Relationship Between Monthly Meetings, Regional Meetings and the Yearly Meeting
Reasons for Declining Participation in Yearly Meeting Committee Service
Budget Needs and Process
Appendix I Charge of the Committee
Appendix II Committee Activities
Appendix IV Some Specific Suggestions for Outreach and Visibility
Appendix V Report on Religious Education
Appendix VIII Bibliography
Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Renewal
Submitted to New York Yearly Meeting
In the report which follows, the Ad Hoc Committee on Renewal presents reflections on the charges and numerous related recommendations of ways in which the New York Yearly Meeting might begin a process of change.
· Our first conclusion is that for the New York Yearly Meeting to move with vitality and enthusiasm into our fourth century, each individual member and attender, each monthly meeting, each regional meeting, and each committee within the corporate bodies must acknowledge the spiritual basis of our lives and work.
· Secondly, the problems of the relationships between the monthly, quarterly/regional and yearly meetings gave the committee the most difficulty in finding clearness. It may be that each monthly meeting, regional meeting, and the yearly meeting will need to define its purpose before any satisfactory sense of the relationships among them will emerge. The committee is clear, however, that the monthly meetings, which form the yearly meeting, need more of our attention. A renewed yearly meeting depends on a renewed dedication to spiritual nurture and gospel order within the monthly meetings.
Although financial matters in the yearly meeting have weight, we are clear that they are not the primary cause of discomfort within the yearly meeting. Contrarily, we suspect that as members and attenders seek clearness about their own spiritual lives and those of their monthly meetings, as well as clearness about the monthly meeting's relationship to the regional and yearly meeting, monthly meetings will not find the finances of the yearly meeting burdensome. Rather, there would be a renewed commitment of members and attenders to discern and to support the work of the Religious Society of Friends.
No change of economic conditions and no adjustment of the social order will, by an inherent magic, produce persons who are inwardly pure and true and good, nor can these methods alone bring a religious body to its goal. Nothing that can ever be done by the external methods of change and control will eliminate the sphere and function of religions as a way of inspiration and life.
Friends will need to be on guard as they go forward to take their part
that they do not loosen their grip on what has been the priceless experience
of their forerunners. If they should fail in their primary mission they could
hardly make up for it by any other successes. No contribution which they could
make towards the theoretic solution of problems which beset one age
offset the corresponding loss that would accrue if Friends should ever cease to maintain their central religious convictions and their personal testimony to the real presence of God. Rufus Jones
The process of considering the charges to Ad Hoc Committee on Renewal appointed by New York Yearly Meeting in 1992 has been a valuable experience for those who participated in it. This report can only present an outline of what happened among us.
In many ways our experience as a committee showed us issues and patterns that seem to be crucial to the renewal of the yearly meeting as a whole. The renewal committee as a microcosm of the yearly meeting has offered us several lessons. One was the need for closer community in order to do our work, a community built on fellowship outside our labors as a committee and on worship together. This suggests that the members of the yearly meeting also need more opportunities to get to know one another and a strong commitment to worship in all our activities, including committee work.
Another lesson arose from the considerable difference in perspective between Friends who are active in yearly meeting affairs and those who are not. We recognize that the yearly meeting represents a community of considerable value to many Friends, with its own strengths and weaknesses, needs and demands. For other Friends, the yearly meeting is a nearly unknown dimension of meeting life.
The committee decided early that the charge concerning spiritual vitality was at the center of the other charges and had to be put at the center of our work. As we labored, we discovered a tension between the charge of spiritual vitality and the need for practical revitalization proposals that speak to the other charges. (See Appendix I for the charge to the committee.)
As we delved into the implications of the concerns we were charged with examining, we consistently found two things: That spiritual vitality is central to all our concerns and that the separate charges are interrelated. In subcommittees convened around the separate charges, we found that proposals that spoke to one topic often affected the work of the other subcommittees.
Another complicating dimension of interrelatedness involves the different levels of meeting life: the monthly meeting, the regional meeting, and the yearly meeting. When we listed our recommendations under the charge they were designed to address, not only did they sometimes address other charges, they also seemed to be directed to different organizational levels.
As a result we offer our recommendations twice. The report is organized for convenience according to the charges originally laid upon us by the yearly meeting. Each section details some of the concerns, gives our recommendations, and mentions some of the implications of the recommendations. At the end of the report we present our recommendations again, organized by the level and entity to which it is specifically addressed.
Many members of New York Yearly Meeting are disturbed by trends they see among Friends, and there are many calls for change. The renewal committee concluded that while there is no need for undue haste in completing those actions recommended in the report that are accepted by the meeting, there is an urgent need to begin.
The nurture of the spirit of the yearly meeting is the nurture of the individuals in it. Many Friends voice a plea for understanding of personal limitations. Jon Katz, a member of Montclair Monthly Meeting, expresses this sentiment in a letter:
I have found in many Quakers a touching concern for their faith and a growing fatigue at its demands; a loving, often losing struggle to be faithful and dutiful as the pressures in their lives mount. I came to a growing concern that the culture has evolved around Friends faster than the ability of Quaker process to cope or react to it. Friend after Friend talked of having to work harder and longer to meet financial responsibilities; of the inability to meet the financial and committee obligations of their Meetings and tend to their work, families, and personal needs. Many Friends celebrate our process as our great strength and witness to the world. Yet I met many Friends who simply don't know how they can be true to it and survive .
