Annapolis 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.
|2008 Report||2009 Report||2010 Report||2011 Report||2012 Report|
|2013 Report||2014 Report||2015 Report||2016 Report||2017 Report|
|2018 Report||2019 Report|
On February 16 2020, Annapolis Friends Meeting held a worship sharing on the Spiritual State of the Meeting for 2019. Annapolis Friends expressed a deep appreciation for the way Spirit moves amongst us in vocal ministry. One Friend described worship as the silence of a still, fog covered lake in the early morning. Sometimes something raises its head above the water, breaking the stillness, and that is vocal ministry. It gives us a new focus, bringing us to places we didn't expect to go. Another Friend spoke of the surprising cascade of insights that can be triggered by a message when “something just clicks”: we share our Light and it can ignite other people's Light as well. “We share out of our love of those in Meeting.” And a Friend added that perhaps it has to do with “paying attention to the Holy Spirit, acting on its prompting.” Another Friend explained that she has “shifted to receive mode” because “what other people share is very significant to me”.
The queries about fears resonated with Friends in several different ways. Just as “we are afraid of the flame because it burns, fear is not always negative”. It can illuminate our challenges. A visiting Friend said that, both in public and in Meeting, there may be a fear of “claiming our spiritual practice”, instead of being proud to say “I am a Quaker”. Another Friend felt that a real challenge for vocal ministry is the fear of not being politically correct and finding the courage to go ahead and speak our truth as it is revealed to us. “The truth that comes out in vocal ministry is what guides us forward.”
Several Friends found the concept of “concerns” more appropriate than the concept of “fears”. One Friend is concerned that what holds her back is the “how”: how do you look for something, especially if you don't know what it looks like? How do you find purpose? The “how” is a moving target that keeps you constantly searching. Another Friend is concerned about the growing gap between generations. The older generation listens but doesn't understand; we need to expand our minds to be able to understand what the younger generation is saying. There is also concern around the temptation to grasp codes of conduct that create uniformity. A Friend described a commercial where a piano had been altered so that every key produced the same note. Even when played by a virtuoso, a Beethoven sonata was all one tone. Harmony and unison are two different sounds and we need different and unique tones to create harmony.
Perhaps AFM has fallen into unison in some respects and we should consider how to create more harmony. One Friend, from a conservative Quaker background, said that although he is comfortable worshiping here, he has trouble fitting into this activist community and doesn't feel needed. Another Friend spoke for many when he responded “we need you, Friend”. How can we, as a community, grow into more harmony?
Love is the opposite of fear and, as one Friend said, if we love ourselves enough, we will honor our gifts and the gifts of others. Love is about sharing communication and action. She suggested that, if we change the query to “Which loves and passions drive us?”, it will look very different and inspire us to come from a much better place than fear. Deep leadings often come from love and passion. Another Friend asked “How can I discern leadings and summon the courage to act on them?” She described two steps: first, waiting in silence, trying to develop the discipline to hear and, then, working in community. We can listen to each other, reflect on what we're learning in life and share it with others. The loving connection between us is a very important practical way for us to move forward in our leadings.
We have much to reflect upon as we grow as a community in the coming year. As a Friend put it: “the thing that has made the Religious Society of Friends so special to me over all the years is the ongoing revelation that goes out through vocal ministry and all the other things that we do, and that guides us forward in a world that's difficult.”
The Annapolis Friends Meeting modified our Spiritual State of the Meeting (SSoM) process for 2019. Based on heartfelt expressions, the Meeting held two worship sharing sessions during the Worship hour on two different days using the unaltered Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) queries. Additionally, the First Day School students and the various committees were encouraged to conduct their own listening sessions to assess the spiritual state of their group. The following is an assimilation of the expressions received.
For the worship sharing SSoM listening sessions, the Ministry and Worship clerk introduced the queries and paper copies were available at both sessions:
- With fierce winds of political discord and violent expressions of hate swirling in the world around us, what does your community do to strengthen our attention to the Spirit in Meeting for Worship?
- What do you do to strengthen the Quaker “roots” of your community?
- There seem to be dueling forces among Friends. We recognize we can be a shining light and healing presence in troubled times, while on the other hand, we value our individual Meeting Community so much we can be unwelcoming to change or discordant voices. What is your meeting’s experience of this? Do you sense a tendency to avoid tension by not discussing differing points of view?
- Is your Meeting a diverse community: racially, philosophically/politically, theologically? How is that expressed? In what ways?
For the First Day School students, the teachers introduced the concept and process. They encouraged a period of silence and expressions of how the students felt about their spiritual experience at First Day School.
For the committees, there were two queries for them to consider:
- In what ways does your committee strengthen your ability to complete its job?;
- How does your committee recognize the Light within as you do your work?
The overall sentiment from the two AFM SSoM was that our community is a safe, harmonious place that encourages us to grow and to be effective among other people as we practice our ideology in the larger community. The various activities that AFM is involved in speak volumes about who we are and how we reach out
to more diverse people. We support the greater community, study other religions, support the Lighthouse, schools, bring food to people, participate in silent retreats, maintain small group connections and then get back to silent worship. The community is very engaged to address the economic problems in the area. There are many opportunities at AFM to plumb the depths of our souls. There are Meetings for Learning on Quakerism. One suggestion was observed at another
Meeting where the clerk got up at the start of Meeting for Worship and read the queries of the month from Faith and Practice (F&P). This Friend said about the F&P queries that she “always found (them) to be a nice nudge to remind me to think about Quakerism. We might consider one time per month reading a query or something of that nature.”
Diversity in our community is limited and is a real concern that was exacerbated by the query. AFM is a welcoming community and encourages others to come sit with us, especially those we speak to in the larger community. There are few African Americans that attend, but Friends are involved in outreach activities that interface with persons different from the majority at AFM. A Friend encouraged us to not be worried about who comes or who does not come, but that we need to continue to be welcoming as we already are whenever they do come.
Another expression about diversity: “I agree that we are welcoming to anyone of any racial or ethnic background that is drawn to us or curious about us and I think that is what we should be. We should be welcoming and respectful. It has crossed my mind that if I had a different skin color, people might be more excited about me being here and that annoys me.”
AFM is seen as a place where Spirit communes with the people. “I come to fill my spirit, to ease my longing, to find the space to breath and to see.” “My spirit is nourished in many, many ways.” “I am a non-theist and at the same time this is my spiritual home. That may sound like a contradiction, but I believe and am aware that your spirit-self can be without the necessity of acknowledging a deity in order that you be spiritual.” “This meeting is a healing presence and light in the world.”
If once they come … “We are constantly strengthening our attention to spirit. When we are in a committee meeting, we start in silence and ask for guidance. In workshops, we ask for God’s goodness and guidance. We have rich spiritual meetings where people are giving their all whether it is internally or they are speaking a message. If you come, you get to know our loving community.”
It was evident that there is extensive theological and philosophical diversity at AFM.
There were F/friends who did not like the political undertones to the queries. One Friend expressed a different sentiment about Quaker commitments and actions. “Of things people have mentioned this morning, I have a hard time coming to see what others see as the line between politics in a larger sense and what we do as a community. I simply cannot see the line there. For me it is like where the fresh water coming down the Susquehanna meets the salt water of the bay. You cannot cleanly draw a line there.” A Friend shared that at other Meetings, she was instructed not to talk about politics, but at AFM she did not feel that we had that prohibition.
The Young Friends Meeting from First Day School (ages 2-yrs to 13-yrs) were included and expressed the following: They wanted more snacks, more play, more outside time, more “spiritualness”, more yarn, lots of arts and crafts, and for the adults to do a play at the holiday time.
Although all committees were encouraged to conduct a brief Spiritual State of the Committee worship sharing session, two committees actually provided feedback.
AFM S&F Committee response to "State of" queries:
Starting each Stewardship and Finance (S&F) committee meeting with brief silent contemplation, we recall duties assigned to our committee by AFM guidelines which, in turn, mostly are based on BYM’s Faith and Practice; we also recognize duties that are “not our job” and, in turn, support other Committees or Friends, as needed.
Having a strong ability to complete our Committee’s job comes from having capable Friends as our co-treasurers and committee members, as well as striving to focus the Light within us on service to our community.
When our S&F committee must exercise its discretion, we seek to recognize the Light and leadings of other Friends, to recall our Meeting’s values & goals, and to use good stewardship to marshal our available resources as best possible to pursue these goals.
Quaker Market Committee
We start our efforts in the usual Quaker way of a moment of quiet reflection on the One Who Is. Then we work united towards our goal of collecting items to sell and distribute the proceeds to help others. We do with joyful intention that we are called by God to do Quaker Market.
We experience our work on Market Committee as an outgrowth of spiritual leadings—careful discernment (held in expectant waiting for Way to Open) of the causes, expression of testimonies of simplicity (letting go of things), community (connecting with Annapolis Friends and our surrounding community in new ways), equality (individual shoppers determine a fair price from their own perspectives), and stewardship (putting used items to good use, recycling, avoiding waste and overconsumption).
