Adelphi 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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As we prepared this retrospective report during the deeply challenging time of a global pandemic, we take this opportunity to express our gratitude and comfort in the strength, solidarity, and spiritual resilience that has carried forward from the past year to support us now.
With many new Friends and Attenders joining us each Sunday in 2019, Adelphi Friends Meeting sought to deepen our shared spiritual experience by returning to well-seasoned Quaker practices regarding the conduct of Meeting for Worship, and specifically regarding the quality of our vocal ministry. Adelphi’s Ministry & Worship committee and individual “weighty Friends” provided advice in this context, which was well received by the Adelphi community. Some in the Meeting observed that the character of our vocal ministry and messages evolved over the year into being “more spiritual and less political.” Our community also expressed both a deep appreciation for worshipful silence, and a recognition that we are learning even when messages in Meeting are occasionally conflicting.
As a faith community, we appreciated the unstructured space that we provided each other during the year, as well our shared efforts in responding to the call to strive for greater spiritual depth and inspiration to "make our lives speak." We acknowledged that sometimes vocal ministry remained challenging during the year, but Adelphi Friends and Attenders expressed appreciation for the ways in which the Meeting created space for compassionate listening—even in cases of long or repetitive messages. As we look to our shared worship in 2020, we know that we must continue to seek a worshipful Quaker experience in which vocal ministry avoids messages that are too long, repetitive, strictly personal in nature, or not divinely inspired.
Our understanding of diversity within our Adelphi faith community also grew in 2019; several messages expressed during the year by white, straight, and cisgender Friends and Attenders of the community testified to their own growing awareness of their privilege, and how this privilege can be alienating to those within the Adelphi community who are of diverse backgrounds. Hope has been expressed that Quakers of spiritual weight and wisdom within the Adelphi community will stand up or step in to address this issue as we – as a faith community – grow together to cherish our diversity while respecting the challenges experienced daily by those from marginalized groups.
While achieving our spiritual center as a community during Meeting for Worship continued to be a work in progress, we also acknowledged that we still had room to improve the quality and depth of our Meetings for Worship for the Conduct of Business. Some Friends and Attenders expressed concern at a number of messages during “business meeting” that did not appear to be spirit-led, or that seemed to be emanating from a place of mere curiosity or mild concern. One member suggested we ought to “…imagine a practice in business meeting of simply accepting and approving each committee recommendation, without comment, unless there is a person who feels so strongly in opposition that they are considering blocking the decision, and thus speaks and starts a group conversation.”
In addition to our vocal ministry, Adelphi Meeting recognized and nurtured other kinds of ministries and gifts during 2019. This was perhaps most clearly made manifest in the intensity and expansive engagement of our many committees. Members of the Adelphi community committed significant time, thought and energy as they strove to discern, nurture, and support our various committee endeavors over 2019, to the benefit of the whole Adelphi community and beyond. As we looked ahead, we agreed to continue to seek ways to facilitate, improve, and lighten our committee work, such as by moving more quickly to adopt appropriate digital technologies in order to diversify participation in committees—for example by making committee engagement more accessible for single parents or persons with limited mobility.
Some of our committee-based endeavors in 2019 were focused on our major building renovations ahead, and to that end the Adelphi community tried hard to nurture and support our Building Committee and our Second Capital Campaign. During the year we also made our Change Group a priority, and our Peace and Social Concerns committee created many opportunities for group service. Our Ministry and Worship committee also endeavored to build better coordination between committees throughout the Adelphi community, in part by initiating quarterly committee clerks’ breakfast gatherings.
Nurturing took many forms. Throughout the year we nurtured our community through the extraordinary efforts of our Hospitality committee, who provided a pot-luck lunch after each Sunday’s Meeting for Worship. Nurturing of a different but equally important character was carried out by our Pastoral Care committee, and by the regular welcoming and follow-up by our Outreach and Fellowship committee.
Our younger Friends also had an active year at Adelphi, with Young Friends taking a noteworthy initiative in the fall to move their weekly gatherings from Sundays to meet instead (along with their Friendly Adult Presence) on Friday evenings. This change also made it easier for them to invite friends and visiting Quaker youth from other BYM meetings to join in.
Many Adelphi Friends and Attenders also actively contributed to the vitality of our meeting by contributing time, effort, and sweat equity to achieve an exceptionally successful Strawberry Festival in June, which also brought many of our neighbors briefly into our fellowship. And throughout the year, many people in our community were supported through participation in clearness committees and various support groups, and more persons in our community sought opportunities to participate in this way. As one member of the Adelphi community noted: “The entire action of meeting—silence, vocal ministry, committees, sharing of joy & concerns, helpfulness, love—help me understand my own self. Meeting makes me a happier and more positive person.”
Our community support also found expression in the rekindling of our warm and reciprocal relationship with Friends Community School, the school that Adelphi Friends Meeting founded in 1986 and which originally met here in our Meeting House. In 2019, both Adelphi Friends Meeting and Friends Community School warmly welcomed their new Head of School, Angela Garcia, who in turn made it a priority to connect with all of us at Adelphi.
