York Friends Meeting Interchange Reports
The text of Interchange reports from York Friends Meeting available below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the link below.
|Winter 2012||Spring 2012||Fall 2012|
|Winter 2013||Spring 2013||Fall 2013|
|Spring 2014||Fall 2014|
|Winter 2015||Spring 2015||Fall 2015|
|Winter 2016||Spring 2016||Fall 2016|
In case you have not heard York Friends are celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Meeting House this year. As a community of Quakers in York we are actually older but it is a milestone to remember the original 1766 building. Our “new” addition was built just a few short years later in 1783 and is referred to as our west room. The original room remains the primary home for Meeting for Worship while the new addition is used for First Day School and our weekly shared meal.
To honor our heritage the Meeting House participated in the Bloom Art and Craft Market on the third Fridays of May, June and July joining other local businesses and street vendors on Philadelphia Street. In addition to the monthly open house, May highlighted our history with a review by Lamar Matthew, June focused on a quilt demonstration by Sally Keller, a talented quilt maker of the Meeting, accompanied by a Meeting musician, and July provided musical entertainment with a jam session.
On July 30 the Meeting joined in celebrating York’s 275-year history by hosting an open house on the same day as Colonial Days. The Meeting House was open from 10am–4pm with tours, Friendly faces, children’s activities and historical type snacks of cornbread and iced tea. Colonial Days included characters in period costume who gave walking tours of the area and stopped directly in front of the Meeting House to encourage visitors to stop back and see the inside of the Meeting House. One of our own even dressed in period costume to welcome visitors in front of the Meeting House.
Although the number of visitors was less than expected for the Bloom Art events, there was a steady flow of guests during Colonial Days. As a result the Meeting has welcomed several new visitors to Meeting for Worship.
York Monthly Meeting began celebrating the 250th anniversary of our Meeting House on First Day, March 20, with a presentation of “The History of York Meeting: The First 50 Years.” We plan to have a First Day presentation on our history each quarter during our regular 9:30am. First Hour session. Our next presentation, “York Quakers of Note,” is tentatively scheduled for June 19. We also continue to work on gathering the resources we need to build a new addition to our historic Meeting House.
Since our membership is aging, we held a First Day First Hour Worship Sharing about the concerns of aging and end of life issues. This session was well attended. Friends have a lot of questions which will be addressed in future First Hour sessions.
The Seekers group resumed in March after a winter recess, and is now reflecting on the Pendle Hill pamphlet “The Light Within, Then and Now,” by Rex Ambler.
In light of the request from Baltimore Yearly Meeting for more demographic information, including ethnic information, York Monthly Meeting has been exploring the issue of diversity, and how best to be a welcoming and diverse community.
York Friends have been singing during the First Hour of First Day Meeting for Worship when that First Day is the fifth one of the month. Friends have welcomed the opportunity to worship through music, and we have heard requests for more musical worship opportunities. Therefore we have begun to sing for 15 minutes or more, as Spirit leads, between the end of First Hour at 10:30am, and the regular 11am Meeting for Worship,. Singing will continue to be the focus of the entire First Hour when a First Day is the fifth one of the month. The singing is led and coordinated by Ruth Fitz as part of her ministry of music.
As part of our support for Elizabeth Koopman’s ministry with Indigenous Peoples, we would like to inform Friends of an article in the February 2016 issue of Friends Journal that was written by Elizabeth Koopman and three others. The article, “Peace Is Possible: Truth, Healing, and Reconciliation in Maine,” describes the work of the Maine Wabanaki-State Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who work together to uncover and acknowledge the unjust treatment of Wabanaki children and families by the Maine child welfare system. The commission is a collaborative effort of Wabanaki people and the State of Maine to uncover and acknowledge the truth, create opportunities to heal and learn from the truth, and collaborate to operate the best child welfare system possible for Wabanaki children.
YMM will host its annual all-day Sacred Harp Sing on April 23. We expect the usual large turn-out of Sacred Harp singers from several states. A meal is shared at noon. Our annual spring Green Elephant Sale will be held on the same day from 9:30am-3pm, and will offer native and non-invasive plant species for sale, as well as some other donated items. We will be honoring creation in all her spring finery in these celebrations.
York Friends Meeting is a welcoming community, Grounded in God, Growing in Gratitude, Guided by the Light
—York Monthly Meeting Vision Statement
After much discussion and discernment, York Friends have reached consensus on our mission statement:
As a community of faith we affirm our desire:
To honor our Quaker heritage to remind us from whence we came
To sustain our faithfulness to the Divine as our Spiritual Center
To grow in depth and breadth to welcome and nurture adults, children, youth, and families of diverse backgrounds
To reach beyond ourselves to co-create a more just, peaceful, and sustainable local and global community
The Seekers group meets weekly on Wednesday nights to worship and study. We remain mindful of the diversity in our experience and understanding of the Divine, while also remembering our roots in Christian tradition and the teachings of Jesus. In response to requests for more Bible study, A Friend presented a program in our First Day 9:30 Session on George Fox’s love of the Bible, and how it influenced his witness and teaching.
Linda Rabben from Adelphi Friends Meeting presented the program “Sanctuary, Then and Now” at the 9:30 First Day session on September 20. She also donated a book, Give Refuge to the Stranger: The Past, Present, and Future of Sanctuary, to our Meeting Library. Some Friends from York Monthly Meeting are actively involved in programs to finance and shelter refugees from the conflict in Syria. We enjoyed music at our annual Homecoming Picnic on September 13 following Meeting for Worship. It was a beautiful day for a picnic, and for spending time in the beautiful garden behind the Meeting. About 50 people attended, including 10 children and an infant, and we enjoyed a barbecue, shared dishes, the music of Leah and Marlin Ballard, and, of course, each other.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, about 20 Friends and visitors gathered at 7 PM at the Meeting House for a candlelight service. Those gathered first worshipped in silence, then sang traditional Christmas carols accompanied by guitar. While enjoying the refreshments after the service, a visitor remarked that he appreciated a time of quiet and peace during the busy holiday season. Celebrating the New Year has become a tradition at York Monthly Meeting, and is always enjoyed both by Friends and members of the community. A musical program was provided at 7 and 8 PM by former York Monthly Meeting Friends Ed and Fran Norton.
We have co-sponsored, with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, a community showing of the film The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code. The film explores the impact of the 1493 Papal Bull declaring that the lands newly-discovered by Europeans could be conquered and exploited by Europeans. The Doctrine of Discovery has been used to legitimate the seizure of land and the disenfranchisement and destruction of indigenous people and their cultures up to the present time. It has influenced the imperialistic policies of European nations for centuries, and has had a particularly strong effect on the assumptions and policies of nations that now occupy the “new” lands of the Western Hemisphere.
York Monthly Meeting continues to welcome new attenders and members and our steady growth calls for more space. After much discernment and planning, we are hoping in the near future to engage an architect to design a new addition to our building. Friends have been generous, and the building Fund is growing steadily. And there is the witness of our own space—the certified pollinator garden, the garden of native plant species, the beehives, the beauty. Some people say we are an island of peace and beauty in the midst of a frenzied and noisy city.
Keeping with the 2015 BYM Annual Session theme, Living into Right Relationship, York Meeting has concentrated recently on the following areas:
- Right relationship with Friends: Annual Meeting retreat was held in May to help Friends explore their relationship and understanding of the Meeting’s vision. The first session focused on being Grounded in God, the second session focused on gratitudes for fellow Friends and other parts of God’s wonderful creation, and the third session focused on the Light within from whence cometh one’s individual talents that were shared around a campfire.
- Right relationship with Children: As First Day School gains regular attenders from several families, the Meeting recognizes the need for dedicated First Day School space. Therefore a series of four monthly Threshing Sessions started in June to discern the Meeting’s needs and desires for additional space. Donations can be forwarded to a dedicated Building Fund.
