Alexandria 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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The spiritual life of our community is embodied in our Meeting for Worship. Our worship Meetings are often completely silent and frequently have only two or three messages. The deep silence and sharing help to join us together in spirit and to restore us. Friends also gather in worship at mid-week meeting, a Bible study group and in spiritual friendship groups. These various opportunities to strengthen our spiritual lives and practices help prepare us for a meaningful First Day meeting for worship.
We continue to be blessed with new members and attenders who enrich the life of our community. The Children’s Religious Education (CRE) segment is well-attended and we were pleased to welcome new participants in the last year. The CRE group planted seeds and tended a garden this year, learned songs to perform at the Homecoming celebration in the fall, and studied Quaker concepts and the Bible. Our vibrant CRE program and the eager participation of both children and adult helpers is a great joy of our Meeting.
Adult Religious Education (ARE) continues every week during the academic year and offers variety and spiritual deepening. We are fortunate to have many different presenters and topics that attract a strong core group and many others who attend as they are able and led. ARE meets the hour before worship and leads to education and quieting in preparation for worship.
Our Hospitality committee provides an excellent opportunity for strengthening our sense of community by providing a meal after worship every week. Many volunteers cooperate to bring healthful dishes for a common meal. It is a time to catch up with others as we eat together. This weekly meal provides a chance for Friends of all ages to mix together and gives everyone an opportunity to serve by helping prepare for and clean up after the meal. Hospitality is particularly important for newer participants and for children because it is often the gateway to the greater Meeting. We also continue our annual “Homecoming” gathering which brings back former members and friends of the Meeting to listen to music and share a meal together as a fundraiser for United Community Ministries.
We seek to be good stewards for our beloved Meetinghouse and grounds, the setting for our silent worship. Those who serve on the House Committee, Property Committee, Heritage and Community Relations Committee, and Trustees work together, sharing many responsibilities for its care. Individual Friends tackle special cleaning, maintenance, and repair projects, as a unique way to serve. Our Stewardship Work Day in May gathered over thirty-five Alexandria Friends, including many children, for a lively day of cleaning, grounds care, and fellowship.
Our committees give people a chance to serve in areas that interest them. Peace and Social Concerns serves a stewardship role by distributing the meeting’s charitable donations to local service organizations, Friends organizations and for the first time this year, to the International Rescue Committee to address refugee needs. Various members of the Meeting are involved in advocacy for the Standing Rock Tribe and for refugees affected by the recent travel ban.
Our meeting reaches out to the community in several ways including support for the Ventures in Community Hypothermia program, contributions for the local food pantry, and through monetary donations to United Community Ministries. Working with other meetings, we supported the Fairfax County Student Peace award and helped staff a Quaker booth at the Capital Pride events.
The Heritage and Community Relations (H&CR) committee is active in the community to ensure that our property remains a peaceful setting. Their diligent expressions of concerns to the authorities re-routing and widening a road affecting our access was instrumental in helping maintain a quiet meeting site.
We have a meeting historian who follows a leading, derived from the gentle nurturing and spiritual life of our meeting, of “witnessing in the past.” We all appreciate our historic Meetinghouse and the sense of peace it gives us. We have been honored to host historians and others interested in our building and our history.
The Board of Trustees helps support our community by handling the finances and funding maintenance of the Meetinghouse and of scholarships. They are working on the review of the apportionment formula for Baltimore Yearly meeting to make it more equitable.
The Ministry and Nurture (M&N) committee has a special concern for the spiritual life of the community which it helps support through Spiritual Formation and Friendship groups and a Healing Prayer group under its care. The M&N committee welcomes newcomers, answers questions from visitors, creates clearness committees for new members and supports families when a Friend dies. The committee takes care that the meeting for worship begins on time and gives our community the opportunity to have settled, quiet time for reflection on our spiritual lives. Because of this preparation, meeting for business is also conducted with special care for spirit-led processes and decisions.
We are aware of areas in which we might improve the life of the meeting. We would like to reach out more effectively to middle school, high school and young adult Friends. We would like to find ways to support the families in our meeting raising children. We keep these ideas in mind as we strive to make our meeting serve our needs better. Concerns of aging touch many of us, and we seek to sustain each other and listen with open hearts.
