Monongalia 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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Despite the geographical distance between members’ homes and the political turmoil in our country, the members and attenders of Monongalia Friends Meeting have grown closer together in the Spirit. We support one another in our struggles and in our search for Truth. The Meeting House continues to serve us well.
Members were engaged with Friends locally and regionally throughout the year. As a way to bring together Friends at our Meeting House, we hosted a Spring Gathering of West Virginia Friends at the beginning of April. We had several workshops on Saturday and hosted an open house/book discussion for the community after Meeting for Worship on Sunday. To continue to strengthen our relationships with West Virginia Friends, the Meeting decided in 2017 to visit other Meetings throughout the year. In June, one of our members provided workshops for the Meeting – one on discernment and one on the Prisoner Visitation and Support program. Then, many from our Meeting attended the Annual Session of Baltimore Yearly Meeting at the new location at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.
In the fall, we were reunited with our Friends from across the state and beyond once again at Bishop Hodges Pastoral Center in Huttonsville, WV. Karen Armstrong’s book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life was the center of our discussions, workshops, and meditations. Deep worship and meaningful conversation nurtured our relationships with each other.
The 2016 Presidential election inspired and resolved us to “let our lives speak”. We turn our concerns into action. In the weeks following the 2016 presidential election, we opened our Meeting House to the public as a safe space to voice their feelings about the result. Also, Friends from both Monongalia and Mid-Ohio Valley Friends Meetings marched together in the International Women’s March in Charleston the day after the inauguration and have become more active in local, state, and national issues.
Since the election, several members of the community have turned to us as a source of support. We have a few new regular attenders with children, so we have begun to provide First Day School on a regular basis. In particular, we have designated the first Sunday of every month as “Family Meeting” to coincide with our monthly potluck, so parents are assured that there will be other children in attendance.
In February, Monongalia Friends hosted an Advocacy Training sponsored by Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), which was attended by 30 members of the community. The Advocacy Team now has a committed group of six members who are building relationships with our Federal legislators over the course of the next year.
Monongalia Friends Meeting looks to the future, as always, committed to serving one another, our meeting, and our wider community.
The members and attenders of Monongalia Friends Meeting continue to grow spiritually through worship and fellowship. We find hope and joy in being in the company of others who do meaningful work. We find strength in supporting each other in our spiritual journeys. We find peace in lifting up one anther during times of sorrow. The meetinghouse is a place of refuge from the noise and distractions of everyday life.
This past September, Monongalia Friends hosted the Annual West Virginia Fall Gathering of Friends. The weekend retreat was held at Bishop Hodges Catholic Pastoral Center outside of Huttonsville, WV. Members and attenders of all six meetings and worship groups in West Virginia, including the worship group Friendsville, MD, were represented at the Gathering. The theme of the retreat was “Living the Testimonies”, with an emphasis on how we, as Friends from this part of the country, can make a larger impact in not only our own communities, but the nation and the world.
The retreat was a time of spiritual refreshment and renewal. Friends from each meeting and worship group discussed collaborating on future projects such as lobbying the WV legislature. Since then, a Spring Gathering has been planned for a weekend this April. This gathering will also be hosted by Monongalia Friends and will be conducted in our meetinghouse. In addition to discussing what a Quaker presence will look like at the legislative session, we will be discussing Thich Nhat Hahn’s book No Death, No Fear.
Despite the many joys the meeting community brings to us, there are challenges we face. We are few in number, which means the responsibilities of running the meeting fall on each and every Friend. Not only do we find it difficult to balance our busy lives with the needs of the Meeting, several of us live some distance outside of Morgantown. Our small, intimate Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business have a tendency to fall into casual, secular discussions, rather than quiet, expectant waiting for solutions to arise out of the silence. Low attendance, and the anxiety around the future of our Meeting weighs upon the minds of many. It is our fervent hope that in the future, we will find a way to present Quakerism as something meaningful to young people in the community, especially families with children.
The struggles we face cannot dim the Light that shines from the members and attenders of Monongalia Friends Meeting. Most of us are active in some form of social justice work, whether as our primary employment or as our schedules allow. We each have stronger leadings to do work in different areas. We want to show others that despite the problems facing our region, we have not given up hope. We invite others to learn more about issues facing Appalachia, and what the people here are doing about them. We continue to be grateful for the support of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and we are glad to be part of a wider Quaker community. We look forward to another year with confidence that the Spirit will move in us, and lead us in the right direction.
The Spirit continued to draw us together. In our sharing of joys and concerns, the members and attenders continued to be aware that they are valued. During informal light snacks and the monthly potluck after Meeting for Worship, newcomers became aware that everyone is welcome in all areas of the Meeting’s life.
We continue to be grateful for our transition to the Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM). Not only is the BYM Annual Session only one hour east of Morgantown, but throughout the year, we received a great deal of support from and lively engagement with the BYM staff and other members of BYM Monthly Meetings. It makes Monongalia Friends feel like we are part of a larger Quaker community.
Because of our large list of email addresses of current and past members and attenders and the great distances that people live from the Monongalia Friends Meeting, we kept all informed of Meeting life through our monthly newsletter. This monthly newsletter was also a means for our Meeting to communicate our monthly queries, as well as local, regional, and national Quaker events.
We have continued to focus our energies on pastoral care and deepening the Spirit in the Meeting. Because of interest from those who attended the BYM annual session in August, Monongalia Friends organized a Spiritual Formation group to discuss selected readings and members’ spiritual journeys. It seems to be fulfilling the needs of group members and deepening the Spirit of the Meeting. Sadly, in the Fall, 2014 an 89-year-old member of the Buckhannon Preparative Meeting was faced with congestive heart failure and passed in January, 2015. Monongalia Friends were able to visit him to provide him comfort and companionship, while others held him, his family, and the other two Buckhannon members in the light.