Quaker Market is such a joyful experience! Simplifying my own possessions, helping others to find something they may use, giving leftovers to many wonderful causes is only one part of the experience. The community, both our own and the outreach to the wider community, is so much a fabric of Quaker Market. The extended community looks forward to this experience almost as much as we do! It speaks volumes that so many return to visit with us, contribute to our many causes, eat with us, and say how glad they are to see us!
In summary, the Spiritual Sate of the Meeting at AFM was evaluated and F/friends provided valuable input to the SSoM.
- AFM is a welcoming and loving community that is an active participant in the greater Annapolis community working with persons of diverse backgrounds on issues important to Quakers, including prison reform (Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform – MAJR), climate (Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis – CSGA), misuse of solitary confinement (Interfaith Action on Human Rights - IAHR), safeguarding the watersheds, winter relief for the homeless, immigration (Greater Annapolis Interfaith Network – GAIN), Quaker Market where people outside of AFM are served, homelessness prevention (Annapolis Lighthouse), and other opportunities.
- Worship experiences and opportunities to develop a deeper spiritual connection abound at AFM including two worship meetings (early 8:00 am worship, in addition to the 11:00 am meeting, on 2nd, 4th and 5th First Days), a monthly Tuesday evening worship opportunity, a monthly Spiritual Seekers Fellowship, and a weekly meditation group.
- Children’s religious education and nursery care are provided each week, and adult “meetings for learning” are held on 2nd and 4th First Days.
- Each Meeting for Business and each committee meeting begins and ends with a moment of listening silence to better center and focus on how the Spirit will lead our work.
- Communication is enhanced at AFM through the monthly Newsletter and Website, as well as announcements after the 11:00 am Worship Meeting and the email “Announce List”. We are working on better ways to keep early meeting worshipers “in the loop”.
- For open discussion of issues that are concerns, AFM has an email “Discuss List”.
Suggestions for improving the Spiritual State of AFM were provided and will be considered as the Meeting continues to reach out to members, attenders and others, including but not limited to:
- Incorporating the query for the month at the beginning of the First Day Worship Meetings.
- Exploring diversity from all aspects, including going beyond racially, philosophically/politically, theologically to include age, cultural, marital status, gender identity and other potential diversity issues.
- Focusing on the values behind our queries and concerns: “letting the values take us forward”.
On February 18 2018, Annapolis Friends Meeting held a worship sharing on the Spiritual State of the Meeting for 2017. It was a heartfelt and moving occasion. Sixteen Friends spoke, and they all expressed appreciation either for the profound spiritual experience of Meeting for Worship or for our close, nurturing community. About one-half of the speakers also addressed various challenges which we need to face.
As Friends expressed it, “the greatest joy is to have a spiritual home that is a community, a place were you can recognize people on a deeper level”, a place of “deep friendships and relationships”. We are nurtured by coming together in worship, “sharing silence, being held in silence”, “silence that is communal, powerful, welcoming and warm”. Friends who attend the twice monthly Early Meeting for Worship also find it a great joy, with “something about it that is different from 11:00 am worship”.
Our Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business are also joyful: we “regard what is best for the Meeting,” “make sure we are first connected in our common Spirit,” and “when there is disagreement or different opinions or conflict, it is a great joy to see how it is all worked out”. AFM committees are “vibrant, active, and making good use of our space and resources”. Committees “get things done, both internally and externally”, reaching out into the wider community on divisive topics such as racism, mass incarceration and climate change. Friends also feel nurtured by their spiritual home here to follow individual leadings beyond AFM.
Of course, a great challenge we all face right now is the political, moral and spiritual climate in our country. Awareness of this concern underlay many comments and many of our thoughts. One Friend spoke up, saying that “our society is less than it could be” because “we are all pretentiously polite”. “It is mindboggling that we are not all outraged” at “repeated, routine lies”. “This is not what we teach our children.” We struggle with this challenge. In fact, we are not in unity to include this comment as part of the Spiritual State of the Meeting. The Friend who spoke was passionate, and several Friends agree that this comment speaks truth. Several other Friends feel that it does not belong in the Spiritual State of the Meeting.
During the past year, the Ministry and Worship Committee has become concerned that a few Friends expressed discomfort with Bible-based messages occasionally offered in worship. Although unusual in our Meeting, Bible-based messages are well within the broader Quaker tradition, as is an atmosphere of respectful acceptance of a message even if an individual feels it does not speak to them. We have begun another “Quakerism 101” series in an effort to open dialog about Quaker diversity. A session on “Ministers and Ministry in Quaker History” was very well received.
Another major challenge we are facing is whether to proceed with a long-range goal of expanding the Meeting House. There is increasing feeling that we need more space, both physically and spiritually. We are full of Meeting and rental activities. Like the current multipurpose room, the proposed worship room would enrich our spiritual experience by “letting nature in”. It “makes a big difference” to have “a wonderful place to come”. One Friend said that, although there are many other causes that need financial support, she now supports the expansion as “more of an outreach and visualization to the wider community”. We need to make our presence known: “we have something quite special to offer, especially in this time of conflict”. We are working to find unity on a way forward to a Meeting House expansion.
This past year, AFM has been blessed with several new attenders who have already become valued members of our community. Two of them spoke in the worship sharing, expressing joy in the welcome they found here and joy in the manner of Quaker worship. Yet “we can find ways to be better” and do a better job of “making ourselves known to those who would like to join us”. “What the Quaker community does best in the world is to engage each individual to be who they are as an authentic human being, to be the best they can be”. “The world needs places where this is the goal” and we can do more to reach out.
We feel blessed to be part of Annapolis Friends Meeting and to work together to follow our leadings for the future.
Meeting for Worship is our spiritual center. Friends value the opportunity to settle into silence, to listen to Spirit, to pray, and to meditate. In silent worship, we grow as individuals and as a community.
One Friend said: “Meeting for Worship is the center from which all of our activities and activism comes. Worship gives us space to remember that we are not everything and beyond us is eternity and spirit. It is a challenge to live in that idea and at least for an hour we have an opportunity try”.
Activities and activism rise from the spiritual center of worship.
As one Friend put it, “having grounding in this spiritual home is necessary for me to do the work that I am called to do”.
We find great joy in working together in meetings-for-learning, clearness committees, small “friendship meetings”, and in groups for meditation and for poetry. “We are a gathering that seeks to know.” We “have the greatest conversations together”. Annapolis Friends Meeting is active in reaching beyond our meeting to work for the climate and our environment, for justice and for deconstructing racism. Friends appreciate the “spiritual hospitality” of the meeting, which allows us to confront both personal and social issues.
Another Friend said: “When I came through the door 2 ½ years ago, I came looking for friends and I have found them. There are so many mentors here, in so many fields. Talking with them helps to show me the way.”
We face several challenges as a Meeting. How can we “take on the work of the Meeting without it becoming just another thing on the ‘to do’ list?” Are we involved in so many things that our efforts may get diluted? How do we engage and support newcomers? How can we become more racially diverse? How can we remind ourselves that differences in vocal ministry reflect the different way that Spirit speaks to different individuals? How can we encourage more young adults and families to attend: where is the next generation? It has always been a joy to work with children at AFM and we are so proud of those who grew up in our Meeting. We have a wonderful First Day School program but now only a few children. We are laboring with these ongoing concerns.
We feel blessed to be part of a vibrant Meeting with a deep spiritual center. As we grow together reach out from that center, we face the fundamental challenge “There is so much noise in our society, how do we make the silence louder than the noise?”
At Annapolis Friends Meeting, we remind ourselves that we are "first and foremost a worshipping community," coming together to worship, and then to act, in the Spirit. We have felt Spirit move amongst us in many ways this year: in the deep rich silence of Meeting, in the growth of our children, in community-building activities, and in our work for justice, deconstructing racism, and for the environment. Finally, Annapolis Friends Meeting was very fortunate to have several newcomers become regular attenders this past year. We encouraged the newcomers to participate in the Spiritual State of the Meeting since we always learn much from their thoughts and this helps the Meeting to be more welcoming to newcomers and address their immediate concerns.
On February 14, 2016, the Annapolis Friends Meeting (AFM) joyfully discussed the following queries.
What unexpected blessings or challenges arose for you this year?
One Friend noted that his challenge would have to be the upsurge in racial confrontation and injustice between minority communities (mostly African American, but the problem extends well into other minority communities as well) and the police. It should be noted the AFM displayed a “Black Lives Matter” banner in front of the Meetinghouse and it was vandalized twice and replaced each time.
Two Friends mentioned that an unexpected joy was attending the Friendly Eights dinners. The Friendly Eights is a group of Friends who meet on a monthly basis at Friends’ homes to learn more about each other and build community among Friends.
Another Friend stated that an unexpected blessing is, as a retired person, having the opportunity for more involvement in Quaker Committees, and find that the more time he gives, the more they are experienced as a resource and a blessing
What are your greatest joys as a Meeting?