Anticipation about the significant disruption and excitement of next year’s building expansion and renovations occupied much of our focus during 2019. Some within our community showed their initiative by organizing a “bake-sale” style fundraising effort which was well received, and which motivated many donors to exchange their money for delicious calories—all in service of a worthy cause. As we looked forward to our new building adventure in 2020, many Friends engaged thoughtfully in a workshop that helped our community consider the coming changes: what we wanted to hold dear during the transition, what we wanted to be mindful of, what we wanted to change, and what we looked forward to. Recognizing that the building project will inevitably cause some displacements, we acknowledged the importance of careful planning for supporting small groups and other ways to keep our community together during construction. We remained determined to move forward consciously in discerning efficient space utilization and standards of quality, with a focus on our Quaker values of generosity and simplicity.
Through our upcoming renovations, through our commitment to each other as a faith community, and through our continuing service to those outside our community who depend upon us, we remained determined throughout 2019 to make Adelphi Friends Meeting stronger, more inclusive, and more beneficial to the broader community.
In this time of political discord and violent expressions of hatred in our country and world, Adelphi Friends—from elementary school age to adults—find our Meeting to be a refuge and a safe space. Young and older Friends are not only affected by divisive and disturbing events in school, work, and our communities, but are aware of how others are affected, too. Our Meeting is a space where we can “focus on something different”, and “reconnect with beliefs we hold most dear”—especially our conviction that we are all united by our belief that there is that of God in everyone.
We are strengthened by the quiet of our worship and helped by the spoken messages. In the refuge of our worship, we can find the quiet within ourselves that we need as we each seek spiritual understanding and guidance for our lives, and as we grow in the Spirit, so that we are not merely reacting to things but living our lives from a deeper and more centered place. Our children and teens find that our First Day School program provides a lot of support. Nevertheless, some children and teens opt out of coming to Meeting on First Day, and we care about that.
For adults, worship has been strengthened by the Adult Religious Education program and the fifth Sunday “fishbowl” discussions on our experience of Meeting for Worship. While mostly the refuge of worship seems appropriate, we are encouraged not to “get stuck” in this refuge, but to hear “the leadings of the spirit that may be uncomfortable.” We are also encouraged to speak well of others outside our Meeting with whom we do not agree. And while adults appreciate the sense of refuge that worship brings, some wish for more direct guidance for being a Quaker in the world, especially in our current environment.
We understand our Quaker roots and strengthen them in a wide variety of ways. Our children feel that they are well prepared by their First Day programs that focus on our Quaker roots. For adults, though, our Meeting seems to provide some direction but could do more. Our Quaker 101classes given at Friends Community School provide a good introduction for newcomers, and for all of us. Our monthly Adult RE program in the last year focused on Quaker lives from the past and the present, giving us yet more grounding in our Quaker roots. Some of us participate in other Quaker organizations and find deep connections there to our Quaker roots, and many of us read magazines and other written resources outside of our Meeting. While one new attender found it helpful to read materials left in our lobby, that Friend also noted that a more intentional program from the Meeting would be welcome!
There are different understandings of Quakerism among us. Some of the difference is between longtime attenders and members, and those who have more recently become active in our Meeting. Making genuine space for the ideas of newer attenders and members, and encouraging newer Friends to speak up is suggested. Having more in-depth conversations about Quaker beliefs and practices would allow all of us to grow together as a community. Our teens point out that Quakerism asks a lot of us – we each have to find our own answers, and that takes a lot of time.
Our Meeting’s growing edge is in the better handling of our different points of view and different life perspectives. While at times we embrace those who put forth what some would consider a discordant point of view, we are learning to value taking the time to hear and consider such views, even if held by just a few Friends. At other times, some views that differ from our usual way of handling things are not so welcome, and so are not given the space to be listened to and considered. In some ways we have grown; a wider theological diversity of messages is now more comfortable than in previous years. Talking about Quakers’ role in history, however, is at times problematic. For some younger Friends, some older adults seem complacent because of their pride in Quaker actions and testimony that happened in the past.
While we talk about our different points of view, Friends express the need for us to delve more deeply into subjects we disagree on and give more space and opportunity to sharing views and leadings, while seeking to listen to one another more fully. Our children and teens think that their group does this fairly well. Among adults, however, some are concerned that we now end discussions too quickly because of discomfort. Being faithful through this discomfort as we seek to understand one another and seek the Spirit’s guidance for our Meeting and ourselves as individuals is our challenge going forward.
In terms of interests, personalities, life work, and other things, our teens describe our meeting community as a “grab bag” of all sorts of people. Demographically, we would like to be more welcoming to a greater diversity of people. Adelphi is a racially and ethnically diverse community in ways, and more diverse than we used to be – but at all age levels we still long to be more diverse. As one Friend noted, Adelphi “is trying hard to be, but that is a long process and a challenging one.” While we are not all white and middle-class, numerically these groups remain in the majority. Friends of color, through spoken ministry and shared concerns, keep all of us more sensitive to issues in our community and among Quakers. We are aware of the immigrant community that surrounds our Meeting and would like to do more outreach to this community. One Friend says, “White privilege and power is an issue we would benefit from taking up in a sustained manner.”