- Right relationship with the Earth: Midweek gathering, Seekers, participants have studied People and Permaculture by Looby Macnamara and learned about how right relationships with the Earth relate to one’s right relationships with each other.
- Right relationship with the Climate: York Meeting has agreed to sign on in agreement with the statement, “Facing the Challenge of Climate Change”, by Quaker Earthcare Witness, Quaker United Nations Office and FCNL.
- Right relationship with Bees: The beekeepers of the Meeting restarted the one hive that died over the harsh winter. The two hives on the Meetinghouse grounds are thriving and had a bountiful first harvest of honey in July.
On a bitter cold snowy day in February, Warrington Quarterly Meeting met at York. Yet several Friends faithfully drove from their hometowns to participate in the business of the Quarter. Ken Stockbridge, Presiding Clerk of BYM, and Riley Robinson, BYM General Secretary, shared updates of what is happening at the Yearly Meeting level. It was a nice casual interaction with a chance to share any questions and concerns, and to learn about the resources available from the Yearly Meeting.
The BYM Unity with Nature Committee has asked each Meeting to consider: Are Quakers Called to Live Sustainably? In response to this concern, the mid week Seekers group at York Meeting is reading A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation by Douglas Gwyn.
The Meeting House grounds are one way York Friends demonstrate concern for the environment. In recent years there has been a very active Garden Committee to plant, weed, mulch, and maintain the only green spot in the downtown vicinity of the Meeting House. Unfortunately the current Garden Committee members are aging or moving away, and unable to keep up with everything. Several ideas are being explored to recruit additional help from the community at large.
Another way to promote sustainability is through promoting pollination. Last year the Meeting added two beehives to the grounds. Unfortunately one hive did not survive the cold winter perhaps due to its location being more shaded than the other hive. The beekeeping team continues to learn about the care of these tiny creatures as they now take on the task of splitting the strong hive to replace the lost colony.
Join us on April 18 10am-2pm for the annual Green Elephant sale. There will be a variety of plants for sale along with gently used household items. The proceeds go to support local non-profit organizations.
Before putting faith into practice it is helpful to reflect on faith itself. The Meeting held a series of Quakerism 101 classes in September and October. Several new visitors joined us to learn about the Quakers as a group, their history, their diversity of faith and practice, their organizational structure, and their way of conducting business. Later in the fall there was a worship sharing session entitled “Sharing the Diversity of our Faith” that helped those in attendance honor the variety of individual faith experiences within the Meeting.
Additionally there has been exploration of the faith of other. The Spiritual Formation Group is meeting monthly to share reflections on Walter Wink’s experiences from his book, Just Jesus, as a stepping stone to personal sharing. The mid-week Seeker’s group is reading Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry edited by Steve Heinrichs and learning about the differences between settler and Indigenous perspectives. This book was recommended by Elizabeth Koopman as part of her ministry in support of Indigenous peoples.
Putting faith into practice can be challenging due to the constraints of the clock especially during Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business. However Friends have been open to experimenting with several variations of the timing in order to help maintain a sense of worship while conducting business. Currently the Meeting is starting Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business one half hour earlier at 9am. To aide in earlier attendance, the Community Life Committee is in charge of the food for potluck that day to remind Friends of Right Sharing of World Resources and encourage Friends to donate to RSWR in place of the cost of food they would have brought.
Another opportunity to put faith into practice was on New Year’s Eve by inviting F/friends within and beyond the Meeting community into the Meeting House for the evening. The luminaria on the front steps were a sign of welcome and a reminder of the Light within. Ruth Fitz practiced her ministry of music by coordinating the program and singing with friends in a group called “Friends of Light” featuring solo and ensemble offerings of vocals and acoustic guitar. Michael Molz sang songs with a blues and jazz influence while accompanying himself on guitar and Jack Bray played a haunting Native American flute. Although some in attendance missed the former New Year’s Eve performers, Ed and Fran Norton who moved away, the standing room only audience expressed appreciation for the wonderful music and fellowship.
