As the presiding clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, I am writing to clarify the yearly meeting’s role and actions related to the concerns raised in the October 2014 Friends Journal article, “My Experience as an African American Quaker” written by Friend Avis Wanda McClinton, a member of Upper Dublin (Pa.) Meeting. While recognizing the article represents Avis’s experiences in her voice, there are aspects of the article that directly impact the yearly meeting that need to be addressed.
As the article states, the issues within the meeting have been several years in the making and have become compounded over time. In February 2014 the clerks of Upper Dublin Meeting, in part by Friend Avis’s request, contacted the yearly meeting asking for assistance. Since then Philadelphia Yearly Meeting senior leadership has been actively engaged with the concerns. The general secretary at the time and I consulted with Friends with minuted healing ministries and professional licenses to discern how best the yearly meeting could be of assistance. In addition, we had conversations with the clerks of the monthly and quarterly meetings, Friend Avis, and others. As clerk I asked two Friends gifted in healing to assist Upper Dublin Meeting. The meeting was open to their ministry and they have been working together.
Many Friends of Upper Dublin Meeting have been hurt and are hurting, including Friend Avis. I was and remain grateful for their willingness to engage in the hard, long personal and communal work of addressing the concerns to gain healing. It is often difficult to open ourselves up when we are hurt and these Friends are in the beginnings stages of that process. If there is no room on our benches for those who hurt to sit with those who have been hurt in the face of God to seek healing, then where is there room for such work in this world?
As clerk, I am concerned with the spiritual state of the entire meeting. When we become members of Religious Society of Friends we commit ourselves not just to our monthly meetings but to a communion of Friends seeking that of God in everyone. This community, as the individuals within it, is imperfect. Yet we obligate ourselves to love each other. We promise to be open with each other, to receive and offer each other help. We also commit ourselves to remaining open to being transformed. It is easy in time of difficulty to just walk away. Work toward healing is an act of communion. An act of love. It is our sacrament. It requires ample time and effort. I remain committed to supporting the work of healing. The yearly meeting senior leadership is committed. I pray that the members of Upper Dublin Meeting, including Friend Avis, remain committed. I ask that this tender work already underway be respected and allowed to continue.
I ask Friends to join us in praying for the facilitators, the spiritual supporters, all of the Friends of Upper Dublin Meeting and our wider Quaker community, for which the work of welcoming all God’s children is mighty.