Alexandria 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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I have been unable to write or receive writing a long time, to speak or bear to be spoken to, but have been as a man buried alive, for else I should have writ[ten] to you before now.
And therefore, O dear Friends, give no occasion of stumbling. Keep tender, for hardness of heart is worse than an outward plague.…
—George Fox, Epistle 244 (1666)
Alexandria Monthly Meeting’s 219-year history has been marked by faithful perseverance in the face of challenges and dangers, and this year has certainly been no exception. Our Meeting has faced significant losses this year: of Friends, of our beloved Meeting space, and of all the ways it brings us together in fellowship. Yet in both our losses and our growth, our Meeting continues to be a blessing to its members and the wider community. The heart of our spiritual life is caring for each other and meeting in that which is eternal.
The social isolation necessary to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 disease has deprived us of the ability to meet in our meetinghouse for almost a full year at the time of this report. Since March 15, 2020, we have held our weekly meetings for worship in our own homes, using video conferencing technology1 to see each other, to share each other’s presence, and to hear any vocal ministry or other messages. In April, we began holding Adult Religious Education online before each meeting for worship. While we are grateful to come together for worship over Zoom, and distant Friends have been able to join in worship due to this technology, we miss the sense of a gathered meeting in our meeting room, the Quakerly contact, hugs, smiles of greeting each other in person after meeting, the fellowship of a shared meal, and sharing of wisdom and experience that are enabled by being in the meetinghouse. Over the summer we worked to develop safe procedures for outdoor meetings and in late September a few of us gathered under the trees outside our meetinghouse for an afternoon meeting for worship. We continued to meet in this additional way throughout the Fall as the weather permitted. Friends who were able to attend found the opportunity to share the outdoor setting in the physical (although socially distanced) presence of Friends deeply nourishing.
Several members of our community have contracted COVID-19. The effects have ranged from major health trauma to emotional trauma from isolation, and the grief of loss. Our Healing Prayer Committee meets monthly to hold these and other members with health issues in the Light.
We have been especially wounded by the unexpected death of our amazing Friend and past clerk Judy Riggin on June 2. Her death was not due to COVID-19, but coming in the midst of the pandemic it created additional trauma for our community. In addition to Judy’s wonderful soul and calming manner, she was our connection to many activities in the larger community near Woodlawn. In her absence, we continue to discover how often we relied on her for advice, for her excellent memory of our Meeting’s traditions and history, and some committees have struggled to keep activities going without her. Judy was a large crystal who clarified many things for us, whom we went to for advice and perspective. Now that crystal has shattered, and we have to gather those shards from many places.
Holding meeting for worship separately in our homes facilitated by Zoom has provided new opportunities to connect with both local and distant Friends, and our vocal ministry has grown to be spiritually strong. Between 20 and 30 adult friends gather online each week for Adult Religious Education, meeting for worship, and fellowship. Our online Adult Religious Education program has offered diverse, thoughtful and inspiring programs, which have been well attended. Some people find that online meeting for worship does not meet their spiritual needs, and we feel their absence acutely.
Our Meeting is actively working to better understand the effects of white privilege and how to break down the barriers it has erected in our society, our Meeting community, and our own lives. A “Change Group” was created to further our growth in learning to talk about race, and what it means to work towards becoming “anti-racist.” During July and August 2020, Ministry and Nurture led a series of Adult Religious Education meetings on the book Me and White Supremacy, by Layla Saad. Ongoing Adult Religious Education topics from members and guests challenge us to think more deeply as we continue this important work.
Our Historian continues to contribute to the spiritual life of the Meeting by exploring and sharing the Meeting’s past. In November 2020, for example, she offered a talk for the Adult Religious Education hour titled, “As They Were Led: Friendly Steps and Missteps toward Native Justice.” Our Historian helps to ground us by asking, “How can we be enriched by improving our understanding of the specific and direct practice of the anti-slavery, humanitarian, and peace testimonies by the early Woodlawn Friends?”
While Children’s Religious Education initially struggled to adapt to the changing needs of the families of our Meeting and the shift from in-person to virtual connections, in recent months we have increased our outreach through mailings, online game nights, bible study, and a pen pal program. We hope these efforts help to lessen the strain caused by the feeling of isolation that is so common while we are physically separate.
Our community felt the loss of our Hospitality Committee’s luncheons when our weekly “Meetings for Eating” ended due to the meetinghouse closure in March, 2020. Meeting participants still gather for informal fellowship after Meeting on Zoom, allowing distant Friends and attenders to join us, though the sense of community is quite different, and the in-person dimension has been lost. We look forward to returning to sharing the gifts of food and fellowship in person.
Some annual activities in which we were involved, such as the Student Peace Awards ceremony and the Capital Pride March, were cancelled. Our annual Homecoming celebration, normally held at the end of September, used to draw in neighbors from throughout our community in a joyous afternoon, and we felt saddened by its absence this year.
As the Meeting entered this strange season of physical disconnect and isolation, some of us have deepened our focus on the contemplative center of our faith. Since the Spring of 2020, we have hosted a weekly meeting for Centering Prayer, which has included around 16 Friends and attenders in a regular practice of listening prayer, fellowship, and reflection on writings from the Christian contemplative tradition. Although fewer members participated in Spiritual Formation and Friendship groups this year, individuals have connected with each other through Centering Prayer and other committees.
Out of concern for the spiritual challenge posed by the pandemic, the Ministry and Nurture Committee increased the frequency of its meetings. The Committee has met weekly since March 8, 2020, missing only one Saturday. That regularity and commitment has led to a closeness in the committee. It has helped to sustain the Meeting by anticipating concerns and undertaking the effort to reach clearness in a situation of continuous uncertainty and change, with the intent of retaining our community’s sense of being gathered.
One Friend had a strong leading to bring in remarkable Quakers to speak at Adult Religious
Education, share the common meal, and dialogue with Friends. The motivation is to ask, “How
are you living your truth as a Quaker?” The Ministry and Nurture Committee was strongly supportive of the leading, and helped season and deepen it. Speakers have been arranged for the first six months of 2021.
The pandemic, combined with Judy’s death, brought our evolving challenges with communication into focus. This has led us to look more carefully at how we reach out to all members and attenders, ensuring that communication is as broad and timely as possible when in-person contact is not possible.
Some of the Meeting’s practical responsibilities continue to be met as in prior years. Trustees continue to steward the Meeting’s endowment, with a particular concern for major repairs required to both of the meetinghouse porches. Working with the Property Committee, a plan is in preparation to meet these expenses. The usual Meeting support for friends wishing to attend camps and conferences, and providing scholarships for college students and others, will be available once again. A major activity of our Meeting early in the year was supporting the Hypothermia Outreach Project of the Ventures in Community organization near us. We joined with many other area churches in providing meals and overnight presence for local individuals who would otherwise be at risk during cold weather.
Our Historian also follows a leading, derived from the gentle nurturing and spiritual life of our Meeting, of “Quaker Witnessing in the Past.” “Witnessing" can be experienced as a sacrament, is prayerful, and is an opening of the spirit toward understanding—not just of facts and events, but meaning, toward a deeper discernment of human and Divine purpose and intent. Thus the Historian seeks to contribute to the spiritual life of the Meeting by exploring and sharing the Meeting’s past, with the goal of reclaiming our history from mainstream interpretations that miss the spiritual basis of Quaker practice. What is learned from this witnessing is: the importance of being our own voice—among ourselves and the broader community; of discerning the diversity of spiritual gifts among Woodlawn Friends over time; and creating and recovering the record that shows our history is ongoing—a living tradition.
