Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run 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.
|2011 Report||2012 Report||2013 Report||2014 Report|
Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run continues as a worshipping community grounded in the reality of the spiritual world. As we seek guidance from Spirit in our weekly meetings and our Monthly Meeting with a Concern for Business, we live into the reality that we can and do guide and teach each other, even as we seek to come under the guidance of Spirit.
Teaching and learning take place in our First Day classes, Junior Young Friends and Young Friends classes, Spiritual Formation, and occasional forums for adult religious education. In all of our relationships, the vitality of Spirit lets us see that we are knit to each other, and that our community nurtures trust and a sense of belonging.
We are a meeting of many ethnic groups and subcultures. We wish to be a Meeting that is truly of diverse roots and perspectives. We know that continued work is necessary if we are to move along the continuum to be a more inclusive worshipping community. In Spirit and in each other we place our faith, so that when a difficult truth needs to be voiced, it is given and received in a loving spirit. We give gratitude and encouragement to our meeting’s Working Group on Racism and to all members and attenders that contribute to this particular teaching and learning. We have made use of queries written by our meeting’s Working Group on Racism.
Our committees, working groups and individuals continue the work of our large and very active meeting; in this work, teaching and learning also take place as we create outcomes both concrete and intangible. For some, committee work is an opportunity for spirit to lead as we work behind the scenes. This work builds our spiritual friendships and also continues the vitality of the Meeting. Our many First Day School teachers, though not part of a committee, make a special contribution to the Meeting’s life and in the experiences of our youngest F/friends.
Stony Run is experiencing a time of significant spirit-led action outside the Meeting. In December of 2014, we took part in nonviolent direct action with Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) to pressure PNC Bank to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining. Among our new works is a courtroom observation pattern for the support of those charged during Baltimore’s unrest in the spring of 2015. We also approved a minute of support for our member who has developed a nonprofit called Unified Efforts, and with it a community center at ground zero of the neighborhood where unrest occurred in April 2015 after Freddie Gray died in police custody. Before that event, the Meeting hosted Baltimore City officials including the former police commissioner three times for conversations, two of which were well-attended First Day Forums. Topics for these conversations included police-civilian interactions and the revised youth curfew law. Stony Run Friends have also taken part in the social action work with the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR) for ending mass incarceration, reducing bail, ending solitary confinement, and assisting with citizen re-entry. These efforts touch deeply our need to be of service, and to be visible in our city and State as joining the efforts for justice.
On our own campus, we are installing sustainably-designed rain gardens with native plants, with a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, to manage storm water run-off. We also held a meeting-wide retreat in April of 2015 to identify our needs and priorities. We have given increased energy to building up the relationship between our meeting and Friends School of Baltimore, over which Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run once had direct governance responsibility. Conversations are taking place about Quaker worship and values, and Stony Run members sometimes worship with the students during their school-day Meetings for Worship.
Among our continued good works, we take care with newcomers to our worship. We held an Inquirers Series of forums, have a Working Group on Newcomers, and have seen a number of new faces, both adult and child, recently. We hold a vigil annually when the Sons of the Confederate Army hold a ceremony of remembrance because of its timing on the same weekend as the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday. Members of our community continue to work with people in our city who need help, working for relief as well as systemic change.
Stony Run observed a unique need for a time of sharing, grieving and worshiping together in November 2015, the 50th anniversary of Norman Morrison’s self-immolation at the Pentagon. Some Friends at our meeting remember Norman, and it was good to have time together to remember him and the grief of that time.
We recognize several areas where we would like to improve. Efforts are underway, and members of our community keep these issues raised before the Meeting at large. We see diversity of all kinds as desirable – economic and social as well as ethnic and racial. We struggle to fill all our committees. We want increased participation in monthly Meeting with a Concern for Business, and have a Friend holding it in the light each month to nurture is spirit-led nature. We continue reminding each other that we need to welcome newcomers who come to worship with us, and get to know them.
