A Reflection on CYM 2010 in Winnipeg

By Ben Segel-Brown

I am a birthright Friend and have attended Quaker meeting all of my life. I attended Canadian Yearly Meeting in Winnipeg as a CFSC intern and also as a delegate of Ottawa Monthly Meeting. These dual obligations overlapped with the Young Friends programmed time, and my obligations to the Food co-op, so while constantly busy, I was also constantly missing events. This was my second time attending yearly meeting, as well as my second time as a delegate of OMM. Having multiple roles kept me engaged with CYM, but also made be somewhat of a worse delegate as I had to ask Rachel Urban Shipley to attend nominations meeting on my behalf and catch me up when I was free.

I joyfully participated in a worship-sharing group, which was a wonderful open experience. It was a refreshing experience to hear what people really felt about their families, F/friends, and issues that are on their minds. It felt awkward at first hearing such personal thoughts, but it was a great experience to have people speak so honestly.

One issue discussed at the worship-sharing was the Peaceful Energy Minute considered within a special interest group I had attended. I found that I and two other participants had completely different perspectives on the productiveness and nature of the working group.

The Peaceful Energy Minute, which Ottawa Monthly Meeting discussed (then John Dixon reported on) arose out of the Uranium Working Group’s research into the harmful environmental and health impacts of Uranium mining as well the link between civilian nuclear fission use and military fission use. These points were demonstrated by their research are generally agreed upon. Unfortunately, the minute that the working group brought to CYM last year essentially called for a ban on nuclear power which conflicted with many Friends’ view that stopping Global Warming is our highest priority and that as a transition power source nuclear power is essential to the phase-out of fossil fuel use. This Peaceful Energy Minute was rejected last year.

My impression of the peaceful energy minute was that there was no unity (within the SIG or within CYM), either on the statement or its underlying ideas. I had felt the SIG was hurtful, frustrating, and unproductive. Surprisingly, a fellow member of my worship sharing group felt that the SIG was revealing, healing, and had done much to improve communication and move towards consensus on the underlying issues. I learned that conflict and breaches of procedure can be interpreted very differently by those who attend it. A similar contrast of perspectives arose when the Uranium Working Group was thanked by CYM, in lieu of approving any minute as no minute was approved by the SIG. One member, who had expressed his opinions passionately but politely at the SIG, spoke asking for a condemnation of Nuclear Fission. When the clerk rejected discussing the ideas as it had already be rejected at the SIG the member’s comments turned personal and accusatory against the clerk who was forced to discipline him. Likewise, many sympathised with the member for speaking what he was passionately led to say, and felt that the Friends spoke their mind quite contrary to my impression of the incident.

At the Peaceful Energy SIG I attended where the Peaceful Energy Minute was discussed, rather than bringing forward last year’s minute, which had been presented to CYM, the working group began by presenting a minute from Saskatoon Monthly Meeting, which few attendees had read.  This minute did not incorporate the concerns of many meetings and I questioned the suitability of using it as the working text for the minute. I found this SIG very frustrating, because being inspired by the previous day’s presentation organised by the working group (by Rick McCutcheon on the viability and necessity of sustainable energy) and frustrated by the presentation of last year’s rejected text, I had written my own version of the minute. I had also scrabbled to have it edited and deemed acceptable by each member of the committee and a variety of people with identified interests in it, which I and another Friend managed just as the SIG began. The SIG then proceeded to identify the same issues that had been raised in consultation with MMs, which I had read and attempted to address in my version, but many of which had not been addressed in Saskatoon MM’s minute. There was high tension and speaking out of turn over accusations relating to MMs refusal to host presentations from the uranium working group on the basis that they were not open to feedback and attempted to force their ideas upon MMs, rather than attempt to understand people’s objections. If this was healing or hurtful was apparently up to interpretation.

There were however many clearly wonderful experiences at CYM, for instance the shedding of tears and expressions of joy when a minute from Quakers Fostering Justice was approved almost without modification. In the ministry of one Friend, “This is why I became a Quaker!”  It was also a very energising experience being surrounded by people passionate about the same social issues I’m passionate about.

The little time I got to spend with Young Friends was also amazing: we learnt some swing dancing, we had our annual actually-helpful-and-somewhat-relevant sex talk, we sang as we walked together, and we played Wink with only minor injuries.

