Augusta Friends Worship Group 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.

2011 Report 2012 Report 2013 Report 2014 Report
2015 Report  

2015 Report

Augusta Friends Worship Group, located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, is a core group of 10 or so seekers who come together from a wide geographical distance as a chosen family to experience the corporate stillness of meeting. We find that the loving nature and the lightness of the manner in which we meet--less formal structure, dogma, and sense of obligation-- nurtures us individually and provides support for our journey. On a practical level, we work at being sure that those who cannot drive have the opportunity to be present and schedule meetings in a variety of locations to make opportunities to be together available for as many as possible. Our spiritual practice is strengthened by the sense that everyone is there in that moment simply because they want to “be” and experience the loving kindness of the group.

We met together after Meeting and lunch one First Day to consider the queries sent by the committee. As we shared we knew that our words again would have a difficult time reflecting our experience. As we set about trying to shape this report, we found ourselves opening more to one another in the sharing. There is an importance to taking the time to reflect so that we can clarify our perspectives and find resonance for each of us.

We do feel the Spirit as it makes itself known in numerous ways. Our silent expectant waiting seems deep and shared. We want to be aware of that that is around us, the plants, the animals, the light and the warmth and incorporate that into our experience of the silence. While spoken ministry is rare; we have extended times of sharing at the rise of Meeting where Friends exchange spoken ministry, thoughts and perspectives as well as concerns that we are invited to ‘Hold in the Light”. We can discuss and draw wisdom from the group. This time adds to the feeling of community that exists among us. As one Friend noted this does not take the place of sharing out of the silence as the Spirit moves us. Those currently attending have a common view that is universalistic and liberal. We are comfortable with seeking that is not finite or set in dogma. This causes concern as we may have those attending who share a different idea. We desire the ability to hear their experience without feeling uncomfortable or making them feel so. We did have someone leave this year as this was not their experience. The act of friendship in listening intently provides a resource to lean on as we face our lives day to day. There is joy present in the progress we feel in each other’s lives that carries us from week to week. Our annual holiday sharing of messages provides a deep experience of connectedness that continues to sustain us.

We experience the mandate of creation care and have shared on the general topic set forth by the Yearly Meeting. Locally there is still under consideration the building of a gas pipeline through our area. This would be devastating on many levels but especially to the fragile geology through which it would pass. Several in our group have added their voices to others to question this plan. The time spent in the stillness can strengthen this and other practices of witness to our values.

Our concerns are usually expressed on an individual level and take many forms in our interface with our community. As an example one member shares her professional skills at the local jail to assist prisoners in their transition to a better life. We do feel that we try to actively model Friends’ principles as way opens.

We meet in various homes on First Days and understand the limitations that this can place on us for growth, and as we welcome new attendees. However, we feel strongly that this arrangement can contribute to an ideal group size that allows us to be attendant to the Spirit and each other in ways that a larger group cannot. Meeting in each other’s homes provides an intimate environment that speaks to us in the diversity of space. Each home holds its own unique grace with its plants, pets and light in which to gather and be still. The care of the Friends hosting is very touching and nurturing. Space contributes to the experience as some who have visited other meetings have found. We have had the pleasure of welcoming folks from other Friends’ groups to meet with us and share their individual Light and add to our experience.

We find joy in shared meals, much humor, spiritual insights, spirited discussions and being in grace with one another and the Spirit. Our sense of community is palpable and brings us together week after week to share the breadth of experiences that make for life.


2014 Report

Augusta Friends Worship Group, located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, is a group of 12 or so seekers who come together from a wide geographical distance as a chosen family to experience the corporate stillness of meeting. We find that the loving nature and the lightness of the manner in which we meet-less formal structure, dogma and sense of obligation nurtures us individually and provides support for our journey. On a practical level, we work at being sure that those who cannot drive have the opportunity to be present. Our spiritual practice is strengthened by the sense that everyone is there in that moment simply because they want to “be.”

We met together after Meeting and lunch one First Day to consider the queries sent by the committee. As we shared we knew that our words again would have a difficult time reflecting our experience. The Inner Light is vast, unbounded and universal and yet has the personal component. As we set about trying to shape this report, we found ourselves opening more to one another in the sharing. The focus and exchange of different perspectives was clarifying and provided resonance for each of us.

