CANADIAN YEARLY MEETING 2019

Notes by Sheila H. unless otherwise noted.

Again this year Canadian Yearly Meeting (CYM) held its annual gathering at its preferred site, Winnipeg’s Canadian Mennonite University (CMU). The compact accessible site, with ample conference and residential facilities, encourages mingling and fellowship. CMU welcomes campers and the food co-op, which is a bonus for Friends on a limited income, families and Young Friends.

The theme of CYM this year was joy and despite the overshadowing dread of impending climate and societal chaos we found comfort in each other’s presence. Together we worshiped, sang, grieved, make hard decisions, and celebrated. At a Special Interest Group and an evening hosted by CMM&C (CYM’s Ministry & Counsel), we explored the theme of joy:

What are the sources of joy in our lives?

How can we become more open to joy?

What hinders us in our awareness of joy?

Examples of CYM events

Meeting for Worship, Memorial Meeting, Experience of the Spirit in My Life, Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, Bible Studies, worship groups, Special Interest Groups, Evening with Ministry & Counsel, LGBT2+ events, and Family Night entertainment.

Why attend?

  • Affirm your faith by mixing and worshipping with Friends nationwide
  • Be inspired by the social activism of individuals and Meetings
  • Laugh, rejoice and cry together
  • Make Friends
  • Reunite with Friends
  • Learn about our faith and social justice issues
  • Advance the business of the Society
  • Work to ensure the voice of Canadian Quakers is heard at the national level
  • Study clerking at its best and how to make business meetings truly worshipful

Pre CYM 2019 Retreat

by Marilyn T.

John and Doris Calder are members of New Brunswick Monthly Meeting. It was John who led us through a Retreat that looked at the place of the Bible in the Quaker faith. The Retreat started on Friday evening and went through Saturday till late afternoon. We worshipped, shared and learned together. It was a special time.

Religious dogma has a huge impact on society even on those who do not profess to be religious. As a result, this dogma can lead to the craziness that gets labelled as religious. The story of the hanging of Mary Dyer by a community of Pilgrims attests to the harm of the literal Bible. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. The Christ in your heart is superior to the written word.

The Bible in 1200 was a sacred artifact, not to be available to the people. At this time torture and death could be the result of having possession of this book. By 1611 the printing press put the Bible within the reach of the ordinary person, and it is this book that is at the centre of the Christian faith today.

But what is the place of the Bible for teaching today, in this age of science? Quakers do not knuckle down under the literal translation of the Bible but stress that we each have a measure of the Light……. but none of us has it all. However, Quakers traditionally have used the Bible as the centre of their faith. 

If we believe that the foundation of all truth is beyond the Bible, what do we have for our ethical foundation at this time in our history? If we abandon the Bible to those who carry a literal translation, then we abandon it to the resulting sickness that can be expressed by that translation. The Catholic monks in their peace and poverty were a reflection of what was wrong with the immense wealth of the main church.

Further ideas from the retreat:

*From William Blake’s poetry John centered on the phrase “Mind-forged manacles.” A manacle is described as ‘anything that keeps you from moving’. When manacles are mind-forged, it means that whatever it is that keeps you from moving is created in your own mind.

*Meeting for Worship for Learning: We are all here as equals with centering prayer. Let the scriptures speak to you. Let the scriptures read you.

*Scriptures are a witness to the fountain but not the fountain itself. Whatever the name, Christ, universal Light, inward Christ, it doesn’t matter. The label is not important.

CYM 2019 Sunderland P. Gardner (SPG) lecture

Étienne-Paul Mungombe, a Friends Church pastor, was our speaker. Amazingly, he was speaking in his sixth language. He is a birthright Friend from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a member of a church “planted” by Evangelical Friends International.

CYM 2019 – Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business – – General Concerns

The official report from our delegate to CYM will be tabled at the September 15 business meeting.

“Cheshire Puss”, said Alice, “Would you tell me which way to go from here?”

Yo-yo-like, one theme constantly recurs at CYM: we try to do too much with our limited financial and human resources. We receive large donations: we expand. Things get tight: we shrink. Obviously major structural change is required. This August, we heard from Friends General Conference Barry C. about that body’s successful restructuring. Despite the pain and the lay-offs, he counselled us to follow the same path. The CYM secretary once again urged us to listen to our hearts and joyfully lay down activities not spirit-led. He stressed we could not continue to bear the cost of a secretary position. Our response to these warnings was the breakout sessions.

In small worship sharing groups, we attempted to discern the Spirit’s leading for the way forward. Overall there was agreement we tried to do too much and that committee positions are vacant for lack of Friends willing to fill them, but there was no clear indication of how we can remedy the situation and consolidate our activities to bring them into line with our income or how we can re-energize Friends to serve the Yearly Meeting.

