Deer Creek Meeting Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports
The text of recently received Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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At the close of 2015, new attendees and long-time members alike described Deer Creek Meeting as truly a gathering of Friends. The newcomers are a welcome and happy addition. They have enjoyed weekly sessions of Quakerism 101 taught by a long-time member with a depth of experience both as a Quaker and a teacher.
Our weekly lessons and discussions that precede the quiet time have a different presenter each week who prepares his or her own subject. They cover a range from Biblical themes to our theme for the year, Unity with Nature, applied both individually and globally. Participation in the discussions is general and, in the words of one newcomer, “comfortable.” It also creates a closeness that extends into the quiet time and enhances individual worship. Our quiet time is described by one member as a “deep silence.”
Participation in the Business Meetings has increased since their scheduling after, rather than before the Worship Service. The one negative in these meetings was tension earlier this year when an individual point of view disrupted long-standing consensus on the distribution of our financial assets. The problem was quietly and privately resolved by the Ministry & Oversight Committee and the Meeting has since enjoyed a kind of group relief. One member observed of our Business Meetings: “We are rather unique. We can include humor in our business.”
All of our committees are active and participation is general. After participation in community- wide efforts toward resolution of local racial issues, members of the Peace and Justice Committee continue to work individually for wider recognition of our community’s diversity. The Religious Education Committee continues a well-planned and well-taught program for a small but wide range of young people ranging from toddlers to teens. To connect with the wider community, they visited one Sunday the nearby Unitarian Church. The Advancement and Outreach Committee, under the leadership of two comparative newcomers, has plans for activities in the coming year for informal social gatherings for members, attendees, and families. The newly organized Unity with Nature Committee has combined with the Grounds Committee with visible results at the Meeting House. It has also inspired many lessons of great variety and much discussion this year.
Deer Creek Meeting has connected with the Darlington community and beyond with two projects that have become annual events. The Blueberry Festival in July brings the whole Meeting into action with the popular sale of blueberry pies, lunch off the grill, auction, native plant table, white elephant and book tables. At Christmas, volunteers gather at the nursery of one of our members who supplies the greens and expertise to make swags for the doors of the Meeting House and for sale.
The joint participation of the members of Deer Creek Meeting in the annual events is a reflection of their close involvement in the weekly meetings for discussion and worship. The informal circulation after the formal meetings is in itself a sign that the spiritual state of the Meeting is good. In a self-critique one member pointed to one flaw, the scarcity of active Friends under sixty.
Deer Creek felt that one of our most outstanding strengths was the excellent lessons taught by individual members and attenders. All content seemed relevant to our needs, and several members were pleased that Bible study was included. Adult Sunday school was once again taught during the summer months, and most felt this helped to increase attendance. Another strength was the depth of the Spirit experienced during Meeting for Worship. The Meeting is particularly delighted that the Sunday school children join us for the last fifteen minutes of Meeting for Worship. Many Friends expressed their pleasure that we worked together as a group but also allowed individuals to develop their talents which, in the end, helped the Meeting.
We continue to struggle with living our liives as God would have us to do. While this task is immensely difficult, it is our goal to have our behavior exemplify the principles and practices of Friends. We are also concerned about reaching out to all segments of our community.
We are very pleased to report that attendance at Meetings for Business has definitely improved. It is evident that scheduling business meetings after Meetings for Worship rather than before Sunday School meets the needs of more members and attenders. It was noted, however, the presence of even more attenders would be beneficial. There is often times a feeling of joy during our business sessions. However, there has been some tension when we faced several challenges on differing points of view.
We have a number of committees that contribute to the spiritual life of the Meeting in a variety of ways. The Peace and Social Concerns Committee has been very active and has been instrumental in making the Meeting and the larger community aware of the difficult issue of racism. The Religious Education Committee has been a model of enthusiasm, diligence and creativity as they strive to make meaningful lessons for our children. The Ministry and Oversight Committee continues to do much of their work behind the scenes as they endeavor to fulfill their duties of pastoral care, keeping harmony within the Meeting, and counseling individual members and attenders as the need arises.
As a whole, the Meeting has done well in being a part of the Darlington community. We hosted a most successful Community Breakfast and the Community Thanksgiving Service. We held our eighteenth Blueberry Festival which seems to be a summer community favorite. We also hosted an International Luncheon and Book Exchange which was well received. Friends also made lovely Christmas swags for sale to the larger community.
We continue on our spiritual journeys and strive to listen to that "still small voice" that will guide us in our daily lives and will help us to follow Jesus' teachings as a way of life and code of conduct.
When Deer Creek members and attenders are asked why they attend Meeting, they respond that they find both spiritual energy and enrichment within our Meeting community. Meeting for Worship, and attending Meeting in general, is a weekly spiritual “health check,” a quiet time to think and reflect, to thank God and ask for God’s guidance.
