The Epistles of Baltimore Yearly Meeting
The 2023 Annual Session Epistle
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.
February 6, 2021
Greetings to Friends Everywhere,
On Saturday morning, February 6th, 2021, sixty-eight women gathered together virtually via Zoom to share worship and fellowship. We represented approximately 25 Meetings from within Baltimore Yearly Meeting, plus other meetings farther afield. This entire weekend was to be our annual Women's Retreat, which usually has around 150 women sharing meals, worship, workshops and worship sharing in a residential setting. With the global pandemic preventing us from our much-loved, in-person retreat, we were grateful for even this limited, two-hour opportunity.
After a welcome from the three "grandmothers" of the Working Group, the attendees were divided into virtual breakout rooms for worship sharing around the query "How are you creating peace and connection in these times?"
Returning to the main room, we sang along to a multi-voiced recording of the chant “We are Strong” and settled into silent worship. Several deep messages spoke to the losses of this year; the work to be done in anti-racism; transgender marginalization and the healing needed after the last four years; and John Woolman's awareness of his ability to "see but a little way at a time"; as well as celebrations of the Virginia legislature's vote to abolish the death penalty; the joy of having a female, bi-racial Vice President, and a First Lady who holds a doctorate. We were reminded of John Woolman's wisdom that "the first motion is love" as we listen and learn from those who are different from us. We held many in the Light whose names were lifted up silently and aloud.
At rise of Meeting, we shared several announcements. As we look to the formation of a retreat for 2022, we must trust the uncertainty: will we meet in person? who will plan the retreat? and asked women to remain open to the call to serve as plans unfold throughout the year.
In the Light,
The Women’s Retreat Working Group
on behalf of The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Women’s Retreat
To Friends Everywhere,
Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) started our 349th year together as we gathered in Spirit electronically for annual sessions following the theme “Courage, Faith and Hope to Love Across our Differences.” In this virtual format, we found new ways to connect deeply with Friends who joined us from nearby towns and from thousands of miles away. Entering Meeting for Business in silence, with microphones muted, encouraged deep worship. Even as we grappled with technical challenges, we found Spirit in small groups for bible study, worship sharing, and play. We celebrated that Friends of Color created new daily gatherings during this annual session that included Friends from unprogrammed and programmed meetings within and outside Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Unstructured gatherings at lunchtime and at the rise of Meeting captured some of the serendipity of encountering Friends on campus. We delighted in the community found by our youngest Friends, but sorrowed that our high-school Friends were not able to join us. Our time together has re-immersed us in the richness of our BYM community and given us the strength to continue our quest to love across our differences.
Our opening retreat was a safe space to share our grief, pain, confusion, and hopes. We acknowledged we are living in a perilous time of five pandemics, causing dis-ease and death worldwide: Covid-19, racism and bigotry, police brutality and militarization, climate change, and extreme economic inequity. Margaret Benefiel described this as the liminal space of the in-between times: what was normal is gone and the new normal has not yet emerged. We hold her advice to us: that we stay grounded through daily personal spiritual practice; that the hard work of being in community is itself a spiritual practice; and that community is fundamental to discernment as we ask, “What is mine to do? What is ours to do?”
Together, we seek the courage to stand in this ambiguity, attempting to respond faithfully to the Light we have, listening and discerning, moving step by step. We have long opposed racial injustice in the wider society. Last year we declared that we aspire to be an anti-racist faith community. As we looked back over this first year, we reviewed our good faith efforts and acknowledged some recent failings. Friends shared experiences of deep wounding related to racial power dynamics among BYM Friends. White Friends are still becoming aware that they must face their own complicity with the powers and principalities of racism and white supremacy: not only the transgressions in our imperfect Quaker history, but also continuing transgressions in the present moment. A Friend of color expressed pain that while some White Friends acknowledge the difficult work before us, others are reluctant to talk; their hearts are not open. In this liminal time, Friends diverge widely in understanding our individual and corporate roles in the pain of racial injustice, yet we know that failing to act is still action nonetheless.
As we wrestled with this work, we acknowledged our strength and fragility and our need for both courage and faith. Our clerk ministered to us about our tendency to recoil from conflicts within our Yearly Meeting. He suggested that this grows out of our association of anger with violence. He named that we are in conflict over misunderstandings that occurred during the urgent financial crisis faced this year. He acknowledged pain, frustration and anger among BYM Friends and our staff. We heard in our opening plenary that the blessed community we yearn to create requires us to move past logic and rational thought and into contemplative awareness. We know that our faith is shown by our works. When we have the courage to abide in discord, we can break open our hearts, hear each other’s anger, and feel each other’s pain.
What is ours to do is grounded in our relationship with each other. Our work is not just making decisions, but the act of “being” a yearly meeting. Being in conflict in community takes on an aspect of holiness because we labor together, as if “together” is the only option. Community builds hope and, like courage, hope is contagious. Our hope that Baltimore Yearly Meeting will in time be a truly just religious community sustains us in this work. Many Friends have voiced a prophetic message that forgiveness and repentance requires us to change course. Our newly-formed Reparations Action Working Group has opened consideration of a Truth and Reconciliation process. We are sitting with the recognition that just as Zacchaeus’ first act upon repentance was to pay reparations, we may also be so led. We also aspire to be accessible to a wider community of Friends. As we work together to ensure the future of our yearly meeting, we hope that this year’s experiments with pay-as-led and with gathering online will prove viable so that we can welcome Friends from all income levels, locations, and digital access.
We closed our week together with the Carey lecture where Bridget Moix asked us, “What is Ending? What is Essential? What is Eternal?” As the old order ends, we stand in the Refiner’s Fire, experiencing the searing, searching Light as we seek Way forward.
Our history as a loving community is long and deep. We enter our 349th year together enriched and emboldened to love each other and all people across our differences. Our work is grounded in courage and sustained by faith. Our time together nurtures the hope that this love will yet lead us to the beloved community.
In the Light,
Friends of Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Theme: Self and Community Care
Please note: This year, Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends (BYM YAF) would like to recognize that there are Young Adult Friends (YAF) groups at a number of BYM meetings that organize activities and conduct business independent from BYM YAF; much as the individual meetings of BYM operate independent of the Yearly Meeting. Just as the Yearly Meeting accepts epistles from each of its Monthly Meetings, BYM YAF would like to recognize the work and worship of these vibrant young adult communities. This year, Friends Meeting of Washington YAFs (FMW YAF) are the only contributing group, but we know of (and hope to include) other YAF groups within the BYM area.
This year, the BYM YAFs started talking with BYM about becoming a more stable and sustainable worshipping community, introduced a wildly-successful platform for communicating with each other in between our in-person conferences (and seven months of pandemic-enforced Zoom calls), conducted more business and watched each other eat more dinners than we have in the last several years combined, and continued in our labor towards becoming an intersectional and anti-racist faith community.
