Langley Hill 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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The reason that we come together is to listen for God’s guidance for our lives and to nurture and support each other along our spiritual journeys. Often our Spiritual State of the Meeting Report is a list of events and accomplishments for the year, somewhat like a group letter we might send out at Christmas. As in the letters, we sometimes fail to state what makes all of this important to us. As in the letters, we sometimes like to include only the positive, cheerful items, not revealing our struggles to those who love us and might understand.
Perhaps this year's report could be more like a journal entry that we write to reflect on at a later time. While others might see it, or maybe some of it, as a tool of self-reflection, not a chore to be gotten done because we do it every year. So if we regard this document as a letter to ourselves in the future, we need to be honest and inclusive about what has happened in our lives together during the last year.
Meeting for Worship
We recognize Meeting for Worship to be the heart of our spiritual practice and our community. It has been well attended in 2015. Our theologically diverse community gathers on First Day to seek Divine guidance together.
Spoken ministry is less frequent than it has been at times in the past, but we treasure the silence and those dedicated to “holding” it. Though spoken ministry happens less often during Meeting for Worship, our practice of hearing Afterthoughts at the conclusion of meeting has given us rich and heartfelt messages. We also use this time to consider requests to hold people in the Light. This often helps us to know who in our community may need help or support.
We follow Afterthoughts by asking our visitors to introduce themselves so we can greet them after meeting. Although we are better now at making sure we speak to visitors the first time they come, we still need to work on follow up contact that might make them feel truly welcome over time.
Meeting for Business
We have had good attendance at Meeting for Business with good participation by those present. We have had challenging issues come before us that tested our patience, feelings, and our understanding of Quaker process. We feel great appreciation for our clerk of four years, who stepped down at the end of the year.
This year a minute was brought forward to Meeting for Business by the Peace and International Outreach committee asking the Meeting to approve specific ways to support efforts toward peace and human rights in Israel and Palestine, including support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The meeting was unable to unite with the minute; some felt it was not balanced. Disagreement surrounding the minute deepened into misunderstandings, hurt, division, and bewilderment about how to knit the community back together. We decided to set aside the minute until a later time.
The Meeting Clerk, Peace and International Outreach Committee, Care and Clearness Committee, Social Concerns Committee, and Ministry and Worship Committee all worked hard over the year, trying to bring the meeting together. However, use of electronic communication, deeply felt differences, and inability on the part of the meeting to settle into respectful listening to one another, made the community tense for some time. A threshing session during the summer exposed raw emotions and a lack of understanding of, or setting aside of, Quaker process and practices. It became abundantly clear that we needed to find a way to heal our differences at a deep level.
This led to plans by Ministry and Worship Committee for an adult Religious Education program for the whole meeting, intended to bring us back to an understanding of Quaker process and practices. This program, called Quakerism Revealed, was planned to deepen our spiritual foundation and give us tools for dealing with conflict and other challenges that arise within our meeting.
As the years have progressed, we no longer have the number of children in the First Day School program that we once did. However, our program is vibrant and the children and FDS teachers are excited that the teachers can give much attention to each child. We would cheerfully welcome new families to the program and hope that way will open soon for that to be the case, as the growth of our First Day School program is very important to the continued vitality of the meeting.
While the younger children enjoy the program at the meetinghouse, as one part of their program, the Young Friends have been visiting other houses of worship to see how people from other religious traditions observe their relationship with God. They continue having their own Meeting for Business, which meets at the same time as the general Meeting for Business. We would like to find ways in which Young Friends could participate in the adult Meeting for Business in addition to holding their own business meeting.
Technology and Communication
Communications on the meeting list serve and Facebook have been both a benefit and a problem. On the list serve, we distribute information quickly and efficiently. We have been able to receive letters, event notices and basic information, which has kept the meeting well informed about news and interests. Facebook has provided the opportunity to arrange informal gatherings and relay personal news. However, the list serve and Facebook were also used for discussion of weighty issues that should be better addressed face to face. The use of this form of communication contributed to some of the turmoil in the meeting surrounding the Israel/Palestine issue.
Technology has been of great benefit to those in the meeting who need assistance to hear what is being said in various settings. The use of microphones during announcements and programs has helped those Friends to feel fully included in meeting proceedings and has supported the deepening of their involvement in the spiritual life of the meeting. Improvements to the current system are planned.
2015 saw wide participation on committees by both members and attenders. Committee members have put much time, energy and commitment into their tasks. However, Nominating Committee is still challenged to fill all of the positions on the committees, as they are now constituted.
Some committees have had especially heavy loads this year, and we appreciate their efforts on behalf of the community. Committees strive to manage their business through spirit-led listening and attention to Quaker process.
Financial Health and Participation
The number of contributing units has risen since last year. The meeting budget is on target, and the Finance committee has been well organized and thorough in presenting the status of our financial health to the meeting.