Men, women, and children need pastoral care. As a community, we must reach out to educate the outside world and look inward to increase our own self-awareness. This may include more ministry work, as well as increased intervisitation. Friends have a special obligation to include and to nurture children, to offer secure and sympathetic places for worship for those who may not feel comfortable facing the full breadth of the meeting, and to address gender relationships in our meetings in a sustained, thoughtful way. All aspects of pastoral care should take place within a context of worship. The 1969 Committee on Renewal reported:
The search for the spirit of God as the source of renewal has been at the heart of the whole concern and must be at the heart of the Yearly Meeting Sessions with faith that the Spirit of God guides us in our group search when we are open to [the] Light, the need for new life and new directions is given over at the time of Yearly Meeting. Here there will be a testing of concerns that have arisen in the past years, and there will be the possibility that new concerns and new commitment and vitality will appear. It is from our meetings for worship, of sharing, of exploring, of seeking that
renewal will come.
Many of the concerns addressed by the renewal committee are not new, as we see
from this excerpt. Neither are they unique to New York Yearly Meeting, as we see in
documents from other yearly meetings and articles in
Friends Journal and Quaker
Life. Such broad concern for renewal suggests that we need an active and ongoing approach to
renewal within monthly meetings, regional meetings, and the yearly meeting. Part of this
continuing work in renewal calls for seeking specific ways to build community in groups. Just as
seek ways to build a worshipful community in monthly meetings and their committees, we need to build community in each committee within the yearly meeting.
A renewed dedication to spiritual discipline and ways of Christian community is needed at every level of the yearly meeting. The committee offers four general recommendations:
1. Our meetings need to develop skills in outreach and evangelism. A specific how-to book that shares successful techniques of monthly meetings within New York Yearly Meeting would be helpful. Sources from other yearly meetings already exist and are included in the attached bibliography. (See also the suggestions in Appendix IV.) The effort to witness to the beliefs of the Religious Society of Friends by outreach to the larger community involves advertising, ecumenical and community work. It includes welcoming of attenders and seekers and encouraging them into membership and extends to visiting the ill, letting those who are absent for a time know that they are missed, and identifying those who are in need of support and providing it.
We need to nurture attenders and members in our meetings so that they become secure in their faith. Monthly meetings, regional meetings, and the yearly meeting committees need to provide opportunities for us to share our stories and our search for knowledge of God. Out of this process will come revitalization of faith. The ensuing vitality will draw people to attend our meetings.
2. Just as we reach out, we must also reach in, to our children, attenders, and adult members of all ages.
As we renew our monthly meetings, we need to discover ways to include and to nurture children and young persons. There are no simple solutions for the small meeting with few children, but we cannot give up on finding ways to make children welcome in all our meetings.
Each meeting should identify the needs of families with young children and of their children. This will help determine the resources that need to be put into religious education for our children and into the particular spiritual nurture needed in their families.
Intergenerational activities are an important way to welcome children of all ages at our meetings.
Our children and young people need regional programs to nurture them. The current initiatives of New York Yearly Meeting Religious Education Committee are a good step in this direction. ( See Appendix V.)
Gender relationships in our meetings also need to be addressed in a sustained, thoughtful fashion. The renewal committee has heard concerns expressed by womenand menwho feel unable to share their deepest spiritual experiences within their meetings. There are also concerns of sexual harassment in meetings.
In recognizing the diversity within our yearly meeting, we need to provide secure and sympathetic places within our community for all Friends to speak their experiences and the language of their soul. These are places where they may worship and have conversations in which they can explore their differences and affirm their spiritual lives and testimonies.
The role which in the past was played by the elders has largely disappeared from our meetings. It should be renewed. We have in mind particularly the elder's function as spiritual nurturer, one whose gift is to recognize and to encourage the spiritual gifts in others. Support and guidance are needed as these gifts mature and bear fruit for the meeting. As members mature in the ministry in their own meeting, they may be called to travel, and this also needs support and guidance. The guiding role of elders is a concept that is not comfortable for many Friends. There are situations where many meetings would benefit from a renewed sense of eldership.
3. We live in a culture that is predominantly secular; therefore, we need to take responsibility for the religious education of those who worship with us. Although theological questions may make us uncomfortable, we must risk our own comfort and face them. Vitality comes from a living faith. It is important to avoid falling into empty verbal formulas on one side and formless mysticism on the other.
We suggest that monthly meetings plan activities for children, even if there are no children in the meeting, so the meeting is prepared when a child does come to the meeting. Do not rule out the possibility of one child as a First-Day school. This individual relationship may be more effective than a larger class.
First-Day School enriches meeting for worship. Care should be taken that it does not prevent some people from participating in meeting for worship. Consider First-Day school for everyone, combined with simple child care during meeting for worship.
At all levels, we have not done as well as we might in systematically educating adults about the Religious Society of Friends. This has been recognized in other yearly meetings as evidenced by the creation of Quakerism 101 and the Quaker Studies Program. These have been used to good advantage in our yearly meeting.
Meetings have not done as well as they might in making members aware of the responsibilities of membership for the spiritual welfare of the Society and for its financial support. We have also not done well in educating members about the wider world of Friends beyond the monthly meetings.
