2020 Annual Sessions


06/17/2020 - 06/21/2020    
All Day

Event Type

Table of Contents

“Embracing Our Call to Faith; Envisioning Our Shared Future”

The 200th Annual Sessions of Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting will be held online.

The Planning Committee has come to several understandings and conclusions in moving this year’s gathering online:

  • Maintaining a schedule that resembles our face-to-face sessions will provide familiarity and possibly even comfort in these difficult times;
  • “Zoom fatigue” is real, and spending an extended time online is difficult and tiring;
  • Multi-person households may have a limited number of devices to participate in concurrent activities;
  • Parents overseeing children’s participation will have a difficult time joining in a simultaneous adult activity.

For these reasons, we have scaled back the number of our activities and developed a schedule with limited overlap, while keeping the basic schedule much the same as in past years.


Early registration will help with planning. You can sign up using the registration form.

Orientation and Welcome Activity

Annual sessions will officially begin with an orientation followed by a welcoming and community building activity on Wednesday afternoon through Zoom.

The orientation will last about 30 minutes and go through the ways we’ll be using Zoom through the rest of the week and include a chance to practice.

Anyone who would like some assistance beforehand in learning how to access Zoom may email csimmons45387@yahoo.com or call Carol Simmons at 937-232-4250, and a Friend will happily get in touch with you and walk you through the process.

Plenary Sessions

Cathy Roma: “Count It Joy: Conducting Choirs in Ohio Prisons for 30 Years”

Thursday, June 18, 7-8/8:30 p.m.

A choral conductor and social justice activist, Cathy believes in the transformative power of music to change lives on an individual and societal level. She began working in prisons as a faculty member at Wilmington College and eventually founded three separate choirs in Ohio prisons, all of which remain active, though temporarily halted during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Cathy will speak about her choral work in prisons and for social justice; show some videos from highlights of her choirs’ activities; and engage in dialogue with OVYM annual sessions participants via Zoom.

Cathy is a member of OVYM’s Yellow Springs Friends Meeting. A native of Philadelphia, she became familiar with Quakers as a student at Philadelphia’s Germantown Friends School, where she is a graduate. Eventually moving to southwestern Ohio, Cathy founded and directed MUSE: Cincinnati Women’s Choir, retiring from the group in 2012. That same year she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses. She more recently founded the World House Choir, based in Yellow Springs, which she still leads.

Emily Provance: “The Inheritance”

Friday, June 19, 7-8/8:30 p.m.

What is the call to faith that we inherit from those who came before? How do we embrace it? What does that mean? At what point, exactly, does the faith become ours? Once we have it, what does it mean to steward it? And how do we prepare this inheritance to be passed along?

In this session, we will alternate between large-group listening and small-group discussion, using stories and queries to explore the broader subject of inheritance. Friends of all ages are welcome to participate; those who find it hard to be still are encouraged to bring coloring, knitting, doodle pages, etc.

Emily is a member of Fifteenth Street Meeting and thinks of New York City as home, though she now travels in the ministry full time. She came to Friends after seventeen years of searching for a faith community. She understands the Religious Society of Friends to be a covenant community and has spent time with Friends from various branches of the tradition in Kenya, Belize, Britain, Ireland, Tanzania, Palestine, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. She is an associate of Good News Associates.


Friday, June 19, 1-2/2:30 p.m.

OVYM@200: His Story, Her Story, Their Story

Facilitator: Paul Buckley, a member of Community Friends Meeting, is a Quaker historian and theologian and the author of several books.

Paul writes: “The history of OVYM is like the history of a forest. Telling the story of a few big trees doesn’t capture the essence of the woods. With activities modeled on the Smithsonian Institution’s StoryCorps, we will be looking at how we each contribute to the ongoing history of our yearly meeting. Each participant will have the opportunity to record their story. The recordings will be made available to everyone in the yearly meeting.”

Come prepared to speak to one of two queries:

  • Query 1 (For those not born into a Quaker family): Why did I first come to a Quaker meeting?

    And more importantly, once you knew who we are, why did you come back?

  • Query 2 (For those born into a Quaker family): Why did you keep coming?

Support within Meetings in Changing and Uncertain Times

Facilitator: Dale Hayes, of Eastern Hills Monthly Meeting, on behalf of OVYM’s Religious Nurture and Education Committee

How do we maintain our spiritual community and offer care to one another?

This workshop will explore how we can best support the diverse needs of Friends at this time and beyond, including nurturing our children, aiding those facing financial insecurity, and those who are vulnerable due to health concerns. What are some of the creative practices our meetings have discovered?

Poetry and Play-dough

Presenters: Gloria Stearns-Bruner, of Bloomington Friends, and Kaia Jackson, OVYM Youth Secretary. Gloria is a licensed music therapist, and Kaia is a new graduate of the Earlham School of Religion.

In this workshop inspired by “On the Spirituality of Lightheartedness,” by Helen Steere Horn, we will play with words and shapes to explore lightening our burdens in our shared future.

Note: Please make the play-dough ahead of time:


  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/3 cup of salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • Essential oil/food coloring if wanted


  1. Put water in a bowl and add food coloring/essential oil (optional). Add canola/vegetable oil.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix flour and salt together.
  3. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
  4. Knead together on a flat surface.

Saturday, June 10, 1-2/2:30 p.m.

A Joyful Earthcare Path: Contemplative Walking as Worship

Facilitator: Bill Cahalan, of Community Friends, on behalf of OVYM’s Earth Care Committee

Our work to heal the deteriorating human-Earth relationship can be paralyzed by discouragement or despair. But we can better face the crisis we are in, moving into essential action, by regularly cultivating gratitude and a sense of belonging to the family of Life. As we do this, we may discover joy and compassion that energizes us and helps us accept our grief.

We will begin our Zoom meeting with introductions and brief discussion of a practice that may complement our usual indoor worship. It involves a contemplative, deep listening encounter with the natural communities in which we each live. Leaving the Zoom meeting, most of your time will be spent on a leisurely, silent walk through your own yard, neighborhood or nearby wild landscape. You will be invited to pause regularly and gaze empathically, entering into the beings and elements of land and sky which move you or invite your attention. Back on Zoom together we will end with a different kind of worship sharing.

Bible study through the light of Queer Theology

Facilitator: Anthony Kirk, a recent graduate from the Earlham School of Religion with a master of divinity degree

In this workshop, we will begin with an exploration of Queer Theology, which has three components (as modified from the definition by Episcopal priest and theologian Patrick Cheng):

  1. Theology done with LGBTQ people.
  2. Theology that purposely opposes social and cultural norms regarding gender and sexuality. It seeks to unearth hidden voices or hidden perspectives that allow theology to be seen in a new light.
  3. Theology that challenges and deconstructs boundaries.
    From here, we will explore a passage of scripture together through the light of Queer Theology.

Queer folks and allies alike are welcome and encouraged to participate!

FCNL: Preventing War with Iran and Ending War in Yemen

Facilitators: Hassan El-Tayyab and Alicia McBride, of Friends Committee on National Legislation

This workshop will provide a space for participants to hear the latest news from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and get a legislative update on FCNL’s Middle East policy advocacy on ending U.S. support for the Saudi war on Yemen, restoring humanitarian assistance to Yemen, and preventing a new war with Iran. This workshop is a chance to get in depth policy analysis, engage in discussion around these pressing topics, and learn about opportunities we can take action to advance peace in the Middle East region. OVYM Friends may remember that Alicia, who has family ties to OVYM, was a guest at sessions several years ago.

For more information on FCNL’s work in this area:

Courageous Conversations: A Model for Promoting Interracial Dialog and Personal Understanding of Racism 

Facilitator: Bruce Heckman, of Yellow Springs Friends Meeting

In the weeks since the death of George Floyd, Friends have focused increasing attention on matters of race and racism and how we respond to it. This workshop will describe a project initiated not quite three years ago in Yellow Springs called Courageous Conversations. The project’s purpose has been to engage the community in personally meaningful dialog about their experiences of racism and to encourage individual and collective action. This workshop will provide a brief natural history of Courageous Conversations, anecdotal information about what has worked and what hasn’t, opportunities to test drive an experiential exercise, and a chance to discuss the program’s transferability to other communities. A PDF of the facilitator’s manual to be provided to those interested. 


Worship and worship sharing will be take place each day beginning Thursday.

Wednesday’s meeting for business is likely to begin at 7:05.

Sunday’s Meeting for Worship (about 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.), will have an opportunity afterwards to visit with Friends.

Healing Center / Yoga

The Healing Center will offer a variety of individual and group practices including mindfulness meditation, music and movement, self-massage, contemplative walk (away from computer!), and compassionate listening. There will be 3-4 licensed healing practitioners and peer helpers on hand. For questions, please contact Gloria Stearns-Bruner or Deborah Jordan.

Morning Yoga: Thursday and Friday morning sessions will be led by Deborah Jordan; Saturday morning session led by Bob Holada; Sunday morning’s session will be a pre-recorded session kindly offered by Kaia Jackson.

Interest Groups

Friends are invited to arrange interest groups of their choosing during the evening hours after the business meeting on Wednesday and the plenary sessions on Thursday and Friday — or even days within a month of the start of sessions (the Zoom account is good for 30 days).

If you have an interest group you would like to have listed in on the OVYM annual sessions page, please send the title to csimmons45387@yahoo.com. Zoom call-in information will then be assigned and noted on the website.

Discussion on FGC’s request to collect age and race demographic data

As part of FGC’s continuing work coming out of its recent self-assessment of institutional racism, the FGC Central Committee approved the following minute: 

Central Committee resolves to ask Monthly Meetings and Yearly Meetings to collect age and race demographics of Friends. This information will assist meetings in assessing their progress in becoming anti-racist faith organizations. Similarly, FGC will use this information in their nomination process to identify, welcome, and support friends of color as full participants in FGC, its governing body, and structures.

Chris Harmer, OVYM’s representative to FGC, and FGC’s Claire Cohen would like to host an interest group via Zoom after annual sessions have concluded to explain and discuss the initiative.
As Chris wrote for Reports in Advance: “Several OVYM Monthly Meetings have already been in discernment about how this minute might be addressed. The core principles are that we must acknowledge where we are with respect to our inclusivity and diversity and that we cannot chart a path forward without bringing forward into full participation and leadership the people of color in our meetings at every level.”
The day and time of the Zoom meeting will be determined through a Doodle poll (online survey) of interested participants. Anyone interested may contact Chris at colonel221@yahoo.com.

Talent/Variety Show

Saturday, June 20, 7:00-9:00 p.m. 

Yes! It’s happening! And this unconventional year give us a chance to think imaginatively about sharing our talents. You could sing, dance, offer a family skit, show a short video, play an instrument, read poetry, tell jokes, or show off your beautiful garden or cool Lego structure. Sign up by emailing benovym@mac.com or call Ben Griffith (502) 330-4989.


A Help/Registration Desk will be open daily from 8:00 to 8:30 and 12:00 to 12:30.

Meal times are not explicitly scheduled. Friends are encouraged to take meals as they are able.