Through our committees and individual leadings, our meeting attempts to weave our varied talents and callings into a fabric that supports us all. We find a deep peace in our shared worship and time together.
The spiritual life of our Meeting community is embodied in our Meeting for Worship. The shared deep silence and vocal ministries are the underpinning of our life in faith and community.
We strive for improvements in our Meeting by addressing our diversity in its many aspects—age, genders, ethnicities, background, spiritual beliefs, lifeways, and many more. This seeking has drawn us closer, helping us realize that we seek to know each other better, not simply as “First Day” friends, or Meeting Friends, but as full, rounded, people. We continue to divine ways to use the time and talents of our members and attenders to meet the needs needs we perceive.
Our Meeting is blessed to be physically close to other Meetings and other Quaker organizations. Representatives from these nearby resources provide opportunities for teaching and listening during Adult Religious Education presentations. More informally, members and attenders of our Meeting visit other Meetings in the area. Our spiritual callings are diverse, often intertwining, occasionally conflicting. We seek to nurture the calling of the Light as it appears in each of us. That spirituality and faith leads our connections with others.
In 2015, we celebrated diversity in our membership with our oldest member turning 103 and several infants coming into our fold. What joy on all accounts! Life ebbs and flows, and we also celebrated Memorial Meetings, offering the opportunity to share our simple worship and the sharing of memories that can pleasantly surprise those who have never attended a Quaker Meeting. Our Homecoming each fall celebrates all who are or were connected with our meeting, bringing Friends and friends back together for a day of shared joy.
Children join the Meeting for Worship in the last few minutes and bring richness and vitality to our worship. A significant development during this year has been energetic support for an enhanced First Day School program under the care of the Children's Religious Education Committee. A dozen volunteers--both parents and non-parents--have stepped forward to enable implementation of a full schedule of activities for children of all ages, including classes, service projects and singing, reflecting the meeting's abiding commitment to the nurture its youth. Families and young Friends bring vibrancy and giggles to our gatherings.
Our spiritual life is manifest by involvement with a local hypothermia program where members are led to help in a shelter, including staying overnight and providing meals. A first experience may be unsettling, yet many return to help again, finding fulfillment in giving.
Our Meeting for Worship during the academic year is preceded by Adult Religious Education presentations. Topics are varied and offer a valuable forum for sharing our leadings with one another and for welcoming others from the larger community to share with us. Many Friends have expressed appreciation for the role these sessions play in their spiritual growth. The Peace and Social Concerns committee sponsors monthly Adult Education presentations on social concerns to keep everyone abreast of current social issues such as the Syrian refugee crisis. The Peace and Social Concerns committee also guides much of our Meeting’s stewardship role by leading our Meeting’s charitable donations to local and national organizations.
Our Meeting is fortunate to have a peaceful setting in a time-honored meetinghouse. For several years, our Meeting has recognized the value of being identified as an historical property, both to honor our heritage and to protect us from surrounding urban and military development. Thus the historic preservation work and community engagement activities of the Heritage and Community Relations Committee - done primarily to ensure our property remains a quiet and peaceful setting for silent worship - are a vital component of AMM’s spiritual life.
After worship, a “common shared meal” prepared by the Hospitality Committee each First Day fosters greater unity and cohesion within the Meeting community. This meal gives us time to get to know people in our meeting community that we might otherwise not know well and includes guests and newcomers.
The Meeting for Worship nurtures our individual leadings and our committee life as we strive to weave our varied talents and callings into a fabric that supports us all.
Approved by the Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business Forth Month 12, 2015
Remembering a Year of Growth in the Spirit as We Made Changes and Widened Our Circle of Friends
Alexandria Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends experienced a year of spiritual growth and change as we welcomed new members, mourned the loss of dear Friends, and worked to make the meetinghouse more accessible. We celebrated with joy the births of babies, a celebration of marriage, and memorial meetings. Our shared worship provided a spiritual base for our efforts and relationships within the meeting.
