Charlottesville 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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Ministry and Worship Committee of Charlottesville Friends Meeting (CFM) invited the Meeting to consider and comment on several queries offered by the Baltimore Yearly Meeting in preparation for writing our annual report on the spiritual state of CFM. Over 15 Friends gathered during the Connections hour between Early and Later meetings for worship on February 14, 2020. We observed a brief period of silence.
Robert Fudge of Ministry and Worship read aloud the first query.
How does Spirit prosper in your Meeting? How have you protected the Spirit this year?
The Meeting found little to work with in this query but moved on to spirited, wide-ranging discussion of how we collectively and individually experienced the past year, as Friends and as friends. The topics that dominated our thinking were clear: coronavirus, politics, isolation. COVID was featured in nearly every comment made throughout.
Our appreciation for the routines of the Meeting (Meeting for Worship, Connections hours, Meeting for Business, Friendly Circles, PACEM service) was profound, we discovered. Even without the ability to hug or see each other's faces we felt well-connected as a Meeting, to the extent that the one First Day when Zoom let us down completely was a shock. Worship was the same but different. It grew to include pets and cups of coffee, disconcerting at first but in the end quite acceptable to all as we cherished the silence, vocal ministry, risers and a more social period of announcements and visiting afterwards. Our Care & Clearness Committee spent many long hours connecting Friends by neighborhood, calling those who live alone, hosting a mid-week Zoom get-together and staying connected with those Friends who, experiencing internet excess or a lack of internet access, could not be present at Worship. We found, in fact, that committee work does much more than conduct the business of the Meeting. It serves to deepen bonds and keep us connected in difficult times.
CFM has not been inert politically and socially in the community during 2020 despite the pandemic. Vigils have been kept in person and by Zoom; rallies were held and political work at the Capitol continued; and the Meeting House was used this past fall to house "learning pods" set up by a parent group at our neighborhood elementary school. These pods served children who are English learners and therefore at an additional disadvantage when it comes to virtual school. CFM continues to participate in planning for FGC Gathering this summer. We held our annual Simple Supper fundraiser online and raised money for Oxfam and our local food bank. We continued to host PACEM, the local area ministry for the homeless. Several of us participated in Pendle Hill virtual worship on a regular basis. Our Friendly Circles were less well-subscribed in 2020 but meaningful for those who continued to participate. Friends we had not seen for long times, and some newcomers, joined us for virtual worship. Our link to the Charlottesville Clergy Collective remained strong.
As a Meeting we have not suffered as deeply as many have this year. We are not confronting deaths from COVID within the Meeting; mostly we are able to maintain our homes and places of work; the poverty, homelessness and fears of deportation that so many experience in these dark days are not our everyday reality in great degree. We just miss each other terribly. But without doubt we were stressed both as a Meeting and as individuals. At times, for some, circumstances felt especially bleak. In the words of one present at Connections that day, "If I were the Spirit of this Meeting, I would be looking for a doctor. I'm alive but not well."
Not to be ignored are the true joys and laughter we have known this past year. We've had a program of weekly nature-and-reflection walks, initially intended as an RE program for the children but now grown into a safe, multi-generational get-together. We learned to appreciate the Internet in new ways, not only to marvel at videos of interspecies bonding but also to maintain the connections, and transact the business, that bind us. In spite of the awkwardness of holding a Christmas carol sing-along by Zoom, we had fun and the familiar songs helped the season feel celebratory. Our Christmas Eve service was also Zoomed but we lit candles and un-muted ourselves and felt close nonetheless. The children's video was a bright spot that referenced not only the season of light but also the struggles of the past year, political, social and otherwise.
The spiritual state of our meeting in 2020has been one of change and adaptation to change. Perhaps the thing that defined the year as a whole was the question itself: What does it mean to assess the spiritual state of the meeting when the underlying reality of Friends is existentially threatened? What is the Meeting when we can't meet? The sentiment that emerged from our examination of this question was this: The community is present. It needs us and we need it, and we’re maintaining and finding new ways to connect.
