Over 60 Friends gathered online for SEYM’s Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions, finding a sense of community in attending to essential business and pressing concerns. Our time together included committee meetings, worship sharing on four Saturday mornings, business plenaries Saturday afternoons, and our final plenary and closing worship on Sunday, June 7th. Doing business meetings online was a learning curve for both clerks and participants; but aside from Friends needing the occasional reminder to ‘unmute’ themselves when speaking, things proceeded smoothly. The sessions, mostly held on Saturdays, were spread out over 6 consecutive weeks, May 9 – June 7, both to avoid “Zoom Fatigue” and to allow those who are working to attend.
An SEYM COVID-19 Relief Fund was approved on May 30th, in Plenary 3. The purpose of the fund is to provide financial assistance to SEYM Meetings and Worship Groups as well as to individual f/Friends and families who are struggling with loss of income due to the pandemic. Friends needing financial assistance can contact their Meeting’s Care & Counsel, or other appropriate committee, to talk confidentially about their needs; the Meeting or Worship Group then applies to SEYM for financial help without disclosing their identity. Meetings and Worship Groups may also apply for assistance to meet their essential needs.
The FY 2020-21 Budget was approved, with the clear understanding that it was a ‘pre-pandemic’ budget, having been drawn up at last WIBM; and adjustments are anticipated. Some meetings will not be able to contribute as much as in previous years due to their own loss of income during these times.
The Executive Committee appointed an ad hoc Online Program committee to coordinate the continued online presentation of worship sharing, along with some of the workshops that were already prepared for the Yearly Meeting Gathering, between now and Winter Interim Business Meeting. They will report to WIBM on future possibilities. See the Executive Committee minutes >
The Monthly Meeting and Worship Group Forum, which has become a regular part of SEYM Annual Sessions, was held on May 16th. Read more >
In Plenary 3, we heard reports from our Representatives to Organizations. It was noted that it is important for Friends to continue to donate to organizations, even if it’s at a very reduced amount; this enables organizations to maintain their base of support, get grants, and plan for the future. FCNL staff Alicia McBride visited us, relating how they have risen to the challenge of lobbying online. They provide Zoom training on how to do virtual lobby visits and host other online events open to all Friends. Cece Yocum (Tampa) presented a Friends Peace Teams report. FPT needs volunteers; they few paid staff. While COVID is limiting their work, Peacebuilding en las Americas has started ‘PAN-PAV’ (“Bread & Peace”), taking food to homes, checking in on people, and finding resources for them. Kathy Hersh (Miami) reports that AFSC is working on a new mission statement and strategic plan. Beverly Ward (Tampa) reports that the Florida Council of Churches’ FLi-CAN continues to focus on community resilience projects. In response to the George Floyd murder, the Council has put out a statement of Support for Protests and Transformation.
The Committee on Ministry on Racism presented an oral report. They are working on an updated list of resources for addressing systemic racism. Friends discussed different ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the myriad issues involved in working on racial justice, such as expansion of Medicaid, affordable housing, employment, education, and how white people need to address their privilege. The Peace & Social Concerns Committee Report provided a lot of information on the work of AFSC-Miami, assistance to Immokalee Workers, conditions in Nicaragua and PLA’s plan to support AVP there, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, and more. We also heard reports from the Youth & Young Adult Coordinator, the Youth Committee, Publications, Earthcare, and Archives Committees.
In our final plenary, Cece Yocum and Beverly Ward presented the 2020 Epistle, which Friends found very moving as we reflected our journey together the last three months in our Virtual Mini-Gathering, online Worship, worship sharing, and online business sessions. See the Epistle here>
The full Yearly Meeting minutes will be posted soon.