Our First Day worship continues to be a source of strength for the community as we listen to one another ministering and in silence. The mid-week worship and Bible study are thriving with a steady base of participants. The name of the Ministry and Oversight Committee was changed to Ministry and Nurture in consideration of concerns about equity. Committee ministry includes helping sustain Friends, and families during difficult times and providing small grants to help members and attenders with scholastic endeavors. The monthly day of Silence and Simplicity began in January of the year and concluded in September. Spiritual friendship groups form strong spiritual connections and bases of friendship for the many long-term and new group members, which in turn nourish the meeting’s spiritual life. The Healing Prayer ministry continues to support our meeting in silent supplication of support. Meetings for worship with a concern for business can be long and difficult when we approach heartfelt issues. It can be a challenge to enter these meetings with an open mind and an open spirit and many of us are still growing in this area.
Spiritual concerns for Alexandria Friends include how to revitalize the Children’s Religious Education program with increased volunteer support. We have an ongoing quest to find volunteers within our small community to fill all of the positions needed, particularly the joyful guidance of our young Friends of diverse ages.
One strength of our meeting is the weekly common meal shared after worship. People come to know one another better as we share a healthy meal every week. The servers enjoy the camaraderie of working together, and relationships are strengthened both at lunchroom table and kitchen sink. Our kitchen was remodeled this year, creating an updated, clean work space, and we are grateful for the volunteers who did the remodeling work for the benefit of us all. The Hospitality Committee continues to recruit new volunteers to serve in this ministry, although it can sometimes be a struggle.
Adult Religious Education continues to be a valuable forum for sharing and growing in community. The sessions are offered each First Day before worship during the school year, and they draw on the expertise within and beyond the community to nurture the spirit through education. Children’s Religious Education during worship has many young participants, and we are grateful for the steady support of our long-time CRE leaders.
Our historic meetinghouse both supports us and needs our support. We installed an HVAC system to ensure that all Friends can worship comfortably during weather extremes. We also replaced a portion of our roof, dealt with issues of animals and insects under and in the meetinghouse, and removed dead trees, all within the guidelines for preservation of the historic property. Our dedicated Heritage and Community Relations Committee seeks to guide the Trustees and Meeting in this, so that our historic status remains a protection for our spiritual home and its quiet and peaceful setting for spirit-led silent worship that we cherish. Trustees seek to preserve the investments under their care with guidance from the spirit and others in the Meeting.
Peace and Social Concerns Committee continues its stewardship role in the meeting through donations and the projects that they support. The Hypothermia Project, Nurturing Parent Program, and Peace Prize are some of the initiatives that Friends support in the wider community with their volunteer time.
We celebrated our fourth annual Homecoming this ninth month, with the theme, “How Can I Keep from Singing.” Friends, guests, and former members reconnected while sharing in a consideration of music and song in Quaker tradition, along with worship, food, musical performances, and singing together in a joyful day.
Our meeting has a deep sense of history both in the historic meetinghouse and in the strong base of Quaker values evidenced over the years worshipping there. We seek to grow in the truth of the Spirit and strengthen ourselves and one another as we grow in community.
With a steady influx of new members and attenders, Alexandria Monthly Meeting continues to be a vibrant and growing community. It is especially encouraging to see so many young families among us. Our spiritual vitality is both seen and felt as we worship and work together.
The spiritual calling of AMM members to lead worship sessions in addition to our weekly First Day Meetings for Worship helps meet the needs of our community. We continue to have a mid-week Meeting for Worship. The Spiritual Friendship program is flourishing; spiritual formation groups have proven to be long-lasting networks for nurturing the Meeting community, particularly for the members of our community who actively participate. The Healing Prayer committee has been revitalized. A new monthly day of Silence and Simplicity has been proposed and will be underway in 2014.
Ours is not, as a whole, an activist Meeting, which may be a positive factor in holding us together. There are lots of Meeting-supported individual activities, such as one member’s involvement with Ventures in Community and with finding housing for one of our homeless attenders. Many Friends give time to the work of the larger Quaker world, serving on Baltimore Yearly Meeting committees and the governing bodies of Friends General Conference, Friends Wilderness Center, William Penn House, Friends Committee on National Legislation, School of the Spirit Ministry, and the American Friends Service Committee. AMM tends to follow Sidwell Friends’ advice: “Go narrow; go deep" with our commitments.
