Fall Gathering is this Saturday, September 18!


Bronwyn Mohlke
 

Friends,

FSRM Fall Gathering is taking place this Saturday, September 18.  There are more details below, including a link to the registration form.  The link to the Zoom meeting will be shared with all Friends who have registered. For Fall Gathering this year, your co-clerks, the Events Committee and Ministry and Counsel invite us to consider the ways that unconscious bias manifests in Friends' meetings. 

This paragraph is for those of you who do not know what FSRM stands for, and what Fall Gathering is!  FSRM stands for Farmington Scipio Regional Meeting, which includes all of the Quaker Meetings roughly from Syracuse to Elmira, and all the Meetings west of there in New York State.  We have three regional gatherings a year, Winter (in January), Spring (in May), and Fall (in September).  They are typically in person, but are being held via Zoom right now.  Winter and Fall Gatherings are usually one day events, and Spring Gathering is a full weekend event.  As it happens, both of the co-clerks of the regional Meeting are part of Ithaca Meeting!  They are Angela Hopkins and Antonia Saxon.  They would be glad to tell you more if you have any questions.

Friends,

We hope you have had a restful summer.  Fall Gathering is upon us, and will be held a week from this Saturday, on September 18. This invitation comes late. We hope you will forgive us. The circumstances were unique, and the process has involved much discernment.

Here is a link to the registration form:


We will send the link to the Zoom meeting shortly before Fall Gathering to all Friends who have registered.  If you need any assistance in registering, please contact our registrar, Bronwyn Mohlke, at FSRMRegistrar@... or (607) 220-3219.

For Fall Gathering this year, your co-clerks, the Events Committee and Ministry and Counsel invite us to consider the ways that unconscious bias manifests in Friends' meetings. As a place to begin, we'll consider the letter written by our co-clerks concerning the situation at 2021 Spring Gathering Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. The letter appears below.

Our purpose is to use this situation as an opportunity to examine intent and impact, and to talk about the unexamined ways that white Friends make assumptions about what is important and who is important in ways that can diminish or erase others.

We want to use this letter as a springboard, as an example of the way that Friends can do this work together, looking at the processes that unfold and the actions they take part in, and taking responsibility for racist actions when they happen.

We'll gather in small groups to consider some queries, and then we'll re-gather to share our reflections.

We realize that not everyone attended Spring Gathering. Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. And we realize that some may feel this work doesn't apply to you or your meeting. But we want to invite you and encourage you to attend. We absolutely need you! Everybody is important. This is work for all of us.

The Fall Gathering Events Committee + Ministry and Counsel
Donna Beckwith
Chuck and Sally Zelasko
Mary Klaus
Mike Tritto
Bronwyn Mohlke
Gary Barnes
Stuart Bartram
Rebecca Schillenback
Co-clerks Angela Hopkins and Antonia Saxon
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CO-CLERKS' STATEMENT ABOUT MEETING FOR WORSHIP WITH ATTENTION TO BUSINESS AT SPRING GATHERING 2021

The co-clerks want to offer their account of what happened this spring at Farmington-Scipio Spring Gathering during Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. Because it happened before the body, in public, it is right to address it publicly.

Before the meeting, the co-clerks had sent a request and reminders for agenda items. At that time, Pat Sewell, the treasurer, responded that a budget would not be presented.

It was decided that Antonia would clerk the two agenda items, and Angela would clerk the Community Conversation that would follow. Gloria Thompson of Manhattan Monthly Meeting was invited to clerk the conversation and Dwight Huey to take care of tech so that all of the Region's Friends could participate in the conversation.

Pat contacted the co-clerks the night before the gathering saying that no budget would be presented, that FSRM had a surplus, and that he wanted to share that news with the region.

Antonia and Angela were expecting two short agenda items along with the treasurer's announcement that we had a surplus.

Antonia, then clerking, was not expecting the longer report. She allowed Pat to continue to talk without stopping him.

This meant that there wasn't enough time for the Community Conversation and that Gloria and Dwight were made to wait.

The treasurer is a white man. Gloria and Dwight are Friends of Color. Although it was not a conscious decision, Antonia's giving the treasurer's report precedence had the effect of treating what the treasurer was doing as more important -- the region's "official" business -- and the Community Conversation, and Gloria and Dwight's time, as less important.

Antonia's failure to see what was happening and to name it for the body forced Angela to intervene. Angela spoke strongly in response to the treatment Gloria and Dwight received.

Many white Friends have a sense that calm, quiet communication is part of the essence of Friends' testimonies, so that when Friends of Color name harm and injustice, they are often dismissed as inappropriate or angry. (A message during the conversation that followed used the term "tone policing." This is what is meant by that term.)

But calm, quiet communication is not a Quaker testimony. It is a practice among predominantly white, unprogrammed Friends. Prophetic voices are part of Quaker tradition.

Our work as white Friends in monthly meetings, the region, the yearly meeting and beyond, is to look at the ways that we perpetuate processes which make it easy and comfortable for us to participate in decision-making and which have the effect of silencing or excluding the voices of those who are different. Differences in race, gender identity, ability, class, and age keep some Friends from being heard. White Friends may not set out to be exclusive, but that is often the result. (This is what is meant by "intent versus impact"). Harm is done and continues to be done.

Instead of using silence as a weapon in a conflict, we can see the conflict as an opportunity being offered to us. We are not doing this work to be "kind" to others. We are doing it to grow closer to our authentic selves.

During Summer Sessions this year, New York Yearly Meeting considered a proposed minute affirming the yearly meeting as an anti-racist faith community. In the year to come, the text of the minute will go out to New York's monthly meetings so that this work can be seasoned. Monthly meetings have more to learn about how to do and support this work. We believe the region has a part in this conversation and this work.


We have shared this letter with you in the hope that you will take the opportunity before Fall Gathering to reflect on the experience at Spring Gathering Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, and on how our biases and internalized ways of being impact the ways we observe and process those experiences. This is not about judging, or deciding who was right and who was wrong. The co-clerks have worked through what happened. Our hearts are clear. We hope Friends can learn from it as we have learned from it.

Your co-clerks,

Angela and Antonia

"Peacemaking doesn't mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free."

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals