Homewood Friends Meeting Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports
The text of recently received Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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Through the trials of a pandemic, daunting political and economic challenges, and painful events of racial violence, Homewood Friends Meeting (HFM) has worked hard to maintain a strong spiritual state. In the past year, Homewood has been persistent in supporting ways for our community to experience the Light and live its truths through meetings in person and on Zoom. Between 30 and 40 people have attended worship regularly, which has been on ZOOM since March 2020. This is a lower number than in-person attendance (50-60) before the pandemic. During its monthly meetings, the Ministry and Counsel Committee (M & C) has assessed the quality of worship and determined it to be strong and centered. Homewood has continued to engage Friends in many activities and meeting enhancements, all of which are advertised on our website, in weekly digital announcements, and a monthly newsletter.
- Meeting for Worship on Zoom and in person, at the Meetinghouse and the Friends Burial Ground
- Weekly Experiment with Light
- Monthly worship to hold murder victims of Baltimore in the Light
- Special four-week session on Quaker Foundations for adults
- Monthly Quaker Book Club
- First Day School on Zoom and in-person with an average of 5 children
- Christmas play on Zoom with children
Peace and Justice
- Banner hung outside inscribed with names of murder victims in Baltimore
- Weekly Black Lives Matter vigils on Friday evening
- Informational programs on police reform
- Statewide Quaker leadership in witness regarding possible electoral coup
- Lobbying with FCNL for criminal police reform
- Participation in Quaker Voice of Maryland
- Participation in mutual aid for Tubman House
- Regular participation on the BYM Peace Committee
- Establishment of a Change Group and use of the BYM queries on Anti-Racism
- Book discussions on How to Be an Antiracist, by Dr. Ibram Kendi
- Two special meeting-wide workshops on racial equity
- Regular participation on the BYM Working Group on Race
- Members of M & C regularly contacted those in need of support including people experiencing physical and emotional challenges and the elderly.
- New solar panels making HFM self-sufficient for electricity
- Maintenance of a lovely native plant garden
- Advocated for clean energy legislation with Quaker Voice of Maryland
- Creation of a building use plan
- Establishment of a building safety committee, and steps taken to make our space safer such as entry video system, updated exit signage, and placement of first-aid kits
Three areas deserve more attention-- equity, religious education for children, and accessibility. For the 2019 Spiritual State of the Meeting report, we wrote, “we continue to envision our meeting community as more racially and ethnically diverse. We continue to seek greater light, discernment, unity, resolve, and action about understanding and growing diversity.” In the spring of 2020, Homewood approved the creation of a Change Group to [in the words of Baltimore Yearly Meeting] “provide leadership and offer resources, discernment and concrete actions that support the Meeting on its journey in becoming an active anti-racist faith community.” A small group was convened and has met regularly to both reflect and act on racial equity at Homewood. Another group, the Second Circle, has representatives from each committee who participate in Change Group meetings when possible. All participants encourage the reading of BYM’s Queries that are part of their Anti-Racist Faith Community at the beginning of every meeting. Thus far we have held two workshops on anti-racism presented by people outside the meeting with expertise in equity that have been well attended, and we are planning more opportunities for reflection, education, and change.
The second area worth recognizing is our religious education program, which is thriving even in this challenging time where we are not meeting face-to-face. The program regularly has 2 to 10 attendees of various ages, and it functions in many ways like a one room schoolhouse. In warmer weather, the children have met outside, making tie-dye shirts, hiking the Stony Run area, writing an epistle for their school year, and cleaning up Wyman Park Dell. They have had other lessons studying the life and times of Jesus, and they produced their own nativity play starring puppets over Zoom.
Another goal for 2020 was to find ways to be inclusive for persons with different abilities and to address the significant problem we have regarding hearing verbal ministry in our large meeting room. Interestingly, the use of Zoom allowed some people who haven’t participated in worship and committee life in a long time to begin regularly attending meeting for worship and to be active committee participants. More about this is said later in the report.
To deepen our understanding of the spiritual condition of our community, members of the Committee on Ministry and Counsel contacted, by phone or email, all local members and attenders listed in our directory to hear about their own personal spiritual condition and their perceptions of the spiritual state of HFM during this troubling time. We were able to talk with 75 individuals. We posed a uniform set of questions, rating the responses to the first two questions as Good, Fair, or Poor and collecting meaningful quotes. We recorded responses to Questions 3 and 4 and summarized them for the report.
First Interview Question
Our first question was, “How has your spiritual state been over the past year?” Many people responded to this query using meeting for worship on Zoom as a frame of reference.
Good. Slightly short of half indicated that it was good, citing the importance of connections they have had with the Spirit, with friends, and with the Homewood community. Others mentioned their participation in prayer, Bible study, and worship important to maintaining a strong spiritual connection during this time.
Fair. Another 40% rated their spiritual state as fair, saying that while they are committed to Meeting for Worship, they experience a lot of stress and anxiety. They recognized how emotionally trying this year has been, with family challenges and political disruption. They report that in meeting they are “all over the place.”
Poor. Almost 20% classified their spiritual state as outright poor, mentioning depression, grief and anger at the state of the world, and a love/hate relationship with Zoom.
Second Interview Question
Our second question was, “How well or poorly has Zoom worked for you?”
Good. About 40% said they were surprisingly satisfied with Zoom worship. Some called meeting a rock, a real gift, and occasionally a “gathered” meeting. They liked the convenience and accessibility. Some people without computer access have been able to participate via phone. In fact, one member in her 90s is now able to regularly attend worship and participate in committee meetings.
Fair. About a third of the respondents called the Zoom experience fair, describing it as “better than nothing” and a small help.
Poor. A quarter of the respondents had strong feelings against doing worship on Zoom, saying they were on Zoom constantly during the week and had “Zoom burnout.” Some were so wary that they never tried it. Others had tried it and didn’t think it “worked” for worship. Some expressed fear that we would lose some of our membership if we continued on Zoom too long.
Suggestions for Improvement
The individuals with whom we spoke contributed many suggestions for improvement. Many envisioned small outdoor meetings for both committee work and worship. They suggested using a park or the Burial Ground to worship outdoors. To enrich the quality of meeting, one person wanted the opportunity for “Afterthoughts” once a month; another suggested that we distribute weekly a short reading. Additional meeting times as well as times for worship-sharing or spiritual discussion were mentioned, and one person suggested we become semi-programmed during this time. Some yearned for more social time before meeting or outside of meeting time, while others did not want the silence before meeting disturbed. Social zoom circles and Friendly Eights on Zoom were suggested.
What People Want to Experience When We Return to Face-to-face
When asked what they yearn for the most when we return to face-to-face worship, “hugs” were suggested by a third of the respondents. People are eager to return to the meeting house to reconnect, have casual conversations, and share simple lunch. One individual even missed the musty odor of the meetinghouse! Several hoped that we could maintain Zoom even when we return because of the access it provides.
The process of calling everyone on our directory allowed members on Ministry and Counsel (M & C) to reconnect in a very personal way to the members and attenders of HFM. Although some in our community have not been attending worship through Zoom, other individuals whom we have not seen in a long time have reappeared, which has been a great blessing. We have seen fewer of our large Young Adult Friends population at Zoom worship, but we know that some have gathered regularly to worship on their own. STRIDE members and Young Adults have sponsored events such as watch parties, trivia games, pot lucks and other virtual activities.
The lives of individuals in our faith community are complex and have been filled with challenges. For a majority of individuals, Homewood Friends Meeting has provided a consistent spiritual home that has helped them cope with these challenges. For others who have been unable or chosen not to worship with us through Zoom for various reasons, we continue to seek new ways to provide support. We have already implemented some of the suggestions we received regarding social engagement through watch parties and worship outdoors which occurred this past summer. We hope to extend worship outside this spring as soon as it is warm enough.
We also hope that with self-reflection and education, the meeting will be ready to strongly identify itself as anti-racist within the next year. Another aspiration is for Homewood to be more intentionally welcoming to visitors and newcomers. An informal welcoming team has been organized by those who previously were greeters to connect with new people after meeting. We are hopeful that we can grow diversity with these intentional efforts.
The members of M & C are working to have an improved worship experience when we return to in-person worship by addressing issues of accessibility. We can imagine offering a hybrid delivery system for worship that will allow for us to continue with Zoom for those who have physical challenges getting to the meeting house, while also having face-to-face worship. We are also working on replacing our elevator and improving our acoustics so that when we return to in- person meetings, everyone will be able to hear messages. We all yearn to continue to “feel the spirit move through us,” as one person said, no matter how we worship, as we move into the next year.