Learning about community can happen in a multitude of ways. Recently two members went to the White Rose Community Television studio to tape an episode of Faith in Community. This TV program spotlights the activities of local churches and religious organizations on local cable television and on the web. To learn more, go to the Meeting’s newly updated Quaker Cloud website at: www.yorkfriendsmeeting.org.
Over several months Friends met on Third Day evenings to study Marcus Borg’s book, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. This was an opportunity to hear about where various Friends stand in their relationship to the Bible and how that relationship may have changed during the course of each individual’s faith journey.
In addition to the community gardens in the backyard of the Meetinghouse, Stone Soup and Salad was an opening for Friends to share the bounty of their home gardens and learn about George Fox’s concern for nature. This was a delicious meal that replaced the usual simple meal on a First Day in July.
We are looking forward to hosting the group Cycle4Gaza on Saturday, Sept. 20 as they stop to rest on their bicycle ride from Philadelphia to Washington DC. Cycle4Gaza, founded by a group of concerned young people in the wake of the 2009 war on Gaza, seeks to raise awareness about the ongoing blockade on the Gaza Strip and to raise critical funds for carefully selected non-profit organizations that work to support education and healthcare for Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees. Since 2009, they have organized cycles covering over 1800km across the UK and France, Italy, Jordan, Turkey and Germany and raised over 650,000 GBP (British Pounds) in support of healthcare and education projects in the Gaza Strip and in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. This year several BYM Young Adult Friends are participating in the ride.
York Meeting is living out Quaker testimonies in new and exciting ways. Simplicity: an experimental 8:15 am Meeting for Worship started in March. Peace: there is a monthly discussion based on the book, Taking the War out of our Words, which gives us suggestions on how to practice powerful non-defensive communication. This has been the best attended First Day 9:30 am series in recent history. Integrity: the Spiritual Formation group is studying the book, Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment. They are learning about the components of willingness, attentiveness, and responsiveness that contribute to our sense of peace upon reaching a decision in response to the Light. Community: the Meeting welcomed overnight visitors from Arthur Morgan Friends School who were on a field trip, Material World. Ruth Fitz who has been gifted with a ministry of music led singing after the fellowship meal on Saturday evening. Equality: as part of her ministry with Indigenous People, Elizabeth Koopman shared her knowledge of the Maine Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Commission which is an effort to heal the hurts against the Wabanaki tribe. Stewardship: out of concern for the death of bees due to colony collapse disorder, five people are taking beekeeping classes to tend the two hives that will be added in the backyard of the Meeting House’s Certified Pennsylvania Pollinator Friendly Garden.
Several community outreach events have been taking place at York Meeting. A Little Free Library was planted in front of the Meeting House in June. The idea is to allow passersby to borrow a book or donate a book. Many pedestrians and parents have stopped to extend appreciation for this conveniently located library less than a block from the market. For more information on this international concept and a picture of the library at York Meeting, go to www.littlefreelibrary.org.
The first east coast performance of Epiphany: A (Quaker) Cantata of Faith was held in May with Ed Norton on flute, Fran Norton on keyboard, and Marti Black as the soprano. The composer, Ed Norton, is a member of York Monthly Meeting. It was warmly received by Quakers and non-Quakers alike because the three parts of supplication, revelation, and peace/gratitude reflect a universal spiritual experience. The Cantata is available on CD for $15.
On April 20 the Annual Plant and Green Elephant Sale was held in conjunction with Go Green In the City. There actually were two green elephant planters available for sale. The following Saturday Sacred Harp singers filled the Meeting House with F/friends, food, fellowship and music. The singers indicated that York Meeting is one of their favorite places to sing due to wonderful acoustics.