We do feel the Spirit as it makes itself known in numerous ways. Our silent expectant waiting seems deep and shared. While spoken ministry is rare we have extended times of sharing at the rise of Meeting where Friends share thoughts and perspectives as well as concerns that we should ‘Hold in the Light”. We can discuss and draw wisdom from the group. This time evokes a feeling of friendship that is at once reassuring and challenging. Those currently attending have a common view that is universalistic. We are comfortable with seeking that is not finite or set in dogma. This causes concern as we may have those attending who share a different idea. We desire the ability to hear their experience without feeling uncomfortable or making them feel so. As long as there is honesty and sincerity present, we believe that we can. The act of friendship in listening intently provides a resource to lean on as we face our lives day to day. There is a joy in the progress we feel in each other’s lives that carries us from week to week. Our annual holiday sharing of messages provides a deep experience of connectedness that continues to sustain us.

This year we are experiencing the mandate of creation care. There is under consideration the building of a gas pipeline through our area. This would be devastating on many levels but especially the fragility of the geology through which it would pass. Several in our group have added their voices to others to question this plan. The time spent in the stillness can strengthen this practice of witness. There is a concern in the group that we do not have a corporate social concerns aspect to our group. Those who desire that have to look elsewhere but most feel comfortable doing it individually. We do feel that we share the principles of Friends with others as the way opens.

We meet in various homes on First Days and understand the limitations that this can place on us for growth and as we welcome new attendees. However, we feel that this arrangement can contribute to an ideal group size. Also, we find that homes can limit our ability to welcome children and have none currently attending. If the opportunity presented itself we feel confident that we could make accommodation but also recognize that there are Meetings nearby who can provide that. Meeting in each other’s homes provides an intimate environment that speaks to us in the diversity of space. Each home holds its own unique grace with its plants, pets and light in which to gather and be still. The care of the Friends hosting is very touching and nurturing. Having to maintain a central meeting space would be a concern that would affect the group dynamic and not be a unifying place but one with obligations.

Our sense of connection is grounded in the silence. Spirit makes itself known other than by human intervention in imaging, thinking and projection solely through the medium of silence. We do not have a connection to the larger Quaker world in ways other than our practice of presence and stillness in meeting. We know that there are seasoned Friends to whom we could turn had we a need.

We schedule potluck and discussion once a month to share on a wide range of topics .both during the meal and afterward. This opportunity to hear another’s journey and ask questions expands our thinking and nurtures the seeking that is evident in all of our lives.

As we are aging we are experiencing the necessity to speak up and use careful pronunciation so that all may hear the sharing. Sometimes, even with small groups we experience an overwhelming volume that makes conversation difficult.

We find joy in shared meals, much humor, spiritual insights, spirited discussions and being in grace with one another and the Spirit. Our sense of community is paramount and brings us together week after week.


2013 Report

Augusta Friends Worship Group, located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, is a group of 12 or so seekers who have come together in Meeting for over 18 years to feel the Spirit and the community of Friends. We acknowledge that some travel long distances for this privilege. This time in the car is emblematic of the journey that we all take so we have it be a nurturing experience as well.

We met together after Meeting and lunch one First Day to consider the queries sent by the committee. As we shared we knew that our words again would have a difficult time reflecting our experience. The Inner Light is vast, unbounded and universal and yet has the personal component. As we set about trying to shape this report, we found ourselves opening more to one another in the sharing. The focus and exchange of different perspectives was clarifying and provided resonance for each of us. Our encounter allowed us to know one another more deeply as we tried to capture the spirit among us that we share in the following paragraphs.

We do feel the Spirit as it makes itself known in numerous ways. Our silent expectant waiting seems deep and shared. While spoken ministry is rare we have extended times of sharing at the rise of Meeting. We would like to have more thoughts that are formulated in the silence come forward but know that sometimes the seasoning is not there. This time evokes a feeling of friendship that is at once reassuring and challenging. We are a diverse lot, but through our careful listening and response we feel safe and nurtured. There is honesty and sincerity present. There is joy in the progress we feel in each other’s lives that carries us from week to week. We want to take time so that all feel really listened to and heard. This act of friendship in listening intently provides a resource to lean on as we face our lives day to day. We celebrate each other, especially when there are significant events in our lives. This year we had another attendee who retired so we shared in the preparation for an open house. We celebrated a milestone birthday for another that reminded us of the great example of living and thriving that the older members of our group make evident to us. Our annual holiday sharing of messages provided a deep experience of connectedness that continues to sustain us.

