Menallen Monthly Meeting Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports
We’re rich in history, and active with Love.
Ten or so F/friends worship at the Menallen Meetinghouse each First Day, with First Day School offerings available when children and youth are present. Additionally, we offer monthly worship at the Huntington and Redlands Meetinghouses April through October. We have had a few visitors. We welcome more.
Our worship at the Menallen Meetinghouse is largely silent. As an aid to worship, we read aloud a query or passage each week from the 2013 Faith and Practice draft. Most recently, we have been reading from the section on “the Life of the Spirit.”
Menallen Monthly Meeting continues to value its rich history, now in its third century. The history of its people and buildings is an important part of the Yearly Meeting’s history beyond the confines of Warrington Quarter.
One member continues to give tours of the Menallen meetinghouse as a part of her informative tours of local Civil War and Underground Railroad history. We take pride in the three Meetinghouses and five burial grounds under our care, and while it can stretch us in many respects, we have found ways to maintain them all.
Our outreach to our local community has long been, and continues to be vital to the spirit of our local community. Our preschool celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, and continues to bring needed care to our neighbors. We can serve 18 students, and presently offer 2 scholarships.
Through our English as a Second Language (ESL) program, the meetinghouse rings with laughter, joy, and love one or two evenings a week throughout most of the year. Up to seven of us serve up to twelve adults with lessons and provide child care for up to seven children.
Our reading group meets nearly every month, and has provided us ways to better understand Quaker spirituality and practices. This year, we read several more Pendle Hill pamphlets, and started consideration of Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow.”
We mourn the passing of two lifelong members, Donald Bowker Cook in July 2014, and Alexander Wright Griest, in June 2015. We welcomed Gail Sweezey and Mike Gemmill into membership in December 2014.
The members and attenders of Menallen Monthly Meeting are strongly committed to Quaker leanings. We embrace with enthusiasm all attenders, guests, and new members. We care warmly for our active members and we try to involve all ages; we have an ongoing First Day School, although attendance is most often three children. We have a strong sense of appreciation for the history of Quakers in our area. We are able to embrace social change with grace and energy. Of particular note are the ESL classes we began to offer twice weekly last September. This tutoring is especially uplifting and important to those who participate and contributes to the greater good of the community. We also continue, as we have for over forty years, to offer a preschool to the community. One of our members conducts history tours showcasing past members’ contributions to the abolition of slavery by moving freedom seekers out of enslavement. Another member attends services one time per month at AME Zion in Gettysburg, PA, to honor the historic relationship between Quakers and African Americans in Adams County. We are committed to caring for the meetinghouses and burial grounds that are under our care. We meet monthly for lively reading discussions of Pendle Hill pamphlets that enrich our spiritual journey. It is amazing what we are able to accomplish with so few members, and our Meeting is a safe place of belonging where members and participants work together to get done what needs to be gotten done.
While the spiritual condition of the meeting is strong, the involvement and initiative comes from a very small group. Between eight and ten members and attenders attend on a regular basis. We struggle with the physical structure of the Meeting (having members fill the administrative functions like clerk and treasurer, which currently are vacant) and the physical taking care of all the property that is under our care. There are not enough people to share the workload and too few people to have committees, and we don’t have the critical mass that makes a large First Day program, or even a young Friends program possible. Coupled with our low numbers is the additional challenge of several core members who are facing serious health issues and other core members who are caring for these family members. As all good Quakers do, we often bite off more than we can chew. Our sense of connection with wider Quaker bodies is minimal and weak. While it would be rewarding in many ways to have more members, our Quaker method of growing the “flock” is passive by design and keeps the doors from being cluttered with warm bodies and searching souls. Perhaps, as one member suggested, we try a blinking neon sign at the bottom of the gentle hill to with some fetching message like: LOST SOULS, WEARY TRAVELERS, WAVERING METHODISTS, and DEFLOCKED PRIESTS WELCOME! It seems we have tried everything else.
Attendance at Meetings for Business is sparse, but the range of concerns is broad and comprehensive. There always is a clear agenda and minutes are likewise well-prepared. However, sometimes there is a sense of “hurry up” because Meetings for Business historically seem long and convoluted – but this is only a reminder of all that is expected of so few people. It can be difficult to get true consensus; sometimes those who oppose will set their concerns aside or those who have strong feelings will stand in the way. All voices are heard. Save for the preschool committee, we do not have committees that meet regularly – we have committees of the whole. The Meeting for Business encapsulates committee meetings due to our small numbers.
