Plenary Session # 5
July 17, 2015
8:30 – 10:15 am
Friends gathered with singing and waiting worship.
Rising Clerk Warren Ostrom introduced Mary Klein of Western Friend.
Two Junior Friends announced that the group has decided to go again to Guatemala in 2016. Fund-raising begins immediately.
Recording Clerk Angie Alexander read the minutes from Plenary Session # 2, July 16. Corrections will be made to the Committee on Discipline report.
Minutes were approved with appropriate corrections.
2015-5-2 Action on Pre-Nominating Committee Recommendations
No questions were received since the committee’s report on during plenary #2.
Slate of nominees was approved with gratitude to the Pre-Nominating Committee members and to the new members of Nominating Committee).
2015-5-3 Report and Slate of Nominees from Nominating Committee (Paul Christiansen)
Clerk Paul Christiansen and other members of the committee who were present (Lucretia Humphrey, Asia Bennett, and Joyce Zerwekh) presented the slate of nominees for all committees except Nominating Committee itself. Slate of nominees published just prior to Annual Session. Recent changes in the names presented were reviewed.
Blanks or spaces that show someone who is designated “recently served” represent positions that need to be filled for new terms. There are no names for some positions on the Annual Session Planning Committee; present members whose terms were just for this year asked to be able to decide after this year’s session. The same is true for the nominations to the Epistle Committee for next year’s annual session.
There are gaps in the nomination slate as follows:
Central Friends Camp Committee has presented continual difficulties for nominations.
We need nominees for the following committees: Finance and Legal, Information Technology, Outreach and Visitation, representatives to AFSC, FLBQTC, and Peace Teams.
There are contradictions in descriptions for the Representatives to FCNL, although the slate of nominees is filled.
The Pre-Nominating Committee serves until Nominating is filled. The Nominating Committee roster is now complete, given our approval earlier in this session.
If members present have persons to suggest for nomination for any of the empty slots or would themselves feel called to serve in any of the open positions, they are asked to contact the Nominating Committee during lunch today.
Should we lay down the position of corresponding representative to FLBTGQ?
Friends who are LBTGQ have long been urging that a corresponding representative to the national group be a straight ally.
It was requested that the committee post a printed copy of the slate.
For clarification, Junior Friends nominate their own advisors and committee members during annual session and forward those names to Nominating Committee.
Any new nominees can be considered at the Nominating Committee meeting today.
It was requested that we not lay down the nomination of representatives to Peace Teams now. The organization is meeting in Olympia early 2016, which might renew enthusiasm for participation in this effort.
Leslie Hickox volunteered to take on another term as an FCNL representative.
Kim Williams confirmed that she is willing to be Registrar for Annual Session again.
Job descriptions about each committee were requested in printed form; it was suggested instead that people seek current members or those of us on computers here for such information.
Approval of nominees is scheduled for plenary session Saturday morning.
2015-5-4 Nominating Committee Presentation: Challenges and Opportunities (Paul Christiansen)
Despite Clerk Paul Christiansen’s resolution that the committee work be rooted in the Spirit as much as possible instead of becoming a search for personnel, this has not worked. Rather, the job again became a matter of filling in the blanks in the slate of nominees. 40-50 nominees must be recruited each year. This is in contrast to another yearly meeting (Illinois) for which about 20 nominees are sought each year. In our YM, the same Friends agree to serve, in one committee or another, year after year. We can become worn out with the level of service.
Although ideal clerking means letting go of the desired solution to a problem, Nominating Committee has a different issue. They cannot always let go of results; they cannot leave many positions blank because NPYM would then be missing key individuals, e. g. treasurer.
The Spirit has been at work among us, perhaps in spite of our process, so that the committee has confidence in the slate presented. However, the committee still sees serious problems underneath all this. They presented the following queries for us to consider:
Are there ways to make the service of the yearly meeting more fulfilling? What holds Friends back from serving?
Is our hope of involving younger Friends realistic? What roles work for younger people? (Are we allowing younger Friends to bring their own concerns and ideas forward?)
What is the purpose of the Yearly Meeting? (We put so much into maintaining our organization, into keeping it alive, why? What is the work of the Yearly Meeting as not just its maintenance?)
The clerk offered grateful thanks to the members of the committee.
The issues here are experienced also by monthly meetings. We expand easily and contract with difficulty. We need to understand when it is time to contract, when it is necessary. Individuals who support our having specific committees may need to accept this situation when it is difficult to recruit for those committees. Is this also a reflection of our business-heavy focus when we meet?