We meet in various homes on First Days and understand the limitations that this can place on us as we welcome new attendees. It is often hard for them to go to such a personal space, but we try from the first contact to explain who we are and what we do. When they attend they are greeted personally by all. Attempts are made to find commonalities that we can build on to encourage their continued involvement. Also, we find that homes can limit our ability to welcome children and have none currently attending. If the opportunity presented itself we feel confident that we could make accommodation. There is grace in the spiritual experience of shared personal space and freedom in not having to care for a building.

Our sense of connection is grounded in the silence. Any sharing, vocal or written can only dilute the fullness and purity-the oneness-of Spirit even while all thought word and deed are a manifestation of Spirit. Spirit makes itself known other than by human intervention in imaging, thinking and projection solely through the medium of silence.

We schedule potluck and discussion once a month to share on a wide range of topics .both during the meal and afterward. This opportunity to hear another’s journey and ask questions expands our thinking and nurtures the seeking that is evident in all of our lives. We do not have business in the traditional sense of Friends but did attend a Valley Friends’ meeting with attention to business to experience that aspect of meeting life. We came away with the knowledge that centeredness and seasoning are important to the process.

We who attend have a universalistic view of spirituality. We are comfortable with the mysterious and the changing. We are all seekers and don’t have a need to profess “the Truth” or feel that we need to impose any particular belief on others with a focused spirited ardor. We do have an openness of spirit and an awareness of our own limitations such as recoiling from pronouncements made or showing a spiritual arrogance. We hope for a shared insight in the acceptance of others and their beliefs.

We find joy in shared meals, much humor, special treats, spiritual insights, spirited discussions and being in grace with one another and the Spirit.


2012 Report

Augusta Friends Worship Group, located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, is a group of 12 or so seekers who have come together in Meeting for over 17 years to feel the Spirit and the community of Friends. Often we travel long distances for this privilege. We find the practice of formlessness speaks to us and nurtures us.

We met together after Meeting and lunch one First Day to consider the queries sent by the committee. As we reflected on them we knew that our words would have a difficult time reflecting our experience which tends to be ever changing, immediate, incremental, cumulative and non-conceptual. The Inner Light is vast, unbounded and universal and yet is interpreted by each individual through the filter of personal bias. As we set about trying to shape this report, we found ourselves opening more to one another in the sharing. The focus and exchange of different perspectives was clarifying and provided resonance for each of us. Our encounter allowed us to know one another more deeply as we tried to capture the spirit among us that we share in the following paragraphs.

We do feel the Spirit as it makes itself known in numerous ways. Our silent expectant waiting seems deep and shared. While spoken ministry is rare we have extended times of sharing at the rise of Meeting. This time evokes a feeling of friendship that is at once reassuring and challenging. We are a diverse lot, but through our careful listening and response we feel safe and nurtured. There is honesty and sincerity present. We would like to increase our awareness of careful listening so that we are not forming responses that we can jump in with immediately. We want to take time so that all feel really listened to and heard. This act of friendship provides a resource to lean on as we face our lives day to day. We celebrate each other, especially when there are significant events in our lives. This year we had an attender who retired after a long career in teaching. We marked the event with dinner and a movie - one of our first outside group social activities. We found we liked it.

We meet in homes on various First Days and understand the limitations that this can place on us as we welcome new attenders. It is often hard for them to go to such a personal space, but we try from the first contact to explain who we are and what we do. When they attend we introduce ourselves as an opening so that a connection can be made from the first in hopes of encouraging their continued attendance. Since we are small no one leaves without having been greeted personally by all. Also, we find that homes limit our ability to welcome children so we have none currently attending. If the opportunity presented itself we feel confident that we could make accommodation. Those who do host the group find that “dribbles” of the Spirit are left behind. There is grace in the spiritual experience of shared space.