The adult First Day school discussions generate insight and contemplation. Individuals have shared personal issues such as addiction, major losses, and mental health issues that have impacted their lives. Through our listening and discussion, we have broadened our perception, and this has given us a deeper understanding of the issues. Sharing our thoughts and experiences with Friends who live their spiritual beliefs and testimonies in their daily lives is most helpful and meaningful in our paths to spiritual growth.
The children’s First Day school, although small, has been enriched by the presence of adults who share their interests and abilities with the children. Witnessing the presence of the Spirit working through both generations gives us great joy.
We continue to be challenged with low attendance at Meeting for Business, but we are holding our Meeting for Business at the rise of Meeting rather than before Meeting to see if attendance will improve. Several expressed that having a prayer or Bible reading during Meeting for Worship could enhance our Meeting experience. Having a mid-week spiritual study group or get-together would add to our fellowship and help members and attenders to better know one another. This in turn could supplement spiritual growth in adult First Day discussions. More open communication, careful listening and more tolerance of differing ideas, values and beliefs are gradually increasing our understanding of one another.
The Spirit of our Meeting has been nurtured by Ministry and Oversight’s reaching out to individuals who are having health issues and other problems to let them know they are valued and cared about, and that we “hold them in the Light.” The life of the Spirit is also nurtured by our active committees who work together within our Meeting and the wider community. Weekly sharing of joys and sorrows creates an awareness of individual lives and gives us an opportunity to offer help when needed.
The presence of the Spirit is manifested in our lives individually and as a Meeting community through our awareness and support of the needs of one another and of the wider world. We feel that living our daily lives in a Quakerly way is the presence of the Spirit working among us. The examples of Friends who give selflessly of their time and commitment seem to support the life of the Spirit.
We have a deep mutual concern and love for one another, and with God’s guidance, we will continue our spiritual journey as a Meeting and as individuals.
Deer Creek Friends Meeting remains a small but close knit meeting where members and attenders show concern for each others spiritual well being. The interest we show for each other serves to nourish the Spirit among us and provides enrichment in our lives. This fellowship and loving feeling we share carries on throughout the week. Ministry and Oversight reaches out to members who are experiencing difficulties in order to let them know that they are important to the Meeting and that the Meeting is there to help. Religious Education has worked hard at providing guidance to our adult and children Sunday Schools.
The Meeting faces challenges include low attendance at Meetings for Worship and Meetings for Business, and finding teachers for Sunday School. We are also challenged with how to motivate middle and high school aged children to attend. The children do respond well to service projects, but we need more children (and their parents) to attend on a regular basis. It seems that Sundays in general are treated differently than in the past and have become a convenient day to schedule other activities that compete with attendance at Meeting for Worship.
To help us find new ways to strengthen the Spirit in our Meeting, we reached out to Betsy Meyers from Baltimore Yearly Meeting, who graciously shared some of her life's spiritual experiences. She encouraged members to share their own spiritual journey with others in the Meeting. She also recommended including a period after Meeting for Worship for sharing joys and sorrows. This gives us a chance to openly let others know of concerns in our lives. By being open, we realize others have similar issues.
Members and attenders have indicated the feeling of spiritual refreshment that occurs while attending Meeting for Worship. By coming together to seek with an open heart and open mind, we often find great benefit and comfort. We strive to reflect this spiritual state in the way we live our lives throughout the week.
We seek God’s guidance to help us maintain the strength of our relationships when dealing with controversial issues such as politics. The Peace and Social Justice committee has developed the following minute to help nurture a non-judgmental, supportive environment:
With regard to the concerns about politics in Meeting, we believe that the pursuit of peace, social justice, environmental stewardship and similar values are part of one's spiritual life and of the Quaker tradition. Differences related to these pursuits are expected, accepted and respected.
We look forward to continuing our spiritual journeys together as a meeting, building on our existing strengths, with God’s love guiding our actions.
Approved as Amended on February 19, 2012 at Monthly Meeting
Deer Creek Friends Meeting has discovered this last year that we rely on the Spirit of God perhaps even more than we had previously realized. Although, admittedly, we had difficulties and differences among some of our members, we found that, by joining together as a group, the Spirit had more opportunity to work through us. We thoroughly appreciate the openings that God gives to each of us individually and to the Meeting as a whole. Through our communion with God, we discovered that Way opened by leading us to other options which allowed more open and candid discussion. We also found that joy and laughter continue to be our weapons of choice in facing adversity, and we appreciate the generous thank yous for contributions made for the support of the membership.
After singing a hymn, our Meetings for Worship begin silently and reverently which help us to center down to commune directly with the Divine. We know experientially that communion with God is possible, and our members and attenders feel free to speak during Meeting for Worship. We have also found that it has become our duty and privilege to minister and support one another during First Days and every day of the week.
