Richmond 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.
|2011 Report||2012 Report||2013 Report||2014 Report||2015 Report|
|2016 Report||2017 Report|
Richmond Friends Meeting is a vibrant, committed group of members and attenders, united in a quest for the Inner Light that can guide individual lives and collective action. The Ministry & Worship Committee remains attentive to a balance between silence and spoken messages in the well-attended 11:00 a.m. Meeting for Worship. The 9:30 a.m. Meeting for Worship is small and settled, with deep silence. During 2017 our Adult Spiritual Education committee arranged and presented meaningful programs. These programs have been quite popular and provided opportunities for exploring and deepening our spirituality. In addition, such offerings as Bible Workbench and Spiritual Formation create opportunity for deepened spirituality, using a variety of approaches and written texts.
In 2017 we recognized both the joys and challenges of having an aging population. Because many of our members and attenders have joined in Quaker worship and activities for many years, the community possesses great depth and strength of caring for each other. Those bonds grew as we assisted several members through losses and significant health events. We also found ourselves in a sound financial position. At the same time, aging creates new challenges. For instance, while the majority of attenders and members are very involved in the life of the Meeting and are willing to take on leadership roles, it has been more difficult to fill our committees. Those who have simultaneously served on multiple committees have wanted or needed to scale back.
We have a keen awareness of another changing demographic of our Meeting. We deeply miss the presence of more young families and children. As a result, we have been actively involved in reaching out and welcoming people from the Richmond community. While we welcome everyone, we are particularly focused on attracting young adults and young families to Meeting. Through newly established Visibility Coordinators, we had tables at both the Richmond Peace Festival and Richmond Pride Festival. We have been more attentive to visitors who have come to Meeting for the first time, including a renewed emphasis through Care & Counsel on wearing name tags. Coffee at rise of Meeting and our monthly pot-luck lunches have been very successful at connecting people. The Website Committee, with help from many in Meeting, made major improvements to the Meeting website, including pictures, to make it livelier and more welcoming. A major effort also is underway to use social media as a means of outreach. Responding to the leading of Clerk Randee Humphrey, Meeting reached out to our community neighbors by opening the Meetinghouse doors on a summer evening and holding an autumn open house as a way of celebrating sixty years at the Kensington Avenue site.
There was concern that our long-standing practice of having latecomers to 11 a.m. Meeting for Worship wait to enter until 11:20 a.m., when children and teachers leave for classes, was particularly unwelcoming to young friends and families with children, as well as newcomers. The Ministry and Worship Committee conducted experiments to determine the least disruptive way for latecomers to join Worship. After a trial period of leaving both the front and inner doors to the Meeting room open during the whole hour of worship, it was decided that closing the inner doors at 11 a.m. and asking people to enter quietly through the front door during worship was the best option for having both a settled and a welcoming Meeting for Worship. The inner doors of the Meeting room may still be used for entry at 11:20 a.m.
We are striving to engage more deeply with the nation’s growing sanctuary movement, protecting undocumented immigrants who are in danger of being deported. Following the leading of member Sally Gudas, the Peace & Social Concerns Committee met with community leaders in the sanctuary movement, studied the issue, and recommended that Meeting create an ad hoc committee to consider options for the Meeting. That work is ongoing. The Meeting also continued its support of an Iraqi refugee family with transportation and other general help, as well as a scholarship for the son to attend Shiloh Quaker Camp.
The Meeting also continued its support of an Iraqi refugee family, which included a scholarship for the son to attend Shiloh Quaker Camp. While we had already approved a minute in 2014 for Marriage Equity, a more encompassing minute strongly affirming support for LGBTQ+ equality, was composed and approved by the Meeting.
Despite a significant decline in the number of children at Meeting in the last two years, the Religious Education Committee worked creatively and actively to engage youth and families. Members collaborated with the ad hoc Welcoming Committee to seek ways to appeal to families with young children, including assisting with a “You Are My Sunshine” sing-along and inviting a growing list of potentially interested folks to the Homemade Christmas and Candlelight Christmas events. The Young Friends, who were a vibrant, active, and spiritual group, connected with the larger Meeting through their Coffeehouse, Christmas program, UNICEF drive and Senior Recognition Day.
As the Meeting became more aware of the desire for greater interaction between Young Friends and the adult community, we made joint efforts to improve the situation. Leaving open the doors at the front of the Meeting room during worship addressed a longstanding request from the Religious Education Committee to make worship more accessible. The Young Friends delighted Meeting by hosting Coffee with an assortment of home-baked goodies. We’re aware that this group also is dwindling in size as its members graduate.
