Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run 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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2020 was a challenging year in so many ways. Following video coverage of the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in June, citizen protests rocked cities nationwide, including Baltimore. Within Stony Run, Friends took up the challenge of how everyone could participate in dismantling systemic racism against People of Color, especially those of African-American descent. Many Stony Run Friends regularly participated in interfaith roadside vigils supporting Black Lives Matter.
Stony Run’s Change Group decided together to address systemic racism within the Meeting and to help Whites and others build skills to honestly address their own role in racism and learn ways to be more equitable going forward at Stony Run and in daily life. The Change group has rotating leadership and F/friends of Color have made presentations and videos to educate Meeting members and attenders.
Just Peace is a group made up of Stony Run Friends and the youth of Unified Efforts working for accountability of the police as a response to the revelations of systemic police violence. In 2020 the group began advocating for an end to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, transferring control of Baltimore City police back from State to City, and for demilitarization of the police. The group advocates with legislators, tracks allegations of police misconduct in Penn North and has started a radio program to encourage broader discussion,
We found within our own Meeting challenges around inadvertent racism. Ministry and Counsel brought in a consultant to discuss with them better communication and leadership practices. At Monthly Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business, on many occasions Friends were led to speak up and call out examples of race bias.
Strong support for social justice issues exists beyond our own committees and ad hoc groups. Stony Run members have been deeply involved in Unified Efforts (working with young people in an underserved area of Baltimore), with the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR) that works on criminal justice issues at the state level, Interfaith Action for Human Rights (a mid-Atlantic interfaith effort to end abuse in prisons and bigotry against minorities and the vulnerable) and Quaker Voice of Maryland, a legislative Quaker effort to speak for Quakers around the State on issues local Meetings have identified.
In March the spreading Covid-19 virus led Governor Hogan to close schools, non-essential businesses and houses of worship for varying amounts of time. Although the closing of Stony Run’s meeting house for indoor worship gatherings distressed many, Friends rallied and began meeting on the Zoom platform, and also live outdoors for small, socially distant Early and Late worship. Zoom attendance averaged 50 logins per Meeting. While some skepticism greeted Zoom worship initially, members found that form of worship to be also deeply meaningful - so much so that a number of people have requested that we find a way to continue that practice even after we return to the Meeting House. Even at the end of the year with sometimes very chilly days, outside worship continued with members masked, distanced from one another and well wrapped up. Even though the city eventually allowed for indoor worship at 25 percent capacity, due to the age and compromised health conditions of many members, Stony Run elected not to return to indoor worship.
Committees continued to meet via Zoom, and a strong sense of community has been maintained. However, there have also been losses. First Day School was modified with outdoor assemblies only; indoor nursery care was cancelled.
For more than three years, a small group of 8 to 17 Quakers and other Christian worshippers with roots in Africa have conducted programmed Quaker worship at Stony Run or the Friends School. The COVID closures also necessitated an online gathering shift for this group, African Diaspora Friends. Stony Run members regretted not being able to share simple lunch and First Day School, as we’d done in the past; however, we could visit each others’ worship services online and keep in touch with smaller committee meetings.
The two pastors of our African Diaspora Friends Programmed Meeting asked in January 2019 that Stony Run officially recognize programmed worship as part of its official activities. Since then, Ministry and Counsel committee has been researching potential models for interaction between Programmed and Unprogrammed Meetings. The group had online meetings and phone conversations with Quakers around the country, including both African Quakers and American Friends experienced with how Quakerism is practiced in Kenya. The status at the moment is any individual wishing to join Stony Run as a member can transfer from a home meeting overseas, or if not already registered with a meeting, apply in the manner of any Convinced Friend.
As Ministry and Counsel has worked to hear all voices of the Meeting and find Way, we have been challenged to find how to ensure that Friends, such as those from Africa who follow a different Faith and Practice, feel accepted and appreciated. As we seek and embrace differences, we know that while the manner of worship may be somewhat dissimilar, we are one in the Spirit and are one in seeking the Light.
Over these years, a small number of African Friends have joined Stony Run as members and are enjoying unprogrammed worship, while others enjoy socialization and community activities with Stony Run while worshipping in the programmed manner with the pastors. Evening Bible study groups and a women’s volunteer organization sponsored by African Friends have offered us more chances for cross-cultural friendship.
Ministry and Counsel is also speaking with the staff, administration and students of Friends School of Baltimore. The connection arose following accounts of systemic racism by past and present students and staff, posted to Instagram this past summer. The school’s trustees welcomed the engagement of Stony Run Friends in reinforcing Quaker values of inclusion, active listening and respect for all. Over the years, the ties between the school and Stony Run have thinned, and both bodies are looking for a re-set of greater closeness and engagement.
