History of Northern Yearly Meeting

NYM began in 1960 as Northern Half-yearly Meeting, with Meetings for Worship in Wisconsin and Minnesota, under the care of Illinois Yearly Meeting.

For many Friends the “halfly” helped compensate for the isolation which they felt from the values of mainstream society. A Friend stated:

We didn’t get together and “found” Quaker churches as missions. We found each other in our needs and concerns for peace, race relations and other social issues [as well as] our need to share parenting that emphasized these Quaker values.

Northern Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice

The spring and fall all-day Saturday meetings rotated among the three larger host cities – Minneapolis, Madison and Milwaukee – developed into a weekend camp format in 1965, meeting the need for fellowship, worship and further education in Quakerism.

As more Friends in the region began to participate in these camps, Northern Yearly Meeting was established in September of 1975. The first 25 years witnessed vigorous growth in the size of the Northern Yearly Meeting gatherings. New committees developed to plan youth and adult programs, advancement and outreach, and to develop a newsletter.

Many new meetings and worship groups have emerged.

The early years of Northern Yearly Meeting marked the development of some special connections for nurture, including Nightingales, Friendly Folk Dancers, the Friends for Lesbian and Gay Concerns (now Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns, the Friends in Unity With Nature, and the Spiritual Nurture Program.

Northern Yearly Meeting was only eleven years old when it came together to do the work to host a full Friends General Conference Gathering at Carlton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Including 2016, it has hosted four more Gatherings within our region, as well as a Caregivers Consultation one autumn.

One major factor in holding attendance of NYM sessions steady has been the continuing development of the Children and Youth program. As our twice a year sessions moved from camp to campus, people looked for ways and space to provide activities that would support family attendance.

The Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) has historically encouraged connections between yearly meetings, particularly in the north-south direction. The early roots of Northern Yearly Meeting’s relationship with El Salvador Yearly Meeting (ESYM) began in the late 1970s and grew to form an alliance, exchanging representatives at annual sessions. Youth groups from NYM have been hosted by Salavadoran Friends. NYM Friends have committed some financial resources to relief efforts and scholarship funds for Friends schools in El Salvador. Salvadoran Friends have offered a variety of interest groups, discussions, and cultural activities, and led worship on several occasions during regular annual session visits.

Northern Yearly Meeting has provided rich opportunities for worship, business, education, and fellowship for participants from youngest to oldest. We continue listening to the voice of the Inner Guide. A vital, creative energy has been characteristic of the experience of Northern Yearly Meeting during the last 40 years. We pray that we will continue to be led on this corporate spiritual journey into the future.

For a detailed history, including early migration of Friends to the upper Midwest and the formation of early Friends Meetings, see The Early History of Northern Yearly Meeting chapter in Northern Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice.