Plenary Session # 2
Thursday, July 16, 2015
8: 30 – 10:15 am
2015.2.1 Friends gathered to begin this session with song and waiting worship.
Presiding Clerk Tom Rawson welcomed everyone to Annual Session. He introduced Warren Ostrom, Rising Presiding Clerk, and Angie Alexander, Recording Clerk. He also introduced the Whitworth staff members who are assisting us this week. These were followed by introduction of the members of the Annual Session Planning Committee:
Physical Arrangements Team:
2015.2.3 Ministry and Oversight Committee Introductions and Announcements
Committee Clerk Georgia Foster introduced the members of the committee:
Their role was described as that of fostering the spiritual life and good order of Friends in the Yearly Meeting, both at Annual Session and in general. They have collected and posted the State of the Society reports from monthly meetings and worship groups. They have posted Memorial Minutes; the Meeting for Memorials is scheduled on Saturday, 3 pm. They are also offering an interest group about safety in meetings and respecting personal boundaries.
2015.2.4 Roll Call of Meetings and Worship Groups
Presiding Clerk Tom Rawson called the name of each meeting and worship group. Members of each who were present stood and were acknowledged.
Junior Friends were also acknowledged.
He thanked the representatives of Sandpoint, Pullman-Moscow, Spokane Worship Group, and Spokane Friends Church for their work in planning for and supporting Annual Session.
2015.2.5 Introduction of Visitors
The following visitors to Annual Session from other Friends’ groups were asked to stand:
Del and Suzanne Livingston, Olympic Friends Church
Jed McLaurin, Northwest Yearly Meeting Representative
Robin and Silas Mohr, Green Street Monthly Meeting, Philadelphia
Marielle Oetjen, American Friends Service Committee
Doug and Cheri Smith, Reno Friends Meeting
S. Jean Smith, East Africa Yearly Meeting
Megan Fair, FCNL
2015.2.6 Introduction of Staff for Children’s Program (Jay Thatcher)
Jay reminded us of the theme for annual session, which will also be the theme for the Children’s Program. He introduced the staff for the program, as follows:
Infants- Meghann Wolvert
Pre-Kindergarten- Hollis Proffitt, Katherine Spinner, Caroline Wildflower
Lower Elementary-Brayden Miller, Meghan Peterka
Upper Elementary-Glee Lumb, Jed Walsh
Middle School-Janet Grove, Ethan Berlemen
Serving where needed-Melody Ashworth
All of us were invited to participate as adult visitors to the children’s program.
2015.2.7 Presiding Clerk Tom Rawson spoke about an event that occurred last night at the end of plenary session that had to do with the designation of the bathrooms in the dormitories as gender-neutral. In the course of explaining the change, in response to requests, to day-time gender-specific usage, Tom had explained the reasons for making them gender-neutral but omitted one of the reasons and, as a consequence, made some people and their issue invisible. He apologized at this time to those individuals and their allies. He realized that the message from him seemed to represent the thinking of the yearly meeting and said that it only was his error. The issue is not just about bathrooms and their use; there are other aspects of inclusion that are involved here. It is about visibility and safety for transgender people. The issue is also about recognizing people and acknowledging their struggles. Clerk Rawson stated that he is not sure how to address this. There will be time on the agenda on Saturday to consider in depth the issues that have arisen. He invited Friends to bring ideas and suggestions to him.
During the worship that followed, one speaker spoke about her experience in learning about the range of genders through her participation in activities at Multnomah Meeting. She acknowledged that the issue is complicated because we come with many different perspectives. Coming to understand the issue and act accordingly is a process.
2015.2.8 Announcement from the Committee on the Discipline
Members of the committee hope meetings have been using the new Practice chapters. They ask for feedback about how well these chapters serve the meetings.
Three sections are in review now (as designated in the Transitional Faith and Practice, not in the 1993 edition): Chapter 2, Friends Experiential Faith (formerly Friends’ Beliefs); Chapter 3, Living in the Spirit; and a new Appendix, Friendly Use of Communication Technology. Responses concerning Chapter 3 should be sent to the committee by September 30; the others, November 30. The committee expects to send proposed changes to chapter 4, About Friends’ Testimonies, by fall of this year. They will accept comments about everything except Chapter 4 until next year’s annual session. There will be an interest group about Chapter 4 at annual session in 2016. They hope to have all of Faith and Practice into the transitional version by the end of 2016. They ask that we continue to hold the committee in the Light.
We moved into Attention to Business:
Clerk Rawson read guidelines for our participation in meeting for worship with attention to business; the intention was to allow the spirit of worship to infuse the meeting.
2015.2.9 Report from Coordinating Committee (Chris Willard)
The Coordinating Committee meets in lengthy sessions in the fall and spring of each year in addition to a shorter meeting just prior to Annual Session. Between meetings of the whole committee any necessary work is done by their Executive Committee.
By the time of last year’s Annual Session, committee members were still probing the question of the difference between acting as a coordinating committee rather than a steering committee. This year, committee members are clearer about what it means to coordinate the work of the Yearly Meeting’s other committees.
Two items were referred to Coordinating Committee from last year’s Annual Session business:
In response to recommendations from the Ad hoc Family Affordability Committee, Coordinating Committee (1) discerned that the request to hold one fewer plenary session during annual session was not for them to decide and forward that question on to the Annual Session Planning Committee and (2) approved measures to support families in covering the cost of attending annual session. The ad hoc committee members were thanked for their work and the committee laid down.
Members present during Annual Session 2014 had asked Coordinating Committee to consider and act on encouraging monthly meetings to more fully participate in Coordinating Committee. They took several actions in response: contacted monthly meetings who had not been sending representatives with some success, considered but did not act on sifting through monthly meetings’ newsletters for reports, and asked the NPYM Secretary to send copies of electronic messages pertaining to coordinating work to representatives of monthly meetings (their clerks, etc.)
Clerk Willard provided updates on standing committees’ activities (link to full report). He especially mentioned Youth Committee and Nominating Committee.
Coordinating Committee authorized the formation of a Pre-Nominating Committee for determining nominations for persons to be on the Nominating Committee (a practice that had been done in the past, but not recently).
In his concluding remarks, he spoke of his concern that many monthly meetings are struggling to find ways to arrange for clerking and reducing committees. At all levels nominating committees are finding fewer people willing to participate in doing the work of the organization. He wonders if we are less willing to participate or are we finding all of our commitments to be too heavy? He could not name this condition because that would imply that he understood it.
He left us with two queries, as follows:
What are the barriers that prevent or inhibit you from participating in the organizational aspects of your faith community?
How has participation in the organizational aspects of your faith community informed your spiritual life?
We followed his report with a period of worshipful silence. Into the silence, one person spoke of feeling awe about those who do so much to support annual session. She had taken on a position because she knew how to do the job it involved, but she had not expected the gratitude she received for doing it, something she had never experienced in her regular job. She was grateful to all those who supported her. It seemed clear that the work adds value to the group and to her as a volunteer.
We will speak to these queries again later this week.
Clerk Willard and the Coordinating Committee members were thanked for their work.
2015.2.10 Report from the Pre-Nominating Committee (Ann Stever)
The purpose of the pre-nominating committee (Laura Arcidiacono and Ann Stever) was to propose members for the Nominating Committee. They consulted with current members of Nominating Committee about issues and joys. They also looked at the Nominating Committee job description. A revised job description in which the major change was to make clear that Nominating Committee does not nominate its own members was approved by Coordinating Committee on July 15, 2015. The Executive Committee of the Coordinating Committee assisted this committee by providing names of people who might be possible candidates for nomination to Nominating Committee. A dual concern is that Nominating Committee members need to have good knowledge of others in the Yearly Meeting and to have developed visibility themselves in the Yearly Meeting. The goal was to name members for the committee from each quarter (including MGOF).
Persons suggested for positions on Nominating Committee are as follows:
For a term ending September 2016
For a term ending September 2017
Kathryn Willard (as both member and clerk)
Approval will be asked at the first plenary session this Friday.
This committee was thanked for their work.
This session ended with worship.