Finances within Stony Run have remained steady during this year of great stress for so many. Trustees and the Event Planning committee appreciated this as a sign of Stony Run members’ deep desire to protect its spiritual home base. Funds Review and Use Committee was able to distribute funds to organizations assisting the underserved, a ministry responding to our need to address systemic racism. Also, many Stony Run members contributed personal funds to the Meeting which were dispersed in the form of grocery store gift cards to families with food insecurity during the pandemic. Other Friends gave to support medical care at a rural clinic in Burundi, as well as to the McKim Center and Unified Efforts.
Burial Ground committee members reported spiritual sustenance by serving those who are planning their own passing or visiting the graves of those who have already passed from this world. Maintaining the grounds is a form of ministry itself. All are welcome to this quiet place of respite.
The challenges of this year have brought Stony Run members spiritually closer in many ways. We are more aware and supportive of those who have been ill or alone. We are closer and more supportive of each other as we determine how to interact with supporters of a president and political viewpoints that many find immoral. We are mutually supportive in addressing our own complicity in systemic racism. We are united in reaching out to Friends School of Baltimore regarding their concerns about embodying Quaker spiritual values. We have also been closer in seeking Way about how to embrace and support our African Friends while honoring our own practices and beliefs.
It has been a year rich with creativity in the midst of a pandemic, challenging as we face our own frailties and failures with regard to racism, and throughout all, filled with the presence of the Spirit and the love we have for one another.
Stony Run has earnestly sought to focus on inclusiveness and diversity and provide outreach resources throughout the community and within our Meeting.
In following Quaker values, we seek that of God, the Light, the Divine and/or Spirit in everyone. Each person possesses a unique worth and that of the Divine within. We strive to experience the Teacher Within rather than turn to outward rituals, ceremonies, sacraments, and formal ministering. Our central belief is the Inner Light within to which all may turn.
Our messaging during meeting for worship reflects our interest in current events, concern about social inequalities and local and global concerns, as well as spiritual insights. Such reflections have inspired members to take positive action that has led to positive impacts, and, just as important, peaceful resolutions.
Stony Run conducts two unprogrammed Meetings for Worship. Our worship honors a central principle of the Light Within, based on the ideal that each person seeks individual guidance of the Divine. We continue to rely on a belief system that honors direct relationships with the Inward Teacher as well as the value in the teachings of many faiths. As a community of Friends, our inwardness spawns outward social reforms through our work. We have been successful in raising funds for outreach-social programs, and caring for our elders, those in need, and our youth.
Stony Run meets the needs of individuals preferring to worship earlier than the 11 am time with a 9:30 am meeting for worship. It also provides an opportunity between early and late meeting for worship for members interested in singing, and it tends to our Young Friends through a First Day School which is directed by the Religious Education Committee. Stony Run members from the African diaspora and Friends interested in programmed worship spent a second year worshipping on a monthly basis at Stony Run until they found space at Friends School for weekly worship, enabling them to join Stony Run Friends at Simple Lunch. African diaspora women at Stony Run started a chapter of United Society of Friends Women International, bringing together American and African women for social welfare projects. Families of this African diaspora are also enrolling their children in Stony Run’s First Day School. One First Day a month, the meeting holds Adult First Day school, to educate those newer to the meeting about Quakerism.
Our community seeks to find dynamic methods of engaging our youths’ participation in our worshipping environment. We are a “mature” Meeting and understand the necessity of growing to extend our membership. Community, Care and Clearness Committee (CCC) continues its strides to serve the elder population. CCC and Ministry and Counsel as well as the Newcomers Committee welcome visitors and those who have been away for some time. CCC takes the lead in welcoming new members, overseeing the logistics of marriages and memorials, visiting members on the Stony Run Healing List, and monitoring membership and the special needs our community may have.
The Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee (BQP&J), once a joint committee with Homewood Friends Meeting, has found that both meetings have both enough Friends and enough projects that they have separated while continuing to meet jointly quarterly to explore common interests. Both committees respond to social inequities, human needs, and seek peaceful resolutions. BQP&J Committee makes recommendations for our social order box monthly. Another joint activity with Homewood is our long-running Spiritual Formation program.
Stony Run continues to be part of the orientation of new employees employed by The Friends School of Baltimore as part of our responsibility in aiding FSB with their historical connection to Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run.