BYM YAFs only managed to hold one conference over 2019-2020, instead of our normal two. It took place the weekend of January 3rd-5th, 2020 in College Park, MD. Over the weekend, YAFs took a break from three years of anti-racism centered workshops and discussions by spending some time discerning where we, as a worshipping community of BYM, are heading; and attempted to play a rather tongue-in-cheek tabletop role-playing game (which quickly devolved into a humorous dramatic reading of the game manual). Several YAFs from Friends Meeting of Washington joined us for the weekend, and their contributions to our meetings for business and our workshops re-kindled our desire to work more closely with each other.
The main workshop for the conference was a discussion with Rep Pickard and Melanie Giord from BYM's Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee about our desire for BYM YAF to function more like a monthly meeting. For many of the YAFs in attendance, BYM YAF is their primary spiritual home within the Yearly Meeting; and we want to be sure that those Friends are not deprived of (or unfamiliar with) the sustainable structure of a regular meeting. Rep and Melanie helped us begin to feel out which parts of the monthly meeting recipe are things we want to adopt, and which parts won't work for us or aren't relevant. Spirited conversation sprung up around topics such as marriage, writing a spiritual state of the meeting, and drafting a handbook or faith and practice document for the use of future YAFs. Those present were keenly aware that unlike most meetings, BYM YAF is intrinsically a transient community, and that we will need to tailor any monthly meeting practices we adopt to reflect that.
Discussions throughout the weekend helped Friends from FMW become acquainted with YAFs connected to BYM from other Programs, and share their feelings of the need to “bridge the gap” between Monthly Meeting YAFs and the Yearly Meeting Program for YAFs. Over the years Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends has drifted to become separate from the Young Adult Friends group of Friends Meeting of Washington. This drifting is the result of geographic and cultural differences between Friends. Efforts are being made to bridge this gap. Though time has widened the gap, we remain committed to the process of reintegration. We hope to strengthen the Friendship that exists between the Friends of FMW YAFs and BYM YAFs and we will continue our work to unite the young adults throughout the Yearly Meeting. This also involved the idea of aging out of YAF, as FMW YAF and BYM YAF have different customs in place. BYM YAFs have a strict cutoff at 35, matching the common definition of a Young Adult Friend, while the FMW handbook describes Young Adult Friends as old as “approximately 40”. This will be a discussion that we will continue to have.
More effective social media and email connection was successfully established between BYM's 2019 Annual Session and the Winter Conference, through some trial and error and a lot of input and cooperative planning. This caused connection to be easier to maintain throughout 2019 and 2020, even as our Summer 2020 conference was not able to proceed as planned.
Many Young Adult Friends are comfortable online. Our reality is often a stew of in-person and virtual interactions, with smiles and love sent over the internet just as much as face to face, if not more, even before the pandemic. One would think that a transition to an entirely virtual life would be easy, or at least easier. COVID-19 made us very aware how important every ingredient was to our specific recipe.
BYM YAFs were fortunate to already have existing communications platforms set up that worked well for the new form our community needed to take. We have long relied on social media to remain connected with each other due to our geographic diversity, which made the transition to online Meetings for Worship and Business much smoother. Our Discord (a community focused communications platform) group grew from a few channels of communication to now nearly 20. We grew from a single person managing our server to having several moderators and a committee to support them. We learned in real time how to transition a platform from a secondary resource to a primary one.
We also started meeting frequently over Zoom to conduct business, provide company and support, and share the creative ways we endured the quarantine life. Our YAF ‘n Craft sessions (held every Friday or Saturday evening) turned into a place to let out frustration and turn it into something positive. We learned a lot from each other during these sessions; things ranging from crochet stitches to giant-weaving-machine programming.
We also tackled difficult community issues, such as the age at which YAFs age-out, how to balance our desire to effectively advertise our online spaces to other (as yet unconnected) YAFs with the need to maintain the safety of those spaces, and whether or not YAF should be able to declare participating Friends to be Members of our community. Although we were not able to reach unity on all of these, the conversations themselves were focused. Our more frequent meetings helped keep our collective attention from wandering which allowed for substantial progress on difficult topics. We also discovered that assigning committees and working groups to season issues worked far better using our Discord server, which lets committee members share thoughts and ideas as they arise.
Journey Towards Being an Anti-Racist Community
This year YAF continued to struggle with increasing awareness of white privilege, harm, and the suffocating atmosphere that minorities continue to live with. Current events have made the need for this work all the more obvious. BYM YAF sees the declaration of BYM's intent to become an anti-racist community as a promise made to Friends of Color; one that it has become clear we have not been pursuing with the dedication and seriousness these Friends deserve. Instead, we have come to feel that Friends within BYM are more concerned about preserving the positive self-images of our white Friends than they are about confronting behaviors and practices that harm and exclude Friends of Color. While we have seen a great expansion of important dialogue on anti-racism within BYM, we have also sat in committee meetings where not making someone feel bad was of equal concern with re-shaping our community into a place where people of color actually have a seat at the table. We grow tired of having to explain that the floor being scratched or paint chipped doesn't matter if we truly make more spots. And if the table no longer serves the community, how do we make one anew, stronger and larger than ever before, where no one will find spaces lacking?
All the while we must continually remind each other that our own work is not done. Declaring that we wish to become anti-racist is only the first step. Our experiences with the wider BYM community in the past year have made it clear to BYM YAF that not all Friends are willing to see that we all have more to do. Friends of Color still have to contend with a legacy of subtle and overt racism. The forums for sharing their pain are full of unspoken rules, where messages only matter if they are shared in the `right' way. At the same time, decades of clear lessons white Friends have been given about how to pursue anti-racism are ignored. All too often, the recitation of a white Friend's anti-racist resume is used to excuse and deny behavior that victimizes our Friends of Color, twisting opportunities for spirit-led self-improvement into wasted hours of self-serving autobiographies that deny us any true progress towards our goal of anti-racism.
While there have been the timid forward steps of an organization unwilling to be bathed in the white-centered Light of our guilt, BYM YAF is concerned that if white Friends continue to resist having their past and present failings laid bare, we will forever be stuck taking baby-steps toward anti-racism. The spirit has driven us to re-examine our actions today and, in doing so, provide a safe seat at our table for Friends of Color to join us.
In the Light,
Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Young Adult Friends
Addendum to the Epistle
Friends Meeting of Washington Young Adult Friends
The COVID-19 Pandemic and ensuing lockdown deeply affected the FMW YAF community as well. Though we are not unique in having our lives disrupted by COVID-19, the disruptions have affected our lives in unique ways. Though many FMW YAFs live with roommates or in group homes, there are some who live alone and are experiencing greater isolation than other members of the community who live with their families. Many FMW YAFs are also in the group that splits time between the Washington, DC area and a family home somewhere else. The inability to travel easily to see parents and siblings has been a unique challenge for FMW YAFs. The economic uncertainty that has resulted from COVID-19 has also hit FMW YAFs differently than other members of the community. The economic hardship has hit our Meeting particularly hard. FMW YAF has done its best to be good stewards of our community and has donated as a group and individually to help support our Meeting community. The many disruptions that COVID has brought to our lives has led to a deeper commitment to our Meeting life and a greater reliance on the spiritual and social activities provided by our FMW YAF community.