There are many different things we need to learn through informal or formal study: Quaker history, Quaker testimonies and the spiritual basis of witness, the Bible, Quaker business procedure, clerking and recording skills, identification and development of spiritual gifts, reading and answering the advices and queries. Such study will strengthen our meetings and help us develop the leadership that a renewed faith will require.
Even two or three Friends can gather for their own study or prayer group if a monthly meeting is not ready as a whole to undertake such activities. We should not feel that everyone must move ahead together. It is more important to begin, letting others join as a way opens.
Part of this education can come from intervisitation and ministry. We are called to develop a renewed understanding of the role of traveling Friends. The renewal committee has heard reports that meetings and committees at all levels are interested in intervisitation; however, the way is often not clear as to the purpose and manner of this intervisitation. In earlier times, Friends were more comfortable with this idea, both in undertaking such travel and in accepting such visits in their meetings. Travel in the ministry is a particular kind of intervisitation which has fallen into disuse. The renewal committee sees this activity as leading to strengthened ministry. Meetings should take the initiative in suggesting that individuals who are felt to have something to share with other meetings through visitation are encouraged to do so and that they have support and oversight from the meeting.
4. We need on-going activities that nurture and deepen the spiritual life of our members and attenders at all levels of the yearly meeting.
Much has been written about what a meeting can do to strengthen its spiritual life, to increase its membership, and to renew itself, too much for us to outline here. Each monthly meeting must decide upon its own commitment to renewal, then seek those methods that suit its particular needs.
The regional meetings have an important role in the renewal of the yearly meeting and should be encouraged in this. They provide a way that the monthly meetings can share their needs and strengths. We envision that the regional meeting would undertake activities that go beyond simply holding periodic business sessions. For example, it may be more possible for a regional meeting to organize a Quaker Studies Program for a group of meetings than it is for an individual meeting to organize it. This is an educational activity, but organized across the regional meeting it also serves to build a sense of community among Friends in different meetings. This broader sense of community is an essential component of renewal. We encourage activities that build such community. An example of this might be a regional meeting retreat at Powell House, or some other location. Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting finds that its Spring Gathering lends great strength to the region.
New York Yearly Meeting, through its committees on ministry and counsel, should explore the question of the full nature of ministry and how we can foster it in our meetings. The practice of travel in the ministry should be a part of this exploration. The committees in the nurture section and committees at the regional and monthly meeting level should address issues of pastoral care needed in our meetings today.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MONTHLY MEETINGS, REGIONAL MEETINGS AND THE YEARLY MEETING
The foundation of the Religious Society of Friends is the monthly meeting. In the deliberations of the renewal committee, we determined that there are a number of problems in the relationship between this foundation and the structure of regional meetings and the yearly meeting and its committees that are built upon it. There is a sense of alienation between some Friends and parts of the structure. Others are concerned about the structure of the yearly meeting and its committees and their apparent lack of responsiveness to the needs and desires of the local meetings. Related to this are general concerns about nominations and service on committees and the spiritual vitality of such service.
The committee determined that it needed to recommend ways to facilitate better relationships between monthly meetings, regional meetings, and the yearly meeting. We were not clear, however, to recommend a complete restructuring of the yearly meeting. Nor did we want to appear to call for "business as usual." These relationships need prayerful, on-going consideration so ways will open for God to move among Friends.
The committee did consider a number of more or less comprehensive proposals for restructuring the yearly meeting organization. But each seemed far-reaching when taken as a whole and we are not able to recommend any of them. Elements of them appear in the recommendations for change that we are making. It should not be a surprise that many recommendations echo our book of Practice and Procedure.
1. The representatives appointed to regional and to the yearly meeting and the members of yearly and regional meeting committees provide important avenues for communication. These appointments can be rotated among the members of the meeting to widen the participation in the yearly and regional meetings. Making regular reports from these representatives a part of the business sessions of the monthly meetings might encourage a feeling of ownership toward the regional and yearly meetings which is currently lacking.
2. A functioning committee structure should be created in the regional meetings. Among other things, this will help move committee activity and responsibility away from the yearly meeting level. The goal should be for monthly meetings to discern what their meetings are doing or what they want to do, then to share their concerns with the regional meeting.
Increased activity within the regional meetings and within the monthly meetings should reduce or at least significantly change the operations of yearly meeting committees. This would, of course, take time and sensitive working together in many places.
An active regional committee with specific concern for the spiritual health of the monthly meetings and the regional meeting as a whole seems to be essential. Recommendations elsewhere in this report suggest the need for a regional committee concerned with religious education for adults, young people, and children. Other committees, particularly in the area of witness, should be created as the need for them is felt.
It is possible that certain needs of monthly meetings are better met by those meetings cooperating with other meetings that lie nearby or have a similar interest, even though these groupings cross regional meeting boundaries. We encourage such inter-regional cooperation. There is no reason that it should require any action by the yearly meeting.
3. New York Yearly Meeting should reduce the number of committees, the responsibilities of the committees, the number of members on committees, limit the numbers of people serving on two or more committees, and generally simplify its structure.
This sense resides not only in New York Yearly Meeting. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting recently determined that it should "substantially reduce the number and size of our committees; establish a moratorium on additional committees; and insist every remaining committee have a defined life ."