During the Tar Sands SIG I presented my findings on the oil sands leases, which was one piece of work I had done as an intern for CFSC. This SIG was entirely different from the Peaceful Energy SIG as it was run as an information session informing people about the issues, before proceeding to seeking an agreement on a statement on which there was already a strong underlying consensus. This statement, which proposed that Friends work with KAIROS on the tar sands, summarised feedback from MMs, and accepted Rachael Singleton-Polster and my reports on the oil sands.

CYM was a great and productive experience overall and I am very thankful for the support of CFSC and Ottawa Monthly meeting.

Canadian Young Friends Yearly Meeting Epistle 2009

We all gathered together on the first day of CYM with the presence of this year’s teen coordinator, the lovely Janet Ross, and with the intermediate friends coordinator, Teresa Engler. We had an interesting morning talking about cycles, and relationships with nature, and people around us. Monday night was our first ‘unofficial’ business meeting.  However, as time passed, the unofficial meeting became more interesting in the new approach that we were coming up with, due to Peter Stevenson’s thoughts towards the efficiency of the meeting, as it has been an issue in the past that the meetings were getting too long, and were uninteresting. The logic behind the possible changes were, that we could potentially join positions together and make it  easier for nominating committee as well as reducing the time of our business meetings. If this is to take place, it will leave us with more time to discuss what, as YAFs and YFs is more important to us.

Tuesday morning was started with Worship sharing and because this years’ group is larger, we split off into three groups.  After a short snack we gathered back in room 112 and listened to Vince Zelazny.  He explained what he did with his work career in forestry.  After, we headed out into the great outdoors, and found different species of plants and critters. We identified each species with the help Vince Zelazny, and Rebecca Ivanoff. We learned about the Milkweed plant, as well as Plantain and many others. The afternoon went by in a blur we were joined by Tasmin Rajott and her Earth Loom to learn about the commons. The strings were our individual commons. After everyone’s string was attached we were informed that later on in the week, we would play a ‘game’ where we would weave our tapestry and complete the Loom. After that presentation we had the honor of Ellen Gabriel who came to talk to us about her People, and their struggles. She also told us how her People believed that the moon was their Grandmother, the sun was their Elder Brother and the earth was the Mother. She also talked about the outline of the OKA crisis.

Worship sharing was again the start to Wednesday morning, followed by the traditional Sex talk with Bill Curry and Dale Dewar. The YFs and the YAFs were divided into different groups, for the appropriate match of the age, with information.  The afternoon was wonderful, playing in the sun and tie-dying. All youth friends were involved, and the t-shirts as you might have recognized were fabulous! In the evening most of us went to the SPG lecture. Then cake was cut, in celebration of the 30th anniversary, of the Quaker Book Store, and the service of Vernon and Dana Mullen. Later in the evening Maggie Knight took the opportunity to interview youth, in a group for her Quaker Youth Journalism Project. Truths, laughs, support, emotions, and cake were shared among friends.

On Thursday various YFs and YAFs attended different business meetings, participating and gathering more information around several topics, such as Israel/Palestine, and the debate involving FUM. Starting at 7:30 pm the teen group had our first Official business meeting. We set ourselves a goal as to complete most items on the agenda by dark. Everything went smoothly and we only went about 40 minutes over time, which we regarded as a major accomplishment.  Of course as any young friend would say, the night was still young and would not be complete with the annual game of Wink with the added plus of running in the thunder storm. 

Friday started like the rest of the week with Worship Sharing groups, Debora Fisch came to talk to us about FUM. In the afternoon Meredith Egan came to talk about Victims of crime, and how it is important to be with each other when we may be hurting.

All in all this CYM has been an extremely positive and peaceful week. By supporting each other and loving one another, we can achieve anything. We look forward to learning more about the various committees’ and problems in our world, and what we can do as Young Friends to help. This year’s theme was ‘Friends with Mother Earth’. We did just that. This week was about slowing down, taking the time because all around you there are opportunities.  When we take time and slow down it helps us recognize the chances we get in life. We can reach for those opportunities and make it something special. We can turn it into something unique, something that a Young Quaker Friend can do. Young Friends will always be with each other, supporting each other, and loving each other.  Thanks for the wonderful memories, and the peaceful week!