In the consideration of the spiritual state of Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run, we reflect on the basic Quaker premise of believing that there is that of God in everyone. Furthermore, Friends’ spiritual centering is that each of us, as a human being, is able to have a direct relationship with the Divine. The spiritual state of the meeting is seasoned through our observation and practice of Quaker testimonies lived daily by individual Friends and their families. Our spiritual challenge as a meeting is how we live our values, communicate them with newcomers, and share them with the broader community.
The activities of Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run, bring us together in joy while supporting our spiritual lives and deepening our spiritual journeys. Meetings for Worship at 9:30 and 11:00 on First Day mornings are at the center of our corporate spiritual life, strengthened by Meeting for Worship for healing, as well as our ongoing practice of sharing joys and concerns. Meeting for Worship with a concern for business continues to be a spirit-led search for right action in our community and the world.
First Day Forums inspire discussions and community building. Individuals seeking spirit-led decisions use clearness committees for inspiration and support. Simple lunch following meeting for worship builds community, and the Spiritual Formation Program supports Friends in maintaining spiritual discipline and in deepening spiritual friendships. Other joys that reinforce our Quaker values within and throughout our meeting include committee work, working groups and interaction with our very helpful meetinghouse staff.
Our meeting community is a nurturing, supportive, extended family. The first day school is a lively bunch, and young Friends are active as well. This year we again had many activities that sustained the meeting community, including carol singing, a fund-raising concert, camping weekend, and the community garden that we share with the Friends School of Baltimore. The availability of nurture funds serves to encourage participation in fee-based activities. Camp scholarship funds are available as well. As a large meeting it can sometimes be difficult to know everyone, but we strive to make everyone feel welcome.
Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run, lives its spiritual leadings for equality by creating opportunities for Friends to be involved in social action and in developing material support for initiatives of conscience. This year saw the efforts of our meeting coordinator’s collaboration with the Loch Raven Ministerium and other groups in the community. Other members of our Meeting joined in partnerships with organizations serving the economically disadvantaged (e.g., GEDCO, McKim Center, and Clay Pots). We appreciated the activities of our Working Groups on Racism and the formation of a working group on Unaccompanied Children from Central America. We participated in a Cove Point pipeline protest and a PNC Bank mountaintop removal investment protest and we continued our annual silent vigil across the street from the Sons of Confederate Veterans who have chosen to hold a celebration on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Also, we participated in the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR), which is a bi-partisan, statewide alliance seeking legislative changes to bring Maryland into the 21st century with corrections policies that are evidence-based, humane, and effective. Examples of our efforts to increase our knowledge and understanding include a study group that focused on reading The New Jim Crow and a Peace Quest conference at Friends School of Baltimore. All of these bear witness to our efforts to have spiritually-informed, right relationships in the community at large and remind us to practice what we believe.
In an effort to bring that of God into difficult conversations, our Working Group on Racism developed three queries** that our Meeting has accepted with the expectation that they will guide our personal interactions, our committee work, and our functioning as a worship community. As a Quaker meeting, our spiritual struggles are those of balancing and interpreting our values and testimonies through our relationships with each other, our internal and external priorities, and our aspirations as a meeting. We recognize that differences occur within the Meeting and that there is great care about dealing with them in a positive way through good process.
Time and focus on the spiritual needs of our meeting are somewhat at tension with our efforts to be relevant in the community and good stewards of our material resources. The spiritual state of Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run, is characterized by a climate of nurture, searching, support and celebration. We seek joyful discernment in our endeavors to live in right relationships as Quakers in our meeting, in our community, and in our contemporary culture.
** 1) How do we [members, attenders, committees and the Meeting] remind ourselves that openness to everyone’s interests and well-being is a spiritual matter, including differences of race, economic status, and other factors?
2) Does our decision-making reflect the views of people of color or of differing economic status?
3) How do we, on a continuous basis, behold the Light, rather than the outward being of others, as we do the business that is upon us?]
