York Friends 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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York Meeting’s spiritual state seems much like the gardens that grace our grounds. There are perennials that have grown and thrived for many seasons; always dependable to blossom and fill in spaces when needed. Annuals seem to pop up here and there, adding brightness while they bloom. Their scattered seeds, though dormant for a time, give hope of future visits. Other visitors to our gardens appear for only a brief time; withering quickly, not from neglect, but just their nature. Even so they bring us joy and hope as they come and go. The tall trees around our old Meeting House, rooted deep in the soil of our faith, have weathered tempests, droughts and gusty winds yet have prevailed to shelter us. Some of them now show signs of age with branches sagged and broken and squirrels playing cheerfully in their thinning crowns. Inevitably weeds and thorns sprang up here and there to threaten our peace and serenity. We have labored tenderly to name and hopefully overcome those concerns. Prickly canes in the berry patch often surprise us with sweet fruit. Chirping birds, buzzing bees and fluttering butterflies, like guests of the spirit, visit us to pollinate and carry the message throughout.
We are all stewards of this garden of grace. In order to care for ourselves and the community, each of us at various times have shouldered a spade, a rake, a hoe, a watering can or any tool necessary to keep us thriving. We have trimmed and pruned where needed to bring about sturdier growth. Our Clerks gave steady guidance and strength as we progressed from season to season. Our committees like bouquets gathered from around the grounds, were brought together to give us focus. Some were tightly packed, some loose and airy and others stood singular. Community Life Committee worked diligently to nourish and cultivate our lives in the Spirit. With loving care they endeavored to keep us green and growing. Stewardship and Finance and the Treasurer carefully attended our resources, being generous when possible. Building and Grounds Committee and the Gardeners maintained and beautified our 250 year old legacy which has been entrusted to us. First Day School and Religious Education Committees faithfully attended to our understanding of Friends’ faith and practices. We were encouraged by the new energy and growth of our once dormant Communication and Outreach Committee. They have broadcasted near and far the seeds of Friends’ witness.
Each season unfolded with new colors. We flourished and grew. The evergreens of winter, the carpet of early spring flowers, the showy blooms of summer and the wispy asters and changing leaves of autumn, reminded us of the diversity and beauty amongst us and all of God’s creation. They continue to remind us too of the cycle of life in ourselves and our meeting as we grow in love and gratitude for each other and our beloved community. All this has been made possible by the refreshing showers of grace divine, so freely bestowed upon us.
As a community of faith, we at York Monthly Meeting discerned that a Mission Statement would enhance our previously approved Vision Statement: Grounded in God, Guided by the Light, Growing in Gratitude. In December we approved the following Mission Statement:
As a community of faith we affirm our desire:
To honor our Quaker heritage to remind us from whence we came
To sustain our faithfulness to the Divine as our Spiritual Center
To grow in depth and breadth to welcome and nurture adults, children, youth, and families of diverse backgrounds
To reach beyond ourselves to co-create a more just, peaceful, and sustainable local and global community
We consider ourselves a healthy though small community of faith with hopes of growing into our Vision and Mission Statements more fully in the years ahead.
To honor our Quaker heritage to remind us from whence we came, we reflect on the words of our Quaker foremothers and forefathers such as the following George Fox quote from 1658:
Friends, keep your meeting in the power of God, and in his wisdom (by which all things were made) and in the love of God, that by that ye may order all to his glory. And when friends have finished their business, sit and continue awhile quietly and wait upon the Lord to feel him. And go not beyond the Power, but keep in the Power by which God Almighty may be felt among you.
Our Meetings for Worship have a depth which is hard to measure yet Friends express gratitude for the silence, and first time attenders find that our worship draws them back to worship with us again and again. During Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business we remain friendly with one another and meet challenges as needed. A couple married this year under the care of the Meeting expresses the joy of the Quaker heritage of Clearness Committees which allow people to speak openly and find support in Meeting.
To sustain our faithfulness to the Divine as our Spiritual Center, we recognize that we have diversity in our spiritual upbringings, understandings and interpretations of God. This allows us to see that God or the Divine is so much bigger than our meager attempts to use words to define our Spiritual Center.