We strive to be open and inclusive of cultural differences and to avoid unintentional exclusivity. However, we recognize that, particularly for newcomers and those who grew up in other faith traditions, Quaker worship is likely to be different. It takes time and nurturing to comfortably settle into silent Quaker worship. We are exploring ways to convey this to new people to avoid losing them. In addition to sending several of our own youth to Quaker camps, we financially supported Baltimore Yearly Meetings’ STRIDE program, which seeks to increase diversity at the camps through scholarships.
We recognize that it is often challenging for us to deal with conflict among ourselves. We also know that it is important that we have difficult conversations, held in the Light. Our shared experiences in worship and our care for each other help us navigate through conflict. When we fail, as we sometimes do, we strive to begin again.
In a year of deep national conflict over political developments, we sought individually and collectively to find balance. Our fall retreat focused on sabbath, the practice of finding inner quiet in a hectic world, and on mindfulness. At the spring retreat we celebrated finding joy in the natural world, including kite making and marveling at wolf spiders carrying hundreds of offspring on their backs. The Clearing continues to be supported by a committed group, which also voices concern that members are aging and are not always strong enough for the job of maintaining this beloved space.
Richmond Friends Meeting gathered for a half-day on the 18th of 2nd Month, 2017, to consider the spiritual state of our Meeting. More than forty of us opened with brief waiting worship before passing the microphone to introduce ourselves.
We find joy in the vitality of our Meetings for Worship, gathered and grounded in silence and blessed with nurturing vocal ministry. Attendance at bible study and sessions offered by Adult Spiritual Education (ASE) have deepened our communion and helped us grow comfortable with the range of beliefs in our Meeting. The experience of accessing deep truth, both personally and corporately, has been life changing for us. We leave Meeting for Worship uplifted.
Our business is conducted in the same spirit. The addition of a microphone to our hearing assistance offerings allows more of us to participate in our practical concerns. Our March and April Business Meetings resonated with the ministry of young Friends, who culminated their months-long exploration of what it would mean to be a conscientious objector by courageously sharing their personal testimonies.
This vitality is carried into our committees. We are eager to serve. We are grateful for our faithful attendance at committee meetings and continuing generosity with time, talents, and funds. This year, our committees devoted tender attention to coordinating workshops, meetings, and forums so events did not occur at the same time. We recognize addressing tensions within our Meeting as a priority. In doing so, we encourage an understanding and appreciation of the gifts we each bring. Our Meeting remains rich in opportunities for socializing, serving, and spiritual growth. Our life together is busy and satisfying.
Answering a need to educate ourselves on what it means to be a Quaker, ASE committee engaged our community in a series of six sessions called Living the Quaker Life. Both long-term attenders and people new to Meeting participated, with counts from 37 to 55. The topics included how we worship, our testimonies, and Quaker process.
Over time, we have developed concerns about whether the sign at our doors directing latecomers to wait outside Meeting until twenty-past the hour (the time when children leave) is welcoming to visitors and others. We are aware that the sign has caused discomfort when Friends wanting to worship arrive slightly late and feel they must wait outside. We have also questioned our willingness to welcome people who may hold differing political beliefs. We are sometimes confused over how to phrase political announcements at rise of meeting. How does Meeting encourage a grounded passion for social justice while abstaining from partisan politics that may unsettle our hearts or offer offense?
We have a vibrant Meeting, spiritually and socially, but we are deeply saddened by the relative absence of young children in Meeting. We have considerable work to do in creating an equally vibrant atmosphere for adults under fifty, young families, and persons of the more diverse global majority. We are struggling with these challenges but we are also doing a lot that is good. We believe that, especially in these unsettled times, Quakers have something positive and hopeful to offer. We are heartened when younger adults tell us of the warm welcome, inclusion and support they have each experienced among us. Our Meeting is wonderfully responsive to members in times of sickness, injury, or other need for support.
Our LGBTQ members and attenders are integral to our community. We know and love each other well. We seek to prepare ourselves, through readings and workshops, to offer the same spiritual home to anyone. Our fall retreat at The Clearing continued the process of recognizing barriers to inclusion we may unknowingly support. Materials from BYM’s Working Group on Racism have been shared. Our new Ad Hoc Working Group on Welcoming and Growing Our Meeting gives focus to these efforts.
