Epistle from Canadian Yearly Meeting 2018

This is the epistle from Canadian Yearly Meeting 2018, which was held August 3-11, summarizing many of the most important happenings and decisions.

Epistle from Canadian Yearly Meeting 2018

 The Quaker understanding of Truth is a complex one… Friends have not traditionally believed that truth is relative, or that it changes over time or from one person to another: Rather, we have believed in continuing revelation: that God continues to reveal Truth (with a capital T) to each person individually, without intermediary. This leads to many different interpretations of Truth or different personal truths, if you will. However, although Friends believe that no one person can know the entire Truth, that does not mean that we don’t believe absolute Truth exists. The Truth we are all seeking, though it may be expressed and lived in many ways, is universal Truth.

1.28 from the CYM Faith & Practice

To Friends everywhere,

Loving greetings from Canadian Yearly Meeting (CYM). More than one hundred and fifty Quakers gathered over eight days, from August 4-11, 2018, in Barrie, Ontario. This was the 184th annual gathering of Quakers in Canada, our 62nd as a united Yearly Meeting, and our first after a fallow year in 2017. We acknowledge with gratitude that our Yearly Meeting took place on the traditional territory of the Anishnaabek, Haudenosaunee, and Wyandot.

We were welcomed to this territory by Anishnaabe elder Jeff Monague, and our Quaker Study, led by Canadian Friends Service Committee’s Jennifer Preston, was on the theme of “Faith, Reconciliation, and Relationships with Indigenous Peoples.” Jennifer invited several Friends to share their experiences with reconciliation.  She also brought to bear her considerable experience working on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on an international level, and for reconciliation nationally.

Prior to the official start of Canadian Yearly Meeting, a number of Friends enjoyed a pre-Gathering retreat on “Sharing our Spiritual Journey” led by Ellen Helmuth of New Brunswick Monthly Meeting. Friends were invited to reflect on the mentors and testimonies that had formed them, and to share and write stories of their spiritual journeys.

Over thirty Young Friends and Young Adult Friends (ages 13-35) also gathered before CYM at Camp NeeKauNis, a Quaker camp which has been operating for over seven decades. They spent time playing, swimming, singing, getting to know each other, and discerning how best to support our Young Friends/Young Adult Friends community, given that Canadian Young Friends Yearly Meeting has been on hiatus as an official body since 2016.

Young Friends and Young Adult Friends (YFs and YAFs) continued their discernment process during CYM. They decided to revive Canadian Young Friends Yearly Meeting and provisionally to replace the previous clerk structure with a team of Youth Representatives and a separate organizing committee for the next Youth Gathering. This, we hope, will provide a more sustainable leadership structure.

After this revival was reported to CYM Thursday morning, there was an extended period of worship during our Meeting for Business. Young Friends and Young Adult Friends were held in the Light while they used a worship-sharing format to respond to the following query: “How can and do Quakers across Canada welcome and nourish Young Friends and Young Adult Friends, recognizing them as valued community members?” It was a powerful opportunity to hold and listen to YFs/YAFs as they shared joys and challenges about being integrated into the broader Quaker community. Older Friends were encouraged to keep listening to YFs/YAFs in support of their growth and blossoming.

A highlight of this year’s programming was Arthur Larrabee’s Sunderland P. Gardner lecture on “Making Room for Spirit.” Arthur, a visitor from Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, drew on spiritual insights from various religious traditions, as well as personal (often humorous) anecdotes, to explain how we might remove barriers to Spirit in our lives by dissolving attachment, practicing patience, ‘dying’ into fear, and embracing paradox.

With two years having elapsed since we last gathered, the list of Friends who have died since our last Yearly Meeting was very long. The Memorial Meeting was beautiful and moving, and we are truly grateful for the grace of God evident in the lives of these Friends.

During our business sessions, we celebrated the formation of Atlantic Half Yearly Meeting, moved forward in defining a process for creating Advices and Queries specific to the Canadian context, and asked the Clerk of CYM to write a letter to the Pope commending him for adding his support to the many voices demanding abolition of the death penalty.