We attempt to make our members and attenders feel valued and cared for in a variety of ways. We contact absentees to let them know that they are missed and appreciated. Telephone calls, written notes, and email messages keep us aware of those who might be in need of help, spiritually or otherwise. In return, members commented how they valued our “regulars” in the Meeting citing their tenacity and constancy as characteristics to emulate. Members of other faiths in our community seem to appreciate our “Quaker ways” and often compliment us on our activities in the community.
Many of us made a trip to England last summer and found visiting the many places associated with George Fox and Margaret Fell as a wonderful way to broaden our Quaker awareness. The sharing of these experiences with all members of the Meeting furthered our knowledge of early Quaker history. We also held a benefit dinner to help renovate George Fox’s parish church in Fenny Drayton after having been received so cordially and lovingly by the members there.
We face many challenges in the years to come. Attendance at Meetings for Worship and especially Meetings for Business is not always what it could be. We grieve the absence of some of our treasured members, but we continue to hold them in the Light as they search for spiritual comfort and nourishment. Our children are involved in many other activities in the community which often prevent their coming to Sunday School. Finding Adult Sunday School teachers has sometimes been difficult, but a new sequence of topics for each Sunday of the month, developed by the Religious Education Committee, has helped to remedy that. Finances, for perhaps the first time in recent memory, are a real cause for concern. Rising costs in a difficult economy cause many to be troubled by expenses. Being a Quaker in a non-Quaker world is a problem that many of us share in leading our daily lives. We also realize that the Meeting definitely would be enriched for everyone if we had more young families. Last, we acknowledge that more of us need to be involved in the many activities of the Yearly Meeting and the wider Quaker fellowship as a whole.
We cheerfully acknowledge the presence of the Spirit both in our individual lives and in the life of our Meeting community. We find the word forbearance to be especially appropriate in our attempts to deal with differences and lack of Unity. We find solace in the knowledge that the Inner Light helps us to recognize that of God in everyone. We are also cognizant that we must do God’s will and not our own. While it is always our goal to reconcile differences among us, we urge those involved to not be disagreeable while doing so. It has become apparent that Meeting members need to reacquaint themselves with the duties of our various committees and to take care to be responsible in the accomplishment of committee goals. While collaboration among committees is often effective, care should be taken not to trespass on another committee’s traditional areas of concern. It might also be a good idea to consult certain members of Baltimore Yearly Meeting for advice in making clear some of the cloudier issues.
Be that as it may, we joyfully recognize that Meeting for Worship remains a source of inspiration for all of us. We feel that Meeting is “a safe place” for both members and attenders to discern where the Inner Light will lead us and that this will help us to witness to others in the non-Quaker world. Above all, the Meeting continues to welcome everyone -- members, attenders, and visitors alike -- with a loving sense of care and concern as we attempt to follow Jesus’s commandment to “love one another.”
For Ministry and Oversight,
James E. Pickard
Margaret H. Scarborough
Deer Creek Friends Meeting continues to offer a nurturing atmosphere where we strive to live as the Spirit leads us. The meeting is made up of friends with varied talents which we value equally. Seeing others letting their lives speak creates a stronger bond among us and provides us with inspiration to act on our beliefs. Our membership is spread out geographically and has found the internet useful for keeping current on the activities of the meeting and its committees.
The work of our committees helps foster the Spirit of the meeting. Ministry and Oversight and Advancement and Outreach committees meet monthly to address the care and concerns of members and attenders. Religious Education coordinates a variety of topics for the children and adult Sunday School including Quaker history, Bible study, and peace and social issues. The Spirit is also nourished through singing together at the start of meeting, the sharing of messages during meeting for worship, and group activities such as Friendly 8's. We have also provided financial support to individuals to encourage their spiritual development such as paying a portion of the cost to attend FCNL's annual meeting.
The Spirit has led our meeting and its individuals to do many positive things. We were visited by two persons of the Muslim faith on two different occasions to share their beliefs. This reinforced the belief that there is only one God and we all worship the same God but in different ways. A member of Ministry and Oversight led a series of discussions based on Wilmer Cooper's book A Living Faith that was well received. Our activities supported the Heifer International Project, Harford County Public Schools autism program, Pennies for Peace, Iraqi student project, Haiti relief, Chilean relief, a mitten tree, Mason-Dixon Assoc., and Harford Friends School.
We struggle with a lack of attendance of children and young members. These issues have long been a problem and we feel it is important to continue to work on them. Greater participation in the community and working with the Harford Friends School offer outreach opportunities that may help our meeting grow. Sometimes we struggle in being direct in expressing our views for fear of hurting others' feelings. This is felt in the Adult First Day School where some want a more spiritual experience and others want a more activist way to express their spirituality. This has lead to tension within the meeting that we endeavor to work through. We strive to create a culture where our members and attenders can have open and trusting communication without judgment. We welcome any resource BYM may offer to help resolve conflict within the Meeting.
