Sunday, March 18, 2007

How do you get to NYYM Annual Sessions?

All aboard the Gravy Train.

Here’s a nice photograph in which to contemplate the good, luxe life, even if it is an inexpensive vacation destination for most NYYM members – it's a perennial luxury destination - NYYM's reason-to-be - to give carte blanche to the same old same-olds, who run the top-down hierarchy which is New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Some years ago there was a bus service right to the door of what has been for over 40 years, the New York Yearly Meeting annual sessions at Silver Bay, Lake George, New York State, USA. And who wanted to take it anyway? The train - chock full of bequest and trust fund money is much more befitting of the modern NYYM way.

Some have felt my missives a bit too pointed, bringing up hard-to-hear problems - internal problems of a dying Society all the while most of it relaxes at a beautiful destination once a year. What imagery could be more incongruous with the insistent mention of concepts like lying, cheating, no-show jobs in an overweight unresponsive paid organization? Add in the politics and top down authority, and my shunning by the ministers for helping to re-institute bottom up financing among NYYM Friends (psst...bottom up financing, if continued, will help to end all of these problems) and these serene pictures just don't make sense. So lets take a walk down a more gentle path in contemplation of truth. We’ll add in a few pictures and try and paint a nice calm picture for everyone.

How about this photograph? It is Lake George at sunset over Silver Bay.

I’ve been impressed most heavily by two of the most well known Quaker forebears – George Fox and John Woolman. What I’ve come to respect about Woolman was his clear sense of the underlying or the ‘Universal’ Truth in our world. And what the Truth came down to in his view, was how each of us treats each other, individually. How Woolman expressed his views was mostly through his witness to the economics of our world. The economics was the outward expression of what was lurking deep inside – he felt. These outward manifestations of slavery and war, being age old, and used since the beginning of time, were perpetuated by individuals who agreed one by one, to continue these economic manifestations of darkness.

Woolman had no tolerance for luxury, since he understood that although it enters us from the outward, it corrupts us inwardly. Woolman basically and quite succinctly said that the embrace of luxury
moves us to enslave others and to attack others. True?

We all have different views of what luxury constitutes? Is it that BMW 5 Series? I’ve seen the Beemer in your garage in white-bread Connecticut. So, we publicly eschew things that we sometimes privately embrace, or try to show something we’re not, like hypocrites. But no matter how much we criticize luxury, and know its wrong, we continue to go along to get along, and raise the NYYM budget ad infinitum, no matter where the moneycomes from - dead Monthly meetings which are too tired to grow, and no longer nurture or witness for themselves - and from trust funds and bequests – even better - declining membership or not. All for one week in summer, for this:

But, I thought I’d at least show a shot of the main lodge at the
Silver Bay Association to show Friends what it looks like after sunrise, the sun coming over the mountains on the east shore of Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains. You can’t see the rocking chairs on the front porch, but they’re there, probably empty at that early hour. Somehow the rocking chairs really say ‘Quaker’ to me, since I visited the Cape May FGC Gathering as a child to visit my grandfather there. Maybe Quakerism really is an old folks religion? That’s how I knew it first. That’s how it is now. How did it get that way? More importantly than chronological age, when did Quakerism become intolerant of new ways of doing things?

I’m not talking about new beliefs, just new ways of doing things. I’m not sure if the intolerance began recently, or if it began slowly some decades ago. I’ve been barking up a dead tree, most likely thinking I can reinvigorate Friends back to the ‘good old days’ when Friends had an individual responsibility to themselves and to the group. I’m somewhat well read and experienced in the Quaker faith, and have read the Quaker critics also. Quakers in groups are not as nice as they can be individually, many times.

See more pictures of Silver Bay on its Web Site.

Let’s put our minds into movie mode. Now that Amazing Grace is out, we’ll no doubt have discussions on whether Wilberforce was or was not a Quaker. But in the tradition of Friends, it was a pretty boring film, well photographed and costumed, but boring.