Meetings for Worship at Homewood remain the center of our life as a spiritual community. They are deeply grounded in silent worship that is enriched by spirit-led vocal ministry. Our opening statement, read at the beginning of each Meeting, serves to remind Friends and to acquaint newcomers regarding what the Quaker worship experience is about. “In worship we enter into stillness of body and mind in order to feel that radically loving spirit within us and among us, to give ourselves over to it and to discern what it would have us do.” At Business Meetings this year we read a quote from Britain Faith and Practice that reminds us that, “we act as a community, whose members love and trust each other.” Our Business Meetings, which are grounded and centered, are attended by 15-19 persons each month.
Attendance at Meeting for Worship has continued to grow slowly this past year, with about 50 present for worship on any given First Day. A simple lunch following worship is a vitally important opportunity for fostering fellowship afterwards. In 2019, we were delighted to welcome five new friends into membership at Homewood: Jo Brown, Bruce Morgan, Peter Sheehan, David Sydlik, and Russell Trimmer. Given that our average number of new members per year has been less than one, this surge in new membership is celebrated! Sadly, Bruce Morgan, one of our newest members passed away in June. Bruce had been minimally connected with his family for years; we were glad to be able to host his far-flung family to celebrate Bruce’s life in a well-attended Memorial Meeting for Worship. His family was greatly comforted to know that in his final years Bruce was a beloved member of Homewood. We also held a memorial celebrating the life of Richard Kelly (son of Thomas Kelly) who was an attender at Homewood during his last few years. We were delighted to celebrate the marriage of Maya Muñoz and Russell Trimmer in a ceremony that incorporated traditional elements of a Jewish wedding with our Quaker traditions.
Young adult friends now constitute a significant and growing percentage of our attendance at Meeting. They host a well-attended monthly pot-luck. At the rise of Meeting young adult friends always are among the first to greet new young adult attenders. We celebrate the many young adults coming to Homewood who are finding sustenance in our worship and community.
The Religious Education Committee offered an engaging children’s curriculum focusing on Old Testament stories (Spring) and Quaker Testimonies (Fall). The First Day School program during 2019 included two plays—a Christmas Nativity and the story of Joseph and the Multi-colored Coat. The children modified the Nativity play and collectively wrote the Joseph play to reflect current themes of interest such as immigration, gender identity, and women's rights. We sponsored trips to Gunpowder Friends Meeting, Catoctin Quaker Camp and the Friends Burial Ground in Baltimore, and took on four service projects through which the children prepared lunches for people served by the Assistance Center of Towson Churches, made care kits for people experiencing homelessness, and picked up trash and recycling materials in nearby Wyman Dell Park. We had two fine young adults serve as teachers in 2019, Rory Kennison (Spring) and Maddie Doll (Fall). An average of six children of various ages attended each First Day out of the 13 children who regularly or occasionally attended Meeting with their parent(s). We also had two pre-school children who were cared for in the nursery by Chris Stadler and his assistant Henry Kennison, a Young Friend.
Homewood continues to be active in and supportive of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. A number of Homewood Friends serve on BYM committees (Nominating, Camp Property, Baltimore STRIDE, Faith and Practice, Peace and Social Concerns) or affiliated organizations such as the Miles White Beneficial Society and the Friends House Board. In the summer of 2019, at least six children participated in the BYM camping program, the largest contingent that we have had in a number of years. Homewood Friends also participates actively in Chesapeake Quarterly Meeting.
In the past year Homewood offered various opportunities to deepen our faith. In Spring of 2019, we held a spiritual deepening program using Taber’s “Four Doors to Meeting for Worship”. Our monthly Quaker Book Club continued with a small group of regular participants, sharing about texts regarding aspects of Quaker faith. Once a month before meeting for worship, Homewood offers the opportunity to participate in a guided meditation, Experiment with Light, which is thought to evoke the worship experience of early Friends. In Fall 2019 we started a weekly mid-week meeting for worship including once per month Experiment with Light. Four Homewood persons are participating in the Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) Spiritual Formation program. Hymn singing, also offered once a month before worship, is thoroughly enjoyed by a small group that participates.
Our Green Organizing Action Team (GOAT) was remarkably active last year including the following:
- Engaged Homewood in advocacy around the successful passage of the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act which mandates 50% clean energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2040.
- Supported successful passage of the styrofoam ban in Maryland.
- Organized a group to attend and support the young people’s Strike for the Climate in downtown Baltimore.
- Installed a large, gorgeous bird and butterfly friendly garden and two rainwater cisterns with the support of a $5000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust; and hosted a celebration of the garden with our partners (Blue Water Baltimore, the Patterson Park Audubon Center and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake).
- Committed to plans for installing additional solar panels on our meeting house in 2020.
- Offered various educational opportunities related to the environment.
For many, worship and engagement at Homewood includes concerns for peace and social justice.
- Friday evening vigils in front of the meetinghouse have continued and serve to witness to the community our belief that “Black Lives Matter” and “We Are All One People”. The response by those driving by is often enthusiastic and thankful.
- Our Peace and Social Justice Committee sponsored a showing of a film from the series Voices from the Holy Land and a presentation from Combatants for Peace (Israeli and Palestinian ex-combatants who are working to end the occupation of Palestine).
- Co-sponsored commemorations of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- Hosted Friends from the Northampton, Massachusetts Friends Meeting who are traveling under a concern about the International Nuclear Weapons Ban, and who led a workshop at Homewood in June for regional anti-nuclear activists.
- Once per month, a meeting is held to hold in the Light persons affected by violence in Baltimore.
In February 2019, we hosted a specially called meeting of Chesapeake Quarterly Meeting where a historic decision was made—to form what has come to be called Quaker Voice of Maryland. We are thrilled to see the progress this group has made in the last year toward advancing Quaker advocacy in Maryland. We learned with dismay that the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Friend of a Friend program is devolving. We held a listening session with Jacob Flowers, Regional Director of the AFSC South Region, to discuss possibilities for future collaboration in Baltimore.
Our Outreach Team sponsored two sessions of Friendly Eights potlucks, fostered Homewood participation in the Gay Pride Day and put up a welcoming poster in our front box. Homewood’s Working Group for the Arts sponsored several art exhibits and coffee houses, which attracted individuals from the wider community to visit Homewood.
We still have plenty of room to grow and enrich our Meeting. In last year’s report we indicated that we continue to envision our Meeting community as more racially and ethnically diverse. We made very limited progress in this regard. Our Outreach Team planned a discussion series of Ibram Kendi’s book How to Be an Anti-Racist for early 2020. Following the reading of this book, our Ministry and Counsel Committee will identify way forward to establish a Homewood Change Group (a Meeting team supported by BYM’s Growing Diverse Leadership Committee and Working Group on Racism to help lower barriers to the inclusion of more people of color among us). We continue to seek greater light, discernment, unity, resolve, and action about understanding and growing diversity. Another goal for 2020 is to find ways to be inclusive for persons with different abilities and to address the significant problem we have regarding hearing verbal ministry in our giant meeting room. It is also our hope to incorporate our many new attenders at Homewood into the fabric of our community life and business.
Our building will be one hundred years old in 2021. Maintenance of a building of this size and age is a major undertaking; we are so grateful to Friends on our House and Grounds Committee who work diligently to keep the building functional and beautiful. Our Meeting House has become a major form of outreach and community engagement with over 15 groups routinely renting our building at nominal cost, including ballet and tango dancing, two Buddhist groups, a Jewish congregation, a Baptist congregation, a midnight Alcoholics Anonymous group, etc. We are planning to use our upcoming hundredth anniversary as an opportunity to re-envision our Meeting House and make it more reflective of our spiritual life together and of our hopes for the future.
In the past year, Homewood Friends Meeting has been a vibrant faith community characterized by deep worship, communication of our beliefs to others, and active witness about environmental and social concerns. The continued increase in the number of attenders, particularly many young adults, is truly exciting. As we continue our intentional efforts to deepen our faith and broaden our community, we hope to engage more members and attenders in the multi-faceted, spiritual work of sustaining, supporting, and growing Homewood Friends Meeting and our work in the world.
