2017 Spiritual State of the Meeting Queries
November 9, 2017
Dear Meeting Clerks and Clerks of Ministry and Pastoral Care Committees,
It time again to prepare to submit Spiritual State of the Meeting Report, which reflects the experience of your meeting during the past calendar year. As you know, this can be a time-intensive process and it can be an invigorating and animating exercise for your meeting. In addition, these reports enrich the life of our Yearly Meeting.
Beginning in early Spring the Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting reads these reports carefully with openness to common themes and insights which help us discern the spiritual state of BYM. In late Spring we write a report on the Spiritual State of the Yearly Meeting to be shared and read at the Annual Session in August. This report goes beyond Baltimore Yearly Meeting; it is shared with other Yearly Meetings globally through our Yearbook and website, as others’ reports are shared with us in kind.
Your report helps us do our work of pastoral care within the Yearly Meeting. Our committee reads these reports to identify practices and experiences that may be helpful to other Meetings. We also read to discern where help may be needed. Additionally, our Presiding Clerk and General Secretary find that these reports contribute to their work of nurturing and caring for our Meetings.
Over the next few weeks or months, please take time to reflect on your experience as a Meeting in 2017 and discern a deeper understanding of its Spiritual State. We are offering only three queries this year to guide your reflection and experience:
- What are your greatest joys as a Meeting? What leadings does your Meeting feel most strongly? What challenges and troubles are you facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than you might wish it to be?
- How does your Meeting nurture the spiritual life of members and attenders? How deep are your Meetings for Worship? Are Meetings for Business held in a spirit of worship?
- Over the past year in our country we have become increasingly aware of those things that divide us rather than those that unite us. Many “isms” (e.g., racism, nationalism, ageism, sexism) and political-ideological issues (e.g., environment, social justice, women’s rights, refugee crisis, immigration, etc.) have come to the forefront. In this contentious environment, how has your meeting explored those issues that divide us and/or attempted to listen across the divide?
We are also offering three suggestions for using these queries. First, use them thoughtfully. They are a starting point. If they do not speak to the condition of your Meeting’s experience this year, then reflect on queries of your own that do. Second, use them gently. Discerning the Spiritual State of your Meeting is an emergent, generative process. Avoid viewing the queries as a kind of rigid list of test questions that you must answer. Third, use them adaptively and with all members of your Meeting. For example, you may wish to write or rewrite Spiritual State of the Meeting queries for use with children or engaging Young Friends directly in the process. In this process you may consider how to hear the voices of those that may feel more peripheral or less likely to speak up at your meeting, be it due to visible or invisible differences.
Again, we encourage you to use these queries only to the degree that you find them helpful. The queries are not a checklist to be answered in full; they are but an aid for reflection and discernment. You are welcome to add summaries of your Meeting’s activities as an attachment to your report.
Please return your responses to the Baltimore Yearly Meeting office by the 15th of Fourth Month. Electronic responses are strongly encouraged and may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
In the Light,
Melanie Gifford and Amy Schmaljohn, Co-Clerks
BYM Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee