possible during the week by being “red hat” attendants in the cafeteria, inviting adult Friends to join us for a Meeting for Worship in our lounge, attending the All Age Celebration, and hosting an interest group wherein adult Friends could bring us their technology questions. Traditional activities like midnight swims, sardines, multi-age capture the flag, and wink kept us moving and laughing. We also got to see the spectacular Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps, our neighbors on campus, perform.

As the Young Friends wraps up another year, we continue to bask in the intense caring, trust, and love we find in our community. We hope other Young Friend Communities had similarly fantastic years, and that the coming year is filled with love and light.

With Love,
The BYM Young Friends

Epistle of Junior Young Friends Approved 8th Month 5th Day, 2012

JYFpistle 2012

We are the JYFs of 2012 at BYM Annual Session at Frostburg University in Frostburg, Maryland. Our Clerks were Thomas and William Finegar, and our Recording Clerks were Starling Wolfrum and Tadek Kosmal. Our theme this year was Spirit Led Social Action. We went to a plenary session and had speakers relating to Spirit Led Social Action. This session was filled with both fun and hard work. Our guidelines were language, be mindful of other peoples comfort zones, not to do stupid stuff, use the room safely, include everyone, be responsible for checking in with each other, have fun, continue to live, and after much debate, cheese.

We did many things this year. We were visited by Micah Bales, who spoke with us on our theme, Ann Payne, who spoke on the Dunkard Creek killing, in which 65,000 lives of creek creatures including rare snuff-ox mussels were lost due to fracking by coal companies. Robinne Gray and Tasha Walsh both came in and did activities with us. On Friday, we were visited by Charlotte Boynton who worked with clay with us. We also played manhunt, Sardines, Bob the Weasel, Capture the Flag with the YFs and JYM program, also attended the intergenerational plenary on stepping out of our comfort zones. We are currently looking forwards to coffee house and thank you circle.

This year we used the Quaker process to reach our goals. To us, Quaker process is a form of consensus to reach a decision or to find a common goal. We used the Quaker process to select our Clerks and Recording Clerks, hold Meeting for Business, write our Epistle, and plan the JYF party.

Sincerely, and with extra cheese,
Anna, Gabriel, Gabe, Andrew, Anna, John Mark, Jared, Thomas, William, Starling, Tadek, Miranda, Kayla, Andrew, along with teachers Stephanie Bean, Anna Rain, Windy Cooler, Susan Robare, Donna Williams, Amrit Moore, Gobind Moore, and Mary Campbell.


Reported to Annual Session at Frostburg, Maryland 8th Month 7th Day, 2011

All meet together everywhere, and in your Meetings wait upon the Lord; and take heed of forming words, but mind the Power, and know that which is Eternal, which will keep you all in unity, walking in the Spirit, and will let you see the Lord near you and among you.

George Fox, Epistle 43

Dear Friends Everywhere,

This week at our Annual Session, we have been blessed with a special sweetness as we were reminded over and over again to be tender with each other. We have challenged ourselves to explore how we might become more welcoming to the Divine, to each other, to strangers, and even to those we may think of as our enemies, whom Jesus called us to love. How do we welcome each and every person? Do we? Can we? How can we strengthen our relationships with you, our friends, so we can move forward as a gathered community?

We met for the 340th Annual Session of Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) at Frostburg State University in the hills of Western Maryland. Throughout the week, we discovered new ways to think about welcome that both humbled and inspired us. During the opening retreat, Brad Ogilvie challenged us to find and hold to our core truth while listening to others with an open heart. Miyo Moriuchi (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting), in her opening plenary address, revealed through her personal stories how we feel welcomed when we are seen for who we truly are, without categorization, assumption, and judgment. On Wednesday, all ages came together for a joyful afternoon of Alternatives to Violence Project exercises led by Campbell Plowden (State College Friends Meeting), where we experienced how sharing our stories and listening with love and attention weaves us into a family. In the annual Carey Lecture on Friday evening, Philip Gulley told us he liked our theme: Moving Forward in Community: Welcoming the Divine; Welcoming Every Person. But we had better not put it out there unless we are willing to live up to it. The Gospel doesn’t call on us us to tolerate one another, he said, but to love one another. In morning worship-sharing groups, we deepened our sense of connection as we shared stories of our experiences in response to queries about welcoming others and being welcomed. In Bible Study, Tony Lowe and Ken Bradstock (North Carolina Yearly Meeting-Friends United Meeting) challenged us with a gentle exploration of scriptures on welcoming, while Mary Lord shared with us the prophetic experiences of Ezekiel.