Before the COVID-19 lockdown, FMW YAF had weekly bible studies, monthly potlucks, game nights, and this year had a very successful Friendsgiving and Quakemas Murder Mystery Party and gift exchange. Since the COVID-19 lockdown, FMW YAF has transitioned many of our normal activities to Zoom. We have transitioned from doing monthly potlucks to weekly Zinners (Zoom dinners). Many FMW YAFs have found these Zinners to be a valuable part of coping with the social isolation that comes from the lockdown. We have also transitioned the FMW YAF sponsored bible study to Zoom. Attendance at the bible study has increased since the beginning of the lockdown as many are seeking increased spiritual guidance during this time. We have also been able to easily accommodate FMW YAFs who have moved out of the area to come to these events due to their virtual nature. It has been great to see the old F/friends can still lean on the FMW YAF community for support. These weekly events have helped to break up the monotony of the week and keep us grounded during this time.
We are getting through this because we are doing it together. We have been able to support each other through the shared joys and sorrows of this time. Though as individuals this outbreak may have been overwhelming, because we have been there for each other we have been able to withstand it.
In the Light,
Young Adult Friends
Friends Meeting of Washington
The Young Friends held our first conference of the year at Stony Run Friends Meeting. September Con is always a wonderful combination of reuniting with old friends and making new ones. To introduce the incoming class of Freshman into our community, we held Con 101, a place to learn our guidelines and expectations, as well as how our self-governing community functions. Friends attended a lovely workshop, where we learned to find and better express our voices. Our Business meetings at this con were productive and further served to teach our self-governing process to new members of our community. Saturday night we played a game of sardines in the dark before heading inside for a dance party. Sunday morning, we woke up early to clean before joining Stony Run Friends in worship. We thank the Stony Run community for granting us the use of their Meeting.
In November we met for our next conference at Friends Meeting of Washington. Our workshop at this conference was an insightful look on the history and current societies of Native Americans. Our community also enjoyed a field trip to a local playground where we played community bonding games. To celebrate the winter season, we made gingerbread houses in our Color Groups before gathering for Business. After our Business Meeting we had another dance party till the early morning, before waking to clean the meeting house and gather in worship with Friends Meeting of Washington. We thank Friends for allowing us to gather in your space.
For our third Conference of the year we gathered at Adelphi, for our February conference. We enjoyed several Valentine’s day games. Young Friends then attended a workshop on sexual health and education, an important topic for our age group. After our Business Meeting, we held our annual Prom and once again danced into the early morning. Sunday morning it was time to clean up and say goodbye, but not before joining Adelphi Friends for Worship. We are deeply grateful to Adelphi Friends for opening their doors to our community.
Our Service con was sadly canceled due to Covid-19, and our Grad con was moved to an online format to maintain the safety of our community and the wider Friends Community. We were still able to organize a community online bonding session, before holding our Senior Circles for the graduating class. We hold them in the light for the disruption to their senior years but hope that our online substitutes for Senior circles and books helped to bring some semblance of normalcy to these trying times. The class of 2020 will be missed in our community, but we look forward to seeing them all prosper as the light leads the way forward in their lives.
We would also like to take the time to thank Gunpowder Friends Meeting and Sandy Spring Friends Meeting for planning to allow us into their meetings for our Service and Grad cons respectively. While we were not able to hold in person conferences and connect with your communities this year, we hope to carry over our plans and hold conferences with these Friends in the 20-21 year. That being said, our community is placing the safety of all Friends at the forefront of our considerations this year, and will evaluate the risk level before each con. We plan to make all arrangements for cons in the hope that the Light will shine on positive circumstances, but we will pay close attention to the situations and cancel conferences if it keeps Friends safe.
Lastly, our community is saying goodbye to another loved member this year. Jocelyn Dowling has served as the Youth Programs Manager for 6 years now, and she has changed the lives of many Young Friends. Our community is self-governed, but it is Jossie’s presence that helps maintain and advance that state. She worked tirelessly to assist Young Friends in our work, while also being an incredibly fun and welcoming presence that brought love and light to every con. We cannot say thank you enough for all of the work she put in to help us, for how many of us she helped and for all the fond memories we will hold onto. While it is sad to see her leave, we know that the light will lead her way forward to bigger and better things, and we will be cheering her on the whole way.
This has been a difficult year for all Friends, but those of us in high school have gone through an incredibly difficult level of change. We had to cancel two conferences this year, and for Young Friends our conferences are an important place to be ourselves and feel accepted. It has always been the support of the meetings that open their doors to us and the wider BYM community that allows the Young Friends community to grow and prosper. We thank you all for this support, and hope that we are able to work together to maintain the Young Friends Community in these times. We hope you all stay safe and healthy.
Love and Light,
February 8, 2020
Greetings to Friends Everywhere,
More than 170 women from as far away as Australia gathered at Pearlstone Retreat Center in Reisterstown, Maryland from February 7-9 for the annual Baltimore Yearly Meeting Women’s Retreat to explore the theme of “Diligence in love, Overcoming isolation.”
Old and young came ready to learn from each other, and hold each other up during different seasons of their lives. Women shared their gifts in varying ministries, facilitating workshops, participating in the planning, in ways that enriches ours and the larger community. Our time together refreshed our souls: combining listening, speaking, reflecting, crying and laughing.
With exuberance, we sang rounds and chants, traditional and playful tunes, knowing that no one judged our voices—that God heard us and that every voice contributed to the harmonies that will see us through the remaining winter and nourish us throughout the year. Where God is, is holy Ground, and as Quakers we know that this can be anywhere we gather together, or anyplace that we can live deeply attuned to that of the divine in others.
We were nurtured in so many ways. Women shared their wisdom and talents in workshops and the coffee house. In order to deeply explore our theme, we focused on queries during various forms of worship sharing groups: traditional, walking, yoga, and singing, Experiment with the Light. We were renewed by health practitioners at the Healing Center. We enjoyed delicious kosher meals that included vegetables grown on this sustainable working farm/retreat center. We visited baby goats born on the grounds of the Center, a harbinger of spring and symbol of renewal.
In her multi-sensory keynote address, Dr. Tonya Thames Taylor of Fallowfield Friends Meeting, from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, shared her experience of growing up in Mississippi and rich stories of ancestors who struggled to survive. She discussed iconography and language, and how constructs differ from person to person and culture to culture. She connected the ancient scriptural words stenciled around the border of the room in this Jewish Retreat Center with a gospel song using those same words: “we are blessed in the city, we are blessed in the field, we’re blessed when we come and when we go…” The ancestral paths of African-Americans, of the Jewish people, and of Quakers seemed to converge in this holy space as we sang the verse of this song.
Tonya’s joy and Light shone through her, as she reminded us to bring our own unique Light into the world around us. There is a strength in loving with diligence, of showing up, and loving ourselves, our God, and our world.
In a world that is quick to judge, which is overrun with fear mongers, with those who would squash the simple beauty of loving kindness to our neighbors, we were reminded that sharing joy and sadness with strangers and fellow travellers alike is perhaps the most powerful and important thing we can do in these times.
If we let the Spirit work through us in our daily lives, and refuse the mantle of negativity that others would ask us to wear, then our collective Light can energize movements that will “try to see what Love can do.” We know in our hearts that if we follow that path, amazing things will transpire.
As the Women of BYM, we hope that you find those who empower you to let your Light shine in this world, on this earth that needs the deep love that Quakers have to give.
In the Light,
The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Women’s Retreat
To Friends Everywhere,
As we gathered for Annual Session in Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s 348th year to consider the theme, “Quaker Tools for the Journey,” we heard many messages that BYM Friends have been laboring in the garden. Previous years included turbulent periods when we did not know what ground lay ahead and we labored to stay in community with one another. It was revealed that this hard work has yielded us fertile soil. We were reminded by Sean Hickey, Opequon Quaker Camp Director, that: “Gardening is doing the work to create conditions for a seed to do what it already knows how to do.”
For the last few years the call has been clear: we must grow in order to be whole. We must grow by creating conditions that make our Meetings more inclusive and welcoming to all, by encouraging participation and leadership among all Friends, and by building an anti-racist, multicultural community. Young Adult Friends (YAFs) have been urging this growth by pointing out connections among these concerns. As reported in our 2018 Epistle, they pressed us, saying: “If we [in BYM] want to engage with young people, we must work with them on dismantling the implicit bias in our communities.” It is early yet, and gardening can be hard, uncomfortable work. In some places, we have only prepared the ground. In others, some seeds are just going into the ground.
Examples of this fertile soil include that our ad hoc Growing Diverse Leadership (GDL) group has become a standing committee. This new committee has taken the Strengthening Transformative Relationships in Diverse Environments (STRIDE) program under its care and a permanent staff position has been approved to coordinate and support the four local STRIDE groups. Following the strong leading of a Young Adult Friend, we have begun discussions of reparations to African Americans and indigenous native peoples.
The GDL committee proposed to declare BYM an anti-racist faith community. This declaration consolidated statements of our past convictions and offered a series of queries to test our decisions, taken in every setting, to ensure they reflect our intention to be, in fact, an anti-racist faith community. The declaration and its queries will be made available to our local Meetings as an invitation to discern how they can be useful in the life of those communities.
Young Adult Friends led our Wednesday all-age plenary, “YAF Talks about Talking about Racism” to build on their prophetic message. Drawing from the work of Amanda Kemp, they gave us tools to create space for transformation and to plant seeds of new ideas when having uncomfortable discussions.
Some seeds are starting to sprout. We have spent time and attention on increasing attendance at our annual gathering. This year the opening retreat, led by Marcelle Martin, author of Our Life is Love, had record participation (over 60), which improved attendance across the week. Quotes from early Friends considered during the retreat were referenced throughout the week to “seed” the soil of Annual Session efforts. Another consideration germinating under the care of the Program Committee is an alternative model to fund Annual Sessions in order to increase participation from all income levels, ages, and family sizes.
We have been tending to some concerns for many years and the shoots and leaves of growth are visible. Through support groups and travel minutes, our Intervisitation Program currently sustains a variety of individuals who made visits to 30 Quaker communities in six countries. Many are repeat visits that serve to strengthen connections across the Quaker world. This year over 30 visitors joined our Annual Sessions, the most in recent memory. The roots of this program are spreading as other Yearly Meetings look to this model to grow their own programs of intervisitation. In addition, we welcomed members of the Baltimore-based Kenyan Friends Church and celebrated the connections that are growing between us.
Our camping program has been tended for many years, extending roots in all directions and producing bounteous blooms. We basked in the presence of campers who hiked in from nearby Catoctin Quaker Camp. Several expressed their enthusiasm and joy for the camp experience, including a young woman who came to Catoctin through the STRIDE program, is now a counselor, and who convinced her cousins to come to camp, too!
Care of the earth is another mature concern whose flowers result from our tender attention. The Working Group on Right Relationship with Animals has encouraged extending our circle of love to animals and making conscious food choices. We heard moving testimony from Kallen Benson, a teen from Annapolis Meeting who held a 90-day vigil and “fast of words” during the Maryland General Assembly session in support of meaningful action on climate initiatives. A visit from a Bolivian Friend, Emma Condori, brought powerful witness to the disappearance of the Andes mountain snowpack, dry rivers, and whole communities with severely limited access to water, which are swept away by floods when it rains.
Yet, there are untended corners of our garden. More work is needed to nurture and support our meeting communities in addressing hurts that have happened to our own members. In particular, those most directly involved in crisis situations, such as child abuse, family violence, and contentious divorce. As meetings and individuals we need to learn how to provide safe spaces and tender care for those in the midst of crisis or suffering in silence to be heard and supported.
And, in order to fully nurture our cares and concerns, we must draw on another resource: money. This year our aspirations and commitments have been met through apportionment, friendly loans, and donations. Next year the budget will be balanced, thanks to careful, selective pruning and depending on the increased generosity of individual contributions.
At our opening plenary, Patricia Nesbitt enumerated the resources we each have in our spiritual toolbelt to prepare us to work at the edges of our comfort zone. Patti highlighted the value of her Travel Minute from BYM in making connections across the Quaker world and beyond. During our closing Carey Lecture, Quaker author, activist, and teacher, Eileen Flanagan presented us with three challenges to better nurture the seed within: to closely discern true leadings from habitual or wishful pursuits; to build our “courage muscles” so that we may follow true leadings strongly; and to call out the support we need from our communities. Eileen closed by saying: “There is so much richness in this community. I truly believe that if you follow your leading you will have everything you need.”
The Spiritual State of the Meeting Report reminds us that: “living in a climate of values which deeply challenge our own and facing conflict and discord on a daily basis is still hard for us.” But we are aware that we are richer for it -- richer from our more diverse composition, perspectives, and strengths, and richer from the truth and love we have grown and used in the process. Today, although we know we have prepared fertile soil and we know we have seeds -- and some sprouts -- we don’t know what this garden will grow into or what fruit it will bear. Only with the continued care of the conditions of the land will we see our seedlings germinate, sprout and flower. Gardening takes love and attention: feeding the soil with our open hearts, weeding to discern our innermost voice, both pruning and growing our resources so that our goals will flourish, and making it ready for the application of living water.
Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends are a small but ferocious group. In this past year we had two conferences, an additional training session, and our gathering at Annual Session. Our theme for this year has been the continuation of last year’s leading, where Young Adult Friends have worked to confront our own racism and to bring anti-racism work to the greater Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
Our Winter Conference was held at the home of several Young Adult Friends, a place fondly referred to as House of Couch. We met with the Working Group on Racism in order to begin training activities. Other activities of the conference included a walk around Lake Artemesia, electronic and paper based games, dinner out and community building.
Our Summer Conference was held at the same home, whose inhabitants we express immense gratitude to. At the conference, we continued developing our plenary, hosting a conference call and an in-person session with the Working Group on Racism. We shared similar community time together, and enjoyed a trip to the local thrift store.
At the end of June, Young Adult Friends arranged a workshop with Amanda Kemp in preparation for our upcoming plenary at annual session. YAFs discussed methods to address racism both within and outside of the Yearly Meeting; and discussed ways to bring those methods into the collective knowledge of the Yearly Meeting.