One Friend mentioned that she was celebrating 50 years with Annapolis Friends. She indicated that her joys continue to be worshiping God without a creed, yet finding a spiritual connection. Also she stated that AFM was a place where she has been able to grow and take leadership in a safe and loving place; she is grateful for the role that meeting has played in her life.
We believe that AFM is a very socially active meeting with numerous initiatives. These include our work for justice, deconstructing racism, and for the environment. In addition, AFM is still very involved with the Lighthouse Shelter in Annapolis. Several Friends commented on the joys of our work on social concerns. The following is a sample of these comments:
“Our spirit led activism in all our endeavors.” “I am impressed by the social and political activity of the community and also impressed by the range of leadings from a small group.” “Focus on service brings me back to the Meeting and the community.”
Another Friend indicated that the Wednesday evening Meditation Group is part of her spiritual growth and supports the spiritual work of the Meeting as well.
Finally, one Friend noted that she finds joy in making contact with the deepest part of people as they share in meeting and in other activities.
What leadings does your Meeting feel most strongly about?
As mentioned above, AFM is currently involved with several social concerns. These include the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR), the Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis (CSGA), the Greater Annapolis Interfaith Network (GAIN), Peace and Justice Center, and our work with racial concerns, which we call Deconstructing Racism. A small group of Friends continue to meet once a week for a meditation study group. Several Friends mentioned this is a very powerful and spiritual activity.
What challenges and troubles are you facing?
Currently, AFM is faced with several challenges. Presently, there are some Friends who do not receive e-mail announcements from the AFM Announce List, which has caused some frustration among some Friends. In spite of the effort of many Friends who are savvy with the Internet technologies, we are still experiencing difficulties sending the AFM Announce List to each address on the mailing list. We are continuing our efforts to reach all server addresses.
A second challenge is AFM’s Building for the Future initiative. The AFM Building for the Future initiative was addressed in last year’s Spiritual State of the Meeting Report. We continue to have meetings and discussions about our future needs for space to fulfill our spiritual growth.
A third challenge is to the preservation of silence for Meeting for Worship. Friends are arriving tardy to Meeting and/or are forgetting to silence our cell phones. The Ministry and Worship Committee will continue to stand by the door to monitor and usher late arrivals at 11:05 and 11:15. They will purchase a small stand that will include the message: “Please silence all electronic devices.”
Finally, we continue to experience Friends entering Meeting for Worship at various times after the 11:00 start of Meeting. Ministry and Worship Committee has agreed to explore the idea that once Silent Worship has begun, Friends may enter Meeting at 11:05 and 11:15.
In what ways is the Meeting less than you might wish it to be?
Only one Friend commented on this by stating:
“For me it is a long standing uneasiness with the largely white and older face of our Meeting. By no means do I say this is due to any unwelcoming aspects of our Meeting; on the contrary I truly believe we are welcoming in ways that are manifest and we can almost take for certain, and we hear this genuinely from many newcomers. Nevertheless, there is something about Quakers, and AFM in particular (mainly perceived from my perspective), that doesn’t seem to draw minorities.” It should be noted that this issue of having larger number of minorities attending AFM was an issue raised during last year’s Spiritual State of the Meeting Report.
How does your Meeting nurture the spiritual life of members and attenders?
A recent newcomer stated: A major blessing this past year has been the love and support she has felt, it feels very powerful, like having a warm blanket around her during her daughter’s illness. I am drawn by the lack of creed and dogma and I have found a spiritual home. Other Friends mentioned the social and political activity of the community. Another Friend mentioned he was impressed by range of leadings from a small group
Also, Friends agreed that the Pastoral Care Committee provides a great deal of support and caring to Friends in need of spiritual guidance or in times of sickness and bereavement. Also, AFM conducts a virtual Fifth Night Light Meeting for Worship that includes holding those who are sick or needing prayer support in God’s ealing Light.
Finally, in addition to the 11:00 Meeting for Worship, twice a month the Meeting has an early morning Meeting for Worship at 8:00 a.m. Several Friends find this is an important and rich, mostly silent, worship.
How well do you attend to the needs of newcomers?
As mentioned above, AFM is fortunate that we have had several newcomers who have become regular attenders at our Meeting for Worship. AFM strives to make all newcomers feel welcome. When an individual attends Meeting for Worship for the first time, a Greeter meets them at the front door and provides the newcomer with a one page fact sheet on Quakerism and silent worship. In addition, at the Rise of Meeting, a member of the Outreach Committee welcomes newcomers to have a cup of coffee so that any questions can be answered or concerns attended to.
During the Spiritual State of the Meeting discussion a newcomer remarked: “A Newcomer feels a welcoming and gentle acceptance, feels encouraged to be more open, creative and involved, and even challenged, when he has been considered more of an instigator in previous faith communities.”
Another newcomer stated: “As a newcomer coming from a faith-based tradition where I felt the worshipping was becoming rote, I was looking for a mindful approach. Sitting quietly in worship, and in meetings for learning.
Do Friends of all ages feel fully a part of the Meeting community?
Annapolis Friends Meeting considers Young Friends an essential part of the Meeting. Children are welcomed as full participants. They are loved, encouraged, and embraced. In addition to First Day School, young Friends join the Meeting for Worship at 11:45 so they have a chance to experience silent worship.
At Annapolis Friends Meeting, we remind ourselves that we are "first and foremost a worshipping community," coming together to worship, and then to act, in the Spirit. We have felt Spirit move amongst us in many ways this year: in the deep rich silence of Meeting, in the growth of our children, in community-building activities, and in our work for justice and for the environment. At this time, there are two areas in which we feel especially challenged. We are blessed by new attenders and we feel we could be more thoughtful in reaching out to make them feel comfortable and included. We are also facing a spiritual challenge in considering directions for our future (to build or not to build? to buy or not to buy?). As we work through all of the complex practical problems that this entails, it is easy to become divided or to become immobile. We are striving to seek Spirit within ourselves and within each other and to trust in the Light which we all share.
Are there opportunities to strengthen the Meeting to meet current challenges?
Annapolis Friends Meeting continues to be a very strong and vibrant spiritual community. Friends discussed two current opportunities that would help to meet AFM’s current challenges. Currently, AFM is discussing the Building for the Future initiative, which would enhance the Meetinghouse and provide opportunities for growth. . There are three proposals being discussed: the purchase of a property directly next to the Meetinghouse, the expansion of the current structure, or to keep the Meetinghouse in its current form. Friends are currently divided on these three options. The purchase of the adjacent property or the expansion of the current structure would involve a significant expenditure of funds. The concern expressed by some Friends is do we currently have sufficient financial resources or do we have the ability to generate additional funding. Other Friends believe the current Meetinghouse is sufficient to meet our needs. AFM has had several meetings and will continue to have meetings to discuss the Building of the Future initiative and hopefully achieve unity.
The second discussion on opportunities to strengthen the Meeting focused on the topic of speaking during Meeting for Worship. During our Meetings for Worship we have friends who are led by the Spirit to speak to Friends. There is a concern that some Friends may not be comfortable speaking, or are not sure if their message should be heard. Also, silent worship may be difficult for newcomers who come from different religious backgrounds and are not accustomed to silent worship. Friends were concerned that there was not an opportunity for some Friends to be heard. We always ask Friends to share information during our circle at the rise of Meeting, but this may not be sufficient. The AFM Ministry and Worship Committee plans to schedule a future Meeting for Learning on Vocal Ministry.
How does your Meeting live into right relationship, “a state of harmony and balance with ourselves and our families, our communities, our government, and the world that sustains us all?”
Many Friends - both Quakers and attenders - provided very positive and spiritual comments regarding this query. There was unity among those gathered that first and foremost Annapolis Friends Meeting is a worshipping and welcoming community. Several Friends commented that AFM welcomes everyone without judgment. One Friend mentioned the many spiritual opportunities for involvement in Annapolis Friends Meeting. Another Friend commented on the quality of the Meeting for Worship and the power of silent worship. Another Friend was impressed with the talents within the group and the commitment and energy of the Friends involved in the Meeting. Another Friend mentioned how the Meeting allows for growth within the self. Friends of Annapolis Friends Meeting make efforts to reach out to the Annapolis Community. Several years ago, AFM sponsored “Quaker Quest.” Friends agreed that we should continue to reach out to the community through the Greater Annapolis Interfaith Network and other community organizations. Also, we will continue our deep commitment to the Lighthouse Shelter. It was suggested that we explore other ways to reach out to the community about Quakers. Finally, a Friend mentioned the AFM Holiday Cookbook that was sold during our Holiday Market. People were impressed with the recipes, poems, writings and artwork.
The Ministry and Worship Committee approved the Guidelines for Embracing the Ministry of Friends and the funding request for the Guidelines.
The AFM Peace and Justice Center is a group of Friends working with other community members to bring change to the larger community. One offshoot, the Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis, works to educate themselves and the public on the causes of warming and its threat to all of us, encourage shared visions, and work for change. The other offshoot, the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform, has become a statewide coalition of groups working to bring greater justice to the criminal justice system. They succeeded in passing legislation during the 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly. This group grew out of a study group in the fall of 2013 on The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.