Music and nature dominate York Monthly Meeting this spring. A Friendly Sing was held March 24 led by Ruth Fitz from York MM and Doug Miller from Lancaster MM. In addition to the joy of singing hymns, rounds, and chants, a sense of community developed as people from the York Community and Friends from both PYM and BYM requested favorite songs and told stories about the importance of that song in their life.
On April 27 the 6th Annual Sacred Harp Shape Note Sing will be held from 10am-3:30pm. 70-80 singers from all over the northeast converge on the Meeting House to sing and share a potluck feast.
Epiphany: A Cantata of Faith composed by Ed Norton, YMM member, will be performed with Ed Norton on flute, Fran Norton on piano, and Soprano Marti Black on May 4 at 7pm. A $15 CD of the Cantata is available for sale. The concert is free.
We are readying our community gardens for a second year of sharing an opportunity to grow food with the York Community. On April 20 York Monthly Meeting will be having a Plant and Green Elephant sale from 10am-3pm in conjunction with Go Green in the City of York. We plan to display the banner version of Reflections: Homage to Dunkard Creek, a collaborative art display created by 90 artists from the Monongahela water shed that commemorates the lives of many of the species who perished in Dunkard Creek during late summer 2009 after the creek was polluted by fracking. It was also displayed at 2012 Annual Session.
On November 18 River Crossing Playback Theatre visited York Meeting for Warrington Quarterly Meeting. Friends had an opportunity to share stories of what being a Quaker means to them and the actors played the story back with integrity and respect in hopes of building a community dialogue. Although each story is different in the details, we all share the same human experience. In a society that often minimizes the importance of how our feelings and stories affect our lives, Playback Theatre honors those feelings and stories.
A Spiritual Formation group of 10 has been meeting regularly since September. They are currently studying the book entitled Light to Live By: An exploration in Quaker spirituality written by Rex Ambler. Over the past year there has been sporadic attendance by visiting children. Therefore York Meeting has started development of a child safety policy for First Day School with the idea that if the Meeting is prepared, the children will come.
New Year’s Eve was once again an open house with live entertainment at the Meeting House at the request of various people in the wider York community. Ed and Fran Norton of Flute and Friends provided the musical entertainment while other Friends extended hospitality to many visitors in between the evening’s three performances. The variety of music, historical anecdotes, and humor was well received by audiences of all ages. Flute and Friends have a new CD, composed by Ed Norton, available for sale at a cost of $15 of which $5 will be donated to York Meeting House. If interested, contact Ed Norton at 717-259-6388.
A 2-day Alternatives to Violence workshop was held at the Meeting in April with 14 people in attendance. Through interactive games, exercises and role plays, the participants examined responses to situations that might lead to violence and learned how to develop alternatives. On April 21 York Friends held an outdoor native plant and gray elephant sale as a fundraiser for local charities. The fundraiser was successful financially and included free entertainment by 70+ Sacred Harp Shape Note singers from 9 states. Quite a busy day for a Meeting House that many non-Quakers consider to be a vacant historical building in downtown York. Seven Friends finished the Spiritual Formation program in May. The participants enjoyed the opportunity to share their personal journeys with one another. Although the paths are each unique, our understanding of the Divine intersects at multiple places.
Do Quakers dance? We do at York Meeting. On the First Fridays in May, June, and July we hosted Dances of Universal Peace. The circle dances come from multiple faith traditions and everyone is welcome. Some may choose to dance, others join the musical accompaniment while others sit and absorb the tranquility of the atmosphere. York Meeting’s Community Garden is growing and thriving. From tomatoes and peppers to tea and herbs, the variety in each garden is delightful and enjoyable as multiple visitors to the Meeting House grounds marvel at the growth by God’s miraculous design.
Our community garden plan of 7 plots this year has been moving forward. A local 4H club will be gardening in our backyard and using the Meeting House to do some canning and preserving of vegetables.
