Shepherdstown 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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Friends met over three separate pot luck meals in each other's homes to discuss the Spiritual State of the Meeting. We continue to feel grateful for the Spirit working in our community, and for the fellowship we share. Meetings for Worship tend to be centered and a source of great nurture; we are blessed by both deep silence and vocal ministry. Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business are conducted in a thoughtful manner, with consideration for both time constraints and the Spirit moving among us.
We are continue to grow in attenders, vitality, and deepening our Quaker practice. Our first marriage after the manner of Friends occurred on Valentine’s Day, and was met with joyous celebration. Notably, this was also a celebration of the attainment of marriage equality in our state, West Virginia. Experienced Friends and attenders are joining us, bringing with them welcome perspective and experience. Attenders new to Friends are actively seeking more information about Quaker process, and we are working to meet this need. We continue to search for a more suitable location, where our First Day School and community gatherings can be better supported. There is a gathering sense that Friends need to become more vocal in promoting tolerance, inclusiveness, and nonviolence. We have a sense of the Light and excitement for the future.
Friends affirmed the power of our shared worship and the central place of Meeting for Worship in our community. Our experience of worship has varied; at times it is deep and silent, and at other times we are blessed by vocal ministry. We are profoundly grateful for the presence of the Spirit as it moves among us and are sustained by the relationships that have sprung from our shared experience of the Divine.
We are growing. We have had new attenders, requests for membership, and regular visitors from other Meetings. In the past year we have also increased our outreach through our participation in the Shepherdstown Ministerial Association. We co-sponsored a concert for the wider community and took a leading role in an ecumenical Thanksgiving service.
Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business have been lively and Spirit-filled. In an effort to increase attendance, we are experimenting with limiting the duration of these meetings. We have focused on creating structures that support the Meeting now and for the future, with many Friends involved. Our move to the Shepherdstown Train Station has been a significant milestone, allowing us to accommodate greater numbers, although we would wish for a kitchen for potlucks and a more comfortable space for First Day School. The recruitment of a teacher with new ideas and experience has brought renewed energy to our First Day School program and allowed us to better serve our children.
In Spring of 2015, a majority of Friends from Shepherdstown Meeting met to discuss the Spiritual State of the Meeting at three different potluck discussions. Friends have identified many near-term and long-term goals, and committees are working diligently to support them. A longrange vision involves creation of a Quaker school, programs for nonviolence, and other community outreach. Consequently, our long-term vision involves a new meeting house where we might pursue these goals as way opens. There is a sense of Light and excitement for the future.
We continue to grow spiritually as a Meeting and as individuals, though the path is occasionally quite challenging. Our ability to apply Quaker process when dealing with divergence of opinions was mentioned as a source of spiritual growth. Also comments about Friends tardy to Meeting have resulted in some tender feelings. We are seeking a balance between the needs of those who
want worship to start in a quiet, punctual manner and our desire to be inclusive to all who want to worship with us.
To summarize, we have witnessed continued growth and stability over the past year, and give thanks that the Spirit continues to work among us. We face several challenges as we continue to be responsive to the Spirit, our Meeting, and our community. Yet there is a sense of love, vitality and energy present that encourages us that we will continue to meet these challenges.
Shepherdstown Monthly Meeting experienced a year of growth, change, and adjustments in our first full calendar year as a monthly meeting. We have been blessed with active, committed Friends who have given generously of their time during this transition, and our Meetings for Worship have nurtured us and attracted new attenders. While the growth in the number of members and attenders has been a source of joy, it has also presented challenges, physical and otherwise.
On the physical level, after outgrowing our space in the bookstore, we searched for a larger space to rent. For a time we met in the historic chapel of Trinity Episcopal Church, with First Day School still held in the bookstore a couple of blocks away. We then moved to the train station, which has a large open area for Meeting for Worship. With permission, we added a door between the main room and a smaller side room. The addition of some sound-proofing and a white noise machine has allowed us to have Meeting for Worship and First Day School in the same building. Friends feel that these physical changes resulted in a welcoming space for Meeting for Worship.