Discernment is something that we feel we do well at York Meeting and this careful process arises from our faithfulness to the Divine. There has been a growing leading both inwardly and outwardly for additional space. This year we held a series of Threshing Sessions and discerned that as a Meeting we are ready to move forward with plans for an addition. Building and Grounds Committee is meeting regularly to further develop our plans.
To grow in depth and breadth to welcome and nurture adults, children, youth, and families, we recognize that it is possible for a Meeting that was down to one member to re-ignite. We are amazed not only by our growth in numbers of people in attendance each week at Meeting for Worship but also by our sense of community. This trend seems to indicate that there is movement in the Meeting and that we are not stagnant.
Activities such as Spiritual Formation, mid-week Seekers, and First Day First Hour worship sharing sessions are some of the ways we help each other grow in depth and breadth. Our First Day School has been having more consistent attendance including our first Associate Membership in several years. Our young members and attenders bring special gifts and energies to our Meeting. We would like more children and youth, and most of us welcome the sounds of the First Day School children during Meeting for Worship. Their voices can be heard through the ancient thin wooden panels that divide our two-room Meetinghouse. Creating diversity of age in Meeting is something that takes a long time. However, we have a dedicated team devoted to teaching and helping with the First Day School program.
To reach beyond ourselves to co-create a more just, peaceful, and sustainable local and global community, we start by being attentive to the needs of individuals in Meeting that have been made known to us. But how can we know the spiritual needs of someone especially newcomers? Often just being available to listen meets someone’s needs. The financial commitment of our small Meeting to local non-profit organizations and to other Quaker organizations is a great joy as we co-create a more just, peaceful, and sustainable community. Joy also arises as we witness the community visiting our Little Free Library for the second year.
Participating in Warrington Quarterly Meeting and Baltimore Yearly Meeting activities is another way we reach beyond ourselves. We value our interaction with other Friends.
Despite our joys this year we are also aware of areas where there is room for growth in and among ourselves as a Meeting.
As a community of faith we affirm our desire:
To honor our Quaker heritage by:
Encouraging attendance at our First Day First Hour sessions
Restarting mid-week Seekers in March 2016 since attendance dwindled in late autumn
To sustain our faithfulness by:
Recognizing the loss of some faithful members in leadership
Inviting more people with energy to committees
To grow in depth and breadth by:
Acknowledging our aging membership
Challenging ourselves to create more opportunities for children and youth
To reach beyond ourselves by:
Discerning how to revive our Peace and Social Concerns Committee
Consulting BYM resources for help with fundraising and/or expanding our racial diversity
In summary we affirm our desire to be like a tree firmly planted in our Quaker heritage with the Divine as the sap flowing through us enabling us to grow new branches and reach beyond our original roots out into the world.
The Light has strengthened and guided us safely through another year. We have enjoyed a bountiful harvest of some of the fruit of the Spirit which we believe to include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and forgiveness. With faith and hope we planted the seeds and diligently tended and cultivated the new shoots with the understanding that some of these fruits take time to mature and may not be in season all the time.
We experience love and joy as we participate in the life of our Meeting. We are grateful for a faithful core of members and attenders and new seekers who have come into our community. Our spiritual needs are nourished in our Meetings for Worship which are often enriched by ministry in song and voice and the constant presence of faithful Friends. We recognize the diversity of faith and beliefs among us and are thankful that we have neither creed nor doctrine that we need subscribe to. We see our differences as strengths and understand that God, the Light, the Seed, the Christ, the Inner Teacher, the Spirit and other appellations are ways in which we name that Power that is in and around us all.