Meetings for worship at Homewood are the center of our life as a spiritual community. They are deeply grounded in silent worship that is enriched by spirit-led vocal ministry. Our opening statement, read at the beginning of each Meeting serves to remind Friends about what meeting for worship is all about. “In worship we enter into stillness of body and mind in order to feel that (radically loving) spirit within us and among us, to give ourselves over to it and to discern what it would have us do.” Attendance at meeting for worship has continued to grow this past year, with about 45 present for worship on any given First Day. A simple lunch following worship is a vitally important opportunity for fostering fellowship afterwards.
This year we were delighted to welcome Ellyn Ross and Janet Abrams, who transferred their memberships to Homewood. At a memorial meeting, we celebrated the life of Noelle Zeltzman, a beloved Homewood member of over 50 years. Her legacy at Homewood was one of nurturing many generations of children, always engaging them with the arts. We also held a memorial meeting for Grayson Fell, a nephew of one of our attenders, who died as a newborn.
Young adult friends now constitute a significant and growing percentage of our attendance at meeting. They host a well-attended monthly pot-luck. We celebrate the many young adults coming to Homewood who are finding sustenance in our worship. We marvel that Homewood is becoming a place to meet other young adults!
In the past year Homewood offered various opportunities to deepen our faith. The most significant was a 1.5 day spiritual retreat facilitated by Christopher Sammond of Poplar Ridge Monthly Meeting (New York) that was attended by 28 individuals, many of whom were relative newcomers. Through the retreat, participants engaged in activities to deepen their worship and their connection with the Spirit. Six Homewood Friends participated in the BYM Spiritual Formation program and formed a small Homewood worship group that continues to meet. Our monthly Quaker Book Club continued with a small group of regular participants, discussing texts regarding aspects of Quaker faith. Once a month before meeting for worship, Homewood offers the opportunity to participate in a guided meditation, Experiment with Light, which is thought to evoke the worship experience of early Friends. Hymn singing, also offered once a month before worship, is thoroughly enjoyed by a small group that participates.
Homewood offered an engaging children’s curriculum that included plays and puppet shows; trips to Adelphi Friends Meeting and Catoctin Quaker Camp; service projects preparing food and making care kits for people experiencing homelessness and trash pick-up, and guidance in mindfulness through “singing bowl” activities. About 6 to 8 children of varying ages attend on any given First Day out of the 14 children who regularly attend Homewood. We are grateful to the dedicated group of adults in our meeting who faithfully serve our children.
For many, worship and engagement at Homewood includes concerns for social justice. Friday evening vigils in front of the meetinghouse have continued and serve to witness to the community our belief that “Black Lives Matter” and “We Are All One People.” The response by those driving by is often enthusiastic and thankful. Our Peace and Social Justice committee sponsored well-attended videos (13th and Voices from the Holy Land), with discussion afterwards. The committee supported work in Baltimore City related to Unified Efforts (a youth program that focuses on anti-bullying and peace building efforts), the dedication of the Harriet Tubman Garden, and Baltimore Ceasefire 365 (a movement to end murder in Baltimore). Homewood Friends participate weekly in court watch where they track aspects of criminal justice proceedings that contribute to inequity in incarceration. Once a month, a group of Friends gathers at Homewood to hold in the light people in Baltimore City who have been affected by violence.
Others have been led to witness and work for earth care. Our Green Organizing Action Team (GOAT) wrote and received a $5000 grant from Chesapeake Bay Trust to remove sod and plant a pollinator friendly garden on the south side of the meetinghouse, and to install water collection cisterns, and a $1000 grant from One Water Partnership for environmental outreach and education. The meetinghouse was part of a tour for the One Water Partnership featuring our solar panels. The committee has organized a recycling program for small electronics. GOAT has also been very active in legislative advocacy, particularly for the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act.
In last year’s Spiritual State of the Meeting report, we articulated a desire for “greater diversity within our worship community, more opportunities for connection with each other and more effective ways of communicating our faith to newcomers.” We have experienced some progress this past year in meeting this goal.
An ad hoc Outreach Committee began meeting this past year and initiated several activities to both better communicate our faith and attract a more diverse community. Several sessions were held weekday evenings which featured Friends General Conference “Quaker Speak” videos and discussion about Quakerism. During the Pride parade this past summer, about 40 Homewood members and attenders marched or stood on the front steps in solidarity. Pamphlets on Quakerism for visitors were reviewed and reorganized, and welcoming signage outside was added. The Outreach Committee sponsored a Friendly Eights potluck program, where new and longstanding members and attenders joined together in homes to become more deeply acquainted. Homewood’s Working Group for the Arts sponsored several events—film showings and art exhibits, which attracted individuals from the wider community to visit Homewood. Homewood welcomed those in addiction recovery by sponsoring regular support meetings.
We still have plenty of room to grow and enrich our Meeting. We continue to long for the racially and ethnically diverse community we envision. In this regard we seek greater light, discernment, unity, resolve, and action. Despite our efforts to provide a well-rounded First Day School program for children, we have yet to attract more families with children. We also recognize the need to be more inclusive for persons with different abilities. Another significant challenge for us is to find ways to incorporate the many new attenders at Homewood into the fabric of our community.
In the past year, Homewood Friends Meeting has been a vibrant faith community characterized by deep worship, communication of our beliefs to others, and active witness about social and environmental concerns. The growth of attenders, particularly the many young adults, is truly exciting--a vision realized. As we continue our intentional efforts to deepen our faith and broaden our community, we hope to engage more people in the multi-faceted, spiritual work of sustaining, supporting, and growing Homewood Friends Meeting and our work in the world.
In October 2017, our Trustees held a specially called Meeting where together we answered the question: What is Homewood Meeting for? This is the summary statement that came out of that Meeting:
Homewood Friends Meeting is a spiritual community of children and adults who come together in worship, opening ourselves to that radically loving spirit which guides us to live justly and peaceably. In worship, we have an opportunity to be challenged and transformed and to develop inner courage. Homewood is a community in which we love and support each other and each other’s spiritual practice. Witness and action for peace and justice grow out of our worship.
We held our annual specially called Meeting to assess our spiritual state on 2/24/18. After a period of worship, 45 Homewood members and attenders responded to the following queries: What are our strengths? Where do we need work? In small groups we answered the questions: What are your hopes for the future of Homewood Friends? What part might you play in that? Our children also participated in the process, exploring similar queries in first day school, reporting back to the adult meeting regarding their deliberations. We then invited all who wished to gather for a group photo to send to our legislators showing us holding a large banner “We support the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act.”
Below is our discernment on the spiritual condition of Homewood Friends Meeting.
The quality of worship at Homewood is spiritually refreshing. Our worship is grounded and deep. It is the center of our community life. As one person put it, “Our strength is that we come together as seekers who are searching for truth together, seekers who are willing to be vulnerable even when the truth is not immediately evident.” Average attendance at worship in 2017 remained at 45-50 people.
While our beautiful and large Meeting room is found to foster worship, the acoustics are terrible. This is a significant concern. (As of this writing we have made available “Super Ear” headsets, which are “working” and being used with enthusiasm.)
For the first time in many years we shared the joy of celebrating two marriages under the care of Homewood.
Adult Education has supported our worship including two 3-session Inquirers’ series and a well-attended monthly Quaker book club and monthly opportunities for Experiment with Light.
Our nursery for the youngest children is a very special place, nurtured by a dedicated, longtime staff member and one teenager from our Meeting. Our first day school remains small, with approximately 5-8 children participating each week. We remain pleased by the work of our first day school teacher, a young adult Friend who grew up in Baltimore Yearly Meeting. It is challenging to run such a small program. After their special meeting, our children indicated that we need to attract more children and to enliven our social media. As one Friend said, “We need to increase the size and viability of our First Day School.”
Our Meetings for Business are conducted monthly in a spirit of love and respect for each other. Average attendance is ~16. The same relatively small group of individuals attend each month. One person expressed the hope of a number of us by saying, “I hope for greater attendance at Meeting for Worship for Business with all members responsible for care and stewardship of the meeting.”
Our Nominating Committee continues to find it challenging to fill committees. We have attracted few new members to serve on the member-only committees. At this point we have found a way to incorporate only a few of our many new attenders into the work of the Meeting. Nonetheless, committees accomplish much. “I am grateful,” said a Friend, “for the hard work of the different committees that helps enrich us as a group.”
