Fauquier 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.

2014 Report 2015 Report

One word sums up the past year for Fauquier Friends: Persistence.

We have persisted in holding Meeting for Worship once a month each month while we hope for a time when we can afford a weekly rental space and expect a future when we will enjoy greater diversity and growth. The persistence of a committed few in striving for regular monthly attendance in spite of severe personal loss, advancing physical limits or illness has served to strengthen our hope that this new Worship Group can endure no matter what.

Something is there that persists in bringing us back to share our spiritual journeys both in vocal ministry and during informal hospitality visits. It is the same Something that leads us to treasure the time to sit in silence with each other in gathered worship and to share our social concerns, personal burdens and blessings.

Something of the Spirit prompted efforts to keep in touch, by e-mail or phone or letter, with those from four households who were apart from us physically through most of 2015 after suffering the tragic deaths of their all-too-young adult children. One bereaved couple relocated out of state and found a Friends Meeting in their new area. Others repeatedly expressed appreciation for being remembered in worship and prayer and for offers of help even as they tried to repair their shattered lives and figure out whether or when they might join us in the Worship hour again. One told us it was like drowning and needing a spiritual raft but not knowing how to grasp it. We have no answers for why so many tragedies happened to such a small group in the same year. We can’t pretend to comprehend why any parent has to ever survive the death of a beloved child. Yet we can only persist in caring and holding them in the eternally-shining Light.

The enduring Spirit of Persistence keeps us thrilled and hopeful at the prospect of newcomers seeking to visit and learn about us. We enjoyed a surge in attendance at our one-year anniversary event in May, though the best-laid-plans effect served to highlight our dependence on the support and presence of Friends from Herndon Friends Meeting and from Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Over-planning with unrealistic expectation reminds us to count success in other ways than by numbers. We still thankfully remember how good it was to have “all those people there” including a First Day class from Herndon (our first and only children to attend), a couple new to Quakers, and a guest speaker and mentors from Friends General Conference New Meetings Project. When the last of the dinner was swept up, the new visitors fell away, and later, the FGC New Meetings Project was laid down, we resumed a typical attendance of only two to four. Yet, we remained joyful. After all, centering in this Spirit helps us to appreciate what we have today and also helps us to be more grounded in our future plans.

We seek ways to advance an inclusive and welcoming presence. One continues to attend Virginia Interfaith meetings and report back on actions we can take or ways we can support interfaith work in Virginia legislature. One has begun to use the “off-weeks” to sometimes attend worship with other area congregations. While getting acquainted with Bealeton area faith leaders, she carries her leading to celebrate religious freedom and diversity in our nation while noticing with appreciation how much we have in common in regard to following the Two Great Commandments.

Love God. Love others. There’s no law against it.

We have continued to submit posts to newspapers even though articles are not always printed (most want to have notice of newsworthy events like guest speakers, concerts or spaghetti dinners). We continue to have a small library including a Friends Journal subscription and we keep information pamphlets out on display. Coffee, snacks and music are provided for those who wish to join in. A major addition to our outreach has been to establish and maintain a Facebook page. We have distributed some business cards with our contact information. We keep sharing ideas for ways to be more earth friendly and to care for those in need of shelter (both people and animals). We provided humble but appreciated support to Community Touch, a local Bealeton non-profit, and to Right Sharing of World Resources. We began to demonstrate our interest in linking with others who are in Mindfulness or Meditation groups in Warrenton or Culpeper, believing we share common ground. We remain grateful for the chance to be listed in Quaker Finder, on the Herndon Light calendar and group post, in the Friends Journal directory and to have regular updates to our meeting page at bym-rsf.org by Baltimore Yearly Meeting staff. By persisting in these endeavors and more importantly, making new person to person connections, we think Fauquier Friends Worship Group will grow.

We know we can’t put everything on our plate at once. Being the singular Quaker presence in this large geographical area, striving in our own ways to reflect Quaker values in our lives, maintaining once monthly rental of a space that is apart from our usual distractions or everyday-at-home places for worship and quietude and just being thankful for each other has made a difference. In this respect, we persist with hope, or as some might say, “We wait patiently on the Lord”.

In this, our first Spiritual State of the Meeting Report, Fauquier Friends are glad to tell of the inner peace and joy that comes with meeting together in worship with the purpose of knowing “one another in that which is eternal” (George Fox). Since our beginning in Fifth Month, 2014, our attendance has ranged from 2 to 13 and even when the numbers are small, there is always spoken ministry and the sense of a gathered meeting that reminds us of the promise of Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Though only permitted by Fauquier County to rent the Bealeton Depot one day per month, we find that what starts in the Depot does not stay there. By providing a place for those who have difficulty traveling to a distant Quaker Meeting for Worship, we gain much increase of Spirit contrasted with the fumbling efforts to worship solo. The felt blessings, time to think about what we are doing with our lives and more intense devotion results in a stronger leading to care for and give to others. The raised happiness, energy and community connection carries throughout the weeks until we meet again. One Friend commented that this Worship Group is like Prairie Home Companion’s Powder Milk Biscuits. It gives the shy person the courage to stand up and do what needs to be done.

An example of reaching beyond the boundaries of our small group is that a reporter from a local daily newspaper accepted the bold request to attend a Meeting for Worship with her camera. The result was a front page spread with photos and the title “God in Everyone”, published both online and on paper. The piece helped to inform readers in a multi-county area of who we are and how to get in touch. Another example is when staff of three emergency and transitional shelters in our outreach area gratefully accepted donations from our small group and expressed an interest in learning about “those Quakers”. We plan to continue similar connections.

In spite of our efforts to be inclusive and welcoming, we lack diversity in our small group. This is a weakness we hope might be corrected in the future with help from others to develop a stronger, more attractive web presence. With hope and expectancy to see the first child cross our threshold, a First Day School activity is planned each month and topics are often printed in the regular newspaper notices.

Another great challenge during our start-up months has been much illness and chronic pain. Our tiny core group of regular attenders has experienced multiple surgeries, flare-ups of prior conditions and one couple even received the frightening news of their daughter’s Leukemia diagnosis. We are honored to have the chance to hold each other in the Light and trust that God knows our deepest needs and sorrows. One Friend experiences this power of “holding” as though dispatched angels are hovering over and around those who are hurting, including those whose names we do not know, like the immigrant children who risked their lives to cross our border or those suffering from war, slavery and violence in the Middle East. Perhaps our own pain increases our compassion for others. This is indeed a mighty way for the Spirit to use even a small, developing Quaker group. With such a river of Light, how can we keep from singing?

We hope that welcome and information pamphlets, a portable library, singing, pot luck lunch and hospitality both before and after worship helps visitors and newcomers to quickly feel like they are a wanted part of Fauquier Friends Worship Group. The visits from our Care Committee and others from Herndon Friends Meeting and across Baltimore Yearly Meeting are appreciated and encouraging. While we hope for and anticipate future growth in numbers and diversity, the attendance of newcomers and seasoned Friends alike helps us to dwell in the grounded traditions that characterize so many faiths: Happiness, Compassion, Loving Kindness, Peace and Walking in the Light. We’d like to think if we can get that part right, the rest will fall into place someday.