We are theologically moderately diverse. Messages from Christian, non-Christian, and non-theist backgrounds are welcome. We have some diversity in our political views, but this is not wide. Some see this diversity as important for keeping our community a safe space for some members and attenders who are transgender, gender non-binary, or otherwise more vulnerable in our wider society. The bigger concern, though, is that in our Meeting’s life we do not have the practice of bringing out more of the diversity we have. In business meeting and in potluck discussions, speaking from different perspectives is sometimes not welcome. Rather than eliciting more information when a different perspective is shared, sometimes a response is a quick “that’s not how we do things.” Understanding how to live into the diversity that we so long for while still appropriately respecting our Quaker heritage is another area of growth for Adelphi.
As we reflect on ourselves in 2018, we do want to mention that the number of children in Frist Day School has declined, and the number of adults also seems lower. We are open to hearing why this may be. We also recognize that we do not give enough support to parents of young children, so it is hard for them to join us for business meeting and other activities after worship.
And it is worth noting that we are taking the next steps in the process of adding onto and significantly upgrading our Meeting House. Our Building Committee has been working faithfully to bring us along in this process. We are likely to be as affected by internal affairs as by external affairs in 2019!
No report received.
A joy expressed by many is simply being a part of our multi-faceted meeting community. Meeting for worship is at the core of our spiritual life. We are a large and diverse meeting, and almost every Sunday we welcome persons attending our meeting for the first time. We do our best to provide ongoing education regarding Quaker worship and practice to new attenders and longtime members alike through our very active Outreach and Fellowship Committee, our religious education programs for children through adults, and information in our weekly Silent Announcements. Friends have expressed that the depth of our worship has been good this past year and have commented on the quality of our silence. Many messages have been welcomed and appreciated, though some feel that the messages are sometimes too long.
Several expressed a joy at being asked to serve on clearness or support committees. It is a sign of health and enthusiasm that individuals feel comfortable enough to ask for help. The sense of community is an important part of the meeting, and we appear to have a leading to nourish each other and nurture that community. The long-standing men’s and women’s groups provide inspiration and closeness, again nurturing community.
Finally, after a lengthy and sometimes difficult discernment process, the meeting reached unity (with two members standing aside) regarding which design option should guide the next phase of our building process. Much gratitude was expressed to the Refreshed Facilities Working Group and to the meeting Clerk for leading us through a thorough discernment process, always making sure that we adhered to Quaker decision-making process.
Nurturing our spiritual well being
The Meeting continues to have an active First Day school, with children from infants to Middle Schoolers, and a very active Young Friends group. The latter has provided leadership to Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Friends. Young Friends enjoy being part of the meeting and have many good friends they have known for a long time. Some said they felt more centered and focused throughout the week when they come to meeting. Overall, they feel comfortable speaking in meeting. They sometimes have messages arise, but save them to share in their first day class. They felt especially supported at meeting through the election year, where they focused on what they could do about things that were happening. Junior Young Friends were also positive about their experiences at Adelphi. As one JYF commented, "Everything here seems to sort of make sense. Other places people say stupid things. Nice to come here and have things make sense." They feel the meeting is a safe and welcoming space.
The children have inspired the adults with their service projects. Dedicated teachers continue to provide leadership. In addition, Adult Religious Education has nurtured the Quaker identity of the Meeting by providing Second Hours on Quaker history and practice and Quaker leaders. The practice of encouraging all meeting participants to read a single book and then use it for discussion has been good. There is an active Spiritual Formation program, which contributes to the meeting’s spiritual wellbeing.
During 2016, the Ministry and Worship Committee initiated a process of asking a number of people to come early to Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Business to hold the silence. All attenders are held responsible to see that the Meeting is held in good order. The result has been a larger number of people attending business meetings, and more often a centered Meeting for Business. We continue the practice of having a member of Ministry and Worship hold the Meeting in the Light, which also contributes to a spirit-led meeting. Discernment is easier because committees have seasoned concerns before bringing them to the whole community.
Joint service projects have continued to be supported by the Meeting, notably the Cornstalk Project, which provides small grants to people in the Kenyan community from which two Friends sojourn in our meeting; sponsoring young people to go to Mexico for a service project; and active participation in the Food Pantry at St. Camillus Catholic Church. An Advocacy Group was formed, to work through FCNL and visits to Senators and Representatives have begun. Many individual members of Meeting are active in work on justice issues, and report back to Meeting. . We continue to discern what our Meeting should do in response to immigrant issues, and particularly the sanctuary movement.
The meeting continues to work with Quaker process and good Quaker order. There is a need for more education around the clearness committee process and the practice of eldering, in particular that it does not reside with one committee and is more about calling out the gifts of others than it is about correcting. The Practices and Procedures Manual needs to be updated so that it can be a more helpful resource for the meeting. A concern has also been raised regarding improving communication within the meeting.
Diversity and outreach
We continue to be blessed by the participation in Meeting of the Burundian Quaker refugee family. A committee and the meeting as a whole has supported them and rejoiced in their accomplishments. The youngest child participated in Shiloh Camp last summer.
We have a consistent and increasing presence of persons of color. Some are members and participate actively in Meeting committees and activities. Our meeting also includes many members of the LGBT community. We are pleased with the diversity in Meeting, but know we can improve. One concern that has been raised is that we do not have much economic diversity in the Meeting. Another is that though our meeting is in a neighborhood with many Latino residents, there are no Latinos who are regular attenders, though many do attend our annual Strawberry Festival.
