Warrington Quarterly 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.
It has been said the most enduring legacy of George Fox in the contemporary Religious Society of Friends is its organization into Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly Meetings.
The Monthly Meetings within the geographical affiliation of Warrington Quarterly Meeting are of average-size and small, urban and rural, old and new, growing and not currently growing. Aside from the absence of a truly large Meeting (a Sandy Spring or a Friends Meeting of Washington), we might be considered a microcosm of Baltimore Yearly Meeting; or perhaps, with an adjustment of the size-parameters, in fact we are.
Most of our Meetings report that meetings for worship have been held in good order (one will go only so far as saying they have been held “as planned”). Some report regular reading of Queries—some monthly, though one reports worship each week begins with the reading of a query. One meeting has made use of the Queries from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting rather than Baltimore Yearly Meeting. The Clerk of another Meeting has written monthly queries adapted from those of Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
The activities and issues the Meetings and the individuals within them engage in range from hosting ESL (English as a Second Language) programs, preschool programs and making their meetinghouses available as homeless shelters, to meetings of outside community groups and as venues for discussions of local and not-so-local issues (one meeting lists amongst its resources its “Little Free Library”); to involvement in soup kitchens and Food Pantries, United Way programs, neighborhood groups, local community workdays and other events. Oh, yes, and in Baltimore Yearly Meeting. One Meeting reports that all its members are active, either through their work, or with the Yearly Meeting, or within the community.
One Meeting reports meetings for worship are held in a deep silence with very few messages; another reports that their meetings for worship almost always have spoken ministry (they go on to identify that silence is one of their “anchors”, and, even though they don’t always have much of it, they “lean in that direction”). One reports they are continually learning how to deepen their corporate worship: how folks might better “come with hearts and minds prepared”, how to improve the practice of vocal ministry, how to deal with latecomers, even how better to conclude worship. One meeting states it “has 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.”
Some meetings have organized book discussion groups, before- and after-worship programs; some hold mid-week worship services; at least one reports involvement in the Spiritual Formation program.
A more general concern expressed by many of the Meetings revolves around the long-term future: Many report their attendance is stagnant or shrinking, their population aging, their seasoned leadership disappearing. As one Meeting said, “As the participation of those members drop off, will there be somebody else to take their place?” How people can balance multiple and competing commitments, within and outside of the Meeting; how to invite more “people with energy” (as one Meeting put it) to serve on committees; and/or, as another Meeting put it, how to continue to do all they do with many of the same people performing multiple roles, these are concerns expressed pretty much by all. (One Meeting reports they have established a “Committee on Committees” to look at their current structure and workload). The above notwithstanding, one of our Meetings nevertheless witnesses it is possible to “re-ignite” even after being down—literally--to one member.
As regards Warrington Quarterly Meeting itself—the body of people who gather four times a year—we remain a small but close group, many if not most acquainted with each other for years (indeed, in some cases now, for decades). At the same time, Shepherdstown Monthly Meeting has just joined Warrington Quarterly Meeting and we are immediately feeling the benefit of the new energy and input they are bringing.
Our Meetings for Worship have been held in good order. Our pot-luck luncheons—no less a part of building our fellowship—remain spectacular. Our Meetings for Business have come mostly to involve the review and celebration of our member Monthly Meetings, their activities and concerns. That said, some items of Quarter-specific business and also concerns brought to the Quarter from the individual Monthly Meetings have also continued, as needed, to be addressed.
Our general concerns reflect those of the Meetings we comprise: how to increase interest and involvement in (indeed, awareness of) Quarterly Meeting, how to convey its relevance to everyone in all its Monthly Meetings (who are, in fact, as much a part of it as of them). We seem to be misperceived, at least in some cases, as an elite, self- and monthly-meeting-selected group of representatives that gather on behalf of our member Monthly Meetings, rather than the totality of the larger geographical distribution of Friends that all make up our member Monthly Meetings.
Quarterly Meeting has been characterized by at least one of our Meetings as an anachronism from an earlier, more disparate era, when the communication within the Yearly Meeting was difficult, and something that now should be laid down. We do represent, albeit no more than four times a year, yet one more draw on people’s time and energy.
Yet even with the value of and now easy access to Annual Sessions, Quarterly Meeting does remain a more immediate reminder—and one that’s more locally-relevant to its constituent Monthly Meetings—that we are not just individual Meetings (much less individual worshippers), but the body of heirs and exemplars of the beliefs and practices of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, of the Religious Society of Friends, that, as one of our Meetings put it, has been bequeathed to us by people no longer with us, and which, if the Religious Society of Friends, much less its Yearly, Quarterly and Monthly Meetings, is to flourish, it is our task to translate to the present so that it can then come to be conveyed to the future.