Our committees actively work to meet the needs of individuals and the community. Opportunities to learn more about our Quaker faith and practices, and other interests and concerns have been afforded through our adult Religious Education Committee. Children who come to our Meeting are met by a welcoming and caring and always ready First Day School Committee. The Community Life Committee tenderly supports and encourages both individuals and the community. Care and clearness are the gifts they generously give to Meeting. Stewardship and Finance has provided Meeting with careful attention to our financial resources. The generosity of members and attenders has enabled us to meet our own expenses as well as to be able to contribute support to Quaker organizations and other non-Quaker benevolent organizations in the York community. We are grateful for our Peace and Social Concerns Committee which keeps Meeting aware of concerns we need to address and also takes our concerns to our legislators. The Garden Committee has beautifully landscaped the Meetinghouse grounds with native plants. The pollinator gardens supply food for the occupants of the two beehives which were added this year. We have been blessed with able clerks who have served us far beyond expectations. We are blessed with these active committees which nurture and increase the spiritual life of York Meeting. We also recognize that many of us are growing older and have less energy yet no less love for the Meeting.
We cherish longstanding friendships and relationships with our extended spiritual families of Warrington Quarterly Meeting and Baltimore Yearly Meeting. We grow in faith and understanding from continuing interaction with these wider communities. The resources they share with us help nourish and sustain our spiritual lives.
Our Meetinghouse has been a center of Friends’ activities since 1766. As we grow in numbers we find our beloved and treasured building, entrusted to us by our spiritual ancestors, is barely adequate to meet our needs. Additional space would give us room to grow our First Day School, room to spread out during our weekly shared meal, and a place where we could accommodate larger Quaker events and allow access for local community happenings. This concern and how we might proceed has been with us for some time. In the hope for our future, and trusting way will open, we have created a building fund. In the meantime, we make the best use of the space we have.
York Friends Meeting’s vision is to be a welcoming community; “Grounded in God; Growing in gratitude; and Guided by the Light.” We see York Meeting as a community of faith with a desire to honor our Quaker heritage; to sustain the divine as our spiritual center; to renew our faithfulness and grow in depth and breadth; to welcome and nurture adults, children, youth and families of diverse backgrounds; and to reach beyond ourselves to co-create a more just, peaceful and sustainable local and global community.
As the Spirit leads us forward, we are thankful for the many blessings of the past year, the present joys we share today. Our hope is for continuing Love and Light in the years to come.
Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying for one another, and helping one another up with a tender hand. ~Isaac Penington
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. ~ I Peter 4:9
This year our sharing about the spiritual state of the meeting seemed to revolve around the query, “How is the presence of Spirit manifested in your lives individually and as a Meeting community?” Many of us share a growing sense of prospering in the Spirit since first encountering Friends. We find comfort, acceptance and love; we are unsettled and challenged by the risk of being too comfortable and self-satisfied; we find the courage to be vulnerable and to live out of that vulnerability. Together we experience enrichment and the capacity to be positively present for others on their life journeys. Many feel an intimacy and an acceptance of wherever one is on his/her spiritual journey and ever present thankfulness for that.
Many of us have experienced and expressed joy and enrichment by getting to know Friends outside our meeting through participating in the larger Quaker community, through intervisitations and participation in quarterly, interim and yearly meetings. At the same time we embrace the intimacy and trust that may be easier to find in a small meeting. We feel it is a place of good relationships with self, with others, with God, and with the wider Quaker community. Many feel increasingly comfortable with others, which contributes to becoming more comfortable with self. We show care and concern for each other. One can feel a depth of emotion, compassion and trust here that turns a group of strangers into friends where it becomes safe to talk about difficult subjects without feeling the need for self-protection.
A new attendee says there is a lot to learn. “Friends” are a good description for his experience here as he feels a warm welcome both before and after Meeting. Spirituality is demonstrated more than spoken about or preached. People describe feeling a sense that at York Meeting there need be no “spiritual misfits” but that all are part of a community of spiritual seekers where there is an emphasis on genuineness/authenticity and the absence of feeling judged.
“That of God in everyone” is a seed of the community that grows into the fruit of trust in others. Belief in extending God’s love to others helps to create the safety to be vulnerable. Even when we disagree, we don’t discount the other’s belief, and we try to follow the golden rule. Sharing these beliefs helps create that safe space for each of us. There is a feeling of a loving family, quick to listen and help. There is thankfulness for individuals who shoulder responsibility to support Quaker values in the Meeting and wider community when there is not a group to address certain tasks. Gratitude arises as we support each other through difficulties, and appreciation for that support feeds the trust and love needed for transformation.