In addition to our First Day Meeting for Worship, a small group of Friends meet once a week for a meditation study group. Several Friends mentioned this is a very powerful and spiritual activity. In addition to our regular First Day Meeting for Worship, a small group of Friends conduct a monthly mid-week Meeting for Worship in Northern Anne Arundel County.
Friends encouraged other Friends to participate in the Silent Retreat held at Day Spring.
How do you prepare newcomers for full participation in the life of the Meeting?
Friends agreed that AFM does a very good job in preparing newcomers in welcoming to the Meeting and eventually participating in the life of AFM. Every newcomer is met by a member of both the Outreach and Ministry and Worship Committees. Newcomers are provided with written information, asked if they have any questions before entering Meeting for Worship and are encouraged to complete a name tag. At our closing circle we ask newcomers to identify themselves so that they can be welcomed by the Meeting. Also, a member of the Outreach Committee asks newcomers to sit for a cup of coffee or pot luck luncheon to determine if they would like additional information.
What do you do to actively encourage and support the ministry and community participation of Friends of all ages – from Young Adult Friends, to families and young children, to elderly Friends?
AFM is very proud of the nurturing environment provided to our Young Friends. We always have volunteers to provide meaningful lessons during First Day School. In addition, our Young Friends join us for the last fifteen minutes of Meeting for Worship so they can experience silent worship with their parents. Also, we have several parents that home school their children. These parents expressed their appreciation for the support AFM provides them in their home schooling efforts. Also, during closing circle, our Young Friends share their First Day School experiences with the Meeting when they are led.
Friends agreed that the Pastoral Care Committee provides a great deal of support and caring to Friends in need of spiritual guidance or in times of sickness and bereavement. Also, AFM conducts a virtual (via the Internet) meeting to worship for those who are sick or needing prayer support, which AFM calls “5th Night Light“
Annapolis Friends Meeting held a worship sharing on the second First Day of the Second Month, 2014 on queries suggested by Baltimore Yearly Meeting for our annual Spiritual State of the Meeting Report, and gathered other input within the meeting community in considering our past year.
SPIRIT IN MEETING:
How does the Spirit prosper among you? How is the presence of Spirit manifested in your lives individually and as a Meeting community? To what extent has your worship strengthened you in the healing process? How has such healing transformed you as a person and/or meeting? To what extent do you recognize worship as a pathway to transformation?
The Prospering of the Spirit:An attender asked: “The purpose of religion, according to Joseph Campbell, is to bring the individual into alignment with the eternal. Is that what happens here?”
Friends spoke of a positive, hopeful, and optimistic energy arising in the gathered meeting, which feels like a collective antidote in a dysfunctional world. We are filled with a future oriented spirit, which leads us to embrace and facilitate change. Friends responded to the concept of worship as a healing and transforming process. A Friend shared her spiritual mantra: “Transform me, so that I may transform the world.” It is a modern challenge for individuals and meetings to pursue a vibrant relationship with the spirit. External pressures make it more difficult for us to flourish spiritually: time is short, modern life is complex, and daily activities leave us with less time for the spiritual. We need to be mindful that the worshipful focus of the Friends community is not lost in the busyness of projects and activities, within and outside the meeting, which distract us from the spirit.
Friends asked for more opportunities for spiritual sharing of individual worship experiences, and how that which is eternal affects us as individuals and as a group. We all benefit from knowing other’s spiritual journeys.
The Quality of the Silence and of Vocal Ministry: We have made subtle changes to our worship practice which has encouraged the earlier settling of the meeting and a greater depth to the silence. Young friends now enter for the last 15 minutes of worship, when they experience and share deeply centered worship. Attenders find that vocal ministry that arises often speaks directly to the concerns they have carried with them to meeting and connects them to the community. Participants spoke of the depth of the silence in early worship group, which is small and intimate, and shared that vocal ministry, when it occurs, arises from a deep spiritual place and feels like the divine is speaking.
Opportunities for Worship: A range of worship opportunities are available under the guidance of individual leadings. Weekly sessions of Midweek Mindfulness provide spiritual nurture. A committed group meets bimonthly for early worship. The connectivity of the early worship group with the larger worship meeting may require more careful attention to maintain communications and a sense of inclusion. Silent retreats are offered for all three times a year.
How does your Meeting ensure that ministry is nurtured, and that members and attenders feel valued and cared for?
Response and Support for Personal Leadings: Personal leadings continued to enrich our meeting, and have been supported both spiritually and financially in the past year. Guidelines for the Support of Embraced Ministries under development by BYM provided an opportunity for AFM to develop parallel guidelines for locally embraced ministries. Funds were added to the 2014 AFM budget to provide financial support for leadings.
Nurturing Spiritual Growth: A Friend spoke of their gratitude to the deconstructing racism group for supporting her spiritual growth. She found that by confronting the question of how as a white woman, she was to bring “that of God” into conversations about racism, she was led by Friends to begin by speaking her truth and to live her life with integrity.
Holding in the Light: The Meeting has adopted a practice of asking for the names of individuals to be held “in the light” to be placed into our worshipful circle near the end of meeting. This has become a valued custom, as Friends welcome the opportunity to bring forth names for the circle to hold in the light.
Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business: We are grateful for skillful facilitation of Meetings for Business. We are learning to use our committee structure and time more effectively. Silence is a frequent and appreciated tool in the decision-making process, which allows the Divine voice to be heard. To our amazement, Meetings for Business are shorter, and some months, have been canceled because of the lack of urgent business.
SPIRIT WITHIN THE MEETING COMMUNITY:
What supports the life of the Spirit in your meeting community? What challenges and troubles are you facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than you would wish it to be?
How can you learn to accept seekers in your meeting with different concepts of God and find ways to help them on their spiritual journey?
Welcoming Newcomers: An individual who has come into our community within the last five years found the meeting a welcoming, embracing and comfortable place, reflecting Quakers sense of embracing not just humans, but all life on the planet, and the treatment of all living things with respect. Another attender pointed out many new people visiting and continuing to come to meeting, and she found Annapolis reached out as a welcoming and comfortable meeting.
A long-time attender (15 years) wondered about turnover in the meeting. She felt that only one-third of the individuals at the meeting were people who had been there when she first attended meeting, and asked us to consider where those people are now, and why they are no longer with us.
Diversity within the Community: An African-American Friend expressed that it is difficult for those who are of African descent in various meetings that he had attended, but he feels welcomed at AFM, which he was thankful for.
A Friend was moved to speak:
“This meeting has a great strength and a great weakness. It’s wrapped up in the word diversity. We have a great diversity in this meeting as . . . individuals and each one brings strengths. . . . But the weakness is we don’t have enough people of color. . . --—the majority of Quakers in the world are black Africans. We have trouble attracting people of color with children to this meeting. . . . . We ought to think about that... We thrive because of our differences. This meeting makes me thrive even though I’m a non-theist. . . . We need to find way to attract families of color. It will only make us more vibrant as a meeting.”
In response, another Friend spoke:
“To those who fret over lack of diversity of (the) meeting, clearly there is diversity in talent. As the Building Use Coordinator (BUC), I see how many people of color enjoy our space. We offer a welcoming spirit to those who visit and use our space and bask in what they describe as the warmth and spirituality of this place. There is more than brick and mortar here. It’s palpable to others who use our space for their special events. They come when you’re not here. .”
This issue is an ongoing concern, for discussion and further activity moving forward
Balancing the Work of Meeting within the Community: Distributing the work of the meeting so that individuals are invited and engaged in tasks suited to their time, life situation and skills, and feel valued for their contribution is a challenging task. Discussion continues on helping individuals to lay down work, to allow others to pick it up. Rotating committee memberships allow all to become aware of the range of functions which support vitality of the meeting, and expand our understanding of the whole.
Opportunities to Build Community and Interpersonal Relationships: The Meeting continues to offer a “bountiful buffet” of community based groups, including: a Spiritual Friendship group; a poetry and writing gathering; Quaker Dudes; outside speakers and workshops; a Deconstructing Racism group; the Alternative to Violence Program; involvement with the Peace and Justice center; Friendly Eights dinners; monthly potlucks; a couples group; a Buddy Program for support of individuals; community workdays and two annual fundraising markets.
New this year was a one-book project undertaken by BYM at the suggestion of an AFM member for reading “The New Jim Crow,” This allowed us to partner with St. Phillips Church, a historically African-American congregation, for a series of discussions,
Life of the Community: Friends spoke of specific ways that they had been loved, supported and cared for by the meeting community in past years and in the past year.
Attention to Young Friends: We continue to have a vibrant community of young families, and joyful appreciation was expressed for the able guidance of CREC, and the benefits the community reaps from the seeds we sow among young friends. Parents felt fortunate in finding a community of like-minded individuals, their growing understanding of how to educate children and bring them into alignment with the eternal, and with developing a child’s sense of whom god is and what he might be.