Our Outreach and Fellowship Committee warmly welcomes newcomers to Meeting, and takes responsibility to answer their questions and integrate them into the community. We made an attempt to provide Quaker worship once a month at the University of Maryland, at the invitation of the chaplain, but it was discontinued. University students do come to Meeting for Worship periodically.
Friends Community School received a strong affirmation for its Quaker tone and practices from representatives of Friends Council on Education. The school’s enrollment remains high with 41% students of color and an increasingly diverse staff. The meeting and school held several joint events. Members regularly joined weekly meeting for worship, served on the FCS board and its committees, and volunteered at the school.
Our community continues to grow, with many young families participating. We look forward to deepening our practices, supporting one another in a spirit of joy, and discovering new ways to meet the challenges of our community and our world in 2017.
The strength of our community is that we enjoy being together, in worship, potluck lunches, religious education events, and other meeting gatherings. We seek to be a welcoming meeting, and welcome visitors and newcomers often. The less comfortable, growing edge of our community is in deepening our understanding of the role of the divine in Quaker business process as we discern our path in improving our physical facilities.
On Sundays our meeting room is quite full with adults and children. Our Meetings for Worship are sometimes quiet, and at other times are filled with spoken messages. We continue as a meeting to have different views about what messages should be spoken during Meeting for Worship, and how many messages one Meeting can hold. Overall we sense that our worship is deep, connecting us to the Spirit and to each other.
We were blessed this year to take under our care a Quaker family of eight who are refugees from Burundi. Meeting members offered many kinds of support to help the family settle and become self-sustaining. The faith and friendship of this family speaks to us all.
We have supported service work in the wider world by supporting the leadings of several of our members, which include supporting immigrants and refugees, sending two Young Friends to Mexico to be part of service work in Tijuana, and raising funds for our own Cornstalk Project, which sends funds to widowed and orphaned Friends in Kenya.
Our meeting was enriched by our members who traveled among Friends, some of whom went to Cuba, Kenya, and places in the US and within our Yearly meeting. Friends took part in events of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, led BYM’s Women’s retreat, and participated in Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, and Quaker service organizations.
We are grateful to have a number of new members this year. Our meeting room now has more people of color, many of whom are becoming active in the meeting’s life. This year, we deepened our understanding of what it means to be a place of worship for our transgender families. Being a welcoming community is very important to our young people and to the adult community. We feel deep joy in being a community that is diverse in background, sexual orientation, life experience, and in the experience of our faith.
We are a multi-generational meeting with a good number of children and young people. All ages expressed appreciation for their First Day school program. Teens and adults appreciate having a group of trusted Friends to discuss things with. In the past year, adult religious education has focused on learning more about key people in Quaker history in very rich Second Hours.
We continue to sustain weekly potluck lunches after meeting that are well attended. Our children noted that potluck is the one time when we are all together as a community. Our Strawberry Festival pulled us all together as it always does. A meeting retreat for adults, an intergenerational retreat at Catoctin, and our Spiritual Exploration program also gave us opportunities to gather and grow spiritually.
We support one another by providing dinners, transportation to appointments, holding one another in the Light, and by serving on clearness and support committees. Many of us both gave and received support this year. We mourned our eldest member, Deborah James, who died at the age of 97. As much as we want to help one another, sometimes we fall short. Either we can’t figure out what is needed, or we don’t have quite enough people to help out.
Our meeting community this year has been both enriched and challenged as we have tried to discern how to improve our facilities. Some felt our pace was too slow, and felt very frustrated. Others raised questions about whether we were following the right process. Difficult behaviors emerged in our business meetings. We have all felt discouraged at some point. While some Friends stopped attending business meeting for a while, others became more regular in attendance, and attendance actually increased.
Through the year, we looked more deeply into how Friends’ business process can be supported. We read Pendle Hill Pamphlets that offer guidance and initiated a “coterie,” a group of Friends who would begin worship before business meeting to create a sacred space others could enter as meeting begins, and to take personal responsibility to stay in prayer and bring our very best to business meeting. Each of us has taken more responsibility for following Quaker process to help business meeting become more worshipful. We have also reached out to those who were hurting; in formal and informal ways, we have tried to create opportunities to listen deeply to one another.
We are attending to the life our committees. Each committee has re-examined their charges and suggested changes. Committees are now reporting more often to business meeting. We also continue to support the Quaker Life of Friends Community School with a number of members being active in the life of the school.
We have known discomfort and harmony this year, and are grateful for the growth that each has brought. We have been called to be more faithful, to seek solace and guidance from the Spirit, and to experience our Quaker history and practices with more excitement and joy.
Adelphi Friends Meeting is central to the lives of its members and attenders. In the words of one friend, “Adelphi is my spiritual home. When I travel, I miss the worship, and I feel that I’m held by the Meeting.” Our Junior Young Friends appreciate the chance to explore a quieter, more peaceful side of themselves at Adelphi. Young Friends feel that the deep and free-ranging conversation they find in the White House attic is one of the best parts of their week. We notice and celebrate a growing engagement in the life of the meeting, as shown by the high level of attendance at business meeting, pot lucks, First Day School (teachers and students) and our annual Strawberry Festival.
