Mattaponi Friends Meeting Spirital State of the Meeting Report
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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Following several weeks of ongoing discussion and a first ever all day Meeting retreat addressing the topics of Inreach and Outreach, Mattaponi Friends submit these observations relative to the current spiritual state of our Meeting.
Friends feel strongly that one of the greatest joys we share is the nurturing silence of Meeting for Worship and how it fosters and inspires discussion and sharing during second hour in our small group. This holds true even when our first hour together passes in complete silence. This dynamic allows us to know one another better personally and to feel free to share aspects of our spiritual journey. The free form nature of our second hour discussions is a defining element of the character of our Meeting. The small size of our group promotes inclusion and intimacy that might prove more challenging in a large Meeting.
We recognize the risk of complacency in how fully our weekly worship meets the inward spiritual needs of our largely older group and that we must challenge ourselves to find ways to demonstrate our faith and love for all persons we share this earth with in practical, concrete ways. The events of the past year have resulted in leadings to correspond with our elected representatives and local newspapers, both as a Meeting and individually, on the topics of Refugee policy and preserving the Affordable Care Act. A member participated in the Women’s March in Washington. Another member has followed a leading to become involved in Yearly Meeting’s Unity with Nature Group. The meeting has supported the Love Thy Neighbor campaign of the Friends’ Committee on National Legislation. A local initiative originating from our recent Meeting retreat is the planning and eventual implementation of a community garden, potentially in cooperation with other local church communities.
We do not fear the several challenges we face. One of the hardest has been the deaths last fall of two well loved members of long standing. Their spiritual, material, and emotional contributions to the meeting are both missed and celebrated each week that goes by. We would like our Meeting to be more diverse, with a greater critical mass of members to support collective spiritual growth and the outreach initiatives. Similarly, we would like to deepen our connection to other meetings, would like other people in our community to see us and know about Friends, but recognize the challenges that distance and small numbers impose on us. Finally, on the global and national front we seem faced with potentially the greatest challenges to peace, justice and equity in our lifetimes.
In a year of great and sometimes troubling change, Mattaponi Friends feel they have achieved some greater degree of self-awareness as a Meeting. This we see as a strong step forward in deepening our corporate spiritual life and in seeing where we must act on our beliefs in the greater world to face the challenges we all share.
No report received.
Life of the Spirit
The physical location of our meeting at Dayspring Farm, in rural King and Queen County, surrounded by the sights and sounds of a sustainable community supported agricultural enterprise fosters a centering, placid environment for reflection and silent worship to bring members in closer proximity to nature and the Light. We consider ourselves to be singularly blessed by the environment in which we worship. We also feel the life of the spirit is enhanced by the collective experience and spiritual evolution of 25 years of worship, change and revelation since the beginnings of our meeting as a worship group. Early members have come and gone, families have grown and dispersed, new members and attenders with fresh ideas and perspectives have joined, deaths have occurred, relationships and attitudes have evolved and changed. The single constant has remained a place of uncommon quiet and peace, where all member know that weekly they can experience a unique opportunity to draw close to the Light, put aside the noise and demands of the world, and listen for the leading of God’s truth.
We struggle constantly with the limitations exerted by being in a rural area, with members traveling long distance to Meeting and activities, and the reality that demographically we can never be a large meeting with the critical mass of membership to sustain large social outreach programs. A recurring topic of discussion is tailoring effective outreach in the areas of peace and social justice to what the economic, physical, and emotional resources of our meeting can sustain. It is a continuing area where we feel we are less than we could be and we continue to try and discern the most effective practical expressions of our faith.
Nurturing the Spiritual Life of Members/Attenders
Though small in number, Mattaponi Friends universally agree that second hour discussions on a broad range of spiritual and social issues and monthly shared meals enhance our spiritual, social and emotional lives. Music plays a large role in our weekly worship. Heartfelt messages delivered during meeting for worship are a rich source of opportunity to enlarge our own spiritual understanding and growth. They can also serve as indicators of Friends in need of emotional and spiritual support, even if only in the form of sympathetic listening. At the same time, Friends have expressed a deep feeling of satisfaction from silent worship when perhaps only a handful of members are present and there are no messages delivered. We are grateful for the wide range of spiritual experience our Meeting presents from week to week.
