Goose Creek 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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We feel that our worship is deepening. We were delighted when a new Friend told us that each week he feels a sense of anticipation on the way to Meeting for Worship. “Something really happens here,” he said.
Friends have noted that our Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business feel more spiritually focused than heretofore. Our clerk has instituted a practice of reading the month’s queries at the beginning of each Business Meeting. Friends speak to these queries out of the silence before we discuss Meeting business. This reflective period helps us remember that we have gathered to seek God’s help in discerning right courses to take.
Drawing together spiritually in small groups has helped create a feeling of spiritual fellowship among us all. This also provides opportunities for Friends to participate more fully in the life of the Meeting, and encourages fluidity and mixing among us. These small groups include a Wednesday evening discussion group, a Spiritual Formation group, and a new women’s group for conversation and sharing, in addition to Friendly Eights groups. In the spring we held several evening potluck gatherings – planned for the benefit of newcomers, but also attended by longtime Friends – in which we answered questions about Quakerism and shared stories about our personal spiritual journeys. This has helped knit newer Friends into our community, and has reminded older Friends of the connections among us and with Quaker traditions and teachings.
Our religious education co-clerks have been successful in keeping a consistent and coherent First Day School program going for all age groups of children. They have involved more adults in First Day School activities, helping to build more intergenerational bridges. There is an ongoing program in which students interview adult Friends about their spiritual journeys and their lives in Quakerism. Also, students have been challenged to think hard about how to tie Friends’ testimonies to their everyday lives. Still, sometimes First Day School attendance is quite low, and we would like to attract more families with children to Meeting.
We are grateful for the Friends who quietly provide valuable support for our spiritual work together. The Meeting newsletter, listserv, email list, and website help keep individuals in touch with Meeting events and activities; and the Cares and Concerns Committee helps keep Meeting in touch with the life events and needs of individual Friends. The Hospitality Committee supports important gatherings for outreach and fellowship. These functions are not always seen as ministry, but we realize that they are, and that behind the scenes many of us are constantly knitting and re-knitting our community into a whole.
Goose Creek Friends have been working to create a Meeting infrastructure that allows us to attend to spiritual matters. We recognize that when we feel that the work of Meeting is going smoothly, we have the luxury of the peace that brings us more deeply into silent worship.
We have continued to work hard to welcome newcomers, and feel that we are doing a better job of this than in the past. The Library Committee has put together bundles of pamphlets and information about Quakerism to offer to visitors. We believe that we are welcoming to people of all ages, races, classes, gender identities, and religious/ethnic backgrounds, and have included an icon on our website indicating that we welcome gays and people of color. However, our success in attracting new Goose Creek Friends who differ a great deal from the rest of us is limited. We do have new young adult attenders, who gladden us. We recognize that a Quaker meeting for worship is not an easy thing to walk into, and ask ourselves how we can be more inviting to everyone. We see the most diverse groups within the Meeting House walls at community gatherings such as last fall’s harvest festival, and at memorials and weddings. The harvest festival was a wonder-filled celebration of our caretakers’ fifty years with us. Talk about faithfulness and commitment!
But for the most part, our outreach successes consist of forging bonds with other groups. Our scholarship programs grant college scholarships every year to local young people of a wide range of races and ethnicities. The program begins with a discussion of values that Quakers prize, and applicants gather to write a relevant essay. We hope that this experience will remain with them. Goose Creek Meeting has contributed members to Loudoun Interfaith Bridges, a multicultural religious group. Some Friends work one morning a week at Mobile Hope, a program that serves homeless and inadequately housed local youth. Without a formal plan to attend together, twenty or more Goose Creek Friends showed up for a religiously diverse candlelight vigil in Leesburg, Virginia, to demonstrate unity, promote community safety, and counter prejudice. Farther afield, a Goose Creek Friend spends several weeks a year training midwives in Haiti, and another works with relief programs in the Himalayas. They receive our financial and spiritual support. Our Unity with Nature Committee has participated in both Quaker and non-Quaker environmental groups, and Goose Creek was one of the first of BYM’s monthly meetings to endorse the Shared Quaker Statement on Climate Change.
One Goose Creek Friend is a faithful participant in South Mountain Friends Fellowship, a Friends worship group organized by Patapsco Monthly Meeting that meets every Saturday at the Maryland Correctional Facility at Hagerstown. Others from Goose Creek have accompanied her on occasion. We are struck by the multiracial nature of this small group of incarcerated men, and are humbled by how much our limited interaction means to them. A Christmas letter to Meeting from one South Mountain Friend filled our hearts with sadness and joy.
We recognize the need to abjure complacency, and endeavor not to forget to keep questioning our habits. On the whole, we feel that we have been willing to look afresh at what we do, and to take the risk of making changes. Committees have been working to discern whether they are doing the work that they are truly led to do.
Friends feel one another’s spiritual support as they move individually into the community and the world to help remedy inequities and hardships. We feel the support of Quakerism as a whole. As one Friend reminded us, “Remember the testimonies!” And here we return to the central fact of our worship together. Weekly meetings for worship and the meetings of our various spiritual small groups – these are what keep Spirit before us in our individual daily lives.
Goose Creek Friends Meeting nurtures the spiritual life of members and the community by providing opportunities for individual and communal exploration through Meeting for Worship, spiritual formation groups, First Day School, and social interactions. Though sometimes difficult and challenging, listening to one another affords a respectful sharing of beliefs and deepens our understanding of ourselves and others as we attain new ideas. Our Listening Ear at the rise of Meeting for Worship continues to offer a time of sharing questions, concerns, and problems.
One focus in the past year has been strengthening the committees within Meeting. Quarterly meetings of committee clerks and co-clerks have helped committees become more active and have encouraged greater participation in their endeavors. The Publications Committee has been diligent in supporting activities through the newsletter, on the web site, and with emails sent out through the list-serve. The Finance committee backs committees and individual activities with budgetary considerations.
A wonderful example of committee cooperation was the community dedication of the historic Civil War Sign sponsored by the Archive Committee on December 6th. This committee worked directly with four different Civil War committees responsible for the Virginia Civil War Trail markers. By focusing on the Peace Testimony, the committee was able to spread the message of our legacy and Peace Testimony to the Meeting community, the wider Quaker community, and the larger community around us. All members and attenders were asked to participate, and the Hospitality, Property, Religious Education, and Peace and Social Concerns Committees were actively involved in the event. First Day School children participated by performing a short play. Many hands assisted with invitations, advertising, hosting duties, and refreshments which led to a richer experience for all.
Religious Education is an area we can support better in the future. The number of children varies from week to week making planning somewhat difficult. Although the RE committee meets regularly and asks for assistance when needed, we continue to question whether our actions support our values and words regarding First Day School. A threshing session on this topic is scheduled for early March 2015.
The Camping Committee continues to support the attendance of our children at Quaker Camps where they experience simplicity in a natural setting away from their everyday lives. The Scholarship Committees host a discussion on Quaker values and concerns that encourages our young people to examine and write about their own views on life. The Nominating Committee continues to invite young people to join our committees and participate more fully in our Quaker community. These young Friends add vitality to committees.
Members of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee have contacted local leaders regarding issues of peace and social justice. Committee members continue to distribute gun locks and to lobby for gun safety. A number of members attended the Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence at the Washington National Cathedral on December 11th.
Unity with Nature hosted a four-part discussion of Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. They will be presenting ideas to Meeting in early 2015 on concrete areas for “going forth.”
Visitors and new attenders are welcomed on a regular basis. Though we do a good job of modeling Quaker process, newcomers sometimes remind us that diversity is a positive thing; and they help us to reconsider our beliefs and practices. We encourage participation on committees in open conversations about opportunities to serve. In addition, we are planning for the creation of an Outreach Committee in 2015 to more fully focus on these efforts.