Our House and Grounds Committee continues to lovingly maintain our very large, aging and handsome Meeting House. Multiple groups are using the Meeting House; it seems to be always bustling. Our Hospitality Committee supports the meeting, hosting simple lunch after worship. Our Library Committee this year has changed the graphic representations in the library to reflect greater racial diversity among those we honor.
Our work this year has been greatly supported by a long-time meeting member who was hired as our meeting administrator.
Work in the World
We continue to be part of the joint Baltimore Quaker Peace & Justice Committee with Stony Run Meeting. The year started with organizing participation in the Women’s March on Washington, including a nonviolence training which preceded it. Court Watch continued with a few Friends participating in weekly observation of bail hearings. This year the witness led to a formal research project conducted by the Office of the Public Defender. In February 2017, we hosted an educational forum on bail reform and offered call-your-representatives guidance to the Meeting community.
We mourn our city’s greater than 300 murders each year. We have been participating in the Baltimore Ceasefire Weekends, in November hosting the film, “Brother Outsider,” about Bayard Rustin. We continue our weekly vigil in front of the Meeting House, on Fridays at 5pm, holding signs that say, “Black Lives Matter,” “We are All One People,” and “Baltimore Cease Fire” as a representation of our peace testimony. Those passing by often seem grateful with enthusiastic honks and waves. In November, 5-8 Friends met to discuss selected chapters of “Fit for Freedom Not for Friendship” and its implications for
Our Green Organizing Action Team (GOAT) organized a group to participate in the People’s Climate March on 4/29/17 in Washington, DC. GOAT also facilitated Homewood's joining the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake’s One Water Partnership, completing a congregation self-assessment and showing two environmental films.
Friends continue to experience a strong sense of community at Homewood. Comments reflecting that include: “I find Homewood to be a caring community. Caring is our strength.” “The Meeting for me is a safe place with people I know. I feel a warmth and an openness.” “I am a relative newcomer. I feel incredibly welcomed.”
It is heartwarming to see a large number of young adults who are coming to Meeting for Worship. We have over 40 young adults who have indicated interest in being part of a young adult friends group and they are periodically hosting gatherings. We look forward to inviting them into deeper participation in the life of the Meeting.
Hopes for the future of Homewood centered on both outreach and inclusion. It is clear this is where we need work. Many expressed the need to foster fellowship and community, to provide opportunities for getting to know each other better. Another concern raised was that we need to find ways to better communicate with newcomers what Quakerism is all about, and ways to “make institutional knowledge more transparent.”
We aspire to be a more diverse community reflecting the city of Baltimore where we reside. Insights we have gleaned this year is that we need to avoid the ”attraction-repulsion dynamic” (embracing what is new or different and then retreating with the first bump in that road) and letting go of self-consciousness and fear of failure—to allow ourselves to make
mistakes, make amends and forgive.
As of this writing, we have formed two new working groups on outreach and inclusion that will be executing some of these ideas.
Our Meeting for Worship remains the center of our community life. Worship is grounded; vocal ministry is rich. We keep coming back for more. Recently, we have been more active in the world, and we hope that continues. We experience our community as a loving place. Our hopes for the future include—more children, greater diversity within our worship community, more opportunities for connection with each other and more effective ways of communicating our faith to newcomers.
We held our annual specially Called Meeting to assess our spiritual state on 2/12/17. After a period of worship, 45 Homewood members and attenders responded to the following queries: What are our strengths? Where do we need work? What do we envision for the future of Homewood Friends? Our children also participated in the process, exploring similar queries in first day school, reporting back to the adult meeting regarding their deliberations. We then invited all who wished to gather for a group photo to send to our legislators. It shows us holding a large banner: “Ban Fracking in Maryland – Homewood Friends Meeting, Baltimore.” We celebrated afterwards with a special luncheon provided by the Meeting.
Below is our discernment on the spiritual condition of Homewood Friends Meeting. Statements in italics are direct quotes from participants at our specially called meeting. Different speakers are separated by ellipses (…).
Average attendance at worship increased over the course of the year to approximately 50 persons per week by the end of the year. We are delighted with an increase in attendance of young adults.
Friends emphasize that our worship is strong. I treasure the quality of our Meeting for Worship. It is our central strength. There is a good balance of silence and vocal ministry. .. …Our meetings give me a powerful sense of communion. A relative newcomer to Homewood said that the collective shared seeking in Meeting for Worship is deep and powerful.
One strength is the introductory statement* that [continues to be] read near the beginning of meeting for worship that helps new and long-term attenders focus. Each week one of several worshipers brings floral arrangements to place in the center of our beautiful meeting room; many comment that the flora help them to center in worship.
Another Friend commented that a real strength here at Homewood is a deep tapping into the experience and inspiration of early Friends. This has been nourished this year by Homewood’s Quaker Book Club’s reading of Doug Gwyn’s A Sustainable Life and Marcelle Martin’s Our Life is Love.
Friends continue to experience a strong sense of community at Homewood, which our hospitality committee helps sustain by sponsoring a simple lunch following meeting for worship. This is my treasured community [where] I share art, politics and social activism. [Homewood] is a wonderful place to be nurtured & connected. .. … [Here we have] awesome continuity of people working together for a long time and a whole new group of young adults. .. …People surprise me by their kindness, their reaching out, the expressions that I don't always expect. [There is] not much gossip or anger.
In 2016, we created a working group for the arts, drawing on energy from both relative newcomers and existing interest. The working group has hosted several events, including an art exhibition and reception for a long-term member who was moving away and the showing of a movie about refugees that was directed by one of our members. The group also co-sponsored a concert/ fundraiser by Annie Patterson and Peter Blood.
It is noted that we still need work in getting to know each other better, and to provide more opportunities for fellowship and worship.
Our nursery for the youngest children is a very special place, nurtured by a dedicated, long-time staff member and two teens from our Meeting. Our nursery is an embracing space filled with toys and books, love and limits.
Our first day school remains small, with approximately 5-8 children participating each week. We remain pleased by the work of our first day school teacher, a young adult Friend who grew up in Baltimore Yearly Meeting. During spring semester the curriculum focused on Quaker history and in the fall on the life of Jesus.
After their special meeting our children reported on the following:
- What do we like? Simple lunch, service projects, art, meeting friends, helping people and playing
- What do we want to change? Try different foods, more diversity of people, and more craft projects
- Vision for the future: More outdoor activities, picking up litter, singing at nursing home, and ice cream socials!
Our Meetings for business are conducted monthly in a spirit of love and respect for each other. Average attendance is 19. The same relatively small group of individuals attend. In 2016, we were the grateful recipients of two persons who transferred their membership to Homewood and one new member.
Our nominating committee is examining the health of our committees, carefully discerning needs of committees, and identifying individuals with the talents and temperaments that match those needs. It remains somewhat difficult to fill committees. Two committees were moribund for part of the year, and two more committees—trustees and stewardship & finance—merged to good effect. We have attracted few new members to serve on the member-only committees.
One Friend commented that we don’t have ministers, believing that each of us can serve in ministry at some point. How do we learn of the gifts & passions of the persons who are new? How do we become even more flexible, to incorporate what God may be sending us through new people?
Over the past couple of years we have developed a flexibility which Quakers aren't always known for, where people who have leadings can, after seasoning, move forward. Examples include our new working group for the arts, the Green Organizing Action Team (GOAT), and our adult religious education program. The flexibility allows us to live more easily in this fast-paced time and express the things we want to express in a timely way. One Friend commented that for us to move forward deeply in faith and action that we should consider whether Meeting for Business is the best method to discern way forward for every issue.
Our house and grounds committee continues to lovingly maintain our very large, aging and handsome Meeting House. The space itself, which is no small task to maintain, moves me. We are glad to report that multiple groups are using the Meeting House; it seems to be always bustling.
Our Meeting administrator recently retired and we are delighted to have hired a long-time Meeting member to serve in this role.
Work in the World
We continue to be part of the joint Baltimore Quaker Peace & Justice Committee with Stony Run. We are pleased to report that the Homewood portion of this committee has been more active this year.
In January, we sponsored a talk by U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings on “One Baltimore” as part of our response to the death of Freddie Gray and the unrest that overtook our city. Over 200 community members filled our Meeting House to hear Elijah Cummings’ view of the problems and what we can do singly and collectively. At the reception afterwards various local Quaker efforts were featured.
We continue our weekly vigil in front of the Meeting House, on Fridays at 5 pm, holding signs that say “Black Lives Matter,” “We are All One People,” and “Love Your Neighbor (No Exceptions).” Focused on solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, the vigil has drawn consistent participation since 2015, although sometimes just two or three people. Those passing by often seem grateful with enthusiastic honks and waves. One especially cold evening a thankful young woman stopped and brought us each steaming hot cups of coffee.
Stony Run and Homewood Friends participate in the weekly court watch and have shared their observations with the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform and an expert at the University of Maryland Law School. Going to court has made me stronger and broadens peace and justice in our city.
We offered “Peaceable City,” an 11-part series on causes and responses to violence that was attended by 2-3 dozen Friends and non-Quakers, newcomers and long-time-members. The week-night series made use of TED talks as springboards for discussion.
In November, Homewood hosted a well-attended viewing of a film on fracking in Maryland for Maryland Quakers. This resulted in the formation of an ad hoc group of Quakers from several meetings to advocate for a fracking ban in the 2017 legislative session.
One Friend commented at our Meeting that it is powerful to belong to a group that cares about justice and empowering those who don't have power. Another described an extraordinary individual and collective tenderness at Homewood, equanimity of taking in bad news as trivial as a hangnail or lost jacket and as magnificently awful as a war or personal calamity. Tender equanimity is not a familiar thing outside our meeting. We need to work on feeling that tenderness as a strength. Our city needs this strength from us.
Outreach and Inclusion
Several years ago, at the Spiritual State of the Meeting session we seemed to come to the conclusion that Homewood Meeting would die with us as we age because we were attracting so few new people. Recently, it has been amazing to see numerous young adults coming and some staying. It makes my heart sing to share what was so important to me as a young adult . .. …One participant in our specially called meeting said, As a newcomer I am grateful to feel so welcomed.
Particularly since the 2016 election, we have had an increase in attendance at worship. This presents an opportunity and a challenge. Most of the new attenders are also new to Quakerism. We currently lack sufficient educational opportunities to orient newcomers to Quaker faith and practice. We also lack effective ways to incorporate newcomers into the life of our meeting. [As a newcomer] who doesn’t know much about all the committees [I need] to know how to plug myself in.
We have a significantly improved website which may be helpful in attracting new attenders and is much for more useful for regulars.
We remain a mostly white community. It seems that we attract some people of color to our meetings for worship, but few stay. To change this will require intention and creativity.
One Friend expressed an aspiration: I hope that as we build our family, as we grow, that we become a little more bold, a little less shy, to be a beacon on the hill, to not hide our light under a bushel.
Worship, the center of our community life, is grounded and deeply nourishing. Love abounds. We are acting more in concert to address concerns related to peace, justice and the environment. We envision our collective work in the world expanding in response to these challenging times. We are thrilled to see a growing new group of seekers at Homewood. We are also aware that it is critically important at this time that we develop and implement strategies to engage newcomers in learning about and experiencing Quaker faith and practice and involving them in the life of Homewood Friends Meeting.
* The following Introductory Statement is read at the beginning of each Meeting for Worship at Homewood: The Quaker experience is that each of us has a measure of that radically loving spirit which guides us to live justly and peaceably. In worship, we enter into silence in order to feel that spirit of love within and among us, to give ourselves over to it, and to discern what it would have us do. Sometimes during worship, that spirit will lead one or more of us to offer vocal ministry. If you are so led today, please stand and speak loudly and clearly, allowing a period of silence after any previous message.
It has become a Homewood annual tradition to hold a specially called meeting to assess our spiritual state. This year our meeting was held at our usual First Day worship time on 2/28/16. After a period of worship, 55 Homewood members and attenders responded to the following queries: What are our strengths? What are our shortcomings? What do we envision for the future? For the first time our children participated in this process, exploringthe same queries in First Day School and creating a collage of their responses. At the conclusion of the adults’ meeting, the children joined the adults and presented their findings. We all celebrated afterwards, singing “This Little Light of Mine,” followed by a special luncheon provided by the Meeting.
Many commented that the sense of this year’s meeting was quite different than in previous years – more grateful, more hopeful. Last year we identified a substantive list of challenges for Homewood including lack of sufficient numbers to support the work of the meeting, lack of diversity, deficits in our outreach, struggle to provide a vigorous education program for our small group of children, and lack of energetic and unified service in pursuit of peace and justice. We concluded last year’s report by saying that we were committed to “uplifting the sense of Spirit we experience in our Meeting, facing our concerns about our Meeting’s condition, and exploring creative ideas to invigorate Spirit-led service beyond our doors.” We are thrilled to report this year that love abounds and we are responding to the challenges we
identified last year.
Described below are various facets of Homewood Friends Meeting. Statements in italics are direct quotes from participants at our specially called meeting.
“During worship, the silence is rich, and those who speak from the silence have messages that clearly come from the silence ... and speak to other people.” “Much of ministry arises from a gathered silence and not from a chatter of opinions.” “It feels like the Spirit is really moving among and through us.” One new young adult attender said, “One of the reasons I keep coming back is that I feel like this is a place where I am free to find my own path to find the Inner Light within me and see it in others. The emphasis is on welcoming people, doing good works and living as Christ lived and doing what he would do in the flesh here.”
In 2015, average attendance at meeting was ~34, up slightly from last year. Our worship is nourished and supported by a thriving adult education program. In September 2015, we embarked on a year-long monthly discussion of Doug Gwyn’s A Sustainable Life. Committee-led adult-education sessions are being offered once a month as well, so that adult education precedes meeting for worship two first days of the month. In addition, last year we offered two well attended programs of weekly Experiment with Light meditation (a guided meditation developed by Rex Ambler that is thought to evoke the worship experience of early Friends), and a less well attended 4-session Introduction to Quakerism.
“It feels like home to me.” A Friend recently returning to Homewood said,”There is a lot more love. There are hugs. We have these newcomers who are staying.” “As a new attender I am aware and appreciative of a sense of community here.” “As another newcomer I have been overwhelmed by the welcome, the mutual respect and the touching kindness that people show to each other and to me. I am deeply grateful.”
Friends experience a strong sense of community at Homewood. We continue, with loving support from the Hospitality Committee, to provide each week a simple lunch following worship, allowing Friends extended time for fellowship and a chance to make a contribution to an organization chosen by Homewood members of the Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee. And thanks to a dedicated organizer and a rotating group of greeters, worshipers are consistently greeted each First Day.
Our Ministry and Counsel Committee recently reported to our business meeting that we could do a better job helping Friends with personal needs. We are exploring a new model of supporting Friends in need by relying on volunteers from the whole meeting rather than solely on our small Ministry and Counsel Committee.
We have a very strong nursery program with a longtime staff member who provides a loving and creative space for our youngest children. Our First Day School, however, is very small, with approximately 2-5 children participating each week. This year we took a big step and hired a First Day School teacher to teach two Sundays a month. She is a young adult Friend who grew up in Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and she is doing a wonderful job. Our children’s strongest message to us was, “We need more children!” The children enjoy coming to First Day School but “sitting for long periods is very difficult.”
One adult who has long served the children of our meeting commented: “This is mostly a grown-up meeting; there are very few children. Most of the conversations are grown-up conversations. [At lunch, the] children are at the children’s table. We could benefit from engaging children in the conversation.”
Our meetings for business are conducted monthly in a spirit of love and respect for each other. Average attendance is ~19. We have continued to streamline our process, with our Administrative Committee (all committee clerks and officers) meeting every other month rather than monthly.
Our Nominating Committee is carefully discerning needs of committees and identifying individuals with the skills and talents that match those needs. It remains a struggle to fill some committee assignments. On the other hand, we find meeting-approved working groups, which are time delimited and have more narrow foci than standing committees, an energizing way to meet some goals. This year we also agreed to and completed a long-sought, simple kitchen renovation.
Work in the World
It is impossible to speak of Baltimore in 2015 without remembering the significance of the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody and the outpouring of pain, fear, anger and frustration that followed. The Friday after the April 27th uprising, Baltimore Quakers gathered for our weekly peace vigil holding signs: “WHEN BLACK LIVES MATTER / Then All Lives Matter” in front of our Meeting House. We were grateful for the supportive attendance of our Baltimore Yearly Meeting Clerk and General Secretary that night. We have continued with Black Lives Matter vigils every Friday since, and we now have an explanatory flier on racial justice and Quakers to distribute as vigilers stand at a busy intersection of Charles Street.
Homewood participates in a joint committee with Stony Run, the Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee. This year we were excited to strengthen the Homewood portion of that committee with 4 new members. Several Homewood Friends are also participating in “Court Watch” –Friday afternoon visits to Baltimore City court rooms to bear witness.
We have a new Green Organizing Action Team (GOAT) working group. An energetic group of five members is working on a plan for Homewood to continue greening our building and is helping support individual actions and organize local political action to protect our planet.
This year our Trustees largely succeeded in divesting from investments in fossil fuels!
Our Website is increasingly a source of ready information and updates, thanks to two cyber-sophisticated Friends. It is both a better tool for outreach and more helpful to members and regular attenders. In addition to our printed and digital announcements and newsletter, we now have a prominently displayed poster in the meetinghouse that reminds Friends of the month’s events.
We have had a few more young adult attenders in recent months and are seeking ways to invite them into the life of the community. We need to continue to strive to improve our outreach. “At our business meeting the other day I noticed that almost all of us are over 50 and many over age 60. We have a hard time keeping our children.” We have attracted very few young families with children in recent years. And while we have some socioeconomic diversity, we have little racial or ethnic diversity.
Each week at the beginning of worship we read a statement that reminds us about what Meeting for Worship is all about.
The Quaker experience is that each of us has a measure of that radically loving spirit which guides us to live justly and peaceably. In worship, we enter into stillness of body and mind in order to feel that spirit of love within and among us, to give ourselves over to it, and to discern what it would have us do.
Indeed, divine Light and Love is moving within us and among us and changing us. We feel more connected, that our meeting is a more loving home. We are slowly starting to grow for the first time in years! However, we still struggle to muster the people power to smoothly accomplish the tasks needed to sustain a vibrant and connected meeting. We have made great strides in strengthening our religious education program for children. Now we need to attract young families and a more diverse group reflective of Baltimore’s population. We need to find ways to incorporate our young adult attenders into the life of the meeting. We are starting to coalesce in outward support of peace and justice. However, some of us continue to long for more clear, focused action in support of our broken Baltimore. It is important to remember in our outreach that “we as Friends have something distinct to offer, to generate hope in the world.”
Homewood Friends continues to meet each First Day at 10:30 am for worship. We hold Meeting for business on the first First Day of each month at 12:30PM.
We held a specially called meeting for Worship in Second Month, 2015 to inquire into the spiritual state of our meeting. We posed and answered out of the silence three questions: What are our strengths? Where do we need to do work? What do we envision for the future? Responses during this meeting form the basis of this report.
What are our strengths?
Overall, our Meeting brings a strong sense of worship to our meetings for worship and business and is a gathered community. These strengths are particularly meaningful in light of members’ and attenders’ concerns over the years that these qualities were not sufficiently present. That our Meeting has unified on reinforcingthese foundations in response to concerns speaks to a willingness to listen to concerns and act to change them. This willingness is another strength.
During the specially called meeting for worship, these messages were shared and speak to the statement above:
- I am aware of a deep wish on the part of many in this meeting to go deeper and deeper into faith together, deeper into community together, and a certain trust that in so doing itwill carry us out into the world.
- The statement that we read at the beginning of each meeting for worship is an important touch stone to evoke and embrace us for our work in the world.
- Quaker worship is based in silence. It is our experience that each of us has a measure of that radically loving spirit which leads people to live justly and peaceably. In worship we enter into silence in order to feel that spirt of love within and among us, to give ourselves over to it, and to discern what it would have us do.
- The amazing capacity of the individuals in this community to express love and support has carried me through dark times. Love is perhaps our greatest strength.
- …. a lot of really nice people ….
- I have experienced both a very small meeting and a very large meeting. This small community is a real community….. less fragmented than a larger meeting.
- The outreach is wonderful, the welcoming is great, the support is there, and the peace is here. These are four areas of strength.
- To me one of the strengths of Homewood is meeting for business. When we are conducting business we are holding questions for business and each other in the Light. It is a process of divine discernment. It is a joy to watch it unfold.
- My perspective is one of a person who has raised children in this meeting. They identify themselves as Friends and a part of this community. Whatever we are doing here is deep and lasting. This place has given my children roots.
- I appreciate the opportunities in adult religious education to talk about Quaker writings and Quaker beliefs. These opportunities help bring Quakerism into our everyday lives. Experiment with Light is offering us an opportunity to explore together the worship experience of early Friends. Adult Education leads to spiritual friendships that will ultimately underpin our next steps.
- One of the strengths of Homewood is our glorious facility. Our House and Grounds Committee has lovingly tended our demanding building. It is exciting to see that the building is now in used by so many different groups each week.
Where do we need work?
Overall, our Meeting needs to continue deepening and strengthening our sense of community and to increase our engagement with the broader community in which we live. Our community’s children tend to seek community of Young Friends outside of this monthly Meeting as they age. We want to welcome and involve new people in our Meeting and to act more energetically on peace and social justice concerns. People connect when they work toward common goals and projects and we are more visible when we participate in our broader community. So, outreach and action are intertwined. An ongoing challenge is balancing and integrating the work of the Meeting with the work and functioning of our lives outside of the Meeting.
During the specially called meeting for worship, these messages were shared and speak to the statement above:
- One of the things that attracted me to Homewood in the 1980’s was our strong Peace Committee. Now we have only 3 members on a joint committee with Stony Run. This makes me very sad because working for peace is the core of who we are.
- Our complicated building and the basics of running the community take so much of our time and energy. I wonder if we shouldn’t stop doing all the work ourselves. Perhaps we should explore paying someone to do more of the work of the running the Meeting so we have more time to do the other things that we want to do.
- We could do a much better job explaining who are, what we are doing and what we believe in.
- We spend a lot of time recording reports in relation to the amount we are doing.
What do we envision for the future?
Overall, we see ourselves increasing the diversity – in age and race, among other qualities – of the active members of our Meeting and our activities around peace and social justice concerns. A common wish is for a larger group of children and Young Friends in our Meeting. We see this aspect of our community growing through programming, outreach and clarifying our sense of what it means to be a Friend and a member of Homewood Friends Monthly Meeting. We continue to explore how we can and should increase our peace and social witness. Exploring new ways to use our resources, whether they are the energy and activity of the Meeting community or financial, and clarifying what are the priorities of our Meeting may be ways forward.
During the specially called meeting for worship, these messages were shared and speak to the statement above:
- People walking by have no idea this is a Quaker meeting house. I think we should find a way to communicate to those on the outside what we do on the inside … that we worship in a different way than everyone else.
- I hope that we can share Quakerism with the next generation … that we can welcome and nurture young adults and young families and encourage them to become part of our community.
- We are a very white congregation. We need to change that. We need find ways to embrace and include a more diverse group of people to Homewood.
- As one of only 3 small peace churches I pray that we give more time more work to the Peace Testimony.
- Perhaps social action should not be relegated to a few people but to the Meeting as a whole. Maybe we need a committee of the whole for an entire year … to commit ourselves to what Quaker action really means.
- We took an important step by going solar with our solar panels. We are steadily divesting from fossil fuel companies. We are excited about continuing to work towards becoming a green congregation.
- Led by the Spirit, we hope to explore creative and bold ideas that will strengthen our outreach and social witness.
Meetings for worship and business remain the heart of our meeting. Our worship is deep and centered and is enriched by a lively array of adult religious education offerings. Homewood is a small Meeting which many experience as a community in which love abounds. We have invested significant time and money into our beautiful, aging, and challenging building, recently resolving some major structural problems and making significant progress in “greening” our building. We are glad to see our meetinghouse used most days by multiple Meeting and community groups.
We also identify significant concerns about the condition of our Meeting. Each year this report reflects on the fact that we have too few people to fill too many committees. We are an aging group, having attracted few young adults and young families in the last decade. In comparison to our local urban environment - which is diverse in age and race, among other qualities - we lack diversity. We have identified some significant deficits in terms of our outreach and are finding it challenging to implement a stronger outreach program. We also struggle to provide a vigorous religious education program for our small group of children. In addition, many of us mourn our lack of an energetic and unified service to peace and justice.
We have faith that as we open ourselves to the workings of the Inward Light that way will open. In the coming year we are committed to uplifting the sense of Spirit we experience in our Meeting, facing our concerns about our Meeting’s condition, and exploring creative ideas to invigorate Spirit-led service beyond our doors. As our hearts grow, so will our community.
In order to discern together the state of our community, we gathered on Second Month 23, 2014 for a specially called worship-sharing session during the time usually reserved for worship. A total of 34 members and attenders participated. Using a worship-sharing format, we sequentially considered and responded to the queries regarding Meetings for Worship, Meetings for Business, the Meeting Community, and Outreach found in Baltimore Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice (BYM, 1988). The content of that session forms the basis for this report.
A Friend who had returned to Homewood after an absence observed that what brought her back was the “deep, centered quality of worship.”
Each week as meeting for worship settles, a member of Ministry and Counsel reads a statement that helps gather us together and introduces newcomers to our practice: “Quaker worship is based in silence. The Quaker experience is that each of us has a measure of that radically loving spirit which seeks justice and peace. In worship, we enter into the silence in order to feel that spirit of love within, to give ourselves over to it, and to discern what it would have us do in our lives.”
Individual and collective preparation for meeting for worship has been aided by several offerings at Homewood. Each month we offer “Experiment With Light,” a guided meditation based on the worship experience of early Friends. Quaker Book Club also meets monthly, focused around a shared reading. During the year we offered two well-attended evening series entitled “Midweek Explorations into Quaker Faith and Practice” which explored early Quaker writings and their relevance. These programs provide an opportunity for fellowship and deepening our sense of community in addition to helping to prepare for worship.
Late arrival for meeting for worship has been a recurring concern for some, and a number of participants spoke about it during the session. However, we were not in unity on whether or not we should do anything about it. More than one person noted that lateness is a distraction but also that he or she would rather have people come late than not at all. A Friend commented that for him coming late is not good for him and that he brings a little less of himself when late, but that the most important thing is getting to meeting.
Attendance has increased somewhat this year with an average of 35 adults attending. We are delighted with a new group of young adult Friends who have been attending recently.
One Friend commented that meeting for business is one of the most important things in her life. It has the quality of true Quakerism, divine presence, and leadership. Our meetings for business are well planned, and we have been fortunate to have effective and spirit-led clerking as well as effective and careful recording. A member of Ministry and Counsel oversees each business meeting, beginning the meeting by reminding Friends to meet together in the spirit of love.
We continue to struggle having many standing committees and too few Friends to fill them. We have had some success in working on an ad hoc basis, and it was suggested that perhaps we need to do more of that.
Significant progress was made this year in our effort to remediate a serious problem with mold in our meeting house. This and other recent building improvements, including the installation of solar panels, reflect clarity that we plan to stay in the building.
One Friend likened the experience of coming into our community each week to a butterfly in the Amazon that is usually brown but becomes an iridescent blue when it comes into the light. Many experience Homewood as a small, warm, and embracing community. At the rise of meeting we make an opportunity for Friends to share joys and sorrows and to requests for persons to be prayed for or held in the Light. This is a time when we get to know each other better. Many conversations begun at the rise of meeting continue afterwards at our weekly “simple lunch.” We seek more opportunities to share our spiritual lives in depth.
It was noted that our monthly newsletter and weekly announcements could be more inviting in form and content and might improved as tools for communication.
The children at Homewood are wonderful to work with, and we celebrate them; they are, however, few in number. In its recent annual report, our Religious Education Committee concluded that we have enough children to have a program, but not enough to sustain a strong program. It was suggested that we might be more intentional about growing our program starting with the group of 4-7 year-olds that we now have. We have a marvelous nursery program managed by a long-term employee who provides a nurturing place for our youngest children, but we tend to lose families when children become school-age.
With input from the Religious Education Committee, Homewood's trustees finalized a new Youth Safety Policy. The implementation of the policy will be challenging for our small program.
Homewood Friends cherish the intimacy of our small meeting, but many believe that we need to grow. Several Friends commented that we are not very visible -- “humble to a fault.” Worship transforms and nurtures, but people need to know that we're here; we need to be more visible to the local community. Years ago we laid down an Advancement and Outreach Committee; this year, we formed an ad hoc committee on outreach which is working to make Homewood more welcoming.
In terms of the number of people involved, our participation in the joint Homewood-Stony Run Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee has been minimal. And while we continue to sponsor a weekly peace vigil, it is sparsely attended by Homewood people. However, it seems that a new, ad hoc model for action may be arising. We recognize, too, that our public witness can help draw people to Quakerism.
Although we appear to have grown slightly in the past year, many Friends sense that we need to attract more members to thrive. This is a matter we intend to consider more thoroughly in the coming year. We continue to struggle with such challenges as providing religious education and staffing committees with our smaller numbers, but we are exploring alternative approaches together. However, our business meetings are characterized by careful discernment in a spirit of respect and care for each other, and worship, the core of our corporate life, is alive, deep, and centered.
On May 5, 2013, 38 members and attenders of Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Homewood gathered to reflect together upon our spiritual state as a Quaker community. Using a worship-sharing format, we sequentially considered and responded to the queries regarding Meetings for Worship, Meetings for Business, the Meeting Community and Outreach found in Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice (BYM, 1988). The queries and summaries of the responses follow, as well as the general sense of the Meeting’s spiritual state.
Overall, Homewood Meeting is experiencing a growing sense of spiritual vitality guided by the Light. We are hopeful that we will expand our outreach and our corporate witness.
1. Meetings for Worship
Are meetings for worship held in expectant waiting for divine guidance? Are Friends encouraged to share spiritual insights? Are special gifts of ministry recognized and encouraged?
Do we come to meeting with heart and mind prepared? Are we careful not to disturb the spirit of the meeting by late arrival or in other ways?
Overall, we made some real strides this year in fostering a stronger sense of spiritual community. Meeting for worship felt largely centered. Centering through activities such as the book club and weekly learning contributed to this sense. Meeting for worship was held in two different spaces in our meeting house, which led to reflections about the impact of space on the quality of worship. Average attendance at meeting for worship in 2012 was 32 people.
Our community could benefit from less tardiness and from some small aids for centering in our meeting space. A number of Friends spoke about the problem of lateness, seeing it as disruptive to our work of gathering into one body. Friends expressed the feeling that lateness, although disruptive, is preferable to absence.
One Friend said that one can be nourished by the gathered meeting even when one does not hear spoken messages. Another said that he has noticed a deepening in the meeting since he returned after an absence, that worship is more gathered and there is a sense of love and warmth in the room; that was echoed by a person who has attended worship sporadically over a period of years. We re-arranged the benches in our very large meeting room to promote sitting closer together.
A Friend attributed some deepening of his experience of worship to our monthly Experiment with Light meetings before worship. Adult education has been lively including a monthly Quaker book club discussion and a well-attended series entitled “Midweek Explorations into Quaker Faith and Practice”. Another Friend spoke about the “momentous” nature of what we do together in worship, and she expressed the wish that those whose discernment in worship is deep but who seldom speak in worship will be able to speak more often.
We were also reminded that any may be called to minister and that preparation for accepting that responsibility includes spending time during the week in communion with God.
2. Meetings for business
Are meetings for business held in a spirit of worship, understanding, and forbearance? When direction and unity seem lacking, is this seen as a challenge to a more prayerful search for truth? Do we humbly set aside our own preconceived notions as to proper action, seeking instead divine guidance as to the right course? Is the Meeting aware that it speaks not only through its actions but also through its failure to act?
Do we participate regularly in meetings for business, discharge faithfully our committee responsibilities, and assume our share of financial support of the Meeting?
Overall, we have some concerns about our ability to set aside preconceived notions or thoughts and listen actively and with openness and willingness to change. There was also a sense that our community struggles with participation in committees and finding energy and labor for the tasks that are before us. At the same time, we have accomplished a lot in meetings for business and through committee work.
It was noted that not all Friends participate in meeting for business, and Friends were reminded of their responsibility to do so. Friends were asked to consider serving as clerks, whether of the meeting or of a committee; finding clerks has been difficult.
While we are an active community, with many members participating, we lack sufficient numbers of people to serve on committees and perform other tasks, a lack which results in some Friends feeling overburdened.