Our recommendation is that committees have a maximum of three members in each class unless there is an essential reason to justify more. Committees should co-opt additional members for specific tasks if necessary.
As a first step in achieving this change each coordinating committee should review the committees in its section. The individual committees should continue the process of considering their statement of purpose that was drafted for the revision of the Handbook to determine that the purpose is still valid and that the committee is carrying out the mission. A full evaluation may call for an ad hoc committee of the yearly meeting created to consider the committee structure.
To provide help in making decisions on committee structure, the Nominating Committee should prepare a report analyzing which committees are hard to fill and their sense of the reasons.
Certain committees are continually necessary at the yearly meeting level because they address things that must be done because there is a yearly meeting: committees concerning property, finances, staff, etc. The committees that now disburse trust funds, however, might be combined in a single committee. Instead of individual committee budgets, funds might be managed by the coordinating committee and committees with specific projects would apply for the required funds.
4. The Yearly Meeting Personnel Committee should consider redefining job descriptions to reflect the changes of emphasis within the monthly, regional, and yearly meetings recommended in this report. This should be done in conjunction with the transitions in personnel that we expect in the next few years.
5. It is important that Friends across the yearly meeting ask themselves what they want the yearly meeting to be doing. The monthly meetings should be asked to respond with minutes describing their priorities in terms of the services they want from the yearly meeting. The yearly meeting should establish some continuing process for local meetings to evaluate the activities of the yearly meeting and to suggest priorities for its work.
The kind of questions we might want to ask are: In what ways is the yearly meeting relevant to your monthly meeting? In what ways should the yearly meeting allocate its financial resources? In what ways should the yearly meeting allocate the time of its staff? Is it possible that some monthly meetings are contributing too much money to the yearly meeting and consequently losing vitality? Is it possible that some monthly meetings could contribute more because of their circumstances? Should the meeting provide greater clearness and oversight for members who accept yearly meeting appointments?
Currently the yearly meeting clerk asks the clerks of the coordinating committees for items of business for the yearly meeting business sessions. We recommend that clerks of the regional meetings also be asked. Monthly meetings should refer proposed items of business to the regional meeting.
REASONS FOR DECLINING PARTICIPATION IN YEARLY MEETING COMMITTEE SERVICE
Declining membership in churches is widespread in this country. Data from the National Council of Churches, Friends United Meeting, and New York Yearly Meeting show similar declines in membership. However, the problem of committee participation goes beyond simple decline in membership.
We have identified some factors that may contribute:
· Employment patterns have changed. Many Friends do not have the flexibility in their employment to take time off for committee work. The cost of transportation is a barrier for many. The great increase in the employment of women outside the home makes their participation in committee work more difficult.
· The geography of the yearly meeting affects the ability of many to serve on committees because of the distance to places like Silver Bay and Powell House where committee meetings are frequently held. This is partly a consequence of the increased cost of travel. Many Friends view New York City as emotionally and physically inaccessible.
· The number of Friends required to fill all the places on committees is too large. This results in many Friends serving on more than one committee. Often this makes them less effective committee members. The structure of the yearly meeting committees requires this because some must serve on both a committee and the coordinating committee.
Many of the other recommendations we have made in other sections of the report also apply here. To those we add several that are more specific to this problem.
1. Attention needs to be paid to the spiritual basis of our committees.
Too often there is an undesirable separation between the inward and the outward life. We pay little attention to the devotional and spiritual dimension of the individual's participation in committee work. Rarely do we talk about a project or proposal for action as God's work for us. Yet, committee work is ministry. We must pay more attention to the spiritual dimension of committees. Meetings usually start and end with silence, but it is frequently perfunctory rather than being truly worship. Our participation in the work of committees should be in the spirit of worship, testing the appropriateness of our contributions for the group in the silence, recognizing that the leading of God for the group may differ from the leading of God for the individuals in the group.
2. The task of education within committees is an important and often overlooked one.
Friends need to find ways to build community in committees and to educate present and potential committee members into the work of the committees. Frequently at representative meetings, attenders do not have specific responsibilities during the times set aside for committee meetings; we should welcome these people in committee meetings.
It is important for all Friends to learn the ways to work on a committee and to develop an understanding of the responsibility of members in helping the clerk to maintain a business meeting as a meeting for worship and to carry out the task of the committee. Friends also need to help members learn the nature of their gifts and to find ways to develop leadership.
Skills in organizing committee work are lacking. We sometimes have difficulty communicating about the when, where, what, and how of meetings and the tasks that need to be done.
3. Both a broadened and deepened participation in committees is required. The Nominating Committee of the yearly meeting should broaden its search for appropriate committee members by asking the clerks of monthly and regional meetings for suggestions of Friends for appointment. There is a need for Friends who accept appointment to take the responsibility more seriously, including the possibility of engaging in a clearness process at the monthly meeting level before accepting appointment.
