Yearly Meetings’ Newsletter Project
New York Yearly Meeting and New England Yearly Meeting have teamed up to produce a new collaborative newsletter, Quaker Outreach. The newsletter is designed to help yearly meetings around the country provide better and more consistent contact with members. Its content will provide strategies and resources for strengthening Quaker communities and movements. Curated through New England Yearly Meeting, with help from New York Yearly Meeting, the publication will be quarterly.
Although the newsletter will have a centralized creative team, it will be disseminated through individual yearly meetings. This model of circulation allows the work of creation to be undertaken by meetings with larger organizations and paid staff who can commit time and energy to the newsletter. Other yearly meetings will then be able to share content relevant to Friends through their own lists of members and meetings. This model should lessen the work involved in creating and maintaining a newsletter.
The project’s minute of understanding states that the intention of the Quaker Outreach e-newsletter initiative is “to build up and strengthen the Quaker movement to bring more Love and Light to a world desperately in need of it.” Yearly meetings that already keep lists of membership and provide occasional updates will be able to strengthen their communications with little additional workload.
Articles within the newsletter will be licensed under the creative commons copyright designation. This designation allows for sharing of attributed material for non-commercial purposes.
The newsletter’s content will incorporate a range of topics relevant to Friends in North America and beyond. Some of the areas to be covered include Quaker outreach in the larger community; extending the reach of Friends to those populations that are currently underrepresented in Quaker spaces; and welcoming people into Friends communities, meetings, and churches.
Friends are adopting new media, including forums, social networks, and videos in order to connect with each other and engage in conversations about Quakerism. One of these new media types is the podcast, a recorded audio segment that is released through a website or streaming service. Podcasts often have a format similar to radio shows but can vary greatly in structure and content. Typically serialized, each podcast episode covers a different topic related to the show’s theme. There are now more than half a dozen Quaker-themed podcasts available on the web, and yet more podcasts run by Friends that are not explicitly about Quakers.
Quaker podcasts come from different sources. Some are supported by large Quaker organizations, while others are independently run.
Friends podcasts record all over the world. Quaker Faith & Podcast is produced as a religious education series, with an aim to cover “the full learning curve from newcomer to seasoned Quaker, [and] to make it easier to learn what Quakers believe.” The Q:Witness podcast discusses “action inspired by Quaker faith.” It is produced by Britain Yearly Meeting and has been releasing episodes since December 2016. Also in the UK is the new podcast The Young Quaker. First begun in 2017 as a project of the Young Friends General Meeting, this podcast addresses concerns of younger Friends. Released monthly, the show has covered topics such as “an introduction to Friends” and “young Quakers and witnessing.”
Friends Journal’s own QuakerSpeak is produced both as a podcast and as a series of videos released on YouTube. The series is interview-based, and showcases a variety of Friends’ perspectives.
At the end of 2016, Salem Quarterly Meeting of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting launched the Clearly Quaker podcast. Recorded every few months, Clearly Quaker features recordings of lectures given in Salem Quarterly Meeting. The episodes have touched on themes of justice, Quaker history, and Friends relationships with various groups and movements.
Under the care of Herndon Friends Meeting, Fauquier Friends Worship Group in Bealeton, Virginia, held a panel discussion on peacemaking on November 19, 2017.
Fauquier Friends Worship Group was founded in May 2014 and is the only Quaker worship presence in Fauquier County and several other counties in the Northern Piedmont area of Virginia. Fauquier Friends meets together for worship, worship sharing on the testimonies, and other events related to Quakers and peacemaking.
For the panel discussion, two panelists commuted from Herndon Friends to share their personal history of actions that increase peace locally. Along with two regular Fauquier Friends attenders, they gave brief presentations out of the silence and then opened the remainder of the afternoon to questions and sharing from other attendees.
One example of peacemaking was a high school student’s Peace Award project that removed barriers to fair treatment and understanding of minority students. Another panelist offered ideas for one-to-one communication. These ideas included postponing judgment; bringing an attitude of equality; avoiding taking anything personally; and practicing integrity, self-calming, and truth. A third panelist offered examples of disrupting the expected course of events by doing something different. A story was shared of a woman who was being ominously followed. She suddenly turned around; handed the man following her a bag of groceries; and blurted out that she was exhausted, so glad to see him, and would gratefully welcome his help to get her food safely home. Sharing experience and life learning, the panelists set the tone for others to share their own histories of conflict, struggle, and effort to apply wisdom and inner peace to their situations.
Before the event, there was a concerted effort to invite Friends from larger, established monthly meetings to share their experiences on peacemaking. An effort was made to reach out to everyone who had asked questions about the local Quakers during the previous year, including asking several people for their ideas on what topics would be of interest.
Although the four panelists comprised one-third of the people present that afternoon, this was actually a bigger crowd than expected. The attentive and rapt participation by newcomers and regular worship attenders alike was a great boost to the community.
Eric Anthony Berdis has stepped into the role of Interim Sessions Coordinator for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PhYM). Eric is no stranger to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting; they* have worked as the PhYM Sessions Assistant since 2015. Eric also served the PhYM community as the Event Coordinator for Arch Street Meeting House’s William Penn Fundraiser. Excited to bring his* energy and creativity to working with the Sessions Coordinating Committee, Eric has found joy in this work. He hopes to usher in new connections and to support our ongoing efforts in making spaces safer and accessible to all Friends.
Eric is originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, and received a BFA from Slippery Rock University. Outside of Continuing and Annual Sessions, Eric is an artist, interested in the intersections of DIY culture, craft-oriented practices, histories of grassroots social-justice activism, and theories of gender and sexuality.
*Please note that Eric uses they/them/their and he/him/his pronouns. Learn more about this on the PYM website.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly indicated that Quaker Faith & Podcast was a UK-based podcast. It is mostly recorded from Washington, D.C.