Herndon Friends Meeting Interchange Reports
The text of Herndon Friends Meeting reports in the Interchange 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.
In February, J.E. McNeil spoke during our First Hour on the topic of Conscientious Objection. We have recently changed the name of this First Hour (formerly known as “Adult Discussion”), and are actively seeking to involve our youth in these discussions. We created a new committee for Communication and Outreach, and are pleased to have youth representation on that committee as well as on our Peace and Social Concerns Committee, Peace Awards Committee, and House and Grounds Committee. Our Greening Committee led a discussion on our carbon footprint in March, kicking off two months of a “Carbon Footprint Game,” in which we put stickers on a giant footprint each time we commit to another lifestyle change.
The Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County held its ninth annual reception. Students from twenty-two high schools were presented the awards for activities that ranged from working to increase tolerance in schools to creating international charities. Our guest speaker was Suraya Sadeed, founder of Save the Afghan Children. Our twenty co-sponsors included Langley Hill and Alexandria Friends Meetings. We continue to work on our multi-year project to make our property a welcoming place for wildlife and to reduce our contribution to the storm water run-off that has been ruining the waterways. We have hired a landscape designer to help us re-envision our landscape using native plants and less lawn.
In March, we united around the following minute.
“Herndon Friends Meeting supports and is in solidarity with the goals of Sanctuary DC/MD/VA, a network of congregations in the DC/MD/VA region that are providing support and sanctuary to our neighbors, friends, and family who fear being detained and deported, or profiled because of their religion, race or political beliefs. Our faith will not allow us to permit the criminalization and scapegoating of immigrants and people of color. In the face of hate and discrimination we are committed to showing love, compassion and hospitality.”
Herndon Friends celebrated twenty years in our current building this spring, a lovely home that satisfies all our needs except one: besides the worship room, there is only a small space for babies plus one other room to use for First Day School. Expanding the building turned out to be impractical, but finally an ingenious solution was found. We now have an Amish-built cabin in the corner of our parking lot, the perfect club house for our elementary school class. The older kids continue to have First Day School in the form of “Meeting for Breakfast” at a local restaurant.
After watching part of the movie Hometown Habitat, which shows how and why we can use our own properties to provide sanctuaries for wildlife, we were inspired to hold an interfaith showing and discussion for the neighboring faith communities. Representatives of seven communities attended and plan to take the idea back to their own congregations, where we hope the process will repeat itself. For details about this interfaith movement, see www.plantnovanatives.org/faith-communities.html.
Eight campers from Herndon Friends Meeting attended BYM camps this summer. To show our children that we all support them going to Quaker camps, we give a $350 scholarship to each camper, in addition to need-based scholarships on request.
After long negotiations with the Town of Herndon, we finally received permission to erect a small shed on our parking lot to accommodate one of the First Day School classes. Our small meetinghouse has served our needs perfectly for twenty years except for crowding during First Day School, which we hope will be resolved with this solution.
Herndon Friends have formed an ad hoc committee on Greening the Meetinghouse and are in the process of gathering ideas.
In lieu of our usual August potluck, Jodi Beatty, Margaret Fisher, and Jonathan Rosenthal organized a Vegan Tasting Feast to give everyone a chance to try out a variety of plant-based offerings. We gathered before Meeting for Worship to share a breakfast of toast with various vegan margarines; granola and cereal with soy, almond, or cashew milk; tofu scramble; and coffee with soy creamer or milk. During meeting, the kids made chocolate and mint ice cream in ice cream maker balls that they rolled around. Lunch was served on trays to each table with tiny servings of Chipotle and Italian vegan sausages, General Tso’s Seitan, zucchini with “hamburger” sauce, pizza, and open faced tomato sandwiches with Vegenaise. Chocolate cake with the ice cream made from coconut cream topped it all off, and each family went home with a small collection of popular vegan recipes.
It is a great joy to the Herndon Friends community to have the care of the new Fauquier Worship Group, which has been organized this year by member Bonnie Stockslager and which is meeting once a month in Bealeton, Virginia. The Junior Young Friends are exploring the meaning of Bible stories this year using a Bible Smarts format invented by Terence McCormally, consisting of queries about each story that are also sent out via e-mail to the whole community each week. Adults participated in lively discussions once a month on a wide variety of topics, including one led by Harry and Cathy Tunis on a “Quaker Elevator Speech:” how do you describe Quakerism to newcomers in thirty seconds or less? The wide spectrum of ideas demonstrated the many different ways that Quakerism has meaning in our lives. We are now tackling the testimonies.
Picture a world in which all high schools include peace as a stated goal. Imagine a community in which local newspapers headline not just school sports and drama productions but also the accomplishments of students who have worked for peace. Envision a school assembly in which Peace Awards receive the same attention as academic and military scholarships. Fairfax County in Northern Virginia is well on its way to becoming just such a place.
Inspired by Sandy Spring’s Lee Stern Peacemaking Award, Herndon Monthly Meeting began offering awards eight years ago, starting in one school and expanding gradually to all the public high schools and three private schools in Fairfax County – a total of 33 schools. We invite the schools to select their own recipients based on criteria which we provide. We have an annual reception to honor the recipients, which was attended this year by nearly 200 people, including a School Board member, the chairperson of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and 22 very excited recipients and their families. Each student was introduced and given a check for $150 and a copy of the book Sweet Fruit from the Bitter Tree. Notable peace activist Barbara Wien then gave a rousing and inspiring speech. This year, for the first time, one of the recipients was a group of students -- the Mountain View Brave Girls Club. In addition to the checks, all students were given the opportunity to select a charity to receive a $100 donation in their name. Whenever possible, the students will be presented with a certificate at their schools’ end-of-year honors assemblies.