If you walked into meeting for worship (at 9:30 A.M. or 11:00 A.M.) at the Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run on any First Day, it is likely that you will be struck by the heterogeneity of the members, attenders, and visitors gathered there. While your first impression would probably be of external factors such as gender, ethnicity, age or some other physical attribute, a closer look will also reveal that there is heterogeneity in other ways that bring comfort to some members and attenders while making others uncomfortable. For example, some would say that they feel the Spirit moving among them when several persons provide vocal ministry during meeting for worship; others feel that they benefit more from sitting in silence when there is indeed expectant silence. Some encourage the Meeting to engage in more outreach while others desire that we direct more of our energy inward and establish a stronger sense of what we believe as a spiritual community. Some members and attenders see differences in beliefs and approaches as challenges or as a bane; other see them as opportunities to enrich their spiritual lives or as a blessing.
Taking a closer look you will see that all who are gathered are on a spiritual journey of continuing revelation and discernment. So, if you ask members or attenders if the Meeting is less than they would like it to be, you may hear them say that they are more concerned about whether they as individuals are less than they ought to be or concerned about whether they have contributed to the life of the meeting as much as they could and should. This looking within is the quintessential aspect of continuing revelation and discernment, for it is the Light that we seek.
Also, you might ask, does Stony Run have challenges? The answer you get will also reflect the heterogeneity of the Meeting. Some members and attenders will answer the question by saying: “Of course, we do.” Others will say the Meeting is filled with opportunities rather than challenges – openings to support one another, to hold each other in the Light –- as we do toward the end of Meeting for Worship and in Meeting for Worship for Healing, to help one another feel part of something bigger than ourselves, and to seek Divine leading, individually and corporately. Some of these openings can be seen through our work together in standing committees, first day school classes for adults and children, working groups, study groups, and spiritual formation groups, and through our breaking bread together during “simple lunch,” after meeting for worship. Some openings can be seen through shared worship and meeting for worship with a concern for business; others can be seen at celebrations, such as the welcoming celebrations we share with new members; and still others can be seen in the Nurture Fund of the Meeting, which provides financial assistance to members and attenders to participate in workshops, programs and retreats in such activities as Quaker faith and practice, spiritual growth, and pastoral counseling.
Finally, with all of our talk about heterogeneity, there are things around which we believe that there is unity among us. Those things include the seeking of positive alternatives to societal issues – violence, discrimination, and environment, to name a few. One example of this work is that our Peace and Social Justice committee is currently helping to create a Peace Quest conference to mark the 20th anniversary of Friends Peace Teams. Through our expressions of concern for societal issues, we are able to give emphasis to Spirit-led responsibility and action and to bear witness to truth discerned inwardly. So, one way of defining the spiritual state of the Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Stony Run is by how well we speak to societal issues inside and outside our spiritual community. Clearly, we are not there yet, but we accept the challenge to faithfully persist in our journey of continuing revelation and discernment.
There are many aspects of our spiritual life that bring us joy. We are fortunate to be a Meeting with diverse experiences and views of Spirit. We strive to support one another in our individual spiritual journeys. This happens especially in Meeting for Worship, First Day forums, clearness sessions and informal conversations over lunch. The Spiritual Formation program continues to grow and to provide a means of deepening the participants’ spiritual journeys as well as building community. We endeavor to be tender with one another, accepting and respectful, and expect way to open. The work of committees contributes to the life of the whole Meeting, especially on those occasions when committees draw the entire Meeting into discerning, approving, and carrying out the committee’s work. Our staff provides information, positive suggestions, and continuity to our community.
Our First Day School classes and the two Young Friends groups are lively, spirited, and joyful gifts to all of us. A sense of joy is often evident at simple lunch, carol sings, a recent fundraiser concert, the annual camping weekend, and work in the community garden. We need to open more fully to the joyful presence of Spirit in our committee meetings and all formal group worship, including Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business. We can bring that of God into our midst by keeping our minds and hearts open and greeting each other with joy.
