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Committees and Groups Visioning Session Reports

In 2010 and 2011, Baltimore Yearly Meeting undertook a project to consider the vision of the Yearly Meeting community. As a part of that project, members of the ad hoc Visiting Ministers Committee led a visioning session at each Committee, Working Group, and other unit. The reports of the visioning sessions are below, in alphabetic order. To jump to a particular groups report, click the name in the list here.

Trustees of Baltimore Yearly Meeting Camping Program Committee Camp Property Management Committee
Development Committee Educational Loan Committee Faith and Practice Revision Committee
ad hoc Committee on Gender and Sexual Diversity Concerns ad hoc Committee on Intervisitation Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee
Nominating Committee Peace and Social Concerns Committee Program Committee
Religious Education Committee Stewardship and Finance Committee Supervisory Committee
Unity with Nature Committee Working Group on Racism Youth Programs Committee
Baltimore Yearly Meeting Staff   Young Friends

Trustees of Baltimore Yearly Meeting

The Trustees, like other committees of the Meeting, are selected by the Meeting and are expected to act for the whole Meeting in carrying out their responsibilities under the law. Thus, while Trustees must be conscious of their fiduciary obligation to preserve the assets of the Meeting, they must also be continuously sensitive to the spirit of the Meeting and its wish to fulfill the social testimonies of the Society of Friends. The Meeting, in turn, should be sensitive to the legal responsibilities of trustees which can, in certain circumstances, make them personally liable for actions taken in the name of the Meeting.
Faith and Practice, III B, 4b

Trustees and other financial officers should seek to be as responsive as possible, within the limits of legally imposed restrictions, to the considered judgment of the whole Meeting on matters of policy.
Faith and Practice, Appendix I, 2b

The Yearly Meeting appoints Trustees in accordance with its corporate charter. There are at present nine in number: the current Presiding Clerk and Treasurer of the Yearly Meeting plus seven persons nominated by the Nominating Committee and appointed by the Yearly Meeting to serve for terms of three years, with the possibility of re-appointment for a second three-year term. Normally one of these seven is from each Quarterly Meeting within the Yearly Meeting. The Trustees may not co-opt additional members.

The Trustees meet at least annually. They are responsible for title to all real property in the care of the Yearly Meeting, such as burying grounds, and for all matters concerned with the invested funds of the Yearly Meeting. All trust funds will, of course, be administered in accordance with the intentions of the original donors following the policy outlined in Faith and Practice, Appendix I,3.

The Trustees should report annually to the Yearly Meeting.

The Clerk, or another designated trustee, serves as a member of the Camp Property Management Committee.

The Trustees affirm the above duties with the following comments:

2) How does the Committee seek to accomplish this vital work?
What vision does this move us toward?

The Trustees need to be more proactive with the camping program and work more closely with the Supervisory Committee on the office property. Review financial records and ensuring that funds are secured through proper accounting.

3) What can we do best at this level, rather than at our monthly meetings or through national or international organizations?
Trustees are to serve as wise stewards to provide funding for yearly meeting programs and activities. By appropriately conserving and managing funds, the trustees enable the continuation of the service programs for the Yearly Meeting.

Trustees could offer workshops on the role of monthly meeting trustees.

4) How does the work of your Committee enrich, influence, or change Baltimore Yearly Meeting as a whole?
As stewards of yearly meeting assets we are looking at the Yearly Meeting as a whole. We strive to manage the relative complexity of financial issues. Although our job description is narrow and conservative we seek to be mindful of the overall mission of the Yearly Meeting and its committees.
Where do you see that work taking us as a Yearly Meeting?
The Trustees seek to provide accurate financial and investment information for conversations regarding money. Our key mission is to promote and sustain the financial health of Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

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Camp Property Management Committee

1) Looking at your committee description in the BYM Manual of Procedure: What is the most meaningful, enduring or vital part of your committee’s charge?

The most vital part of our Committee’s charge is to insure the three camp properties are kept in good working order to support a simple yet safe camping program.

Where is the energy, the Spirit, in [this work]?

The spirit and energy of our work is nurtured and enhanced by the beauty of our properties, the spirit revealed in their natural environments, and we draw energy and vitality from interacting with the Camp Program Committee, the Campers themselves, and from all who come to service weekends for chores and spiritual enrichment.

2) How does the committee seek to accomplish this vital work?

We engage in long-run planning and draw on resources both within and beyond our Committee to maintain and improve the properties. We seek to be as careful stewards as possible, including being thrifty with the resources available and maintaining harmony with the natural environment. What vision does this move us toward? A spiritually enriching camping program open to all youth held in safe, rustic, comfortable and inviting setting, with properties also available for others to use when not being used for Camp.

3) What can we do best at this level, rather than at our monthly meetings or through national or international organizations?

The camping program supported by the camp properties serves all of BYM, the larger Quaker Community, and many non-Quaker youth. No individual Monthly Meeting could maintain or preserve such properties on their own. Sharing the burden at the Yearly Meeting level is fiscally responsible and sustainable, and we can draw on the resources of thousands of people. By keeping the properties within the Yearly Meeting, a closer sense of community is nurtured by interactions at the camp properties.

4) How does the work of your Committee enrich, influence, or change Baltimore Yearly Meeting as a whole?

Many BYM community building experiences take place at the camp properties. Youth are the future, and our Yearly Meeting is growing. Too few other gatherings of Friends can make this claim. Our youth are thriving, the result of the care, attention and respect that a camping program can offer them as they grow.

Where do you see that work taking us as a Yearly Meeting?

By ensuring the camp properties support the BYM camping program, young Friends are enabled to develop spiritually, emotionally and physically. Non-Quaker youth are also embraced by the Religious Society of Friends and its history, culture, values and spiritual worship. Importantly, the camp properties provide a setting for Friends of all ages to come together to support the continued growth and well being of our Yearly Meeting.

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Camping Program Committee

1) Looking at your committee description in the BYM Manual of Procedure:
What is the most meaningful, enduring or vital part of your committee’s charge?

The Committee serves BYM by connecting and communicating among the different groups of people who are involved in ensuring that the camping program provides our children and others who attend with a safe, healthy, fun, and spirit-nurturing community that supports Quaker values.
Where is the energy, the Spirit, in it?
The energy and passion of the camps passes from the campers and counselors to their parents and back into their home meetings and out beyond - some of the parents and meeting members then volunteer at camp, and/or join the Committee to share and route this exuberance into service to keep the program running during the remainder of the year when the camps are not in session. In addition, the camps honor the spiritual growth that comes from a deep connection within the natural world, which leads to individual inner and outer enrichment and resourcefulness.

2) How does the Committee seek to accomplish this vital work?
The committee and the Camp Program Secretary, Jane Megginson, have an established cycle of activities during the off-season that guides the Committee members in setting objectives for each session - currently the Committee has set up subcommittees to address each of the most pressing concerns. The Committee seeks to support the directors of the 4 camps so that they can run the camps in a spiritual manner.