To attract new people to our community (especially younger families, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community), the Meeting continued its outreach activities with a goal to make Langley Hill better known in the DC Metro area. We hired an Outreach and Communications Coordinator who could help our website stay fresh and up-to-date, and enlivened our use of social media, such as Facebook. We also participated in community events, such as McLean Day, where our banner announced that Quakers are “More than just oatmeal.” Members of our community are also reaching out individually to other communities to help send a message of diversity and inclusion.
A spiritual community is a living entity that has its ups and downs. We have concerns about our future and the graying of our members. We worry that we do not have enough diversity in our meeting. We wish we had more families and that we could be at peace with each other most of the time.
Yet, those are only the things that trouble us now. We have had other troubles in the past and have managed to resolve them with the help of the Spirit. We hope to do the same now.
We are much more than our troubles. We make the effort to sustain and nurture our community. This requires that people have and make opportunities to be together to get to know one another better, to learn, to explore the world, to deepen our spiritual life together, and just to enjoy one another’s company. Langley Hill is blessed to have many of these opportunities:
- The Spiritual Formation Program continues, meeting regularly to discuss readings and practice various forms of spiritual deepening.
- A number of Friendly Eights groups meet for everything from movies to food.
- We have a new book group that reads a variety of writings relevant to spiritual matters and social concerns. The group welcomes anyone to participate, whether or not they have had a chance to do the reading.
- Each first day, we have a 9:00 drop-in discussion group that explores a wide variety of spiritual topics.
- We gather for a fellowship lunch on the first Sunday of every month with good food, good attendance, and a chance for the adults to visit with the children.
Our Fellowship Committee models ways for us to nurture our community. They regularly provide tea, coffee, snacks and good humor after meeting. They organize our monthly potlucks, and are frequently to be found inviting Friends to enjoy and cherish our times together whether in celebration or sadness. Always, there is food!
Overall, we are a very human community seeking Divine guidance in our lives, and we know that the first motion is love, no matter how imperfect, and so we try to love each other.
2015 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report
Junior Monthly Meeting
As the First Day School 2015-16 semester draws to a close, the Junior Monthly Meeting has reflected on our past year. We agreed that we had a spiritually fulfilling, eventful, and fun year. Through an excellent curriculum, fundraisers, service projects, and community building events we filled up each month with a variety of activities. We’ve had steady attendance from a core of five members, with varied attendance from an additional five kids and teenagers, who came whenever their schedules allowed.
The highlight of our First Day School curriculum this year was intervisitation. We first learned about and then visited the places of worship of Mormon, Buddhist, and Evangelical Christian religions. On the Sundays when we had Business Meeting instead of First Day School, each meeting was packed with topics. This year we developed and put into practice the Spiritual Buddies program, wherein a Young Friend may ask an adult Friend to be their “buddy” and on a semi-regular basis meet with them and discuss any topic or issue.
We also initiated multiple fundraisers, including multiple bake sales and our recent potluck that drew attention to world hunger. The proceeds of these fundraisers have been donated to various organizations including AGLI, and assisting a local Syrian refugee family. We also took a closer look at our finances for the first time in a couple of years, and we found a couple piles of money that are dedicated to both donations and Young Friends activities. We have begun the process of designating charities to donate these funds to, and will continue to recognize the resources we have in our future.
In terms of community building and other activities, this year we helped run or participated in the Halloween Party, the Christmas Pageant, and the Easter Egg Hunt. We attended the inter-generational meeting sessions and interacted with the Youngest Friends on multiple occasions. Most recently, we organized a trip to the DC Central Food Kitchen along with the youth of the Friends Meeting of Washington. It was a ton of fun, very rewarding, and afterwards we went out for lunch at Union Station together. We also discussed the Religious Freedom Statement by first attending Business Meeting and then talking it over in our own Junior Monthly Meeting. We have two seniors graduating this year, our Co-Clerks Zephren and Bennett, and we wish them well in their future. We look forward to seeing the other Young Friends step into leadership roles for the first time.
Young Friends are concerned about the decreased attendance rate during the past year, in which we rarely had more than five teens on any First Day; and this is likely to continue because there are more teens graduating and leaving for college than there are younger Friends rising up into the teen group.
Our meetings for worship and business have a deep spiritual quality. And when we drift from the Divine and from seeking the Truth, the gathered community, in silence, usually returns us to the well of Light. Our 2014 Report is organized into six parts. It covers some new areas as well as summaries of important activities and some lessons we would like to share with other Meetings in the Yearly Meeting plus our Young Friends’ report.
I. Spiritual Conversations
In an attempt to hear more voices across the Langley Hill community, members of the Ministry and Worship (M&W) Committee invited members and attenders to participate in a guided conversation focused on several queries; about 20 one-on-one conversations occurred. The queries focused on why you come to Langley Hill Friends Meeting (LHFM), how LHFM fulfills your spiritual needs, what is missing that would make your experience richer, and what is LHFM’s greatest strength? In several instances, the conversations ranged widely and away from the queries to other matters related to spiritual journeys. Participants included anyone that wanted to have a “spiritual chat” as well as the Committee reaching out to individuals. We made clear that the chats were confidential and would not be attributed to an individual.
While hard to report all insights, we attempt to extract several core observations around the queries. Some observations contradict the experience of others, however, suggestions for improvement were expressed in a very loving way and with hope for communal effort.
- Why do you come to meeting: Friends spoke of the shared common values and a space to be centered and search for the Light and the Spirit. They found it a place where people at different stations on a lifetime spiritual journey are accepted. They loved the variety of people who attend and the sense of community. Some are drawn to the leadership on social actions while others come because of tradition and being life-long Friends. Langley Hill is their spiritual home.
- How is the Meeting fulfilling spiritual needs: Friends identified the many different spiritual opportunities offered such as the 9 AM drop-in. The messages that reflect deep reflection in worship draw people as does the power of the silence from a gathered meeting.
- What is missing: Many spoke of the need for more children and younger people to attend to sustain the meeting and take advantage of a rich Religious Education program. Some felt the unresolved tensions over membership and a proposed minute on Boycott, Divesture and Sanctions has left a hole in the fabric of the meeting. Practical needs are sometimes overlooked like providing better hearing equipment or general use of technology. In worship, some see the need for more testing of a message before it is shared to allow for more silence or reflection. More opportunities for social action would be appreciated by some. Finally, as individuals and as a community we could be more inclusive of other’s beliefs and practices while being less self-righteous.
- Strengths of the meeting: Frequently Friends cited the quality of worship as a strength. Many thought Langley Hill is welcoming of newcomers and open to listening deeply to individuals, which creates deep sharing. Others cited our Spirit-led clearness process as a model for discernment. Committee work is valued as a way to make strong connections with new Friends.
We were asked by the Yearly Meeting to consider “Right-Relationship” as part of our SSOM as the 2015 Annual Session will examine numerous crucial relationships in our lives. Since Friends may be unfamiliar with the term Right-Relationship or have different interpretations, we provided an explanation as we explored it during a time of worship sharing. In later Greek manuscripts, Right-Relationship is a more accurate translation of the Greek word that has been previously rendered as "righteousness" or "justification." By using the term, Right-Relationship, we can express and explore its broader dimensions including our relationship with God or the Spirit, as well as our relationship to all of creation. Creation includes both the natural world and its human communities. Therefore, Right-Relationship has a dimension of social responsibility, which is familiar to Quakers. We also can describe it as a spiritual state of harmony and balance with ourselves and our families, our communities, our government, and the world that sustains us. We considered the following queries:
- How does Langley Hill Friends Meeting support you living in Right-Relationship with yourself and others?
- How are the Right-Relationships among members of the Langley Hill community nourished?
- What supports our Right-Relationship with God, the Divine, or the Spirit? What additional support would you like to have?
- How are we living in Right-Relationship with our children and families?
- How are we living in Right-Relationship with our local and global neighbors?
- How do we model Right-Relationship for our country’s growing dilemma of violence and social injustice?
- How can we model Right-Relationship with the earth and balance economic prosperity?
Friends feel that within the community, people are able to build strong relationships with each other through Fellowship, worshiping together, being on committees, “Friendly 8’s”, Spiritual Formation Group, Sunday drop-in group and other activities sponsored by various Committees.
Friends expressed a concern regarding how “geography frustrates community” and limits time for more sharing. However, it was felt that when people gather there is a spirit of deep sharing and working on Right-Relationship with each other. There is a sense of trust and gentleness with each other that encourages Right-Relationship.
Community is important for many members’ experience at Langley Hill. Some Friends long for a more Christ-centered community to openly celebrate their relationship with Christ in a way that is meaningful for them. Others feel excluded by hearing disabilities that limit their ability to be fully engaged with our community.
Friends expressed that Right-Relationship with our children and within our families is supported by being open, listening, and nonjudgmental; showing mutual respect for Friends of all ages, cultures, spiritual views, sexual orientation, and economic backgrounds; being present and tender; and learning to share. Some face challenges in lacking a sense of belonging or having strained relationship within the family when others don’t come to Meeting. The community can help more through spiritual, mutual adoption of children to provide support.
Global Right-Relationship includes our relationship with plants and animals by taking care of them in a harmonious way. We generally share the prosperity in our own lives with others through LHFM’s outreach budget and/or on our own, which is a model of Right-Relationship. Some feel we tend to do too many things instead of focusing on a few specific projects; while others like our broad engagement in issues and organizations. With few members running businesses that directly influence economic prosperity, we perhaps lack an important prospective as we balance our activities impact on the earth.
Right-Relationship often starts close to home with our families, friends, and neighbors treating each other with respect and love and then extending these relationships to the broader world around us. We need to remain open and nonjudgmental, to resolve conflicts peaceably, and foster social justice. Taking time to reach out to those with different perspectives, opinions or spiritual experiences helps get us towards Right-Relationship. Friends connections with the wider world, as individuals or through Quaker Committees, remain essential sources of deep sharing that come back to nurture our Langley Hill community.
If we are conscious of building Right-Relationship then we can be the “pearls in the oyster.”
III. Young Friends Report
The Young Friends felt welcomed by the larger meeting in the inter-generational worship sessions, and felt at home, like we always do, in the meeting house this year. We have enjoyed steady attendance from our core members, and visits from other Young Friends who come less often. The middle schoolers that moved up from Junior Young Friends last year have greatly increased our numbers during First Day School. Our most recent lesson in First day school was on the Church of Latter Day Saints, and we visited a Mormon temple. One problem we have had in the past was a lack of activities, but this year we went on a ski trip, had a bake sale, organized inter-generational worship, ran the Halloween party, organized game/movie nights, just recently helped with Easter, and are currently working on the Power Pack Program. The Power Pack Program is a service opportunity where the Young Friends collected nutritious food items and put them in bags with a weekends worth of food to be distributed to low-income children. These packs of food make sure that the children will have some food over weekends. Our favorite activity this year was going to DC Central Kitchen as a group. We helped prepare every single potato in the kitchen, which was an incredible amount, barbecued the baked chicken and baked lots of cornbread. The Young Friends and Junior Young Friends have both increased their attendance in YF and JYF Cons, which everyone seems to enjoy.
For this coming year, we plan to make meeting more of a priority and come as often as possible. We have been doing plenty of activities, and would like to keep that up, hopefully planning something after we finish all the Power Packs. This summer we will be losing Eleanor to college, but we look forward to her coming for visits. As the school year draws to a close, and final exams draw near, we all know that we can come to meeting on Sundays and have a place to relax and think in a peaceful, supportive environment.
IV. Highlights of Spiritual Development
Our discernment on Right-Relationship and observations about LHFM from attenders and members, as summarized above, touch on many broad issues that have longer term implications for our community. We work monthly, weekly, and daily on many discrete tasks that speak to these broader concerns. Every journey starts with the first step. While giving voice to more elements of our spiritual state, we want to briefly list some of our main spiritually-related activities of 2014:
- Participated in the McLean Day Fair under the banner “Quakers, more than just Oatmeal,” sharing materials about Quakers and Langley Hill.
- Hosted two Second Hours on naming the Divine and images of Jesus, which were attended by 15 to 20 people each.
- Offered weekly Sunday 9 AM Drop-ins where a small group reads and discusses brief passages from Quaker writers or other spiritual sources. For participants in this program, the sharing frequently becomes so deep that the start of meeting for worship comes too quickly.
- Supported Intergenerational worship sharing programs 4 or 5 times a year such as on “Being a Quaker,” and reading a chapter from Yeshu by Chuck Kleymeyer.
- Continued the Spiritual Formation program for a third year with about fifteen participants focusing on various meditation practices that can be added into our lives. Strong bonds have formed within the group especially those who became “spiritual buddies.”
- Hired an Outreach and Communications Coordinator to maintain good communication within the LH community and promote our presence to potential Seekers in hope of growing the Meeting.
- Put on a Nativity Play with both children and adult participation to bring the story of the birth of Jesus into our Candlelight Christmas celebration.
- Established a Quaker Resource Center rack in our lobby with free materials on Langley Hill, Quakers, and a focus on families.
- Experimented with the use of limited, unobtrusive photography at a wedding of a junior member as a test case.
- Initiated contact with the Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) Faith & Practice Revisions committee to offer LHFM assistance and encourage good communication across the Yearly Meeting as the process gets underway.
- Invited three newcomers to attend Annual Session at a discount.
V. Experiences within LHFM Community
BYM has asked if there are experiences Langley Hill could share with the meetings of BYM that might provide ideas to address needs in other communities. Langley Hill would be glad to speak to other Meetings about these practices.
- Ministry and Worship, Communications, and Advancement and Outreach Committees identified a “gap” between time, energy and ideas that led to the development of an Outreach and Communications Coordinator position. The Meeting approved the budget and position description which led to the hiring of our new Coordinator in early 2015. We hope this extra pair of hands will inspire others to work a bit more on attracting more Seekers to Langley Hill and help with our internal and external communications.