We learned that Canadian Yearly Meeting shares in the honours conveyed by the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, having become a partner organization of the recipient, the International Committee to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, in 2012. The name “Religious Society of Friends, Canada” is recorded with others on the commemorative stone marker in Oslo, Norway.

A report by Nominating Committee of the challenges in filling CYM positions led to a discussion of Friends’ individual strengths and weaknesses, and Friends were encouraged to engage in discernment rooted in getting to know each other better and being willing to try new and unfamiliar things. One position which was not filled was that of “Carbon Coordinator;” later we were delighted to learn that a small group of Friends has agreed to have their names put forward together as a team for this position to help us understand how to reduce our environmental footprint.

A wide and varied bouquet of Special Interest Groups was offered throughout the week on topics such as restorative justice, Friendly outreach, couples’ enrichment, experiences with cancer, tools for spiritual discernment, electronic surveillance, death and dying, environmental concerns, principles of Quaker Faith, the “No Way to Treat a Child” campaign to end Israeli military detention of Palestinian children, lessons from Britain Yearly Meeting, the erosion of democracy in the US, and more.

We enjoyed the contributions of several visitors: Gloria Thompson from Friends World Committee for Consultation (and Manhattan Monthly Meeting), Anne Pomeroy from Friends General Conference (and New York Yearly Meeting), Hugh O’Farrell Walsh from Ireland Yearly Meeting (who was a particular joy to YFs/YAFs), and the family of Binwa and Etienne Paul Mungombe, from the evangelical United Friends Churches in Canada (UFC). UFC invited Friends in Canadian Yearly Meeting to its general conference August 25-26.

A thread ran through the way we welcomed Evangelical Francophone Friends, engaged in a week-long reflection on right relations with Indigenous peoples, and really listened to Young Friends and Young Adult Friends. We realize that God is calling us to widen our circle and to challenge the barriers we unconsciously have placed on our welcome.

Great joy and fellowship was shared during CYM’s visit to Camp NeeKauNis, Family Night, and in all the nooks and crannies that Friends creatively found in our very full schedule. Though we may have come to CYM as individuals, we left as family.

Minutes Now Available from CYM 2018

The final, official minutes the business meetings of Canadian Yearly Meeting 2018 are now available.

They can be found on the CYM Docs page on the business side of this site, where a log-in is required.

“Making Room for Spirit” – Listen to the 2018 SPG Lecture

The Sunderland P. Gardner lecture is an annual highlight of Canadian Yearly Meeting. The 2018 lecture, “Making Room for Spirit,” was delivered by Arthur  Larrabee of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting.

Listen to the 2018 SPG Lecture: “Making Room for Spirit” by Arthur Larrabee (mp3)

The talk explored spiritual practices which we can use to make room for Spirit in our lives.

“God and Spirit are everywhere present,” Arthur explains,” but we get caught up in patterns of living that make it difficult to access Spirit and spiritual energy. For many of us, there is ‘no room in the inn’ for Spirit.”

“As a Quaker, three spiritual practices which I have found helpful in deepening my spiritual journey are the practice of dissolving attachments, the practice of ‘dying’ into fear, and the practice of embracing paradox. In my talk I share my experiences with these spiritual practices, how they have come into my life, and how I have used them to make room for Spirit.”

Space is still available! Fall Canadian Quaker Online Courses

Want to learn more about the Quaker faith? Education and Outreach Committee is offering two online courses this fall – “Introduction to Friends’ Ways” and “Quaker Faith and Practice.”

Newcomers to Quaker meetings, experienced Quakers, or those simply curious about Quaker ways can all find be enriched by these courses, with a mix of group, individual, experiential, and written learning.

Classes commence once there are enough people registered to start the course.

Introduction to Friends Ways

  • 6 x 2 hour sessions
  • Saturdays
    11:00am Pacific/ 12:00pm Mountain/ 1:00pm Central/ 2:00pm Eastern/ 3:00pm Atlantic/ 3:30pm Newfoundland-Labrador
  • Anticipated start date of October 20, with a technology test-run the week prior.

Quaker Faith and Practice

  • 8 weeks
  • Mondays, 3:00pm Pacific/ 4:00pm Mountain/ 5:00pm Central/ 6:00pm Eastern/ 7:00pm Atlantic/ 7:30pm Newfoundland-Labrador
  • Anticipated start date of October 22, with a technology test-run the week prior.