Members serve for 3-year terms, ensuring time to learn the annual cycle that anchors the Committee activities and to provide continuity in making program recommendations. After two three-year terms, members must take a leave of at least one year before re-joining - this makes room for new members.
Examples of current sub-committees:

• a bike trip committee to set up a new TA trip for 2011 to handle expected increase in teen camper enrollments (and to prevent repetition of the very difficult situation about 4 years ago when the program had to turn away campers for lack of resources),
• a marketing committee to reach out to more meeting families to recruit campers to Shiloh and Opequon, both of which need more campers to continue to be viable longer term,
• a cookbook committee to create a cookbook to raise funds and help build a “one-camp” identity with recipes contributed from all camps,
• a finance committee to track year-to-year expenses, with an eye out for unexpected costs as well as future budgets that may include new investments or program initiatives, and
• camp-specific committees to address concerns that relate primarily to one camp or that arise in the annual camp evaluations that are collected each fall.

What vision does this move us toward?
Our vision is of a sustainable camping program which strengthens the experience of community and Quaker values, brings our meetings together via their children and that adapts as needed to new community needs.

3) What can we do best at this level (i.e., by the Committee for the BYM level), rather than at our monthly meetings or through national or international organizations?
The CPC addresses a lot of “off season” tasks that need to be attended to, as well as longer term planning that directors are less able to be directly involved in. The Committee works to keep our campers coming back to camp, to build and maintain friendships, to learn about other meetings, and to encourage families to see the camps as one of BYM’s most central and vital assets.

4) How does the work of your Committee enrich, influence, or change Baltimore Yearly Meeting as a whole? Where do you see that work taking us as a Yearly Meeting?
The Committee supports the camping program that nurtures a BYM-wide community, connecting members through its children. The families with kids who participate in the camping program understand these connections, that “BYM is us.” Committee members who talk with campers' parents hear from families that their children's Quaker identity is formed or reinforced at camp -- so it is not just social networks that are built at camp, but also deeper spiritual growth with the potential for a longer-term, vibrant outreach and stable connection to BYM. Many campers that come from Meetings in BYM get to experience, possibly for the first time, the idea that Quakers exist beyond their own Monthly Meeting.

Camp often serves as a family’s first experience with a program of the Yearly Meeting which may serve as an entrée into wider participation in Yearly Meeting activities. We know from anecdotal evidence that many campers and camper families become Quakers through their connection to camp. Campers come home from camp and ask to go to Meeting, often bringing their families with them. As part of the mission of camp, we teach children and young adults to tap into their own inner spiritual resources.

We purposefully grow leaders in our camps who then go out into the world and bring the skills that they have learned at camp to all of their endeavors. We hear from Quaker Colleges and Schools what a rich resource the participants from our camps are at their institutions. We teach the values of participating in community and serving others. This work enriches the Yearly Meeting by raising young people who have leadership skills, spiritual connections to the community and their environment, and have a better understanding of Quakerism and living in a Quaker Community.

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Development Committee

The work of the Development Committee harkens back to a Friends’ tradition dating to the times of Margaret Fell to ask individuals to provide for the work that Friends are called to do. Understanding the heartfelt desire of Friends to “be patterns, be examples,” the Development Committee nurtures and strengthens the Baltimore Yearly Meeting community by helping its members understand the Yearly Meeting’s financial needs and by asking for financial support for its programs and activities which carry the Light of Friends into our wider communities and the world. The Committee supports the Yearly Meeting’s capacity to be a vital community, rich in relationships and self-knowledge, and to be resilient in its ability to respond to the call of the Spirit.

The Development Committee serves the Yearly Meeting Community by:

  • Deepening the understanding of the scope and effects of BYM’s program work, its identity and its life as a community;

  • Analyzing and reporting on BYM’s needs for support above and beyond the levels that apportionment can provide;

  • Building relationships, personal or organizational, with donors who have the capacity and desire to provide support to BYM;

  • Appreciating and giving thanks to donors for gifts;

  • Coordinating the work of many group and individual efforts in the cause of financial support for BYM;

  • Developing helpful policies and establishing practical procedures regarding development in BYM; and

  • Stimulating discussion on planning for the future.

The Development Committee makes BYM financially secure. It thus amplifies the effectiveness of Yearly Meeting programs and activities in order to maintain and increase their scope and strength. The Committee financially supports overall organizational administrative capacity to help continue the wide array of Yearly Meeting functions. It helps to provide for the safety, usefulness and attractiveness of BYM’s extensive properties, which serve as a Yearly Meeting witness to the importance of the preservation of natural areas.

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Educational Loan Committee

Historically, education has been of great importance to the Religious Society of Friends and to Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Supplying financial assistance to students has long been an aim of the Yearly Meeting. That notwithstanding, the conditions under which the Educational Loan Committee operates has changed over the years.
We note that:

  • The financial conditions that students and their families face have changed;

  • The environment in which student loans take place has become far more complex;

  • The legal requirements and restrictions for lending and collecting debts have become more explicit and proscriptive in this troubled industry;

  • The nature of our own community has changed – both the degree to which we know each other and the sense of shared commitment on the part of some; and

  • The complexity of our loan operation has made a significant contribution to the difficulties we now face in managing BYM’s financial system.

Regretfully, we question whether our committee can ever have the financial or human resources to administer the current program effectively and in a manner appropriate to the Religious Society of Friends. Concerns have been raised about:

  • Meeting the requirements for legal compliance;

  • The rising rate of default, the inability to effectively respond to collection problems and the possible risk to BYM’s finances;

  • The long-term lack of clarity on the criteria for giving financial assistance;

  • Managing this heavily knowledge-based program by committee, with its rotating membership system that diminishes both administrative continuity and clarity of purpose;

  • The amount of time and effort required just for “routine” operations;

  • The apparent lack of motivation on the part of Friends to join and participate regularly in the committee’s admittedly difficult work; and

  • The fact that we are teaching young adults to become “debtors in a debtor society.”

Nevertheless, the Committee sees the possibility for a way forward to assist students in their education. In recent years, the Committee has operated quite conservatively in making loans, in concert with Trustees’ wishes. For now, this way forward includes keeping abreast of how Quaker colleges are adjusting to the current environment, dealing with some of the same issues listed above. It involves study of other student assistance programs as well. We ask the Yearly Meeting to be prepared for change.

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Faith and Practice Revision Committee

The Faith and Practice Revision committee consists of at least six persons and not more than ten, nominated by the Nominating Committee and appointed by the Yearly Meeting. These persons are appointed when the Interim or Yearly Meeting minute the need for revision. Because the Committee needs to know one another well enough to work together throughout the rewriting, the members of the Committee shall continue on the Committee until the committee’s work is done, or they resign. When no revisions are before the Committee and the Committee has completed all its responsibilities, the Yearly Meeting releases these persons from their appointment to this Committee.

The Committee receives proposed changes and develops new text where needed. They circulate proposed revisions to all the Monthly meetings and worship groups in Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

The above is what the Faith & Practice Revision Committee has been trying to have the Manual of Procedure Committee change. This corresponds to what we actually do. The current description in the Manual of Procedure was written a few years after the 1988 version was done and small changes were expected from time to time. Although some people say we are rewriting, not revising, the dictionary does not differentiate between the two words. In order to revise, one needs to rewrite and in order to rewrite one needs to revise.