Gratitude was expressed for nursery and child care. Adding child care at meetings for business and committee first days was for parents with young children to increase their involvement.
Opportunities for Learning within the Meeting Community: A variety of learning opportunities support us in learning outside of silence, and then bring these lessons learned into the silence. Appreciation was expressed for members of meeting who worked to plan an innovative, collaborative and creative BYM women’s’ retreat when we gathered with a larger circle of Quaker women.
Environmental Harmony: After two year, our solar project is finally ready for installation in early 2014, and an Environmental Harmony webpage has been set up to record our progress as a sustainable community.
Communication: We are getting better with experience at using technology to enhance communication within the meeting community.
APPEARANCE AND ACTIONS OF THE SPIRIT IN THE WORLD:
How can you bring that of God of peace into political or other difficult conversations?
Carrying Spirit into the World: The vibrancy of the Peace and Justice Center indicates the health of the meeting in carrying difficult conversation and differing viewpoints into the larger world Originally conceived of as bricks and mortar, in a “virtual form” it has successfully brought forward skillful leadership and original projects on challenging topics
Our meeting adopted a climate change minute and a newly formed interfaith Climate Change group was initiated, looking into issues conversations and future initiatives to expand involvement. The BYM one-book project for reading “The New Jim Crow” lead AFM to a local initiative on mass incarceration, involving drafting and support for a task force to study the subject.
Prior work on water rights in the Middle East lead to a press conference at the National Press Club on the Geneva Accord.
The meeting is aware of the broader world of Quakerism and supports and contributes to a range of Quaker causes which carry difficult conversations into the world.
We are optimistic for the future of Quakerism and the unique perspectives we have to share with the larger world. We are inspired to know that God is at work in us and our community and it gives us hope for the future. Over time, a growing number of ideas have sprouted, grown and flourished under the care of the Meeting, which have found a footing in the larger world.
We are nurturing a healthy meeting community, so we can be effective in healing and transforming the world. Healing the World from a Healthy Community
We seek ways to encourage and support diversity; constructive interaction in our meeting; and our community.
Annapolis Friends Meeting held a worship sharing on the first First Day of the Second Month, 2013 on queries suggested by Baltimore Yearly Meeting for our annual Spiritual State of the Meeting Report, and gathered other input from within the meeting community about concerns which we find a useful tool in assessing our past year.
SPIRIT IN MEETING AND IN THE MEETING COMMUNITY:
How does the Spirit prosper among you? What supports the life of the Spirit in your meeting community? What challenges and troubles are you facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than you would wish it to be? How can you learn to accept seekers in your meeting with different concepts of God and find ways to help them on their spiritual journey? How does your Meeting ensure that ministry is nurtured, and that members and attenders feel valued and cared for?
The Prospering of the Spirit: In response to recent Meetings for Learning about the proposed revisions to Faith and Practice, Friends asked with an active voice: “How does the Spirit prosper among US?” We are responsible for prospering the spirit. The world is large; but spirit moves within the individual, and looks for local support.
The Quality of the Silence: Participants spoke about Meeting as a space for deep listening. The Spirit prospers among us when the mind is subdued, so the spirit and mind can rise up together.
Opportunities for Worship: The range of worship opportunities which have arisen continues to strengthen. The bimonthly early meeting for worship continues among a committed group and may further evolve as a weekly Meeting. Weekly sessions of Midweek Mindfulness have provided nurture as a spiritual discipline.
Response and Support for Personal Leadings: Past personal leadings continued, and others have found new leadings on their spiritual journey. Both were supported by the Meeting both spiritually and financially.
In order to appropriately “tend, cultivate and grow” personal leadings, Guidelines for Support of Individual Ministries are being developed, and a line item will be added to the budget for financial Ministry Support. We look for way to open toward assistance and support for others in their leadings.
A Friend expressed thanks for support with her long term personal leading, which she described as “a huge kindness” which had brought her peace and a feeling of being connected.
Nurturing Spiritual Growth: Attenders were grateful for their experiences of finding support and nurture within the community for their personal spiritual journeys and challenges. We remember that while everyone is seeking, the experience is unique for each of us.
A member said that within Meeting she found “no sense of competition”; there was no need to compare her to others. She could give back what she could, when she could; there was non-judgmental acceptance; gifts were respected; and needs were supported and honored.
Quakers may be seen as different, but as individuals we can walk together and support one another. Gratitude was expressed to the community for the generosity and acceptance we share as we struggle together to walk a spiritual path.
Holding in the Light: After exploring various approaches to holding individuals and concerns in the light during 2011, Meeting adopted a practice of asking for the names of individuals to be placed into our worshipful circle near the end of meeting. Attenders have welcomed the opportunity to bring forth names and hold individuals in the light, and have embraced opportunities to do so.
Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business: We are grateful for Meetings for Business which are skillfully facilitated by our clerk, and the progress we have made in divining what matters to bring to “Business Meeting” and those which will require more seasoning. We continue to learn how to use our committee structure more effectively. Silence is a frequent and appreciated tool in the decision-making process, which allows the Divine voice to be heard.
Welcoming Newcomers: We are pleased to see new faces and returning faces present on First Day. A guest said they felt comfortable saying “our Meeting.” A visitor said that at our meeting she felt welcomed by like minds, as well as for her differences, and embraced by the fact that all present were present for seeking, supporting each other in the silence, and to enlighten themselves.
Balancing the Work of Meeting within the Community: In dividing the requirements of the community, the hardest task is how the Meeting and committees can structure work so that each individual is invited and engaged in tasks suited to their time, life situation and skills. Friends are reminded of the significance small tasks can have, especially on a one to one level; they can mean a lot. Individuals expressed gratitude for specific kindnesses and support they were provided by the community through personal challenges.
A member indicated that as a recent retiree, she initially took on too much and burned out before learning her personal limits. Another attender indicated that when she first visited another meeting as a young mother, there were expectations that she would be involved in so many things, that she was put off. Friends are reminded that we are here to support retirees and young families, and to engage them in additional activities as they are led and able. We need to limit our expectations on young families to encourage continued attendance with their children.
Work often falls to the retirees of the meeting, which may be a natural reciprocal relation for past support from the meeting, but may become burdensome to other personal interests. A concern is helping people to let go or lay down work tasks, either necessary to self-assigned, to allow others to pick them up.
Opportunities to Build Community and Interpersonal Relationships: The Meeting continues to offer a “bountiful buffet” of community building groups from which to feast, which include: a Spiritual Friendship group; a Poetry gathering; Midweek Mindfulness; Quaker Dudes; opportunities to study together in Meeting for Learning; outside speakers and workshops; a Deconstructing Racism group; the Alternative to Violence Program; involvement with the Peace and Justice Center; Friendly Eights dinners; monthly potlucks; a couples group; and our two annual fundraising markets.
A member spoke of how touched she was by the intimate relationship she has developed in this community. Yet attenders still ask to “know each other better.” The challenge is finding the time to know each other well on a personal and a spiritual basis.
Attention to Young Friends: We have a vibrant community of young families, which enrich our community and challenge us to embody Quaker testimony and inspire a new generation. A dedicated committee supports our First Day School and intergenerational activities. Others willingly embrace the opportunity to work with our younger Friends as the future of Quakerism. A parent stated:
“. . . For children there is something very critical in finding a place where spirit is at the core. Children are in a different kind of pressure cooker right now. These are our children, and the meeting community is an extended spiritual family. We are sowing seeds which are being planted for a life joyfully lived . . . this in turn brings joy, bringing spirit into the world at large, and provides a counter point to the pain in the world . . . (and) a boundless resource for our children.
Life of the Community: Attenders found that meeting provided a source for personal thoughtfulness which was an antidote and alternative to the outside world.
Opportunities for Learning within the Meeting Community: A variety of learning opportunities allow us to support each other in learning outside of silence, and then bring these lessons into the silence. Opportunities to study together through meetings for learning were found to be valuable.
APPEARANCE AND ACTIONS OF THE SPIRIT IN THE LARGER WORLD:
How can you bring that of God of peace into political or other difficult conversations?
Visibility in the World: A member stated that when she first began attending meeting, she felt people in Quaker meeting were living their beliefs of peace, integrity, equality, simplicity. She was grateful that we are connected more than one hour a week through many activities.
Carrying Spirit into the World: If a core Quaker value is to help each individual find their personal ministry, people with spiritual journeys which are not the same as ours are out target group. How can we engage in other people’s lives and, when having difficult conversation, understand where they are “coming from.”
SUMMARY: We found two strong messages expressed within the Meeting on our Spiritual State:
The first: There is much kindness and generosity in this community.
Our 2011 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report called attention to the need to be tender with each other, and loving within our own faith community.
“Let love be the first motion, and let us be loving with each other in the small ways . . . this may become an extra challenge as our community grows, but something we can surely continue to grow in. We must treat each other tenderly.”