The importance of communications was stressed. It has been repeatedly pointed out that only some one 10% of Quakers donate to CYM because of widespread ignorance of what it has to offer.

What does CYM do for us?

  • the annual gathering
  • online courses
  • visitations by Friends knowledgeable in certain areas
  • the Canadian Friend three times a year
  • the Quaker pamphlet series
  • the website
  • the directory of Friends

2019 – Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business items

The items below are ordered by subject and not chronically according to their place on the agenda.

1. Environmental issues

Carbon audit: there is a carbon audit committee but it has not met yet.

After a Special Interest Group on environmental matters, we decided to ask the clerk to write a letter to the Canadian government urging Canada to meet and even exceed its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

2. Service/Friends United Meeting

Jeff D., our representative to FUM, facilitated a Special Interest Group on Belize Friends School, a coeducational day school in an industrial part of the city where students who have not managed to pass their primary leaving certificate are offered a second chance. Elaine B. submitted the SIG report to our business session. The Canadian Friends Foreign Mission Board, which is under the care of Coldstream Monthly Meeting, has provided funding for a 3-year school project to alert families and students of the dangers of the human trafficking that is prevalent in the area. Friends were invited to donate to the school via Canadian Friends Service Committee.

3. Outside Quaker/church organizations: we heard reports from our representatives to:

Friends United Meeting (FUM)

Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC)

Friends General Conference (FGC)

World Council of Churches (WCC)

FUM: see above under Service/Friends United Meeting.

FGC secretary, Barry C., detailed the restructuring process FGC had followed, the inevitable resulting hurts and how attempts were made to mitigate these and minimize impacts on laid off staff. FGC now has a balanced budget. What helped was creating a list of programs and asking people in small groups what their three priorities were.

FWCC: being in FWCC is a valuable way for us to have an ear and connections with Friends in the global south who are less privileged and suffering more from climate change than we are. Most Quakers in the world are poor, conservative and from the global south. There is a lot on the website.

WCC: our representative, Ann M., recommends we continue to be a member. It costs about $1000 per annum. Friends seemed to agree. The WCC does a lot of justice work. The work is important. The WCC is continuing to focus on the integrity of creation

4. Nominating committee presented the names of new and renewed appointments to CYM committees for our approval.

Positions: approximately 25% of positions are not filled. Descriptions of all can be found in the business section of the website quaker.ca. Most committees meet mainly electronically.

Marilyn M. will be CYM clerk until 2023, as well as Representative Meeting clerk

Some vacant positions:

Contributions committee is short 2 people.

Finance committee needs 2 people.

Personnel committee has vacancies.

Camp NeeKauNis has vacancies.

Education & Outreach has vacancies.

PubCom has vacancies.

5. Discipline review committee presented various updates to Organization & Procedure for approval.

6. The food co-op meeting resulted in the decision to hold the co-op next year and the appointment of officers to oversee arrangements.

Bible Studies – The Cost of Colonialism, the Joy of Jubilee: Re-Imagining Christian Identity and Practice in Canada. – a Five-Part Series by Steve Heinrichs

Our Bible Studies lecturer was Steve Heinrichs, a settler, a Mennonite and Director of Indigenous-Settler Relations at Mennonite Church Canada. He has had to contend with what it means to be a settler with an Indigenous daughter, who has benefited from stolen land. According to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada the total land base of the 2,267 Indian reserves comprises just 0.2% of Canada’s territory. Steve’s Bible Studies will be on quaker.ca.

Steve explored Canadians’ erroneous tendency to discuss colonialism as a problem of the past, It is still ongoing in many forms. The facts are well known to those who open their eyes to them:

• 40% of children in care are Indigenous

• First Nations children on reserve receive less funding than those off reserve.

• One out of four prison inmates is Indigenous.

• As of January 2018, there were 91 long-term water advisories on public systems supported by Indigenous Services Canada

According to Art Manuel, Settler Colonialism is the root of First Nations impoverishment. Settler colonialism is not colonialism in the traditional sense of occupying land, exploiting resources and ruling over the indigenous peoples. Settler colonialism displaces and eradicates the original peoples of the land occupied. This reality is what we must come to terms with. As Settler Canadians, we benefit from and are complicit in Settler Colonialism and therefore are responsible for its continued functioning.

The “Reformist vision” of an inclusive, equal-opportunity Canada entails including Indigenous people in mainstream society, greater equality and respect for Indigenous histories and cultures. This is fine, Steve Heinrich argues, but not enough. We must embrace the “Radical vision”, returning enough land and power for Indigenous nations to be self-sufficient, i.e. change our government and economic structure to create a more just country.

The biblical basis for the return of land is the ancient Hebrew vision of land return of Jubilee.

Leviticus, chapter 25: And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your [ancestral] property and every one of you to your family(Lev. 25:10).

Recommended reading: “Unsettling Canada” and “The Reconciliation Manifesto”, Art Manuel

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