The Faith and Practice Revision Committee consists of at least three persons nominated by the Nominating Committee and appointed by the Yearly Meeting. These persons are appointed only when proposed revisions have been presented in writing to the Yearly Meeting. The same provisions regarding rotation of members and term limits apply as for other standing committees. When no revisions are before the Committee and the Committee has completed all its responsibilities, the Yearly Meeting releases these persons from their appointment to this Committee.

The Committee receives proposed changes and circulates proposed revisions to all the Monthly and Quarterly Meetings in Baltimore Yearly Meeting with sufficient time that Monthly Meetings may prepare comments for a Quarterly Meeting session before Yearly Meeting. The Committee may help prepare proposed changes to ensure clarity and consistency with other sections of Faith and Practice. Printing and distribution of Faith and Practice or of its revised sections should be coordinated with the Publications Committee.

1) Looking at your committee description in the BYM Manual of Procedure:
What is the most meaningful, enduring or vital part of your committee’s charge?
Where is the energy, the Spirit, in it?

The description of the Faith & Practice Revision Committee in the 2009 Manual is quite incorrect. The second sentence is incorrect: “These persons are appointed only when proposed revisions have been presented in writing to the Yearly Meeting.” Appointments have not been based on this criterion, but have been made to consider extensive revision to the document.

The third sentence is also incorrect: “The same provisions regarding rotation of members and term limits apply as for other standing committees.” The terms on Faith & Practice Revision are much more lengthy than is normal.

And regarding the fourth sentence, while individuals have resigned, no one has been released: there are a multitude of revisions that have been before the Committee for several years.

The importance of circulating proposed revisions cannot be understated.

The Publications Committee no longer exists. Faith & Practice Revision has taken on the responsibilities of publication.

2) How does the Committee seek to accomplish this vital work?
What vision does this move us toward?

The Committee meets in worshipful gatherings almost once a month for the last several years. Its task is to consider whether the current 1988 version of the Faith and Practice adequately reflects our current understanding of our faith and our practices.

3) What can we do best at this level, rather than at our monthly meetings or through national or international organizations?
This is a concern of the whole Yearly Meeting, and the participation of Monthly Meetings in the process is vital to a well documented and well understood Faith and Practice. National and International organizations are largely irrelevant. However we have enjoyed researching the Faith and Practices of other Yearly Meetings as amusing resources.

4) How does the work of your Committee enrich, influence, or change Baltimore Yearly Meeting as a whole?
Where do you see that work taking us as a Yearly Meeting?

The revised Faith and Practice of Baltimore Yearly Meeting should enliven Friends’ interest and understanding of the depth and quality of our religion. We hope that our work will be relevant and appropriate to inform newcomers as well as practicing Friends for a great many years to come.

The Committee unites strongly with the statement below.
“Revision of Faith and Practice is a concern of the whole Yearly Meeting, and the participation of Monthly Meetings in the process is vital to a well-documented and well understood Faith and Practice. The Committee receives proposed changes and develops new text where needed. It circulates proposed revisions to all the Monthly Meetings and worship groups in Baltimore Yearly Meeting and carefully considers further revisions and suggestions.”

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ad hoc Committee on Gender and Sexual Diversity Concerns

In our sharing together, we agreed that we are most energized by and drawn to education and pastoral care for persons who are laboring with questions of gender and sexual identity and society’s perceptions, on behalf of themselves, their loved ones, or their meetings. We accomplish this by making ourselves known as a safe place. We need to be in touch with each other at the Yearly Meeting level in order to share information and to spiritually support and re-energize each other. Our presence as a Yearly Meeting committee is a quiet, yet powerful witness to the inclusivity of God’s unconditional love.

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ad hoc Committee on Intervisitation

The Intervisitation Program of Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) seeks to strengthen the Religious Society of Friends and nurture the beloved community of Friends, especially within Friends United Meeting (FUM). While BYM’s concern regarding an FUM personnel policy planted the seed, that concern is not the program’s focus. Rather, as we in BYM faced the pain we felt as a result of that policy, we awoke to the fragility, and in some cases brokenness, of the relationships among the Yearly Meetings and monthly meetings within FUM. Thus the goal of BYM's Intervisitation Program is to encourage, prepare, and support Friends to travel among Yearly Meetings with the faith that we can listen deeply, strengthen our relationships, and build our faith community. Our program assumes that intervisitation will be in all directions and those interested will offer and receive hospitality.

Our Committee resonates with the spiritual challenges of peace-making and building community within Friends United Meeting. Since we wrote the above mission statement, our numbers have grown as we have united with other Friends in seeking to build bridges of understanding through a traveling ministry of presence, deep listening, and hospitality. Over the years we have found that we actually become the bridges. Friends who have participated in this ministry include:

our ministers and elders who travel to other yearly meetings;
our own committee members ;
guests who come from FUM offices and other yearly meetings to our Annual Sessions;
Friends who give hospitality to those traveling to and from BYM; and
all participants at Annual Session who meet our travelers and guests and attend our many events.

Only by working together can we “strengthen the Religious Society of Friends and nurture the beloved community of Friends.”

Our Friendly outreach is spiritually challenging because we are forming relationships among Friends who are different from us in ways that are surprising and occasionally annoying or even threatening. Each of us — traveler, guest, host, and participant — risks leaving our comfort zone. We serve in faith. We ask God to send us the wisdom to heed the exhortation that George Fox gave Friends from Launceston Prison in 1656: “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 every one.”

While clearness and support committees from our Monthly Meetings and some financial support are essential, this work requires Yearly Meeting direction, outreach, coordination, and funding. Endorsement by the Yearly Meeting enhances the credibility of our invitations to guests. The hard work of staff and other BYM members ensures Friendly hospitality for our guests at Annual Session. Traveling minutes for our ministers, endorsed by Interim or Yearly Meeting, and letters of introduction for our accompanying elders, breathe new life into these Quaker traditions and highlight the spiritual gifts of our travelers. Yearly Meeting funding of this ministry means that a variety of Friends are able to travel to and from BYM — including retired Friends, Young Friends, and Young Adult Friends who are still paying for their educations.

Knowing more about who we are now, as diverse Friends, enables us to move into the future with greater clarity and to witness to our world with greater unity of purpose.

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Ministry and Pastoral Care

Excerpted from Minutes of the Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting at Patapsco Monthly Meeting3rd Month 2010.

Minute Four: Visioning Questions
We made the following responses to the visioning questions as they pertain to Ministry and Pastoral Care:

The Committee is concerned with enhancing, enriching and enlivening the spiritual life of the Monthly Meetings and yearly meeting, leading others to sink down to the Seed into deeper, better and closer relationship with the Spirit, providing them with ways to live into this relationship. We make ourselves available to Monthly Meetings that are having a specific care or concern to be supportive or to serve as mediators, and to give spiritual aid.

In order to accomplish this work, we pray, offer workshops, and coordinate Bible Study and worship sharing at Annual Session. We hold the Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business during Annual Session in prayer. We visit Monthly Meetings. Through collecting the spiritual state of the Meeting reports and providing the spiritual state of the Yearly Meeting report to Annual Session, we help move the Yearly Meeting toward a focus on our spiritual foundations.