This year, a new member of our community recorded our worship and shared this insight:
“What stood out for me in all the comments (expressed at worship sharing) is the fact that people in Annapolis Meeting understand the meaning of being in a Quaker community and are deeply grateful for being part of it.”
In the past year we have grown as loving individuals and as a loving community, and we are grateful for the spiritual touchstone which Meeting provides.
The second message is one of optimism for the future of Quakerism. We are often inspired to know that God is at work in us and our community and it gives us hope for the future. A member spoke about how small ideas have sprouted, grown and flourished under the care of the Meeting over time, through the variety of meetings for business, learning, worship, committees and worship sharing.
We are “living our beliefs;” we are connected through many structures in addition to Meeting for worship, so we are together even when we are not here in the building. There is a larger sense of the world and our part in it. There is a universe of awareness which maintains a large view of the world and the possibility of long-term progress in God’s leadings based on patient and persistent action.
Through struggles, and differences of opinion, we see, hear and feel God’s love reflected.
Approved at Meeting for Business, first First Day, Fourth Month, 2012
Annapolis Friends Meeting held a worship sharing on the second First Day of the Second Month, 2012 on the queries provided by Baltimore Yearly Meeting for our annual Spiritual State of the Meeting Report, and gathered input from within the meeting community.
Spirit in Meetings for Worship: How does the Spirit prosper among you? How does your Meeting ensure that ministry is nurtured and that members and attenders feel valued and cared for?
The Prospering of the Spirit: Friends spoke of the ways that the process of discerning Spirit are supported at Meeting for Worship: by creating the space for Spirit-led listening to the messages of Friends, opening our hearts and minds to Spirit taking the time and slowing down to listen to Spirit and providing a supportive environment for centering prayer.
Individuals spoke about Meeting allowing the space to freely and fully explore personal spirituality, without doctrinal limits that defines how Spirit must be experienced. Seekers are encouraged to explore and discern how Spirit is moving in their lives.
The Meeting is seen as important both to spiritual growth and social action awareness; a place to grow and speak out in a safe environment, while building communication and leadership skills which allow individuals to express and live out the Spirit within.
The Quality of Silence: Participants spoke that Meeting offers a space for listening “inward first, then outward.”
Opportunities for Worship: New worship opportunities which have arisen within the meeting have continued and strengthened. An occasional early morning meeting for worship is developing in to a full meeting for worship among a committed group; the weekly session of Midweek Mindfulness has continued that provides spiritual nurture needed by some participants in our community.
Nurturing Spiritual Growth: Several attenders brought forth comments on their personal experiences.
Holding in the Light: Over the past year the meeting has been intentionally exploring methods and approaches to holding individuals and concerns in the light at meetings for worship and outside meetings for worship, including meetings for learning. Attenders indicate that they have welcomed the opportunity to hold individuals in the light, and those opportunities for holding in light by e-mail have been meaningful.
Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business: Meetings for business are skill fully facilitated by our clerk and we are progressing in what matters to bring to “Business Meeting” and those which will require more seasoning by individual committees. We are learning to use our committee structure more effectively. The use of silence as part of the decision- making process to hear the Divine voice, and the use of re-centering silence during the MFWAB were appreciated.
Challenges and Concerns: A Friend expressed concern that some people do not feel they can express their Christian faith because others would not be comfortable. Healing needs to take place for those who come from religious background where they felt battered, and attenders should be encouraged to speak their truth, from which we can all grow when we are free to understand and appreciate individually. Healing needs to be a priority so that those with traditional Christian faith can feel safe and able to express it.
Spirit in the Meeting Community: What supports the life of the Spirit in your meeting community? What challenges and troubles are you facing? What could the Meeting do to better serve your hopes and expectations?
Welcoming Newcomers: A new attender reported they received a friendly welcome, and are comfortably at home in the new experience of silent worship.
Balancing the Work of Meeting within the Community: As we stretch in our personal lives, the monthly meeting invites another stretch of involvement and attention. The task at hand is how committees can structure and divide the work so that each of us can be invited and engaged in tasks suited to our time and skills. One Friend indicated that serving on a clearness committee was a rewarding experience, and to see an emerging soul was inspiring. Another friend suggested the use of a mentoring system to strengthen and share knowledge within the Meeting Community: going out and listening, asking open questions, while leaving time to seek God’s presence when working in the world.
Opportunities to Build Community and Interpersonal Relationships: Friends found a “bountiful buffet of community building groups available: a Spiritual Friendship group; a Poetry gathering; Thursday meditation; committee structures; Quaker Dudes, opportunities to study together in Meeting for Learning, outside speakers, Deconstructing Racism, and Friendly Bible Study serve as spiritual spring from which we can live our Spirit in our daily lives. Other options include the Alternatives to Violence Program; and involvement with the Peace and Justice center. Our two annual markets continue to be a “loaves and fishes experiences” where bounty is unexpectedly found.
Response and Support for Personal Leadings: Personal leadings that arose over the past year were supported by the Meeting. Two minutes were moved forward over the past year based on personal leadings. An updated minute on the Peace Testimony is progressing, though difficult, endeavoring to be relevant and to be crafted to stand the test of time. On a second minute in support of the Occupy Movement, way was found to express approval and encouragement for individuals to be involved without determining corporate involvement. Comfortable agreement was found, in a timely fashion, with insight. A leading within the Quaker Dudes lead to a significant and successful youth summit on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
Attention to Young Friends: A dedicated committee has supported our First Day School and intergenerational activities, to our betterment. Others are encouraged to take on the challenge of our younger Friends as the future of Quakerism. It is important that the children of Meeting learn to let their lives speak--it is also important to us as a meeting that their lives speak to us-- here and now. One attender spoke of the spiritual challenge to be a Quakerly parent, and asked for the support of meeting and other parents in how to practice as a Quaker parent.
Life of the Community: Attenders also found that meeting provided a voice of reason, sensibility and understanding which was an antidote and alternative to the outside world.
Opportunities for Learning within the Meeting Community: A variety of Meeting- based groups already mentioned allow us to support each other in learning outside of silence, then bring these lessons into silence. Opportunities to study together and meetings for learning were found to be valuable.
Challenges: We need to be tender with each other, and loving, within our own faith community. Let love be the first motion, and let us be loving with each other in the small ways. Occasionally we get caught up in issues or meeting procedures and do not treat each other in a loving, respectful way. People who see us so loving externally would be surprised at how we act with each other. This may become an extra challenge as our community grows, but something we can surely continue to grow in. We must treat each other tenderly.
Appearance and Actions of the Spirit in the Larger Community: How is the presence of the Spirit manifested in your lives individually and as a meeting community?
Visibility in the World: We were reminded that many think of us as a dead group from history, yet we know that it is important for our growth to share Quakerism’s relevance in the current world. When people learn about the actions of the Spirit that Quakers share with the community, they are eager to know more about Quakerism.
It was expressed that part of our “invisibility” is the sense that speech can be a diminishing experience: “Live it, don’t speak it”. Friends tend to work quietly, not speaking of our faith but living it actively. It’s not easy to understand or to live, but we choose to work with intentional quietness in the world.
In many social justice issues, Quakers have been influential, but our work is little known. Quakers may seem invisible, but it is not because we are not actively working. Perhaps this is how Spirit works, without personal ego. Our work isn’t done under a “Quaker banner” but it is the work we do that makes us who we are.
How are people who are so quiet making such a great impression? Are invisibility and silence two sides of same coin? Quiet service to the community speaks loudly, but for the most part, anonymously.
Carrying Spirit into the World: Individuals spoke of carrying their experiences in Meeting with them to work on a daily basis and the challenges that carries.
Conclusions: Spirit in meeting manifests itself in three ways: As a mentor, offering learning and teaching opportunities; as a springboard, propelling us to carry out the work of social justice in the broader world; and as a well, providing a source of Light flowing like water, which we can return to, drink, refresh, and go forth again.
We are grateful for the well from which we spiritually drink.
Annapolis Friends Meeting held a worship sharing on the fourth First Day of the Second Month, 2011 on the queries provided by Baltimore Yearly Meeting for our annual report, and sought input from within our meeting community. Our report and selected thoughtful responses that arose in Worship Sharing follow:
Spirit in Meetings for Worship: How does the Spirit prosper among you? How does your Meeting ensure that ministry is nurtured and that members and attenders feel valued and cared for?
The Quality of Silence: Participants spoke that Meeting offers the “cultivation of silence” where people are respected and giving a message is in a safe place to share. A member spoke of the Meeting as a 20 year spiritual refuge, where when facing uncertainty, they were held gently by the Meeting and felt grounded and at home. Another said that the heart of our Meeting spiritually and communally is what happened to us individually in Meeting for Worship- our moments of clarity and hope. We need to extend that experience by supporting the development of relationships that support, strengthen and cultivate individual clarity and hopefulness.
“When I walk into Meeting something comes over me. . . (I am) thankful for the silence so our seed can be rustled and moved. It lifts my spirit seeing new people around the room and those returning being part of us”
“The river of spirituality runs deep, long and winding . . . I am grateful for the opportunity to worship this way, sitting in silence, awaiting Spirit. I am grateful for Friends here to share joys and struggles. It is truly invaluable.”