We believe we strive to be open to seekers of a wide spectrum of belief who might find a spiritual home in the community of Friends. We continually ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to make ourselves known to persons of all ages, races, and backgrounds who may find themselves at home in our midst. At the same time, we recognize the rich heritage of historical Friends’ Faith and Practice and strive to educate and make new members comfortable with Friends’ business practice and concepts such as the sense of the Meeting. We have found great value in exercising traditional formal Quaker institutions such as Clearness Committees for Marriage and Membership. In a meeting with no Birthright Members (except our children), learning about and experiencing these centuries old institutions has enriched our experience immeasurably.
Outreach/Relationships with other Meetings
We collectively recognize we have remained more insular than we would wish and look to become more active regionally and at the level of Yearly Meeting and Friends General Conference as we mature as a group. New membership in the last few years has brought an enthusiasm and energy to the group we are hopeful will translate into broader activism particularly relative to Friends’ testimonies regarding peace and non-violence and the right use and sharing of resources.
Steven Griswold, Clerk
Mattaponi Monthly Meeting
2014 State of the Meeting
Mattaponi Friends meet every first day of the month. First Sunday of each month is spent with meeting for Worship first hour and meeting for Business second hour; third Sunday is spent with Meeting for Worship first hour and Meeting for Discussion second hour followed with a potluck lunch; only meeting for Worship is observed on second, fourth, and fifth First Days. Meeting for Worship begins with 15 minutes of group singing followed by silence for the rest of the hour.
During third First Day in November, the meeting held a homecoming event. Past attenders, Friends from neighboring meetings , and community friends joined us for an extended time of singing, worship, and potluck lunch. We contributed to our community food pantry several times this year.
In 2013-2014, Mattaponi Friends Meeting enjoyed the regular support of six families. Young Friends continue to join us on occasion. We currently have no first day school program for children .
2014 Spiritual State of the Meeting
The Spirit prospers among friends in our meeting. The variety of worship, educational, and social experiences nurtures Spirit among us. Members find support through singing, silent worship, vocal ministry, religious education, and our potluck meals together. The small size of our meeting encourages support and understanding in our life together as a meeting community. Several friends noted that our meeting on a farm is very grounding. One friend is reminded of the Quaker testimony on simplicity. The meeting space brings us back to basics. Another friend remarked that meeting on a farm reminds him of the grassroots way that Quaker faith and practice connects him to Spirit. A friend emphasized how important the experience of silent worship is to her pursuit of other meditation practices.
Friends considered both the experiences that nurture and challenge us as a meeting community. Members come from a variety of faith backgrounds and life experiences. This creates an open, tolerant environment among us that welcomes new members and encourages sharing. Our small size encourages concern and respect for each other. One member noted that singing the peace song every week is one of the key elements that supports Spirit among us. Most of the specific challenges members identify are related to the small size of our meeting. We would like to have more variety in age levels. more children and young people. A larger meeting community would offer us more of a critical mass to sustain our basic business, outreach, and financial responsibilities. The geographic distances between most members and the meeting house of about 30 minutes can present challenges to attendance. Several friends would like to develop a more formal adult education program ,as well as social outreach programs. These initiatives would benefit from a larger membership.
Spirit is manifest to each of us in our individual lives and in our Meeting community in many ways. The natural environment with its innocence, order, and natural cycles nurtures us as individuals. One friend noted that the processes of understanding himself and others, practicing forgiveness, and expressing a nurturing attitude in his relationships are basic to connecting with Spirit. Others experience Spirit manifests through kindness. When we see Spirit shining in others who despite suffering and hardship still show gratitude, joy, and courage in their relationships with others we are inspired. When we feel recognized and heard by others , Spirit is present. As friends make time each day for spiritual practices that nurture them our meeting community also benefits.
Bringing that of God or peace into difficult conversations takes a variety of forms for our members. One friend noted that monthly book club discussions offer him an opportunity to witness to the Quaker viewpoint on peace. Another friend acknowledged that it is increasingly difficult at times to talk with others of differing views. When is it right to exercise our freedom to speak and how do we frame the discussion? Another friend is inspired by the statement that serves as the theme of this year's FGC gathering, "Let love be the first motion." How do we go about witnessing to that affirmation? Friends came up with a variety of responses to this query. We can let love be the first motion by taking the ego out of the equation in the sense of letting go of self-righteousness. Instead, we can choose to be humble. There is real power in humility. We can lead with love, compassion, respect, and honesty. It is important to love ourselves before we can love others. We are reminded of the Golden Rule. Friends agree that the Queries as written in our Faith and Practice do guide us and help us understand how to approach challenging differences among ourselves and in all areas of our lives.
