Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NEYM Sessions - Part 2 In which our first miracle occurs

The tradition of New England Yearly Meeting is to have intergenerational worship on Sunday morning, perhaps a speaker, and a time of open worship. The intergenerational worship is usually led by one of the  groups within the Yearly Meeting or a particular monthly meeting and it is often programmed in some way or another. This year the intergenerational worship was led by the Young Friends (High School age Friends). They introduced us to what they referred to as “loud worship.” They projected a power point slide with a query on it. They then displayed in a somewhat random order, the names of months. When the month of your birthday was called, you were to stand and give your response to the query. You were to totally ignore the usual etiquette of speaking in meeting. You should speak whether or not you felt moved, you should rise and speak, even if someone else was already speaking, and so on. For the second query, the selection was by day of the month when your birthday was. The result was a cacophony of voices, although it was interesting how many messages you could actually hear. Friends followed directions about as well as they usually do, with several speaking, even when the prompt was for “Nobody.” During the the second query, that prompt got someone to recite the first lines of the Emily Dickinson poem, “I'm Nobody.”  Someone else picked it up and said a few more lines and we ended up with an antiphonal recitation of the entire poem.

Following this we had a message delivered by Dikson Santiesteban pastor of Puerto Padre Friends Church, Cuba Yearly Meeting. He spoke about how the Cuban people have been able to survive through their difficulties and his answer was “Solidarity.” He described how, during Hurricane Ike, many people from the town crowded into the church in Delicias for shelter, and how everyone, even the Communist Party members, prayed. He called for solidarity among Friends.

The open worship that followed this message was the first miracle of the week. It was the most disciplined Sunday morning Meeting for Worship I have experienced at NEYM sessions. The messages were well spaced, there were not large numbers of people standing at once to get the microphone to give a message, and none of the messages were markedly inappropriate. I don't know if it was because we have had more experience after last year's Meetings to Hear God's Call, if it was because everyone had already had a chance to talk, or if it was the counter example of having just experienced the loud worship, but it felt like a miracle.

During worship one person spoke about how she visited Friends in Cuba for the first time when the Soviet Union had just collapsed the the Russian subsidies to Cuba had stopped. People were very thin, and she spoke how she saw people give away their last half cup of rice, because someone else needed it more. She felt herself convicted by this because she was so often reluctant to give, even from her surplus. Another Friend spoke about the need to listen carefully to each other. What was exceptional was that it came through a person who is very opinionated and often outspoken. The power of the message came from God speaking through an unexpected voice.

The official theme of this year's sessions was 350 Years of New England Friends: Called to Heal a Broken Earth. The number 350 was doubly significant. Not only was it the number of years the Yearly Meeting has met. It is also the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the air that is sustainable for life as we used to know it on this planet. After lunch, Steve Chase from Putney, Vt., Meeting gave a plenary presentation on peak oil, climate change and the transition movement.  This topic could have left us immobilized with despair and frustration but instead left us with a sense that we were not powerless and alone in the face of the changes that we are already encountering.

When we regathered for business in the evening we approved, through the unity agenda, receiving most of the committee and staff reports that had been published in the advance documents, as well as most of our housekeeping minutes. This freed up time so that we could give greater attention to a few, more major subjects. The Faith and Practice Revision Committee read to us much of their proposed chapter on Corporate Discernment. They solicited comments then and through the week and would bring the chapter back later for preliminary approval. I will go into more detail about the discussion in a later post. I will just say that I think it may have helped us during our later meetings to have heard much of this material read to us and to be thinking about how we do business.

The first full day and we were beginning to see God moving amongst us.


Will T

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Blogger Robin M. said...

It was an honor to be among you during the 2011 Sessions. And a pleasure to renew friendships with you and so many Friends in New England.

I hadn't thought about how hearing the proposed text on Corporate Discernment read aloud at the beginning could be affecting the work going on throughout the week. It seems likely that you're right.

August 18, 2011 10:31 AM  
Blogger Cat C-B said...

I'm really appreciating your write-up this year. I know that, for me, this is the point in the week where I moved from fearfulness to hope--maybe not to the trusting place I'd like to go to, but certainly hope.

And it was remarkable, not just how our Sunday morning worship went far better than it often has, but how, when the Faith and Practice chapter was read out, it seemed to me that something happened in our meeting. It felt like we were really gathered, as if the floor of the room were several inches deeper down than I'd remembered it being. And I loved that moment!

August 22, 2011 1:49 PM  

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