Ministry and Worship Committee of Charlottesville Friends Meeting (CFM) invited the Meeting to consider and comment on several queries offered by the Baltimore Yearly Meeting in preparation for writing our annual report on the spiritual state of CFM. Over a dozen Friends gathered during the Connections hour between Early and Later meetings for worship on February 2, 2020. We observed a brief period of silence.
Laura Lockledge, Clerk of Ministry and Worship, read aloud the queries, which follow, along with summarized responses.
How do we nurture healthy vocal ministry?
Vocal ministry is frequent in both Meetings, and several Friends expressed their gratitude both for the preponderance of silent time, the fertile ground from which vocal ministry arises, as well as for the inspirations that are shared aloud. There are a number of ways CFM nurtures this practice, including the Quakerism 101 class which introduces the concept; the Friendly Circles which encourage us to know each other better, giving us the courage to speak when led; and the custom of Friends talking informally after worship, so that the Friend who spoke the message knows that the message has inspired others.
We could do more to encourage this practice by attempting to be aware of issues about which we are in denial, as well as being aware of a natural barrier which seems to exist. Many of us, after all, fear being judged for what we say, even among Friends. But on the whole we find vocal ministry at CFM to be powerful and spirit-led.
How do we nurture ministries of other kinds and affirm one another's gifts?
Ministries of different kinds were noted, including the lovely group of children we welcome in Later worship, appreciating their presence and their little noises when they pop up. Friends have felt called to active ministries in the last year which address pressing social issues, including racism as it exists in our community, the plight of disenfranchised immigrants entering or passing through the community and the nationwide practice of providing formal sanctuary for people who face imminent deportation. Appreciation was expressed for the fact that when Friends have answered such leadings they find others gladly and actively participate.
Ministries can arise in response to a very personal question: What canst thou do? At the same time, some people are drawn to Quakerism because of the very acts they see people coming together to perform. Even the more mundane gatherings, for example committee work, give us opportunities to learn about one another's rich experiences and diverse gifts.
How can we improve the way in which we recognize and speak to one another's gifts?
Clearness Committee was cited as ready and available to help us to discern calls. At least twice we have exercised this practice during the past year. One Friend described a "Watch-night" service practiced at a former church, an annual gathering to share a meal and identify each other's and our own gifts, to be prayed on and written about in a letter to mail oneself in one year's time.
What paralyzes us and prevents us from answering our call?
We discussed the question of how to respond when the world feels as though it is in crisis and simultaneously we find ourselves at the limit of what we are able to personally do in response. Would it be beneficial to speak more about what concerns us even when we can't act? And what form might it take to support each other even when we ourselves feel stretched to the limit? In particular, how does the Meeting nurture the mental health of its members, recognizing that ennui is sometimes a manifestation of feeling overwhelmed by challenges, whether personal or social.
What fears do we experience? Which fears drive us and which fears create obstacles? Do we have the courage to create space for our human fallibility and vulnerability? In what do we find that kind of courage?
The response to these related queries was to affirm the sense of courage of the Meeting as an entity, as evidenced by the diversity of active, creative responses to complex issues. Many have found ways to follow their leadings and inspire others; many have found inspiration in others' calls. Where do we find that courage? In Friendly Circles, in friendly relationships within and without Meeting for worship, in Men's Group, in committee work.
What other generative questions might guide our discernment?
We ask ourselves the following questions as possible guides:
Are our committee meetings spirit-led?
Do committees do the work they are meant to do while inspiring and encouraging one another's gifts and discernments?
Do we joyfully anticipate committee meetings?
Are our actions as a Meeting guided by the Spirit?
Do we recognize our Meeting as a body with many parts; the eye does not do the work of the ear, nor the arm the work of the leg.
We find the state of CFM, then, to be strong, supportive, courageous in action and positive in interpersonal relationships, though not without challenges that might be addressed as noted above. We are dealing, for example, with a number of issues concerning the aging of a large portion of our community. Our RE program continues to struggle. Discerning our role in the current political milieu is a continuing challenge. But distressing as these matters can be, we feel that by approaching them in a Quakerly manner, using time-honored Quaker technologies, whether threshing sessions or other types of discernment, way will open.
After this session, the Ministry and Worship Committee reviewed the responses and added their discernments.
