Category Archives: Newsletter articles

Clerk’s Message, May 2020

Dearest Friends,


I am called to write you a love letter. Like the best love letters, it is budding with affection, sloppy, flattering, unexpected, and filled with prickly and necessary truths. Because I’m the one writing it, I’d like you to picture it in a tiny pink envelope, completely unlabelled, with lip prints where the seal folds down (barely visible, of course, because they’d have to be done with chapstick). Inside is a white card, not a folded piece of paper, but pricey card stock covered in my oversized print.

Dearest Friends,

…it begins.

Never in my time worshiping with Ithaca Monthly Meeting, or in my time among Quakers, or, let’s face it, in much of my time with anyone, have I felt so enmeshed in a person or people. The language we often use of  being a part of  “the body” of Friends has never been so visceral to me as it is right now. In the course of my interactions the last few months, it is sometimes hard for me to tell whether I am the arm or the leg or the backbone, where my experience begins and someone else’s subsides.

I’ll skip over this next section. There is a rambling list of all your finest attributes. I say something about Light falling on my face when I’m in your Presence. It borders on an eccentric trope, but, hey, it’ so sweet.

But then things take a bit of a turn.
It isn’t the same I claim.

The richness of those first few weeks of this storm have faded. For a time, those who could, drew together to salvage the pieces of our lives together, and those who couldn’t had faith that others would. We wore our fear and our sadness on our faces in a way we rarely allow ourselves. We reached out to each other for support. Many of us lashed ourselves to the mast of this Meeting, and, for many, it kept us afloat.

But, now, I fear our ship is becalmed.

The surprising depth of our initial online worship has waned. The spirit is every bit as available via Zoom as on a mountainside or in a cathedral. But we seem to be moving through a transition, from the immediacy of the past month to the trudge of what still looks like a long time coming. I was recently confronted with a biblical quote, “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to [us] to be exercised in it.” We have been heavily exercised as of late, Friends.

By doing our best to duplicate the Meeting life that was suddenly unavailable to us, were we too focused on the limitations of our circumstances rather then their possibilities? We are different now than we were before all this. Heck, we’re different than we were two weeks ago. How do we reflect those differences in our current choices as a Meeting, both online and off? I am cautioning us against empty forms, Friends. It is the classic “it’s not you, it’s me” cliche.

It gets a little philosophical in this end portion, but I would summarize by saying: In the coming weeks, the head, heart and hands of this body are going to need to continue to reinvent what we’re doing. Tell us what you need. Tell us what isn’t working. Mourn with us the things we’ve lost and ruminate on the things we’re just discovering.

XOXO,

Gina

Joshua and Edith Cope

Joshua and Edith Cope were among the active founders of IMM.  Joshua (1887-1950) was born in Hatsboro, PA, attended the Westtown School, obtained a B.S. from Haverford College in 1912 (Phi Beta Kappa), and an M.F. from the Yale School of Forestry in 1914.  He worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Montana from 1915-16 and then returned to teach at the Westtown School in 1916-17.  He worked as the assistant state forester for the state of Maryland from 1918-1924 before accepting a faculty position in forestry extension in the Conservation Department at Cornell University, a position that he held until his death.

Joshua was Clerk of IMM from 1930-1933 and from 1942-1947.  In 1938, the Copes moved their membership from Baltimore MM to IMM and thus became the first members of the new Ithaca Monthly Meeting.  Joshua also served several years on IMM’s program committee, budget committee, and as Young Friends advisor.  He operated a Christmas tree farm called Spruce Top in the Town of Caroline and gave Young Friends the opportunity to earn spending money by cutting and selling the trees.  The property also served as a 4-H Forestry camp.  Another strong interest of Joshua’s was getting our Meeting involved with residents of the Civilian Public Service camp in Big Flats.  Through his leadership and encouragement, Ithaca Friends visited the camp frequently on weekends and also hosted several members of the camp each week.  IMM minutes mention a good time that was held by all one weekend evening at a square dance in Fernow Hall, where Joshua worked. Joshua was also a scoutmaster and was active in scouting for many years.

Joshua was sponsored by the AFSC to do a sabbatical in Finland in 1949-50, where he worked with Finnish foresters and also taught at the University of Helsinki.  He died quite suddenly of a heart attack in August, 1950 while at Spruce Top.

Edith Cary Cope (1888-1971) was born in New York State and graduated from Mt. Holyoke College before coming to Ithaca.  She was active in IMM, serving on the Program and Nominating Committees, as an Elder, as IMM representative to the Church Women’s Council, and she was active in the group who did sewing for AFSC projects in Europe during and following World War II.  She was elected to the CURW Board of Control, was president of the Mt. Holyoke Alumni Association, and was active in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.  Edith and Joshua frequently opened their home in Ithaca to IMM gatherings. In 1952, two years after Joshua died, Edith moved to Richmond, IN to be with her two sons who were employed by Earlham College.  She died there in 1971.