In the first half of 2019, the Vision, Functions and Structure Ad Hoc Committee completed its work to discern how our meeting could both internally support a strong community as well as nurture and grow our members’ and attenders’ important work in the world. The committee’s final recommendations were brought to business meeting in June and included the previously approved vision and function statements, as well as suggestions for committee structure and staffing changes. This committee was laid down and a Structure in Transition Committee spent the remainder of 2019 engaging the Meeting’s committees in thinking about the future.
Stony Run also recognizes, along with its communal aspect, spiritual growth is the responsibility of the individual. Our library has a collection of audios, non-print resources, and written materials, i.e., journals, magazines, children's books, textbooks, and information from around the world on a variety of topics, including much about Quakerism. Diligent efforts made by Library Committee members make our reading room conducive for our spiritual and educational growth.
As a part of our spiritual life we as a community of Friends recognize the importance of welcoming visitors, guests and those that have been away for an extended period. They are welcomed at each meeting for worship. Ministry and Counsel’s rotating Head of Meeting invites all and especially newcomers to Simple Lunch, (supported by The Hospitality Committee), which offers an opening to further greet our guests with friendliness and to answer questions they may have about Quakers, Quakerism, and the Stony Run community.
The meeting ambiance is enhanced by the efforts given by the Property Committee members’ loving care and maintenance of our grounds and meetinghouse.
The Giving Committee is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the spiritual life of the Meeting through its work to provide financial support to help provide a vibrant future.
Stony Run Friends seek to ensure the safety and care of all worshiping with us. Several committees have voiced specific concerns in this matter. In doing so, joint efforts were formed to meet, discuss, inform and bring forth positive results for our youth and worshipers to have a viable and imminent plan of action in the event “aggressive” intruders enter while we are worshipping and simultaneously tending to the care of our children. Initial meetings with the Ushers, Property Committee, Child Safety Committee, Meeting Facilitator and Ministry and Counsel Committee have already been conducted. Future meetings are scheduled that will address the current climate, i.e., violent interruptions made by people looking to harm others.
Stony Run Friends are dedicated to accommodating various worshipping needs. For the hearing impaired, amplified hearing devices are made available. Microphones are strategically placed in our meeting space and speakers are placed inside the library to accommodate anyone interested in hearing only messages given. Latecomers and an overflow from memorials, weddings are benefiting from these electronic devices, as well. Service animals are welcome, and our youth are invited to remain for the rise of meeting. One of our elders experienced decreasing mobility, and when he was no longer able to come to the meetinghouse, the Ministry and Counsel Committee members went to his home to worship and meet with him. It left a lasting impression for all involved.
We as a community foster and nurture the spirituality of our meeting, support families and provide spiritual discernment, often through clearness committees that are formed as the need arises.
There is meeting for healing once a month for those who have asked to be held in the Light or for members to hold others in the Light. Additionally, at the end of every meeting for worship at the Sunday 9:30 and 11 am services, the Head of Meeting invites members to raise the names of those in need to be held in the Light. At its monthly committee meeting, Ministry and Counsel members also hold in the light individuals who have indicated such a need.
We are a robust community of Friends. Each person may seek his/her guidance, and yet collectively we have an understanding of listening and trusting the Light, the Divine, God or the Teacher Within. This is our assurance in seeking together peace, joy, kindness and the recognition of each person possessing the same measure of God, the Light, and the Teacher Within.
We continue to seek the divine in each other as we worship and share fellowship within the Stony Run community. Frequently we experience worship having depth and feeling, summoning many messages which weave together and are experienced as spirit-led. We hope to deepen this experience by listening inside and outside ourselves. We often hear messages that are in reaction to the difficult social environment in the US today. Some Friends feel that social action and political messages are more common than spiritual messages. If anything, the challenging social/political environment has moved people to respond with messages of love and hope and inspired the Meeting to turn faith into action. There is a tendency among messages to express how community is basic to everything and that we hold each other up through all difficulties.
Our early Meeting on average is attended by 10 people and is mostly silent, welcoming those who prefer this quietude and the opportunity to get to know each other better. The late Meeting is well attended by an average of 70 people, followed by simple lunch providing nourishment for our community and discussions that feed our souls; an ad-hoc group under Property Committee has been developing plans to renovate the kitchen to support this fellowship. We also have a weekly women’s worship group and a monthly meeting for healing. We continue to support the programmed worship with Kenyan Quakers at our Meeting House and their presence has enriched our Meeting in many ways, including exposure to the global diversity of Quakerism.
There continues to be a large group of Stony Run members and attenders who participate in the BYM Spiritual Formation program and the small group sharing and community building can be felt throughout the Meeting. The Religious Education committee (RE) created a group that holds ongoing conversations about spirit-led parenting and is using FGC’s Faith and Play resource in first day school. The Ministry & Counsel committee (M&C) led a discussion series on the experience of Meeting for Worship (preparing, centering, speaking, etc.) and has been focused on deepening meeting for worship.
Our community is thriving and taking steps to grow and find new ways to serve the individuals among and beyond us. We began our transition to a new clerk and recording clerk in June. Several of our members attended a FGC Facebook training to help with internet outreach. We are also an aging meeting seeking ways to take care of each other. The Community, Care and Clearness (CCC) committee conducted a survey to explore how the meeting can serve the elder population since it has been difficult to find ways to spend the Elder Care Fund. One result was a 70+ club which began some activities. Honoring those who have passed on, we have been making an effort to catch up on Memorial Minutes. A continuing concern is for more diversity in age in the meeting community, as we did not have an active Young Friends (senior high) group. We encourage youth in our community to attend BYM summer camps and Friends School of Baltimore through advertising and scholarships.
The Ad Hoc Vision, Functions and Structure Committee continues its work with new leadership, focusing now on Functions. We approved a vision statement: To be a thriving Quaker worship community living our values by embracing pluralism, nurturing individual spiritual journeys, and honoring the Light in all peoples. We acknowledge a difference between pluralism and diversity, and to meet our vision of embracing pluralism, we need a common understanding of what “energetic engagement with diversity” looks like in our community. We also want to be a more diverse worshipping community, recognizing that Quakerism was born in England and is a white, Anglo tradition. While we have been seeing a more diverse group of attenders recently in age, gender identification, and skin color, we seek a greater blend in the future and are working on ways to actively support that process. The Working Group on Racism (WGR) held forums to discuss race and a Friend spoke with Ministry & Counsel Committee about Change Groups forming in other meetings which address these desires to change the face of our Meetings regarding ethnicity and age.
Our relationships with other Quaker institutions are an important part of our heritage. We hosted the Chesapeake Quarterly meeting, a talk with the Friends Journal executive director and a potluck and discussion to support BYM STRIDE initiative. The Meeting examined the BYM apportionment process and the topic has led to a deeper conversation about our connection with the Yearly Meeting. Our giving levels were less than budgeted and lower than in previous years and this too has spurred creative conversations.
Expanded outreach is a significant activity at Stony Run and member involvement and leadership continues to grow locally, state wide and internationally, modeling our values for social justice and peace. Meeting advocacy and fundraising efforts supporting community outreach for non-violence, immigrants, food poverty, underserved youth, criminal justice reform and Friends abroad have been very successful, and a very active ad hoc group called Cooperative Outreach continues to explore new ideas. Among other causes, we supported Friends internationally in Belize and Palestine, and the Immigration Working Group continued to support refugee families.
Stony Run continues as a gathered community supporting the seekers in our midst through worship, discussion, advocacy, education and outreach. Our tethered spirit is leading us to new ways of not only supporting each other, but also in discovering that of God in those beyond our knowing.
No report received.
Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run continues as a worshipping community grounded in spiritual leadings. As we seek guidance of the Spirit in our committees, weekly Meetings and monthly Meeting, we teach one another and seek unity, trust and a sense of belonging. Our latter First Day Meeting for Worship is often fully attended and rich in worship. The Working Group on Newcomers and Welcoming under the care of Community Care and Clearness Committee (CCC) feels it has been fairly successful in creating a welcoming atmosphere.
Our committees, working groups, and individuals continue the work of our large and very active meeting. This year we had the task of reviewing and making revision recommendations to BYM Faith & Practice, mindful of our spiritual roots and our evolution as contemporary Friends.
Teaching and learning takes place in our First Day classes, Spiritual Formation, and forums for adult religious education. Our library committee continues their work to support first day students, adults and newcomers through library resources and has made an effort to expand resources related to equality, social and racial justice.
Property Committee is inspired to implement improvements and repairs that create safety, mobility, sustainable space and cooperation on our campus. This year we completed the installation of sustainably designed rain gardens for storm water management with native plants and boulders, through funds from the meeting, a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and hundreds of volunteer hours from our meeting participants. We hope the rain gardens will serve as a model and inspiration to other Meetings.
We continue to focus on growing the relationship between our meeting and Friends School of Baltimore. There is increased involvement with their students in research on Quaker history and projects for peace and justice, including the Homewood peace vigil and service with McKim and Unified Efforts, which are Baltimore City community based youth programs. Stony Run members continue to worship with the students during their school-day meetings for worship.