Meeting for Worship and First Day School offer us a place for reflection and spiritual comfort, and sometimes spiritual discomfort. At 10:00 am most weeks our Meeting room is filled with Friends of all ages. After our younger members leave at 10:20 the room fills again with new arrivals. We welcome several visitors each First Day, and many become attenders. We reach out to newcomers but do not always give the information that would help them become more fully part of the Meeting. Spoken ministry is discussed in an ongoing way, some feeling we are welcoming of a diversity of messages, others that we are not always disciplined and are reactive to world events, not giving time to season concerns into messages of the Spirit.
Our community is blessed by varied spirituality. We celebrate our diversity in theological orientation, life work, life practices, beliefs, and the texts and traditions that center and inspire us. Although not all of us feel free to give full expression at all times to our beliefs in Meeting for Worship, we nonetheless have a sense of flourishing in such a rich spiritual environment. We also support Friends in their ongoing ministries, including witnessing to transgender issues, visiting among Friends in the wider world, and visiting among Friends in our meeting to talk about our spiritual lives.
Participating in smaller groups nurtures friendships and leads us into deep places. Our Young Friends and Junior Young Friends express the feelings of many when they say they are drawn back to Adelphi week after week by the close friendships they have: both long-established relationships and the opportunity to meet new people. Spiritual Formation groups, men’s and women’s groups, some of which have been meeting together for years, provide the opportunity for adults to get to know one another in a meaningful way. We enjoy fellowship at our weekly potluck meal, which we have managed to sustain for several years now. Conversations that let us “minister to one another” often happen during this time.
Our committees sustain our community in many ways. Friends rally to bring meals or provide transportation in times of illness or crisis. Support and clearness committees lead friends to feel touched, loved and better equipped to handle challenges. We also seek to explore Quaker faith together, through Second Hours, shared readings, and our Quakerism 101 meetings. Friends value the quotations (often by Quaker authors) that head our Silent Announcements. Our Clerk opens Meeting for Business with queries from BYM's current Faith and Practice and its proposed revisions, and often with a few words on Quaker process.
Our biggest spiritual growth opportunity has been how to disagree lovingly as we discern the long range planning for an expansion of our facilities. We care for one another even as we struggle to know what “good process” means, and even as we hurt one another’s feelings and challenge our sense of trust. For the most part we have tried hard to use the old Quaker techniques of taking a breather to regain our center, taking our issues directly to the person with whom we are disagreeing, proceeding patiently and – sometimes – biting our tongues. Attendance at our business meetings is often double what it was in the previous year – we are participating even as we are not always in agreement. We raised almost $740,000 in a two-month capital campaign, showing our faith in the planners and in our discernment process.
We seek to welcome a wider range of Friends. We are glad that more members and attenders are people of color. We held a called Meeting for Worship to hold in the Light police violence against African Americans in our country and in our community. It was especially important to one meeting member that we recognize and hold tenderly the fact that parents of children of color have experiences and concerns different from parents of white children, with regard to interacting with police.
The women of our meeting planned the BYM’s Women’s Retreat for January 2015. Women of a wide span of ages, and a wide span of experience in our meeting and with Friends worked together to do the planning. This was a rich experience for this group, and brought much richness not only to the retreat but to our own meeting as well.
Many of our members reach beyond the boundaries of Adelphi to participate in the wider Quaker world and to do good work in the world. A number of our members participate in activities of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, Friends General Conference, and Friends United Meeting. We cherish our ties with Friends Community School: we gather at the school annually for Meeting for Worship and classes visit Adelphi to experience Meeting for Worship. With the support of BYM the school’ s Quaker Life Committee has created a parents' Quaker bookshelf, and through FCS new families come into our Meeting community. We hold fellowship meals and Meetings for Worship in support of those who work in the public schools. Several friends volunteer at a local food pantry, and many people in the meeting contribute food. We had a very successful toy drive for a community organization that serves recently arrived immigrants. Our newly formed Spirit in Action group finds ways for the meeting to do service work in the community. Through our fledgling Go Forth Fund, we set up a project to support Kenyan widows and children. We also support young people who go to Mexico each summer to do service work, building homes. Still we seek to work more corporately to do more good things in the world.
Overall, we know that we have the blessings and the disadvantages of a large Meeting. A Meeting of a hundred people will have more messages and more announcements, more squabbles and more chaos, than a smaller Meeting. There will be more opinions to reconcile, more children to teach, more dishes to wash. Even the carpet will wear out sooner. But we treasure the added richness and diversity and tender humanity that comes in the door with those people. We could have quieter Meetings – a goal we haven’t forsaken – but there is no one we are willing to part with. These are our people.
So another year passes and we continue, individually and corporately, in that age old attempt to walk gently over the earth seeking that of God in every person – no small task with feet of clay.
The Adelphi community sees Meeting for Worship as a source of sustenance, a safe place for seeking. One member says he comes to Meeting for Worship with a feeling of excitement and anticipation. Another says Meeting for Worship reminds her of what speaks to others and encourages her to better aspire to answer that of God in others. Gratitude for community is often expressed. There is often a richness of worship with deep and challenging messages. Worshipers feel that on occasion, however, some messages seem didactic, prepared in advance, or superficial and not deeply seasoned. There is a great variety in Meetings – some entirely quiet; others with many messages. The free and open sharing of Joys and Concerns in the final part of our Meeting for Worship deepens our connections to each other.