Our Annual Session activities were intensive. We started at full speed to get our plenary completely prepared. Thursday included dinner with all of the Young Adult Friends at the local park, followed by bubble blowing at the All Age Celebration. Friday celebrated rest and recovery as a community, as well as upcoming August birthdays. We also participated in the annual Coffeehouse. Saturday we shared time and joy with Young Friends in a spa session, with time to connect to rising Young Adult Friends.
We are appreciative of the community we have maintained and supported amongst ourselves, and of the time we have spent bringing crucial messages to the greater Yearly Meeting. We look forward to a year of continuing to be in community with each other and with new rising or otherwise incoming Young Adult Friends.
In the light,
Young Adult Friends
Young Friends held our first conference of the year at Homewood Meeting House. Welcoming new members into our community, we used Con 101 to help teach the basics of what our Conferences are. We enjoyed a workshop learning about cartography and got to practice our map making skills. Friends held a game of hide and seek after business meeting. Then, on Saturday, the conference took a trip to the local art museum, which we went through as small groups, to get to know each other better. After that, we went to a park and played large group games, such as Big Wind Blows and Frisbee. Finally, it was time to clean the meeting and hold a Thank-You Circle, where Friends can thank each other and share stories from the conference. Young Friends attended Meeting for Worship with Homewood. The meeting was a great place for our first conference of the year, and we thank the Friends at Homewood for allowing us to use their space.
We next gathered at Langley Hill Friends Meeting, for our November Conference. The workshop for that con was Sexual Education, a very important topic for our age group. Friends played in the playground together and enjoyed a game of ultimate frisbee. The outdoor space was very accommodating to our community and was much enjoyed. On Sunday, Friends cleaned up the space and held a brief Thank-You Circle. After that, we joined Langley Hill in worship, before saying goodbye. Thank you to Langley Hill Friends for welcoming us so warmly into their meeting house.
We held our February Conference at Adelphi Friends Meeting. We hosted our Love-Prom, which is a new tradition that has proved more inclusive to the Young Friends Community and a positive addition. Friends had a workshop on meditation, where we learned to focus our spiritual energy to better ourselves. We made brownies and hors d’oeuvres for our dance party. After a lot of cleaning up, we held our Thank-You Circle and joined Adelphi in worship before leaving once again. We enjoyed this conference very much and thank the meeting for opening their space for our use.
In April, we had our Service Conference at Goose Creek Friends Meeting. Our project was making posters and signs to support HR-763, a bill to combat climate change. This workshop was led by Jamie Demarco, and we thank him for allowing us to help on such an impactful project. Friends went on a walk and played many indoor games. Before leaving, we cleaned the meeting house and then shared worship with Goose Creek Friends. The space was very open and welcoming to our community, and we thank Goose Creek for that.
Young Friends attended Grad Con at Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting. We enjoyed the new building and space, particularly the kitchen. Young Friends held a water balloon fight and played many other outdoor games. We attended a fascinating Yoga Workshop, where Friends learned to stretch ourselves and our spirits. Then, we held our traditional Grad-Circles, where memories and thoughts about the graduating seniors are shared. Bitter-sweet as always, we are glad to support the 2019 class as it moves on in life, but we will miss them in our community. After cleaning the community house, we walked over and had worship with Sandy Spring Friends. Then we said goodbye to our seniors and held one last thank you circle for the year. We thank Sandy Spring Meeting for allowing us to use its wonderful space for our conference.
Annual Session this year has been a great opportunity for Young Friends to come together and begin the process of welcoming new attendees to our regular conferences. We attended a workshop on how climate change has been affecting Bolivia, and Friends were able to help plant a garden bed at Fox Haven. Young Friends joined JYM and JYF for games of Capture the flag and Four-Square. We held a Produce Department, a get-to-know-you activity open to the wider community of BYM at annual session. Friends also had the option to attend the Carey Lecture. Our Coffee House went well and was a great opportunity for every age group to have fun. Young Friends went on a ghost tour through Fredrick, and while sadly no friends saw any ghosts, it was still a fun group activity. On Saturday, Young Friends hit the streets for dinner on the town and had enjoyed our meal. On Sunday, it was time to pack and clean up, and say goodbye. Our community will next meet at September Con for the 2019-2020 school year, on September 27-29th. Anyone of High School Age is welcome to attend.
The Young Friends program is one that brings light to many peoples lives, but it could never function without all the work that goes on behind the scenes. We want to thank our Friendly Adult Presences from this year, all the meetings for allowing us to use their spaces for the weekend, and the parents that allow us to come back again and again. Last but certainly not least, Young Friends want to thank Jossie. Jossie puts so much work into our community (and many weekends) , and we are so grateful for everything. Not only does she make our conferences possible, but she is always such a fun and cheerful presence. For our program to continue, it takes work and support from the whole BYM community. We thank you all for granting that year after year.
Love and Light
On Tuesday we got to know each other with games like mafia and sardines. It was fun to get to know each other in such an active way. We also silk-screened shirts on that day.
There were many things on Wednesday. First of all, we went to the plenary session. There was Capture the Flag, and some rules to be made. The first rule assessed whose fault it was when someone died in the game, and the rules went on from there.
On Thursday we planned what we were going to do during the All-Age Celebration. In the morning we made things with drills. One of the favorites was a chicken doing push-ups. After lunch, we went swimming and had a lot of fun. That night we made a Labyrinth for the All-Age Celebration. There was lots of sugar involved.
On Friday, we started the day with going to Business Meeting. Then we decide on what to eat during the the sleepover. Some of the top choices were lemons, cherries, veggie straws, and gluten-free pretzels. We still got candy somehow. We planned things for the coffee house in the afternoon. Beckie and Allie did the sheep dance and Ob had Balloon farting. We then had our sleepover. We played capture the flag with the YFs and then watched The Princess Brideand went to sleep.
On Saturday we wrote our epistle, cleaned up, and made thank-you cards for JYF, JYM, and cafeteria staff. The week was a fun experience and we had a lot of fun together.
Women’s Treasure - honoring our time and talents
To Friends everywhere:
In the bleak midwinter, women seeking refuge, rest, reconnection and rejuvenation look forward to the annual Women’s Retreat. Over the weekend of January 25-27, 2019, 135 women gathered at Pearlstone Retreat Center in Reisterstown, Maryland to explore the theme of “Women’s Treasure - honoring our time and talents.”
For the first time, the planning committee was comprised of individuals representing six different Meetings. The committee felt supported by other women who arrived early to help get them set up.
This year, many women felt concern from the 5 weeks of the furlough weighing on them. They were concerned about spouses, loved ones, and strangers who were struggling. We were relieved to hear that the shutdown had ended, and breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The familiarity of the retreat brought peace to those who have attended before. This helped to create a peaceful environment and open space to first time attenders.
Upon arriving, some women found their rooms and put away their belongings, others set up their pop-up shops with handmade wares, and others went to dinner.
Chanting and singing brought us together where we were lovingly reminded to tend to the needs of our own spirit this weekend. We felt hopeful and excited for the weekend’s experiences.