Stony Run continues to experience a time of significant spirit-led action as part of the Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee, seeking justice for people and our planet. The work of the Working Group on Racism has helped us recognize the importance of taking the lead from people of color whenever possible. Our Friends have worked with the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR) supporting voting rights, mental health in the justice system, and effective citizen re-entry, and seeking to end money bail, mass incarceration, and the overuse of solitary confinement. The work of the Indian Affairs Committee continues to voice the rights of incarcerated Native Americans. We now have a banner on our building: “Honor that of God in Everyone, Stand Against Racism and Bigotry”. The Working Group on Racism continues to promote discussions and awareness about race and racism, including facilitating a meaningful “Conversation about race” at the May business meeting. The Meeting supports the leadings of individuals in their social justice work including MAJR, the Interfaith Alliance for Human Rights (IAHR), founded by a Meeting member, and the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), which two Meeting members have taken into the West Baltimore community with returning citizens. A modified AVP program for police training is to be discussed in an upcoming meeting with the police commissioner. Stony Run shares many of these social justice outreach activities with Homewood Meeting.
The Meeting will also support a requested Holocaust Remembrance in Spring 2017.
Our Meeting’s monthly Meetings for Business are working through challenging finance and budget discussions, needing Light and listening to foster unity.
CCC has identified their challenges in wanting to attract more Friends of color, provide appropriate pastoral care for our elder members, attract more young people and more young families and have a concern regarding outreach.
Following administrative change at Stony Run, we underwent the process of selecting a person to serve in a new position of Meeting Facilitator. Our Meeting Coordinator retired after six years of dedicated service, and he continues to support our Meeting and spirit-led community. We are grateful for the Light he brought and nurtured in our Meeting. Our new Meeting Facilitator is a long time Stony Run member, and welcomes the opportunity to serve the Meeting in this new role. The Vision, Functions and Structure Working Group was formed this year to help us during this transitional time. It is gathering demographics, perceptions, comments, and reflections on our community through listening and spirit-led discussion toward the goal of bringing greater collective clearness to our identity.
Stony Run has been a resource of spiritual comfort this year, in particular during the current political climate. We have found our community to be a safe place for those with our values and a resource for those who may feel threatened. We will be holding an adult forum in 2017 guided by two professional therapists to help meeting members process personal distress, in order that we may be better able to be joyfully present to, and serving in, the greater world.
We will continue to support our community and its seekers, grounded in our Quaker values. As we walk on the path of a new year, we are hopeful to listen more deeply and that our spirit-led efforts will bring peace.
Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run continues as a worshipping community grounded in the reality of the spiritual world. As we seek guidance from Spirit in our weekly meetings and our Monthly Meeting with a Concern for Business, we live into the reality that we can and do guide and teach each other, even as we seek to come under the guidance of Spirit.
Teaching and learning take place in our First Day classes, Junior Young Friends and Young Friends classes, Spiritual Formation, and occasional forums for adult religious education. In all of our relationships, the vitality of Spirit lets us see that we are knit to each other, and that our community nurtures trust and a sense of belonging.
We are a meeting of many ethnic groups and subcultures. We wish to be a Meeting that is truly of diverse roots and perspectives. We know that continued work is necessary if we are to move along the continuum to be a more inclusive worshipping community. In Spirit and in each other we place our faith, so that when a difficult truth needs to be voiced, it is given and received in a loving spirit. We give gratitude and encouragement to our meeting’s Working Group on Racism and to all members and attenders that contribute to this particular teaching and learning. We have made use of queries written by our meeting’s Working Group on Racism.
Our committees, working groups and individuals continue the work of our large and very active meeting; in this work, teaching and learning also take place as we create outcomes both concrete and intangible. For some, committee work is an opportunity for spirit to lead as we work behind the scenes. This work builds our spiritual friendships and also continues the vitality of the Meeting. Our many First Day School teachers, though not part of a committee, make a special contribution to the Meeting’s life and in the experiences of our youngest F/friends.
Stony Run is experiencing a time of significant spirit-led action outside the Meeting. In December of 2014, we took part in nonviolent direct action with Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) to pressure PNC Bank to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining. Among our new works is a courtroom observation pattern for the support of those charged during Baltimore’s unrest in the spring of 2015. We also approved a minute of support for our member who has developed a nonprofit called Unified Efforts, and with it a community center at ground zero of the neighborhood where unrest occurred in April 2015 after Freddie Gray died in police custody. Before that event, the Meeting hosted Baltimore City officials including the former police commissioner three times for conversations, two of which were well-attended First Day Forums. Topics for these conversations included police-civilian interactions and the revised youth curfew law. Stony Run Friends have also taken part in the social action work with the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR) for ending mass incarceration, reducing bail, ending solitary confinement, and assisting with citizen re-entry. These efforts touch deeply our need to be of service, and to be visible in our city and State as joining the efforts for justice.