We continue to value our institution of weekly potlucks after Meeting for Worship – an opportunity for all ages to gather - and there are always willing volunteers for cleanup. The Adelphi community is enriched by the continuing addition of families with children. There is a strong and well-supported First Day School program and, increasingly, some people without young children take roles in First Day School. There is nonetheless a sense that we can work harder to support families with children. Parents often miss adult activities because they are involved in Religious Education or other children’s activities. Our provision of child care has become catch-as-catch-can and we need to create options for both the younger and older children during second hours and other events.
The Adelphi community is important to our young people and adults cherish their presence. Some of our elementary school-aged Friends have not yet learned to appreciate the quiet of Meeting for Worship, but they like seeing their friends, playing outside and decorating the Christmas tree together. They are especially fond of Adelphi's annual Strawberry Festival. While they are not aware of Meeting's direct influence on their lives, they also say they do not bully people and they do not like to see bullying. The middle school-aged JYFs, on the other hand, are grateful for the peaceful quiet of Meeting for Worship. They find that that this peace manifests itself when they bring calm to their relationships outside of Meeting. They treasure the friendships forged at Meeting, JYF Conferences, and camp and appreciate the many different personalities they encounter. For high school-aged Young Friends their weekly gatherings offer a rare opportunity for deep discussions that they miss in the rest of their busy lives. Young Friends appreciate what one called the purposeful, “loud silence” of Meeting for Worship and value the way they feel encouraged in open spiritual exploration. They feel close to Adelphi's adults and would enjoy playing a wider role through service on committees.
Some at Adelphi express a sense that Meeting is a comfortable place, that is safe for newcomers. However, there is also a feeling that we can do more to welcome visitors and newcomers, perhaps by re-instituting newcomer breakfasts or offering more organized welcome sessions. Newcomers and long-time attenders alike would appreciate more guidance about opportunities to serve, share Truth and Quaker values.
We regularly have new attenders whose first exposure to Quaker worship came through their children’s participation at Friends Community School. Several members of Meeting continue to have a close relationship with the school serving on the board, on Quaker Life committee and in other ways. The Meeting and the school have shared space for several events during the year. Our Quakerism 101 for newcomers was also attended by several FCS parents.
For many members and attenders the Meeting community is a central part of our lives that we miss when we are away. We appreciate the work of the Pastoral Care committee, which quietly goes about its work of tending for us: organizing meals when needed, populating many clearness and support committees, dealing with the thorny issues that arise within a community. We have celebrated several marriages and memorial meetings for worship this year. We rejoice that same gender weddings, long recognized by Adelphi, are now recognized by the state and federal governments as well. We also value the support we derive through participation in small groups: our Spiritual Exploration program, men's and women’s groups, the BYM camping program, a support meeting for those working in the public schools, and book groups such as the current group reading The New Jim Crow. Meeting does well supporting members and attenders with an idea needing seasoning, a leading, a concern, or a need for help. This service deepens our corporate life and we encourage people to express these needs. It is often said that we deal with conflict poorly and we know that sometimes we hurt one another. Like many Meetings, we strive to find ways to better resolve our conflicts.
The Adelphi community speaks through us in our lives outside Meeting. One Friend reports, “I am constantly challenged to relate to my co-workers with the just and affirming principles that I practice at Adelphi.” The inclusive nature of Meeting continues to express our values. This led us to visit and support West Richmond Friends as they stood witness to the integrity of their welcoming community. Announcements after Meeting for Worship are seen as offering windows to social action. An inclination towards corporate service is developing gradually, especially through First Day School activities and grants offered to our young people in support of service projects.
Many hard working members and attenders come forward to do the work of the Meeting, the Yearly Meeting and the wider world of Friends. However, there are many dozens of committee slots at Adelphi; it is sometimes a struggle to find people willing and able to fill them all.
We continued to labor throughout the year gathering ideas on renovation of our facilities through second hours, surveys, pot lucks and charettes. A team of faithful and diligent members and attenders continues to lead us through long term planning for our facilities. We have sought to hear as many ideas as possible, and we have labored together in the process tenderly (and, some would say, lengthily). We trust the Light will guide us in the difficult task of discerning what best furthers Adelphi's mission as a Quaker community.
So, we move on together in community, treasuring our strengths and conscious of our shortcomings – creating an (imperfect) place of safety and succor that is central to our lives.
Adelphi Friends Meeting continues to be a vibrant community, with 80-100 adults and 20-30 children and Young Friends attending worship on a typical First Day morning, and 30-40 participants at Meetings for Worship for the Conduct of Business.
There is a thick web of friendships among members and attenders, springing from: individual interactions; committee work; clearness and support committees; regular gatherings such as the women’s, men’s, and Spiritual Exploration groups; and the fellowship of adults and children after Meeting for Worship, including on the playground.
We value and care for members and attenders; this is especially felt during the sharing of joys and concerns. The Pastoral Care Committee’s on-going ministry is manifest through their public and private efforts to ease our hardships.