Lets roll forward the film and consider this new movie screenplay:

Scene: New York Yearly Meeting Financial Services
Committee meeting to plan the following year’s budget, Bay
View Hall, Silver Bay, basement, lights off, late July - you pick the year.

Interior Shot: Four people sitting at a long table (where 21
others should be but are not because of the apathy of Friends to deal with money and to serve on this committee)

- NYYM Treasurer (ex-officio on Financial Services) who oversees
the bookkeeping service

- General Services Coordinating Committee
Clerk, also Treasurer of the Trustees - self
appointed to act as the top-down regulator of that committee (can be seen as the organ grinder)

- Financial Services Clerk – (can be seen as the monkey running around obsequiously with his tin cup asking for donations, especially when NYYM
hired someone recently for too much money, to add to an already overweight expense budget)

- New member of the FS committee (interchangeable each as one or two new people come and go or get shunned for asking hard questions)

Sound: Sensaround Theater to reproduce exterior ambient sounds of water, shuffleboard, and racquet sports outside with 700 select Friends, their guests, their 3rd cousins, grandma and grandpa, neighborhood kids making free room and board to work 15 hours that week, at the cost of the declining membership of NYYM, frolicking to and fro. Stereo interior audio coming from each of the first three committee participants mouths – i.e. talking out of both sides of their mouths.

New Member: Mr. Treasurer, why can’t we have more expense detail within ‘Administrative Cost’ - $18,000? ($18,000 is 3% of the total annual expenditure.)

Treasurer: The bookkeeping service would charge us more.

New Member: (Thinks, but shuts up) what a load of crap – anyone who’s used bookkeeping software (and believe me the bookkeeping service or any Treasurer does) has very little problem identifying and reporting more specific categories of expense.

Here’s another nice shot to contemplate the good, luxe life, even if in an inexpensive vacation destination for most – but a nice destination to help give carte blanche to the same old same-olds, who run the show in NYYM.

Look closely at the next shot – see the web I photographed in the foreground at sunset at Lake George? It might be an omen - like the web of lies NYYM spins about its membership numbers and its budget line numbers. Oh, so the membership, is going up? – Hey let’s go sailing, then play tennis on the clay court!

But all in all, the NYYM annual sessions at the Silver Bay Association is a cheap vacation for those who don’t go to business sessions or committee meetings. But it's an expensive and long (7 days) annual sessions for those who do participate in the self-government of the Society, especially that many more Friends today live far from the Adirondack mountains, and below the poverty line. Those who work, mostly make less than the median income in any given county they live. Why can’t NYYM choose a campground or a college campus closed for the summer, like others do, at which to have their annual sessions? Nah, its easier not to change and to just tap into trust funds from the old wealthy monthly and quarterly meetings (which are dead or dying).

Which brings me to the transparency about dealings with the Silver Bay Association as a fixed location for the last 50 years, for the perennial booking each year in late July – the Sessions Committee, probably acting under pressure or orders from the General Services Coordinating Committee (NYYM really is a top down organization at this point, does anyone disagree?) –NYYM should convene with seriousness and lack of interference from the Trustees and the GSCC (General Services Coordinating Committee), in selecting a new site or sites for NYYM annual sessions which are not destinations in and of themselves. NYYM Trustees or other Friends should make public their ownership of property near or within the Silver Bay Association property. This is just one example of how NYYM is now non-transparent.

Why can’t the NYYM annual sessions move every five years or every year? It would allow each of the regions to be exposed to NYYM. As hard as my criticism is, can’t you see that if you suggest at NYYM, you will be silenced with fear of being crushed and shunned like I was, by the iron-clad fist of human authority now running NYYM?

Your Friend in the Truth,
Glenn R.
NYYM has neither answered any of my observations,
nor data that has been collected, but simply sent a sanctimonieus letter linked below.