On our own campus, we are installing sustainably-designed rain gardens with native plants, with a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, to manage storm water run-off. We also held a meeting-wide retreat in April of 2015 to identify our needs and priorities. We have given increased energy to building up the relationship between our meeting and Friends School of Baltimore, over which Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run once had direct governance responsibility. Conversations are taking place about Quaker worship and values, and Stony Run members sometimes worship with the students during their school-day Meetings for Worship.
Among our continued good works, we take care with newcomers to our worship. We held an Inquirers Series of forums, have a Working Group on Newcomers, and have seen a number of new faces, both adult and child, recently. We hold a vigil annually when the Sons of the Confederate Army hold a ceremony of remembrance because of its timing on the same weekend as the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday. Members of our community continue to work with people in our city who need help, working for relief as well as systemic change.
Stony Run observed a unique need for a time of sharing, grieving and worshiping together in November 2015, the 50th anniversary of Norman Morrison’s self-immolation at the Pentagon. Some Friends at our meeting remember Norman, and it was good to have time together to remember him and the grief of that time.
We recognize several areas where we would like to improve. Efforts are underway, and members of our community keep these issues raised before the Meeting at large. We see diversity of all kinds as desirable – economic and social as well as ethnic and racial. We struggle to fill all our committees. We want increased participation in monthly Meeting with a Concern for Business, and have a Friend holding it in the light each month to nurture is spirit-led nature. We continue reminding each other that we need to welcome newcomers who come to worship with us, and get to know them.
In the consideration of the spiritual state of Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run, we reflect on the basic Quaker premise of believing that there is that of God in everyone. Furthermore, Friends’ spiritual centering is that each of us, as a human being, is able to have a direct relationship with the Divine. The spiritual state of the meeting is seasoned through our observation and practice of Quaker testimonies lived daily by individual Friends and their families. Our spiritual challenge as a meeting is how we live our values, communicate them with newcomers, and share them with the broader community.
The activities of Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run, bring us together in joy while supporting our spiritual lives and deepening our spiritual journeys. Meetings for Worship at 9:30 and 11:00 on First Day mornings are at the center of our corporate spiritual life, strengthened by Meeting for Worship for healing, as well as our ongoing practice of sharing joys and concerns. Meeting for Worship with a concern for business continues to be a spirit-led search for right action in our community and the world.
First Day Forums inspire discussions and community building. Individuals seeking spirit-led decisions use clearness committees for inspiration and support. Simple lunch following meeting for worship builds community, and the Spiritual Formation Program supports Friends in maintaining spiritual discipline and in deepening spiritual friendships. Other joys that reinforce our Quaker values within and throughout our meeting include committee work, working groups and interaction with our very helpful meetinghouse staff.
Our meeting community is a nurturing, supportive, extended family. The first day school is a lively bunch, and young Friends are active as well. This year we again had many activities that sustained the meeting community, including carol singing, a fund-raising concert, camping weekend, and the community garden that we share with the Friends School of Baltimore. The availability of nurture funds serves to encourage participation in fee-based activities. Camp scholarship funds are available as well. As a large meeting it can sometimes be difficult to know everyone, but we strive to make everyone feel welcome.
Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run, lives its spiritual leadings for equality by creating opportunities for Friends to be involved in social action and in developing material support for initiatives of conscience. This year saw the efforts of our meeting coordinator’s collaboration with the Loch Raven Ministerium and other groups in the community. Other members of our Meeting joined in partnerships with organizations serving the economically disadvantaged (e.g., GEDCO, McKim Center, and Clay Pots). We appreciated the activities of our Working Groups on Racism and the formation of a working group on Unaccompanied Children from Central America. We participated in a Cove Point pipeline protest and a PNC Bank mountaintop removal investment protest and we continued our annual silent vigil across the street from the Sons of Confederate Veterans who have chosen to hold a celebration on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Also, we participated in the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR), which is a bi-partisan, statewide alliance seeking legislative changes to bring Maryland into the 21st century with corrections policies that are evidence-based, humane, and effective. Examples of our efforts to increase our knowledge and understanding include a study group that focused on reading The New Jim Crow and a Peace Quest conference at Friends School of Baltimore. All of these bear witness to our efforts to have spiritually-informed, right relationships in the community at large and remind us to practice what we believe.