Mentoring and spiritual growth opportunities can best be provided at the regional level. In addition, outreach, which provides a sense of connection, and fellowship – the embracing of one another and providing for sharing our joys and sorrows are both well suited to being under regional (Yearly Meeting) care.

Through holding the Yearly Meeting in the Light during Annual Session and providing a space in which Friends can share their gifts and deepen their connection with Spirit and one another, it is our expectation that we will deepen our shared relationship with God and will be better able to discern where Spirit is leading us.

Approved in the face of the Meeting,
Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch, Clerk

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Nominating Committee

1) Looking at your committee description in the BYM Manual of Procedure: What is the most meaningful, enduring or vital part of your committee’s charge? Where is the energy, the Spirit, in it?

Nominating Committee sees its mission as matching personal leadings and abilities with committee needs. The Manual of Procedure does not provide a “mission statement” explicitly. The closest comments we could find were:

  • from paragraph 2: “The Committee recommends to the Yearly Meeting in session the names of persons to serve on committees and in other offices for which no other means of nomination has been herein provided.” and
  • from the final paragraph: “It is the duty of the Nominating Committee to evaluate the qualification of Friends for committee service and to endeavor to be informed about the functioning of Yearly Meeting committees in order to ascertain at what point a committee assignment or a change of assignment might benefit a Friend, the Yearly Meeting, or both.”

2) How does the Committee seek to accomplish this vital work? What vision does this move us toward?

Nominating Committee seeks to recognize and develop gifts of BYM Friends by encouraging and supporting them to find committee service that matches their skills, talents and leadings. The Committee assigns members to liaison with several Yearly Meeting committees or representative groups to learn their needs and to follow up with Friends who may be willing to serve on that committee. The Nominating Committee envisions BYM as a spiritual community that invites its members into meaningful participation through committee service as led by the Spirit.

3) What can we do best at this level, rather than at our monthly meetings or through national or international organizations?

The Nominating Committee facilitates the opportunity for Friends to develop their gifts and to pursue their leadings in a wider community of Friends among whom they can find greater opportunities to connect with Friends pursuing similar leadings or concerns.

4) How does the work of your Committee enrich, influence, or change Baltimore Yearly Meeting as a whole? Where do you see that work taking us as a Yearly Meeting?

By identifying Friends (1) whose spiritual journeys may be enhanced through committee service, and (2) who possess gifts needed among us, we hope to enable the work of the Spirit among us through strong, well-functioning committees. In addition, Friends who serve on a committee with others with whom they share a common concern are knit together in ways that strengthen the Yearly Meeting.

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Peace and Social Concerns Committee

1) Looking at your Committee description in the BYM Manual of Procedure:
What is the most meaningful enduring or vital part of your committee’s charge?
Where is the energy, the Spirit, in it?

Our Committee sees the “charge” to “stimulate and coordinate activities of Monthly Meeting Peace and Social Concerns Committees regarding those issues that affect the fabric of society and on which Quaker testimonies can be brought to bear,” as very important, and even vital. This is where we can be of most use to the Yearly Meeting.

2) How does the Committee seek to accomplish this vital work?
What vision does this move us toward?

We attempt to do this by various means. We hold an annual networking day, where members of Monthly Meeting PSCCs can share and learn from each other. We sponsor workshops and interest groups at Yearly Meeting. We season issues for the Yearly Meeting, and often bring issues for action to its consideration. We feel we sometimes give voice to the “conscience” of the Yearly Meeting on issues involving peace and social justice.

We hope that this moves us toward a vision of a more peaceful and just world, where our Quaker testimonies are accepted and used as spiritual guidelines for society as a whole.

3) What work can we do best at this [regional] level, rather than at our Monthly Meetings or through national or international organizations?
We can speak with one voice, encompassing over 40 Quaker meetings in four states and District of Columbia, and (4000?) Friends, on issues of state, national, and international concern.

4) How does the work of your Committee enrich, influence, or change Baltimore Yearly Meeting as a whole?
Where do you see that work taking us as a Yearly Meeting?

We support Friends as they seek to apply our testimonies to their lives, individually, and corporately.

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Program Committee

The Program Committee is charged with being the “host” of Baltimore Yearly Meeting Annual Session. As the host, we provide place and time as well as the programming of these sessions. We care for the physical needs of Friends so that the Spirit may be present.

Each member of the Committee has charge of a piece of the work. We meet four times during the year as well as daily during Annual Session to compare with and support each other in our tasks so that Friends’ needs are met during the session. This includes selecting themes, plenary session presenters, and workshops. It includes constructing a budget and arranging for lodging, food, and meeting spaces. It also includes coordinating with other groups on major components of the week: Junior Yearly Meeting and Youth Programs for events for younger Friends; Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee on the pre-Annual Session retreat; worship sharing and Bible study; and working with the BYM staff for support during the registration process as well as the work of the office during the week. In doing all this, the members of the Committee feel like a family as they work together to bring this to fruition one week a year.

The work of the Program Committee makes it possible for Friends of all ages to gather annually to seek God’s guidance in conducting the business of our Yearly Meeting, as well as to provide Friends with time for learning and renewal.

As we do this, we are aware of the role Annual Session places in the lives of BYM Friends, now and for more than three centuries – a welcoming, centered place for Friends to worship in a wider context, a time to conduct business of concern to Friends, a place of learning about Quakerism past and present, near and far, for spiritual renewal, for sharing and networking between Monthly Meetings, and a family reunion.

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Religious Education Committee

1) Looking at your Committee description in the BYM Manual of Procedure:
What is the most meaningful, enduring or vital part of your committee’s charge?
Where is the energy, the Spirit, in it?

We hope to be a conduit which provides education and support for RE teachers. We will provide an environment in which information can be shared among RE Friends, consequently nurturing teachers and inspiring connection.

2) How does the Committee seek to accomplish this vital work?
What vision does this move us toward?

By providing resources through BYM workshops, interest groups, and a new web site geared towards the exchange of ideas and fellowship. We also sponsor a visiting Friendly Religious Education Consultant (FREC) at BYM Annual Session and provide scholarships for teachers to attend.

3) What can we do best at this level, rather than at our monthly meetings or through national or international organizations?
At the regional level we can connect Friends who are near each other better than larger Quaker organizations.

4) How does the work of your committee enrich, influence, or change Baltimore Yearly Meeting as a whole?
Where do you see that work taking us as a Yearly Meeting?

We hope it inspires RE teachers of all ages and strengthens their spiritual connections.

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Stewardship and Finance Committee

In order to answer the Visioning request we should first look at the definitions that make up our name:

  • Stewardship – a noun – the position, duties, or service of a steward.

  • Steward – One who acts as a supervisor or administrator of finances and property for another or others.

  • Finance – the financial management of a system or the science of public revenue and expenditures or of any money matters.