Accompanied by the sunrise on our stroll to breakfast, the song rose up: “Yonder... day is breaking; sunlight is rising on my soul.”
For mealtimes, we found sustenance from colorful food prepared by the Pearlstone Retreat Center’s staff. Their ethic, printed on the dining room wall, states: “It is our honor to nourish our guests in body, mind and soul. Pearlstone Food honors the bounty of our seasons, the traditions of our ancestors, & the integrity of sustainable agriculture. We strive to provide consciously sourced, wholesome, delicious food inspired by crops grown on our farm and prepared with love. We always aim to improve, and we are proud to share our food journey with you. Enjoy!”
This Retreat Center aligns with our heart values of Simplicity and right relationship with the Earth. People, especially those with dietary restrictions, feel appreciated, embraced and cared for. At mealtime, joy and enthusiasm are paused by hand raising, in silent gratitude for the food, the seeds, plants, chickens and goats and also for the people who prepared and serve it.
The morning session began with chanting. “Come now Peace, Fill us with thy spirit....” led us into worshipful silence.
Out of the silence, the delightful theater troupe called “District Community Playback” reflected many of our different experiences. They conveyed emotions and stories of individual women amongst us by using improvisational theater techniques. They played back our stories, accompanied by violin. They used actions, fluid movements, and our own words. They dramatized our stories. They viscerally acted out emotions. It opened us up to seeing our own paths in a new light. Their drama style opened our hearts to our own needs for acknowledgements and affirmations for ourselves.
We realized the almost universal experience so many of us have: feelings and emotions of not feeling seen, feeling prideful, or selfish. Then they gracefully moved into helping us recognize our own strengths and value. We explored our inner light and the importance of recognizing and shining our own light outwards.
The violinist of the group led us in a new version of the song, “This little light of mine,” with the words:
This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
This big light of ours
It has magic powers
Hide it under a bushel “NO”
Be Fabulous and let it shine
Let it shine
Let it shine
Let it shine!
The plenary session felt: magical, true, weepy, inspirational, refreshing, revelatory, encouraging, funny, awesome, vulnerable, and “gave me courage.” The troupe invited all to specifically name each other’s treasure.
The workshops offered us the space to reconnect with parts of ourselves we may have forgotten, and provided us paths to follow going forward.
The retreat offered several different modes for healing in our bodies and hearts. There was a healing corner where women gave and received neck and shoulder massages. There were moments for women to find healing while chanting, singing and dancing. Women found refuge in pockets of safety during worship sharing. The fireplace in the main building provided a spot for vibrant and chatty women. Upstairs, women could be found collaging, decoupaging, talking about poetry and sharing quiet laughter.
Saturday evening gave us the opportunity to enjoy the annual coffee house where women share their talents including: music, poetry and prose with a sincerely appreciative audience.
May we all leave this weekend feeling that the light has poured into our hearts; our load lightened, so that we may go out in to the world continuing to honor our treasures and talents. May we walk in the light and share boldly with others who cross our path.
The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Women’s Retreat
To Friends Everywhere,
Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) gathered to consider the theme “Radical Listening, Rooted in Love.” Reverberations from last year’s tumultuous closing business meeting were felt throughout the year. During Interim Meetings, in committee work, in many local Meetings, Friends have sought to deepen their awareness of inherent bias in our life as a community and to develop strategies for growth and change. At this 347th Annual Session, echoing messages charge us to engage now in efforts to envision and build the Religious Society of Friends of the future.
Reports on several topics urged attention to changes in the world of Friends. At least 49 percent of all Friends are in East Africa. If we—those Quakers who identify as liberal and unprogrammed, the “vast minority” as former Friends United Meeting (FUM) General Secretary Colin Saxton said—are to be more than a “quaint” remnant of the Quaker Community, we must engage with intentionality. Pastoral practices and conservative values challenge us. Additional challenges will come from efforts at de-colonization and liberation from European-American economic, social, and cultural domination. In sum, “Expect discomfort,” was a key message, as Friends become involved with changes in the world of FUM taking place in East Africa, Ramallah, and the Caribbean as well as the United States. Originally a Western missionary organization, FUM is now committed to becoming a global partnership. In order for that commitment to come to be, “a structure of global participation and power-sharing” must be created. Unequal participants must become equal.
While U.S. participation and power will diminish, we must be able to relate to and work with Friends from other lands, speaking other languages, and worshipping in ways that differ from our own. Being prepared for such changes and being an active and vital part of these changes will involve the “radical listening” that is at the core of this week’s conversations. We must anticipate that our ability to consistently listen deeply will be tested. We will do well to consider the listening queries of the School of the Spirit shared at our retreat, such as “Do I offer an attentive, prayerful and quiet presence while a person is speaking?” and “Am I open to what is unfolding, letting go of my own ideas of what should happen?”
From Joyce Ajlouny, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) General Secretary, we heard: “Trust the voice of the oppressed. Radical transformation is possible with trust.” She described a “quiet, humble effort” undertaken by AFSC when seeking to address a problem by first gathering those affected—the dispossessed here and abroad—and by listening, then supporting their leadership in designing and working toward a new reality. In this way AFSC has worked in Myanmar with Rohinga, other Muslims and Buddhists to create safe places for refugees to stay in country, and helped farmers in North Korea to increase food security—the first western NGO to work in North Korea. A quote from AFSC, read in Business Meeting, reminds us that, “We are not a homogeneous organization seeking to become more diverse; we are an incomplete organization seeking to become whole.”
BYM has been actively engaging in concerns about moving toward wholeness through a unique process called Growing Diverse Leadership, supported by a grant from the Shoemaker Fund to further build diversity at our camps and across BYM as a whole. Our intention is to discern how our Meetings at all levels can be more inclusive and welcoming to all, can encourage participation and leadership among all Friends, and can build an anti-racist, multicultural community. How can we encourage and sustain participation by younger Friends and support their development as leaders? The commitment of Young Adult Friends to drive this growth was evident as they exhorted Friends to expand on this work, stating: “If we [in BYM] want to engage with young people, we must work with them on dismantling the implicit bias in our communities.”
One manifestation of these values and concerns has been the work of STRIDE Groups. The Strengthening Transformative Relationships in Diverse Environments (STRIDE) program initiated by young adult alumni of the BYM camping program has been building relationships in four urban communities and raising money for camp scholarships. This work has been intensive and ongoing. Group members have engaged with campers, families, and camp staff in a comprehensive cycle of communication, orientation, preparation, and feedback. The powerful, transformative nature of the STRIDE program both sparks anticipation for the future of Friends and encourages us to undertake the significant efforts required of us. Friends responded with passion and generosity.
In considering how to be welcoming, and attempting to assess how welcoming we truly are, one Friend of Color asserted that their experience shows we are not truly welcoming, that our words are welcoming, even our intentions, but not our structures and practices, and another Friend commented that saying we want to be welcoming is like saying we want to be Olympic athletes. Both require training. Another quoted a Friend of Color in their local meeting who pointed out, “You don’t know what diversity will look like, and you don’t know what it will ask.”
