Norfolk Preparative 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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2016 was a time of strong emphasis on planning to add new attendees to our Meeting. Considerable time was spent reviewing ideas on how to do this and determining what might work best. A basic plan was formulated by the end of 2016 and was made ready to be launched.
There was also the issue of not having anyone to take over a 1-2 year clerkship as our current clerk was stepping down after her term. This issue weighed rather heavily on us, even when the uncertainty about what was going to happen remained unspoken. By the end of the year, however, a rather creative and unusual plan had been formulated and that too was ready for launch for the beginning of 2017.
Several themes came through the set of statements from our current regular attenders and members. These included a strong readiness to grow and add new people, a sense of community and cohesiveness among us and a genuine love for one another. The food bashes which benefitted Catholic Worker, and other enlightening community events, were looked on with satisfaction and warmth, with a feeling of joy in sharing with the larger community.
Among other items of note was the softening of an interpersonal difficulty that had weighed heavily on the Meeting for some time and was at least partially resolved with help from our “parent” Meeting in Williamsburg, a new membership application and acceptance, and the sense that, while small, our Meeting works well together as a team.
Our Meeting met for many years in various people’s homes, but in 2015 started meeting in donated space at St. Andrews Episcopal Church. This has been, on the whole, a positive move, as new people are more likely to feel comfortable attending in a more public location. In addition, we now have a website that is up and running.
Our quarterly cookie bashes in support of the work of the Catholic Worker House are no longer possible, and we felt it was important to continue this support. We will continue to supply fruit and trail mix for the first three quarters, and will still do cookies in December. This seems simple and obvious once decided, but the process took several months, with research on line and in stores, meetings and phone calls, and input from just about everyone in the Meeting. The process worked very well, and with good feeling.
We were very pleased that we were able to begin working on a difficult interpersonal problem which had existed in our Meeting for some months, and were able to call on Williamsburg meeting to assist us with this.
We hosted a Quaker Volunteer Service member over the summer, giving her a chance to meet and worship with some actual Quakers before she began her service term in Philadelphia.
Our new attendees felt welcomed and enjoy our Meetings.
We are putting forth efforts in local outreach work. We are also active in BYM committees and functions, and other events at FGC, Williamsburg Meeting, and Virginia Beach meeting. We have maintained the practice of meeting jointly with Williamsburg Meeting (our sponsoring meeting) for their business meetings and surrounding activities, for several years, and with great benefit. We are exploring ways to grow our meeting through a process developed by Friends General Conference, and hope to be a welcoming place for more attendees and members in the near future.
Because we are a small Meeting, all of us are involved in practically everything we do, and we feel this contributes to our high level of satisfaction with the meeting and its projects.
Norfolk Preparative Meeting cherishes and gains strength from our meetings for worship. This experience includes largely silent meetings, held in people’s homes, with rare but valued messages, followed by fellowship, with good food. In times of stress, we have derived support, both spiritually and emotionally, from our worship and from each other. In recent months we have had some meetings outdoors in the Weyanoke Wildlife Sanctuary, which has provided a new and very welcome dimension to our worship.
We have for many years maintained a ministry to the homeless, through our quarterly cookie bashes and other contributions to the Catholic Worker House. We have done other projects in the past. At present, we are seeking additional ways to be more of a useful presence in the community, with the additional hope of gaining new members, as we are a very small meeting that exists in a highly militarized community.
Even in a small meeting, there are diversities of personality and resulting conflict. We have begun the process of dealing with this. Please hold us in the Light as we go through this process.
Lastly, we value our connection to the wider Quaker world, exemplified by our faithful attendance at Williamsburg Friends Meeting. In addition, two of us serve on BYM committees. Several of us have attended BYM annual sessions, and some have engaged in informal intervisitation.
Our primary shared value is our Worship both in Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Worship for the purpose of Business. Worship can be transforming but often is not. It is important to be patient. Our Meeting is moving in positive directions. We continue to be loving and supportive of each other as life brings challenges and rewards. Our worship provides a pathway to our growth.
Norfolk Preparative Meeting is blessed with eight people who have demonstrated their commitment to the Meeting over an extended period of time. Our attenders are an integral and valued part of our Meeting. With their help we are working to identify the areas in which we fall short and to remedy this. Our specific areas of focus are Religious education, community involvement and a better grasp on our finances.
Our Meeting has also faced health and other situations that are of concern. We have supported each other in all of these. We have been flexible in our approach to maintain the Meeting in the face these challenges. By supporting each others interests and challenges and by working together to accomplish this we display a manifestation of our nuturing ministry.
Within Quakerism there is a trend away from Bible-based Christianity to more openness to different approaches to religion. For some that is manifested by discomfort with certain words and phrases. Our Meeting has experienced that but has moved to acceptance of differences as a valuable spiritual discipline. Our discussions following Meeting for Worship allow us to freely express ourselves with people of a like mind. This is important as we spend a great deal of time in work situations where discussions of religion, spiritual beliefs and politics are not appropriate. At work we feel we best express our Quakerism by relating to people on a human level. We strive to live out our values.
Members and attenders feel valued because members and attenders are valued. A common theme for members is the support Meeting has provided in times of need. There is a richness in the silence for all of us that makes Meeting valuable despite the lack of vocal ministry. Listening not only in Meeting for Worship but also in all our interactions has strengthened our Meeting and ourselves in our Spiritual path.
One challenge we have faced for a while has been the small numbers in the Meeting. The recent addition of three attenders has greatly enriched our Meeting. New people bring new ideas, energy, and a different way of looking at the life of our Meeting. This change can be uncomfortable as we are pushed out of our accustomed routine. As we grow, we add people who seek Truth in different ways, which we are learning to support as a Meeting. Spiritual growth cannot be supported without way opening to other ideas and other means of seeking.
One important aspect of the life of our meeting community is the interactions that take place following Meeting for Worship over tea and goodies. This can range from recipes to sharing of experiences to deep spiritual discussions. Part of our discussion has revolved around education for children if they should attend in the future, which initially was brought up in Meeting for Business. This has brought focus on the need for Adult Education as well, a point made by multiple people in our Meeting as we considered the spiritual state of the meeting.
As we move into the future, these challenges will help us learn and grow as a Meeting/Spiritual Community. We will continue to listen and nurture each other and the Meeting as a whole.
Our Meeting provides personal support during times of trouble as well as triumph. The fellowship enjoyed following Meeting for Worship spills over into daily life. The time we spend with each other strengthens each of us as well as the Meeting as a whole. We are concerned those who visit and share Worship and Fellowship with us do not return. Our Meeting is very small and we do not know if that is part of the issue that keeps our Meeting from growing. We do understand that a larger Meeting has things we do not, but a larger group may develop a focus that may not be comfortable for an individual. We also feel that Meeting for Worship is just that and not a social club. We will continue to open ourselves and our Meeting to new attenders.
The spiritual life of our Meeting comes from the silence. We do not discourage vocal ministry but it is rare in our Meeting for Worship. We find the shared silence to help soothe the clamor of our day to day existence and allow the spirit to take root and grow in each of us. Struggling with problems during the silence allows the ‘knots’ to loosen so each person is better able to face issues and share problems leading to if not a complete resolution at least peace. There is respect for each person’s process of working out problems. Our Meeting and its participants are open to listen but respect the personal boundaries of each other.
We are very proud of our consistent and growing support of the Catholic Worker House in Norfolk. We are now recognized as a source of caring in the homeless community. That is how we wish to be perceived as a Meeting. We also encourage individuals within the group to follow their own leadings.