The Meeting continues to examine itself and its course into the future. A visioning session provided numerous ideas for activities and improvements; the Change Group carries forward a deep concern about race and equality; individual members have new leadings that are nurtured and seasoned. We seek: What is universal (and trans-temporal) in Quaker testimony? How can we differentiate it from the temporal in our 20th and 21st century perspectives? How can we be enriched by improving our understanding of the specific and direct practice of the anti-slavery, humanitarian, and peace testimonies of the early Woodlawn Friends?
As we meet in silence and in fellowship—in Meeting for Worship and over shared meals; to discuss books, spiritual insight, and our diverse experiences—our community strengthens and sustains us. We connect over board games, preparing meals, taking care of our Meeting House and community. At the same time, we struggle with a feeling that we don’t know each other well enough, that we are more isolated than we want to be, and that we aren’t doing enough.
Our Meeting’s spiritual life resides in the shared heritage of Friends worshiping together in our meetinghouse for over 150 years. While we labor to maintain an aging property, its gift to our members and attenders are the gentle creaks of the wooden benches and the shared space of peace and community. A weekly common meal provided by our Hospitality committee nourishes the vital ties of fellowship among us. This is especially important to newer Meeting participants and children: as people relax and eat they begin to get to know each other on a personal level, we find a sense of community and enter more deeply into the experiences and insights shared by fellow Friends and attendees.
There is renewed interest in the Spiritual Formation program this year, which allows Friends to discuss spiritual matters and their spiritual practices in a supportive group atmosphere. Twenty-eight Friends and attenders currently participate in the program, some of whom have been attending Meeting for years, while others are just beginning their journey together. There is one men’s group, two women’s groups, and two of mixed genders.
We are blessed to have in our Meeting those who have reflected extensively on Quaker history, teachings, and process, and who graciously share their insights through the Adult Religious Education (ARE) program. This year’s ARE program included sessions on Quaker spirituality and history, explorations of the Bible and other inspired writings, presentations on the relationship of science and spirituality, and matters of social concern, as well as an extended series on BYM Faith and Practice. We hosted presentations from local organizations, which help to keep us involved in our local community, and presentations from the larger Quaker fellowship, such as Baltimore Yearly Meeting and Friends Committee on National Legislation. The ARE program gives us a rich opportunity to share and nurture our gifts, both as presenters and as receivers, and deepens our sense of community.
Monthly QuakerSpeak discussions are well-attended and promote good dialogue among those who participate. Over the past year we've watched a variety of programs, attended by individuals new to Quakers as well as seasoned Friends. Attendees share responses and ideas prompted by the videos, exploring important spiritual topics.
The Children’s Religious Education (CRE) program had a busy year. Following our theme of Confident Quakerism we have gone back to basics, encouraging a positive attitude towards meeting for worship and sitting in silence. At the end of our lessons each week we circle up as a First Day School, and then practice joining the adults in Meeting for Worship. First Day School topics and activities this year include ongoing studies in Quaker history, theology, and practice; a presentation by a wildlife expert; cooking monthly meals for the homeless; and well-attended monthly game nights. We look forward to celebrating spring and the end of the school year with our annual Children’s Picnic, when the children will choose an organization for which to raise funds. We hope to continually engage our children in activities that deepen Quaker values, and we appreciate the adults who support them.
The Heritage and Community Relations (H&CR) committee works to preserve our home and its history by keeping inventory of our historic features and objects, working with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources Easement Office for review of projects affecting historic features of the Meeting House and grounds, and supporting our meeting Historian. The Historian adds perspective to discussion of property and building maintenance, providing cultural context for decisions. This year our Meeting Historian did research in Meeting records, land records, and other public records with descendants of Woodlawn’s neighboring free African American community, the Gum Springs Historical Society, and members of historically black church, Woodlawn United Methodist.
The Library committee is responsible for the upkeep of books and other material available in the Meeting House, giving priority to Quaker classics and other spiritual books that are not available in the public library system. This year, we began a project to catalog the library and make it available online. We have completed cataloguing around a quarter of the books and all of the Pendle Hill pamphlets in the library. We added new pamphlet and magazine holders to the Buckman room for better visibility.
The Peace and Social Concerns (P&SC) committee continues its stewardship role in our County and the wider Quaker community. Through P&SC, the Meeting provided financial support to several local social service organizations, as well as American Friends Service Committee and the Friends Committee on National Legislation. In March we provided a Simple Meal in support of Right Sharing of World Resources, a Quaker organization that supports microloan projects in India and Africa. The Meeting contributed more than a ton of food to United Community (formerly United Community Ministries), an Alexandria-based interfaith organization that distributes food to persons and families in need, and Meeting volunteers provided meals and overnight chaperones in February and March for the Ventures in Community Hypothermia Outreach Program (VICHOP). P&SC sponsored presentations for Adult Religious Education including topics on legislative advocacy priorities of the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, a state-level organization similar to FCNL, as well as presentations on two local organizations providing services in communities near the Meeting. There were also presentations on fair treatment of immigrants, a Friends House initiative on meeting the needs of the LGBT community, and the BYM anti-racism initiative. In cooperation with many other local religious communities and organizations, the Meeting continued to support the Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County. Meeting members also participated in a joint effort to provide a Quaker presence at Capital Pride events. In September, about seventy-five people attended our annual homecoming event that brings together Friends far and near and raises money for local community activities and support for the homeless.
During 2019, the Trustees continued to provide a spirit-led focus on the Meeting’s finances—endowment, operating funds, and annual budget—and on our historic Meeting House property. A map for our historic burial ground, researched and created by the Meeting’s Historian and Property committee, was adopted by Trustees. This map will be updated annually in accordance with policies established by the Meeting in 2019 to protect and maintain our historic burial ground, memorial mound, and memorial pathways, which continue to provide a quiet place of final rest for our members, attenders, and founding families. Aided by our Meeting’s Property committee, Trustees helped construct a wooden access ramp from the parking lot to the Meeting House to ease the participation of physically challenged members and attenders. And, as in all years, we monitored the sustainable use of the Meeting’s endowment funds to support our scholarship, camps, and conference program; and our financial gifts to a long list of organizations that amplify Quaker witness.
Alexandria Monthly Meeting continues its “Who We Are” program to contemplate and present our life stories, with emphasis on spiritual journeys and human diversity. This was prompted by a useful query from Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and reinforced by our desire to better know our fellow Friends. A dozen members and attenders have written personal essays about gender, racial, and ethnic identity. Another half-dozen have shared their stories in the open forum of Adult Religious Education discussions. We are learning that Friends’ experience as social beings and as Quakers result in rich, varied, and fascinating stories that inspire us as individuals and as a spiritual body. Sharing our stories brings us insight, understanding, and joy. As we learn more about Who We Are, we increase our appreciation and love for our fellow Friends and for the world at large.
Our Ministry and Nurture committee senses a tension among us. As Friends, we are pulled by the culture of distrust and despair outside our meeting. Messages of anxiety and disquiet punctuate the wisdom, hope, joy, and stillness the Spirit brings us in worship and conversation. Our private struggles and the challenges of being in relationship form a real part of our fellowship. Sometimes this makes it hard to trust that there is a Way of harmony and loving wholeness into which the Guide may gather us. This tension is part of our lives that we lay before the Spirit in offering.
We find a deep peace in our shared worship and time together. Through committee work and individual leadings, we weave our varied talents and callings into a fabric that supports us all, but we continue to be aware of areas in which we might improve the life of the Meeting.
The current political and social environment challenges our meeting in many ways. The deep silence and sharing in our worship services help to join us together in spirit and to restore us. Meeting for Worship provides a refuge of kindness, inclusiveness and hope. Those values in turn challenge us to respond to our broader communities outside the meeting. There are no easy answers, but the journey informs our spiritual growth and our daily lives.
The Adult Religious Education committee organized presentations on topics including Quaker spirituality and history, explorations of the Bible and other inspired writings, the relationship of science and spirituality, and matters of social concern. We hosted presentations from local organizations, which help to keep us involved in our community. We are blessed to have in our Meeting those who have reflected extensively on Quaker history, teachings, and process. We are also blessed by guest presentations from the larger Quaker and faith community such as BYM, FCNL, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and the Center on Conscience and War. We have been cautious in considering the potential for divisiveness in the topics we present. There is sensitivity to the concern of opening to differing points of view and the tension they can produce. We hold this concern in the Light and seek Guidance.
The Children’s Religious Education Committee has experienced a year of ups and downs. We have a strong group of volunteers who provide childcare and offer classes for our children. Once a month the children prepare a meal for 25 homeless men and women who participate in Rising Hope’s programs. The children bring infectious enthusiasm to the business of chopping vegetables for soup and making and wrapping peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In December they collected coats, boots and blankets and delivered them to Rising Hope, each with a message of hope written by one of our children. The major problem facing our committee is that attendance is so variable. We are looking for ways to build more connections among the children outside of meeting. We will continue to welcome all children warmly, and offer them a variety of opportunities for exploration, learning, reflection, and service.
Our Meeting feels a part of our spiritual life resides in the shared heritage of Friends worshiping together in our meetinghouse for over 150 years. While we labor to maintain an aging property, its gift to our members and attenders are the gentle creaks of the wooden benches and the shared space of peace and community. The Hospitality Committee provides a common meal each week, which facilitates the connection and conversation by which many Friends start to know other Friends on a personal level. The Heritage and Community Relations and Property Committees work to preserve that home and its history, including providing input on a new sign describing the building’s history installed by Fairfax County. This work and our community engagement activities are vital components of AMM’s spiritual life. The historian adds perspective to discussion of property and building maintenance, providing cultural context for decisions. She seeks to contribute to the spiritual life of the Meeting by exploring and sharing AMM’s experience, with the goal of reclaiming our history from mainstream interpretations that miss the spiritual basis of Quaker practice. Activities include participating in public events on the history of antislavery Quakers and African American communities and through research for revisions to Woodlawn historic district’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places to remedy the exclusion of African American sites and history.
The Library Committee is responsible for the upkeep of books and other material available in the AMM meetinghouse, giving priority to Quaker classics and other spiritual books that are not available in the public library system. We also maintain a Little Free Library in the front of the grounds as a community service. Overflow books and donations provide a steady stock of books available there.
Our monthly Quaker Speak discussions continued successfully in 2018. The group watches one short Quaker Speak program and then shares ideas stimulated by what they saw. Notably, Friends who participated found these discussions an open, non-judgmental framework to talk about their differences in background, political inclinations, personal faith, and views about our Meeting’s practices. In addition, our Spiritual Friendship Program is made up of three groups that meet regularly to share their spiritual interests and journeys through various readings and methods as they grow in spirit together. We continue to encourage those new to AMM and Friends to join these programs.
In 2018, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee continued to meet its stewardship role by tending to the Meeting's charitable donations to several local social service organizations, as well as AFSC and FCNL. In May, the Committee provided a Simple Meal in support of Right Sharing of World Resources, which supports microloan projects in India and Africa. This year the Meeting again achieved its goal of contributing more than a ton of food to United Community Ministries, an Alexandria interfaith organization that distributes the food to persons and families in need. About 20 volunteers from the Meeting again participated in the Ventures in Community Hypothermia Outreach Program. In cooperation with many other local religious communities and organizations, the Meeting continued to support the Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County. AMM members also participated in a joint effort to provide a Quaker presence at Capital Pride events and advocated for peace as part of an FCNL advocacy team. In September, we held our annual homecoming event that brings together Friends far and near and raises money for local community activities and support for the homeless.
During 2018, AMM’s Trustees continued to provide spirit-led focus on the Meeting’s finances and on our historic Meeting House property. This year, we put special emphasis on ensuring adequate insurance coverage for full-replacement value of our Meeting House and Carriage Shed, and on the Meeting's policies about our historic burial ground, which continues to provide a quiet place of final rest for our members, attenders, and historic families. We continued to use some of the Meeting's endowment funds to support our scholarship program and financial gifts to a long list of organizations that amplify Quaker values. At the direction of the Meeting-at-large, we provided financial support to the William Penn House to support its vital contributions to Friends' work across the United States and around the world.
We formed the Who We Are Committee as part of our effort to address BYM’s request for demographic statistics about those in the Meeting. Meeting for Business approved the group’s resolve to “prepare and conduct a survey of the Meeting’s diversity designed by our committee. This survey is to be framed as an opportunity to know who we are as a Meeting in terms of our diversity.” Ultimately, the committee decided to solicit personal stories from members, to be shared as a means to know and celebrate our community. We shared some stories at an Adult Religious Education session, which stimulated positive interest in this project, so WWA will continue. We see this effort as an initial step in the complicated, sometimes awkward, effort to reach out to, welcome, and include other communities of color, culture, and ethnicity in our services and activities.
The Ministry and Nurture committee has a special concern for the spiritual life of the community as well as fostering mutual care and support. Our meetings for worship continue in right order and under the Presence of the Spirit. Sadly, we have lost a beloved Friend to death. She lived a long life as a Quaker, since her birth in 1914. We have been blessed by new attenders and members.
We are aware of areas in which we might improve the life of the meeting. Through our committees and individual leadings, our meeting attempts to weave our varied talents and callings into a fabric that supports us all. We find a deep peace in our shared worship and time together.
The spiritual life of our community is embodied in our Meeting for Worship. Our worship Meetings are often silent and frequently have only two or three messages. The deep silence and sharing help to join us together in spirit and to restore us. This has been especially important in the current environment of diverging views and new threats to inclusiveness, human rights and social justice. We struggle with how to respond to these challenges, but our spiritual interactions inform our other activities and outreach, and contribute to a shared space of peace and compassion.
We continue to be blessed with new members and attenders of all ages who enrich the life of our community. The Children’s Religious Education group tended a garden this year and explored themes of integrity and truth. One highlight was the Sunday we spent learning Native American games and crafts with a member of the Meeting who works for the National Park Service. Another was decorating fleece scarves for the homeless during our fall “Service Sundays.” On Christmas Eve day, we attached notes of encouragement and caring to each of the scarves, and to a great many hats brought in by one intrepid young knitter, and took them to the homeless shelter at Rising Hope Methodist Church. The welcome we received is something we will always remember. At the end of our time together each Sunday, the children gather in a circle and prepare to go into the “Quiet Room” for the last few minutes of Meeting for Worship. Almost all seem to appreciate the opportunity to rest in the silence with their family members, held in love by the Meeting.
