Carlisle Quaker 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.
|2010 Report||2011 Report||2012 Report||2013 Report||2014 Report|
|2015 Report||2016 Report||2017 Report||2018 Report|
No report received.
On Sunday, February 25, 2018, shortly after Meeting for Worship, eleven members and attenders met to discuss the Spiritual State of the Meeting. From the discussion, minutes from our Business Meetings, and a consideration of how we stack up against the queries in Faith and Practice, Andy Hoover, a former clerk, created a draft that was forwarded to members for review prior to our April Business Meeting.
The Precarious Meeting
As we prepare this annual State of the Meeting report, we are aware of how precarious our connections are.
We are a small Meeting - we average between 10 and 30 members and attenders at Meeting for Worship. Some of us have known each other for a long time. We value the community we have and try to be supportive of one another. Our Meeting is aging and we worry about the long-term viability of our Meeting and how to bring younger people into Meeting.
Overshadowing the state of the Meeting this year is the withdrawal from Meeting of one of our long-term members (he has since returned). This is related to criticism of vocal ministry.
The Meeting has experienced our precarious connections in other ways too. Many of us have been touched by the opioid epidemic. Several people in Meeting have lost parents in the past year. One Friend lost a son. A founding member of the Meeting died this past year. Several members have had to deal with serious health issues. A number have had to deal with Lyme disease. Several Friends travel a considerable distance to come to Meeting and at times have been unable to attend because of transportation problems.
The Meeting continues to be concerned about how to support young families. We have one family with two young children. The Meeting provides a nursery but we have no first day school at this time. A few of us had our hopes up when a young woman attended who had 3 small children, who only attended a few times. Via email we recently got an inquiry from a Friend new to the area who was looking for a First Day School for her 10 and 12 year olds. We had to tell her that we don't currently have a program.
The Persevering Meeting
The Meeting has been building connection within the Quaker community in a number of ways. We have started a Bible study that meets after Meeting for Worship. We have a Focusing group (CarlisleFocusingFriends.weebly.com) that meets twice a month to support and practice the kind of felt sensing peculiar to Friends’ way of knowing. We did Quaker 8’s last Spring. We continue our annual Christmas potluck and coffeehouse in which a number of us share music, other talents and good-humored fellowship. We welcomed three new members into the Meeting and held potlucks in their honor. We gave our most recent members a Quaker book of their own choosing. We made a donation to Yearly Meeting of $500 last year, which is hopefully unrelated to the increased apportionment this year. We acquiesced in a visit from Yearly Meeting representatives in April. Women from our Meeting continue to attend the annual BYM Women’s retreat. The Meeting continues to discuss extending an invitation to the working group on right relationship to animals group in Yearly Meeting. We hosted Quarterly Meeting this past year. One member continues to be active in the Quarter and looks forward to discussing “The Gathered Meeting” at our next Quarterly Meeting in May at Menallen. A small dedicated group of Friends, including at times 3 young adults from one family, continue our monthly visits to a nearby nursing home.
The Meeting has been building connection with non-Quaker groups as well. The Meeting continues to make a significant contribution to Project Share, a local food bank founded by a member of the meeting. The Meeting also helped nearby Zion AME church in raising funds for a new roof. A number of Friends attended last year’s women’s march in Washington and have become active in a local Rising group.
The Meeting has opened the Meeting house to a number of outside groups. West Side Neighbors, a local neighborhood association, uses the Meeting House for their monthly gatherings. The meeting participated in their Spring Neighbors Helping Neighbors day in which more than 100 volunteers from the community and local churches participated in a neighborhood cleanup. West Side Neighbors has also been involved in the low-income housing development that is going in across the street from the Meeting House. The Meeting House also continues to function as an overnight homeless shelter for women and children two months out of the year. As many as 10 of our members have served as volunteers to welcome these overnight guests. This Easter season the Meeting House will be used for a community Seder under the auspices of the Carlisle Area Religious Council. The Meeting House was the site of a vigil held around the time of the 5th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut that left 20 people dead. That meeting was held under the auspices of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Several people have contributed greatly in the upkeep and improvement of the Meeting House. A Friend and his father rewired our dining room. The Building committee is installing acoustical tiles in the dining room to make it easier to hear one another during potlucks and social times after meeting for worship. A couple has completed a multi-year project to repair our stained glass windows. The Meeting has budgeted up to $6,000 for improvements to our Meeting House with the most expensive items likely to be improved lighting and fans in the meeting room. We have bought an electric lawn mower and contracted with a new cleaning person who lives nearby and helps with snow removal and lawn mowing. We continue to deal with leaks in our roof which have been an ongoing concern for at least a year. The process calls to mind the Myth of Sisyphus for one member. The Finance Committee is planning on acquiring credit cards to facilitate purchases Friends make on behalf of the Meeting.