Weekly Meetings for Worship, with profound silence along with heartfelt spoken ministry, are central seeds of our community. Other times of sharing include weekly shared meals, Monthly Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business, mid week meeting, 9:30 First Day gatherings, spiritual formation, committee meetings, and work days; these all enrich and anchor our spirits and strengthen our bonds.
Coming from many varied religious traditions, we embrace with joy a spiritual life that is not mandated by institutional creeds but rather by the shared experiencing of continuing revelation. This poses both an individual challenge to go beyond formative religious experiences and a community challenge to welcome newcomers. We also face challenges in knowing, naming, and embracing the special gifts that each member and attender brings and finding places where these can be used and appreciated.
The meeting is feeling itself on the cusp of new growth as increasing numbers join us for Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business and other activities. How do we grow in size without losing the intimacy and trust we feel in our small familiar community and building? How might we embrace new people bringing new ideas and perspectives? Change is challenging. As we seek balance and practice patience, we need to remember change doesn’t only come from outside but from also from within. Scriptures which reference “one another” can serve as guides for how to support one another during change. (see appendix)
There is a real need for space to grow, both spiritually and physically. As we feel comfort and joy with our Meeting, we are well reminded of the dangers of becoming too complacent when there are so many human and environmental needs around us. We have an obligation to nurture future generations of Friends and also to help the larger community address the many needs of its citizens.
York Friends are reminded of Jesus’ advice for us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are also reminded that “love is the first motion” and also the continuing motion for us as we grow together.
Examples of accomplishments of York Monthly Meeting during 2013
- Increased competence with Quaker process as evidenced by 1) completing a Pastoral Care Manual, 2) creating a First Day School committee with child safety policy and First Day School program, 3) creating an Adult Religious Education committee, 4) creating minutes of support for ministry of two members.
- Increased participation of members and attenders in the expanding life of the meeting; e.g., eighteen persons participated in two morning sessions to share their experiences which form the basis for the current spiritual state of our meeting
- Increased presence/witness in the community through 1) community gardens; 2) hosting FreeStore; 3) setting up and maintaining a Little Free Library; 4) active participation in groups seeking to better the York community such as Healthy World Café, York County Time Bank; 5) letter writing on social and political issues of concern like abolishing the death penalty, ending torture, etc.
“One Another” Scriptures That Build Community (wording from New International Version)
Mark 9:50 …be at peace with one another.
John 13:34-35 …Love one another.
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Romans 14:13 …stop passing judgment on one another.
Romans 15:7 Accept one another.
Romans 15:14 …instruct one another.
I Corinthians 12:25 …have equal concern for each other.
Galatians 5: 13…serve one another in love.
Galatians 6:2 Carry each others burdens,
Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other…
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against each other.
I Thessalonians 5:11 Encourage one another and build each other up.
Hebrews 3:13 Encourage one another daily.
Hebrews 10:24 Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
James 4:11 Brother, do not slander one another.
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
I Peter 3:8 …live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
I Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
How Spirit prospers among us:
We have been growing into a vital role as a meeting community and in the broader community, providing a sense of direction for community members and a refuge and inspiration for people dealing with life on life’s terms. We also provide input in the larger community where government officials and community leaders recognize our voice and respond to it. Our spirits are soothed and strengthened inside our walls to inspire us and give us something to take with us as we engage in activities out in the larger community. We continue to value our participation in Warrington Quarter, and we continue with variations of Quakerism 101 as adult education.
For those who have had to decrease their involvement because of life’s challenges, there is the reassurance that the Meeting’s spiritual sustenance is being maintained and shared. Someone who missed much of a year because of work described her feeling of being more whole when here, and observed that we are all part of the whole, whether actively engaged in the work of the meeting or simply being present with the community. However, this decreased involvement of some formerly active members has impacted our faithfulness in carrying forward some of the work of the Meeting. We may need to reevaluate some of our expectations of the Meeting and of each other, doing less rather than offering something we then fail to follow through.