Colin Saxton in Friday evening’s Carey Lecture described what he called “seven postures for listening.” One of them in particular, “Listening as if we are written in one another’s hearts,” emphasizes the importance of seeing ourselves, Quakers, as “we,” as a people of God, thus overriding our tendency to think of “me” rather than “we.” He recommended that we recognize a coherent identity that we can invite others into.
From the floor of business meeting a Friend alerted us: “This is the future we’re getting ready for, Friends, let’s get ready for it wholeheartedly.” Can we become the people we are meant to be by broadening our outreach, being more welcoming, being the people that new people would be attracted to? Our Spiritual State of the Meeting Report urges our engagement: “Things will only change when we seek change in ourselves.”
Young Adult Friends (YAFs) began the year disappointed and distressed following the Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s (BYM’s) 2017 Annual Session where Friends shied away from confronting racism within BYM. Our goal for the year was healing for members of our community and striving to improve. During the year, the YAFs attended a camping retreat, met for two conferences, and attended BYM’s 347th Annual Session. During September 1st-3rd YAFs joined Sandy Spring Friends Meeting on their annual camping retreat on the grounds of Catoctin Quaker Camp. It rained consistently throughout the weekend. Despite the rain, Friends had fun gathering firewood, making cookies, and playing board games.
The winter conference took place at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting during December 15th-17th. On Friday, Friends arrived. Saturday morning YAFs started an ongoing conversation with BYM’s Working Group on Racism. YAFs ate lunch out with Wayne Finegar, BYM’s Associate General Secretary. After lunch we had a workshop with Friend’s Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). Saturday evening we joined Sandy Spring for their simple meal and singing Christmas carols. Sunday morning we joined Sandy Spring for Meeting for Worship and their annual Christmas pageant. Joining Sandy Spring in their activities furthered our ongoing goal of engaging more deeply with the wider BYM community.
The summer conference took place at Stony Run Friends Meeting during June 1st-3rd. On Friday, Friends arrived and went grocery shopping for snacks and Saturday’s breakfast. Throughout Saturday, Friends continued to arrive. Saturday morning, YAFs met again with the Working Group on Racism to continue our conversation, and plan a workshop for Annual Session. In the afternoon we met with Ken Stockbridge, BYM’s Presiding Clerk, to discuss youth involvement within BYM in general as well as in YAF specifically. Sat- urday evening YAFs engaged in a massage workshop led by Sage Garrettson, herself a member of YAF.
Annual Session took place July 31st-August 5th at Hood College in Frederick, MD. On Tuesday, Friends arrived, went grocery shopping for snacks, and learned our unicorn names. On Wednesday some YAFs played capture the flag with the Young Friends (YFs). Later, YAFs joined in Intergenerational Plenary, a story told in the style of Faith & Play™. In the evening, YAFs participated in Produce Department, an event where Friends of all ages are invited to break into small groups in order to get to know each other better. Around midnight, YAFs shared a watermelon with the YFs. On Thursday, YAFs co-led a workshop with the Working Group on Racism. That evening, following tradition, YAFs left campus for dinner out. After dinner, YAFs organized a booth at the All Age Celebration, sharing the knowledge of unicorn names, and facilitating construction of personalized unicorn horns.
Friday of Annual Session, YAFs joined YFs for a spa day and ice cream. In the evening Produce Department met for a second session. After Produce Department, YAFs held business meeting and discussed our ongoing struggles with diversity in our community. Saturday YAFs met again with the Working Group on Racism with a focus on discerning actionable items for promoting diversity in the YAF community. In the evening, Friends gathered to enjoy the skits and performances of our annual talent show, Coffee House. After Coffee House, YAFs joined YFs for a dance party. On Sunday, YAFs held a business meeting during breakfast. Finally, YAFs joined all of BYM for closing worship and made our respective ways home.
Throughout the year, YAFs reaffirmed our need to do better to support Friends of Color. We committed to focus the 2018-19 year on creating change through direct action. As part of a racist society all of us have room to grow and change for the better. We do not shy away from committing ourselves to the noble cause of anti-racism. We are all racist. We must root out racial prejudice in us and hold in the light the daily work it will require.
The 2017-2018 year for the Young Friends community was full of learning, fun, love and light.
Our first conference of the year was held at Goose Creek Monthly Meeting. Friends gathered and welcomed new members to the community. Then we enjoyed the outdoor space playing many fun games such as frisbee and wink. The Young Friends had a lovely workshop on body positivity and meditation. Later on in the conference, Friends gathered to discuss the important issue of how our Love Con was conducted in the past and how we will proceed with it in the future. Young Friends wrote a minute to address our concerns with Baltimore Yearly Meetings position on anti-racism. Friends gathered in a nearby field to play community inclusive games, such as Big Wind Blows and Look Down, Look Up. We ended our conference by joining in Worship with Goose Creek Members.
Young Friends second conference was held at Stony Run Monthly Meeting. Friends old and new joined together. We held an interesting workshop where we learned how to view other’s opinions with respect and love to the people who hold them. Friends played in the playground area, and the whole community gathered for a game of Sardines. After we concluded our business meeting, Friends held a dance party that stretched on into the early morning. The next day, Young Friends held a thank you circle, and attended Meeting for Worship with Stony Run. Then Friends concluded our conference and left.
Young Friends gathered next at Sandy Springs Monthly Meeting in February. Friends attended an informative workshop where we learned where we fit in on the traditional Chinese elemental-personality group, and how that can affect our lives. We took advantage of the weather and frolicked in the snow on the beautiful grounds. Friends held a simple dinner. Then we held our first Annual Love-Con Prom, where we dressed up and enjoyed candy. Later in the conference, Friends gathered with Sandy Spring members for meeting for worship.
Young Friends' fourth conference of the year was held at The Clearing. Friends helped to clear out campsites and a trail on the property to help keep the grounds useable. Then a Friend invited the community to write messages onto a parachute to be displayed at climate marches. Due to the cold weather, we played many indoor games, such as board games and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and had a pillow fight. Young Friends went on a relaxing walk through the woods. Then we held a thank you circle to conclude our conference.
Friends met for our final conference of the year at Hopewell Center. We played outside many times thanks to the great amount of space, including during the rainstorm. Then Young Friends held a coffee house where we saw many amazing talents. That night we went inside to hold our grad circles, a tradition where we celebrate each graduating senior. After that, we went outside to have a bonfire. To close out our conference, we held a thank you circle, and graduating seniors took home their senior books.
During 2018’s Annual Session, Young friends came together for a week. We enjoyed many fun activities, such as watching a movie, playing foursquare, and having a dance party. We also held a workshop to make pillows for children separated from their parents, held two produce departments, attended the all age celebration, and the YPC visioning session. We also played capture the flag with JYM, went out to dinner as a group, and had a spa day with YAF’s and ice-cream. On our last day we held a coffee house, and attended a workshop with FCNL.