Following the recent campaign and elections, more of us are led to be pro-active in the world. Our work for social justice, an outgrowth of our deepening spirituality, is broad. We are aided in this work by connections between members and committees, and the wider Quaker fellowship including BYM’s committees on Unity with Nature and the Working Group on Racism, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends General Conference, Monteverde Friends Meeting, and Quaker House. Locally, we work with Midlothian Meeting on social justice issues, and we are involved with the Richmond Peace Education Center and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. Our Disaster Relief Group spent a week in South Carolina repairing damaged houses. Our Meeting has enthusiastically assumed the responsibility of aiding and mentoring a refugee family from Iraq.
Our clerk has received several requests for a Quaker viewpoint. On our behalf, she presented remarks with spokespersons from other faith groups at the Standing Together Press conference here in Richmond. Through this and other efforts, we know our work is understood and acknowledged outside our Meeting House. As we seek ways to express our values in the current contentious political climate, we consider how to remain in Quaker process while not letting opportunities go by.
We embrace Meeting for Worship as our core, our heart. We seek to meet in love. We value honesty and kindness and trust that the Light will guide us as we move forward.
Richmond Friends gathered for a half-day on the 27th day of 2nd Month, 2016, to consider the spiritual state of our meeting through the queries provided by Baltimore Yearly Meeting Pastoral Care committee. Twenty-six friends participated in the worship sharing.
Meeting for Worship is the foundation of our spiritual life together. We gather expecting a deep and robust silence, balanced with vocal ministry, that nourishes and refreshes us.
We see an increased cooperation between committees that strengthens the life of the meeting. As seasoned friends, we tend to do thing as they have been done in the past, but we are learning to go deeper and rest in the spirit. We gratefully acknowledge that we now know an open and free conversation that allows space for new ideas. This is the fruit of years of intentional work.
Our members and attenders generously dedicate time, talent and resources to our meeting. Though our financial obligations are ongoing, fifty percent of unrestricted contributions were not received until December. We proceeded on faith. Significant in-kind donations also maintain us: accounting, cleaning and yard work, website, etc.
Meeting was able to offer financial help to those in need, scholarships to Baltimore Yearly Meeting camps, and grants to members to enable them to broaden their spiritual experience. Members and attenders nourish the meeting with connections both inside and outside the wider Quaker fellowship.
In addition to both 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. meetings for worship on First Day, meeting offers many diverse and enriching programs, potlucks, retreats, workshops, Friendly 8’s, and uplifting service opportunities. These have served the life of the meeting. We know each other well and Love is strong among us. However, with so much offered, we sometimes feel pulled in different directions. We fear we sometimes forget that Meeting for Worship is the core of our life together.
There is a sense within committees to Do a Lot, to be in service to everything. We are waking to the challenge of discerning what work is rightly ours and when the entire meeting is called to be engaged. As a body, we joyfully united in sponsoring a refugee family. We trust we will gain more from this experience than we give.
Though we are grateful that so many of our members are retired and have time for the work of our meeting, we see few young families among us. We recognize that families have many responsibilities that may prevent them from participation in meeting activities, but we yearn for them and for their children and young people to attend Meeting for Worship. Meeting needs them.
We seek to be more welcoming and inclusive. We seek to understand the ways the dominant white culture within Richmond Friends Meeting hinders our hope for the blessed community. We see efforts across committees to address racism and we welcomed guidance from Baltimore Yearly Meeting and others on these issues particularly.
This past year, Richmond Friends Meeting’s growth in the spirit was spurred by an unlikely source; the hostile actions of a neighbor. We met under the shadow of “What will he do next?” Uncertainty and unease held meeting in its grasp. Expressions of anger and fear were not uncommon.
With time and reflection, we held a different question: “What are we called to do?” We turned our hearts to the people who are our neighbors. An ad hoc committee brought revised guidelines to the meeting for renting out our building. These guidelines bring the use of our building into closer alignment with Quaker values.
We also experienced confusion on what it means to act of behalf of the meeting or to be under the care of the meeting. We saw sad misunderstandings of Quaker process. There were hurt feelings. We are now deliberately deepening our understanding of what spirit-led discernment and action looks like.
The last year has been one of challenges and great activity. Though we are a meeting of Friends with varying beliefs, we share a faith in Quaker process and our concern for each other and the world. Our work together is undertaken amiably, our love for one another and our Meeting reinforced by that work. We can look forward to the new year confident in that love and the spiritual nourishment of our Meeting for Worship.
Richmond Friends gathered for a halfday on 21st day, 2nd month, 2015 to consider the spiritual state of our Meeting in a worship sharing format, centered around queries provided by Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Approximately twenty Friends participated.