The Meeting has pursued other kinds of outreach. Friends have purchased t-shirts that promote Quakers. We are moving forward with better signage for the front of the meeting. We have also changed the name of the Meeting to differentiate ourselves from other churches and to make us more readily identifiable. We now go by Carlisle Quaker Meeting. Previously we had been the Carlisle Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. This was a particular problem when we donated to community groups and our name would be abbreviated in their program to Carlisle Monthly Meeting.
The Gathered Meeting
One area of concern and maybe leading is in Meeting for Worship.
Comments at our gathering on the State of the Meeting suggested Meeting for Worship is a central focus of the Meeting. Some Friends said that they come for the silence, some for the messages. One Friend said, “In my life there is always somebody talking. I come to meeting to deepen and feel my connection to God. This is mine and God’s time. I love coming here and meeting people after meeting for worship.” Another Friend looks forward to messages in Meeting for Worship as an opportunity to learn. Another Friend finds messages to be inspiring (although some more than others.) Another Friend “can always find God here, either alone or through others.”
What goes on in Meeting for Worship has sometimes been a source of contention. One Friend complains about how some Friends will start speaking almost as soon as somebody else has finished and how this sets a bad example for people new to Meeting. One Friend said that the best thing about Meeting is that we all get to say what we want. The same Friend said that the worst thing about Meeting is that we all get to say what we want. One Friend was passionate that Meeting for Worship should be a “No judgment zone.” One Friend pointed us to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians where Paul says: “. . . friends, you were called to a life of freedom. Don’t use your freedom as a license for self-indulgence but, out of love, serve one another.” It seems as if concerns about the quality of worship need to start with exploring differing expectations and understandings of what Meeting for Worship is about. If there are differences, they may be in how to incorporate a sense of the Meeting in the discernment process for when and whether to speak.
Perhaps a leading and a way forward in Meeting for Worship lies in an exploration of the “gathered meeting”. One Friend quoted an attender with a long and varied Quaker background, who said that in other Meetings, he could feel the gatheredness in the worship, but not here. It’s not clear that the Gathered Meeting is an important ideal for all of our members.
Indirectly we have done a couple of things that could be described as promoting a sense of being gathered. We are preceding regular Meeting for Worship with an hour set aside for silent worship. This came out of the experience of extended Meeting for Worship as practiced in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. And Ministry and Counsel has produced a trifold that provides guidelines on Meeting for Worship. This came out of a suggestion from Dave Fitz of York Meeting when he did a program at our Meeting on Meeting for Worship. The guidelines have been placed on the benches in the meeting room. The trifold was well received by at least one relatively new attender who then said, “But you aren’t following your own guidelines.” Another Friend, while acknowledging that we may not be perfect, believes that the quality of worship has improved since we had the visit from Dave Fitz and put the trifolds on the benches.
The concern about “The Gathered Meeting” is perhaps not unrelated to growing our Meeting. To quote Marty Grundy from the November issue of Friends Journal:
. . . the gift of being gathered, whether in a meeting for worship or for business, is our best outreach tool. It is the essence of who we are. If we experience it, we will be changed; if visitors experience it, they are likely to return to taste it again. Young Friends, having experienced it in their home meetings, will be drawn back by more than sentimentality.
On February 26, 2017, Carlisle Friends met to discuss the Spiritual State of the Meeting. Present were eleven members and attenders of the Meeting. The process was overseen and facilitated by clerk, Andy Hoover. We began with a period of silence.
As several people had considered this issue beforehand, many felt able to settle into deliberation.
We are blessed to have maintained Meeting for Worship for another year, though we acknowledge a lack of diversity in the gatherings. We have had no visitors or attenders of other ethnicities. We tend to be highly educated and older whites. Though we do have one couple with toddler children we have no children of First Day school age, and also lack, in general, the attendance of children who have grown up in our fellowship. We look forward to the development of the vacant property across the street to extend our influence on the community. We must more effectively welcome newcomers; it should not fall to one or two people. Some feel that participation in Cumberland Valley Rising, a recently-formed civic group, might lead to new possibilities for inviting others to Meeting.