In September, more than twenty Goose Creek Friends and members of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church hosted and provided for needy persons a free sit-down dinner with entertainment as part of the Community Table of Loudoun Program. With an eye to increased outreach and a concern for greater service in our local community, we have invited executives from Tree of Life Ministries and Mobile Hope to speak to Meeting regarding their missions. We continue to look for good ways to be of service both individually and as a group.
The Meeting speaks through both action and inaction. We strive to live within the parameters of what we are called to do without our ego taking charge. We come together in a loving community where we can share our joys and concerns, hold each other in the light, and foster dialogue among ourselves.
A Goose Creek Friend compared the flow of the Spirit to an underground stream whose presence is difficult to discern from the surface. Nevertheless, springs erupt here and there corroborating its existence. Occasionally, gathered Meetings for Worship descend upon us where messages emerge on related themes out of a palpable silence. Children in First Day School impress teachers as unusually self-aware and reflective for living in an age of noise and technology. Our committees benefit from the presence of Young Friends as members. Older Friends with serious illnesses or recovering from surgery receive support, visits, food, and rides to appointments. Personal expressions of gratitude encourage vocal ministry in Meeting for Worship. Friends listen thoughtfully to one another in deliberation of business. New members note cordial welcomes into our Meeting. Our Listening Ear at the rise of Meeting for Worship offers newcomers and others an opportunity to bring questions, concerns, and problems to a member of Meeting.
The underground stream of the Spirit is watered by small group and committee retreats, workshops at Friends Wilderness Center, our Spiritual Formation Group and Wednesday evening Spiritual Discussion Group, which all foster growth, ministry and leadership. Encouraged by personal affirmation of gifts, Friends are more likely to risk new roles. Working together in the kitchen, on committees, and on events such as memorials reminds us of the multiplicity of gifts in our community, all of which are vital. Struggling to reach the right decisions in committees requires patience, honesty, persistence, and listening but results in greater appreciation for each other and our process for arriving at a sense of the Meeting.
Whereas streams of living water gush freely in some aspects of our Meeting, other areas seem more arid. Some committees report low energy levels evident in the difficulty of mobilizing members for tasks. If persons feel that issues important to them have not been addressed, they are encouraged to bring their concern back to the committee so that these concerns may be heard and reconsidered. Some would welcome more speakers and workshops, as well as spiritual friends and mentoring. Attendance at First Day School and the Wednesday evening discussion group varies weekly, affording little opportunity for continuity from one week to the next. Older Friends hope to become better acquainted with our young folk and to offer support to our RE committee.
In addition to having more intergenerational activities including our youth, we hope to focus on outreach to the wider community, to be more visible outside our walls, and to publicize our special events. Although our county demographics have changed recently, our Meeting remains relatively prosperous and predominantly white. Perhaps we might participate in nearby church projects of service to less privileged groups. Greater support from Meeting people of Loudoun Interfaith Bridges events would enable us to relate to our neighbors of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds.
Our Meeting recognizes the need for Friends to talk more openly with one another about our differences of opinion. Some members appear reluctant to ruffle feathers in meetings by expressing unpopular views. We encourage Friends to risk speaking their truth in love.
In addition, the flow of the Spirit seems impeded by the challenges of life in the twenty-first century U.S. Overwhelmed with stressful work situations, some Friends do not attend Meeting for Worship regularly. However, others say their weekly attendance enables them to withstand the demands of difficult job positions. Like exercise, commitment is critical. We hope to alleviate the stress on our people by offering solace and renewal. Multiple demands also render many Friends too busy to devote quality time to their spiritual lives. Our challenge is to simplify and set priorities.
Despite our needs for growth in these areas, the Spirit’s living water is manifest in individual members’ participation in the countywide Interfaith Bridges seeking closer dialogue between different faith communities, in our Meeting’s financial support of a clinic in Haiti of Midwives for Haiti where one Goose Creek Friend travels twice yearly to train midwives, in our Unity with Nature’s program to create way stations for Monarch butterflies last summer, in a program on our local Quaker history during the Civil War, and in our presentation on the Mountain Institute’s work in Nepal to create sustainable, environmentally friendly jobs.