Find out what Friends are saying about E&O online courses
More information about online courses
Sign up for a Fall online course!
Contact the Online Course Administrator

Farewell to Elaine Bishop as CYM Clerk

Elaine Bishop was released from her role as Clerk of Canadian Yearly Meeting at the rise of CYM-in-Session this August. Elaine has served as Clerk for the past four years, graciously extending an initial three-year term to “finish some of the good things started, and also because no-one came forward to serve,” as she put it.

A member of Winnipeg Monthly Meeting, Elaine had previously served as Clerk of CYM in the 1980s.

While Elaine brought a wealth of experience and wisdom to the role, Canadian Yearly Meeting is in good hands with Beverly Shepard (Hamilton Monthly Meeting) continuing on as Clerk. Bev has served as Clerk alongside Elaine since last November’s Representative Meeting, and has previously served as Clerk of Yearly Meeting from 2004-9. (CYM is still looking for an Incoming Clerk; suggestions can always be sent to .)

Mentoring Clerk Elaine Bishop, Presiding Clerk Beverly Shepard, Co-Recording Clerks Dale Dewar, John Samson Fellows

Elaine’s birthday also happened to fall during CYM (August 12!), which was a great excuse to have cake.

Two tributes given to Elaine at CYM are reproduced here:

Tribute by Kerry MacAdam, CYM’s Office Administrator

Where do I start? To recognize Elaine and her amazing contribution to CYM would require an entire SIG time slot – and since that’s no longer possible, I’ll only share a few words. I would be remiss in not mentioning her tremendous, heartfelt work with CYM which is far-reaching and for which the benefits will last for many years to come. Her professional life with CYM is obvious – well done, Elaine and thank you; you deserve every accolade!

I began working with Elaine on Program Committee – and more closely when she was Clerk of the Committee. I admired her style, I admired her attitude, I admired her ability to guide a meeting by being both gentle and firm. I immediately respected her.

Elaine transitioned from Clerk of Program Committee to Clerk of the World (as Gordon McClure once joked when he was CYM Clerk some years ago! That always made me chuckle.) I watched as Elaine guided CYM through some difficult transitions with grace. Elaine has been there for me both personally and professionally – when I wasn’t quite sure how to handle something, I instinctively knew who I could turn to.

I had the fortune to spend a few days with Elaine on a southern Ontario road trip scouting out sites for this year’s YM. I jokingly refer it to our Thelma and Louise Adventure, but without the awful ending – and sadly, without Brad Pitt! I also have a lovely herd of Scottish Highlander Coos (for us non-Scottlanders that means cows); and I update Elaine every now and then on how the herd is doing…

Elaine, you leave a legacy and very big shoes to fill. CYM is fortunate to have you in the Quaker family and I am blessed and honoured to know you and have you in my life. I think I speak for all of us when I say you’ve more than earned putting your feet up and enjoying a hot cup of tea.


Tribute to Elaine Bishop, on her release from the position of Clerk of Canadian Yearly Meeting

Elaine is one of the clearest thinkers I know. She has an extraordinary ability to simultaneously hold a vision of the big picture and the details that must be in place to achieve it.

Yesterday in Quaker Study, Manuela talked about gratitude as part of the inner journey of reconciliation.

– I am grateful for Elaine’s deep love of Quakerism and Canadian Yearly Meeting;

– I am grateful for the professionalism, guided by Spirit, which Elaine has brought to her work as Clerk;

– I am grateful for Elaine’s compassion for people and her ability to listen to hurt and to celebrate strength;

– I am grateful for Elaine’s courage to tackle big problems or challenges and to bring us out to the other side

Tomorrow we release Elaine from her service as Clerk of CYM, which followed a number of years of service as Clerk of Program Committee and previous service leading other CYM committees, including CFSC.

I hope we can allow Elaine space to explore a new rhythm to her life, and I hope Elaine can protect her own time to “love this land as Indigenous Peoples do.” I am confident Elaine will continue to be with us in new and exciting ways.

Thank you, Elaine, for sharing yourself so generously.

Go well –
Barbara Horvath, 10 August 2018.