Our sense of connection is grounded in the silence. Ultimately, this absence of ritual sets up an antithesis of the simple and the profound. In Eastern thought, it is the “empty fullness”. Our unspoken hearts bind us together in a mystical experience that simply “is” - undefinable and unexplainable. Words fail since they are only symbols and can bring different meaning to each of us. Silence allows us to be in a group that acknowledges and hears different things. When we do share it is from a deep place in our experience and can be heard for what it is. We step away from our self-created contention and understand we are in this experience together. When we look into the eyes of another, there is an opportunity to see that same Light we find within ourselves, yet in another form. We each bring our own Light to the group by being present and paying attention - this is the Spirit prospering.

We who attend have a universalistic view of spirituality. We are comfortable with the mysterious and the changing. Others who have a different view are welcome. We hope that they are open with us about and content in their own beliefs. We are all seekers and don’t have a need to profess “the Truth” or feel that we need to impose any particular belief on others with a focused spirited ardor. We do have an openness of spirit and an awareness of our own limitations such as recoiling from pronouncements made or showing a spiritual arrogance. We hope for a shared insight in the acceptance of others and their beliefs.

We find joy in shared meals, much humor, special treats, spiritual insights, spirited discussions and being in grace with one another and the Spirit.


2011 Report

SPIRITUAL STATE OF THE MEETING REPORT
2011

Augusta Friends Worship Group, located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, provides a spiritual home to 12 attenders. The great geographical distance among attenders (some as much as 40 miles) does not facilitate the frequent social exchanges that are possible when Friends are closer together. We meet in homes, so there is no central place that can be called “home” to which attenders can gravitate. This may be strange to new attendees who may feel awkward at going to a personal space. However, it gives us the opportunity to be sure that we are genuinely welcoming and connecting with them during their time with us. This arrangement continues to fit us and provides us the challenge that we are nurturing the spirit when we are together. Those who are able to host find it to be an enriching experience for Friends to be in their space and leave behind the special feeling of spirit. We understand more completely that we carry the feeling of the metaphoric “house” and its strength as we go into the world.

Our main connectedness is in the space of Meeting for Worship. There is found in this still quiet hour a place for all to be- reflecting on their personal connection with Spirit and the Light Within. We are noticing that the centering is happening more quickly and deeply. We experience a nurturing of the spirit that is a result of the closeness we feel with one another. There is growth here that can be attributed to the sharing, caring and listening that give the spirit a chance to prosper. At the rise of meeting we continue the connectedness through our circular handshake and by sharing aloud our concerns, joys and thoughts. This sharing and listening makes very real the support that we derive from one another and from hearing about another’s journey. Through this sharing we are also noticing how well those older Friends in our group are aging. They provide us all a strategy for continuing to learn and accept our path and the challenges that may be there with determination and grace.

We nurture our spiritual language by having discussions once a month on a given topic. During the “dark” months this occurs after worship, and in the “light” months we meet on Saturday evenings. Each has its benefits. A number of the topics come from articles that we have read including ones on leadings, the Light within, universalism and the connection with other Friends. Also this year we shared answers to a number of questions on our unique life’s journey culminating in stating our beliefs. We feel by this intimate exchange we created a space where all feel that they can reveal their own truth and have it be heard from the tender place that it originates. Christmas Day several Friends gathered for worship and a shared meal that spoke to the further connectedness of the group.

Individually, we engage in life by witnessing to the spirit by visitation, volunteerism and vocational accountability. We do have as a concern our lack of corporate connection to the wider community. However, by being open to the spirit we have built up, we have an impact on those whom we meet daily.

We shared the unique experience of memorial meetings held in the manner of Friends for two of our attendees. We feel that we were able to provide the families of Jean Ridgway and Bob Ulrich with a special time of remembrance and strength that matched the special people that we have lost. Their spirits remain with us.

We have as a concern the impact that meeting in homes has on accommodating those with children. We feel that we have to be very diligent in making space for them both physically and spiritually. We are also concerned that we provide a feeling of openness and acceptance for those who may come with different religious experiences than ours. We feel that anyone who is willing to hear others from a deep place can find a spiritual home with us.

The report is the distillation of comments shared after meeting for worship using the queries provided by the committee.