Likewise, the Spirit has been present in our efforts at peacemaking and bringing that of God into controversial situations. Attempting to speak from their hearts, two Goose Creek friends along with Friends from around the nation lobbied Congress and state legislatures on issues of peace and social justice. Members have conducted workshops on being open to one’s enemies. Last spring we had a series of threshing sessions on gun violence. Students applying for our Meeting scholarships participated in a discussion on listening to others with divergent social views.
Whether in worship or Meeting activities, we strive to create the conditions where healing and growth are more likely to occur, where Friends feel loved, supported, and held in the Light. Together we hope to grow into channels of universal love.
Goose Creek Friends have felt lifted up by one another, whether in times of illness, loss, or joy, and supported in their individual leadings to let their lives speak. There is much tenderness among us.
The 2012 Nominating Committee engaged in a deep effort to address the spiritual life of the Meeting, affirming that committee work is spiritual work that can nurture those engaged in it. The Nominating Committee’s members spoke extensively with individual Friends, and as a committee they worked together to discern and encourage the leadings of individuals within Meeting. It is widely felt that this nominating committee’s spiritual energy has spread to other committees and to Meeting as a whole.
Other ways in which Goose Creek Friends have gathered for mutual support in our spiritual journeys include a Wednesday evening worship sharing and discussion group, a Spiritual Formation group that meets monthly, and a small weekend contemplative retreat in which a few of us participated last spring. We note that attendance at Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business has increased, and that we have been able to conduct business in good order.
The First Day School is flourishing, and this is reflected in a strong and growing sense of community among the children. Families know that they can count on rich programs for their children every week during the school year. As always, we support Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s camping program, and many of our young people’s spiritual lives are greatly enriched by their wonderful camping experiences. Several young Friends have become members of Meeting committees so that we can work together intergenerationally. We hope to continue the deepening of our intergenerational relationships.
We note with sadness the deaths of some members of our older generation. This reminds us that the nature of Goose Creek changes as Friends deeply rooted in the local community, and in Meeting’s history, are lost. The rest of us are aware of our responsibility to carry forward the Light that we found in their teachings, and to nurture and recognize the gifts of those who are newer among us.
In the last months of 2012, Goose Creek began to offer a Listening Ear at the rise of every Meeting for Worship. This has already proved to be a conduit for personal concerns that Friends wish to share with Meeting but in a private manner; a way for attenders to ask questions about Quakerism, membership, or the workings of this Meeting; and a place for attenders and newcomers to find out more about our way of worship. Everyone present on First Day knows that there is a particular Friend available to speak with.
In addition to the Listening Ear, we have organized informally to make individual efforts to greet visitors and meet with new attenders. We now have a welcome packet of information to offer those who are interested in reading about Friends. We have fostered fellowship by holding several soup and bread lunches at the rise of Meeting. Newcomers and new attenders have seemed pleased to join us there and at the potlucks we hold on other occasions throughout the year. Several attenders became new members in 2012.
Outreach and connections with the wider faith world in 2012 included mutual visits between Goose Creek Friends and Friends from Rockingham Monthly Meeting (VA), an affiliate of Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative). One of us again attended Quaker Spring in Ohio. Several Goose Creek Friends have been involved with Loudoun Interfaith Bridges, a small group of faith communities in the county who engage in regular interfaith dialogue; and one of our members gave a talk on Quakerism as part of a regional initiative, “Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion.” Closer to home, we have continued to enjoy a deepening friendship with Hispanic guest workers who share potluck meals with us during their warm-season sojourns in Lincoln. Some of them study English with a small group of Goose Creek Friends.