The Adult Religious Education Committee provides presentations every First Day of the academic year. Topics included Quaker spirituality, history and biography; explorations of the Bible and other inspired writings; the relationship of science and spirituality; and matters of social concern. These sessions have been rich in Spirit and have offered a valuable forum for sharing our leadings with one another and for welcoming Friends and others from the larger community to share their passions with us.
Our Meeting feels a part of our spiritual life resides in the shared heritage of Friends worshiping together in our meetinghouse for over 150 years. The Heritage and Community Relations Committee, in concert with the Property Committee and Trustees, works to preserve that home. We recognize the value of identification as an historical property, both to honor our heritage and to protect us from surrounding urban and military development. Thus, the committee helps to ensure our property remains a quiet and peaceful setting for silent worship.
Our Historian also contributes to the spiritual life of the Meeting by exploring and sharing the Meeting’s past, with the goal of reclaiming our history from mainstream interpretations that miss the spiritual basis of Quaker practice. In addition, our Library Committee curates our collection to retain Quaker classic books and other spiritual books that are not available in the public library system. AMM maintains a Little Free Library in the front of the grounds as a community service, which the library committee restocks as needed.
In 2017, the Meeting's Peace and Social Concerns Committee continued to meet its stewardship role by tending to the Meeting's charitable donations to local and national organizations. This year, the Meeting achieved its goal of contributing more than a ton of food to United Community Ministries, an Alexandria interfaith organization that distributes the food to persons and families in need. Volunteers from the Meeting again participated in the Hypothermia Outreach Program and supported local faith and non-profit partners on a strong public response to an incident of ICE arrests of clients exiting the facility. In September, the Committee sponsored the Meeting's annual homecoming event that brings together Friends far and near and raises money for local community activities and support for the homeless. The Committee continues to sponsor Adult Religious Education presentations once a month. For example, in November, Imam Zia Makhdoom, a member of the Fairfax County Clergy and Leadership Council, led a discussion of Islam and the Islamic Community in the United States. Several of us also joined to form an Alexandria Advocacy team under the guidance of the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
In summer 2017, AMM members initiated a monthly Quaker Speak discussion meeting. The group watches one short Quaker Speak program and then shares ideas stimulated by what they saw. Those shared ideas covered a seemingly unlimited range -- personal experiences, questions about Quaker practice, suggested relevant readings, applications of Quaker history, and so on. In particular, differences in faith and practice within our Meeting were articulated and explored in an open, empathetic framework.
This year, the AMM Trustees focused on maintaining and enhancing our service to our members and attenders, to our surrounding community, and to the sustainability of our Meeting's financial endowment. AMM has been able to maintain a balance between contributions and expenditures, allowing trustees to dedicate the Meeting's modest endowment income to the needs of our greater Quaker community, to scholarships for our Meeting's young Friends, and to the long-term maintenance of our historic structures, which have been in continuous, loving use for a century and a half.
The Ministry and Nurture committee has a special concern for the spiritual life of the community which it helps support through six Spiritual Formation groups under its care. The Committee has had a busy year, attending to the ministry in worship and nurturing our growing Friendly activities. Our meetings for worship continue in right order and under the Presence of the Spirit. Sadly, we have lost several beloved Friends to death, but we have been blessed by new attenders and members.
We are aware of areas in which we might improve the life of the meeting. We are challenged to meet the unique individual needs of our faith community members. We are seeking new ways to encourage more of our members to join in mutual care and support, including personal visits, hospitality, and care for the physical structure of the Meeting House. Through our committees and individual leadings, our Meeting attempts to weave our varied talents and callings into a fabric that supports us all. We find a deep peace in our shared worship and time together.
The spiritual life of our community is embodied in our Meeting for Worship. Our worship Meetings are often completely silent and frequently have only two or three messages. The deep silence and sharing help to join us together in spirit and to restore us. Friends also gather in worship at mid-week meeting, a Bible study group and in spiritual friendship groups. These various opportunities to strengthen our spiritual lives and practices help prepare us for a meaningful First Day meeting for worship.
We continue to be blessed with new members and attenders who enrich the life of our community. The Children’s Religious Education (CRE) segment is well-attended and we were pleased to welcome new participants in the last year. The CRE group planted seeds and tended a garden this year, learned songs to perform at the Homecoming celebration in the fall, and studied Quaker concepts and the Bible. Our vibrant CRE program and the eager participation of both children and adult helpers is a great joy of our Meeting.
Adult Religious Education (ARE) continues every week during the academic year and offers variety and spiritual deepening. We are fortunate to have many different presenters and topics that attract a strong core group and many others who attend as they are able and led. ARE meets the hour before worship and leads to education and quieting in preparation for worship.
Our Hospitality committee provides an excellent opportunity for strengthening our sense of community by providing a meal after worship every week. Many volunteers cooperate to bring healthful dishes for a common meal. It is a time to catch up with others as we eat together. This weekly meal provides a chance for Friends of all ages to mix together and gives everyone an opportunity to serve by helping prepare for and clean up after the meal. Hospitality is particularly important for newer participants and for children because it is often the gateway to the greater Meeting. We also continue our annual “Homecoming” gathering which brings back former members and friends of the Meeting to listen to music and share a meal together as a fundraiser for United Community Ministries.
We seek to be good stewards for our beloved Meetinghouse and grounds, the setting for our silent worship. Those who serve on the House Committee, Property Committee, Heritage and Community Relations Committee, and Trustees work together, sharing many responsibilities for its care. Individual Friends tackle special cleaning, maintenance, and repair projects, as a unique way to serve. Our Stewardship Work Day in May gathered over thirty-five Alexandria Friends, including many children, for a lively day of cleaning, grounds care, and fellowship.
Our committees give people a chance to serve in areas that interest them. Peace and Social Concerns serves a stewardship role by distributing the meeting’s charitable donations to local service organizations, Friends organizations and for the first time this year, to the International Rescue Committee to address refugee needs. Various members of the Meeting are involved in advocacy for the Standing Rock Tribe and for refugees affected by the recent travel ban.
Our meeting reaches out to the community in several ways including support for the Ventures in Community Hypothermia program, contributions for the local food pantry, and through monetary donations to United Community Ministries. Working with other meetings, we supported the Fairfax County Student Peace award and helped staff a Quaker booth at the Capital Pride events.
The Heritage and Community Relations (H&CR) committee is active in the community to ensure that our property remains a peaceful setting. Their diligent expressions of concerns to the authorities re-routing and widening a road affecting our access was instrumental in helping maintain a quiet meeting site.
We have a meeting historian who follows a leading, derived from the gentle nurturing and spiritual life of our meeting, of “witnessing in the past.” We all appreciate our historic Meetinghouse and the sense of peace it gives us. We have been honored to host historians and others interested in our building and our history.
The Board of Trustees helps support our community by handling the finances and funding maintenance of the Meetinghouse and of scholarships. They are working on the review of the apportionment formula for Baltimore Yearly meeting to make it more equitable.
The Ministry and Nurture (M&N) committee has a special concern for the spiritual life of the community which it helps support through Spiritual Formation and Friendship groups and a Healing Prayer group under its care. The M&N committee welcomes newcomers, answers questions from visitors, creates clearness committees for new members and supports families when a Friend dies. The committee takes care that the meeting for worship begins on time and gives our community the opportunity to have settled, quiet time for reflection on our spiritual lives. Because of this preparation, meeting for business is also conducted with special care for spirit-led processes and decisions.