- Our weekly “9 AM Drop-ins” program precedes meeting for worship and is based upon a brief (e.g., one sheet) writing from Quaker writers, the Bible or other appropriate authors. The handout is read in turn by those gathered. Sharing and discussion among the participants help to deepen their understanding of group values and spiritual perspectives on select topics. The leader selects readings, makes handouts available a week in advance and has a list of topics upcoming on display in the foyer. A reminder is sent to our electronic list serve a few days before, added to our website and also published in our newsletter. These adult RE classes are attended by three to ten people. Examples of readings include:
- Adam Curle on Peacemaking
- Thich Nhat Hahn on Anger; The Nine Prayers
- Caroline Stephen on Quaker Mysticism
- John Woolman, Two letters on “High Living”
- Margery Post Abbott: Quakers as “Radical Christians”
- Rufus Jones on “Unity, not Uniformity”
- William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude
- Rex Ambler on “Finding”
- Adin Steinsaltz on Masks
- John Greenleaf Whittier, two poems
- Thomas Kelly, “Two Levels” from, A Testament of Devotion
- Madame Jeanne Guyon on Union with God
- Kenneth Boulding, The Nayler Sonnets
- Lloyd Lee Wilson on “Waiting Worship, Vocal Ministry”
- We redesigned our website to be more user friendly and fresh with the goal of attracting more Seekers to Langley Hill. We have committed to keeping it up-to-date. Please visit us at: www.langleyhillquakers.org
- Our archivist recently organized all our meeting minutes and cross-referenced them to various topics for easy retrieval while maintaining the traditional chronological files.
- Our Library Committee has put into an electronic data base all the books and other written resources in our library. The database is available online at our Meeting’s website so members and attenders can easily check if we have a certain book or item. In addition, the Committee has organized books into more intuitive groupings with clear labels, such as, Children, History, and Quaker Writers that make the books more accessible. Religious Education reading materials for our children are now located in the classroom area for easy access to children and teachers.
- We adopted a minute in support of marriage equality and urged other Monthly Meeting in Virginia to join in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court stressing our Quaker witness to equality.
- The riser invites afterthoughts and requests for Holding in the Light of people in need just after the rise of meeting, while the meeting still is gathered. This practice can develop new vocal ministers as well as shift some “messages” out of meeting for worship leaving more time for reflection on other messages.
- Wedding Committees should provide clear guidance for couples seeking marriage under the care of the Meeting well in advance of the marriage on what is allowed or not allowed during the Meeting for Worship. For example, if there is a strict policy/minute on photography, it should be revealed. Our lesson from not communicating led us to be open and “experiment” with limited photography from a tripod, remotely controlled and with limited sound.
- We provide guidelines for Greeters and Risers to make volunteering for those important tasks clearer and less intimidating.
VI. Continued Exploration of 2012 & 2013 Spiritual State of the Meeting Queries and Intentions
Friends at Langley Hill have continued exploring several queries that came out of our 2012 Spiritual State of the Meeting report centered on our spiritual diversity, attracting new Seekers, and the quality of our worship. We are working on several “intentions,” as expressed in our 2013 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report, that suggest spiritual goals for which we strive. While progress has been made in several areas, it will take continued focus to act in all areas. Our intentions from the SSOM report last year are:
- Perhaps the adults and children could ask each other about our spiritual journeys to encourage sharing, mentoring and the deepening of spiritual relationships.
- Perhaps a Friendly Eights group could focus on Quaker parenting.
- Perhaps we should host a LHFM booth at family-friendly community events to reach seekers who are not making it to our door.
- Perhaps we should find ways to introduce our form of worship to more diverse communities within Northern Virginia, to help seekers find the Quaker Way.
- Perhaps more discussions of our “tent” of beliefs with focused queries would help (such as, what does God or Christ mean to you and how do you experience the Light?)
- Perhaps we need to provide more mentoring to those who speak as well as to those who should find their voice.
- Perhaps defining our “spiritual foundation” more clearly through Second Hours and conversations would help create a common language about our faith and love of God.
Approved at the April 12, 2015 Business Meeting.
Prepared by the Ministry and Worship Committee: Tim Hunt (clerk), Chuck Kleymeyer, Doug Smith, Georgia Fuller, Naomi Theirs, Sheila Bach, and Susan Joyce
The path of the pilgrimage is as much the journey as the destination. Langley Hill’s spiritual journey is ongoing and incomplete with many twists and turns that can either illuminate or be invisible.
In last year’s Spiritual State of the Meeting report, we developed several queries to guide our progress to becoming a deeper spiritual community. We now report on how our Meeting is doing one year along for each query: Are we appropriately focused? Are adjustments needed? Following each query there is a suggestion or two that the Meeting intends to embrace in the coming year.
- How do we attract young singles, couples and families to make Langley Hill a vibrant, multi-generational community?