We are a silent meeting, but that suits the nature of the attenders. We are all comfortable with silence, and sitting in silence with like-minded and kind people is why some continue to attend. People benefit from the reading of queries and advices that happens near the beginning of each Meeting for Worship. The very few who speak during the Meeting speak as if the Light is leading them; no one has ulterior motives when speaking. Our meetings and silence are conducive to spiritual growth. Some find the weekly opportunity to engage in silent worship with treasured friends and colleagues rejuvenating and, at times, cleansing.
Friends gather at Menallen Meetinghouse each first day at 10:30, please feel welcome to join us.
During the summer the historic meetinghouses at Huntington and Redlands are open for worship once a month. Check our website for all the information www.menallenfriends.org.
The calendar has been full of activities: outreach services for the ‘dream act’ students, including the first scholarship for a Hispanic student in our preschool; two food drives; two concerts; tours by our historian on the Underground Railroad and to our historic meetinghouses; an art and history camp; First Day school activities, including a Christmas program and an environmental project; the Blackburn family reunion; a reading group for adults and plans for the 40th year of service to Menallen Friends Preschool.
Last September a member asked to convene a discussion group to discuss hand gun violence in our society. We met just before Newtown and needless to say that event impacted all of us profoundly. The Shepherdstown position paper was discussed at our retreat. We have met with members who hold all different views on guns. We plan to discuss the complicated issues involved at the Warrington Quarterly Meeting, at our turn to host, with the theme “Keep the Conversation Going”. All are welcome to join us on August 19th 2013.
Meeting for Worship with Concern for Business is held each month. Then plans are made to maintain the three meetinghouses and five cemeteries under our care; to supervise the preschool and First Day School and to publish the events from the quarter and yearly meeting. Notably we invested monies in the Friends Fiduciary Corporation that were restricted funds.
Menallen Meeting’s outreach efforts to support current migrant needs in our part of the county and our on-going support of the historic tours, shows that we value our past and present involvement the testimony of equality. Our efforts to address the complicated issues of violence in our society has been our witness to the truth. All of this has served to increase our own sense of community within the Meeting. Our support of the First Day School and the preschool remains our top priority. We are learning to balance our spiritual needs and maintain our stewardship responsibilities with respect to Menallen Meeting’s 233 years in this community.
Menallen Monthly Meeting 2012
Menallen Friends have rediscovered the value of spiritual readings done at home. Our book group leader is a skilled facilitator who guides a discussion at our monthly gatherings, to the profit of the group.
Younger members wanted to explore our outreach possibilities beyond what individuals do. There is so much need in the migrant community of our county. Their vision has enabled us to do more than talk and worry about immigrant issues. We have taken positive steps to give assistance of a tangible nature.
Our preschool program will start its 40th year of operation in the community.
We held our annual retreat in conjunction with the FUM Chain of Prayer.
Each summer Menallen Friends sponsor a “History Meets the Arts” day camp and a concert for peace.
We hosted a book signing that dealt with a history of a fugitive to freedom who sheltered with local Quakers; he went on to become an abolitionist.
We celebrated the 200th anniversary of the building of the Newberry Meetinghouse at Redlands with over 200 people in attendance.
We continue to offer tours of the area’s UGRR and our five cemeteries.
We formed a committee of care to oversee the myriad of financial, legal and logistical issues which resulted from the opening of another seasonal Meeting for Worship under our care, at Newberry Meeting, in addition to the one at the historic Huntington Meetinghouse.
Despite all of this activity, we feel that we have a very pressing need to redefine the wider meaning of stewardship. While we have to attend to our responsibilities as caregivers of sacred places entrusted to our care, we feel we need to find better ways to focus on all the resources ~ our time and money, our strength and energy. But more importantly, we need to find ways to explore the gifts and talents of all of our members, young and old, in order to become a more blessed community. We need to find ways to address the spiritual needs of our children in age-appropriate and meaningful ways.
In summary, at Menallen we continue to search for inspiration and guidance to meet the needs of everyone and everything entrusted to our tender care.