We rejoice in our vibrant and Spirit-led camping and youth programs, and are grateful to all the people who make them possible. Representatives of Young Friends and Young Adult Friends served at our clerks’ table, reminding us every day of the strength and vitality of our younger generation. We are grateful for the work of Friends House retirement community, and like to think that some of those living there may once have been part of our youth program. As Memorial minutes were read, and the list of names distributed, we were reminded that each of these Friends touched many lives, and left stories behind that will continue to be retold.

We were blessed by the presence of several visitors sponsored by our intervisitation program, who brought us gifts of music and ministry. We were excited to hear that other yearly meetings are hoping to engage in the kind of intervisitation that BYM has modeled. Last fall, we approved resuming our contributions to Friends United Meeting. In June, we embraced the ministry of Ann Riggs as principal of Friends Theological College in Kaimosi, Kenya for the next three years. Closer to home, our Peace and Social Concerns Committee challenged us to engage directly in peace-building through relationships, as in our ongoing prison ministry and work camp programs. The Committee brought us the image of engaging with those we seek to serve as we might engage with partners in a dance, all moving to the music of the Spirit.

We heard from the Ad Hoc Gender and Sexual Diversity Concerns Committee that all of our meetings have now submitted a minute explaining their position on same-sex marriage. There is not yet unity, and much work remains to be done, but the Committee has completed its assigned task. We have now laid it down, trusting that other ways will be found to carry this concern.

While we celebrate our accomplishments, we have found ourselves challenged by serious budget problems. Integrity requires us to be realistic about both expenses and income. We rejoice that we have now raised close to $90,000 to build a pond at Camp Shiloh, but we have had to make very painful cuts in our operating budget, including eliminating a support staff position, drastically reducing support for Quaker organizations we value and cherish, and cutting our budget for intervisitation. Still, we know that if our leadings are true, and we are faithful to them, way will open to fulfill the work God has laid on us. These painful reductions prompt us to consider as individuals, as local Meetings, and as a gathered community whether we could all dig deeper to support the work we have discerned.

One of our major accomplishments this year was to adopt a vision statement for Baltimore Yearly Meeting. We first set out to visit all 52 of our local meetings, to hear Friends’ stories about what brought them to Quakerism and what they look for from the Yearly Meeting. As a result of these visits, and through the discernment of the visiting ministers, we became clear that our Yearly Meeting is more than a service organization or an association of Meetings. We are a worshipping community gathered by God and called to a radical faith. This insight helps clarify the work before us. Our vision statement is not a container for our work so much as a dance floor on which we can work out our corporate and individual response to Divine leadings. We invite you to consider our vision statement and to help hold us accountable to it.

Harmony. Integrity. Purity. Tranquility. The Japanese tea ceremony Miyo Moriuchi shared with us is based on these principles. Harmony says to us that we are all children of God. Integrity speaks of the need to be true to ourselves and to our leadings. Purity is the quality of the core belief, the deep center of our lives. Tranquility is the peace we find in being faithful. The ceremony teaches that each moment we share with another is unique and sacred, captured in the phrase “one time, one meeting.” When we are fully centered, we can welcome and be welcomed in a truly non-threatening, life-affirming way. When we welcome each other with a sense of reverence and revelation, we welcome the Divine.

This week has been a blessed time for us. It is the Divine in our midst that has helped us be kinder to one another, listen more attentively, and speak our sometimes painful truths. We have been reminded that if we are faithful in welcoming the Divine, we can embrace both the obligation and the joy of welcoming others, and move forward in community.