Richmond Friends Meeting is a thriving community. Reflecting on 2014, we notice that much of the work we have done in prior years has come to fruition. This is especially seen in our Meeting’s unity on marriage equality, our prison ministry, and our child safety policy. These are the results of our patience, love, and peaceful presence. We are grateful for the way our Meeting trusts Spirit-led Quaker process.
We cherish our integration of spirituality and action. It’s “how,” not “what,” we do. This Light shines most brightly in our social justice work. We nurture personal leadings, some of which have grown into educational programs and actions supported across several committees. Our Meeting sustains the work that Friends do in the world.
We note our strong willingness to join and contribute to committees, as well as just lend a hand whenever needed. Intercommittee cooperation and collaboration is strong. This has led to creatively exploring topics such as privilege and the environment. Our Meeting was inspired to consider these topics deeply and to commit to action within the larger community.
We value inclusivity in Meeting for Worship. We have a growing awareness of the challenges around hearing and mobility and we have been identifying ways to better accommodate these needs. We recognize the gifts that shine through our different expressions of the Light.
Although there are fewer children and young adults in our Meeting, we value the gifts they bring to the life of the meeting. We see that, from young to old, Friends are encouraged to expand their involvement in the wider Quaker Community, through FGC, BYM, and BYM camps.
Smaller groups within our Meeting flourish. Spiritual Formation, Spring Retreat, Men’s Retreat, Work Camp, and Friendly 8’s are eagerly attended, providing opportunities for Friends to get to know one another and deepen spiritually. Our new website supports both a reaching in and a reaching out for our Meeting.
2014 has felt like a good solid year for Richmond Friends Meeting. We seek to maintain balance individually and as a meeting between outreach, nurturing our measure of light, and caring for one another. We remind ourselves to be humble and listen deeply. We trust Spirit-led Quaker process as we face emerging issues in the coming year.
2013 was a year marked by growth out of pain. Our community struggled with a traumatic event early in the year. This brought the Meeting together in a shared awareness of how we really care for one another. The bewilderment and the range of responses forced us to deepen spiritually, and re-build security in the community. In this way Meeting opened itself to being transformed. We sensed a deep and broad knowledge that should we develop a grave need, the Meeting would be there for us and hold us in the Light. There has been an awakening of sorts, a freshness and renewed energy. Our vocal ministry has been rich, and yet not overpowering. We found our spiritual state to be strong, deep and nurturing.
Our ongoing practice of holding business meeting during 11:00 a.m. Meeting for Worship continues to nourish us. Friends’ attentiveness to Spirit as part of our business process provides powerful witness to other Meetings. And there seems to be increased harmony in our coming to unity on actions and minutes. We do not try to rush the Spirit. We are learning to be balanced and engaged. We are patient, but we also know when it is time to act.
Messages in Meeting for Worship have been seasoned by individuals and committees and the Meeting community has responded in a focused, tender and caring manner. Adult spiritual education, the Spiritual Formation Program, and regular retreats, including our first men’s retreat, continue to be a source of rich spiritual flourishing. After deep listening and discernment in Meeting for Worship, these leadings, messages and inquiries have led to broader themes and further investigation. These programs and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business have given newcomers and attenders a new point of access to the community.
We are prospering. Numbers of those attending Meeting, educational events, and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business continue to increase, and we are also challenged to be more welcoming to new people in Meetings for Worship. Our committee system works well. Friends speak to their Quaker spiritual life having deepened through the work they do on committees. As embodied spirits, we also appreciate the tangibles provided by the community of caretakers – oiling the benches, hospitality, tending of the garden outside, the library, etc.
We are encouraged that we have many children participating in the life of our Meeting, and we yearn for more Young Friends to be present in Meeting for Worship. We value our children and the vibrancy they bring to our Meeting and we need to continue to find ways to invite youth into the life of the Meeting.
Some of us wonder how we can better live in the world as Quakers. How do we better integrate our social action and spiritual witness? What does it mean to be likeminded? There are signs that we are becoming more open to a diversity of theological perspectives. Messages in Meeting for Worship have changed as Friends become more comfortable in using the language of spirituality. But are we inclusive and respectful to those with different political values, both within and outside our community? Should we be more visible as Quakers in the world? Do we have the courage to wear it on the outside? Can we live the Quaker Way of speaking truth to power – speaking truth in love? There is a calling for greater visibility amongst our Meeting. Finally, as we come closer to discerning our marriage equity minute, five couples previously married under the care of our Meeting, but not legally married in the Commonwealth of Virginia, had legal civil marriages outside the state this year.