“I come to Meeting hoping to hear the still small voice of God, with others in a gathered Meeting. If we could keep our minds more on what meeting is about we would be more likely to hear such messages”
New Worship Opportunities Developing: Under individual leadings, new worship opportunities are arising for participants. An early morning meeting for worship has developed on some First Days; a weekly session of Midweek Mindfulness has also arisen that may provide the spiritual nurture needed by some participants in our community. How do we encourage personal leadings towards worship opportunities and integrate them into our meeting community will be our challenge in the year.
“We have two (or more: editor’s note) Meetings . . . there has been spontaneous growth of the 8 o’clock Meeting. It is challenging to engage the unique personality of this group in our meeting community . . .”
Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business: Meetings for business over the past year have been well facilitated by our clerks and we are learning better what matters to bring to “Business Meeting” and which require more seasoning by individual committees. We are also learning to use our committee structure more effectively. A difficult Meeting decision to rotate individuals through committees will hopefully generate more trust of committee recommendations.
“It is important to mention the health of Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business where practical comes into the spiritual. I believe the health (of our meeting) depends on our interest in learning, listening and loving each other and doing things in unity. It is a great experience to be in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business”
Spirit in the Meeting Community: What supports the life of the Spirit in your meeting community? What challenges and troubles are you facing? What could the Meeting do to better serve your hopes and expectations?
Participants spoke warmly about the ways the Monthly Meeting supported community, and offered ways in which we could constructively improve.
Welcoming Newcomers: A new attender reported they received a friendly welcome. Quaker Quest was helpful, as is the announce list and e-mails on upcoming events. Others suggest we provide listing of activities going on in the Meeting; have more orientations for new participants; and provide newsletter in the foyer for those not yet on our e-mail lists.
Balancing the Work of Meeting within the Community: We are all stretched in our personal lives – with no paid staff, the Monthly Meeting invites another stretch of involvement and attention. The task at hand is how committees can structure and divide the work so that each of us can be invited to take on tasks suited to our time and skills.
“We all need to help out- just a little here and a little there so we all contribute and no one is overwhelmed by their level of commitment to the workings of the Meeting.”
“The different strengths and the gifts people bring are many and wonderful…The challenge is that newer people don’t believe that can do what others do.”
New Opportunities to Build Community and Interpersonal Relationships: Suggestions were made to offer additional opportunities for people to interrelate as we build community, such as expanded Friendly 8’s and Spiritual Friendship groups. Committees should look for additional opportunities to reinforce and grow community spirit, which benefit the Meeting as a whole.
Response and Support for Personal Leadings:Previous personals leadings and those that arose over the past year were warmly supported by the Meeting. These include biblical study, midweek mindfulness, early morning meeting opportunities, deconstructing racism discussions, silent retreats, spiritual friendship, and other offerings that local participants have embraced at a personal level. Our investment in a Meeting House offers a location to pursue a personal leading, or a connected leading that may arise among participants. A Midweek Meeting for Healing was set aside, but may be regenerated in response to recent Meeting needs.
“I am grateful for Friends participation in our silent retreats at Dayspring. In these weekend retreats I experience worship and a sense of community which deepens my spiritual life and connection with meeting throughout the year.”
“The Friendly Bible Study Group is enriching and wonderful; where sharing is deep personal struggles have been expressed.”
Attention to our children: A dedicated committee has supported our First Day School and intergenerational activities, to our betterment. As some active participants leave this group, others are encouraged to take on the challenge of our younger Friends as the future of Quakerism. Leaving this in the hands of only our “current parents” deprives the parents of personal opportunities for worship and involvement, and the knowledge of our older participants.
“It is a distinct pleasure to work with Children’s Religious Ed. Comm. (CREC) it is an exceeding strong program formulated around dedicated people. We need to be mindful of what they do. The children are our /the future…When I see what vibrant committed, focused individuals our children have become, I know CREC has allowed them to become the adults they are. Thank you”
“I’ve had a long time leading to work with young people, recently in Children’s RE. It is a huge joy and I urge Friends to do so…As I look for God within, I find God in young Friends. My sense of AFM community is one of family…”
Actions of the Spirit in the Larger Community: How is the presence of the Spirit manifested in your lives individually and as a meeting community?
Appreciation was expressed for the personal actions of individuals within the community, as well as for the work individual groups, such as the Deconstructing Racism Group.
“…I am grateful you are working to make the world a better place and bring the Kingdom.…Thank you for the minute) on withholding taxes…I love you for all the good you are doing”
“I see molecules of God and Spirit bubbling up through those rivers in the work in the world of Friends…We could do better connecting with the wider community of Friends working to bring peace and justice to areas troubled and full of violence. The fullness of this sharing (today) indicates how we are growing and diversifying. We must also not forget that we are part of the bigger, universal community.”
Conclusion: We find that the following responses express the essence of the AFM community during our worship sharing on the Spiritual Sense of the Meeting.
“We are doing great. People can flow with the process: gifts are given as needed: creativity bubbles up: initiative is sought; the welcome mat is out. We can improve. We must allow Spirit to prosper among us in everything we do…”
“. . . We are engaged in the wider world and have gifts to offer: peace, justice, openness to differences in faith and value and the challenges of forming community.”
As Quakers, we find great joy in our basic belief that we all have direct access to the Divine. Silent worship is the heart of our meeting and we find strength in the richness of the silence: strength to be spirit and strength to be in the world. We cherish the Quaker tradition that marries spirit and action, as our spiritual roots grow into diverse activities and leadings.
Meeting offers a place where being an individual is deeply entwined with being truly a member of the community. Meeting calls forth our gifts and nourishes, seasons and confirms our leadings. We feel a sense of joy as Annapolis Friends following leadings toward peace and justice are beginning to have a positive impact on our community.
Of course, there are times when we encounter "rough spots", but it is precisely at these points where we are being called to grow into something deeper. We struggle to resolve conflicts and question whether we do this as well as we could. Currently, we face challenges in discerning Spirit’s guidance when Friends are drawn to very different visions of committee work. In embracing our leadings, we also learn when to lay them down. We are a healthy, growing community, but we must remember the wounded and the overwhelmed among us and ask Spirit for guidance in bringing health back to them. Is committee work overwhelming? In sharing our whole selves, do we sometimes inadvertently hurt others? We must remember to speak from that of God in us to find that of God in others and to allow Spirit to prosper among us. We must not forget the healing blessing of laughter.
We celebrate the growing numbers of young children in our community, and we are grateful for all that life has to offer. We are striving to learn, to be led, and to embrace joy.
Ministry and Worship Committee: The Ministry and Worship Committee is focused on the heart of our Meeting: our spiritual connection to the divine and to each other. From that center, we strive to nurture growth in worship, education and community. We are undertaking a long term project to document the practices and history of our Meeting and, this year, we clarified the meaning and process of membership. We have continued a varied program of adult education, with regular sessions on vocal ministry, eldering, and "Exploring Quakerism". In addition, we are encouraging opportunities for individuals to offer sessions from their leadings, such as sacred singing, which contribute to the richness of our Meeting. The Ministry and Worship Committee has been challenged this year by our calling to nurture the spiritual life and transformation of both individual Friends and the community as a whole. We sponsored a series of Circle dialogs, a modified form of community conferencing, to address an issue of conflict in the Meeting and we are striving to become more aware that seeking that point of synergy where the individual and the community flourish together in spirit is an ongoing challenge moving forward.
Pastoral Care Committee: In the past year, we sponsored several very healthy programs that support our community and the spiritual growth of individuals: a spiritual friendship group based on BYM’s spiritual formation program, Friendly 8’s dinner groups, and "Quaker Dudes". We experimented with, but suspended, a phone list to provide daily contact for isolated folks with health concerns. We oversaw the good order of the memorial service for Lloyd Jones. We sponsored weekly meetings for healing, and have conducted training sessions for the committee on clearness committees for grieving, based on the Stephens Ministry. We have done a good job as a committee facilitating the care of folks in need, and the announce list has enabled us to become one big Pastoral Care committee. Many people are very generous with their time in this Meeting, yet we need to do a better job of reaching out to folks we haven't seen in a while. Our committee function in and of itself seems healthy right now. We do a good job of being present with each other. We stay on task. We begin meetings in silent worship. We hold people in the Light and conduct mini healing circles at each meeting. A good job has been done not only by the committee but by the whole meeting in attending to the pastoral care of the community, and we consider ourselves to be the catalyst that sparks the whole meeting to help with Pastoral Care.
Stewardship and Finance Committee: The Stewardship and Finance Committee meets monthly to prayerfully consider Meeting’s immediate financial needs and long term well being, with Spirit’s guidance.