In an effort to bring that of God into difficult conversations, our Working Group on Racism developed three queries** that our Meeting has accepted with the expectation that they will guide our personal interactions, our committee work, and our functioning as a worship community. As a Quaker meeting, our spiritual struggles are those of balancing and interpreting our values and testimonies through our relationships with each other, our internal and external priorities, and our aspirations as a meeting. We recognize that differences occur within the Meeting and that there is great care about dealing with them in a positive way through good process.
Time and focus on the spiritual needs of our meeting are somewhat at tension with our efforts to be relevant in the community and good stewards of our material resources. The spiritual state of Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run, is characterized by a climate of nurture, searching, support and celebration. We seek joyful discernment in our endeavors to live in right relationships as Quakers in our meeting, in our community, and in our contemporary culture.
** 1) How do we [members, attenders, committees and the Meeting] remind ourselves that openness to everyone’s interests and well-being is a spiritual matter, including differences of race, economic status, and other factors?
2) Does our decision-making reflect the views of people of color or of differing economic status?
3) How do we, on a continuous basis, behold the Light, rather than the outward being of others, as we do the business that is upon us?]
If you walked into meeting for worship (at 9:30 A.M. or 11:00 A.M.) at the Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends, Stony Run on any First Day, it is likely that you will be struck by the heterogeneity of the members, attenders, and visitors gathered there. While your first impression would probably be of external factors such as gender, ethnicity, age or some other physical attribute, a closer look will also reveal that there is heterogeneity in other ways that bring comfort to some members and attenders while making others uncomfortable. For example, some would say that they feel the Spirit moving among them when several persons provide vocal ministry during meeting for worship; others feel that they benefit more from sitting in silence when there is indeed expectant silence. Some encourage the Meeting to engage in more outreach while others desire that we direct more of our energy inward and establish a stronger sense of what we believe as a spiritual community. Some members and attenders see differences in beliefs and approaches as challenges or as a bane; other see them as opportunities to enrich their spiritual lives or as a blessing.
Taking a closer look you will see that all who are gathered are on a spiritual journey of continuing revelation and discernment. So, if you ask members or attenders if the Meeting is less than they would like it to be, you may hear them say that they are more concerned about whether they as individuals are less than they ought to be or concerned about whether they have contributed to the life of the meeting as much as they could and should. This looking within is the quintessential aspect of continuing revelation and discernment, for it is the Light that we seek.
Also, you might ask, does Stony Run have challenges? The answer you get will also reflect the heterogeneity of the Meeting. Some members and attenders will answer the question by saying: “Of course, we do.” Others will say the Meeting is filled with opportunities rather than challenges – openings to support one another, to hold each other in the Light –- as we do toward the end of Meeting for Worship and in Meeting for Worship for Healing, to help one another feel part of something bigger than ourselves, and to seek Divine leading, individually and corporately. Some of these openings can be seen through our work together in standing committees, first day school classes for adults and children, working groups, study groups, and spiritual formation groups, and through our breaking bread together during “simple lunch,” after meeting for worship. Some openings can be seen through shared worship and meeting for worship with a concern for business; others can be seen at celebrations, such as the welcoming celebrations we share with new members; and still others can be seen in the Nurture Fund of the Meeting, which provides financial assistance to members and attenders to participate in workshops, programs and retreats in such activities as Quaker faith and practice, spiritual growth, and pastoral counseling.
Finally, with all of our talk about heterogeneity, there are things around which we believe that there is unity among us. Those things include the seeking of positive alternatives to societal issues – violence, discrimination, and environment, to name a few. One example of this work is that our Peace and Social Justice committee is currently helping to create a Peace Quest conference to mark the 20th anniversary of Friends Peace Teams. Through our expressions of concern for societal issues, we are able to give emphasis to Spirit-led responsibility and action and to bear witness to truth discerned inwardly. So, one way of defining the spiritual state of the Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Stony Run is by how well we speak to societal issues inside and outside our spiritual community. Clearly, we are not there yet, but we accept the challenge to faithfully persist in our journey of continuing revelation and discernment.
There are many aspects of our spiritual life that bring us joy. We are fortunate to be a Meeting with diverse experiences and views of Spirit. We strive to support one another in our individual spiritual journeys. This happens especially in Meeting for Worship, First Day forums, clearness sessions and informal conversations over lunch. The Spiritual Formation program continues to grow and to provide a means of deepening the participants’ spiritual journeys as well as building community. We endeavor to be tender with one another, accepting and respectful, and expect way to open. The work of committees contributes to the life of the whole Meeting, especially on those occasions when committees draw the entire Meeting into discerning, approving, and carrying out the committee’s work. Our staff provides information, positive suggestions, and continuity to our community.