Our attitude to visitors is very welcoming. Several new young families and singles are attending and enriching our community. However, communication is inconsistent about children’s programs and events, which makes some feel left out. We could avoid using Quaker jargon and other actions that exclude newcomers. Organizing small group discussions (so-called Friendly Eights) may break down barriers and involve new attenders. Perhaps a Friendly Eights group could focus on Quaker parenting. We should continually reach out to newcomers to understand how the Meeting can assist them in their spiritual journeys. Our Religious Education (RE) program and its dedicated teachers are a blessing to us all.
- Do we do enough to nurture our children’s spirituality and find opportunities for them to explore with us their spiritual quests and questions? What can adults learn from our younger members?
The RE program’s focus on Quaker testimonies (SPICES: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship) and our quarterly intergenerational worship sharing program provide the strongest connections with our children’s spiritual growth. We always appreciate the children’s participation in meeting for worship and welcome their vocal ministry when so led. The participation by two young friends in the Quaker Quest workshop affirmed their Quaker groundings. The Nativity Play provided a new opportunity for adults to witness the Christmas story through the voices of our Meeting’s youth and perform with them. Yet some adult members feel a distance from our young Friends. Perhaps the adults and children could ask each other about our spiritual journeys to encourage sharing, mentoring and the deepening of spiritual relationships.
- Do we keep hidden the glories of our Meeting’s experiences to the detriment of others and ourselves? How do we build a diverse community?
Many friends let their lives speak, sometimes through outward actions such as support for the drone vigil at the CIA or the weekly “Seek Peace and Pursue It” vigil at the Capitol, and sometimes in less visible ways. Some find their spiritual journey an internal experience while others would like to share their “glories” (transformations or revelations) more widely. Spiritual exuberance may be viewed as proselytizing so friends are cautious about over-sharing. If we are open, perhaps sharing more will invite others to respond with their revelations thereby deepening our connections.
We recognize that as a community we need to reach out. We held our first ever “Quaker Networking Day” in June 2013 inviting graduates of Quaker colleges to meet members with common interests or careers. Our Community Celebration Open House at the start of the fall RE classes gave several committees the chance to describe their roles and activities to attendees. Most newcomers are drawn to our meeting for worship rather than events at the meetinghouse. Perhaps we should host a LHFM booth at family friendly community events to reach seekers who are not making it to our door. While we struggle with some aspects of diversity, we are growing in other areas. Our awareness of the discriminatory effects of mass incarceration of young black men from the book “The New Jim Crow” is stirring actions. Perhaps we should find ways to introduce our form of worship to more diverse communities within northern Virginia, to help seekers find the Quaker Way.
- Is the “tent” of Quaker beliefs in OUR meeting properly sized? Do differences in beliefs and values challenge our community to deepen and grow?
We are beginning to test the size of the “tent” through our discussions around membership in Largely Hill including whether and what type of “boundaries” should exist to retain our spiritual integrity. Diversity of beliefs can be a gift when the Truth is reflected and we open our minds to other ways of answering cheerfully to the Light in others, but it makes defining our Meeting’s “core” beliefs challenging as we consider outreach. More intimate groups, like spiritual formation, the 9 AM Sunday drop-ins, Introduction to Quakerism, and monthly book discussion provide numerous opportunities for members to explore and discuss Quaker beliefs. Perhaps more discussions of our “tent” of beliefs with focused queries would help (such as, what does God mean to you? How do you see Christ in your life? How do you experience the Light?). Vocal ministry is another reflection of the breadth of our faith and can be inspiring when Spirit-led and concerning when self-centered. Meeting for worship remains at the heart of our spiritual community.
- As Quakers, do we know who we are spiritually and our treasured roots? Do we share enough our convictions and doubts even if it creates tension? Do we have common language to talk about our faith?
Having a common spiritual foundation can anchor the exploration of faith and the testing of experiences around the edges of this foundation. Tension can exist at the edges but it can be healthy if we continue to be mindful of our commonalities, while respecting our differences. The Quaker Quest workshop provided some tools to help articulate our beliefs and more exchanges would be helpful. Perhaps defining our “spiritual foundation” more clearly through Second Hours and conversations would help create a common language about our faith and love of God.
- Do we fail to share a message that may be meaningful to others? Do we talk when we should be listening for the Truth?
We provide a safe place for vocal ministry by being attentive listeners even if the message is hard to hear. Messages can be meant for us, others or no one. Messages that lack a sense of “quaking” in the minister or focusing overly on self may have strayed from the Light. Some messages season nicely outside of Meeting, waiting for the Light to shine on them and take form. Greater time between messages to reflect always is appreciated. Perhaps we need to provide more mentoring to those who speak as well as to those who should find their voice. Inviting “afterthoughts” at the rise of meeting provides a venue for more voices to be heard.