Yours in Love,
Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Epistle of Young Adult Friends Approved 8th Month 7th Day, 2011

The past year has been full of spirit, shenanigans, and spirit-full shenanigans. Most especially this year, we celebrated the engagement of Friends Sam Horne and Wren Becket. Their joy brought love and Light to us all.

On a chill December eve, Young Adult Friends met to bring Holiday cheer to Adelphi Friends Meeting. We welcomed several new Friends to our community and reconnected with returning members. As a special holiday treat, Friend Brenden Roof joined us from Ireland. The weekend was relaxing and just what the doctor ordered for midwinter stress. We engaged in fellowship around the Christmas tree and shared in the joys of board games and massage circles. Member at Large Amrit Moore and Co- Clerk Nony Dutton gave an emotional presentation about Palestine. While the plight of so many brought great sadness, our presenters also shared the hope and smiles of Palestinian children. We discovered funny hats and cheerful crafts of the Adelphi RYF’s (Reasonably Young Friends) and had much fun adorning Friends with mouse ear head bands.

Friends came together again in June at the farm of Friend Sasha Bugler. We abandoned the stuffiness of buildings for the great outdoors, sleeping in tents under the stars. In celebration of the wonderful summer weather we basked in the sun, swam in the pond, and marveled at the antics of the potbelly pigs. To give thanks to our hosts we spent an afternoon doing chores, culminating in roasting s’mores over the scrap wood we had cleared from the fields. Ken Stockbridge led worship sharing on the BYM visioning process. On First Day, we worshiped while floating on the pond.

Having spent so much time in the outdoors, we forgot some of the finer details of indoor living, when we relearned what happens when you put Dawn soap in a dishwasher.

This August we gathered yet again at Frostburg State University for Annual Session. Our numbers were smaller this year, leaving our common room feeling somewhat barren and impersonal. This, of course, only motivated us to create a space where we felt more at home. Materials involved consisted of streamers, sparkly paper, window art and balloons. Community drawing time produced colorful felt art masterpieces that added something special to the overall decor.

Early disaster struck when it appeared that our information on the closing time of Gianni’s Pizza was faulty. An Ad Hoc committee was formed, an updated menu acquired, and all further business meetings were properly supplied.

Thus fortified, our business meetings were surprisingly productive. We sorted out problems in communication, redefined several roles, and created several new ones. The coming year will see the creation of a Young Adult Friends Newsletter, which will announce conference dates, spread cheer, and help keep our scattered community together. Within the same spirit, we created several new lines of communication with an eye to be easy to maintain. Furthermore (yes, we got all that done and more!) we created a document that defines all of the officer roles in Young Adult Friends. Our clerks, Nony Dutton and Pierre Grahn, brought us a new style of centering for business meeting, which was greeted with silence.

Tradition is important in any community. In keeping with the traditions of previous years, we covered each other in temporary tattoos, went out to dinner as a community, attended midnight swims with Young Friends, and many intergenerational games of Capture the Flag. We attempted to start a new tradition of pranks between Young Adult Friends and Young Friends. The Friendly Adult Presences eldered us in the art of the prank.

And we all lived Quakerly ever after…
With Love and Light,
The Young Adult Friends of Baltimore Yearly Meeting

Epistle of Young Friends Approved 8th Month 7th Day, 2011

This is a story about a young elf and her adventures of the past year. This was a particularly caring, trusting, and loving elf[1]; her name was Yfs[2]. Yfs was very excited for this year because she knew that over the course of the year there would be five Challenges Of Niceness. Yfs wanted oh-so very badly to go to these Challenges Of Niceness (or CONs)[3], but the way to these CONs was dark and difficult. Yfs did not think she could make it to these CONs without help, so she visited her old friend, Bym[4].

“I want to go to five cons,” explained Yfs, once she and Bym had exchanged hugs, “but the way to these cons is so dark, I cannot do it without help.”

Bym was a nice old man and replied, “Do not fear the darkness, for I will give you a gift.” Bym handed Yfs a small glowing orange ball. “This is your own personal sun. It is powerful and will glow in the darkest of allies.”

