West Branch Monthly Meeting
Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5, “In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus.” As I sit to write the state of the West Branch Friends Meeting, I would like to think in this reflection that the members at West Branch are learning and striving to be servants of the Lord; not only in First Day activities, but also in their daily walks as seniors, retirees, farmers, healthcare workers, school administration, engineers, accountants, surveyors, janitors, drillers, housewives, students and even toddlers. Looking back on this past year, I find it meaningful to reflect on the servant hood of our members and recognize how each and every person is allowing the Holy Spirit lead them to use their spiritual gifts to bring glory and honor to God and in turn, growth and unity to our meeting.
We have always had the gift of talented cooks and the blessing of good food – whether or not that is a spiritual gift, it does provide us the means to bring us together in fellowship in a number of ways. We enjoy the time together at our monthly breakfasts every 3rd Sunday. All of the new recipes that have been shared as breakfast foods triggered an interest to reprint and add to our previous Quaker Ladies cookbook. The servant of our meeting who has been called to type and organize is working diligently to get a new print edition prepared for release in 2015. The annual Easter breakfast that is served by the men carries on with our younger “servants” volunteering to cook and clean up. Many are actively involved in community fundraisers to make and sell ham and cheese sandwiches for the Grampian fireworks or bake “goodies” for Relay for Life. Young and old continue to enjoy the opening of the Christmas season with our soup luncheon, the packing and delivering of fruit baskets and decorating of the tree. In our Sunday School lessons, we learn Jesus, the Bread of Life, shared communion with his disciples. Our Meeting takes this lesson and applies it to our lives as His followers as we understand the importance of coming together and uniting in fellowship through the breaking and sharing of bread.
Many are active servants to maintain our 100+ year-old Meeting House. We are grateful to have caretakers who diligently keep the water out of the basement, the windows washed, the yard groomed, and the seasonal flowers in the vases on the window sills. We are fortunate to have open minds when work is needed to maintain our current building. A new outdoor mower shed was placed in the spring, a new roof was added this fall and a newly painted sign was created for the front of the Meeting House. While it may not be like the Tabernacle of the Israelites, we pray that we tend to our building’s needs such that it would be welcoming for passers-by to stop in and visit.
There is also demonstration of servant hood in our community activities. Throughout the year, we value the time in united services with our fellow church communities at Good Friday Services, hymn sings, painting sermons and the traditional Thanksgiving Eve Service. Our Meeting continues to host one of the weekly Lenten Services and is quietly proud that our service is well-attended and meaningful (for both the program and the food!). Many enjoy sharing in the community Adult Bible Study sessions as well as the wonderful week of Vacation Bible School activity. We are grateful for the servant work that Walt does to represent our Meeting throughout the year; both in the ministerium and within Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Several women joined in fellowship with other women in the community to celebrate 100 years of Mother’s Day at a tea, “Refections of a Lovely Lady.” As they were challenged to follow the scripture of Proverbs 31, “…Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her,” I feel we can confidently state that the women of our Meeting are women of faith and in so many ways, serving the Lord with their hands and their hearts.
There seems to be an unspoken commitment in keeping our Meeting thriving. While we know and understand that across our nation, churches are getting smaller and seeing smaller numbers in attendance and membership, we remain fairly stable. With an average attendance of 35, we enjoy when those members who have moved away remain diligent to attend meeting when they are home increasing some First Day attendance to over 50. We welcomed a new little life, Madelyn Grace Wisor, as a birthright member in December. Adding her to the nursery class, we embrace every opportunity to experience the presence of God in the time of our Quaker worship when we hear little voices chattering or footsteps “moving” from one place to another. It is in this that we grow and realize that God’s blessing is indeed very near. As a Meeting, we must feel grateful that these little ones are coming, but even more, we must recognize that it is our responsibility to support their parents and pray for these precious lives as they too become servants of the Lord. Our First Day Lessons stimulate adult discussions that are meaningful but also, at times disturbing as we study the scriptures and attempt to make them applicable to our daily walk. The handful who stay for Meeting for Worship relish the peace and quietness of the week as we continue to seek the presence and guiding of the Holy Spirit during this time. The ticking of the old clock helps many settle in to this time and on a rare occasion, someone is moved to break the silence and share the ponderings of their heart.