We are aware of areas in which we might improve the life of the meeting. We would like to reach out more effectively to middle school, high school and young adult Friends. We would like to find ways to support the families in our meeting raising children. We keep these ideas in mind as we strive to make our meeting serve our needs better. Concerns of aging touch many of us, and we seek to sustain each other and listen with open hearts.
Through our committees and individual leadings, our meeting attempts to weave our varied talents and callings into a fabric that supports us all. We find a deep peace in our shared worship and time together.
The spiritual life of our Meeting community is embodied in our Meeting for Worship. The shared deep silence and vocal ministries are the underpinning of our life in faith and community.
We strive for improvements in our Meeting by addressing our diversity in its many aspects—age, genders, ethnicities, background, spiritual beliefs, lifeways, and many more. This seeking has drawn us closer, helping us realize that we seek to know each other better, not simply as “First Day” friends, or Meeting Friends, but as full, rounded, people. We continue to divine ways to use the time and talents of our members and attenders to meet the needs needs we perceive.
Our Meeting is blessed to be physically close to other Meetings and other Quaker organizations. Representatives from these nearby resources provide opportunities for teaching and listening during Adult Religious Education presentations. More informally, members and attenders of our Meeting visit other Meetings in the area. Our spiritual callings are diverse, often intertwining, occasionally conflicting. We seek to nurture the calling of the Light as it appears in each of us. That spirituality and faith leads our connections with others.
In 2015, we celebrated diversity in our membership with our oldest member turning 103 and several infants coming into our fold. What joy on all accounts! Life ebbs and flows, and we also celebrated Memorial Meetings, offering the opportunity to share our simple worship and the sharing of memories that can pleasantly surprise those who have never attended a Quaker Meeting. Our Homecoming each fall celebrates all who are or were connected with our meeting, bringing Friends and friends back together for a day of shared joy.
Children join the Meeting for Worship in the last few minutes and bring richness and vitality to our worship. A significant development during this year has been energetic support for an enhanced First Day School program under the care of the Children's Religious Education Committee. A dozen volunteers--both parents and non-parents--have stepped forward to enable implementation of a full schedule of activities for children of all ages, including classes, service projects and singing, reflecting the meeting's abiding commitment to the nurture its youth. Families and young Friends bring vibrancy and giggles to our gatherings.
Our spiritual life is manifest by involvement with a local hypothermia program where members are led to help in a shelter, including staying overnight and providing meals. A first experience may be unsettling, yet many return to help again, finding fulfillment in giving.
Our Meeting for Worship during the academic year is preceded by Adult Religious Education presentations. Topics are varied and offer a valuable forum for sharing our leadings with one another and for welcoming others from the larger community to share with us. Many Friends have expressed appreciation for the role these sessions play in their spiritual growth. The Peace and Social Concerns committee sponsors monthly Adult Education presentations on social concerns to keep everyone abreast of current social issues such as the Syrian refugee crisis. The Peace and Social Concerns committee also guides much of our Meeting’s stewardship role by leading our Meeting’s charitable donations to local and national organizations.
Our Meeting is fortunate to have a peaceful setting in a time-honored meetinghouse. For several years, our Meeting has recognized the value of being identified as an historical property, both to honor our heritage and to protect us from surrounding urban and military development. Thus the historic preservation work and community engagement activities of the Heritage and Community Relations Committee - done primarily to ensure our property remains a quiet and peaceful setting for silent worship - are a vital component of AMM’s spiritual life.
After worship, a “common shared meal” prepared by the Hospitality Committee each First Day fosters greater unity and cohesion within the Meeting community. This meal gives us time to get to know people in our meeting community that we might otherwise not know well and includes guests and newcomers.
The Meeting for Worship nurtures our individual leadings and our committee life as we strive to weave our varied talents and callings into a fabric that supports us all.
Approved by the Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business Forth Month 12, 2015
Remembering a Year of Growth in the Spirit as We Made Changes and Widened Our Circle of Friends
Alexandria Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends experienced a year of spiritual growth and change as we welcomed new members, mourned the loss of dear Friends, and worked to make the meetinghouse more accessible. We celebrated with joy the births of babies, a celebration of marriage, and memorial meetings. Our shared worship provided a spiritual base for our efforts and relationships within the meeting.
Our First Day worship continues to be a source of strength for the community as we listen to one another ministering and in silence. The mid-week worship and Bible study are thriving with a steady base of participants. The name of the Ministry and Oversight Committee was changed to Ministry and Nurture in consideration of concerns about equity. Committee ministry includes helping sustain Friends, and families during difficult times and providing small grants to help members and attenders with scholastic endeavors. The monthly day of Silence and Simplicity began in January of the year and concluded in September. Spiritual friendship groups form strong spiritual connections and bases of friendship for the many long-term and new group members, which in turn nourish the meeting’s spiritual life. The Healing Prayer ministry continues to support our meeting in silent supplication of support. Meetings for worship with a concern for business can be long and difficult when we approach heartfelt issues. It can be a challenge to enter these meetings with an open mind and an open spirit and many of us are still growing in this area.
Spiritual concerns for Alexandria Friends include how to revitalize the Children’s Religious Education program with increased volunteer support. We have an ongoing quest to find volunteers within our small community to fill all of the positions needed, particularly the joyful guidance of our young Friends of diverse ages.
One strength of our meeting is the weekly common meal shared after worship. People come to know one another better as we share a healthy meal every week. The servers enjoy the camaraderie of working together, and relationships are strengthened both at lunchroom table and kitchen sink. Our kitchen was remodeled this year, creating an updated, clean work space, and we are grateful for the volunteers who did the remodeling work for the benefit of us all. The Hospitality Committee continues to recruit new volunteers to serve in this ministry, although it can sometimes be a struggle.
Adult Religious Education continues to be a valuable forum for sharing and growing in community. The sessions are offered each First Day before worship during the school year, and they draw on the expertise within and beyond the community to nurture the spirit through education. Children’s Religious Education during worship has many young participants, and we are grateful for the steady support of our long-time CRE leaders.
Our historic meetinghouse both supports us and needs our support. We installed an HVAC system to ensure that all Friends can worship comfortably during weather extremes. We also replaced a portion of our roof, dealt with issues of animals and insects under and in the meetinghouse, and removed dead trees, all within the guidelines for preservation of the historic property. Our dedicated Heritage and Community Relations Committee seeks to guide the Trustees and Meeting in this, so that our historic status remains a protection for our spiritual home and its quiet and peaceful setting for spirit-led silent worship that we cherish. Trustees seek to preserve the investments under their care with guidance from the spirit and others in the Meeting.
Peace and Social Concerns Committee continues its stewardship role in the meeting through donations and the projects that they support. The Hypothermia Project, Nurturing Parent Program, and Peace Prize are some of the initiatives that Friends support in the wider community with their volunteer time.
We celebrated our fourth annual Homecoming this ninth month, with the theme, “How Can I Keep from Singing.” Friends, guests, and former members reconnected while sharing in a consideration of music and song in Quaker tradition, along with worship, food, musical performances, and singing together in a joyful day.
