Time for Yearly Meeting comes again, and the question that has been growing in my mind since 2001 comes up yet again, why go to Yearly Meeting? To explain, I must say that I am a member of what is now called ‘Evangelical Friends Church, Mid America‘. Every year we have a half day of business sessions before our ministry conference. Ministry conference is a period of worship and education — it is easy to tell why to attend those sessions, but there is not a single session of worship scheduled during the period of Yearly Meeting. Yearly meeting consists of listening to whatever the ruling committees feel should be included in the minutes, and on rare occasions accepting or rejecting a position statement or an amendment to Faith and Practice.
In 2001, there was a reorganization which recognized with modern technology, we can give space for discussion of policy outside Yearly Meeting sessions. The YM is ruled by a committee they call ‘elder’s board’. Every Quarterly Meeting appoints representatives to Elder’s board. Quarterly meetings give the opportunity for the churches to discuss all continuing policy, and elder’s board can and does direct policy. By the time items are brought to YM, discussion is pretty much finished — items on the agenda pass without further discussion, with the exception of the budget and apportionments because people have jealous natures, and feel that their giving expectations are “unfair”.
As I consider that the opportunity for discussion ends before Yearly Meeting begins, why should I go? If I, my monthly meeting, and my quarterly meeting are active, I have no excuse if I am not involved. If I have friends outside my own quarter who keep me in the loop, then it is nearly impossible that I’ll miss anything important. I have the ability to share any opinion I have. I am not a representative, once my objections are raised, I do not have the right to press them. Either they are shared by member meetings, or they are not shared. Influence and function are not a reason to attend Yearly Meeting session. I find myself tempted to do as others do, and skip the half day of business and only attend worship and training sessions on the evening and weekend following Yearly meeting.
In my meditation, I have decided that the reason to attend Yearly meeting is not for a chance to debate, but instead for the opportunity to pray. I will have a paper copy of each committee report in front of me before it is read. I will consider each committee report to be a call to prayer. I hope to use the brief (hopefully not too brief for this purpose) period of silence following reports as a chance to whisper prayers for those people who work in the ministries the committee oversees, and those who serve on the committee. I intend to pray for those items that the committee reports, treating Yearly Meeting sessions as a concert of prayer. God willing, I will find the space necessary to do this. I encourage others in my situation to do the same.