Like many relatively small communities, we struggle with the need for volunteers to cycle through positions of responsibility. The Nominating Committee has done admirable work in this regard. We honor the service of our departing clerks as we seek people to advance in spiritual leadership as entering clerks. We deeply appreciate the outstanding service of our outgoing clerks of AMM and the leadership of Ministry and Oversight. We enthusiastically and gratefully embrace our new clerks for AMM and Ministry and Oversight and confirm a convener for the Healing Prayer committee. We honor the long, quiet, and faithful ministry of another member, who has come for so many years to open and tidy up the meetinghouse and stay late to close it after rise of Meeting.
Our common meal after every Meeting for Worship is colloquially called our Meeting for Eating. It nourishes body, soul, and spirit as we share religious insights, personal news, concerns, and support for one another. This ministry is highly valued by the community, and the Hospitality Committee offers its members a chance to deepen relationships with one another as they serve side by side. This work involves a large group to cook, serve, and clean up weekly. This committee is constantly challenged to maintain a dynamic equilibrium as our clerk patiently and diligently seeks new members in an ongoing way.
The active part of our fall began with our third (annual!) Homecoming. Connections were celebrated in music, sharing stories of finding or experiencing Quakerism, learning the history of our Meeting and the community of which we are a part, watching our children play, enjoying food, and coming together in warm, wonderful worship as Friends and guests filled the meeting room. Caring for each other in times of family need strengthened our community and brought people back. 2013 closed with our annual Christmas Eve worship service and fellowship that attracts families and individuals to celebrate together.
Our regular schedule of activities continues: thoughtful presentations from Adult Religious Education, expansion of Children's Religious Education. Spiritual concerns include how best to nurture our Children's Religious Education program, so that more volunteers come forward to support the planned curriculum. We rejoice in the children in our Meeting. The range of ages and frequency of attendance present challenges, but we are warmed by the opportunity to nurture the families.
Reaching out to Friends who are seldom seen is another area needing our attention. Not a "Where have you been?" but accepting where they are and letting them know AMM is always welcoming, adapting to the seasons of one's life.
Meeting for Worship is at the center of our life as a community. We find sustenance in the living silence or take inspiration from the ministering words of others. The love we experience in gathered worship has sustained us through important and sometimes difficult decisions in our meetings for business, filling us with gratitude for the trust and tenderness that we experience here.
Our beloved historic meetinghouse both supports us and needs our support. This year at a special called meeting, after a prodigious undertaking by two members who gathered and refined requirements, concerns, and proposals that met the stricter guidelines required by the easement agreement of a registered historic property, we committed to installing a heating and air conditioning system that will allow for more extensive use and sharing of the meetinghouse and provide more comfort for those members and attenders who have been most affected by weather extremes and sometimes could not attend. We acknowledge and admire the stamina of the Quaker ancestors who built this house and worshipped here.
The special needs of some people in the Meeting community continue to challenge us to find gentle, appropriate, and helpful ways to respond. We are also seeking to more fully support members of our community as they age and look forward to gathering more resources in the future.
We deeply value the Quaker way of seeking truth. We are an old Meeting, drawing strength and inspiration from our history; we are also a meeting of newcomers and new seekers, setting out on journeys of discovery and transformation. The Light calls us into a further communion, a deeper union with one another and with our truest spiritual center.
Individual Committee Reports
The Nominating Committee gratefully acknowledges those members who generously accepted the call to serve AMM through committee work and clerking. Their spiritual leadings and diligent work has made our Meeting community stronger and provided a model of love and stewardship.
This year, the Spiritual Friendship (SF) Program has flourished at AMM. Currently, there are five groups meeting regularly, and some 20 people are participated. We are particularly happy that a men's group has formed this year and members have expressed their appreciation for getting to know each other and being a part of this community. Each group determines their spiritual focus for the year and readings and activities differ. Several individuals have related their deepening connection to the Spirit and to AMM as a result of the close friendships resulting from being a part of these small groups. It is hoped that in the spring, all groups can meet together in retreat at Friends Wilderness Center to share their journeys and make plans for next year.