In 2012, we felt grounded here at Richmond Friends Meeting (RFM) where our spiritual state is rich in wisdom, love, depth, ministries and kindness. Meeting for Worship is the bedrock upon which our spiritual life can continue to flourish and thrive.
Several people expressed the active and transformative nature of their spirituality in their work lives and other environments outside Meeting. We are thankful for the broad participation in the life of the meeting, from Spiritual Formation groups to forums, committee work and reaching outward. Spiritual lives are so private; the diversity of our beliefs may not have a common language, but there have been openings to discuss the differences in this area during the year.
We feel the tension between enjoying the friendships, loving kindness and comfort of our Meeting and yearning for a more diverse Meeting community. We have a concern for those at the edge of our community and are challenged to express our care without being intrusive. Recognizing the limitations of how deeply we can reach out to people is difficult. Spiritual support may be the best and most powerful thing that we can offer.
The demography of our Meeting continues to change and we look for ways to bring the generations together and cherish the spirit in both young and old alike.
Corporate financial stewardship has been an area of challenge and growth within the life of the meeting. The meeting has experienced the challenge of thinking with business heads and also trusting that the spirit will provide. Do we trust that the gift of spirit is enough when we are faced with worldly decisions and distracted by the practical things that might be done? We are grateful for the committee work that continues to educate and enlighten our community in the face of myriad concerns and problems in the greater world.
Committee work continues to be one of the best places to learn and live Quakerism. We are challenged to take on a new committee, one that may be our least likely choice, as a way to grow. Our tradition of rotating committee clerks and clerks of meeting allows for both the rest of retiring clerks and growth of new ones. In 2012, we noted that we have been holding business meeting at 11 am on third First Days for 10 years now. We are grateful for the many voices and thoughts now in business meeting due to that change.
An ongoing concern is RFM and our participation in the legal aspect of marriage. Meeting-wide, we have been looking deeply into whether to separate the spiritual union from the legal one. The educational meetings, Listening Circle and discussions on this concern have engaged and moved the thoughts of many.
We continue to face issues in a tender way as we address them.
Guided by queries from Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM), we examined how the spirit prospered amongst us in 2011, what we do to support and nurture the spirit, and how it is manifest individually and corporately in us. We looked deeply at the challenges the Meeting has faced in the past year and what we most seek as a Meeting.
One friend observed, “Way seems to always open,” and that indeed has been a result of following Quaker process through some complicated and challenging committee work. We have tremendous gratitude for the work done and have had many joys in it throughout the year.
We are a Meeting that continues to benefit from turnover in committee members and position assignments. The regular reconfiguration of personnel ensures that new perspectives are seen and appreciated. We feel particularly blessed to have been well Clerked in recent years with the result that we corporately trust in good results from Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business and beyond. Having Meeting for Business at our regular Meeting for Worship time continues to ensure that the process is spirit led and engages the whole of the Meeting community.
Our interest over the past several years in deepening the spiritual life of the Meeting has resulted this year in the formation of our Adult Spiritual Education Committee. That committee’s programs have enriched us greatly. We are similarly expanded by the willingness of individuals who have participated in programs elsewhere to share their experiences with Meeting.
Ongoing and newly innovated activities, such as singing before 1st and 3rd First day, the Children’s Candlelight Christmas, parent meetings and programs, and involvement in BYM camping programs help to nurture the spirit among all the generations at Meeting.
We have a desire and a need to find balance in Meeting for Worship by bringing the fruits of programs into the inner life of our unprogrammed Meeting. We labor to foster diversity and honor social issues while at the same time being careful to leave time and room for deep reflection, centering, and the Gathered Meeting.
We are particularly mindful of the spiritual experience for our children and young people. We endeavor to have our children, Young Friends, attenders and adult members be part of the same Meeting whole, to know and nurture one another. We strive to maintain balance between programs intended to meet this need and maintaining an unprogrammed Meeting.
We are aware that even as we search for people to fill out committees and positions, that we must manage these resources wisely. We want to ensure that committee work nurtures and supports both Meeting for Worship and the individual, and that there is less burn-out and more satisfaction. In harmony with the testimony of simplicity we acknowledge that “more can be less”. In other words, more busyness can lead to less centeredness.
Meeting for Worship is the heart of all we do and hope to do. As one Friend put it, “[Meeting for] Worship is the place we are renewed and gain strength to be ourselves in the world.”