Friends are always inspired and encouraged as we prepare our spiritual state of the meeting each year. It is a beneficial process that allows us not only to share with BYM our spiritual state, but also to share openly with each other about our spiritual lives. The process enables us to know ourselves and each other a little more deeply. Spirit is nurtured. We leave feeling grateful for our local meeting and the larger Quaker community.
During 2012, Mattaponi Friends Preparative Meeting applied for and attained full monthly meeting status after over twenty years as a worship group and preparative meeting under the care of Williamsburg Friends Monthly Meeting.
Mattaponi Friends Meeting meets every first day of every week. First Sunday of each month is spent with Meeting for Worship first hour and Meeting for Business second hour; third Sunday is spent with Meeting for Worship first hour and Meeting for Discussion second hour, followed by a potluck social lunch; on second, fourth, and fifth Sundays, only Meeting for Worship is observed. Meeting for Worship begins with 10-15 minutes of group singing followed by silent meeting for the rest of the hour.
During third Sunday of November, the meeting held an open house to celebrate our new monthly meeting status with friends from around the area. Past attenders, Friends from neighboring meetings and BYM, family, and community friends joined the meeting for an extended period of singing, meeting for worship, and potluck to mark our coming of age and wished us well.
In 2012, Mattaponi Friends Meeting enjoyed the regular support of five families, couples, individuals with additional support and the occasional attendance of member and attender Friends. Some Young Friends continue to join us occasionally. We still have no first day school since no children were attending during 2012. Recently, however, a family with a child has begun attending.
Nurturance of spirit happens at meeting through the music, the silence, and the physical, emotional, and spiritual presence and involvement as a result of mutual respect, steadfastness, a sense of belonging, personal responsibility, touching, hugging, staying in touch, social time, and valuing individual contributions. Keeping a place for meeting every first day despite sometimes low attendance is important; the size of our meeting waxes and wanes, but, regardless of how many are present, there is a nurturance of spirit that happens each first day. The impact of that nurturance works beyond what we understand/know. The open house, for example, was a testament to that impact. It is difficult to quantify the life of the spirit, but it is there.
The typically small, intimate size of our meeting leads to closeness, more focus, an increased sense of belonging. The small size is a challenge in some ways but it also brings intense rewards. One challenge is that our small, intense size may be difficult for new people to come to. We are more likely to draw people who are drawn to small groups, people who are more willing to disclose, for example.
Active outreach projects can enhance the preservation of the spirit when we come together, but they can be difficult in our small numbers. In any event, some friends are content with passivity in this area.
One question we continually come back to is how active to be about attracting new members/attenders. Most friends tend to be responsive rather than proactive. One friend suggested that Friends are seekers and will find where they need to be—no need to evangelize. Another friend tries to be intentional about inviting people. A related challenge is staying in touch with people without feeling like we are pressuring them to come to meeting. Friends are also concerned that many people don’t understand Quakerism and fear it as an evangelical and/or mystical faith.
Friends are drawn to Quakerism for similar reasons, including the basic Quaker beliefs, the process for experiencing the inner light, the belief that the light is present in all living things. Folks can find a spiritual home at Quaker meeting coming from a variety of concepts of God, even concepts that are not traditionally accepted. Some live their lives in the spirit of the sacred in a way that is hard to define/comprehend.
In seeking peace in difficult conversations, whether political or otherwise, friends offer various suggestions. In an effort to preserve the spirit of the discussion on this point, these comments are given nearly verbatim rather than summarized:
Identify yourself in terms of affiliations, interests. Let your light shine enough, in advance, to let people know who you are so they know where you are coming from.
Quakerism has a distinct attitude of tolerance, that of God in all people and all living things. That for me sets a tone in a conversation where there may be difficult opposing views, etc. At the same time I don’t think Quakers are tolerant to the point of wishy washy. Not the same thing.
The distinction is we disagree rather than I’m right and you are wrong.
Fear and distrust are very difficult to overcome, but building trust is the basis of peace.
Tolerance and being open. Look for what is behind the conflict and why we disagree. Look for common ground.
Opposition has energy, like the tension in a painting creates energy. Could look at opposition for new ideas.
If we each make an honest effort to understand each other’s point of view, we can get closer to consensus.
If that person recognizes that I understand (but not necessarily agree), maybe that person would be more open to me.
As long as we respect each other, we can disagree. Need to connect personally so that we don’t create inaccurate preconceptions and can build respect and trust.