Our program of after-Meeting snacks was elevated to a weekly practice of post-Meeting potlucks. It has become a joyous opportunity to engage and become better acquainted with each other. As hoped, it has also increased participation in Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Business and our thoroughly scheduled program of second hours.
Young Friends feel welcomed in the larger Meeting community while they feel most completely at home in their Young Friends Meetings. They value Meeting for Worship as a respite from the busy week, as time spent in communion with the larger Meeting, and as an opportunity to reflect. Young Friends feel supported in their spiritual exploration and service, and see the Meeting as a community that accepts and values a great diversity of beliefs, from non-theist to more traditionally Christian. Young Friends bring their sense of Quakerism to the rest of their lives, where they are active in the wider Quaker community and in social activism.
The Meeting’s younger children value the singing before worship, the twenty minutes they attend Meeting for Worship, their First Day school classes, and potluck and free time after rise of Meeting. Many of the children like the quiet of worship and appreciate vocal ministry, which gives them something to think about.
Still, we recognize clusters of members and attenders who have difficulty finding opportunities to become acquainted and develop deeper relationships which bridge divides such as age, family status, or length of time as a Quaker. This need for sharing our lives more widely revived a desire for Friendly Eights gatherings and other forms of small group interactions.
We again offered our “Introduction to the Religious Society of Friends” at Friends Community School (FCS). The class was attended by newcomers to Meeting as well as non-Quaker parents of students at FCS, some of whom have joined our Meeting. Our interactions with the school continue to expand. Students and families from FCS came to help this year with our popular and labor intensive Strawberry Festival. The Quaker Life Committee of the school hosted a morning event at Adelphi for teachers and administrators during the school’s orientation week. This included a breakfast, a Meeting for Worship, and a talk on conflict resolution. During the year students from several grades came to our Meeting House for their Wednesday Meeting for Worship. And our Meeting and the school are working on initiating a program of “Quakers in Residence” – individuals from our Meeting who will be available as resources on things Quaker.
We have improved our ability to talk about finances. The Finance Committee undertook an effective educational and encouragement campaign which resulted this year in our reaching the goal set in an optimistically expanded budget.
Our Meeting continued with a major effort to decide how to improve our facilities. This year we had two meeting-wide “charrettes” (design sessions) with an architectural firm, resulting in four options of varying cost. These were presented at our Meeting for Business in December and are presently displayed for all to study. We appointed a Capital Campaign Committee and expect that group to begin functioning very soon.
Several times this year the concern has been raised that members and attenders with Christ-centered messages feel compelled to self-censor their words. There is a strong but subtle feeling that such language and messages may not be acceptable to all participants in worship. We reaffirm our commitment to embracing the diversity of spiritual voices among us. This concern raises the awareness that the Meeting must be wary of a false “we,” an implied but unexamined assumption of unity in our spiritual and other beliefs.
Another concern about vocal ministry is periods when we fall into the practice of reporting on our lives rather than speaking messages acquired during deep and present listening. We are rescued by days of covered worship which, more than anything else we do, provide the nurture we seek.
We recognize a continuing need to address conflicts within our community. For yet another year we managed to avoid addressing tensions within the Meeting concerning our relationship with Friends Community School. Communication among ourselves has been reduced by laying down our newsletter. We began addressing the issue of internal and external communications in an ad hoc Communications Policy sub-committee of the Ministry and Worship Committee. This work is ongoing and has proved to be complex and difficult.
We expanded our outreach to Quaker and non-Quaker communities by carefully considering and issuing several public missives. These include a letter to Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) expressing our dismay with the Friends United Meeting policy requiring abstinence outside of heterosexual marriage, and an epistle to all US and Canadian Meetings and Friends Churches witnessing to our loving inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Friends and seekers. Prior to the Maryland referendum, we mailed a letter to Prince Georges County churches in support of marriage equality. In January, after voters endorsed marriage equality, we joyfully celebrated the remarriage of a couple who had been married under the care of the Meeting seven years earlier – the first Quaker marriage license issued for a same-sex couple in the state. Also in January, we approved a minute affirming our loving care for transgender persons and their families and friends.
We are honored by the large number of members and attenders who are involved in the wider world of Quaker activities, such as BYM service, Triennial Meeting, teaching overseas, and intervisitation. We also treasure our involvement with St. Camillus food pantry, which includes contributions of labor, food and funds. In addition, the Meeting began to more intentionally support members and attenders who are involved with public schools. Many members and attenders have expressed their gratitude for the support the Meeting gives to their ministry.
Our Meeting is growing, is very energetic, and – at times – a bit chaotic. But our spirit is strong and we continue to work on deepening our roots in love, care, and the Spirit that covers us all.
Adephi Friends Meeting, 2011
Adelphi Friends Meeting is a large Monthly Meeting with a vibrant youth presence. We value our place within the broader community of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Our community enriches the spiritual life of members and attenders, and sustains them as they take Quaker values into the wider world. In many ways 2011 was a “preparative” year in which we incubated initiatives that will reach fruition in 2012 and beyond.