Management of finances starts with the budgeting process. Budgeting is the allocation of an organization’s resources in accordance with a plan for the achievement of its objective and goals. Some say that in a Quaker organization, the budget is a spiritual document, declaring what we are dedicating ourselves to accomplish as service as a community. In setting the budget, the Committee attempts to understand the priorities of the Yearly Meeting and to know the real limits of its fiscal capabilities as well. The Committee must try to see all of the Yearly Meeting’s parts and programs as a whole. The budget is one of the most effective tools for the proper stewardship of Baltimore Yearly Meeting assets.

The Yearly Meeting is a Meeting of Monthly Meetings. The Committee must relate the needs and resources of the Monthly Meetings to the programmatic and other work that the Yearly Meeting desires to accomplish on behalf of the Monthly Meetings collectively.

As part of the budgeting process, the Committee must consult with all Monthly Meetings and prepare a plan of apportionment contribution needs from each Meeting, which is based on Monthly Meeting input, to assist in supporting the Yearly Meeting budget. This is a process of mutual education and searching.

Another vital part of our duties is the oversight of the financial system. This includes the oversight of the bookkeeping and accounting systems, related internal controls and procedures, and the adequacy of the financial reports given by the Treasurer. The Finance and Stewardship Committee works in conference with other committees, staff and officers. This includes:

  • Trustees: The Committee responds to the requirements of the audits and reviews conducted by Trustees. It works with Trustees to assure that there are no gaps in fiscal responsibilities between the two groups;

  • Development Committee: The Committee works with Development to assure that a realistic amount of
    future income is anticipated between fundraising, apportionment, and any other sources; and

  • Staff and Treasurer: The Committee works with these to assure that adequate fiscal management systems and practices are in place and in use.

The Stewardship and Finance Committee can also help to provide information to Monthly Meetings on the

  1. Services that Baltimore Yearly Meeting has funded through support of organizations like Friends
    General Conference (FGC), Friends United Meeting (FUM), and Friends World committee for
    Consultation (FWCC);

  2. Services the Yearly Meeting can provide to Monthly Meetings such as talks on Stewardship and
    fundraising for Monthly Meeting projects and capital projects such as building or buying Monthly
    Meeting houses.

The primary purpose of this entire system is that of enabling Baltimore Yearly Meeting to fulfill its obligations of fiduciary responsibility and proper stewardship and to make adequate provision for all assets that are managed by the Trustees.

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Supervisory Committee

1) Looking at your committee description in the BYM Manual of Procedure: What is the most meaningful, enduring or vital part of your committee’s charge? Where is the energy, the Spirit, in it?

The heart of the Supervisory Committee’s work is direct stewardship for BYM’s paid human resources, and through the work of staff, indirect stewardship of the whole organization. This includes responsibility both for appropriate expenditure of BYM’s human resources budget, and for nurturing the synergy among the staff to carry out the vision of BYM as a whole.

We recognize that, as Quaker employees, our staff members are paid to work in worship. We seek to create an environment that enables this work in a Light-driven way. We seek to nurture our staff, and we value each staff member as more than just an employee. At the same time, we must hold each employee to a high standard of competent performance.

2) How does the Committee seek to accomplish this vital work? What vision does this move us toward?

Supervisory Committee is a hard-working group, meeting almost every month, and we take our stewardship responsibility very seriously. We have a vision of gospel order for our office and staff work. That is, an office and staff that: (1) follows best practices for nonprofits organizations (recognizing that these practices keep changing, and we must keep up with them); (2) compensates its staff fairly (and comparably to other area nonprofits); and (3) in all things, is obedient to the Divine will as discerned by the Yearly Meeting body.

3) What can we do best at this level, rather than at our monthly meetings or through national or international organizations?

Having a well-tended, well performing staff at the Yearly Meeting level provides consistency of function, institutional memory, and resources for Monthly Meetings. Supervisory Committee articulates to the wider BYM the role of the staff as members of the BYM community and as Spirit-led professional servants of that community. The Supervisory Committee tends the relationships between the staff and the Committees that the staff members serve, seeking to promote functional and healthy relationships between Committees and staff even though the Committees do not directly hire or supervise the staff.

4) How does the work of your committee enrich, influence, or change Baltimore Yearly Meeting as a whole?

We recognize that our vision is to tend the staff so that it will be ready to implement BYM’s vision as discerned by the whole body of BYM. We must be prepared to work with the staff to implement any changes that may be called for as a result of BYM’s visioning process.

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Unity with Nature Committee

1) Looking at your committee description in the BYM Manual of Procedure: What is the most meaningful, enduring or vital part of your committee’s charge? Where is the energy, the Spirit, in it?

From the Manual of Procedure the following excerpt describes the Spiritual Vitality of the Unity with Nature Committee:

  • Recognizing that the entire world is an interconnected manifestation of God, the Unity with Nature Committee seeks to work into the beliefs and practices of the Yearly Meeting the twin principles that God's Creation is to be respected, protected, and held in reverence, and that human aspirations for peace and justice depend upon restoring the Earth's ecological integrity.
2) How does the Committee seek to accomplish this vital work? What vision does this move us toward?

Unity with Nature Committee motto: Learn, Pray, Educate.

Realizing that as Friends are at different points in their spiritual journeys, they are also at different points in their recognition of the changes in our lifestyles we must make to protect God’s Creation and restore the Earth’s ecological integrity. The Unity with Nature committee believes that it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and then attempt to spread what we have learned to rest of the BYM community. The work of the Unity with Nature Committee is passed on the guidance received from prayer.

3) What can we do best at this level, rather than at our monthly meetings or through national or international organizations?

The Unity with Nature Committee is both a conduit for information and an Earth Care leader for BYM. We can provide programs to encourage BYM meetings to become more involved in efforts to clean-up the Chesapeake Bay and provide educational information/materials through the Unity with Nature Road Show (will have its introduction on April, 2010 at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting). We are also able to serve as link between Quaker Earthcare Witness and BYM.

4) How does the work of your committee enrich, influence, or change Baltimore Yearly Meeting as a whole? Where do you see that work taking us as a Yearly Meeting?

Unity with Nature can provide BYM with information necessary to respect and protect God’s creation and encourage our aspirations for peace and justice. From the encouragement of BYM to “go green” in its buildings and practices to practicing “green living” at Annual Session, BYM can live more respectfully with God’s Creation.

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Working Group on Racism

1) What is the most meaningful, enduring or vital part of your Committee’s charge?
Where is the energy, the Spirit in it?

We feel our Committee’s charge is to heighten awareness within ourselves and among Friends in general as to how it is we live out seeing that of God in every person. We try to do this through mindful awareness, specifically focused around race, looking at our history as Quakers and as a larger society with regard to racism and white privilege. The Spirit lies in gaining awareness and then determining what we do about it.

We are attempting to put open-heartedness into practice, and to overcome obstacles to open-heartedness. We seek to find out how to “break through the glass walls” and grow.

There are two aspects to Quakerism -- the interior and the exterior, going out into the world. The Spirit of this Committee is to act on the testimonies of Equality, Truth, and Integrity, seeking the practical application of these testimonies. What are we putting into practice? We feel we are responsible for making changes in the present and future; we know we cannot repair the mistakes of our past, but we can move forward in new ways.

2) How does the Committee seek to accomplish this vital work?
What vision does this move us toward?