Our meeting has a deep sense of history both in the historic meetinghouse and in the strong base of Quaker values evidenced over the years worshipping there. We seek to grow in the truth of the Spirit and strengthen ourselves and one another as we grow in community.
With a steady influx of new members and attenders, Alexandria Monthly Meeting continues to be a vibrant and growing community. It is especially encouraging to see so many young families among us. Our spiritual vitality is both seen and felt as we worship and work together.
The spiritual calling of AMM members to lead worship sessions in addition to our weekly First Day Meetings for Worship helps meet the needs of our community. We continue to have a mid-week Meeting for Worship. The Spiritual Friendship program is flourishing; spiritual formation groups have proven to be long-lasting networks for nurturing the Meeting community, particularly for the members of our community who actively participate. The Healing Prayer committee has been revitalized. A new monthly day of Silence and Simplicity has been proposed and will be underway in 2014.
Ours is not, as a whole, an activist Meeting, which may be a positive factor in holding us together. There are lots of Meeting-supported individual activities, such as one member’s involvement with Ventures in Community and with finding housing for one of our homeless attenders. Many Friends give time to the work of the larger Quaker world, serving on Baltimore Yearly Meeting committees and the governing bodies of Friends General Conference, Friends Wilderness Center, William Penn House, Friends Committee on National Legislation, School of the Spirit Ministry, and the American Friends Service Committee. AMM tends to follow Sidwell Friends’ advice: “Go narrow; go deep" with our commitments.
Like many relatively small communities, we struggle with the need for volunteers to cycle through positions of responsibility. The Nominating Committee has done admirable work in this regard. We honor the service of our departing clerks as we seek people to advance in spiritual leadership as entering clerks. We deeply appreciate the outstanding service of our outgoing clerks of AMM and the leadership of Ministry and Oversight. We enthusiastically and gratefully embrace our new clerks for AMM and Ministry and Oversight and confirm a convener for the Healing Prayer committee. We honor the long, quiet, and faithful ministry of another member, who has come for so many years to open and tidy up the meetinghouse and stay late to close it after rise of Meeting.
Our common meal after every Meeting for Worship is colloquially called our Meeting for Eating. It nourishes body, soul, and spirit as we share religious insights, personal news, concerns, and support for one another. This ministry is highly valued by the community, and the Hospitality Committee offers its members a chance to deepen relationships with one another as they serve side by side. This work involves a large group to cook, serve, and clean up weekly. This committee is constantly challenged to maintain a dynamic equilibrium as our clerk patiently and diligently seeks new members in an ongoing way.
The active part of our fall began with our third (annual!) Homecoming. Connections were celebrated in music, sharing stories of finding or experiencing Quakerism, learning the history of our Meeting and the community of which we are a part, watching our children play, enjoying food, and coming together in warm, wonderful worship as Friends and guests filled the meeting room. Caring for each other in times of family need strengthened our community and brought people back. 2013 closed with our annual Christmas Eve worship service and fellowship that attracts families and individuals to celebrate together.
Our regular schedule of activities continues: thoughtful presentations from Adult Religious Education, expansion of Children's Religious Education. Spiritual concerns include how best to nurture our Children's Religious Education program, so that more volunteers come forward to support the planned curriculum. We rejoice in the children in our Meeting. The range of ages and frequency of attendance present challenges, but we are warmed by the opportunity to nurture the families.
Reaching out to Friends who are seldom seen is another area needing our attention. Not a "Where have you been?" but accepting where they are and letting them know AMM is always welcoming, adapting to the seasons of one's life.
Meeting for Worship is at the center of our life as a community. We find sustenance in the living silence or take inspiration from the ministering words of others. The love we experience in gathered worship has sustained us through important and sometimes difficult decisions in our meetings for business, filling us with gratitude for the trust and tenderness that we experience here.
Our beloved historic meetinghouse both supports us and needs our support. This year at a special called meeting, after a prodigious undertaking by two members who gathered and refined requirements, concerns, and proposals that met the stricter guidelines required by the easement agreement of a registered historic property, we committed to installing a heating and air conditioning system that will allow for more extensive use and sharing of the meetinghouse and provide more comfort for those members and attenders who have been most affected by weather extremes and sometimes could not attend. We acknowledge and admire the stamina of the Quaker ancestors who built this house and worshipped here.
The special needs of some people in the Meeting community continue to challenge us to find gentle, appropriate, and helpful ways to respond. We are also seeking to more fully support members of our community as they age and look forward to gathering more resources in the future.
We deeply value the Quaker way of seeking truth. We are an old Meeting, drawing strength and inspiration from our history; we are also a meeting of newcomers and new seekers, setting out on journeys of discovery and transformation. The Light calls us into a further communion, a deeper union with one another and with our truest spiritual center.
Individual Committee Reports
The Nominating Committee gratefully acknowledges those members who generously accepted the call to serve AMM through committee work and clerking. Their spiritual leadings and diligent work has made our Meeting community stronger and provided a model of love and stewardship.
This year, the Spiritual Friendship (SF) Program has flourished at AMM. Currently, there are five groups meeting regularly, and some 20 people are participated. We are particularly happy that a men's group has formed this year and members have expressed their appreciation for getting to know each other and being a part of this community. Each group determines their spiritual focus for the year and readings and activities differ. Several individuals have related their deepening connection to the Spirit and to AMM as a result of the close friendships resulting from being a part of these small groups. It is hoped that in the spring, all groups can meet together in retreat at Friends Wilderness Center to share their journeys and make plans for next year.
Adult Religious Education (ARE)
The Adult Religious Education Committee provides presentations at the ten o'clock hour every First Day except during the summer months. Topics include Quaker spirituality, history and biography; explorations of the Bible and other inspired writings; the relationship of science and spirituality; and matters of social concern.
These sessions have been rich in Spirit and have offered a valuable forum for sharing and growth in our community. We have come to know one another on deeper levels and to be inspired by the experiences and insights of Friends and visitors.
The Hospitality Committee provides lunch or as we like to call it common meal at the twelve o'clock hour every First Day. We welcome unplanned offerings of food from participants of the meeting not on the committee every First Day. In additional to the regular first day lunch, we coordinate food and kitchen help for special occasions (Christmas, Easter, Weddings, Funerals, Homecoming, simple meal etc.) as needed. Some have said we are the glue that keeps the meeting together, to some extent I believe this is true.
We provide that connection and conversation venue by which many Friends at meeting start to know other Friends on a personal level. Hospitality is particularly important for the newer participants and children because Hospitality is often times gate to the greater meeting. We try to make sure this occurs over a healthy mea/snack. We have come to know one another on deeper levels and be inspired by the experiences and insights presented by Friends and visitors. It is an opportunity to discuss what happen at ARE, meeting or just what is going on with our busy lives. People like social interaction and those who run Hospitality realize this and make every effort to make sure this occurs in a productive friendly atmosphere. This is part of their function in addition to the kitchen chores. While we have lost some members over the year we have been able, fortunately, to continue Hospitality by a dedicated core group. It has been difficult to find new members, no matter how much recruitment we do.
We were able to repair the stove thanks to Elizabeth Bartosz and install a magnetic knife holder thanks to Richard Ewell. We have big plans for kitchen renovations and expect that eventually this will occur. It is taking much longer to implement than anticipated. The clerk has put together kitchen maintenance plan to demonstrate a unified kitchen renovation approach to the meeting for Heritage and Community Relations (H&CR). Some of the delay in renovation is because we have been waiting on the electrical outlet installation and others are directly tied to Property personnel timing and availability. All participants enjoy providing a useful service to the meeting, I believe, and we are pleased to continue this tradition.
The business of the Trustees most often concerns decisions of a financial nature. In 2013, the Board of Trustees remained mindful of the responsibilities of caring for a historic property which also must be updated to be a staging area for a vibrant, growing community of Friends. Trustees are blessed with a strong partners in the Heritage and Community Relations Committee and the Property Committee which remain on top of these issues and keep the Board updated, thereby keeping our decisions informed decisions. Trustees are also thankful for the thoughtful and valuable input that they get from Ministry and Oversight Committee as to the current and future potential needs for financial assistance among members and attenders. We also value their assistance in helping us with our continued interest in providing meaningful scholarship aid to the students in our midst, especially as our community grows in numbers.
The Historian follows a leading, derived from the gentle nurturing and spiritual life of our Meeting, of “Quaker Witnessing in the Past.” Keeping in mind that "witnessing" can be experienced as a sacrament, is prayerful, and is an opening of the spirit toward understanding: not just of facts and events, but meaning, toward a better understanding of human and divine purpose and intent. The historian seeks to contribute to the spiritual life of the Meeting by exploring the Meeting’s past, with the goal of reclaiming our history from dominant culture interpretations that miss the spiritual basis of Quaker practice. What is learned is: the importance of being our own voice – among ourselves and to the broader community; of discerning the diversity of spiritual gifts among Woodlawn Friends over time; and creating and recovering the record that shows our history is ongoing--a living tradition. We seek: What is Universal (and trans-temporal) in Quaker testimony? How can we differentiate it from the temporal in our 20th and 21st century perspectives? How can we be enriched by the specific and direct practice of the anti-slavery and peace testimonies by the early Woodlawn Friends?
Historian’s Activities in 2013:
1. Research in Meeting records, land records, other public records, and with descendants, of:
. . . the free African American community that was nurtured by Woodlawn Quakers, resulting in coordination with Holland family descendants, the Gum Springs Historical Society, and the Army, toward protective measures, including the Army’s conduct of a preliminary survey of archaeological remains of the settlement.
. . . the life of Jonathan Roberts, a founding member of Woodlawn Meeting, as he faced decisions about actions to further the moral cause of anti-slavery while remaining consistent with the peace testimony. A working group was formed in support of continued research and publication of an annotated version of Jonathan’s memoir.
. . . Woodlawn Quaker Meeting Burial Ground Biographies, an ongoing project, records the lives of those buried in the Meeting’s burial ground. Revisions to Volume I (A through G), new entries for a future Volume II, and a beginning to a gravestone transcription component were added.
2. Outreach and coordination with:
. . . Friends Historical Library (Swarthmore), the Fairfax County Archives, and publishers of Images of America, for maintaining, augmenting, and sharing the Meeting’s Historical Book and Archive Collections.
. . . the City of Alexandria, for ongoing protection of the Meeting’s property in Alexandria, the Queen Street Quaker Burial Ground.
. . . the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program for tracing connections with Woodlawn’s early Quaker settlers and the free black Gum Springs community.
. . . the City of Pasadena and members of the Orange Grove Meeting Property Committee, at their request, to assist the Meeting in establishing protections for their historic meetinghouse.
3. Participation in the work of the Heritage & Community Relations Committee, including:
. . . Section 106 consultation processes, specifically for Fort Belvoir and Federal Highway Administration undertakings affecting the Woodlawn meetinghouse property.
. . . the Maintenance Planning Process, for planning and installation of heating and cooling.
. . . presenting “Jonathan Roberts, Quaker Scout for the Union Army” for ARE in January.
. . . presenting “Our Neighborhood: Then and Now” for ARE in May.
Heritage and Community Relations
Our Meeting feels a part of our spiritual life resides in the shared heritage of Friends worshiping together in our meetinghouse for over 150 years. The peaceful setting and old wooden benches provide a home for our spirits. The Heritage and Community Relations Committee works to preserve that home.
For several years, our Meeting has recognized the value of being recognized as a historical property, both to honor our heritage and to protect us from surrounding urban and military development. Thus the historic preservation work and community engagement activities of this committee - done primarily to ensure our property remains a quiet and peaceful setting for silent worship - are a vital component of AMM’s spiritual life.
Although much of the work of the Heritage and Community Relations Committee may not usually be considered in the category of spiritual endeavor, we have felt strongly led and supported by the Spirit to move in this direction. We have experienced not only a strong connection with our heritage, but also a joyful unity with the entire ministry of our meeting.
Specific Activities done by the H&CR Committee in 2013:
1. H&CR members represented AMM as a Section 106 consulting party by attending meetings and submitting written comments for the following actions:
Ingress- egress access easement for the Road Connector transfer parcel
Route One widening design workshops and mitigation efforts
Fort Belvoir Real Property Master Plan and various Ft. Belvoir building projects
2. H&CR provided historical presentations for Homecoming Day.
3. H&CR sponsored three ARE programs (“Jonathan Roberts: Quaker Scout for the Union Army,” “Our Neighborhood: Then and Now,” and “How Does Your Garden Grow: Farm Director of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture”).
4. H&CR members actively participated in the Meeting’s Maintenance Planning Process, notably projects to upgrade electrical, to insulate crawl spaces, to contract pest control, and to install HVAC.
5. H&CR worked jointly with Trustees and Property to secure a burial ground survey, to contract needed repairs to gravestones, and to review burial policies.
6. H&CR communicated with the Virginia Department of Historical Resources Easement program office for approval of AMM work projects of above #4. and #5.
7. H&CR members supported AMM’s working relationship with Arcadia/Woodlawn.
8. H&CR supported the work of AMM historian Martha Catlin, including on-going research/writing and maintaining relationships with historic entities related to AMM.
Our small meeting library was an important spiritual and educational resource for seekers, attenders, and members. The library includes books by and on Quakers and other books of a spiritual nature as well as a few to relax by. The intention was to provide books, pamphlets, etc. on these subjects that will be of interest and use to all who seek knowledge and support from the library.
We supported seekers with their research in finding books/articles or information about subjects that are of spiritual interest in the Quaker context.
Peace and Social Concerns
In 2013, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee focused on how it could do more to help individual Friends follow their leadings concerning peace and social issues. Friends, particularly new attenders, can have difficulty learning about the many ways they can work with others, both within the Yearly Meeting and beyond the Friends community. As a result, the Committee is working on ways to help Friends follow their leadings.
Within the Quaker community, the Meeting provided financial support to the American Friends Service Committee, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, William Penn House, Washington Quaker work camps, and the Friends Wilderness Center. Other national organizations supported by the Meeting include the Center on Conscience and War, the Peace Tax Fund, and the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network. At the State level, the Meeting supports Virginians For An Alternative To The Death Penalty, Virginian Citizens United For Rehabilitation of Errants, and the Virginia Interfaith Center For Public Policy. At the local level, the Meeting provided financial support to United Community Ministries, New Hope Housing, and Ventures in Community. The Meeting continues to participate in the Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County project, an initiative of Herndon Meeting. In addition to providing financial support, Friends participate directly in the activities of several of these organizations.