Spirit and the Light manifest strongly during Meeting for Worship. Often the silence is covered and palpable. This is dearly held and carefully tended. Messages are generally appropriate in length and tone, frequently stimulate contemplation and growth, and serve as guidance and inspiration. Individuals readily share their joys and concerns and find deep support and connection by doing so. We continue to have a small but dedicated and appreciative group of before-Meeting hymn singers with a wonderfully talented Friend playing the piano for us.
Adelphi has an active religious education program, with approximately 60 participants on an average First Day. Both children and Young Friends are central to the life of our Meeting. Adults and young people alike appreciate the quality of the intergenerational relationships, which “weave the social fabric” of Adelphi’s community life.
Young Friends affirm Adelphi as a place where they can talk about the things that are important to them: things that they can’t always talk about in the outside world. Here they experience appreciation and respect, from both adults and peers, as they engage in the personal and social challenges they face. They would like to support deeper relationships with both older and younger Adelphi Friends by expanding intergenerational activities such as common meals, educational programs and opportunities to sing.
The many Friends at Adelphi engaged in the life of the Meeting create an enlightened and strongly bound community. We accept and fulfill responsibilities to the Society and our charges to ourselves, and we care for each other. Our committees work with integrity, sincerity, intelligence and energy, and the willingness of individuals to accept tasks and effectively discharge their duties is as much a source of spiritual enrichment as is silent worship. We are also aware that our Nominating Committee struggles to find people to serve on committees and that several are understaffed to meet the needs and desires of our active and growing community.
Small gatherings in support of one another’s spiritual journey are highly valued. They build a sense of connection, allow us to go deeper and share our spiritual lives and challenges very personally. These include Preparation for Meeting for Worship, where an individual Friend shares his or her spiritual journey in a worship-sharing format before Meeting for Worship; clearness committees; Singing Quaker Women and Other Faithful Friends; and the Spiritual Exploration Program, especially its small groups.
Judging by attendance and participation, Second Hours are an important and valued activity. Topics range from adult religious education to discernment about the future of our facilities. There is such a demand for these times that we have had to add second hours even on pot-luck Sundays, and we occasionally use a “Zero Hour” session before Meeting (8:30 – 9:30 a.m.).
Snacks after meeting continue to be well-appreciated by both younger and older Friends. Sharing food has deepened our sense of community as many more attenders now linger after meeting for the fellowship, and has significantly increased attendance at Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Business and Second Hours. Our Hospitality Committee has taken on this task and notes that the job of providing snacks has both supported our community life, and has strained our resources.
We celebrated three weddings this year. The families noted both the joy and the support they experienced in sharing these significant milestones.
The biggest decision-making process in our community life has been over the future of our facilities, now over 50 years old. Our House and Grounds Committee has engaged in several highly welcomed improvement projects as our Ad Hoc Facilities Working Group has deliberated on the location, needs and design of our future physical structure. The many and highly charged decisions involving money, aesthetics, access, growth and location that this committee is engaging in have provided ample opportunities to develop and exercise our skills in Quaker process.
We continue to struggle with how we manage differences of opinion, how we elder each other, and how we attend to conflicts amongst us. We are both too often silent and too often unkind in our speaking. We have experienced conflicts between individuals and within committees. Within the community as a whole we face differences of opinion in clarifying the relationship we desire with Friends Community School, and over our plans to improve our facilities. Adelphi’s relationship (through BYM) with FUM has caused pain. Nonetheless we have committed ourselves to exploring and tending conflicts within Adelphi, and the Trustees have undertaken to develop a process for this. We began by planning a Second Hour on the historical roots of Quaker conflict resolution coupled with contemporary advice from our Yearly Meeting.
Budget deliberations affirm Adelphi’s clear commitment to substantial support both for Quaker organizations and community organizations in which Adelphi members or attenders are active. We are saddened, and Finance Committee is concerned, with the fact that our expenses exceeded our income for the second year in a row. One friend commented, “We should be more generous in our giving to the meeting so we can see what we would be led to endeavor if we had more resources.”
Adelphi is enriched by its relationship with Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Many Friends participate actively in Yearly Meeting Committees and are nourished by their engagement in Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions. Adelphi Young Friends continue to be well represented in the leadership of the BYM Young Friends program and attend their weekend conferences in large numbers. We were glad to welcome nearly 100 young Friends at a BYM Young Friends conference hosted by Adelphi in 2011.
Young Friends note that witnessing and developing skills in Quaker process is important to them. They consciously brought “stealth Quakerism,” a value of listening deeply and respectfully, to their participation in the Occupy DC movement and other meetings and activities in their schools and communities. A group of teens and adults went on a service trip to Tijuana, Mexico for the second year in a row, and explored the issues of immigration, racism and the politics of poverty. The Junior Young Friends spoke to the depth of their identity as Quakers being enriched by the field trips they took to other religious groups.
Many Adelphi Friends have well-considered leadings and have addressed them with effective social and political actions, which also implement Friends’ testimonies. Through much of the year a group labored diligently and thoughtfully to craft a response to FUM’s hiring policy for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered people on their staff. The group drafted a deeply felt epistle that was shared and shaped in Monthly Meeting. The finished epistle will state our discernment on this issue and will be sent out widely amongst Friends.
Our Meeting is busy, active and thriving. While we have our struggles, we share a strong commitment to seeking the Light and our path forward.