Friends find solace and feel nourished by Meeting for Worship, and many feel that attending the meeting each week enriches their life and helps them address challenges with renewed energy and a stronger spiritual connection. In an effort to deepen our collective experience of worship, we held an afternoon workshop where we broke into small groups to share perspectives on listening and speaking during Meeting for Worship. This exercise had the added benefit of allowing Friends to get to know each other better, deepening our sense of community as well as our experience of worship.
Our goal of building and maintaining a sense of community has also been aided by our new physical space which provides added flexibility for community events. We are very aware that there are new attenders among us, and we strive to welcome them warmly without overwhelming them. We are working to find ways to meet the educational needs of those who are just beginning to learn about Quakerism, while supporting more experienced Friends in deepening their own spiritual practices. Several Friends expressed interest in an expansion of Meeting activities to include gatherings to discuss world religions, energy healing, inter-generational activities, Quaker processes, and sacred dance. While we are gratified that some Friends travel long distances to worship with us, those distances can present a challenge for fellowship outside of Meeting, committee work, and pastoral care.
Within our Meeting there is a considerable range of religious beliefs and political opinions. We strive to be mindful of that of God in everyone, to listen respectfully, and to work through our differences in threshing sessions and open discussion during Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business. This year, Quaker process was applied to address disagreements between Friends. Emotions ran high, but several Friends noted that the respectful, Spirit-filled listening employed during the clearness process helped to deepen our worship and our community. The broad participation in the business of our Meeting shows that many friends are committed to this search for discernment, although seeking a true sense of the Meeting can be a slow and difficult process.
We recognize that service is a form of ministry. Friends have given generously of their time in to our Meeting community and to larger Quaker organizations. Developing the internal structures needed to function as monthly meeting necessarily consumed substantial time and energy this year, especially on the part of our finance committee. We have also been able to reach out to the wider community through our participation in the Shepherdstown Ministerial Association. The clerk of our Peace and Social Justice committee currently serves as president of that body. Of note, our Peace and Social Justice committee drafted a minute on gun violence that was presented to surrounding local governments. The minute helped spark discussion in other churches about the issue, and was used as a model by two other congregations.
Our First Day School currently serves three children and occasional guests. We completed our unit on Quaker testimonies in June with a presentation by the children to the Meeting. The curriculum this school year has focused on world religions since we felt that a basic knowledge of other faiths would help the children understand the role of religion in world events. We are grateful for the adults who have volunteered as teachers throughout the year.
Looking forward, we would like to schedule more intergenerational activities that would allow adults and children to interact outside of First Day School. Additionally, some older Friends within our community have expressed a desire for a group to discuss concerns relating to aging. We also note that despite our location in a college town, we do not have many young adult Friends attending our Meeting. We hope to increase our outreach to the surrounding community, including Shepherd University. Encouraging smaller gatherings of Friends, organized around specific interests or perhaps modeled on the Friendly 8's organized by other meetings, is one way under consideration to nourish community during a time of growth.
In summary, we are challenged by an abundance of blessings, at times aspiring to more than we can easily accomplish. Our Meeting includes and aspires to serve newcomers and children, older Friends, persons with diverse political and religious backgrounds, and persons traveling from significant distances. Nevertheless, we have been graced by the Spirit who inspires us to love and serve one another and to practice discernment as we seek our path forward.
Shepherdstown Monthly Meeting is pleased to report an ongoing sense of nurturance by the Spirit as we continue to encounter challenges related to our new status as a growing Monthly Meeting. In Seventh Month 2012, following much corporate and individual discernment involving threshing sessions and informal discussions, Shepherdstown Preparative Meeting became Shepherdstown Monthly Meeting. We are grateful to Frederick Monthly Meeting for their continuing support throughout this process. This transition and our growing attendance have created a need for more structure. Friends are mindful that our spiritual focus and sense of community must continue to be nurtured as we make these changes.
Meetings for Worship continue to be held in the expectant waiting upon the Spirit. We are gratified that some Friends travel great distances to join us for Worship. Newcomers report feeling welcomed. However, it has become clear that we are outgrowing our space in the bookstore. We are actively seeking an alternative space for Meeting and First Day School. In addition to the large Meeting on First Day in Shepherdstown, a small but regular group gathers for Worship at midweek in Harpers Ferry.