As we reflect on our progress this past year and identify new actions to assist our spiritual growth, it is worth repeating the qualities of our Meeting:
- Our community strives to base our relationships with each other on love.
- Our community is a tapestry of beliefs.
- Religious expression is real and universal.
- As Quakers, we are open.
- Our Meeting has a growing mix of ages.
- We are a welcoming community.
Each of us shares the Light but experience it in unique ways. As we look through the glass darkly, we see that of God in everyone and it takes everyone’s searching and faith to make the journey fulfilling as individuals and as a community. A vision of love clears away the dark.
Statement from Young Friends
The Young Friends of Langley Hill Monthly Meeting have had a fairly productive year. We've done a variety of service projects, starting in the fall with a bake sale to raise money for sending kids to camp. During the holiday season leading up to Christmas, Young Friends held a food drive and created over one hundred Power Packs to help provide food to children on the weekends. We also held a car wash in the late winter to raise money for the African Great Lakes Initiative, specifically their project in Burundi. Young Friends hope to continue with service and take on another project in the spring. In the midst of these projects, we've done some fun community-building activities as well, such as holding movie nights and sleepovers, helping with the Halloween celebration, acting in the Christmas play, going skiing, and participating in game nights. A few Young Friends also participated in Quaker Quest, and many take part in inter-generational worship.
The Young Friends have found that, as compared to last year, we have generally been more committed to things. Although there are not that many of us, we feel that we make a good effort to make Meeting a priority. We have been trying to do more things together to strengthen not only the community within Young Friends but also our role within the Meeting as a whole. We visited a synagogue and an Episcopal church as part of our interfaith study, which will be continued next school year. This experience has been an interesting way to learn about other faiths as well as what it means to be a Quaker. We have been trying to find ways to attract other young people in the community to our Meeting – we hope to continue with this outreach in the spring. Young Friends are hopeful for the rest of the year and the exciting activities that it might bring.
We are an active community and blessed with many leaders. We are spiritually healthy in many respects. We have identified a few activities that have benefited us.
- We host weekly worship sharing groups, in depth monthly discussion groups, and an introduction to Quakerism course for all attenders as part of our adult religious education program.
- We plan periodic intergenerational worship sharing on Quaker topics as well as have our youth share their RE experiences with the full Meeting, such as presenting original plays.
- We have embraced the BYM Spiritual Formation program.
- We used our Second Hour program to discuss vocal ministry and other community building topics.
- We held a Meeting for worship with a concern for Babies to celebrate the two newest lives amongst us.
- We keep Business Meeting as a Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business.
- We used our internet access to broadcast a Memorial meeting to friends and family members who could not attend while maintaining a sense of community; we are also starting to use technology more in our Committee work.
- We have reenergized our Advancement and Outreach (A&O) Subcommittee and we remind ourselves that A&O is everyone’s responsibility.
- We find joy in the musical ministry that our children and adult community provide.
- Racism is a barrier to Friends’ relationship with the Divine, so we continue to have under our care the Meeting's Working Group on Racism.
Our greatest challenge continues to be the decline in our First Day School (FDS) enrollment especially in Grades K to 3 and the nursery program. We have lost a few families with younger children and have not attracted enough other families. Currently, the responsibility of running the RE program falls on a few dedicated parents so greater involvement by the community would be helpful. In addition, the previous RE Coordinator who served the Meeting so well retired in 2012 and a replacement has not been found yet. Finally, there has been a transition from two long-time Friendly Adult Presences (FAPs) who helped Young Friends with their Business Meetings and programs to new FAPs who are still learning their responsibilities. The FDS curricula prepared by the RE Committee are rich, but we need more children to support and challenge each other in the learning process.
As we reflect on our spiritual state, a few qualities of Langley Hill Friends Meeting characterize our spiritual home:
- Our Community is based in love. That love is strong. At times that love can obscure conflict. We need to support each other in bringing tensions to the surface so that they can be addressed.
- Our Community is a tapestry of beliefs. It generally holds together and gets renewed by weaving new lives into the Divine tapestry of Langley Hill Friends Meeting. At times, we do not do enough to acknowledge the tensions that come from this spiritual diversity.
- Religious expression is real and universal. Most meetings for worship are rich and sustaining of the Spirit. Yet, we need to do more to support and provide a safe place for our ministers to give Spirit-led messages whether through words or deeds. And when messages create a dissonance within, we need to reflect upon them, listen for the Voice of God and discern if they are meant for us or others now or in the future.
- As Quakers we are open. We come from many backgrounds and are on different spiritual journeys heading different places. Sometimes we can appear intolerant of language used to describe the Divine and role of Christ in our faith life.
- Our Meeting is aging. While aging is common in many religious communities, we are concerned that our younger RE classes are nearly empty and the older classes rely on a handful of dedicated children and Young Friend attenders.