For most of us, most of the time, the Meeting community is a nurturing, supportive, extended family, where we are committed and responsive to one another, offering support and comfort especially to those experiencing challenging times. Close, lifetime friendships are forged in this Meeting.
We have identified some major areas of potential growth we must address to have a fuller spiritual life together. We need to respond to conflict and hurtful behaviors in effective and healthy ways. Recognizing that each of us carries the Seed of truth and light, we need to wait, listen, and speak from that place.
Another avenue for growth is the need to give more attention and support to our many sub-committees and working groups. In the view of some, long-established working groups such as that for newcomers and welcoming and that dealing with racism should be eligible to become fully functioning committees with budgets, reports, and rotating members. An additional concern is how to promote opportunities for spiritual sharing, especially as we note the shrinking attendance at First Day forums.
Stony Run has some systemic problems that affect our community outreach. In the eyes of some, we can be overly tied up with our own finances and other internal affairs. We seem unable to make one concerted outreach effort in a single Spirit-led direction. We see this reflected in our numerous, but fragmented, budget items for outreach. Because of Stony Run’s location in an almost exclusively upper-class, white community, it is relatively hard for our Meeting to engage in hands-on social change or to be fully aware of the needs of the larger urban community.
Looking clearly at our strengths and needs, we hope to reflect more on the words of a BYM Camping Program query: “How do we continue to work toward creating a community of different people, rather than a community that lets different people in?”
Approved at Monthly Meeting, March 4, 2012
The spirit prospers among us when we are open to new spiritual experiences and insights and when we give ourselves time to deepen those we already possess.
We find that much of our life together actively supports the growth of spirit among us. Spiritual growth comes from small group discussions and worship---including Spiritual Formation, our First Day Forums, Stony Run’s Working Group on Racism, reaction to queries printed in our newsletter, book discussions, interactions with our children, and in worship-sharing at committee meetings and among our teens. Smaller meetings for worship also have enriched us: monthly “Meeting for Healing,” a small mid-week meeting, and special meetings at the bedside of those nearing the end of life. Although having two meetings for worship can cause some tendency to grow apart, we recognize the continued value of having a smaller, quieter early meeting and a second meeting full of children and spoken ministry.
As we have looked at the past year, we have considered whether many of our challenges deal with how we relate to each other in a very large Meeting. We have named specific problems that we need to work on because of our size, including: making newcomers’ welcoming and integration a seamless effort though one addressed by several committees; making more general the responsibility to reach out to those we suddenly stop seeing at Meeting; creating a culture where all of our eldering aims to support growth; and creating an atmosphere where we can all express freely our spiritual pluralism without appearing to be critical of the religious experience or views of others.
As we have considered the matter more deeply, we have concluded that relating to one another may not be sufficiently explained in terms of the size of a Meeting and that we might get closer to an explanation by asking ourselves why people seek to join any group. Further, we might ask why one joins a community of worship and if we tend to ask more of such groups than of others groups to which we might belong.
In our seeking truth about the critical need to belong as it relates to our Meeting, we recognized that the size of our Meeting may increase the tendency for some to feel that they are not connected to the community of worship. But the fundamental issue for any Meeting, regardless of size, is this: are we able to ensure that those who are members or attenders do not feel isolated or estranged? We know that a good quality relationship, even one that occurs only once a week, can enhance a sense of community, love and centeredness. The kind of insightful, benevolent, spirit-led community of worship we seek to be will engender a sense of belonging, increase our individual and collective perception of purpose for our lives, and increase our will to work together to build a healthier community and a more just and peaceful world.
Stony Run Monthly Meeting accepts the challenge that our search for a healthier and better community of worship has revealed to us. We hope that every decision we make and every action we take is spirit-led. We will continue to strive to hold in the Light this challenge: to enhance trust and spiritual harmony at Stony Run. The task that is before us is to heighten our sense of being an interpersonally engaged and spirit-led community of caring and compassion. In accepting this challenge we hold ourselves and every member of the community, individually and collectively, answerable for lending energy and talents to this effort.