Our regular bimonthly Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business have also been well-attended and held in good order. Due to the press of business surrounding our transition to a Monthly Meeting, especially changes in how our financial affairs are handled, we have also held additional called sessions as needed. As we gain supportive structures and experience, a larger proportion of detailed business will be handled within committees, and then brought to the Meeting as a whole.
Three children regularly attend our First Day School, now in its second year. Adults volunteer to spend one First Day a month with the children, and two adults are present at all times. We find that different teachers bring different skills and materials to share, and the children get a chance to interact with a number of adults. Involvement in First Day School is rewarding for many who are deepening their knowledge of Quakerism as they teach it.
We have completed our discussion of Quakerism 101, roughly modeled on the curriculum distributed by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. These sessions followed a potluck after Meeting for Worship, were well-attended by seasoned friends as well as new attenders, and provided a forum for much lively discussion. These occasions also provided an opportunity for friends to become better acquainted. Our active list serve also serves as a means for Friends to connect with one another.
Our Peace and Social Justice committee organized a silent vigil for peace and nonviolence last fall. Friends gathered in advance to make signs to display. Both adults and children participated.
The Meeting has also been active in the wider community of Shepherdstown. A representative of the Meeting attends the Shepherdstown Ministerial Association meetings. Friends have given generously to the Caring Cupboard, a program that provides food for school aged children over weekends. Friends also participated in Shepherdstown's 250th anniversary celebrations. Our small meeting is also represented on committees of Baltimore Yearly Meeting and Friends General Conference.
In our discussions preparing for this report, it became clear that Friends were looking forward as much as reviewing this past year. Based on the success of our Quakerism 101 series, we intend to propose holding monthly potlucks and discussion on topics of interest to Quakers. Since our Meeting is comprised of individuals from various religious backgrounds and is growing, we feel it is especially important that we are patient and listen deeply to each other's concerns. We have experienced both continuity and change in this past year. We are still learning, and that is how it should be.
Shepherdstown has been a Preparative Meeting for about a year. We are grateful to Frederick Monthly Meeting for their continued care, guidance, and encouragement.
In the past year Friends have reported a growing sense of community and nurturing of relationships. This sense of community has been fostered through conversations at rise of meeting, potlucks, informal gatherings at a local restaurant, and other social occasions. Our active list serve also serves as a means for Friends to stay in touch.
Meetings for Worship have been well attended and held in the expectant waiting upon the Spirit. A small but regular group of friends have also gathered for Meeting for Worship at midweek in Harpers Ferry. Overall, Friends feel that there has been a balance between silence and vocal ministry. Attenders new to our Meeting have expressed a desire for more guidance in Quaker practice. Also, since the bookstore does not have a waiting area, a particular concern has been latecomers arriving while someone is giving a message. We will address these and other issues in our continuing Quakerism 101 discussions.
Our bimonthly Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business have also been well attended and held in good order. The strict time limit imposed by the opening of the bookstore at 1:00 p.m. promotes a certain discipline and may encourage attendance. Called meetings, usually with only one agenda item, have been held when there has not been sufficient time to come to a sense of the Meeting on an issue.
In its first year our First Day School has served 3-5 children. Friends with children have expressed strong support and gratitude for the program. More volunteers are being sought to assist since two adults must be with the children at all times.
We have also formed a Peace and Social Justice committee within the past year. In cooperation with the Shepherdstown Ministerial Association, we have been collecting donations for the Caring Cupboard, a program that provides food over the weekend for elementary and middle school aged children in the Shepherdstown area. We have co-sponsored a speaker on the damaging effects of polarizing political rhetoric at an event open to the public. We will seek to foster additional connections with the community over the coming year.
Responding to a request from last year, we are offering another series of Quakerism 101 discussions. To date there have been two sessions, one on Quaker history and the other on the Inner Light. We are planning to have additional discussions in the coming months, with topics including Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business, and Quaker Witness. In order to provide a chance to get to know each other better, these discussions have been held in conjunction with potlucks.
Future challenges include planning for space needs as a growing Meeting. We note that our current Meeting space lacks access for persons with physical disabilities. We would also like to encourage the attendance of more young and young adult Friends. Finally, we will also consider whether we are led to become a Monthly Meeting over the next year.