Peace and Social Concerns Committee: During 2009, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee was active, and the number of committee members increased. In the early months of the year, committee meetings attracted few Friends, typically 2 – 4 people. Nevertheless, the committee carried out its responsibility, for the Meeting, to investigate and recommend "Quaker Causes" for donations. In addition, the committee: (1) hosted a simple meal, donations from which went to the Right Sharing of World Resources; (2) approved donations from the Meeting’s Emergent Social concerns Fund to an organization providing solar-cooking stoves in Darfur, an organization providing textbooks to students in Central America, and to Friends House in Sandy Spring, Maryland; and (3) took on oversight responsibilities for the Meeting’s Peace and Justice Center. During the nominating process in the latter part of the year, many Friends discerned a leading to join P&SCC, and the membership increased threefold. Peace and Justice Center: For many years, Annapolis Friends dreamed of creating a "peace and justice center" within the Meeting. In 2008, way opened to realize this dream and, during 2009, the center created an "AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project) in Annapolis Initiative. Through this initiative, in 2009, Annapolis Friends: (1) formed violence-prevention partnerships with six local faith communities, public agencies and private non-profit organizations; (2) provided AVP Basic training to 25 members of the greater Annapolis community; and (3) set the stage for a rapid expansion of AVP offerings in Annapolis in 2010. Annapolis Friends also continued their longstanding work with Annapolis Area Ministries and support of the Lighthouse Shelter for the homeless.
Children’s Religious Education Committee: Our committee works to provide a program that educates our children about Quakerism, Christianity and other religions, deepens the connections between our children and the rest of the Annapolis Friends Meeting community, and provides service opportunities for our children and the whole community. Many within our community volunteer regularly to teach First Day School or provide nursery care, benefiting both the children and the volunteers. In 2008/2009, our FDS program focused on the Bible. This year, our program has focused on historical Quakerism. We have continued our partnership with an inner-city elementary school in Philadelphia, now working with the entire 4th grade, sending needed school supplies, enrichment materials, and hats, scarves, mittens/gloves, and expanding our pen pal program. Our annual spring classroom visit was fun and educational as we enjoyed brain gym activities together, shared a potluck lunch and spent time with our pen pals. Two additional events facilitated by CREC were the annual child welcoming in the fall, where we welcomed four new children into the community, and the Young Friends’ Christmas program, written by the YFs and including participants ranging in age from nursery to grandparent.
Meetinghouse and Land Committee: The Meetinghouse and Land Committee and its two subcommittees (Building Use coordinator and Hospitality) maintain the functionality and appearance of Annapolis Friends Meeting’s physical property through the efforts of its individual members and by contracting for professional services. The concerns of the Meeting are integrated into the deliberations of the committee, always with spiritual mindfulness toward fiscal matters and conservation of nature.
Outreach Committee: The Outreach Committee had a very good year in 2009. We added a few new "inreach" activities to our work, and we continued with ongoing projects and responsibilities of the committee. Thanks to each member’s willingness to manage at least one activity, we continued a steady commitment to AFM outreach into the community with our cleverly designed Quaker tee shirts, as well as kept our member/attender "picture board", AFM directory and two e-mail lists up to date, and kept our Newcomer Information supplies available. We continued to help as "greeters" at the Meetingroom door on First Days. Our new focus was including some new opportunities for increasing connectedness with new attenders. We continued with Newcomers’ Month by supplying sandwich-makings for potlucks each First Day in March, in addition to our usual potluck following Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. Many of our new attenders, and others, came to a worship sharing which was especially focused on that time of "newness" to Meeting. Another new commitment was in regular monthly note-writing to welcome newcomers and encourage them to attend upcoming activities. Quaker Quest: AFM held two full rounds of Quaker Quest meetings in the last year. These were an educational experience aimed primarily , of course, at newcomers. Within our Meeting, however, Quaker Quest drew members and attenders closer together as we discussed three central topics: Peace, Simplicity, and God/the Divine. Because of the emphasis we placed on through training, we heard many expressions of confidence from within our Meeting that if seekers asked tough questions about Quakerism, we could at least make a start at answering them honestly and truthfully, with a sense that we were informed by the long tradition of Quaker thought.
Library Committee: The Library committee continues to try to meet the book needs of our Meeting community. In 2010, we feel there may be a renewed energy in attempting to do this.
Our Spiritual State of the Meeting, 2008, concerns the formation of a divinely led, compassionate, effective community. How we process our leadings as individuals and how we come together as members of this Religious Society of Friends, was considered throughout this past year and continues to be the focus of our work as a Meeting, this coming year. There's a difference between respecting personhood and recognizing individuality. Socially, we are encouraged to be independent, empowered individuals. As a religious community, we are reminded to be tender shepherds of divine leadings. To be in harmony with the community, we need soft, not rugged individualism. These concerns are not new to the Religious Society of Friends; George Fox wrote in his Journal: "each individual is precious, unique and loved by God." Personhood is not separate from, but grows within, the community.
The work of our community is accomplished by individuals, through committees; the problem remains that so few are on committees and that many stay with the same committee work for years. Participation and accomplishments are impressive, however. Our Peace and Justice Center, formed in 2007, facilitated a water rights conference for Israeli and Palestinian negotiators through the Geneva Initiative. Our center began an ‘Alternatives to Violence’ program, working in a local prison, and is enabling the Boys and Girls Club to maintain a computer lab for the residents of a Section 8 housing community. Also, through the Boys and Girls Club, we have brought the ‘Help Increase the Peace Program’ to Annapolis. The homeless shelter is regularly supported by our small Meeting. In this, and many other ways, we are attempting to live the Testimonies, bringing new members and attenders into our spiritual community. As our Meeting grows, the concern about becoming too large was expressed; we seek ways both to know what others in Meeting are accomplishing and to remain a close-knit community.
As a Meeting, our energy flows through us; in embracing all people, from diverse backgrounds, with varied interests, we grow and expand. Challenges remain in effectively resolving conflict; Friends are reminded that clearness committees are offered for anyone facing difficulties, conflicts or concerns. This process of clearness is individualized to address the needs of the one with the awareness of the many in Meeting.
Children’s Religious Education Committee (CREC) focuses on the spiritual needs and growth of our children from nursery age to young adulthood. We have had the largest group of young Friends and this expansion has been a joy to our Meeting. The Religious Education focus has been on the Bible and Quaker history. The many activities offered have advanced and expanded our community. From Child Welcoming, Holiday events, Intergenerational events, fundraisers, story sharing, and camping activities, to reaching out to our sister school in Philadelphia, CREC has magnified our vision of Quakers in the World. The gift of our youth cannot be overstated. We see and feel inner lights growing.
The Library Committee is seeking new members and considering ways to reorganize our collection and to make it more accessible and useful to Friends. Consideration is ongoing for digitalizing and expanding our written material.
The Ministry and Worship Committee attempted to provide leadership to Annapolis Friends Meeting on issues related to spiritual activities and actions in the Meeting. Specifically, our committee was involved in the oversight for clearness committees of new members and released Friends, re-writing the Manual of Procedures and Faith and Practice, providing reading material, facilitating discussions and worship sharings, and assisting the Clerk of the meeting to improve the spirituality of Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. In joining with the Historical sub-Committee, we are documenting our Quaker History and supporting the Quaker Burial Ground in Galesville, MD. With direct attention to inreach and outreach, we are in the process of creating a Quaker Quest and have conducted several meetings-for-learning to prepare for this series, now scheduled for this spring.
The Outreach Committee has been greeting and conversing with our new attenders. Brochures are available, contact information is sought, meals are shared and newcomers are introduced to members, all in attempt to build connections with those interested in doing so. Worship Sharings are scheduled so that we may hear the divine through those new and seasoned voices among us. Distribution of our Quaker Friends tee shirts, involvement with the Greater Annapolis Interfaith Network and improvements to our website all increase our exposure, drawing more new attenders to our small Meeting. Our committee is deeply involved with Quaker Quest and is also overseeing the budget for this series of events. We are excited by the ever increasing numbers of new attenders, including the many new children, who seem to be searching for a spiritual home and have found our Meeting.
The Stewardship and Finance Committee shares the guidance of Meeting’s finances with the Trustees and Treasurer through the invitation of Divine leadings. The budgetary needs of the Meeting have been responsibly met and huge leadings have been accomplished due largely to the abundance we have enjoyed, but also because of the careful, transparent oversight administered. The Water-Rights Conference was fully funded, the Peace & Justice Center was formulated and many local and international peace issues, addressed. Internal communication and conflict resolutions were very successful; every effort was made to involve the entire Meeting community in determining priorities, limits and directions.
The Pastoral Care Committee continues to hold each and every one of us within our Meeting, in God’s healing light. The Fund for Suffering is appropriated for those in special need; meals, flowers, conversation and practical help are lovingly offered, a well. Dinner groups and Spiritual Formation groups are organized; our committee is involved with Ministry & Worship to assist with the membership and eldering processes.
The Meeting House and Land Committee strives to carry out its responsibilities for the material assets of Annapolis Friends Meeting in an environmentally mindful manner. We are weaving the testimonies with love and Quaker process, so that the tapestry of our physical space exudes Divine light and welcome for all.