YEARLY MEETING SESSIONS
We did conclude among ourselves to settle a meeting, to see one another's faces, and open our hearts one to another in the Truth of God, once a year Epistle of 1668 Yearly Meeting in London (quoted by Elbert Russell, The History of Quakerism, 1942, 325)
Although a consideration of yearly meeting sessions was not specifically in the charge of the renewal committee, it was clear to us that concern for the relationship between the yearly meeting and Friends in the yearly meeting extends to perceptions about the week at Silver Bay. Some Friends feel as if concerns they have expressed for years are not heard: expense, distance of travel, intense committee activity, too many (or too few) business sessions, too many (or too few) interest groups. An ad hoc committee with representation from Ministry and Counsel, Witness, and Nurture Coordinating Committees, Junior Yearly Meeting, and the regional meetings should be appointed to consider the function of our sessions at Silver Bay.
BUDGET NEEDS AND PROCESS
Financial Strain These factors of size, member age, and responsibilities to Meeting Houses mean that finances as well as time are stretched very thin. A statement like Cornwall's is widespread: "We have fewer members, but the costs have risen. It is becoming harder to meet all of our commitments to our members, for the care of the meeting house, and to the Yearly Meeting." State of the Society Summary, New York Yearly Meeting Yearbook 1993
We again became aware that there are some Friends who do not feel part of New York Yearly Meeting, and whose attention to the New York Yearly Meeting is primarily related to proportional share requests. It has been a cyclical occurrence that when budgets are considered issues come up that actually need to be dealt with in other parts of the Yearly Meeting and at other times. We ask you to consider this. Letter from NYYM Financial Services Committee to the Ad Hoc Committee on Renewal, September 1993
For clarity we include an outline of the budget structure and process. The yearly meeting budget is organized by sections and the objects of expense of each section. The coordinating committees gather budget data from each constituent committee and prepare a proposed operating budget. In recent years this proposed budget is received by the yearly meeting Financial Services Committee. This committee seeks the participation and advice of yearly meeting committee clerks, monthly meeting clerks and treasurers, regional meeting treasurers, and all Friends who may be interested. At a gathering in September these people are invited to join in the process of building a budget for the coming calendar year. This budget is presented to the December Representative Meeting. The Financial Services Committee also recommends the proportional assessment of this operating budget to be assigned to each regional meeting. The regional meetings are responsible for allocating this assessment among the constituent monthly meetings. In recent years the location of the September "Budget Weekend" has been rotated to locations throughout the yearly meeting to make it easier for the various regional meetings to be more directly involved.
A detailed analysis of the finances of the yearly meeting through 1993 was performed by
a subcommittee of the renewal committee and the results of this analysis are attached to
this report. In summary, the cash flow of the yearly meeting has been stable in recent
years, raising over 90% of the budget goal and spending slightly less than the amount
raised, with the exception of 1993. (And, at the writing of this report, revenues had dropped further behind in 1994.) Both the size of our yearly meeting staff and its cost are similar to other yearly meetings of similar size.
The staff serves all sections of the yearly meeting. The staff was asked to estimate the portion of their time that was spent on the work of each section. When staff costs are distributed to the sections according to these estimates and the Sharing Fund expenditures are included in the budget, we find that about a quarter of the budget is allocated to each of general services and witness, an eighth is allocated to ministry and counsel, and over a third goes to nurture. This gives a better reflection of the spending than the actual budget, where the staff costs appear as line items in the general services budget. The Sharing Fund makes a significant contribution to the finances of the yearly meeting. The feasibility of relocating the yearly meeting offices to a location outside New York City was studied. There appears to be no financial advantage to such a move.
Friends are reminded, however, that the budget does not accurately represent the full cost of operating the yearly meeting. Many individuals contribute their time and absorb the cost of their participation. We are thankful for Friends who are willing and able to make this contribution.
The sustained decline in real personal income that has persisted in this country since the 1970s has created the feeling of decreased ability to support our meetings financially. The associated countertrends of women working outside the home and everyone working longer hours have reduced the time available for meeting activities. In some cases these combine to create true hardship, but for many of us finding the time and money to support our activities is a matter of choosing our personal and family priorities.
1. Monthly meetings should strive to increase active membership to create a broader base to support our concerns at the monthly, regional, and yearly meeting levels and to provide proper stewardship of our property.
2. All committees should create budgets on the basis of principles and priorities, seeking to discern what God is calling us to do today and building a budget on this and not on the demands of habit and precedent.
3. To provide stability and continuity, the Yearly Meeting should project budgets for three to five years while providing flexibility to respond to new opportunities.
4. The Financial Services Committee should adopt processes to increase the involvement of individual Friends, meetings, and regional and monthly meeting treasurers earlier in the budget process. The budget weekend and December Representative Meeting are too late to effectively incorporate constructive concerns.
5. Individual committees should improve oversight and accountability in managing funds. Training to improve the skills of treasurers is needed in the same way that training in clerking skills is needed.
6. The Sharing Fund should be retained as a source of part of the money to support yearly meeting activities. It may be useful to consider modifications in how the funds raised are allocated and the uses to which they are put.
7. Our primary yearly meeting offices should remain at 15th Street in New York City. There may be other reasons to move the offices, but there appears to be no economic advantage to moving them.
The subject of communication within New York Yearly Meeting was not specifically in the renewal committee's charges; however, it has appeared in several of the subcommittee reports and it seems appropriate to deal with it in one place.
The monthly meetings hear from yearly meeting primarily through requests for reports that are to be sent back to the yearly meeting or its committees. Local clerks are overwhelmed by the amount of mail they receive. Meanwhile the work and life of the yearly meeting is not visible enough to the Friends in monthly meetings.