We look for opportunities, and we provide a variety of things to do and to offer to BYM Friends that will engage individuals and meetings and will help raise awareness of racism and/or white privilege. Examples: The Listening Project, many workshops at our annual gatherings, showing movies such as “Making Whiteness Visible,” speakers, readings, a monthly quotation for dissemination by Monthly Meetings, the history “quiz” at the 2009 Annual Session, and sharing our own experiences and growth in knowledge. We seek to engage people in whatever ways we can.

We have been in existence for 8 years. We were the “gadfly” at first. Now, this year, our concerns are at the center of Yearly Meeting. What does our concern have to do with the future of the culture and of Friends? Whites are not the majority within the Religious Society of Friends. Whites will not be the majority in the US of the future. What does this mean and where are we going? What will we do?

When the Working Group started out, we asked, “How do we get more racial diversity in our meetings?” Now we focus on, “How do we change ourselves?” and “What does it mean to be white?” We believe that, as we gain a greater sense of racial identity (our own), as we come to perceive ourselves as having a race, rather than being the norm against which others are seen, we will increase our potential to relate to others’ racial identity, and greater participation by people of color will be a by-product of this work, rather than its goal.

3) What can we do best at this level, rather than at our monthly meetings or through national or international organizations?
Our openness is to follow the energies of those who join the Working Group. We maintain a willingness to pursue (support) individual energies and promptings.

We provide sharing, inspiration, and encouragement. We help raise consciousness through Monthly Meeting blurbs for newsletters, local working groups, and other support to monthly meetings in the Yearly Meeting. We are also connected to other yearly meetings (NEYM, NYYM, and PYM) doing similar work. WGR is a funnel for letting others know what is going on within BYM and in the wider community and yearly meetings.

4) How does the work of your committee enrich, influence, or change BYM as a whole?
Where do you see that work taking us as a yearly meeting?

We believe there are many ways that our Working Group can enrich and influence BYM as a whole. We are also fully aware that we can’t necessarily directly influence every Monthly Meetings, let alone their surrounding communities, or other activities.

As people’s consciousness and hearts are changed we hope that this will bring greater diversity and “an end to ‘Quakerliness,’” in the sense of, “If you do things a certain way, you are Quakerly; if you do not, you are not.” We also considered the phenomenon of the “cultural Quaker,” who comes to committee meetings and then goes home rather than coming to worship. We seek to be more open to differences — different styles, different expectations. How are our meetings challenged by diversity? Encounter with the Spirit is the core aspect of the Quaker experience –worship as the direct encounter with God. (Pentecostals also have a direct encounter with God). Can we be open to different styles even as we share the same core experience? Can we become more fully whole persons, so that we can be more accessible to everyone?

We want to reach out to people whose spirits resonate with our form of worship but who may feel uncomfortable with some of the cultural trapping that we have come to consider “Quakerly.” We need to discern what parts of our experience are core to our faith—e.g. direct encounter with the Spirit, and what parts are incidental, e.g. modes of dress, types of diet, political preferences, and so on. We need to claim the core portions of what makes us Quakers, and, beyond this, be open to differences in style and belief.

“To embrace a faith that fits us comfortably is a poor way of accepting religion; ...Faith must be a continuing challenge to which we must respond, a discipline to which we must submit, not a feather bed to protect us against the sharp edge of living."
Edgard B. Castle, 1961. From Catherine Whitmire, Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity.

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Youth Programs Committee

YPC Visioning
January 22, 2010

1) Working with youth – finding and training FAPs to connect with the kids – finding people to work with the kids.

2) Interpretive – to bring together the youth with the wider Quaker community and vice versa.

3) Bigger picture – our role/mission is creating space and opportunity for our youth to find their own voices and spirituality and to share Quaker values.

4) Don’t mold children – unfold them.

5) Share our spiritual center.

6) The mission of YPC is to help Quaker youth to grow in the light, be centered in their lives and empower them to live Quaker values in a world often at odds with those values. We do this to assure for the future of Quakerism.

7) We create an ongoing program of conferences where Quaker youth can form community based on caring, love and trust.

8) We provide ongoing religious education.

9) We impart values and help all of us become and live our values.

10) Our work is that of matching gifts and engaging the right people. We recognize the gifts within our youth and nurture those gifts.

11) Youth are the future of our Yearly Meeting. We provide programs to support and address growth among our young people.

12) We do the behind the scenes work background checks, FAPs, etc.

13) Our job is not about preparing our youth, it is about letting them flourish where they are-it is about creating a Quaker Youth Community where they are now.

14) We act as advocates for our youth—we share the truth of what happens, the program shines on its own.

15) We are not a recipe (just programs), we want to reflect the enthusiasm and spiritual gifts that we bring.

16) We are unfolding vital leaders trying on responsibility.

17) Conferences are practical opportunities for Youth – it is the offering and living of values. We offer mentorship and discipleship.

18) Youth Programs offers choices and creates the opportunity for youth to choose, rather than having choices made for them.

19) We give our Youth space and allow them to make mistakes and learn and grow.

20) We provide space and support – the Youth create the community. They build it.

21) With the given that most monthly meetings are a small group, we create the opportunity to support each other and come together to form a larger Quaker community and therefore a larger Youth peer group. Baltimore Yearly Meeting creates a larger group that is geographically closer. National and International Quaker groups can create a onetime community, but not an ongoing community like BYM can create.

22) We create the training ground at a scale that is possible. BYM creates and expresses some diversity. It is the right size.

23) These are not pre-adults, they are young people. They are in their own process of discovery. We support them in being who they need to be.

24) Equality Testimony – we give our young people a voice and a value in our larger Quaker community.

25) Our youth elder us about Quaker values. We need to let them know how valued they are. Our youth enrich us. We are nurturing each other.

26) Experiencing a community of caring, trust and love, of acceptance – it transcends everything.

Come experience with us! You will see the value.

"Imagine, if you can, a group of teens where the somewhat shy and reserved sit and play side-by-side with boys in skirts. Imagine the boys that are a bit more rambunctious than cautious sitting with the “nerds”. Imagine the marginalized and popular united without heckling. That is often the case; it is remarkable. Imagine too the child from the most liberal meeting with the most hands-off parent becoming your child’s best friend. That may happen too! We are diverse and that brings with it challenges. One limit, one style does not fit us all. The Young Friends and Youth Programs Committee continually try to find a balance."

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Baltimore Yearly Meeting Staff

Report on the Visioning Session with Baltimore Yearly Meeting Staff
Nov. 18, 2010

John Smallwood and Rebecca Rawls joined the Baltimore Yearly Meeting staff in enjoying the gracious hospitality of Pipe Creek Monthly Meeting, complete with hot coffee, tasty shortbread, and a fire in the woodstove on a gorgeous autumn day. After a period of open worship Riley Robinson had each of us introduce ourselves and share something positive about our experience with the yearly meeting. Then John Smallwood led the group through a consideration of the five visioning queries. What follows is a paraphrase of the responses.

Query 1: What calls me to be part of the Friends’ Community?
* I want to live in society but not be defined by it. A spiritual life inside of me has an identity already; I need to find out what that life is and what it has to contribute to the wider world.