Thank you to the Nominating Committee for their work and for bringing their concerns. We are being squeezed by the capitalistic system in our country with people needing to put more time and energy into working for a living. We need to spend a lot of our personal energies planning for Annual Session (note the size of the committee); hiring an event planner to attend to details would take many of the these responsibilities away. Activities from the Quaker Play-Day program could be incorporated into annual session and provide opportunities for community and fun during the session.
Do we trust each other to respond in the Spirit when approached to offer our services? Do I respond by responding to the Spirit and what it requires of me, given all the areas of responsibility I have in my life? If we trust each other to do our best and to answer honestly, we must recognize when people respond with “no.” Perhaps this is how the spirit is telling us something, and we need to listen to that.
After nearly forty years in Yearly Meeting, speaker has only volunteered to serve during the last 10 years. It has been a deep pleasure in those 10 years in meeting others, working with others, and bringing Spirit back to the local community. Recalling Robin Mohr’s speech, if we cannot work together and make our work vital to our spirits, where can we learn this?
This Friend traveled among Friends during the past 15 years and heard this discussion many times. Willamette Quarter does not even have a nominating committee—they cannot get people to serve on that. New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) and other meetings have taken a Jubilee Year: only essential work of the meetings was done, which was up to each meeting to decide for itself. At the Jubilee year annual session for NYYM, long periods of worship comprised most of the activity; very little business was done. We do need to take a look at how we work. Perhaps an ad hoc committee (2-3 people) take a look at how other yearly meetings have dealt with this and prepare a report for us for next year. We need to create a space (such as a jubilee year) to evaluate what we are meant to do. She invited others to join her in such a study.
There will be an interest group here about revitalizing our yearly meeting. People asked to serve often have heavy responsibilities. We can re-examine yearly meeting, keep our Quaker essence, re-imagine joyful, playful, options.
This Friend is thinking about the purpose of yearly meeting. Experience on the Nominating Committee for monthly meeting left this person feeling discouraged. We are missing people in the younger decades of adult age. There is less flexibility in organizing our lives, in meeting our personal needs (survival issues), with more responsibility in our lives outside our Quaker lives. This person thinks there is a need for clarity on how to make space for Quaker life. We can adapt, but it is unclear how. This person is committed to make this happen.
Clerk Rawson summarized the responses to this report as follows:
Many friends have concerns about people’s lives being stretched very thin, especially those in their 20’s and 30’s,
Friends have expressed joy in service,
There are concerns about needs for volunteers.
(In addition, given the number of people involved in planning AS, it was suggested that we hire an event planner.)
He heard a proposal to take some time to look at the idea of a jubilee year or something similar. He is mindful that we have just gone through a deep, several-year process of evaluating our Yearly Meeting that was finished just a year ago. He is hesitant to call for doing that again so soon. It seems as if there is a lot more that needs to be considered or said right now.
The Clerk hears energy for a few people to take some time to look at what other yearly meetings have done around these issues. He floated the idea of creating such a small group—an ad hoc committee with this purpose.
There was some voiced approval of this idea. One Friend spoke against approval, saying that the problem is not in the structure, it is in our hearts, our commitments. It is difficult to put this problem into words. He was reminded of a plenary session a few years ago when many of the same issues were voiced as cries of the heart, of pain. Something is wrong, but it is undefined and therefore difficult to fix. It is hard to find words for it.
Another Friend spoke: Is it appropriate to wait for the interest group to meet? To seek further wisdom there? We have both empty chairs and those that are filled. Are we focusing so much on the empty chairs, are we not noticing that where we are full. Do we really believe that we are the Quakers the world needs, or that the world needs Quakers? There are many ways in which we are very successful, e. g. as official or at-large representatives to FCNL. It is as important to acknowledge what is working as well as what is not. This Friend is thankful for the environment in which we can have these discussions.
The next speaker was new to being a Quaker and already serving on two committees in the monthly meeting. The speaker thanked Paul, as Clerk of Nominating Committee, for sharing what he has and considered it brave. Without knowing what callings will arise, will there will be enough light to serve where called?
Clerk Rawson encouraged us to attend the interest group about revitalization to be held on Saturday. He sensed the Spirit working in us now, although such work is not always done cleanly.
The session ended without sufficient time for Treasurer Jonathan Brown to present the budget for the coming year. The report will be heard during Plenary 7.