Adult Religious Education (ARE)
The Adult Religious Education Committee provides presentations at the ten o'clock hour every First Day except during the summer months. Topics include Quaker spirituality, history and biography; explorations of the Bible and other inspired writings; the relationship of science and spirituality; and matters of social concern.
These sessions have been rich in Spirit and have offered a valuable forum for sharing and growth in our community. We have come to know one another on deeper levels and to be inspired by the experiences and insights of Friends and visitors.
The Hospitality Committee provides lunch or as we like to call it common meal at the twelve o'clock hour every First Day. We welcome unplanned offerings of food from participants of the meeting not on the committee every First Day. In additional to the regular first day lunch, we coordinate food and kitchen help for special occasions (Christmas, Easter, Weddings, Funerals, Homecoming, simple meal etc.) as needed. Some have said we are the glue that keeps the meeting together, to some extent I believe this is true.
We provide that connection and conversation venue by which many Friends at meeting start to know other Friends on a personal level. Hospitality is particularly important for the newer participants and children because Hospitality is often times gate to the greater meeting. We try to make sure this occurs over a healthy mea/snack. We have come to know one another on deeper levels and be inspired by the experiences and insights presented by Friends and visitors. It is an opportunity to discuss what happen at ARE, meeting or just what is going on with our busy lives. People like social interaction and those who run Hospitality realize this and make every effort to make sure this occurs in a productive friendly atmosphere. This is part of their function in addition to the kitchen chores. While we have lost some members over the year we have been able, fortunately, to continue Hospitality by a dedicated core group. It has been difficult to find new members, no matter how much recruitment we do.
We were able to repair the stove thanks to Elizabeth Bartosz and install a magnetic knife holder thanks to Richard Ewell. We have big plans for kitchen renovations and expect that eventually this will occur. It is taking much longer to implement than anticipated. The clerk has put together kitchen maintenance plan to demonstrate a unified kitchen renovation approach to the meeting for Heritage and Community Relations (H&CR). Some of the delay in renovation is because we have been waiting on the electrical outlet installation and others are directly tied to Property personnel timing and availability. All participants enjoy providing a useful service to the meeting, I believe, and we are pleased to continue this tradition.
The business of the Trustees most often concerns decisions of a financial nature. In 2013, the Board of Trustees remained mindful of the responsibilities of caring for a historic property which also must be updated to be a staging area for a vibrant, growing community of Friends. Trustees are blessed with a strong partners in the Heritage and Community Relations Committee and the Property Committee which remain on top of these issues and keep the Board updated, thereby keeping our decisions informed decisions. Trustees are also thankful for the thoughtful and valuable input that they get from Ministry and Oversight Committee as to the current and future potential needs for financial assistance among members and attenders. We also value their assistance in helping us with our continued interest in providing meaningful scholarship aid to the students in our midst, especially as our community grows in numbers.
The Historian follows a leading, derived from the gentle nurturing and spiritual life of our Meeting, of “Quaker Witnessing in the Past.” Keeping in mind that "witnessing" can be experienced as a sacrament, is prayerful, and is an opening of the spirit toward understanding: not just of facts and events, but meaning, toward a better understanding of human and divine purpose and intent. The historian seeks to contribute to the spiritual life of the Meeting by exploring the Meeting’s past, with the goal of reclaiming our history from dominant culture interpretations that miss the spiritual basis of Quaker practice. What is learned is: the importance of being our own voice – among ourselves and to the broader community; of discerning the diversity of spiritual gifts among Woodlawn Friends over time; and creating and recovering the record that shows our history is ongoing--a living tradition. We seek: What is Universal (and trans-temporal) in Quaker testimony? How can we differentiate it from the temporal in our 20th and 21st century perspectives? How can we be enriched by the specific and direct practice of the anti-slavery and peace testimonies by the early Woodlawn Friends?
Historian’s Activities in 2013:
1. Research in Meeting records, land records, other public records, and with descendants, of:
. . . the free African American community that was nurtured by Woodlawn Quakers, resulting in coordination with Holland family descendants, the Gum Springs Historical Society, and the Army, toward protective measures, including the Army’s conduct of a preliminary survey of archaeological remains of the settlement.