* I was drawn by the Peace Testimony and by simplicity. When I first came among Friends it felt like this was who I was inside all along and that I might find kindred spirits here to support me. Though I was initially attracted by the public activism, it’s the contemplative side that draws me now, the work of reaching for something within one’s own self in a community that is interested in the same thing.

* My parents took me to Meeting as a child and I joined in college. But I really connected with Quakerism ten years later when I was searching for a spiritual base that made more sense to me than right-wing Christianity. I read Faith & Practice for the first time and felt that this is really who I am. The testimonies and their real core, that there is that of God in every human being, show me how to treat people and take care of myself.

* As a teen and young adult, I was able to experiment with many kinds of religion and I felt real value for me in many of them. That created something of a spiritual crisis until I realized that you begin where you are; I had a cultural heritage and that was Christian Quakerism.

* I grew up in a Meeting, left, and came back because here not knowing the answers is alright. You don’t have to be anything except who you are. People around you are always willing to help you grow into something better.

* When I was five, we chose as a family to go to Quaker Meeting. I liked it because you didn’t have to dress up, which is symbolic for understanding that Quakers will take you as you are, you can be comfortable here. Even as a child, I really liked Meeting for Worship. I liked sitting in my parents’ laps or sitting next to them. I still like the fact that we can just be with people and we don’t need anything else.

* I grew up feeling that the church was a place of community and fellowship, which I valued, but I knew I wasn’t called to lifelong membership in the church I grew up in. Experience at Quaker school and camps taught me that I was a Quaker. It’s about being in community with people whose values I share.

2: How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting?
* Meeting for me is not a place of refuge. It’s a place to have an exchange, to be mentored. Meeting has never protected me from important issues, though it has provided a better place to struggle with them. I’ve been helped by specific people to develop what I think is a healthy caution about Quaker institutions. Meeting has also been a place where it’s okay to say, “I could have done that better” and to really consider that.

* I have a gift for teaching First –Day School, and my Meeting is delighted to give me opportunities to develop that. Our worship is not accessible to children; thank goodness for our camps and Young Friends. I learned to center in camp using practices and techniques that are too programmed for most Meetings. And in Young Friends I learned Quaker business practice and its spiritual nature. I’m still called to make Quakerism accessible to young children.

* My Meeting has a lot of strength in providing spiritual and theoretical support for each person’s ministry. The assumption that you have something important within you supports you. We have a strong framework to support one another in ministry, but we don’t always work out the process the way we could. I feel supported in my ministry at a warm fuzzy level, but we don’t always work to help one another clarify the vision. We do this sometimes, but not always.

* A Quaker community isn’t a group of folks to hang out with. I’m not looking for that. And it doesn’t offer me groupthink. I’m grateful for group silence. I haven’t shared my leadings with my Meeting or sought support in that way. I think more of service to the Meeting than of support from it. Maybe that feels safer, but it does leave me on the outside.

* I see Meeting as a funnel to help connect me to a deep source of Spirit to get strength for a call to service and also to discern what that call is. My Meeting does this, but it could do more. Often we are many individuals doing things, but we’re not very communal. We rarely do service projects together, and I wish we did more, though that would mean leaving personal leadings aside sometimes.

* My Meeting supports me with shared time over a meal. Potlucks are important; I like to cook for others and be cooked for.

3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own Meeting?
* I’ve been an organizationally promiscuous Quaker, involved in many Quaker organizations. That’s been very valuable; I take pieces from each of them with me. I was encouraged early to go to BYM because the discussions at my own monthly meeting about difficult issues could be too painful to be my only Quaker experience. My monthly meeting didn’t have enough of what I needed.

* My biggest challenge is to find the right balance in a continuum between what I do and what I could be doing. Where is the leading? I recall a time when a yearly meeting staff member was reminded by his support committee that he had been released from ministry at his monthly meeting in order to serve the yearly meeting. I value that mutual understanding of the need to let go of monthly meeting service. It offers both release and accountability.

* Going to Pendle Hill provides an opportunity for me to feel I can stop being a “public” Friend and get personal nurture.

* My service to Friends is doing the things that need to get done so that others who have work to do can do it, whether that’s making sure there’s toilet paper or keeping good membership records. That’s what I do, whether it’s for my monthly meeting or for BYM.

* My leading and my job are both to support Young Friends. I’ve recently found it difficult to participate in other things except in furtherance of that goal. At this point, there aren’t many places I go that are for me.

Queries 4 and 5 were considered together. They are: How do I as an individual Friend, or what does this Monthly Meeting, see the Yearly Meeting being called to do to act out our faith? And What can the Yearly Meting do to help us realize our collective dreams?
* So many people are looking for what Quakers have to offer. Every year many people are added to the database at my Monthly Meeting, but just as many leave. The Monthly Meeting tries to be more welcoming, but it could use help from the larger body.

* We need to think about how to be in community with those outside the Quaker community. Many Friends feel in solidarity with the Muslim community, as a once rejected minority ourselves. We need to work on this.

* Many people come to Quakerism as adults. Monthly Meetings welcome them and have inquirer’s classes, but there’s a role for the Yearly Meeting, as the originator of Faith & Practice, in educating newcomers in Quaker practice. Faith & Practice is special because it’s not one person’s vision of the Society of Friends, like a Pendle Hill pamphlet or other source might be. Rather it’s the vision of the group in my region. Could we offer an Introduction to Faith & Practice series, not with the intention of getting people to become Quakers, but because there is so much there that may be valuable for them? Sharing that is a service.

* How can we identify our collective dreams and capture our collective energy to move these dreams forward? Doing that will serve both the Society of Friends and society as a whole.

* I became a Quaker because of the programs of the Yearly Meeting – camps and schools. It’s important to have strong programs; they are our way of proselytizing. Yet some Monthly Meetings don’t take advantage of our programs and don’t seem to care about anything that’s broader than their own Monthly Meeting. Camp shows children that they are part of a big group, not isolated. We need to find a way to do that for everyone. My dream is to fully inform everyone so they see what we offer.

* Jesus said that when two or three are gathered together in my name, I will be in their midst. My experience is that the larger the group, the better, when we try to persevere and articulate God’s Spirit and Truth. Right after Jesus said that, he sent people out into the world to do whatever they had learned from being together. We have to learn from being together. The more we get together, the more we will be empowered to go out into the world. Small meetings especially need that connection to that bigger critical mass to experience their faith. The Yearly Meeting is an insurance policy or a safety net for meetings when they are struggling. It will sustain them in tough times. It’s paradoxical that at Annual Session and Interim Meetings it doesn’t always feel that what we ought to do is becoming more clear. But we need that difficult dynamic space to do our discernment.

* A lot of what yearly meeting does is to grow more Quakers and to draw people in. We need more outreach to help people find us, like Q-tube. The epistles we write about social issues are also how people find us. The way we go about seeking to find connection to God touches people; even if they don’t become Quakers, some part of our testimonies speaks to them. We need the Yearly Meeting to keep ourselves going; no individual Monthly Meeting would survive for long without attachment to a Yearly Meeting.