Our hope is that this idea will spread to other communities. We are eager to help with our advice and experience, and we have posted details as well as many of our working documents on www.herndonfriends.com/PeaceAwards. Here are some tips for getting started:
- Find some hard workers. This project is easy to put together, but it does require strong coordination by a few dedicated people who don’t mind a lot of emailing.
- Start small. Begin with one high school, being sure that someone in the school understands what you are about.
- Collaborate with other groups. We quickly recruited Langley Hill and Alexandria Monthly Meetings as well as a Mennonite and Unitarian-Universalist church, but we did not want schools to be nervous about working with churches, especially ones as weird as the Quakers, Mennonites, and UUs! We now have thirteen co-sponsors, including a variety of religious and secular organizations. Representatives of these groups meet together annually to plan for the following year. We conduct the meeting using Quaker process.
- Ask schools to select the recipients, since they know the students and won’t be dazzled by a beautifully written essay.
- Gather information about the students. All recipients are contacted by a volunteer who writes up their accomplishments for the reception program and to go in our press releases.
- Have a reception, preferably in a secular venue. We found that early March allows for excellent attendance. We assign a volunteer (usually the person who collected information about the student) to escort each student.
- Publicize widely. We invite the press to the reception as well as representatives of schools and any organizations that the students have worked with, and we send press releases to each school newspaper.
- Present an award certificate in the schools in as public a setting as possible. Most schools have allowed us to participate at their awards ceremonies. When this is not possible, we often present the certificate in a class or club setting.
The scores of volunteers involved with the Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County have had a wonderful time creating this fun and rewarding program. We hope soon to hear of Student Peace Awards of (Insert your hometown) all around the country.
For the past few years, Herndon has been thinking a good deal about the land our Meeting House occupies. Specifically, an embankment on the north side has been eroding into the street, has become impossible to mow, and in some areas has been overtaken with invasive plants. Our House and Grounds Committee has been working diligently to find a solution to this problem. A plan to improve the problems with erosion on the north side of the Meeting House was approved by the Committee and then the entire Meeting in 2011. The first stage of the process took place in the spring of 2011 and involved removing what little plant materials remained on the embankment, which were some grasses and invasive plants, like Vinca. In the fall of 2011 and 2012, and again in the coming fall of 2013, the old mulch was (or will be) raked away and native plants were (and will be) planted along the embankment. Plants were chosen based on the recommendation of Meeting member Kay Fowler, who is the Executive Director of the Fairfax ReLeaf Organization. In all, 112 perennial plants, 17 ferns, and eight shrubs were chosen for the embankment, including blueberries, milkweed, cornflowers and goldenrod. The first two area of plants are thriving and members of the Meeting are looking forward to the final stage going in later this year. All of the work has been completed by members of the House and Grounds committee and other volunteers.
In early September, the Meeting will hold its annual Fall Retreat at Algonquian Park. The Fall Retreat has become a recent tradition for our Meeting year and provides a time for our community to come together in fellowship and spirit. The day will begin with a guided walk on park grounds along the Potomac River. After the walk, we’ll gather and sing. This will be followed by Meeting for Worship and then a potluck lunch. After lunch, we’ll play games for a couple hours appropriate for all ages of our community. Fellowship is the focus of this year’s Fall Retreat, which is appropriate since the event is organized by our fellowship-encouraging Hospitality Committee and Ministry and Oversight Committee. Many individuals not on these committees, however, will contribute to making this day a success. Many of our members and attenders vacation during the summer, and the Fall Retreat is a nice time for our community to reunite and spend time with each other. In years past, the Fall Retreat has taken advantage of the many green spaces in our region. We’ve also had speakers present on the roots of Quakerism and the role of the Meeting Clerk, played volleyball, had Friends from other Meetings attend, and even enjoyed a driving rain.
Started in mid-January, Herndon is sponsoring a midweek Meeting for Worship at 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. The Meeting is for anyone in our community who wishes to come together for worship. Also new to Herndon Meeting is a lively Friendly Eights book club that is focused on reading journals and testaments of Friends. Currently, the group is reading and preparing to discuss Mary Penington’s A brief account of my exercises from my childhood. The text was first published in 1848 and can be found online for free. Two books have already been discussed, John Woolman’s Journal and Thomas Kelly’s Testament of Devotion. The group hopes to learn more about the lives and beliefs of Quakers who came before us.
Over the past six months, Herndon Friends Meeting has formed and implemented a Care Coordinating Committee to serve our members in need. The committee was a suggestion of Margaret Rogers, whose previous Meeting in Seattle, Washington, had a similar committee.
As needs arise—such as a member of the Meeting having back surgery or another having a broken leg—a coordinator on the Care Committee contacts the individual. This point person learns about the need and then reports back to the committee as a whole. Since we recognize that our small Meeting may not be able to meet every need that arises, the committee decides what arrangements can be coordinated. Once these actions are identified, members of the committee create a calendar on Lotsahelpinghands.com so people can volunteer for tasks online. These tasks may be actions like cooking, cleaning, driving, or running errands. Individuals can also be contacted through e-mail for specific tasks not on the calendar. Although only a few months old, the Care Coordinating Committee has already matched needs with volunteers to help a couple of our Herndon Friends Meeting members.