– Tom Brown, Meeting Historian

Spring Gathering and Summer Sessions to be on-line

Dear New York Yearly Meeting community,

It has become clear to the Liaison Committee (composed of the yearly meeting clerk, assistant clerk, and the clerks of the General Services, Ministry, and Witness Coordinating Committees) and to the clerks of Sessions and Trustees that NYYM will not be able to gather in person for Summer Sessions 2020. A task group is being assembled to consider alternatives for each of the many valuable experiences that we share at our summer gathering. If anyone would like to offer their expertise or experience in creating virtual or other alternatives to an in-person gathering, as a possible member of the task group or as a resource person, please contact Elaine Learnard, the convener of the task group.

Registrations for our 325th annual gathering at Silver Bay will no longer be accepted. Those who have registered already will be contacted regarding the cancellation. This decision, as difficult as it was, was unavoidable. It is unlikely to be safe to gather in large groups by the end of July, and we don’t want to create a space for the virus to spread within our community or at Silver Bay. This is a painful decision, because, as Friends in Great Britain wrote in 1668: “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, as formerly it used to be.” (Quaker Faith and Practice, Britain Yearly Meeting, 1995, section 6.02) Gathering in the Spirit has always been an important part of our year. It will be missed. We are fortunate to have technology to help us through the change in plans that has been thrust upon us.

A group of us met with Silver Bay personnel to confirm the cancellation and to inquire about their situation. They are currently legally closed as a non-essential business until at least April 29, though their facilities may later be used by the region for hospitalization of non-COVID-19 patients in order to relieve the load on small local hospitals. They made the gracious offer to host any individual Friends from NYYM during our Summer Sessions week (July 19-25) at our conference rates, if the pandemic is over and they have re-opened. All you would need to do is call Silver Bay YMCA and register for a room, advising them that you are affiliated with NYYM.

As Jeffrey wrote to you when inviting Friends to register, “This year’s theme is Embracing our Past, Envisioning our Future. We are a yearly meeting in transition, and we are facing many different changes, as is the rest of the world. Change can be difficult, but our Quaker process, rooted in deep listening to all voices, helps us move forward in the Light with love for each other and for our community. As a community, we have much to offer to each other and to the wider world.”  

This all remains true, and even more so as we negotiate how to move forward in a stressful time. We have added a new line to our theme: Living into our Present. Let us find creative ways to keep hope alive, to see one another’s faces even if not in person, and to support those in need, both within our beloved community and throughout our one world. 

Jeffrey Aaron, Clerk, NYYM 
Elaine Learnard, Assistant Clerk, NYYM
Melanie-Claire Mallison, Clerk, NYYM Sessions Committee
Steve Mohlke, NYYM General Secretary
Roseann Press, Clerk, NYYM Trustees

And here’s the announcement from FSRM:

Join us at the
FREE! VIRTUAL & SMALL GROUP!
Farmington-Scipio Spring Gathering
May 15-17th, 2020!

Loving One Another and the Earth:
Living into the Future as Friends

Something new! Yes, Spring Gathering is still happening May 15-17″, but not as we expected, and not at Watson Homestead!

In Friends’ tradition of experimentation, testimony and continued revelation, this year we will experiment in living more lightly on the earth and caring for one another during times of suffering by holding Spring Gathering virtually and in small groups, rather than as one large group at Watson Homestead.

Friends planning adult, young adult, teen and youth programs are excited about the possibilities for gathering together, even as we are also holding a concern for including those for whom participating may be a challenge. Plans are in the works for 

  • · Friday evening intergenerational community building
  • · Saturday youth, young adult and intergenerational activities
  • · Saturday morning plenary
  • · Saturday afternoon interest groups
  • · Saturday evening intergenerational talent sharing
  • · Sunday morning intergenerational worship
  • · Sunday Meeting for Worship with a concern for business

Friends are invited to consider creative ways of participating in Spring Gathering, from being part of an online plenary panel reflecting on how our theme has been working in your life, sharing your talents virtually, presenting an online workshop or interest group, offering an online Bible study or children’s message during worship, or something we haven’t thought of yet!

For now, please keep May 15-17th on your calendar and look for registration materials soon!

Please contact the Spring Gathering planning committee via Lu Harper (luharper@gmail.com) or Suzanne Blackburn (kandsblackburn@gmail.com) to share your thoughts and suggestions.