* I would like us to be one large body with one shared vision, but I don’t think the Yearly Meeting is called to that. We are called to bring out the Light in each other. People are getting a need met in our Monthly Meetings. It’s palpable that we are meeting a need at camp and with Young Friends. Perhaps we could do more to foster this with adults. And that, perhaps, might lead to what I want, which is shared work for social justice. Social justice work brings out the Light in others who are not Quakers. We have a duty there, too. I don’t see that as a Yearly Meeting leading now.

Imagining an New Yearly Meeting
After a break, John invited the group to brainstorm about the strengths and weaknesses of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Then the group broke up into three groups to imagine that the structure and programs of the yearly meeting had entirely disappeared and we were only a group of Monthly Meetings. Would we want a Yearly Meeting, and if so, what would it look like?

When we came back together, it was clear that the three groups each focused on a different aspect of what a Yearly Meeting is. Group A considered the functions needed from a Yearly Meeting. Their Yearly Meeting would: write a Book of Discipline and provide for the education of new seekers and of children through summer camps and a coordinated religious education program. They were uncertain whether Monthly Meetings would benefit from mutual advancement and outreach efforts or by being represented in other organizations collectively, rather than individually. They were also unsure whether social and political action was better carried forward with a Yearly Meeting component or if individual Monthly Meetings, connected through national organizations, was enough.

Group B addressed the structural needs of a Yearly Meeting. They wanted strong Quarterly Meetings to sponsor local Quaker youth programs, be involved in interfaith work, and provide initial seasoning on difficult issues. They wanted two staff positions: a General Secretary who would coordinate things and a Field Secretary to nurture individual Monthly Meetings and Quarters. They wanted to consider a permanent board of appointed representatives from the Monthly Meetings to replace Interim Meeting so that the same group of people who were committed to doing so would guide the Yearly Meeting between annual sessions. There would be a committee for nurturing and mentoring adults, good use of technology to connect us to outsiders and one another, strong youth programs, an annual session much like what we have now, and something better than speaker phones to enable us to work together over distances.

Group C’s focus was on building the community. They proposed a summer full of a variety of camping programs, some for children, some for teens, some for families, some for adults. They wanted a better website with a built-in communication tool (Q-skype). Interim Meetings would be replaced by weekend gatherings for fellowship as well as business. Staff would include a comptroller to handle money and an organizer of events to further our interests in the world. There would be less reliance on committees to run programs and more on staff to do this. There would be a committee for pastoral care and clearness committees. The body would be called the Middle Atlantic Regional Meeting (as it wouldn’t meet only once a year and not in Baltimore).

Notes prepared by Rebecca Rawls

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Young Friends

Young Friends Visioning Session Report
November 27, 2010

Approximately ninety Young Friends (“YFs”) and nine Friendly Adult Presences (“FAPs”) attended the Thanksgiving weekend conference at Friends Meeting of Washington. The visioning session was optional, and approximately 30 YFs and 7 FAPs participated. Betsy Meyer led the session and Ken Stockbridge, who was serving as a FAP that weekend, took notes. We began by answering general questions about the Yearly Meeting, then we considered the visioning queries. In responding to the queries, YFs were invited to indicate when other Friends spoke their minds by waving their hands, and the YFs did this frequently as Friends spoke up. Thus, many of the voices referenced here reflect the views and feelings of many of the YFs.

What calls me to be part of a Friends community?

These Friends are drawn to the community of YFs because they feel unconditionally loved and accepted here and because the YFs community helps them to find their better selves. This is a safe place for them to explore faith without being judged based on their beliefs. At the same time, they find like-minded people among the YFs. One Friend said that he feels that everyone loves him, even if he says something crazy. This is something he does not find elsewhere. Another Friend spoke of feeling better about herself when she leaves than when she came; the community sees the best in everyone and encourages her to put her best self forward. Another expressed that the community made life meaningful. One Friend said that he felt the freedom of belief and knew the community would support him no matter what. Another was heartened to find people who approached the world the same way she does; she felt encouraged to find a community of people with similar outlooks who were working for the same things.

How can my community support my gifts and leadings?

Many YFs expressed that the spirit of openness and acceptance in their community was supportive of their gifts and leadings. The openness gives these Friends space to be themselves, and the community supports their leadings. A Friend expressed the importance of just having the silent time in worship; this is rare to find in this busy life. Another Friend expressed gratitude for the self-governance of the YFs Program. The challenge of planning conferences and maintaining community and the freedoms allowed in the Program help the YFs grow into competent adults. Several of the FAPs identified some of the many gifts they see manifested among the YFs. Such gifts include many creative gifts, intellectual gifts, and leadership gifts that are demonstrated as the older YFs mentor the younger ones. Leadership among equals is drawn forth in this community.

What am I led to do beyond my own Meeting or YFs?

YFs expressed a desire to participate in the larger Friends community. YFs would welcome opportunities to learn about Quaker history and practice and to attend business meetings, committee meetings, and intergenerational activities. The YFs do not always feel they are a part of the larger Yearly Meeting community of Friends. Some of the FAPs expressed their desire to share with the larger Yearly Meeting how special the YFs and the Camping communities are. The YFs have much to teach the rest of us about unconditional love, and they have been models for the rest of the Yearly Meeting at times. YFs can bring new ideas and can be the agents of change. YFs can bring a joyful voice to the larger business meeting during Annual Session. Many YFs are led to participate in the Camping Program as a community beyond YFs, and both YFs and FAPs spoke of the benefits of making connections between the YF and Camping communities.

What do I see YM being called to do to act out our faith?

YFs expressed a desire to participate in some of the committee work of the Yearly Meeting as a way to be part of acting out our faith. One of the FAPs spoke of how George Fox called us all to let our lives preach, and YFs and Friends of all ages can be a part of being patterns and examples of our love and faith out to the world. A Friend spoke of being changed by the YF program which enabled that Friend to be a better person in the world; this shares and spreads the unconditional love.

What can YM do to help us realize our collective dreams?

Some of the FAPs spoke of ways that the Yearly Meeting could help us realize our dreams by being more supportive of the youth programs. A full-time youth secretary would be a start. In addition, wider participation in FAPing from the Yearly Meeting community would be welcomed. Inadequacy of funding and paucity of FAP volunteers sends the message to the FAPs that the rest of the Yearly Meeting does not take youth programs seriously. Another FAP spoke of how shockingly few people of color attend our Meetings. Can our Meetings be more hospitable to people of color? The YF community is more diverse, and the YFs can provide leadership in this area.

The YFs expressed a desire to get to know other Friends in the Yearly Meeting. Could some of these Friends speak to the YFs about their experiences or serve as mentors, showing the YFs how they attack problems and helping them figure out how to make the world a better place? Inviting YFs to participate in committee work might be a way to facilitate this, and YFs expressed a desire to know more about committees. YFs are grateful when a Meeting opens its space to them, but they are limited because there are so few Meeting Houses in BYM big enough for a YF Conference. Better coordination between the Program Committee and the YFs would reduce scheduling conflicts so that the YFs could participate in wider activities during Annual Session.

It was a joyful and enriching experience to listen to the Young Friends and the FAPs as they responded to these queries.

Betsy Meyer

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