Sometimes, a Friend said, we seem to spend too much time talking and not enough doing. Others spoke about being more able to act by moving past preconceived notions: sometimes we seem to be stuck in the past. At other times, our meetings for business exemplified a Spirit-led process that supports acceptance of a leadership role in difficult issues. Beginning in 2012 and continuing into 2013, we labored together and at length on the Baltimore Yearly Meeting proposed revisions of the Faith and Practice book.
3. The Meeting community
Are love and harmony within the Meeting community fostered by a spirit of open sharing? Do we endeavor to widen our circle of friendships within the Meeting, seeking to know persons of all ages and at all stages of the spiritual life? Does the Meeting provide for the spiritual refreshment of all members and attenders? Do we provide spiritual and practical care for the elderly, the lonely, and others with special needs?
Overall, we continue to learn how to build a strong community.
Friends share joys and sorrows after the rise of meeting. Weekly simple lunch is lively and well-attended. Families gather annually at Catoctin Quaker Camp and it produces a strong sense of community and sharing. Our community hopes for more of those kinds of experiences. Financial contributions increased by 10% this year, compared to the previous year.
Several Friends expressed feeling unsupported when people do not show up to help or even express appreciation for work done. It was noted that single parents may wish to contribute time and energy but may not be able to do so due to practical challenges. It was observed that a Friends meeting can be “difficult to break into.” Friends were encouraged to take advantage of all opportunities for engaging in activities together.
Do we, as the way opens, share Friends' principles with non-Friends? Do we witness to our Quaker faith by letting our lives speak? Do we make non-Friends welcome in our meetings for worship? Do we find ways to encourage their continued attendance?
Do we reach out to children and their families? Do we provide spiritual nurturance for future generations?
Overall, we want to improve our outreach efforts. It may be helpful for us as a community to work more at clarifying what we believe in order to communicate more clearly to newcomers. Also, while we have a longstanding, weekly peace vigil and many individuals in our Meeting community participate in peace and justice work, we have very little active, Meeting-community-generated peace and justice work.
“We tend to put our light under a bushel,” said one Friend. We do not focus on outreach opportunities, even to the extent of not having our name on the sign at our weekly peace vigil. We have not had an Advancement and Outreach Committee for a number of years. Some of our efforts at efficiency, such as merging committees with Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run, may be lessening our visibility as well as our opportunities for corporate discernment.
We have a strong preschool and elementary-age children’s program, but it has been challenging to retain children after that. We need an intentional effort at outreach to families with children and more programs for families.
We have improved welcoming new people but could also make it more of a priority. Sometimes visitors and newer attenders are not spoken to after worship. Nevertheless, an attender who participated in the worship sharing noted that, in her experience, it seems much more loving and connected than when she first attended 7 years ago.
Spiritual State of the Meeting 2011
Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood continues to be a spiritual community where members and attenders of all ages come to be refreshed and to seek meaning in their lives. This report is the result of a process started by Baltimore Yearly Meeting, which asked Monthly Meetings to respond to five questions for their annual Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports. Homewood’s Ministry and Counsel Committee made the questions available to members and attenders during the months of December 2011 and January 2012. We received a number of thoughtful responses from which we derived this report, primarily from our older members, which seemed to reflect what the Ministry and Counsel Committee members observed during the year. It is worth noting that a number of survey respondents expressed that they were confused by the questions or felt that they were repetitive. For the sake of brevity, answers were distilled to their essence and redundancy was eliminated in this report as much as possible.
Question 1. How does the Spirit prosper among us?
Messages that we hear in meeting for worship suggest that the Spirit prospers among us. It also prospers in religious education, in the work we do for the Meeting, and in projects and events. Words that respondents used to describe this prosperity include integrity, intention, purpose, fellowship, love, and the good among us. Despite these strengths, some of us can imagine an even stronger sense of community and purpose within Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood and the neighborhood, city and broader environment of which our Monthly Meeting is part.
Question 2. What supports the growth of the Spirit in our lives?
Many of us have trouble taking care of ourselves because we are so busy with work and family responsibilities. The Spirit grows in us when we can be quiet and still with each other in Meeting for worship. It also grows in our relationships where we can nurture one another, let go and forgive, and connect with each other in a spiritual community where our beliefs are supported. These relationships deepen as we learn together in religious education, work together on work days, meet to conduct business, and attend committee meetings.
Question 3. How has the presence of the Spirit manifested in our lives individually and as a Meeting community?
The Ministry and Counsel Committee and other respondents see several ways in which the Spirit manifests itself. These ways include Meeting for worship, which has rich silence and messages from wise and seasoned Quakers. The Spirit manifests itself in the sharing of our space with Young Friends and other groups such as the Occupy movement. It is clearly present in the active practice of the peace testimony, exemplified by the continuing presence of our peace vigil for 10 years, even as it only engages a few from our Meeting. The activity of new attenders and members who contribute to the work of the Meeting shows us the presence of the Spirit.
In addition, the Spirit is felt during Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, committee work, celebrations of passage for members and attenders, and adult first day school activities. Some people expressed in their responses to this question that nurturing proper stewardship of our own needs in Meeting helps us give individually to others with fewer resources. We strive to love ourselves, those in the Meeting community, and co-workers and neighbors, and to have, in our wider community, a gentleness towards others and a greater appreciation of diversity. We feel the Spirit when we acknowledge our shortcomings and seek to better ourselves and live in harmony with God.
Question 4: How do we as a Meeting appear to ourselves and others, and how do we wish to be?
Physically, our place of worship is not very visible along Charles Street, although our small but continuing witness on Friday evenings leads many to feel that in general our Meeting is, and is perceived to be, progressive on peace and justice issues. Nevertheless, we are plagued by physical building issues that may turn some away. For example, excessive mold, which seems to continue despite great effort, may keep some from returning, as may acoustical issues in our large meeting room.
In addition, our form of worship is not transparent to attenders and to the outside world. The words and language we use may be abstract, even to those of us who participate frequently in worship. Waiting on the Spirit, and listening to the Voice within – which is our intention and tendency – do little to communicate explicitly what Quakerism is all about.
The apparent absence of leaders may mean that visitors and others unfamiliar with our community and the Society of Friends perceive that no one is in charge. We may know ourselves to be supportive and welcoming, but we are also aware that we have a number of one-time visitors and attenders. We see ourselves as a small Meeting that is perhaps losing in attendance. Some of us want more participation, more attendance at worship and at business meetings, more people actively at work on committees, and more contributions.
There is a general feeling that we should be more visible in the community. Because we do not proselytize and do not tend to act as a group outside of our Meetinghouse, our outreach is largely confined to gatherings at the Meetinghouse. The process of becoming a member is not readily available. We have regular visitors and the sense is that we could be doing more to encourage them to return.
Question 5. How have we recognized and addressed (or failed to address) issues that have caused difficulties among us?
Ministry and Counsel Committee oversees the life of the Meeting in a variety of ways to identify challenges and potential solutions. Our sources include spoken messages at worship, discussions at Meeting for Business and Administrative Committee, exchanges at Simple Lunch, and conversations at committees. Through our interactions, we realize that Homewood is a small Meeting with people whose personal, work and social lives place limitations on the amount of time they can devote to Meeting. In response, we attempted to assess our capabilities realistically, try new ways to complete our tasks, and prioritize our concerns. We have Co-clerks for Meeting. The two existing committees on peace and social witness from Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood and Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run were consolidated into one committee, the Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee, with an uptick in energy. Committees showed flexibility in changing their meeting dates or location to accommodate the schedules or the health concerns of their members. Two committees do not have a clerk: Ministry and Counsel and Nominating committees. These committees found ways for different members to take responsibility for clerking the committee’s monthly meetings and attending Administrative Committee, as well as other clerking tasks.
For years Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood struggled to have a vibrant First Day program for its high schoolers. The relatively small number of children in that age group, combined with fluctuating attendance, made a viable program difficult. These teenagers are now participating in the program at Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run and thriving in that religious and social setting. Parents of those children may continue to attend Homewood, have become part of the Stony Run or are involved with both Meetings.
Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood took steps to strengthen and increase its sense of community. The Religious Education programs, including the Quaker Book Club and Experiment with Light, attracted members, attenders, and newcomers to Homewood. There is a renewed emphasis on the nurturing of people new to Homewood. Simple Lunch continues to involve a wonderfully diverse population in conversation and socializing. Homewood tried to address difficult issues, yet we recognize that other concerns will undoubtedly arise in the future. We believe solutions will continue to evolve and we remain open to new paths.