Homewood SSMR 2011
Homewood Friends Meeting
Spiritual State of the Meeting 2011
Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood continues to be a spiritual community where members and attenders of all ages come to be refreshed and to seek meaning in their lives. This report is the result of a process started by Baltimore Yearly Meeting, which asked Monthly Meetings to respond to five questions for their annual Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports. Homewood’s Ministry and Counsel Committee made the questions available to members and attenders during the months of December 2011 and January 2012. We received a number of thoughtful responses from which we derived this report, primarily from our older members, which seemed to reflect what the Ministry and Counsel Committee members observed during the year. It is worth noting that a number of survey respondents expressed that they were confused by the questions or felt that they were repetitive. For the sake of brevity, answers were distilled to their essence and redundancy was eliminated in this report as much as possible.
Question 1. How does the Spirit prosper among us?
Messages that we hear in meeting for worship suggest that the Spirit prospers among us. It also prospers in religious education, in the work we do for the Meeting, and in projects and events. Words that respondents used to describe this prosperity include integrity, intention, purpose, fellowship, love, and the good among us. Despite these strengths, some of us can imagine an even stronger sense of community and purpose within Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood and the neighborhood, city and broader environment of which our Monthly Meeting is part.
Question 2. What supports the growth of the Spirit in our lives?
Many of us have trouble taking care of ourselves because we are so busy with work and family responsibilities. The Spirit grows in us when we can be quiet and still with each other in Meeting for worship. It also grows in our relationships where we can nurture one another, let go and forgive, and connect with each other in a spiritual community where our beliefs are supported. These relationships deepen as we learn together in religious education, work together on work days, meet to conduct business, and attend committee meetings.
Question 3. How has the presence of the Spirit manifested in our lives individually and as a Meeting community?
The Ministry and Counsel Committee and other respondents see several ways in which the Spirit manifests itself. These ways include Meeting for worship, which has rich silence and messages from wise and seasoned Quakers. The Spirit manifests itself in the sharing of our space with Young Friends and other groups such as the Occupy movement. It is clearly present in the active practice of the peace testimony, exemplified by the continuing presence of our peace vigil for 10 years, even as it only engages a few from our Meeting. The activity of new attenders and members who contribute to the work of the Meeting shows us the presence of the Spirit.
In addition, the Spirit is felt during Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, committee work, celebrations of passage for members and attenders, and adult first day school activities. Some people expressed in their responses to this question that nurturing proper stewardship of our own needs in Meeting helps us give individually to others with fewer resources. We strive to love ourselves, those in the Meeting community, and co-workers and neighbors, and to have, in our wider community, a gentleness towards others and a greater appreciation of diversity. We feel the Spirit when we acknowledge our shortcomings and seek to better ourselves and live in harmony with God.
Question 4: How do we as a Meeting appear to ourselves and others, and how do we wish to be?
Physically, our place of worship is not very visible along Charles Street, although our small but continuing witness on Friday evenings leads many to feel that in general our Meeting is, and is perceived to be, progressive on peace and justice issues. Nevertheless, we are plagued by physical building issues that may turn some away. For example, excessive mold, which seems to continue despite great effort, may keep some from returning, as may acoustical issues in our large meeting room.
In addition, our form of worship is not transparent to attenders and to the outside world. The words and language we use may be abstract, even to those of us who participate frequently in worship. Waiting on the Spirit, and listening to the Voice within – which is our intention and tendency – do little to communicate explicitly what Quakerism is all about.
The apparent absence of leaders may mean that visitors and others unfamiliar with our community and the Society of Friends perceive that no one is in charge. We may know ourselves to be supportive and welcoming, but we are also aware that we have a number of one-time visitors and attenders. We see ourselves as a small Meeting that is perhaps losing in attendance. Some of us want more participation, more attendance at worship and at business meetings, more people actively at work on committees, and more contributions.
There is a general feeling that we should be more visible in the community. Because we do not proselytize and do not tend to act as a group outside of our Meetinghouse, our outreach is largely confined to gatherings at the Meetinghouse. The process of becoming a member is not readily available. We have regular visitors and the sense is that we could be doing more to encourage them to return.
Question 5. How have we recognized and addressed (or failed to address) issues that have caused difficulties among us?
Ministry and Counsel Committee oversees the life of the Meeting in a variety of ways to identify challenges and potential solutions. Our sources include spoken messages at worship, discussions at Meeting for Business and Administrative Committee, exchanges at Simple Lunch, and conversations at committees. Through our interactions, we realize that Homewood is a small Meeting with people whose personal, work and social lives place limitations on the amount of time they can devote to Meeting. In response, we attempted to assess our capabilities realistically, try new ways to complete our tasks, and prioritize our concerns. We have Co-clerks for Meeting. The two existing committees on peace and social witness from Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood and Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run were consolidated into one committee, the Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee, with an uptick in energy. Committees showed flexibility in changing their meeting dates or location to accommodate the schedules or the health concerns of their members. Two committees do not have a clerk: Ministry and Counsel and Nominating committees. These committees found ways for different members to take responsibility for clerking the committee’s monthly meetings and attending Administrative Committee, as well as other clerking tasks.
For years Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood struggled to have a vibrant First Day program for its high schoolers. The relatively small number of children in that age group, combined with fluctuating attendance, made a viable program difficult. These teenagers are now participating in the program at Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run and thriving in that religious and social setting. Parents of those children may continue to attend Homewood, have become part of the Stony Run or are involved with both Meetings.
Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood took steps to strengthen and increase its sense of community. The Religious Education programs, including the Quaker Book Club and Experiment with Light, attracted members, attenders, and newcomers to Homewood. There is a renewed emphasis on the nurturing of people new to Homewood. Simple Lunch continues to involve a wonderfully diverse population in conversation and socializing. Homewood tried to address difficult issues, yet we recognize that other concerns will undoubtedly arise in the future. We believe solutions will continue to evolve and we remain open to new paths.