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||2016 Report||2017 Report|
Our use of the silence as we gather together once a month for worship is a primary spiritual tool in our small group. Our worship is pure and well done, even as we acknowledge that our Quakerism is not a finite thing. It is more like a reed in the marsh, it keeps changing and moving as the Spirit meets the needs of the attenders present at the time. Vocal ministry reflects the gladness and growth that spring from this quiet and flexible waiting.
We are pleased at the privilege to savor a sacred space without distraction of creed or prepared sermon. Our worship is more about becoming the best person possible, finding that of God within and magnifying it. It gives us space to reflect on social justice, space for finding peace, both collectively and individually. That is the monthly food for our hungry hearts.
Traditional advices and wisdom are helpful in guiding us. Using Rise of Meeting time to meditate and share with each other on the Queries from Faith and Practice sets a nurturing tone for the following weeks. There have been times when the hospitality table was ignored while we broke spiritual bread instead.
We strive to balance conflicting needs. We want to grow beyond the currently affordable space that only permits us to rent one Sunday a month, one date at a time. We also need to heed the Simplicity-based advice to “Proceed as Way opens.”
Many of us are aware of the history of so many other Friends Meetings that grew much larger, developed active committees, and organized actions in part because of larger monetary donations leading to ownership of permanent space, complete with signage, First Day School rooms, and a tangible presence in the surrounding community. Our worship group is different in that we haven’t found ourselves in the soil yet.
The past year of 2017 served to keep us humble and challenged us to raise the best produce possible out of spiritual soil alone. From our care Meeting, Herndon Friends helped supply a panel on Peacemaking for an afternoon program that attracted several others from the community. That day was a boost to our sense of productivity. We’d like to use our rented space for more afternoon topics following future Meetings for Worship, possibly borrowing on other Friends Meeting resources to supplement ours. Including a potluck with vegan chili for each community program wouldn’t hurt!
The public events of 2017 gave many of us pause to wonder if the Light truly exists in every single person. Certainly, we have the free will to choose to follow the Light or ignore it. Yet, if everyone can do just one act of kindness, then there indeed is something of the Light in each. Having done one act, the second comes easier. Seeds of kindness have a way of sprouting sight unseen. Hope grows. Light shines.
A new attender at our December Meeting reminded us from the Epistle of James that every good and perfect gift comes from above and comes down from the Father of Lights. We don’t need our own floor, walls, roof or pantry to contain such gifts, or to share them with others in this or surrounding counties.
One Friend suggested that Quakerism at its best is like the old fable about “Nail Soup” or “Stone Soup”. Each one brings what little they have to flavor the broth that started with only a nail or a pebble. Each “Meeting Soup” is thus expected to have a different flavor than any other Quaker Meeting.
That’s OK. We were fed throughout the year and are satisfied with the sweet gifts we have now.
In the past year, we continued to take joy in the privilege to meet and worship as a group once a month, however small our numbers may be. “Finding (Fauquier Friends) was a joy. I love when we meet,” said one, adding that there’s a very deep reverence and Quaker groundedness present. “There was a feeling of Light and welcome in the room when I first walked in,” said another. Having the chance to be in the company of others who share the same spiritual interests and concerns is important. “Happy that we still exist” speaks all our minds and hearts.
Our strongest leadings as a group are to continue to find ways to grow and to do outreach to the community while attending to the spiritual needs of our attenders, especially in healing and fellowship. A great challenge is the felt need to meet more frequently than only once a month, which would require finding a different yet still affordable and accessible space in which to meet. As we grow, we hope to have a stronger way to communicate our Quaker values to others in this and the many surrounding counties that have no weekly Friends Meeting for Worship. Sometimes, it feels like we are continually seeking, looking for open doors to connect and reach out as a whole.
We have compensated for the lack of frequent physical gathering by the provision of Friends Journal and books in a lending library and our communication by phone, email and Facebook. Some of us have enjoyed the occasional opportunity to attend the same event, community resource gathering or Northern Peidmont Virginia Interfaith activity that may happen between Meetings for Worship. Still, we feel that we are not what we might be if we were meeting as a weekly group and had more attenders.
Another anticipation of future growth is that we might be more diverse and attract people with more youth, energy and less infirmity than current attenders. Even though we are, by far, the nearest Meeting for Worship for our attenders, some individuals are still traveling an uncomfortably long distance to attend. We strive to seek ways for our small group to feel more joined and involved while also expanding to be more diverse racially, ethnically and in attenders who are LGBTQ. It would be especially delightful to have children attending more than once a year, which happened in 2016 only when Herndon Friends Meeting gifted us with a delightful visit from three generations of an HFM family. We are, however awkwardly, striving to have an attractive Facebook page kept up to date and seek other ways to reach out on the web, hoping young people will notice.
The depth of both silent worship and vocal ministry is the steady foundation that nurtures our spiritual lives. Even during the couple of 2016 meetings that were completely silent, we found out later that we had been deeply gathered. Many of us felt the inner peace of holding each other in the Light. Many of the vocal messages are very powerful and leave a spiritual resonance that lasts well beyond the day we meet. “For myself, as the time approaches to go to Meeting, I’m already getting prepared for the reverence of sitting in silence,” said one Friend. We are also enriched by our worship sharing on the queries after Rise of Meeting. We decided this is a more important use of our time than lengthy Rise of Meeting announcements about distant events and gatherings. Our annual Meeting for Business was held in right spirit with the aid of Herndon Friends committee for care of the Worship Group.
In advance of first attendance, newcomers are welcomed and questions are answered by phone, email and/or by mailing of welcome letters and pamphlets as they wish. The “older” attenders strive to get to know newcomers, encourage them to take free literature, sign out library materials, and continue to ask any questions they may have. They are welcome to put contact info in the guest book if they want to get announcements or reminders between meetings. Potential visitors are always told they are welcome to bring children. A First Day activity is always prepared and ready to use. “We were well met in spirit, in deed and in kindness,” said one of the newcomers of 2016.
Engaging with other Meetings is mostly done on an individual or couples level, with some paying visits to Langley Hill or Richmond when they can manage the drive. Most are keeping in touch with activities of other Monthly and Yearly Meetings by means of their newsletters, group email lists, web sites, the Yearbook, Interchange and organization reports. Some have occasional visits with other Quaker friends.
Many messages were suggested to forward to Baltimore Yearly Meeting and to Friends around the world:
“I would like to celebrate AFSC and FCNL for what they’ve been doing regarding immigration, poor people, women and other concerns.”
“We need to share more of our similarities and celebrate our diversity.”
“It is important to remember that there might be something dangled in front of you, tempting you to respond in haste (referred to as biting the hook). This can lead to getting upset, stuck and feeling less able to listen or communicate well, thus giving more power to whatever that issue is. We need to distance ourselves in a way so we can see something from all sides and thus reach a point of greater forgiveness and understanding.”
“To be present with the other in a non-judgmental way is the work of the Inner Light. Keep up the visitation and listening projects and let’s all guard our words. We must carefully refrain from repeating divisive, politicized rhetoric that includes labeling and assigning motives and feelings to others. Let’s seek truth and do justice by walking humbly with that of God in the ones we like to dislike.”
Some of us have kept up with the Working Group on Racism via reports on the Internet or in the Yearbook. We are pleased that Yearly Meeting’s Committee on Ministry and Pastoral Care is sponsoring such an effort. Any of our responses to their work is done, as usual, on more of an individual basis rather than as a group. We generally feel that we have come to be more aware of otherwise hidden racism and of white privilege. We are trying to make that more of a focus in our lives and our relationships where we live and work. We are also impacted by the Friends Journal articles on race.
We continue to informally share leadings and concerns with each other and that gives momentum to each one to follow “the Quaker Way” throughout the weeks until we meet again. Though it is hard to measure good works done by each one instead of a collective, we are perhaps an example of the vocal message delivered in our last Meeting for Worship of 2016: “Maybe this is what Christmas is…that one baby made a difference.” We might be a baby of a Worship Group, but we’re growing in the Light.
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.