. . . the life of Jonathan Roberts, a founding member of Woodlawn Meeting, as he faced decisions about actions to further the moral cause of anti-slavery while remaining consistent with the peace testimony. A working group was formed in support of continued research and publication of an annotated version of Jonathan’s memoir.
. . . Woodlawn Quaker Meeting Burial Ground Biographies, an ongoing project, records the lives of those buried in the Meeting’s burial ground. Revisions to Volume I (A through G), new entries for a future Volume II, and a beginning to a gravestone transcription component were added.
2. Outreach and coordination with:
. . . Friends Historical Library (Swarthmore), the Fairfax County Archives, and publishers of Images of America, for maintaining, augmenting, and sharing the Meeting’s Historical Book and Archive Collections.
. . . the City of Alexandria, for ongoing protection of the Meeting’s property in Alexandria, the Queen Street Quaker Burial Ground.
. . . the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program for tracing connections with Woodlawn’s early Quaker settlers and the free black Gum Springs community.
. . . the City of Pasadena and members of the Orange Grove Meeting Property Committee, at their request, to assist the Meeting in establishing protections for their historic meetinghouse.
3. Participation in the work of the Heritage & Community Relations Committee, including:
. . . Section 106 consultation processes, specifically for Fort Belvoir and Federal Highway Administration undertakings affecting the Woodlawn meetinghouse property.
. . . the Maintenance Planning Process, for planning and installation of heating and cooling.
. . . presenting “Jonathan Roberts, Quaker Scout for the Union Army” for ARE in January.
. . . presenting “Our Neighborhood: Then and Now” for ARE in May.
Heritage and Community Relations
Our Meeting feels a part of our spiritual life resides in the shared heritage of Friends worshiping together in our meetinghouse for over 150 years. The peaceful setting and old wooden benches provide a home for our spirits. The Heritage and Community Relations Committee works to preserve that home.
For several years, our Meeting has recognized the value of being recognized as a historical property, both to honor our heritage and to protect us from surrounding urban and military development. Thus the historic preservation work and community engagement activities of this committee - done primarily to ensure our property remains a quiet and peaceful setting for silent worship - are a vital component of AMM’s spiritual life.
Although much of the work of the Heritage and Community Relations Committee may not usually be considered in the category of spiritual endeavor, we have felt strongly led and supported by the Spirit to move in this direction. We have experienced not only a strong connection with our heritage, but also a joyful unity with the entire ministry of our meeting.
Specific Activities done by the H&CR Committee in 2013:
1. H&CR members represented AMM as a Section 106 consulting party by attending meetings and submitting written comments for the following actions:
Ingress- egress access easement for the Road Connector transfer parcel
Route One widening design workshops and mitigation efforts
Fort Belvoir Real Property Master Plan and various Ft. Belvoir building projects
2. H&CR provided historical presentations for Homecoming Day.
3. H&CR sponsored three ARE programs (“Jonathan Roberts: Quaker Scout for the Union Army,” “Our Neighborhood: Then and Now,” and “How Does Your Garden Grow: Farm Director of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture”).
4. H&CR members actively participated in the Meeting’s Maintenance Planning Process, notably projects to upgrade electrical, to insulate crawl spaces, to contract pest control, and to install HVAC.
5. H&CR worked jointly with Trustees and Property to secure a burial ground survey, to contract needed repairs to gravestones, and to review burial policies.
6. H&CR communicated with the Virginia Department of Historical Resources Easement program office for approval of AMM work projects of above #4. and #5.
7. H&CR members supported AMM’s working relationship with Arcadia/Woodlawn.
8. H&CR supported the work of AMM historian Martha Catlin, including on-going research/writing and maintaining relationships with historic entities related to AMM.
Our small meeting library was an important spiritual and educational resource for seekers, attenders, and members. The library includes books by and on Quakers and other books of a spiritual nature as well as a few to relax by. The intention was to provide books, pamphlets, etc. on these subjects that will be of interest and use to all who seek knowledge and support from the library.
We supported seekers with their research in finding books/articles or information about subjects that are of spiritual interest in the Quaker context.
Peace and Social Concerns
In 2013, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee focused on how it could do more to help individual Friends follow their leadings concerning peace and social issues. Friends, particularly new attenders, can have difficulty learning about the many ways they can work with others, both within the Yearly Meeting and beyond the Friends community. As a result, the Committee is working on ways to help Friends follow their leadings.