As an aging meeting, a growing number of our members and attenders are dealing with a new set of issues such as health concerns and end of life. The meeting has long been a source of strength and help in their lives, but has fallen short on addressing these new concerns. The meeting should provide care and support to ensure that all can enjoy the later stages of life. This may be addressed by holding discussion groups where people with similar concerns and experiences may openly discuss their issues.
The sense of the meeting is that we are more and more consciously reaching for God as seekers of the Truth. The challenge of our diversity is also a source of nourishment for our growth. We cherish the presence of new attenders who share their feeling of welcome at Deer Creek and remind us of some of the good things we have here.
We believe that one of Deer Creek’s strongest qualities is the welcoming and loving sense of community within the Meeting. The Meeting is a mix of members who have attended for decades and others who have only recently been introduced to Quakerism. Spiritual nourishment is received from Meeting for Worship through both the silence and vocal ministry. One way we have found helpful in maintaining the quality of silence is through the use of a space within the Meetinghouse that is separated by open partitions. It allows latecomers to join the Meeting without interrupting others.
We also continue to maintain a Meeting where differing opinions can prayerfully coexist. We recognize and celebrate that we represent a diverse community and that at times we may travel different pathways. However, we continue to support one another in our search for Truth. The strength of our Meeting is built on the different varied talents of its members and attenders coming together as a single family. As a result of these qualities, we are experiencing growth in our adult membership. Members’ behavior reflects the presence of the Spirit in their lives. We are reminded of the value of this Spirit through feed back from families we have helped through difficult times and couples for whom we have held wedding ceremonies. The Spirit, love, and commitment to each other has also been evident at memorial services held by the Meeting.
Issues that we continue to struggle with include regular attendance of children and limited participation in the Monthly Meeting for Business. On Monthly Meeting Sundays, the Meeting for Business is followed by a session of singing with the music selection based on one of the queries. This change to our usual Sunday schedule has been well received. Friends are reminded to allow a period of silence for reflection after vocal ministry. Vocal ministry is not to be used as a discussion or to be followed by a rebuttal, but is a time to share as the Spirit leads. Through a renewed focus on the queries as a meeting and as individuals, we can help the Spirit prosper in each of us.
We have received positive feedback on many of the projects and events that were held this year. Deer Creek continues to support the Harford Friends School through contributions and by hosting the annual Blueberry Festival, whose proceeds go directly to the school. The adult membership’s spiritual journey often feeds off of the children’s projects. A community garden that the children were responsible for was a great inter-generational activity which developed a bond between children and adults in the Meeting that they may not have developed otherwise. The children also developed a photo-board that is posted in the main entrance. It includes pictures of our members and attenders with a brief description of who they are. In September, we had a Saturday night dinner at the meeting house followed with games which gave us a chance to socialize as well as to reach out to members we haven’t seen for a while.
Our committees are active and have adequate participation. Advancement and Outreach strives to find ways to have a greater presence in the local community. Their efforts resulted in increased participation with local charity dinners and the Community Thanksgiving service. The members of Advancement and Outreach enjoy their role in helping newcomers to be drawn into our circle of care and love. We have had several first time families and individuals visit our meeting this year and we believe that all received a warm welcome and felt comfortable in our presence. The Peace and Social Justice committee supports the spiritual life of the meeting by challenging people to live a spiritual life through their actions. They encourage us to participate in discussions which promote respectful and peaceful relations with others. In response to the leadership and vision of the House & Hospitality and Grounds Beautification committees, many individuals have worked to maintain and improve the Meetinghouse and its surrounding grounds so that it continues to be a welcoming spiritual home.
The Religious Education committee did a great job developing and scheduling the adult and children’s Sunday School lesson for the year. “Let your life speak” was the theme that guided the curriculum for the year. Topics in Adult Sunday School included the Simplicity testimony, Bible study, Quakers and Indian affairs, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and History of Deer Creek Meeting. Discussion on the booklets Friends and the Bible and Non-Violent Communication were also a part of Adult Sunday School. The variety of topics was made possible by members and attenders volunteering to lead the discussions. The children’s program covered study of the parables, learning the 23rd psalm, and the “Magic Penny” service projects. As part of this project, the children collected money for and participated in many activities to help with community issues. This included buying school supplies for Darlington Elementary School, making dog biscuits and giving contributions to the local S.P.C.A., and sewing fleece blankets for patients undergoing chemotherapy at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The children also participated in raising money through selling Christmas decorations and jewelry in order to donate money to families in need and to the local thrift shop.
The members and attenders of Deer Creek Meeting continue to benefit from each other and the accomplishments they achieve. With Divine assistance, we look forward to the upcoming year with renewed enthusiasm.