Silence in worship is attentive and reverent, though some would appreciate more silence. It was noted that, though Quakerism is often described in negatives, what we don't do, what we avoid, we have the positive of silent worship. It was suggested that arriving before Meeting's set time would provide an opportunity for settling in. A friend who had attended extended Meeting for Worship in Philadelphia thought perhaps a majority of other attenders were exasperated with their home Meeting's lack of silence. Quiet is appreciated in the sacred space. Sitting in silence, listening to messages can be very attractive to newcomers. Silence is a rare gift and requires discipline.
Some feel messages are offered too soon. The norm in many Quaker Meetings has allowed about 20 minutes to pass before offering messages. Messages are of divergent natures, though there is felt to be power in each speaker. It seems that a few people frequently speak, others hardly ever. Messages arise out of the silence: the power of the silence helps to direct messages, vocal ministry helps direct the silence. One felt that that messages come from silence and are the equivalent of punctuation...focusing points. Spoken messages delivered lead to contemplation, occasionally a sense of a gathered Meeting. Another states that she usually speaks from confusion and seeking; responses prod her in helpful directions. The power of the silence grows as people speak; it lets others see another aspect of the speaker. Some messages allow us to find God in places we may not have thought of or experienced. Messages in song or musical instruments, such as hand pan, are appreciated.
Friends' responses to Meeting with Attention to Business vary. To begin Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business with queries feels richer to one, providing depth beyond practical items on agenda. One felt that the Queries, while not tedious, are difficult to adapt into Meeting for Business. Another Friend agrees that a query is a good way to begin Meeting for Business as it is hard to relate routine things to a larger purpose. Each issue brought up is followed by a period of deliberative silence. Frequently thorny matters are laid over.
Though few have attended Quarterly or Yearly Meeting we have been blessed by various connections to the larger association of Friends. At least three women have attended BYM Women's Retreat for the last 10 to 20 years, to the enrichment of attenders and the Meeting as a whole. A presentation by David Fitz, of York Monthly Meeting on spoken ministry enriched our spirit, strengthening our spiritual life. Some do visit other Meetings but not as a search for a larger scope of Friends. Meeting has also been blessed by one Friend's attendance at Pendle Hiil's Journey Toward Wholeness; and also A Courage and Renewal Retreat Series.
Carlisle Meeting has also been strengthened by corporate outreaches and by individual efforts. The weekly bulletin can be a springboard into spiritual thoughts, but another was concerned by lack of follow-up on announcements of meeting, assemblies, such as places, times, phone numbers. We are enriched by our corporate outreach at Dickinson College, Carlisle CARES, Heberlig-Palmer Park, the Todd Home, and West Side Neighbors. One feels that regular focusing groups are important experience of support to Friends there. We have been honored by individuals conducting Second Hours on Quakers and Politics, and The Conversation Project, considering preparations for inevitable death. We volunteer in the nursery and provide transportation for older members. Most find that Carlisle Meeting is a spiritual and comforting place.
During the past year we have experienced losses as a Meeting and individually, but most have felt supported, comforted, enriched, and enlightened by attendance at Carlisle Friends Meeting. We have the opportunity to experience qualities of God in our Meeting...peace, love, joy, and light. We have been blessed.
In considering the State of the Meeting report this year, the Meeting indulged the clerk who wanted to try something called Congregational Asset Based Planning. There are 3 steps to that. The first step is to identify assets we already have. This could include resources, skills and interests of Meeting members or of people and institutions we are connected with. It also includes needs if needs are viewed as something that someone values and cares about. The second step is crossing two or more unrelated assets and then labeling the new action that could come of that connection. The third step is to then “vote with our feet” as in Open Space Technology, physically congregating around the action that we would want to engage in. The goal in this process is to escape from zero-sum thinking, that if I do this, then I have to give up that. By combining things people are already doing, we can multiply their effectiveness, without sacrificing other activities. From this process, the meeting identified 3 opportunities. (1.) A Friend has recently become a trustee at a nearby 144 acre retreat center. When we combined that with an interest in organic gardening, we saw an opportunity for Friends to learn about and explore organic gardening. (2.) We have a number of musicians in the Meeting House as well as storytellers and stand-up comics. People enjoy our annual Christmas potluck which includes a coffee house. Friends expressed an interest in doing an additional coffee house. (3.) Friends work as counselors and/or have listening skills. When combined with the position of our Meeting House in the poorest section of town, Friends expressed an interest in a community wellness center at the Meeting House that could augment local social services.