Within the Quaker community, the Meeting provided financial support to the American Friends Service Committee, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, William Penn House, Washington Quaker work camps, and the Friends Wilderness Center. Other national organizations supported by the Meeting include the Center on Conscience and War, the Peace Tax Fund, and the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network. At the State level, the Meeting supports Virginians For An Alternative To The Death Penalty, Virginian Citizens United For Rehabilitation of Errants, and the Virginia Interfaith Center For Public Policy. At the local level, the Meeting provided financial support to United Community Ministries, New Hope Housing, and Ventures in Community. The Meeting continues to participate in the Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County project, an initiative of Herndon Meeting. In addition to providing financial support, Friends participate directly in the activities of several of these organizations.
Alexandria Friends continue to be active in several local projects, especially those that are part of Ventures in Community (VIC). VIC is a loose collaboration among faith communities and social service agencies serving the Route 1 corridor. For several years, Friends have participated in VIC’s winter Hypothermia Outreach Program. Three or four Friends stay overnight and two Friendly cooks prepare meals at a local mission church for up to 25 guests for four First Day nights during February and March. On several evenings, Friends prepare and served meals for families gathered to learn better parenting skills, under Fairfax County’s Nurturing Parenting program. Throughout the year, Friends bring clothing, food and household goods to the meeting on First Day, for distribution to local shelters and to United Community Ministries. The Peace and Social Concerns Committee continues to inform the Meeting on a variety of social concerns issues by its sponsorship of a once-monthly Adult Religious Education meeting.
Looking Back and Looking Forward, while Centering on Where We Are:
We reflect on a year of passages, with dear friends and attenders departing, as new ones come into our midst. No one is replaced, our circle simply becomes wider. Our shared spiritual life forms the center of our circle.
This year has been a full one for Alexandria Monthly Meeting. We, like many relatively small communities, struggle with the need for volunteers to cycle through positions of responsibility. We honor the service of our clerks as we seek people to relieve them as they move on. Our regular schedule of activities continues as leadership changes: our Spiritual Formation program, support for area homeless, thoughtful presentations for Adult Religious Education, expansion of Children's Religious Education, our common meal after worship. Many Friends give time to the work of the larger Quaker world, serving on Baltimore Yearly Meeting committees and the governing bodies of Friends General Conference, Friends Wilderness Center, William Penn House, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and the American Friends Service Committee.
Meeting for worship is at the center of our life as a community. We find sustenance in the living silence or take inspiration from the ministering words of others. The love we experience in gathered worship has sustained us through a series of difficult decisions in our meetings for business, filling us with gratitude for the trust and tenderness that we experience here.
Our beloved historic meetinghouse both supports us and needs our support. Its historic status brought protections for us in government dealings that are changing our road access. Our participation in the Preservation Easement Program of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources afforded stewards of our property guidance in maintenance and repair, as well as legal consultation. We had a busy year providing our structure and property loving attention in many ways. Alexandria Meeting is grateful for the acceptance of change in our restrooms from designated male and female facilities to facilities available to any person. We continue to discern how to meet the needs of our members and attenders while respecting our building. We acknowledge and admire the stamina of the Quaker ancestors who built it for us.
Our Meeting's wide circle of connections were brought together at our second (annual!) Homecoming. The connections were celebrated in music, sharing stories of finding or experiencing Quakerism, learning the history of our Meeting and the community of which we are a part, watching our children play, enjoying food, and coming together in warm, wonderful worship as Friends and our guests filled the meeting room.
Our common meal after Meeting for Worship is colloquially called our Meeting for Eating. It nourishes body, soul, and spirit as we share religious insights, personal news, concerns, and support for one another. The concern was brought to Meeting for Business that we hadn't the volunteers to sustain this activity. When we focused on the importance of the common meal to the life of our meeting, volunteers came forward, a way opened, and we are rejoicing in this way of being together.
Beginning with Homecoming, which provided a wonderful opportunity for the children to play and engage in craft projects together, we have seen an increase in the number of children coming to meeting. We now have about a dozen infants and young children more or less regularly. Caring for each other in times of family need strengthened our community and brought people back. Also, the annual Christmas Eve worship service attracts families and individuals to celebrate together.