There is a growing sense that there is too much paper being generated but at the same time there is not enough real communication.
The possibilities of electronic communication at reasonable cost are expanding rapidly. More experience with them is needed before it will be clear how useful they will be for the activities of Friends in their meetings. But we should experiment with them to see how they broaden our opportunities to communicate. Telephone conference calls make it possible to hold committee meetings without the need for travel. Electronic mail and other computerized methods of communication give us an alternative to the telephone for personal communication and make it possible to transmit text and pictures quickly and conveniently. Besides asking what kinds of things we can expect of these new methods and how can we use them most efficiently, we need to explore how Quaker process will work when we use them.
1. Perhaps the named representatives to our yearly meeting could receive mailings in place of monthly meeting clerks. This would perhaps give more people a healthier role to play in both the monthly meeting and the yearly meeting. We may be able to learn from Canadian Yearly Meeting's experience in developing ways to coordinate communications from the yearly meeting to the monthly meeting.
2. A Handbook of Yearly Meeting Services should be prepared. Although this may appear
to be a duplication of information there is a handbook with descriptions of all the
committees the emphasis here is intended to provide a helpful conversation with meetings about
what they can reasonably expect when they request assistance from New York Yearly Meeting.
It may be that the planning of such a handbook would provide a focus for a dialog about
the relationship between monthly meetings and the yearly meeting. Perhaps the
Publications Committee, augmented with some co-opted members, could design such a book,
the Nurture Coordinating Committee could review the document, and the Advancement
mittee could undertake to use it in interpreting the yearly meeting to monthly meetings.
3. Expansion of Spark into a publication with more substantive content that will serve to communicate throughout the yearly meeting the activities and suggestion of activities that would contribute to renewal should be considered by the Publications Committee. Consideration should be given to designating an editor with the authority and responsibility that ordinarily goes with that title.
We end this report with some cautionary and summary statements from the minutes of the Ad Hoc Committee on Renewal of 4-9-1994.
There was a lively discussion of the value of New York Yearly Meeting generating ideas. AVP was cited as a good example of such a project. The intent of the recommendation for a functioning committee structure at the regional level is to encourage Friends to take concerns to monthly and then to regional meetings. Care was expressed for Friends whose concern may not be generating any interest at the local level. There is a need for balance, not a case of "either/or." We need to examine our structure at all levels, and trim where it is deemed necessary. This has been an opinion strongly expressed to the Ad Hoc Committee on Renewal by many Friends in the yearly meeting. There is a need to exchange ideas among levels of meetings, with leavening of resources from New York Yearly Meeting.
The Clerk summed up the sense of the committee as follows:
There is a sense of the need for individual and corporate commitment to the spiritual basis of our work at all levels. There is a sense that we must take that commitment and ask: "Is this the best way to do this? Are we serving from a leading? Are we serving as God would have us do? Do we act with a sensitivity to other Friends?"
There is a sense that we need to trim the large number of activities, appointments, and paper. We are not sure how, but we are recommending that everyone within New York Yearly Meeting take a look.
We are in agreement that it is only with an examination of the basis of our faith as individuals and as a group and our way of working together that renewal will come.
The committee agrees that it can only make recommendations to the yearly meeting, and try to facilitate groups as they work through these suggestions.
Ultimately renewal will come as a gift, and inpouring of God and unending love for God's people. It may not come in the form expected or desired, but it will come. Our job is to be faithful and deeply obedient. Then we need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude.
Linda Chidsey (Croton Valley)
Steven D. Davison (New Brunswick)
Dawn DiGiovanni (New Brunswick)
Benjamin Frisch (Brooklyn)
Willard Gaeddert (Fredonia)
Alice Gilbert (Manhasset)
Janice M. Greene (Hamilton)
Sharon Hoover (Alfred)
Beverly Houghton (Rockland) 1992-93
Jon Katz (Montclair) 1992
Patricia Hayes Myers (Old Chatham)
Caroline Pierce (Adirondack) 1993-94
Alan Pike (Syracuse) 1993-94
Greg Robie (Cornwall)
Steven W. Ross (Shrewsbury)
Dan Schlitt (Purchase) 1993-94
John Sharpless (Binghamton) 1992-93
D. Caroline Vlaskamp (Brooklyn) 1993-94
Joseph A. Vlaskamp (Brooklyn)
Marjorie Weisel (Cons. Bay) 1992-93
William Wood (Purchase)
Appendix I Charge of the Committee
Appendix II Committee Activities
Appendix III Recommendations Organized by Level [ Not Included. ]
Appendix IV Some Specific Suggestions for Outreach and Visibility
Appendix V Report on Religious Education
Appendix VI Data on Membership [ Not Included. ]
Appendix VII New York Yearly Meeting Financial Data [ Not Included. ]
Appendix VIII Bibliography
Charge to the Ad Hoc Committee on Renewal
Excerpt from the Report of the Liaison Committee
To Representative Meeting, December, 1991
We recommend that these matters be threshed and examined through this Ad Hoc Committee on Renewal, similar to the recent Ad Hoc Committees on the Future of Powell House, and on Love, Discernment, and Community.