A few weeks ago we discussed Gift Circles from the book Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein. On April 8 we plan to start a Gift Circle within York Meeting. “Gift Circles are a way to develop a currency of trust, the beginning of a gift economy. They connect the provider of a gift, tangible or intangible, with the person who needs the gift, acknowledge generosity, and provide coordination of giving and receiving across space and time to create a circle.” For more information, go to sacred-economics.com where the author is offering the gift of the book for free.
We have started a series of sessions entitled “Finding our Vision: Considering our Queries”. As part of last year’s spiritual state of York Meeting report, we developed several queries for our Meeting. Now we are hoping to use those queries to develop our vision.
In October, York Friends held our 3rd annual retreat entitled Expanding Our Friendships with 13 Friends in attendance. Joe DiGarbo and Ron Ashby from Lancaster Meeting led a 2-hour introduction to the Alternatives to Violence (AVP) project. This intro sparked enough interest to start planning a 2-day AVP workshop later this spring. Then Friends took the Myers-Briggs inventory (developed by Quakers Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers) to gain a better understanding of how we relate to one another based on personality types. On a lighter note, Friends made up some skits and raised their voices in song to finish the day. Our Meeting House was open to the public once again on New Year’s Eve as part of York City’s New Year’s Revolution. Ed and Fran Norton of Flute and Friends performed their light classical music intermixed with some humor and fun. Other Friends extended hospitality and fellowship to the multitude of guests before and after the 4 concerts. According to one visitor these concerts were better attended than other venues that evening.
York Meeting has opened the Meeting House to Transition Town York, PA to show the Awakening the Dream, Changing the Dream symposium twice. The goal is to create an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just human presence on Earth. It is very well presented not only stating causes and the current problems but encourages everyone to be involved in working together to address the issues. During discussion we realized just how much these 3 parts of environmental sustainability, spiritual fulfillment, and social justice are interwoven. York Friends have been waiting for way to open to do community outreach for several years as we have been considering a Peace Building to provide additional space for First Day School and other activities. We have finally decided to put the building on hold and focus our time and energy on community outreach in the form of a community garden to open in a few months as planting season arrives.
Homelessness - how is it defined? How many people in our local community are really affected? On May 4, Chris Fitz of Lancaster Friends Meeting (PYM) made a presentation at York Meeting as part of his 8-day 7-county Homeless Horizons Bicycle Tour sponsored by Brethren Housing Authority (www.bha-pa.org). The goal was to increase awareness of homelessness. More than 1 in 3 homeless people are under age 18 and 4 in 10 of these children are under age 6. Families with children comprise one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population today. Homeless families who are “doubled up”—sleeping in cars and friends’ living rooms–account for an untold majority of the homeless. These statistics are taken from www.familypromise.org/fastfacts. Unfortunately attendance at this presentation was low but it is an important topic that York Meeting has had to deal with several times in our backyard. How can you help? 1. Talk to someone who is homeless and listen to what they need. 2. Donate time and financial resources to local homeless service providers. Investing in homeless services can save public expenditures more than $1000 per person/year. 3. Write to political representatives about investing in homeless services now which saves us all money down the road.
A Quaker Meeting House filled to overflowing with ministry in song for a whole day? “This is a day that the Lord hath made.” Over 70 people poured into our Meeting House from all over the East Coast to join in the chorus of Sacred Harp Shape Note singers. York Meeting has hosted this gathering on the last Saturday in April annually for three years. The beautiful harmonies truly rang out.
On July 31, God blessed us with a sensational sunny summer day to have our Annual Homecoming Picnic. About 30 Friends, including two children, joined us for Meeting for Worship and a smorgasbord of taste bud tempting foods. Michael Molz started the afternoon entertainment with some guitar picking followed by a Shape Note quartet, songs by Ruth Fitz and a sprinkling of jokes by and for kids of all ages.
During worship sharing we have meditated on the topics of “What makes worship worshipful for you?”, The Little Book of Conflict Transformation by John Paul Lederach, and more recently, we have started to reflect on Quaker testimonies to deepen our understanding and appreciation of Baltimore Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the Faith and Practice Revision Committee for all their work.