Alexandria Friends continue to be active in several local projects, especially those that are part of Ventures in Community (VIC). VIC is a loose collaboration among faith communities and social service agencies serving the Route 1 corridor. For several years, Friends have participated in VIC’s winter Hypothermia Outreach Program. Three or four Friends stay overnight and two Friendly cooks prepare meals at a local mission church for up to 25 guests for four First Day nights during February and March. On several evenings, Friends prepare and served meals for families gathered to learn better parenting skills, under Fairfax County’s Nurturing Parenting program. Throughout the year, Friends bring clothing, food and household goods to the meeting on First Day, for distribution to local shelters and to United Community Ministries. The Peace and Social Concerns Committee continues to inform the Meeting on a variety of social concerns issues by its sponsorship of a once-monthly Adult Religious Education meeting.
Looking Back and Looking Forward, while Centering on Where We Are:
We reflect on a year of passages, with dear friends and attenders departing, as new ones come into our midst. No one is replaced, our circle simply becomes wider. Our shared spiritual life forms the center of our circle.
This year has been a full one for Alexandria Monthly Meeting. We, like many relatively small communities, struggle with the need for volunteers to cycle through positions of responsibility. We honor the service of our clerks as we seek people to relieve them as they move on. Our regular schedule of activities continues as leadership changes: our Spiritual Formation program, support for area homeless, thoughtful presentations for Adult Religious Education, expansion of Children's Religious Education, our common meal after worship. Many Friends give time to the work of the larger Quaker world, serving on Baltimore Yearly Meeting committees and the governing bodies of Friends General Conference, Friends Wilderness Center, William Penn House, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and the American Friends Service Committee.
Meeting for worship is at the center of our life as a community. We find sustenance in the living silence or take inspiration from the ministering words of others. The love we experience in gathered worship has sustained us through a series of difficult decisions in our meetings for business, filling us with gratitude for the trust and tenderness that we experience here.
Our beloved historic meetinghouse both supports us and needs our support. Its historic status brought protections for us in government dealings that are changing our road access. Our participation in the Preservation Easement Program of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources afforded stewards of our property guidance in maintenance and repair, as well as legal consultation. We had a busy year providing our structure and property loving attention in many ways. Alexandria Meeting is grateful for the acceptance of change in our restrooms from designated male and female facilities to facilities available to any person. We continue to discern how to meet the needs of our members and attenders while respecting our building. We acknowledge and admire the stamina of the Quaker ancestors who built it for us.
Our Meeting's wide circle of connections were brought together at our second (annual!) Homecoming. The connections were celebrated in music, sharing stories of finding or experiencing Quakerism, learning the history of our Meeting and the community of which we are a part, watching our children play, enjoying food, and coming together in warm, wonderful worship as Friends and our guests filled the meeting room.
Our common meal after Meeting for Worship is colloquially called our Meeting for Eating. It nourishes body, soul, and spirit as we share religious insights, personal news, concerns, and support for one another. The concern was brought to Meeting for Business that we hadn't the volunteers to sustain this activity. When we focused on the importance of the common meal to the life of our meeting, volunteers came forward, a way opened, and we are rejoicing in this way of being together.
Beginning with Homecoming, which provided a wonderful opportunity for the children to play and engage in craft projects together, we have seen an increase in the number of children coming to meeting. We now have about a dozen infants and young children more or less regularly. Caring for each other in times of family need strengthened our community and brought people back. Also, the annual Christmas Eve worship service attracts families and individuals to celebrate together.
We deeply value the Quaker way of seeking truth. Beginning a study of the new draft of Faith and Practice brought forward our awareness of how much we value the spiritually-focused, personally challenging queries that have guided us through the years. We are an old meeting, drawing strength and inspiration from our history; we are also a meeting of newcomers and new seekers, setting out on journeys of discovery and transformation. Our circle widens over the years, but we know that the Light that gathers and centers it remains the same.
Spiritual State of the Meeting Report for 2011
Approved at a Meeting for Worship with attention to Business, Fourth Month 1, 2012
Alexandria Monthly Meeting has experienced affirmation of our loving community from several sources this year.
We reflected on our past, finding in a 1970 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report a record of on-going concerns for its growing attendance, the presence of children and young people, the spiritual quality of worship, and the practice of beliefs in daily life.
For the first time, we conducted a survey of past and present members and attenders concerning aspects of the Meeting. The survey results mirror the ideas of 1970 and indicate how much spirit is at the center of the Meeting for all of us. Here are highlights:
• The main interests at AMM of those who responded to the survey are our Meeting for Worship and the companionship/fellowship found in all aspects of Meeting.
• A majority of respondents felt that the Meeting is doing an excellent job valuing its members and attenders, serving the wider community, witnessing to Quaker values, and fostering deep centered worship.
• They felt more work is needed supporting children and young Friends, nurturing vocal ministry, and supporting families.
• All respondents found the Spirit manifested in Meeting for Worship. But most acknowledge as well Spirit found in the common meal we share every First Day after worship, in our historic meetinghouse and setting, and in Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business.
• The majority of Friends who responded felt that their spiritual growth is supported primarily by the quality of the Meeting for Worship, by other Friends, through our common meal, through use of the AMM library, by our children in meeting, by announcements, through AMM service opportunities, and in the Adult Religious Education program.
We also reviewed the activities of 2011, finding both strengths and challenges in the Meeting. Our first autumn Homecoming Day gave us a new understanding of the breadth of the AMM community. We invited past and present Friends and attenders, families of founding members of our Meeting, neighboring churches and community organizations, and our own families and friends. Many came – around 120 – to share the worship, history presentations, food, and music for a delightful day. But many who could not attend responded with loving messages about the importance of the Meeting to them, even though they were distant from it.
Thus, we are coming to see this important segment of our community at a distance as needing attention. Several comments provided through the survey expressed frustration that distance hampered involvement in the Meeting; other comments expressed the strong ties felt even when Friends lived far away. We need to evaluate how our newsletter and website, along with other strategies, can reach out to include those not with us on First Days.
The activities of our committees sustained and enriched the life of the Meeting this year (see attached). The most serious problem we face is a decline in our First Day School program. Only a year or two ago, our meeting was filled every First Day with a crowd of children. Their energy and vitality seemed an essential aspect of who we were as a worshiping community. Now that few children come, we feel diminished. We miss them. Several of our committees are working on finding ways to better support our families and young people, in hopes of making the meeting whole again.
There is a deep sense of love in Alexandria Monthly Meeting, expressed in our service to others as well as our care for each other. We have been delighted to welcome several new members, who have felt drawn to the sense of affirmation they find in our community. As Friends who responded to the survey expressed it:
“[The Meeting] helps me be slower to respond in anger, more loving in all my relations. It is refreshing to know that I have a community behind me when I stand up for right actions.”
“A marvelous pool of Spirit emanating from each person and collectively, sustains me day by day.”
“AMM meets my needs and exceeds them. This is my spiritual home and place of peace.”
There is a sense of sturdiness and continuity at Alexandria that is sweetly reassuring. The Spiritual State of the Meeting report written in 1970 by our dear Friend Christine Buckman shows us that while the meeting has grown, at the center it is still the same. Worship is still at the heart of our community. The Spirit that sustains us is ever present. As Christine Buckman expressed it forty years ago:
“And the silences! Sometimes they are light, as in all Meetings. More often they are pregnant with deep significance. Perhaps it is the simple building, in its rural setting of quiet and peace, that tells each one who enters that God is here.”