The charge to the committee would include the following:
1. an exploration of our state of spiritual vitality;
2. an examination of the reasons for declining membership in the Yearly Meeting
3. an examination of the relationship between the Monthly, Quarterly/Regional and Yearly Meetings;
4. an examination of the reasons for declining participation in Yearly Meeting committee service;
5. an exploration of our budget needs and process;
6. a statement of findings and recommendations that will prepare us to move, with new enthusiasm and vitality, into our fourth century.
A Partial Summary of Activities of the Ad Hoc Committee on Renewal
In two years the committee as a whole met perhaps a dozen times, usually for full or half-day meetings; subcommittees met in various ways at and between committee meetings. We held one weekend committee retreat and an open Powell House weekend with an outside facilitator. Every regional/quarterly meeting was represented on the committee, so each of us took it as a task to bring the work of the ad hoc committee on renewal to the attention of our regional meeting in whatever ways that seemed most appropriate and to suggest that the representatives of those bodies bring the work to the attention of local meetings.
Committee members found it necessary to submit their own spiritual lives to greater examination. Many of us attended conferences to deepen our spiritual understanding and to broaden our understanding of the work of Friends. We also read broadly and sometimes deeply. We discovered a great deal of excellent material addressing both individual and meeting concerns. The problem is not finding material but committing oneself to examine it deeply. Some references we found most helpful are in the short bibliography. We also considered the correspondence sent to us.
Although the entire committee shared almost all documents, subcommittees worked
with them most intensely, bringing to the attention of the full committee the perceptions of
lems and implications of proposed solutions. They also wrote draft proposals for the final report. Following are some examples of things subcommittees did.
· Collected and reviewed numerous documents such as:
Draft sections of the NYYM Handbook (1993).
Trends in Dollar Support of Operating Budget and Sharing Fund Analyzed, John E. Brush and Philip L. Gilbert, SPARK, November 1990.
NYYM Operating Budgets 1991, 1992, 1993.
Monthly Meeting Finances, TylaAnn Burger, 11/1989.
NYYM adjusted value of funds received: purchasing power of contributions in 1973 constant dollars.
NYYM membership data.
Reports and data from several other yearly meetings.
· Recorded results of conversations, such as with two past clerks of the nominating committee.
· Received a minute from Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting requesting that the yearly meeting reconsider the need for each committee and an attached minute from Buffalo Monthly Meeting requesting the Regional Meeting's consideration of this matter.
· Collected data on the kinds of committees and the numbers of committee appointments, including duplicate appointees.
A final word about collecting data. We found that most of the data we could want already existed in some form somewhere, for example, from FUM reports, church studies, yearbook reports. We conclude that any new data that is gathered should be reliable, valid, and sociologically informative about Friends and replicable so that Friends could trace the characteristics of members of New York Yearly Meeting over decades. This is not necessarily a difficult task, but it is a specific one requiring expert advice. This task did not seem central to our task at this time, although it is something that might be undertaken at some time. We have made use of the results of a study of English Friends by Alastair Heron. It would be interesting to replicate this data for U.S. Friends.
Recommendations Organized by Level
[ Not Included. ]
SOME SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS FOR OUTREACH AND VISIBILITY
In order for the Religious Society of Friends to grow and flourish, we need to be visible in our communities. Our message is one that will speak to people if they know that we are there.
Meetings might consider how someone interested a meeting, or a traveling Friend from another yearly meeting, would find them. A listing in the Yellow Pages under "Churches" and an announcement of meeting for worship in the church directory of local papers are two ways to make ourselves known. In addition, a sign at the meeting place giving time of Meeting for Worship and a signal that all are welcome, might be considered by those meetings that do not have their own meeting houses.
Perhaps the Advancement Committee would make funds available to meetings for this kind of outreach. The costs are often small, but may be an important factor for some meetings.
Once people come to meeting, how do we welcome them? Many meetings appoint a greeter to stand at the meeting door to welcome people. A small handout about the meeting for worship would be valuable to someone who is unfamiliar with the unprogrammed format.
At the rise of meeting how do we welcome newcomers, recent attenders or infrequent attenders? Many Friends have spoken about the way seasoned Friends get caught up in personal and meeting business during any social time after meeting. Perhaps one or two Friends could be appointed to focus on newcomers, draw them into conversation, stimulate and answer any questions, and invite them to sign the guest book.
After someone has attended a meeting, do we follow up on them and invite them back? One idea is to send a brief note or postcard to a newcomer, thanking them for attending, inviting them back, and offering to answer questions or get more information for them.
When someone has begun to attend with some frequency, how do we recognize this and include them more completely in the meeting community. Seasoned Friends might invite the newcomer for lunch after meeting or at some other time, invite them to participate in committee work or direct them toward the meeting library. Regular seekers meetings help to integrate them into the community.
The bibliography contains references to a booklet from North Pacific Meeting and one from London Yearly Meeting that describe things that they have found useful.
Report from New York Yearly Meeting Religious Education Committee
to Nurture Coordinating Committee
(This report is dated March 5, 1993, and is based on a questionnaire distributed by the Religious Education Committee in 1993.)