Here is a subset of some of our assets that people in the Quarter and Yearly Meeting may want to connect with. Extensive experience working for the abolition of the death penalty, an authority on the US military’s drone program, extensive experience working on public school boards, a 144 acre retreat center that could accommodate up to 25 people, skill and experience at replacing stained glass windows, contacts with local colleges, a nearby retirement center with a new Quaker worship group, a Focusing group, a Non-violent Communication practice group, learning about what other Quakers are doing through Quarterly Meeting and the BYM women’s retreat, one Friend’s yearlong involvement in a Pendle Hill spiritual discernment program, quilting skills, costumers, puppeteers, a ministry of cards and letters, and an interest in improved signage for the front of the building especially since a new development of approximately 75 units is planned for the former manufacturing site across from the Meeting House.
In what follows we supplement the above with the kind of information typically offered in a State of the Meeting report, Meetings for worship average about 18 people. We’ve had as many as 35. Our Meetings for Worship almost always have spoken ministry. We have had a few silent Meetings and a few with at least eight messages. We have four people who have spoken at least a dozen times, seven who have spoken at least 6 times, and five others who speak occasionally. We sometimes speak less than a minute after another person has spoken. Some of the messages last at least 10 minutes. We’ve also enjoyed the ministry of visiting Friends. For Friends needing more silence, we have a Tuesday night meeting for worship at Dickinson College that is mostly silent.
While messages in Meeting for Worship vary, one consistent thread could be characterized as agnostic - a conviction that the important things in life are unknowable and an indignation at anything that might smack of judgment. Messages sometimes allude to the Bible.
In Business Meeting we entertained the idea of a musical program as a planned part of meeting for worship but could not find unity.. We decided to host a homeless women and children’s shelter for two months but could not agree to bypass the shelter’s recommendations to require background checks of all host volunteers. At least one Friend is irked by overweening regulation. We have gone forward with improvements to the Meeting House - a new roof costing around 18 thousand dollars, new LED lights to replace candles, a thermal curtain to limit heat loss in our library. For the roof work we brought in building inspectors to give us an idea as to what to ask for in a bid. We couldn’t find unity on the Earthcare Witness Minute. We reviewed the proposed changes to the BYM Vision statement and added some words about removing barriers based on economic status and political opinions.
The Meeting did a multi-session book study of the Dalai Lama’s Toward a True Kinship of Faiths. At least one of the sessions was led by a local college professor who specializes in Tibetan Buddhism. We’ve also had two sessions on the Conversation Project and plan a couple of more. The Conversation Project is about getting family members and loved ones to discuss end of life decisions. We have advertised this program with the public. And we had one Saturday workshop on Non-Violent Communication led by John Reuwer of Harrisburg Monthly Meeting. John is a physician working with a group that treats murder as a public health issue.
The Meeting House hosts a group called Carlisle Westside Neighbors. The group has managed to obtain more than one hundred thousand dollars for a small hidden park about two blocks from the Meeting House. They have also hosted meetings about plans for the vacant lot across from the Meeting House, where a multi-block factory had been leveled. And they worked with a number of evangelical churches who wanted to do a workday in our neighborhood. The workday helped with maintenance and cleanup in the neighborhood. It included music and food at the park. A couple of our members have taken a lead in the organization.
We do hold weekly Meetings at nearby Dickinson College. We have anywhere from one to six people. Dickinson students painted our back ramp as part of a service project. We had a number of students visit the Meeting House in February. One freshman has continued to attend.
Two concerns are always with us. First is our size. The core group in our Meeting is aging. As the participation of those members drop off, will there be somebody else to take their place? Second, we worry that we don’t have a program that would appeal to young people. Religious Education has been all but laid down. We have some disagreement as to whether it is a good thing to take older children out of Meeting for Worship. We do have a nursery.
We hope we are united by a love for one another and a love for Quakerism. Our Quakerism was bequeathed to us by people no longer with us. It consists mainly of hospitality, welcoming anyone who enters our midst. That sometimes means we get a lot of messages in meeting for worship. It includes great potlucks. Our other anchor is sometimes called silence. It might better be called pausing and listening, finding that calm place inside where we can sense the reverberations that our life together has on us and discover what emerges from that. We don’t always have much silence, but we lean in that direction.
On March 1, 2015, at rise of Meeting for Worship, eight participants of Carlisle Monthly Meeting convened, despite a winter storm advisory, to discuss the Spiritual State of the Meeting report. A draft of this report was read at our next business meeting on March 8, 2015 and a few additions and changes were then suggested.
The first area considered was what supports the Spirit in our Meeting. Many feel Carlisle Friends is a particularly loving, supportive group, where we share insights, bewilderment, and laughter. Our weekly bulletin, which seems to be unusual among Friends, is an opportunity for putting forth concepts for introspection and searching and growth. Our bulletin usually includes a quote on the front, a list of meeting and community events and activities in the middle, and on the back a description of meeting for worship for newcomers, and a list of Meeting officers and contacts. Responsibility for producing the bulletin is shared among members and attenders. Though producing the bulletin can be challenging, it is an honor to be asked to contribute in that manner. Being asked to close Meeting for Worship also strengthens attachment to the Meeting.
Perhaps it may be a good idea to reinstate a regular newsletter. Our website has been migrated to the Quaker Cloud, making it easier to maintain.
Though we are blessed to have a family with a young child and another on the way, we feel strongly the lack of age diversity in Meeting, especially in the matter of children and young Friends, as the average age of members is increasing. We spent a good deal of time considering how to attract and maintain younger people in Meeting. Participation in the Todd Nursing Home program seems to bring out creativity and compassion. Once a month, on First Day, a few adults lead worship and singing with youth assisting at a nearby nursing home. This past Christmas season, the young people gathered on six different occasions to make dodecahedron Christmas ornaments out of old Christmas cards for the nursing home residents.
We are also anxious to share the Quaker meeting and message with the larger community. We have a small cadre of faithful and active people but we need to encourage more. A Friend feels that Quakers have three main foci to share: the benefit of spending time in silence; profession of a spiritual/ethical process; and faith that translates into action. Other churches also emphasize the latter two qualities, so perhaps our distinctive appeal is the time spent in silence and quiet contemplation. Our Meetings for Worship provide a respite from the hectic pace of daily life.
The Meeting has initiated talks with nearby Dickinson College about holding Meeting for Worship on their campus. If invited to do so, rather than ask students to come to Meeting, we can take Meeting to the students.
Our focusing program could benefit a larger population. Focusing is a practice developed by the American philosopher Eugene Gendlin. It is about owning our real feelings about a situation. When we can do that, we find that our feelings and the situation changes in a way that feels graced. The process is greatly aided by a friendly presence. Carlisle has an ongoing focusing group that meets twice a month.
We open our Meeting House to West Side Neighbors on a regular basis. West Side Neighbors is a grassroots community advocacy group whose motto is, "You don't have to move to live in a better neighborhood." We have also hosted mothers and children for Carlisle Cares. Carlisle Cares is a community response to the homeless that uses local churches as backup emergency shelters for the homeless. Many in the Meeting participate in other charities, concerns, and activities, thereby spreading a Quakerly presence to the larger community. Perhaps we could participate in the local newspaper's "Faith in Focus" column to let more people know that we exist.
The Meeting hosted an evening with Charles Eisenstein this past fall. Charles is a local activist/author with an international following. He is also a former attender at State College Meeting. His most recent book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, is in many ways a secular translation of Quaker ideas and ideals. His talk attracted more than forty people to the meetinghouse, most of them first-time attenders.
As a Meeting we have limited contact with wider Friends' organizations, though a limited group attends Quarterly Meetings, and a few participate in Baltimore Yearly Meeting functions and retreats. In the past we have used Baltimore Yearly Meeting talents and expertise for guidance, advice, and leadership, such as moderating threshing sessions. When we hosted Quarterly Meeting in November, Chloe Schwenke, a Friend from Adelphi traveling with minutes from Adelphi Monthly Meeting and from the Yearly Meeting spoke to us about her concern for transgender Friends. Her talk was well-received.
As we travel our individual spiritual journeys, we feel blessed by time spent among Carlisle Friends.
On 16 March 2014 at rise of Meeting for Worship eleven F(f)riends gathered to discern the Spiritual State of Carlisle Friends Meeting. The discussion, led by Andy Hoover, was based on questions from Baltimore Yearly Meeting and focused on the areas of "Problems," "Suggestions," and "Doing Well." We felt grateful that the "Doing Well" list was the longest, though one felt that the spiritual state of members was more indicative of the spiritual state of the Meeting than focusing on the meeting as a whole. Another suggested that the spiritual health of the Meeting was a basis for spiritual growth of the individual.
Carlisle Friends have been blessed to maintain regular Meetings for Worship, a regular First Day School led by a strong team of teachers, though our Young Friends are growing up and away. We have held monthly visits to the Todd Nursing Home, to the benefit of residents and participants alike. We have also begun a First Day School for adults in our newly remodeled and more functional library. A regular Focusing Group strengthens the life and spirit of Meeting.
Though we have lost the beloved and strong presences of Martha Slotten, Jeremiah Cox, and Gene Hanson, we have been blessed with regular new attenders, including a couple who have become members of Carlisle Friends Meeting. Attendance at Meeting for Worship is up in general. This may be due to the fact that silence speaks to people, encourages self-seeking, and can lead to a "communion of silence." It may be that we are doing better at involving people after rise of Meeting, that we held more hospitalities, or that Friends' beliefs and attitudes help to heal from previous religious teachings and trainings. We hope to be respectful for the questions and seekings of all.
Though Meeting has been blessed by a birth in the past year we are still troubled by a lack of young people. We are cautioned to welcome all educational and skill levels; to be respectful to the questions of the seeking; to welcome diversity; to ask questions, then listen carefully to find common thoughts and feelings. Perhaps Meeting could host programs that would attract young people, even on non-spiritual matters, perhaps utilizing the Dickinson College newspaper to advertise these programs or even request assistance in presenting programs.
Carlisle Meeting has made an outreach to the community by sharing our space with West Side Neighbors, and hosting a cantata to benefit improvements in Heberlig-Palmer Park, a small neighborhood park near our meetinghouse.
A concern was raised that we may have become more building-oriented rather than community-building, social reforming, or finding our "prophetic voice." It was pointed out that, since we have paid off our mortgage, the released funds have been spent on postponed repairs and upgrades and to make our building more functional.
We are reminded to "love thy neighbor as thyself," and this may be even more important among ourselves. We feel our Meeting has continued to improve in showing concern, love, and respect. We have exhibited caring for the sick and infirm.
We have utilized our available people and resources, and encouraged some to utilize unrecognized talents. We must be careful to wait for the Spirit's leadings rather than our own contrivance, but have an expectation of guidance. We cannot be afraid to speak the truth.
Our bulletins can be a blessing, with profound readings that lead to profound thinking. We look forward to resuming Quaker 8's, shared meals in member's homes, as a source of shared community.
We are members of The Religious Society of Friends and as such strive to be welcoming, nurturing, supportive, and loving.
The Spirit thrives in the Carlisle Friends Meeting. Its corporate and individual actions have enriched lives in widening circles from the personal level to the Monthly Meeting, to the Quarter and beyond. We hold the community, the nation, and the world in the light of our concern.
Carlisle Friends discussed the State of the Meeting in a specially called second hour on March 3, which served as the basis for this report.
This year’s activities included the traditional Christmas coffee house, the Baltimore Yearly Meeting women’s retreat, Quaker Eights (consisting of dinners with more than thirty people at four households), a six months discussion group on Doug Gwyn’s Conversations with Christ, Young Friends’ monthly visitation at Todd Home, and a second hour discussion of On the Mystery by Catherine Keller. The Spiritual Formation Group continued its lively discussions as individual schedules and weather permitted. In April, we opened the Meeting House to the homeless in cooperation with Carlisle Cares. However, we cannot continue to participate because the number of people seeking services has exceeded our capacity.
The Meeting hosted a Discernment Workshop this year featuring noted psychologist and spiritual counselor Nancy Bieber, author of Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment. Forty-two people, Quakers and otherwise, came from miles around to participate in the event. The speaker and several Members of the Meeting applauded the logistics of the undertaking, especially citing the tireless work of the Hospitality Committee.
In April, several Friends attended the celebration of the marriage of Jessica Clark and Jeremy Wallace. With the help of a Clearness Committee, another couple decided to marry outside the Meeting. Both the couple and the committee have expressed appreciation for their sessions together. We mourned the passing of Kenyon McCoy, also in April, at the age of 95.
During the special second hour, Friends gave personal testimony to a richer prayer life, insight into the “two great commandments,” the loving support of the Meeting, the deeper silence of arriving early to worship, and an increased personal commitment to the Meeting itself.
Committed members still attend regularly with hearts and minds prepared for worship. Neighborly concern is evidenced by visiting the sick, informal encounters, meeting in each other’s homes, and transportation for those who need it.
We are quick to invite new attenders to participate in the life of the Meeting. Small groups, such as Quakerism 101, serve this purpose well. We are a diverse Meeting, and we empathize with a wide variety of different paths.
Emotional repercussions persist from an occurrence during worship on September 16. A younger adult Friend challenged the vocal ministry of an older Member, questioning the legitimacy of his message. After several tense exchanges, the younger Friend left the Meeting with her mother. The mother no longer attends the Meeting, but continues in the Spiritual Formation Group. Meanwhile, the incident continues to provoke discussion and concern.
It was suggested in the special second hour that the mother’s withdrawal from the meeting did not result merely from the initial confrontation, but from a subsequent meeting of the mother with Ministry and Counsel, of which the mother is herself a member. This consultation was understood in completely different ways by those involved. The Clerk saw it as a sympathetic inquiry into the foundation of the problem, while the mother saw it as a bewildering confrontation, with no-one to come to her defense. During the special second hour, the Clerk of the Meeting resolved to contact the mother immediately in pursuit of the ongoing healing of the Meeting.
Quakers have never drawn a sharp line between the political and the spiritual. Our movement began in political turmoil. Today, many issues have reached the tipping point, an imperiled health care system, stresses on the environment, and the widening gap between rich and poor. Meanwhile, Americans acquiesce in the senselessness of weapons designed for murder.
Though the instinctive reaction to willful ignorance is anger, Parker Palmer, a Quaker political theorist we have studied in Quakerism 101, reminds us that, “the politics of rage is the politics of broken heartedness,” that opposition invites a backlash, and that political discussions are not productive unless they are founded on respect. A Carlisle Friend adds that peace is impossible without inward change.
Political action need not be ideology based. It can rely, instead, on the establishment of bonds and relationships. It can be people oriented rather than issue oriented. We have an opportunity even now to connect with our immediate community, as a civic group has expressed a desire to use our Meeting House to work for the neighborhood surrounding our building.
The Meeting is more than the people here. We are connected at the edges with the Quarter and the Yearly Meeting. Many of us are individually engaged in the public square in unobtrusive ways.
The Carlisle Meeting continues to minister to the personal needs of its members and to magnify the spirit through connections with all the communities of which it is a part.
March 11, 2012
“Does Truth prosper?” so goes the old query. What is true about our Meeting, about our present condition, and about our witness in the world to the Light Within? Where do we see the Light shining? And where is it blocked?
We considered the state of our meeting in a second hour. Notes that were shared by e-mail for comment, correction, and addition are the basis of this report.
Some have wondered if doing Quaker Quest in 2010 has mysteriously contributed to our growth in 2011, even though few new people attended it. But we got to know each other much better, and all of us gained insights into our shared faith. Now, all of a sudden, we seem to be attracting a number of new attenders who have shown sustained interest. We were reminded of Jesus’ question when the first two disciples started following him, “What are you looking for?” A disarmingly simple question for all of us to ponder. We look forward to new and deepening spiritual friendships within the meeting.
How can we improve our outreach? New signage out front? A greeter? An identified Friend to answer questions? Our Hospitality Committee has served us well with after-meeting refreshments, encouraging all to stick around for conversation and fellowship.
Our silence is experienced as a group search for love. One Friend could almost hear angels sing in the rich silence of our Christmas Candlelight worship. Messages seem to come more from the heart than from the head. Our Quaker faith encourages us to grow from within, rather than being something imposed from without, as we become more open to spiritual leadings in our lives. Programs with Ruth and Dave Fitz were enriching and supportive of growth of the spirit among us.
The meeting for business is a unique and new experience for newer participants. We have had some struggles to address differences, of both viewpoint and personality. Strong emotions have been expressed in matters of money and property. Interpersonal sensitivities have been raised. Our clerk is burdened, and some come to business meeting with reluctance and trepidation, or just stay away. People speaking in opposition to each other in meeting for business can obscure where the real issues lie. All of us are responsible for fostering the search for Truth. How do we look past what is personal to us, and not only see the issues more clearly, but discern together the way of Truth? This is something we learn as Quakers and take into our daily lives as peacemakers. Friends are at our best, potentially, when there is conflict. We sometimes try too hard to be agreeable and avoid conflict. We need to learn to listen deeply for “the place where words come from,” not just in others, but also in ourselves.
A Spiritual Formation Group meets the first and third Wednesdays. They keep in contact with an elderly Friend, now homebound, who is missed. Spiritual Formation Group has helped one Friend to learn how to pray and find answers to prayer. There are struggles with being inclusive while going deeper than some are accustomed to go. Our Todd Home ministry continues to enrich us and to brighten residents, who seem to come alive with the music. “They just want to see your young face,” is how one mother encourages her child to take part. One Friend feels the support of the Meeting in her work against the death penalty. One long absent friend, who recently died in the prime of her life, had a strong sense of Quaker identity. Many connected with her and her family in her last months. Everyone’s spiritual needs are different. It’s hard to be everything to everybody, but we try to meet people where they are and encourage each other to find our own paths. Hosting the homeless for a month with the Carlisle Cares organization was important in the past. Sometimes we need such demanding undertakings to push us beyond the limits we too easily assume.
