In the face of a global pandemic, the faithful came together last July for Wilmington Yearly Meeting. In this unprecedented time, we did not travel from afar or even from our own homes to conduct the business of the Yearly Meeting: to worship together and to listen to the wisdom and messages of our featured speakers. Unsure as to the outcome, we met together from across the miles through this electronic thing called Zoom, a new and unchartered experience for Yearly Meeting to meet in this way.
From across the realm of social media, we found ourselves brought together in the midst of the Spirit. We conducted our business, shared our losses in our memorials, participated in worship sharing, learned more about our vision planning, and renewed our commitment to our testimonies, all with only one brief "Zoom bomb."
While not coming together in person where we could shake hands, share hugs, and sit around tables for meals, we are filled with gratitude that in the age of COVID-19 there was still a successful and meaningful Yearly Meeting.
There was more than COVID-19 hanging over us for this most unusual Yearly Meeting. We all were struggling to find our voices in the face of the killing of George Floyd and the protests that have been ongoing since that tragedy.
As we struggle individually with racism, racial injustice, and inequality, so too we struggle within our communities, within our Meetings, and at the Yearly Meeting level. It was something that we knew we had to address during Yearly Meeting, if only to begin to start new conversations and new actions related to who we, as Quakers, must and should be in a time of upheaval and divisiveness. The following is an overview of a statement on racial equality from the Yearly Meeting to encourage us all to become engaged as Meetings and as individuals to do as much as we can to live our testimonies of equality and justice.
Summary of Wilmington Yearly Meeting Statement
There is a gap between the ideals we profess and the realities we live. This is true of the Religious Society of Friends, which has from our beginning proclaimed that there is that of God in everyone, as it is true of the United States, founded with the declaration “that all men (and women) are created equal.”
In 2020, the gap between the reality of American behavior and the ideals expressed in our founding documents has become particularly stark. Through social media, we have watched in horror as a policeman squeezed the life out of George Floyd (for eight minutes and 46 seconds.) What horrifies us most is that this was not an isolated incident, but an extreme example of a pattern of behavior all too common.
We recognize that our system for maintaining order often harasses, demeans, and sometimes kills our own citizens. Because of the ubiquitous presence of cameras and social media, we are now forced to be present when the unspeakable happens…to see it with our own eyes.
Meanwhile, at our southern border, more than 5,000 children remain separated from their parents, living in cages. Though the worst of these practices were ordered to be curtailed by our courts, the inhumane and cruel treatment of migrants continues.
Such behaviors by authorities have a common root, a root that reaches back to the time when keeping order meant keeping black and brown people "in their place." Quakers have always rejected this idea and worked for equal justice for all. We are at a time to acknowledge that those of us who are white are the beneficiaries of privileges not accorded all Americans. Our personal behavior sometimes reveals implicit biases that conflict with our ideals, resulting in the oppression of others.
As we as a nation now must look at both the symbols and realities of systemic racism, members of Wilmington Yearly Meeting pledge to work with renewed vigor for compassion, justice, and equality for all, in accordance with our testimonies.