We deeply value the Quaker way of seeking truth. Beginning a study of the new draft of Faith and Practice brought forward our awareness of how much we value the spiritually-focused, personally challenging queries that have guided us through the years. We are an old meeting, drawing strength and inspiration from our history; we are also a meeting of newcomers and new seekers, setting out on journeys of discovery and transformation. Our circle widens over the years, but we know that the Light that gathers and centers it remains the same.
Spiritual State of the Meeting Report for 2011
Approved at a Meeting for Worship with attention to Business, Fourth Month 1, 2012
Alexandria Monthly Meeting has experienced affirmation of our loving community from several sources this year.
We reflected on our past, finding in a 1970 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report a record of on-going concerns for its growing attendance, the presence of children and young people, the spiritual quality of worship, and the practice of beliefs in daily life.
For the first time, we conducted a survey of past and present members and attenders concerning aspects of the Meeting. The survey results mirror the ideas of 1970 and indicate how much spirit is at the center of the Meeting for all of us. Here are highlights:
• The main interests at AMM of those who responded to the survey are our Meeting for Worship and the companionship/fellowship found in all aspects of Meeting.
• A majority of respondents felt that the Meeting is doing an excellent job valuing its members and attenders, serving the wider community, witnessing to Quaker values, and fostering deep centered worship.
• They felt more work is needed supporting children and young Friends, nurturing vocal ministry, and supporting families.
• All respondents found the Spirit manifested in Meeting for Worship. But most acknowledge as well Spirit found in the common meal we share every First Day after worship, in our historic meetinghouse and setting, and in Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business.
• The majority of Friends who responded felt that their spiritual growth is supported primarily by the quality of the Meeting for Worship, by other Friends, through our common meal, through use of the AMM library, by our children in meeting, by announcements, through AMM service opportunities, and in the Adult Religious Education program.
We also reviewed the activities of 2011, finding both strengths and challenges in the Meeting. Our first autumn Homecoming Day gave us a new understanding of the breadth of the AMM community. We invited past and present Friends and attenders, families of founding members of our Meeting, neighboring churches and community organizations, and our own families and friends. Many came – around 120 – to share the worship, history presentations, food, and music for a delightful day. But many who could not attend responded with loving messages about the importance of the Meeting to them, even though they were distant from it.
Thus, we are coming to see this important segment of our community at a distance as needing attention. Several comments provided through the survey expressed frustration that distance hampered involvement in the Meeting; other comments expressed the strong ties felt even when Friends lived far away. We need to evaluate how our newsletter and website, along with other strategies, can reach out to include those not with us on First Days.
The activities of our committees sustained and enriched the life of the Meeting this year (see attached). The most serious problem we face is a decline in our First Day School program. Only a year or two ago, our meeting was filled every First Day with a crowd of children. Their energy and vitality seemed an essential aspect of who we were as a worshiping community. Now that few children come, we feel diminished. We miss them. Several of our committees are working on finding ways to better support our families and young people, in hopes of making the meeting whole again.
There is a deep sense of love in Alexandria Monthly Meeting, expressed in our service to others as well as our care for each other. We have been delighted to welcome several new members, who have felt drawn to the sense of affirmation they find in our community. As Friends who responded to the survey expressed it:
“[The Meeting] helps me be slower to respond in anger, more loving in all my relations. It is refreshing to know that I have a community behind me when I stand up for right actions.”
“A marvelous pool of Spirit emanating from each person and collectively, sustains me day by day.”
“AMM meets my needs and exceeds them. This is my spiritual home and place of peace.”
There is a sense of sturdiness and continuity at Alexandria that is sweetly reassuring. The Spiritual State of the Meeting report written in 1970 by our dear Friend Christine Buckman shows us that while the meeting has grown, at the center it is still the same. Worship is still at the heart of our community. The Spirit that sustains us is ever present. As Christine Buckman expressed it forty years ago:
“And the silences! Sometimes they are light, as in all Meetings. More often they are pregnant with deep significance. Perhaps it is the simple building, in its rural setting of quiet and peace, that tells each one who enters that God is here.”