Committees continue to nurture our spiritual growth and their functioning benefits from it as well. CLC’s deliberate, careful consideration of issues and working through them using Quaker processes results in a smoother course through many of our issues and increased readiness for the unexpected. Stewardship and Finance’s information gathering and gentle listening regarding a request from the mayor for donation to the city allowed for a solution that heard and honored all sides. Each year preparation of a budget becomes more mindful and incorporates more awareness of the relationship between spirit and resources. Peace and Social Concerns continues to write letters to our elected officials on a variety of issues close to Friends’ hearts. A revitalized First Day School Committee is moving forward on putting policies and programs in place for the children when they come. Implementing child safety procedures with the aid of the Yearly Meeting has been challenging and meaningful for both the First Day School committee and the Meeting. As we learn to listen through Spirit directed ears we also learn to trust more in Spirit including the Spirit that is in each of us and in our decisions and actions, especially as they come to us seasoned through committee processes. The creation of and approval of two new brochures, one for York Monthly Meeting and one for First Day School provided meaningful process as well as meaningful products.
The preparation for two marriages under the care of the Meeting was powerfully filled with Spirit, for the meeting members as well as for the couples. The reservations about the same gender marriage were met by members’ ability to witness to varying truths with love. The homework required by many of us to prepare for the marriages enriched more than the couples marrying. The queries for the couples about relationship with self, each other, and God seemed to spill over onto meeting members and attenders and enrich their interactions as well.
The Meeting community, filled with Spirit for the marriages, seems to have attracted more attenders. Sharing among us has increased in quantity and quality, leading to more light present. Those coming to seek solace note a welcoming spirit and open-mindedness. The Meeting seems willing to be a “way station” to others in their journey without expectations that they join us.
“Way stations” have need of involved people to maintain their effectiveness, and how to get more people engaged in the active life of the Meeting continues to challenge us. Making specific requests for help with specific projects may be one way to involve those on the edge who don’t quite know how to enter into deeper participation. Providing more information on the vital joy and uniqueness of our way of conducting business may encourage more people to participate in this laboratory of spiritual formation, spiritual growth, and meaningful service.
We face a challenge of what to do about more physical space as we grow. We need to prepare for unexpected challenges and opportunities and stop allowing complacency to keep a self imposed cap on our spiritual growth.
To grow spiritually requires us to learn to know each other at a deeper level, to be tender to each others’ life challenges, to find ways to share our needs with each other, and to forgive ourselves and each other when we disappoint/are disappointed. “If you could stand in someone else's shoes... Hear what they hear. See what they see. Feel what they feel. Would you treat them differently?” applies as much to our F/friends inside the Meeting House as to those outside it. When we are unable to share where we stand, and what we see, feel and hear, we deprive others of the opportunity to practice caring for us. We want to find ways to share our problems or issues from our spiritual journeys in a manner that feels supportive, being aware that we have different needs and different comfort levels with sharing things that are close to the heart. Spiritual Formation continues to help us deepen our sharing awareness of the Spirit.
Spontaneity and gentle humor play an important role in helping us through our challenges and opportunities.
Attendance: Cecilia Murray, Colleen Schields, David Fitz, Dawn Mogren, Debbie Spinelli, Diane Steenstra, Dorothy Shumway, Hank Armstrong, Kimberly Spencer, Lamar Matthew, Leada Dietz, Louise Heckert, Meg Hill Grigson, Pat Long, Ruth Fitz, Scott Brenner, Ted Leigh, Tom Howie, Wim Neij.
Trust has grown in a number of ways, both individually and corporately. Spiritual Formation provides a way of sharing spiritual practices and difficulties, demonstrating how light can come from darkness. The AVP workshop at the retreat facilitated sharing at a deeper level. As trust builds, it is easier to let go of individual self reliance and seek help from the community. At another level, the group is more willing to trust saying yes when opportunities to share arise as demonstrated by our response to many unbudgeted requests for support, including the Shiloh pond project and FWCC travel fund request.