- We are a welcoming community. We often greet newcomers with enthusiasm although follow-up is inconsistent. To be a more vibrant spiritual community we want to attract and retain new members and increase our diversity.
Reflecting on these concerns, we have identified several queries for the Meeting to explore and deepen our spiritual roots:
- How do we attract the young singles, couples and families to make Langley Hill a vibrant, multi-generational community?
- Do we keep hidden the glories of our Meeting’s experiences to the detriment of others and ourselves? How do we build a diverse community?
- Do we do enough to nurture our children’s spirituality and find opportunities to explore with us their spiritual quests and questions? What can adults learn from our younger members?
- Is the “tent” of Quaker beliefs in OUR meeting properly sized? Do differences in beliefs and values challenge our community to deepen and grow?
- Do we know who we are spiritually? Do we share enough our convictions and doubts even if it creates tension? Do we have common language to talk about our faith?
- Do we let a message season too long or perhaps fail to share a message when it is not meant for us? Do we talk when we should be listening for the Truth?
We are blessed by a relatively large and active group of members and attenders at Langley Hill who enrich our spiritual lives, create meaningful programs, and nurture one another. As a community, we would like to have more young parents. We struggle to balance the demands of everyday life with our commitments to the Meeting so it remains a nurturing experience and sustains us spiritually in our daily lives.
We are additionally blessed by a committed group of Young Friends who have considered their own spiritual life and presented the following report.
Meeting for Worship at Langley Hill provides an anchor for members’ and attenders’ Spiritual needs. The ministry and silence are powerful and arise from listening to the Spirit. The stillness of Meeting nurtures us, supports various leadings and provides a sharp contrast to the noise that surrounds our daily lives. One Friend commented that “Meeting can be so nurturing that I want to take the Meeting home with me.” The stability of our Community and trust in each other lead to the sharing of personal challenges. At the rise of Meeting for Worship, we typically make time for sharing requests to hold each other in the Light. Committees and individual Friends provide support and comfort as best we can.
Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business is well attended and the Spirit guides us here as well. We have been fortunate for many years to have a gifted and well-seasoned clerk who graciously extended her stay while we searched for a new clerk. We greatly appreciate her service.
We celebrated our 50th year as a Meeting in September with many old-timers returning to share their memories. A keepsake book of the first 50 years was lovingly edited and produced by two Friends with many contributions and pictures. We are blessed to have many newcomers visit but need to be more welcoming in order to see them return. Under the care of Ministry & Worship, the Advancement and Outreach Committee established a name tag system which most are using to help all with more personal greetings. Work remains to create a diverse Community as our membership ages and meeting attendance ebbs and flows.
Intergenerational worship sharing, separate Meetings for Worship with a focus on children, and plays performed by our Religious Education classes brought our children closer into the life of the Meeting providing a comfort in which to occasionally share a message in Meeting for Worship. First Day School attendance remains uneven creating a lack of continuity in the lessons prepared by our dedicated group of teachers.
For our Young Friends, 2011 felt much more stable than 2010. Overall, they were much more willing to speak up during their Business Meetings and classes creating a more cohesive community. Young Friends noted their struggle at times in terms of commitment because most Young Friends lead tremendously busy lives. However, despite inconsistent attendance, they were still able to have a successful year in terms of service to the community, such as, putting together over 100 Power Pack meals for under-privileged kids in Fairfax County. Young Friends also continued to take turns reading BYM Queries before adult Business Meeting and began participating in intergenerational worships sessions with the younger children and the rest of the Meeting. Young Friends still feel that there is a lot more they can do in the coming years to build stronger community.
For a community of our size, we continue to offer a good array of opportunities to learn and enrich the Spirit that are valued by those members who participate. These include a Bible Study group that transitioned to a “Drop-In” Session with readings for discussion, an evening series on introduction to Quakerism in June, the Peace Vigil at the Capitol, a group studying the Gospel of John, monthly mid-week guided worship focused on BYM Queries, another mid-week worship group at Goodwin House, and another group exploring writings that throw light on the experience of the Divine. A ministry of music has enriched us with monthly hymn singing before worship as well as other musical offerings. The Working Group on Racism has sponsor educational programs for our young and adult community. It lost a champion when Pat Moles passed away in July; now her husband Ollie has taken on this work in her stead.
We were not without challenges. For most of the year, we labored as a community to find a new Clerk but were grateful when someone came forward with that leading. Some are concerned lest we become complacent and not make a careful enough examination of our individual and communal spiritual practices. A thriving community should create a safe space for honestly sharing our challenges and our revelations, thus deepening our worship and interconnectedness. With this concern in mind, we carry on our worship and our work together, remaining works in progress, as the Divine Light works within us all – this year … and every year.