Yfs was very thankful and asked, “What do you call this sun that can light up any alley?”

“I call it an Alleysun[5]” answered Bym.

With the help of this Alleysun, Yfs made her way over the Creek of Geese[6] to the first CON. When she arrived at this Challenge Of Niceness, she instantly realized what she was supposed to do. She had arrived at a large forest that was entirely lacking in color! Yfs immediately busted out her dyes of love and started tie-dying like a furious rainbow. Soon, her passionate coloring had a tie-dyed every object at the CON. She celebrated by feasting on Panbricks, the result of baking deep dish pots filled with pancake batter. Yum!

Well-fed, she journeyed on to the second CON, which was held in the capitol[7]. There she was reunited with her older brother, Yafs[8], whom she had not seen in a long while and whom she missed dearly. While adding color to the world was certainly a great kindness, here she used her power of love and dedication to create niceness on a much larger scale. She learned about how the larger population of elves was working to influence the ruling wizards to create peace, help less-able elves, and care for sick elves. She wrote letters with a larger elf organization, concerning the war abroad Yfs also reflected on what a community meant to her[9].

Yfs next ventured to the Hill of Langley[10], eager to explore her love and let it shine out into the world! She learned about the unfair treatment of foreign giants in the forest[11], and was moved to write letters to the ruling counsel again! Yfs also learned about the harassment of some elves who love other elves of the same gender, and realized that something like that would never happen at the Challenges of Niceness! She created a message to send to all of her fellow elves, regardless of sexual orientation, telling them of the love she had experienced at CONs[12]. The counsel greatly appreciated her words, and saw fit to write Yfs back, personally. Yfs knew that there was always a way she could further spread her love, but for now she was satisfied.

Yfs had become very tired, because she was a teenage elf and was growing very rapidly. Sometimes she would grow and not even realize it, and thus became very hungry. Soon her hunger was insatiable, and there was not enough food[13]! When Yfs went to forage for nuts and berries, she never knew how much to get because of her drastically changing hunger needs-sometimes she got too much, sometimes too little. She decided to face this challenge head on, and sought the help of the Alleysun and other teenage elves who were concerned for Yfs. Together, they traveled to a distant sea-port[14] to clear their heads and solve the problem. With their help, Yfs came up with a solution. When she was about to grow, she would receive a warning or a smoke signal[15] from the forest to help her prepare. If she did not receive a smoke signal, she would not grow.

Having conquered this dilemma, Yfs set off to her next CON. Having felt the power of love, she wanted to do more for the world and spread her compassion. She decided to help others, by traveling to a far-away land with the help of an ancient, mythical creature with wheels, the Bus[16]. Yfs was intimidated by the name of the land - the Clearing[17] - but she didn't let her fear stop her. She immediately set to work, doing all that she could to improve her settings. She cleared many a path to help lost travelers find their way to the Clearing, and painted signs for directions. Yfs also chopped wood to keep her and her fellow wanderers warm on the lonely winter nights that were sure to come. Happy with the job she had done, she asked the Bus to take her home, and he happily obliged!

As Yfs set off to her last con, taking place at a rocky, stony, run[18] she experienced a feeling of bitter-sweetness. She had accomplished so much that year, tackled so many situations, fought off the doom of growing pains, and had spread her love and compassion throughout her forest with the help of her friend Bym and her trusty light, Alleysun. Yfs knew she wouldn't be able to go to CONs in the same way as she had before because she was becoming like her brother Yafs, which saddened her greatly. However, she also realized that she was giving her younger sibling, Jyf[19], a wonderful opportunity to spread his own light and love. She knew that Jyf would not let her down and his heart was good and pure, as all elves deep down are. Yfs decided that having worked hard the whole year, she would take this opportunity to let loose and have some fun. Hard work is good and satisfactory, but Yf was wise now, and knew that play was key to her happiness.