Expressions of love and connection have grown, both within the meeting and towards the outer community. Our simple meals after Meeting for Worship, to which all are welcome, continue to nourish our bodies and our fellowship. Our increasing readiness to respond to needs of others in our community provides gifts to the helpers and blessings to the receivers as we learn more about trusting ourselves and leaning on others for support. There has been recognition of the importance of individuals and their leadings. The list of community involvement: planning to offer AVP, holding an Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, being a significant part of the city’s New Year’s Eve event, starting a community garden, are all examples of expressing our love for and connection to our community through our works. These feel like Spirit led responses to opportunities to become involved.
Our committees have taken an active role in fostering community well being. Community Life has labored long and hard over the pastoral care manual, developing a process for reconciliation of differences and difficult situations. In addition to paying consistent attention to the life of Meeting, they also organized our annual retreat and picnic, two events that nourished the spirit with fun and joy. Stewardship and Finance has helped us think about how our resources support our values, Building and Grounds not only maintains but also revises and improves our environment with a new counter and cabinets, Nominating tends to our personnel needs, and Peace and Social Concerns keeps us apprised of where our voice may make a difference.
Groups like Healthy World Café ask to meet here because it feels safe and welcoming, not too religious, not too secular. This sense of balance extends also to our growing understanding of the balance between internal work such as Worship, Spiritual Formation, Wednesday evening and 9:30 Sunday morning discussions, and external work. Real spiritual maturity includes both and does not see them merely as cause and effect but rather as each enriching the other in a circular process. As each of us use our gifts for the benefit of others, we round out ourselves and each other and fill the hunger for belonging and community. Like flying geese, we can take turns leading and following.
Vocal ministry and silence are both nurturing to the spirit as some find their vocal ministry enriches the meeting. Others find that what happens during worship gives them the strength to witness in truth to power in the political justice arena. There is a felt need for the sustenance of the Holy Spirit to keep from burning out while engaging the outside world, and a need to trust leadings about offering what you can as well as leadings to pull back and do something else.
After some soul searching into a dream to build another building as a Peace Building and a space for First Day School, we discerned that we don’t have the time or energy to devote to the structure and maintenance of a new building, nor do we currently have any children attending. We may build in the future. However, we should use the resources we have to contribute to the community now, making York Monthly Meeting a Peace Building through various community outreach efforts. We offered the donated timber frame to the BYM camping program. We agreed to work together, with outside facilitation. on a vision for the Meeting.
We include here the queries that arose from last year’s labor over our spiritual state of the meeting. We use them as arrows pointing the way for our community efforts to find our vision while reminding ourselves “Tis Grace that brought us safe thus far and Grace will lead us home.”
What can I contribute to this Meeting, this spiritual community?
What supports tending the life of our meeting and the challenges we face?
How do we ourselves, as a spiritual community, create the heart of what people are looking for?
As individual Friends, do we shirk responsibilities of loving and caring for each other?
How do we transcend or transform from those dark places?
How do we move from darkness to light individually and corporately?
Are we patient with the Spirit or do we want things in our own time?
What do we give our energy to: joy or sadness? Are people being nudged by a leading?
What corporate leadings do we recognize? How do we support leadings of individuals in our Meeting?
What is important--what are our priorities? How shall we set priorities?
How much of myself do I devote to any one commitment?
What kinds of corporate leadings or ministry have we seen this year?
Does the notion of being a structureless and leaderless faith community hinder our desires to move forward with the work of the Spirit and the necessary work of the Meeting?
Do we want leadership? If so, what would it look like? How do we view Friends who take responsibility or leadership? Is there room in our meeting for charismatic leaders/leadership?
What authority/trust do we vest in leadership? Are our clerks looked to as leaders? Do we unduly defer to our clerks? Are each of us called to be leaders?
Should we consider again the offices of recognized ministers and elders?
Are we encouraging vocal ministry? Grounds ministry? Community ministry? Is ministry different from pastoring to needs?