Good morning Friends,
The JYFs had an exciting time at Annual Sessions ranging from service projects to antics at the Marx center. This year the JYFs have made many new Friends, but also were saying goodbye to a few. The mystery JYF, Julian, came with a skateboard which intrigued most of us. On the first day when people got here we started out with mellow crayon melting art. But by the time evening program rolled around when most of the Friends had arrived we laid ground rules, and got to work playing Sardines.
These rules included Respecting our space, making adults aware of our location, leaving things in their intended shape, leave Jaguar Jake’s pompoms alone, consent, and USE don’t ABUSE.
The JYFs haven’t quite adjusted to the new space, but the larger size allowed for more fun.
Jackrabbit Jake taught most of the willing JYFs how to throw cards. We were eager to begin testing these skills and while no one was permanently damaged there were some close calls.
By the next day card throwing was banned.
When the day rolled around we started off with a service project for a nearby soup kitchen. We created an assembly line rolling up silverware in napkins. Some JYFs figured out how to make the project more fun by wrapping 10 knives in one napkin. After lunch we followed the Catoctin campers until they allowed us to play games with them, but we knew we had to save our energy because that night was the fabled capture the flag night with the YFs and JYMs.
The next day we sat down for business meeting where we re-wrote the rules, planned the sleepover, and chose our clerk and recording clerk. We prepared ourselves for the All Age Celebration, and discussed ideas for our first ever indoor pompom labyrinth. Before we started work on the labyrinth we recognized we needed more help from a more experienced labyrinther. With help form a YF we finished the labyrinth just in the knick of time.
Friday morning started off with another service project, making pillows for separated immigrant families, but quickly descended into chaos as we went swimming in the rain… in an indoor pool. The overnight started with group games, singing happy birthday to Ally, and then running to Produce in the rain. When we returned to the Marx center completely soaked, we attempted to get ready for bed but nobody had toothbrushes or pajamas. So we started the movie and fell asleep.
The JYFs were excited to be here at Annual Sessions and we hope all of you were too, thanks for hosting us, bringing us here, and thanks to the staff who put up with us for a week,
All the friends at JYF
God Delights in Diversity
Baltimore Year Meeting Women’s Retreat 2018
To Friends Everywhere:
It seems like talk of race and racism, and sex, gender, and sexism, and love, and phobias surround us. We, as humans, are daily deluged by both our touching compassion and our stunning hatred. In a time of constant conversations, so often divisive, enraging, and wearying we remember both the power of the word and the power of silence and stillness. Intentional language can be spiritually transformative, especially when embodied in action.
Saturday’s plenary panel powerfully addressed issues around diversity. Their authentic voices were heard with gratitude and opened hearts. Some Friends wished there had been a transgender representative on the panel, but overall we were delighted by our panelists Kathryn Pettus, Elaine Brigham, Becca Bacon, and Dyresha Harris. We experienced a variety of deep thoughts and emotions on so many levels. Although we are innately programmed to see and distinguish variation, scientifically we are one. Race is a myth; however, racism is real. A Friend encouraged us to embrace our many identities to expand our perspectives. Delighting in our differences, and dancing with them, can make us more whole—as individuals and as a culture.
Our weekend offered many opportunities for connecting and intimacy. An impromptu sing-em-up broke out in the turret during the Saturday afternoon break, as well as a raucous intergenerational game of cards in the evening. We met three times in worship sharing groups to practice listening to the heart. This is a deeply anchoring practice for many. Friends enjoyed workshops around transitioning our perceptions of gender, sexuality, racial identity, judgement, and other life challenges. And, as usual, chanting was a highlight for many. Coffee House offered a chance for us to frolic joyfully and to support each other’s gifts. The art room displayed many beautiful crafts for sale as well as materials to create new works. Folks also enjoyed a book exchange.
Some, mostly younger, women came for the first time, drawn by the deep conversation that the Yearly Meeting has chosen to embrace. We were excited to experience their energy and hope many will return. Women often express that this weekend nourishes them spiritually for the coming year. It was noticed that some of our older, founding members were not here this weekend. We miss them and honor their contribution in establishing this gathering. This year’s difficult flu season also kept several Friends from attending.
Pearlstone welcomed us lovingly to their beautiful community. We found the food both very good and plentiful. Important as it is to nourish our minds and spirits with insightful discussions and warm friendship, it is equally important to nurture our bodies with beautiful food and the healing sanctuary of a good bed. Pearlstone provided this material bounty and we are profoundly grateful. We thank the women of Sandy Spring Meeting for organizing the weekend. We take away the blessings of a weekend shared in community and growth.
With Light and Love,
The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Women’s Retreat
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
(amendments accepted Tenth Month 14, 2017)
Accepted 8th Month 6th Day, 2017
(amendments accepted Tenth Month 14, 2017)
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.
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.
More: A Letter to the YAF Community by Becca Bacon
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.”
Transcript from Sunday Business Meeting
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
A Long-Form Haiku
and gathered amongst our Friends,
warm in Washington.
Tory Smith and Liv Henry
combating the use of drones
Bill McPherson, Pulitzer
and listened to his tales of
war and history.
Committee joined us,
Friends struggle talking to YAFs,
so we lent our help.
playing games and sharing love,
grateful for our Friends.
and though our numbers were small,
many joys were shared.
combat and PTSD,
sharing ways to cope.
a trip to the Museum of
Art in Baltimore.
a long-time YAF tradition,
this time Golden West.
was spent with Friends young and old
we continued to struggle
with the YAF Facebook,
because of technology
and the internet.
swam and played games with Young Friends,
and went out to lunch.
we would like to thank all Friends
for love and support.
kindness can move great mountains,
and though we struggle,
we always have each other,
together as Friends.
B.Y.M. Young Adult Friends
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
The BYM Young Friends
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.
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)
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
This is a story about a young elf and her adventures of the past year. This was a particularly caring, trusting, and loving elf; her name was Yfs. 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), 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.
“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” answered Bym.
With the help of this Alleysun, Yfs made her way over the Creek of Geese 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. There she was reunited with her older brother, Yafs, 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.
Yfs next ventured to the Hill of Langley, 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, 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. 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! 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 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 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. Yfs was intimidated by the name of the land - the Clearing - 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 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, 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. 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.
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, because otherwise it would be very bland and hardly worth tasting!
 Young Friends Gathering Expectations
 BYM Young Friends
 Young Friends call conferences CONs
 Baltimore Yearly Meeting (pronounced Bim)
Alison Duncan- BYM Youth Secretary
 Goose Creek Friends Meeting
 Friends Meeting of Washington
 Young Adult Friends- they visit YFs during November Con because they are home from college on break
 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
 Langley Hill Friends Meeting
 At Love Con, Friends learned about illegal immigrants who are treated unfairly
 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
 Over the course of the 2010-2011 year, Young Friends had an influx of attenders
 Annapolis Friends Meeting
 Young Friends now have to preregister in order to attend conferences, which was always encouraged, but is now required
 Young Friends take a bus to a geographical region of the Yearly Meeting that they don’t normally visit for the April Conference
 The Clearing is a wooded retreat center owned by Richmond Friends Meeting
 Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run
 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
 Annual Session at Frostburg State University
 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
 SPICES- Quaker Testimonies- we hope you are familiar with these…
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.