The Religious Education Committee believes that there is a need for more RE support from New York Yearly Meeting to Monthly Meetings. The response to our questionnaire confirms this. Most of the needs expressed are basic, and our charge directly provides for meeting them. The Religious Education Committee needs support from the Nurture Coordinating Committee so that we may fulfill the charge we have been given. Providing RE support to all meetings requires considerably more time, energy and funds than we are currently able to spend.
The members of the Religious Education Committee originally perceived the solution to this challenge in terms of a full time staff person, since we often feel that our charge is a larger task than we are able to adequately answer. We envisioned a permanent position as providing more availability, expertise, and continuity while committee members come and go. Our true objective, however, is to meet the needs expressed by the monthly meetings, and we recognize that a full time staff person is not the only, and perhaps not even the best, solution. We are now focusing on how best to accomplish our task, and are considering alternatives. We are at the same time implementing new programs as well as expanding existing ones.
Finding funds is a thorny issue. Monthly meetings sent us a mixed message on funding such a position at this point. It occurs to us that if we had a person led to fill this position at no cost, or if we had a bequest which could provide the necessary annual cost, monthly meetings would gladly accept the services. The question really should not be how can we pay for this? but how can we afford not to meet these needs?
The RENEWAL our Yearly Meeting seeks is partly a function of Religious Education. Individuals renewing themselves through study and spiritual seeking bring vitality to their meetings; children learning in First-Day School bring joy and growth to their meetings. The fundamental purpose of the Religious Education Committee is to nurture the response of the whole person to God's Spirit and all of life. We ask you to enable us better to fulfill the charge with which we have been entrusted, by giving us the support we need to expand our services.
DATA ON MEMBERSHIP
[ Not Included. ]
NEW YORK YEARLY MEETING FINANCIAL DATA
[ Not Included. ]
It is often helpful to have a list of places where one can look for further information. We include some items which members of the committee have suggested as being useful. In general past issues of Friends Journal and Quaker Life are fruitful places to look. The Pendle Hill pamphlet series has many titles that are related to spiritual renewal of the Religious Society of Friends. Powell House has a well-stocked book shop with books of interest.
Some specific items are:
Dark Night Journey: Inward Re-patterning Toward a Life Centered in God by Sandra Cronk. A life-affirming book giving sensitive help to those who are suddenly bereft of God's presence, direction, and consolation.
Friends as Leaders: The vision, Instrument, and Methods. A report from a workshop held at Pendle Hill and published jointly by the Committee on Education of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the Friends Council on Education and Pendle Hill. This 24- page pamphlet is a rich collection of insights of some weighty Friends. It treats the problem that "there are not enough competent, committed Friends willing to assume positions of responsibility..." and suggest some things that might be done about it.
Beyond Consensus: Salvaging the Sense of the Meeting. Pendle Hill Pamphlet #307 by Barry Morley. This simple pamphlet blends insights with stories to make a case for our need to strive for the sense of the meeting.
Spiritual Discernment and the Use of Clearness Committees among Friends. Pendle Hill Pamphlet 305. Patricia Loring articulates many vital fruits of the Quaker tradition of discernment. She then explores the use of clearness committees as instruments to aid in the discernment process.
Clearness by Peter Woodrow. An excellent guide through the process of forming and using clearness committees.
Gospel Order: A Quaker Understanding of Faithful Church Community. Pendle Hill Pamphlet 297. Sandra Cronk writes on the communal and societal aspects of gospel orderthe proscribed method of resolving conflicts found in Matthew 18as the foundation of community life.
Essay on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order by Lloyd Lee Wilson. Celo Valley Books, Boonesville, NC, 1993. Wilson explores gospel order, articulating the ways in which Friends' vision of gospel order has shaped their beliefs as well as their outward lives.
The Wounded Meeting. A 1993 publication of Friends General Conference. The spiritual life of a meeting is often blocked by inappropriate behavior in meeting for worship by a difficult Friend. Using the actual experiences of meetings this pamphlet suggests ways to meet the needs of the many while responding to the needs of the few.
Survival Sourcebook: The Care and Maintenance of Small Meetings and Worship Groups. This booklet prepared by the Outreach Committee of North Pacific Yearly Meeting is full of practical suggestions for building community, survival and renewal and finding a place in the wider Religious Society of Friends.
Meeting Needs: A Handbook for Quaker Groups and Meetings. Published by Quaker Home Service of London, this gives a perspective from the other side of the Atlantic. It deals with the same general topics as the Survival Sourcebook but in a less experience based manner.
Caring, Conviction, Commitment: Dilemmas of Quaker Membership Today by Alastair Heron. A study of the characteristics of the membership of London Yearly Meeting. He reports that research among Friends in England shows that the proportion of attenders to members in meetings is growing. Although many are drawn to Friends and worship and work with them for years, they never join. Outreach will bring us few members if those we reach chose not to stay. He warns us that as the proportion of attenders grows, we will lack seasoned Friends to be overseers and elders, and that those who are members will need to take on a disproportionate share of the service of the meeting. The proportion of women in meetings is growing, too, so they are taking on more responsibilities in meetings at the same time that their other commitments, personal and vocational, are increasing.
Gifts and Ministries: A discussion Paper on Eldership by Alastair Heron. An essay about the concept of 'eldership' intended to see eldership in its present context, and to stimulate discussion of the whole matter of pastoral care and spiritual leadership in a religious society without creed and without clergy.