If you can truly get past your differences, and each can shine the way they shine, you combine the two strengths in the partnership. In a good partnership, you have a sun and a moon.
Be steadfast. Don’t get worn down to the point of giving up. Don’t give power to the negative. Different kind of energy than what comes out of insisting things should be a certain way.
By example. Witnessing.
2011 State of the Meeting
Mattaponi Friends Preparative Meeting holds meeting for worship every First Day at 10:00 A.M. First Sunday is spent with Meeting for Worship first hour and Meeting for Business second hour; third Sunday is spent with Meeting for Worship first hour and Meeting for Discussion second hour, followed by a potluck social lunch; on second, fourth, and fifth Sunday, only Meeting for Worship is observed. Meeting for Worship begins with 10-15 minutes of group singing followed by silent meeting for the rest of the hour. Fifth First Day is sometimes used as a day for social gatherings or committee meetings.
In 2011, Mattaponi Friends Preparative Meeting enjoyed the regular attendance of twelve members and attenders. Some young friends continue to join us occasionally. Early this year we enjoyed the playful energy of two pre-school friends who joined us for a time with their parents. Our religious education activities have included playful activities for our pre-schoolers, adult Bible study with a focus on Psalm 119, and discussions inspired by after-thoughts from meeting for worship. In June, we co-sponsored, with Williamsburg Friends, a chanting workshop led by Betsy Krome. Several members joined Williamsburg Meeting for a Centered Prayer Retreat led by Betsy Meyer in November.
Our outreach efforts in 2011 included a visit to the Hampton Mosque on February 27 where Dr Ahmed Noor presented on Islam, answered questions, and gave us a tour of the mosque. We began publicizing our meeting with announcements in our local paper and a website for our meeting in September.(Mattaponi Quaker Meeting.com) We also refurbished our roadside sign with fresh paint and our weekly meeting information. Members donated food to our local food pantries at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Several items of business in our meeting enabled members to nurture Spirit among us and witness to the larger community. In October of 2011, we formally began the process of application for full Monthly meeting status with the Baltimore Yearly Society of Friends. This process enabled us to reflect on our life together as a Quaker community. Meeting reached unity in November to support a young friend who, on the occasion of registering with Selective Service, declared in a letter his commitment to non-violence grounded in his Quaker values.
Queries: How does the Spirit prosper among us? What supports the growth of Spirit in our lives? How is the presence of Spirit manifested in our lives individually and as a Meeting community? How do we as a meeting appear to ourselves and others and how do we wish to be? How have we recognized and addressed (or failed to address) issues that have caused difficulties among us?
Friends feel a real, palpable sense of Spirit and community in our weekly gatherings. We feel a sense of openness and freedom to speak our minds and hearts knowing we will be respected and accepted wherever we are on our spiritual journey. Meeting provides a safe place to search, to ask questions, and express doubts. We often support each other in the time after silent meeting as we share our after-thoughts. The silence of Meeting provides a powerful opportunity to deeply connect with Spirit in ourselves and others. This weekly practice of stillness in community supports Friends to practice waiting in stillness when faced with daily challenges, rather than automatically opting to be in control. Friends can more readily connect with a place of peace and stillness in themselves through the week. Our group singing at the beginning of each Meeting nurtures Spirit among us. The small size of our meeting affords an opportunity for intimacy that nurturing Spirit among us.
Friends noted that in addition to attending Meeting, certain personal practices nurture Spirit in their lives. Painful experiences can draw us to Spirit. In particular, facing and accepting death with a loved one enables us to be open to a relationship with God. As we are present to the beauty, power, and cycles of nature we are inspired to know Spirit. Nurturing habits and routines of daily meditation and spiritual practice makes space for an experience of Spirit.
Several themes emerged as Friends reflected on how our meeting appears to ourselves and others and how we wish to be. We perceive ourselves as an open meeting with hearts and minds accepting of each other and newcomers. The way we appear to others is based on both our personal and community witness as Quakers. As Quakers, we work to balance our individual spiritual paths with the body of faith and practice that characterizes the larger community of Friends. As one Friend stated, "being a Quaker is a process". Several friends acknowledged that the peace witness is an important message to share with our neighbors.
We wish to be a more visible Quaker presence in our community and will continue to dialogue about ways to do so both as individuals and as a meeting. The spiritual state of Mattaponi Friends could be summed up in the words of a Friend when he observed that we, like our Quaker ancestors, are "seekers of truth". Our hearts and minds are open to all who wish to join us in this journey.