Our Meeting House, which has no mortgage, continues to serve us well, but we are aware the cost of maintenance will continue to put a strain – financial and spiritual - on our small Meeting. In November we replaced our 20+ year old furnace with a high-efficiency one, and we are in the market for an electric on demand hot water heater. As we reflect on Right Relationship with Mother Earth in preparation for the BYM 2015 Annual Session, we contemplate the carbon footprint of the Meeting House and its use, as well as the larger issue of global warming. This process is providing us an opportunity to clarify what the commitments of the meeting will be in the coming years and think about if we could possibly partner with other local faith communities on issues of mutual concern. For example, approximately 10 people associated with Monongalia Friends attended the People’s Climate March in New York City in September on two different buses organized by regional and national groups.
We provided regular use of the Meeting House to a women’s writers group and a literacy group. It gave us great joy that our Meeting House was being used throughout the week. We were particularly excited that the literacy group chose the curb of our Meeting House for the placement of one of their first free mini, lending libraries. Based on our positive experiences with the writers’ group and the literacy group, we might explore opportunities with other community groups to use the Meeting House during the week and opportunities for Quakers from around the country to use our Meeting House for short stays. Our Meeting might benefit from the knowledge, experience, and talents of these groups and individuals.
Because of the small size and aging members of our Meeting, we ponder the following. How do we provide pastoral care to our members who are aging and/or live at a great distance from our Meeting? How do we do inter-visitation more than once or twice a year to our Preparative Meeting? How do we have a “presence” in Monongalia County and West Virginia? How do we maintain a Quakerly process of waiting in such a familiar, small group?
As we meet weekly and open our Meeting House and hearts to the divine Light, we hope that seekers find our Meeting a place of clarity and peace.
The Spirit draws us together. In our sharing of joys and concerns the members and attenders continue to be aware that they are valued and cared for. During the informal light snacks after meeting for worship new folks become aware that everyone is welcome in all areas of the Meeting’s life.
Monongalia Friends have averaged 6 persons at Meeting for Worship, and at just over half of our sessions there is a child present. We have gained two new attenders and have lost two other attenders. We have focused our energies on pastoral care and deepening the Spirit in the Meeting. We hope that seekers will find in our Meeting a place of clarity and peace.
Our Meetinghouse continues to serve us well. We have not had to make any major repairs, but we continue to make improvements. We built an outside stairway to the second floor, to comply with fire codes in order to allow people to stay overnight. We have overhauled garden beds in the front and back of the meetinghouse. We hope more community groups will use the space in the future.
Several members attended BYM annual sessions at Frostburg, MD. We have been visited by both the Clerk and the General Secretary of BYM. One of our members is involved in BYM’s Unity with Nature Committee. Another member spent two weeks at FCNL, while yet another attended the FCNL General Committee sessions. Still another serves on the FGC planning committee for the 2014 Gathering to be held nearby at California University of PA.
Finally, we have welcomed two new members and together we seek where we shall be led and how we may grow in the Spirit.
This past year has been a good year and a quiet year. We have been reviewing our outreach and support for those who make up our Meeting. There are those whose life situations make it difficult to attend, in light of work, living arrangements, and caring for family members. We hold them in the Light and need to do a better job of keeping in contact.
Several went to the West Virginia Fall Gathering of Friends and several went to Yearly Meeting. At Yearly Meeting we assisted Ann Payne with her Workshop presentation on Homage to Dunkard Creek, surrounded by the many paintings and illustrations of life that was extinguished by pollution.
At the Meetinghouse we held a film series, Earth Day walk, and a discussion of Right Relationship. We did not make the customary visit to our Preparative Meeting in Buckhannon.
Our review of pastoral care within the Meeting calls us to work more diligently in this area of spiritual outreach.
The Spirit prospers among us through shared silence, through sharing leadings in vocal ministry, through studies, discussions and films; as well as through sharing at the break of Meeting for Worship and in individual one on one sharing of concerns and simply getting to know one another better.
These group and individual activities at Meeting and through the week, as we share in and work on concerns, support the growth of the Spirit in our lives. We have manifested the Spirit in our support of one another, not only in Meeting concerns but in larger community concerns.
When we are aware of or sense individual needs in our lives, we hold one another in the Light with special focuses on strength, insight and a sense of love and support.
It has been noted that there is a growing synergy within our Meeting as a result of several going to Baltimore Yearly Meeting sessions, where we were welcomed into the Yearly Meeting, and from our hosting of the West Virginia statewide Fall Gathering of Friends. The support from BYM members and staff in the Gathering, as well as from Philadelphia Friends, gave us more of a sense of connection to the wider world of Quakers. Also the hosting responsibilities brought out more of our own Meeting to be a part of these interactions. On-going interactions continue among West Virginia Friends through a List Serve that was initiated at the Fall Gathering.
We have an awareness that many in the community do not know much about us, thus we hold things like our film series and occasional study groups in order to reach out to others in the community. We are aware that some folks drop into the Meeting from time to time and occasionally someone becomes a part of our Meeting community through this process.
We have recognized and addressed issues that have brought some difficulty and differing views. We have openly discussed and shared our differing views and taken the time and needed effort to work things through and found a working consensus. We have, in the process, tried to listen to one another and to find the light to pull us through together.
In short, it has been a good year for growth and for challenge. We have even had a couple of Meetings for Worship where there have been three vocal ministries; something not previously heard in this still fairly new century. May we continue to look for the Light.