However, Friends at Goose Creek have been feeling deep concern about how well we organize to help with problems in the larger world. We try as individuals to let our lives speak, and there are those among us who give much of themselves to help others, both in the U.S. and abroad. Meeting has supported them, spiritually and financially. But, we have been asking ourselves, how can we embrace the local community and its needs in a more defined and generous way? How well do we as a community recognize and act upon our commitment to peace? What is the relationship between stewardship and suffering? What does it mean to live comfortable lives in a world where so many lack the most basic needs? How can we find common ground among ourselves so that we can work together as a faith community?
Contemplating these questions, we are reminded that we are endeavoring to walk in the Light, and that way will open if we proceed in that awareness.
Goose Creek has had a joyous year of growth and conversation accompanied by an increasing depth in our corporate worship. We have been delighted to note increasing attendance at our Quakerism 101 series as well as at Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business. As we smile at the sounds from our youngest members and attenders, we feel blessed with the intergenerational nature of our Meeting. We have hosted several simple soup lunches during the past year that have been well attended and provided opportunity for continued conversation after Meeting for Worship. As a result, we feel that connections are being made and relationships are growing at Goose Creek.
We are mindful that with growth there are also growing pains. We have begun examining whether some of our old ways of doing things continue to serve us. Historically, Ministry and Oversight committee appointments have not come under the purview of the Nominating Committee but have instead come from the committee itself. Is this still a useful process? Could it be perceived as exclusionary? Should Ministry and Oversight hold open meetings? Do members and attenders feel comfortable coming to Ministry and Oversight with their concerns? Should members rotate off of Ministry and Oversight after a period of service? These conversations which have begun both within the committee and within other Meeting venues will continue as we move forward.
The Nominating Committee has initiated a more inviting process of talking with members and attenders, as well as current and new Committee Clerks. We view committee work as an expression of our spiritual beliefs, as well as an opportunity to be mindful stewards of the Meeting’s work and business. Here, too, we are looking for a balance between recognizing and acknowledging members’ and attenders' gifts and performing the same jobs because we always have. Nominating Committee has recommended, and Meeting has approved, quarterly meetings of committee clerks and the Presiding Clerk in order to facilitate continued dialogue and to provide opportunities for increased collaboration among committees.
Our spiritual growth as a community is reflected in the quality and depth of our corporate worship. We gather together in community to seek truth and to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. Often our silences are deep – at other times it is clear that the Spirit moves among us in vocal ministry. While sometimes the words speak to us, at other times we simply appreciate the Spirit behind the words. We have seen an increase in participation in a number of spiritual support groups, including Wednesday night Worship Sharing, the Spiritual Formation Group and Friendly 8s.
Our concern as to whether we appear welcoming to newcomers and attenders has prompted discussions in committees and in Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business. Our Library Committee, after establishing an Introduction to Quakerism section, is in the process of gathering a collection of pamphlets (including a welcome letter) to be given to interested newcomers. A postcard has been created that can be sent to newcomers who sign our guest book, inviting them to call a designated person if they have questions about Quakerism. These conversations have helped us all to be more mindful of the newcomers and visitors among us, and have served to remind us that we all can reach out to those around us.
Our discernment has led us to become more aware that we are not widely known in our greater community. Despite ample use of the Meeting House by various community groups, we tend to be viewed as an artifact of the rich history of our area rather than a living, spiritual presence. We continue to struggle with our visibility in the community and see this as an opportunity for future conversation and reflection.
While we have focused on building a stronger sense of community and revitalizing our committee structure, we have likewise been aware of persons suffering in our local community and in more distant lands who do not enjoy our comforts. At our celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, stories of returned volunteers reminded us of the significance of assisting people of different cultures. Our dinners for the Hispanic workers at a local nursery, as well as our ongoing financial support of one member’s work with Midwives for Haiti and other humanitarian efforts provide important links to our brothers and sisters who lack adequate food, health care, and education.
In reflecting on our year, we are grateful for those in our community who have triumphed over life-threatening health issues, for those who have extended helping hands to others in distress in the Meeting and beyond, for those who have nurtured our spirits, and for those who have challenged us to change.