In the celebration of new lives and the little ones we would be amiss if we were not saddened at the loss of members and other loved ones; especially when it is a young life as was Ginger Abrino in March. As Quakers we realize that each memorial meeting brings hope, comfort and a reason to celebrate the life and reveal the service to the Lord’s calling it brought to our life as a meeting and to our families. Recognizing Ginger’s strength and independence, the life impact and determination of Barry Bonsall, the incredible longevity of Nan Worts adding to the words of shared memories in the losses of Shirley Miller, John McGary and Bessie Rowles, we are given the blessed reassurance that every one of these lives had a purpose and meaning to fulfill in God’s plan and that they are met at Heaven’s gate by our Lord saying, “well-done, my faithful servant.”
Our youth are servants in their own time, demonstrating God’s blessings in their lives through athletics, academics and, even though they may not admit, their continued shared enjoyment in the annual Easter Egg hunt. In this time when so many youth are struggling with societal pressures, we understand how faith, guidance and the impact of a spiritual upbringing can bring them to celebrate the milestones of life. In May, we honored Kara and Jason Thorp’s high school and Nicki Thorp, Ben, Nate and Kim McGary’s college graduations. We see our prayers for nurturing and guiding our youth answered as we see them emerge as independent young adults with careers and choices to serve and witness to others in their personal endeavors – Bart’s choosing to begin his own chiropractic practice, Kate and Nate opening their homes to host a foreign exchange student from Germany for a year and John’s ongoing involvement in Special Olympics are just a few examples among many.
When considering the state of our Meeting, we must not exclude the influence of our older adults. We value the wisdom and advice of our oldest members who are stepping back from years of servant hood and passing it on to the younger generations. We celebrate the accomplishments of those who reach retirement as they shift some of their efforts of service to other interests such as exploring God’s creation in the forests and streams, visiting and caring for grandchildren, traveling, quilting, gardening and bowling. For some, accepting new responsibilities and stepping forward as useful servants is not easy and creates challenges to question their talents and doubt their ability. As a Meeting, it is important to understand these fears and insecurities and hold them close in our encouragement, support and prayers.
The servant works of our outreach committee come alive through the scripture of I Corinthians 10:24. “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” Although our community is small, it is not immune to tragedy, turmoil and illness. We, as a faith community, were greatly affected by a tragic accident early in the year that claimed the life of one youth, critically injured another and emotionally affected the other driver. Our Meeting provided love gifts and food banks to these and many others facing similar burdens.
Cancer continues to strike both young and old and sadly, our community lost several faithful members this fall to this dreaded disease. Having been so directly affected by this diagnosis, West Branch Friends serve in many ways to support the causes that bring hope to the devastating illness including Relay for Life, the 5K Run for the Gold and Days of Hope. Our own members face aging issues, surgery and challenges with both acute and chronic illness. All of these families and situations challenge us to keep our prayer life focused and intact. While so often our prayers are requests for healing and comfort, we are gladden when we can offer them in praise for His answers.
It is a difficult time for Christians. But, is it really any different than it was for the followers of Moses? Or, for the disciples of Christ? Or, than it was for Paul? As we, individuals of all ages, strive to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and become faithful servants, using our talents and gifts for His purpose, it remains vital that our worship, our faith practice and our Meeting is strong. We must seek guidance through the Scripture. And as Quakers, through the small voices that we hear when we take time to be quiet and still, we come to know that God is ever near. From and in this, West Branch Friends Meeting will continue to serve the Lord with humble gladness.
No report received.