Our First Day School classes and the two Young Friends groups are lively, spirited, and joyful gifts to all of us. A sense of joy is often evident at simple lunch, carol sings, a recent fundraiser concert, the annual camping weekend, and work in the community garden. We need to open more fully to the joyful presence of Spirit in our committee meetings and all formal group worship, including Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business. We can bring that of God into our midst by keeping our minds and hearts open and greeting each other with joy.
For most of us, most of the time, the Meeting community is a nurturing, supportive, extended family, where we are committed and responsive to one another, offering support and comfort especially to those experiencing challenging times. Close, lifetime friendships are forged in this Meeting.
We have identified some major areas of potential growth we must address to have a fuller spiritual life together. We need to respond to conflict and hurtful behaviors in effective and healthy ways. Recognizing that each of us carries the Seed of truth and light, we need to wait, listen, and speak from that place.
Another avenue for growth is the need to give more attention and support to our many sub-committees and working groups. In the view of some, long-established working groups such as that for newcomers and welcoming and that dealing with racism should be eligible to become fully functioning committees with budgets, reports, and rotating members. An additional concern is how to promote opportunities for spiritual sharing, especially as we note the shrinking attendance at First Day forums.
Stony Run has some systemic problems that affect our community outreach. In the eyes of some, we can be overly tied up with our own finances and other internal affairs. We seem unable to make one concerted outreach effort in a single Spirit-led direction. We see this reflected in our numerous, but fragmented, budget items for outreach. Because of Stony Run’s location in an almost exclusively upper-class, white community, it is relatively hard for our Meeting to engage in hands-on social change or to be fully aware of the needs of the larger urban community.
Looking clearly at our strengths and needs, we hope to reflect more on the words of a BYM Camping Program query: “How do we continue to work toward creating a community of different people, rather than a community that lets different people in?”
Approved at Monthly Meeting, March 4, 2012
The spirit prospers among us when we are open to new spiritual experiences and insights and when we give ourselves time to deepen those we already possess.
We find that much of our life together actively supports the growth of spirit among us. Spiritual growth comes from small group discussions and worship---including Spiritual Formation, our First Day Forums, Stony Run’s Working Group on Racism, reaction to queries printed in our newsletter, book discussions, interactions with our children, and in worship-sharing at committee meetings and among our teens. Smaller meetings for worship also have enriched us: monthly “Meeting for Healing,” a small mid-week meeting, and special meetings at the bedside of those nearing the end of life. Although having two meetings for worship can cause some tendency to grow apart, we recognize the continued value of having a smaller, quieter early meeting and a second meeting full of children and spoken ministry.
As we have looked at the past year, we have considered whether many of our challenges deal with how we relate to each other in a very large Meeting. We have named specific problems that we need to work on because of our size, including: making newcomers’ welcoming and integration a seamless effort though one addressed by several committees; making more general the responsibility to reach out to those we suddenly stop seeing at Meeting; creating a culture where all of our eldering aims to support growth; and creating an atmosphere where we can all express freely our spiritual pluralism without appearing to be critical of the religious experience or views of others.
As we have considered the matter more deeply, we have concluded that relating to one another may not be sufficiently explained in terms of the size of a Meeting and that we might get closer to an explanation by asking ourselves why people seek to join any group. Further, we might ask why one joins a community of worship and if we tend to ask more of such groups than of others groups to which we might belong.
In our seeking truth about the critical need to belong as it relates to our Meeting, we recognized that the size of our Meeting may increase the tendency for some to feel that they are not connected to the community of worship. But the fundamental issue for any Meeting, regardless of size, is this: are we able to ensure that those who are members or attenders do not feel isolated or estranged? We know that a good quality relationship, even one that occurs only once a week, can enhance a sense of community, love and centeredness. The kind of insightful, benevolent, spirit-led community of worship we seek to be will engender a sense of belonging, increase our individual and collective perception of purpose for our lives, and increase our will to work together to build a healthier community and a more just and peaceful world.
Stony Run Monthly Meeting accepts the challenge that our search for a healthier and better community of worship has revealed to us. We hope that every decision we make and every action we take is spirit-led. We will continue to strive to hold in the Light this challenge: to enhance trust and spiritual harmony at Stony Run. The task that is before us is to heighten our sense of being an interpersonally engaged and spirit-led community of caring and compassion. In accepting this challenge we hold ourselves and every member of the community, individually and collectively, answerable for lending energy and talents to this effort.