Recent improvements in the meetinghouse appearance and function express both hospitality and stewardship. These include some new and remodeled windows, roof repair, a new furnace and the addition of central air conditioning. We are all getting older.
Our participation in Quarterly and Yearly Meetings is limited to few active Friends. We are all so busy.
2010 has been an eventful year for Carlisle Monthly Meeting. In April we had the exploratory first workshop for Quaker Quest with about 12 members attending. Friends also joined us from Chambersburg and York Monthly Meeting. By May we had passed a minute in business meeting to go ahead with Quaker Quest, trusting that way would open for members in our small meeting to have the faith to step forward, and the time to fulfill the responsibilities. The Quaker Quest Core group met monthly during the summer with members spending the days in between meetings weighing the relative value and researching the cost for advertising, and using their creative powers to design layouts in pictures and words. Nine people volunteered to be presenters on Quakers and Worship, Quakers and Jesus, and Quakers and Living our Faith. Each speaker shared their five minute presentations in small groups for practice. The meeting hosted 6 public sessions from October through November. Although we didn’t have many new seekers, we were enriched by those who came. The experience generated noticeable internal growth for the meeting. One addition has been that Quaker Quest has helped members have more confidence in greeting and sharing our meetinghouse and faith with new people. We found that we grew closer as a meeting by sharing our faith journeys in presentations and discussion. There is a diligence among us that is precious.
We feel strengthened by the spiritual power expressed in meeting for worship and comforted by the love of meeting members for each other. We lost a dear member last year and are supporting his widow. We also had a long time member whose husband died. Two members had a parent die. Meeting for worship has been strong; Friends feel that spoken ministry is meaningful and helps them for the whole week. Our young families are a gift in their presence.
Children’s Religious Ed this year has been focused more on Bible study and discussion as compared to last year’s emphasis on historical Quakers’ lives and writings. Children and youth, with their teachers, have continued our 20 year commitment to holding monthly services at the Todd Home in Carlisle. Adult Religious Education has provided opportunities to share in book discussions leading up to the Christmas season. After that Adult Religious Ed reached out to David and Ruth Fitz from York Monthly meeting to lead and share with our meeting an exploration of Quakerism beyond Quakerism 101. David and Ruth came on four Sundays through Jan, Feb, and Mar. They shared singing, group activities, reading, and discussion. The sessions were well attended by 10 to 15 members each time. We felt a deepening of understanding of ourselves, each other, and the larger Quaker community from these sessions. We are grateful to David and Ruth for their time with us. Our regular Christmas worship, potluck, and coffee house was well attended and was a joy of music, stories, and dramatic readings. Hospitality and Ministry and Counsel Committees have increased their service to the meeting by encouraging and supporting the other committees.
Business meetings have been well attended. We have chosen to take 30 minutes in pure discussion of the monthly query before we get into the agenda. Friends seem to care about the issues being discussed. We have dealt with decisions about Quaker Quest, modernizing the heat to our building, and the minute from the LGBTQ committee at BYM on same sex marriage. Many different perspectives have been expressed. We have decided, after much discussion, to replace our broken window air conditioners and use existing duct work for central air conditioning as we update the heating to our building. We hope this will help newcomers and our older members feel more comfortable on the hottest days.
We continue to reach out to the larger Quaker community. Five of us attended the annual BYM Women’s Retreat and one member went to Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Warrington Quarter’s clerk is a CMM member and a couple of Friends join him regularly at quarterly meeting. CMM reached out to our local community through hosting the homeless for a month of overnights in April and participating in the Amani Festival in the spring and the Downtown Community Day for Dickinson students in the fall. The meeting has continued its commitment to tutoring at Loysville Youth Development Center and its support of several members who are working to eliminate the death penalty in Pennsylvania.
There are areas where we want to do more. We feel the need to attract more people to our meeting. It is sometimes difficult to complete the meeting’s work with a smaller aging membership. We appreciate the joys of our meeting and want to share those joys with more people. We would like to share more spiritual practice and prayer, and also participate in more community events. Several members are led to regular prayer for the meeting and its members. Most of the time we feel blessed.