With a full heart, Yfs set off once more to meet her old friend Bym, and thank him for his help[20]. They played together and built a super great community! Also, they wanted to learn stuff about growing up so they learned about sexuality and communication. Also, they learned about the misconceptions of torture in the forest.[21]

With the knowledge that her love would be spread into the world by means other than Challenges of Niceness, Yfs welcomed her next adventure. She could go anywhere and do anything, but she would always remember what she learned from her friends and experiences. Yfs also promised to always season her meals and life with SPICES[22], because otherwise it would be very bland and hardly worth tasting!

[1] Young Friends Gathering Expectations

[2] BYM Young Friends

[3] Young Friends call conferences CONs

[4] Baltimore Yearly Meeting (pronounced Bim)

[5]Alison Duncan- BYM Youth Secretary

[6] Goose Creek Friends Meeting

[7] Friends Meeting of Washington

[8] Young Adult Friends- they visit YFs during November Con because they are home from college on break

[9] Workshops at November Con included: letter writing with FCNL to lobby for START; Friends learned about the American Association of People with Disabilities from Jim Dickson; friends also learned about the growing AIDS epidemic and how it effects many Americans; and participated in a BYM Visioning Session

[10] Langley Hill Friends Meeting

[11] At Love Con, Friends learned about illegal immigrants who are treated unfairly

[12] Friends also helped the ‘Do Good Deeds’ Committee create a video for the “It Gets Better” Project, which speaks to gay teens because of the growing number of gay teen suicides

[13] Over the course of the 2010-2011 year, Young Friends had an influx of attenders

[14] Annapolis Friends Meeting

[15] Young Friends now have to preregister in order to attend conferences, which was always encouraged, but is now required

[16] Young Friends take a bus to a geographical region of the Yearly Meeting that they don’t normally visit for the April Conference

[17] The Clearing is a wooded retreat center owned by Richmond Friends Meeting

[18] Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run

[19] May is our traditional graduation conference, after which seniors join Young Adult Friends and 8th graders from Junior Young Friends or JYF join Young Friends

[20] Annual Session at Frostburg State University

[21] Young Friends completed workshops on teen sexuality and how to communicate emotion; they completed a cool workshop on torture, and learned about class by playing with popcorn. also, they played wink, capture the flag, and other super fun activities including intergenerational activities in produce department and the all age celebration. They did not, however, sleep very much

[22] SPICES- Quaker Testimonies- we hope you are familiar with these…

Epistle of Junior Young Friends Approved 8th Month 7th Day, 2011

We the Junior Young Friends (JYF’s) are clumsy, silly, weird unique agreeable, fun, cooperative, easygoing, interactive, social, active, talkative, good at hanging in and willing to come together this week to learn to welcome all.

On the first day we played fun icebreakers, took a tour of the campus, welcomed new friends, played with the RYF’s and braided hair. On Wednesday we watched Shark Week and Pretty Little Liars. We also went to the plenary session, played capture the flag and went to produce. In the morning on Thursday we were visited by Kathleen for a sexuality workshop. In the afternoon we walked to the public pool. And met a boy named Robert who danced off the diving board. That evening we set up the labyrinth for the all age celebration. We had another game of capture the flag, made tea bowls and watched some Jersey Shore. Then on Friday we had another sexuality workshop, and then we were visited by Crispanus our friend from Kenya who told us the told us the story of the elephant, the hippo and the hare. He told us what it is like to be a Quaker in Kenya, and taught us a song. That evening we planned the overnight, played Wink and Four corners, cleaned up the JYF room and hung out with our friends Amrit and Gobind. After dinner we came back to the room before leaving to listen to Phillip Gully. Afterwards we went to produce, and then we went to our overnight!!!

We hung out and ate soda, chips and candy for awhile and then we went outside to play Manhunt!!! We only got to play 2 rounds, but they were long and enjoyable. We came back in and had spontaneous dance parties and watched movies. And then we fell asleep. When we woke up we played Apples to Apples and, thanks to Gobind and his waffle machine and pancake mix, we had waffles and strawberries for breakfast. Then we went to Meeting for Worship with the IYF”s RYF”s, JYF”s and some OAF’s. Then we came back and wrote our epistle and had a thank you circle. We’ll always remember our dream catchers, our, soccer friends, the singing and the High School Musical jumps.