BYM asks that we prepare an annual report on the Spiritual State of our Meeting. We gathered during the Connections hour, between Early and Late Meetings, to take the temperature and pulse of Charlottesville Friends Meeting (CFM) as of February 17, 2019. After silence, we used three of the four queries offered by BYM as take-off points for discussion.
- With fierce winds of political discord and violent expressions of hate swirling in the world around us, what does your community do to strengthen our attention to the Spirit in Meeting for Worship?
Simply, “we exist,” was a theme that ran throughout responses to this query. We come together for spiritual community and renewal; constancy of attendance is grounding amid the storms of daily life; the very fact of our Meeting’s continued historical existence testifies to the values to which we aspire; we hold the larger community in the Light, which places our Meeting in the light as well; we gather to refresh and find peace; “be before do.”
In a world of sound and fury Meeting provides a locus and a moment for silence and peace. Attention is drawn away from the sound and fury and oriented instead towards transcendence. Intervisitation with other communities of worship heightens our openness to, and readiness for, the presence of the Holy Spirit. By providing meeting space to organizations outside of our Meeting we expand the reach of these moments of silence and peace; by providing material support we welcome those outside of the Meeting into sanctuary space; by our visible presence in the community at large we provide witness to the daily struggles of many. A sense was shared that life itself is a form of worship and that our experience in Meeting each week provides a platform and a source of strength and understanding for our individual worship and outreach.
Vocal ministry at CFM tends to take place more often in Later than in Early Meeting. Gratitude was expressed for two aspects. Political discourse, focused on those swirling winds of anger sweeping through our communities, is rarely the topic of vocal ministry. Rather the inward experience of worship and Light is shared, often in the context of inward sound and fury. Also, the children of the Meeting are present during Later Worship, and although vocal ministry often deals with the concerns of adults it is not “dumbed down” for their benefit. They have the opportunity to absorb osmotically, as it were, the adult values of the Meeting.
- What do you do to strengthen the Quaker “roots” of your community?
Nourishing the “roots” of our Quaker community was viewed by several Friends as far less interesting than appreciating ways in which we are now, in the moment, ourselves nourished by those very roots. For example, in the 1960s CFM was active in local civil rights organizing, and we are experiencing a re-awakening of social concern and activism. Our annual retreat featured a timeline and history of CFM and those people whose efforts built what we benefit from and endeavor to safeguard. We find in our interactions with the children of the Meeting that we are conveying long-standing Quaker concerns to them: how to listen for the voice of God? How to discern what there is of God in others? How to reflect in daily practice Quaker testimony? These ideas and practices are rooted in Quaker history.
At the same time, some frustration exists over the degree of educational opportunities available to learn about our Quaker roots. We have been able to offer “Quakerism 101” once a year, which is useful for oldcomers as well as newcomers to Meeting, and some Connections programs reference Quaker roots and historical figures. CFM includes members deeply knowledgeable about these topics. We organize Friendly Circles each fall for those who want to dig deeper into concepts or practice. The very absence of ritual and dogma in Quaker practice presents a challenge in the exploration of our roots. We might carry books of Friends’ quotations, or seek out Bible study to deepen our understanding, but the emphasis in our discussion was on practice: weekly practice of Meeting for Worship, daily practice of Quaker values. At our roots, we are grounded in silence and listening.
- There seem to be dueling forces among Friends. We recognize we can be a shining light and healing presence in troubled times, while on the other hand, we value our individual Meeting Community so much we can be unwelcoming to change or discordant voices. What is your meeting’s experience of this? Do you sense a tendency to avoid tension by not discussing differing points of view?
Our Connections programs provide fertile ground for the expression of opinions, questions and beliefs. Differences are more likely to come to light, and questions from newcomers more likely to be asked, during Connections. We learn about the spiritual travels of others, which may include joyful and intensely personal experiences very different from our own. Messages revealed in Meeting for Worship, especially Later Meeting, reflect a broad spectrum of belief and experience. They can provoke thought; growth is to be welcomed.
Are we as successful in the event as we hope to be? There is always a concern about whether we adequately welcome newcomers, and do we really practice respect for opposing viewpoints as well as we could? Discussion of the dangers of assuming that all in the Meeting are “on the same page” revealed some specific and painful memories of times the Meeting was unable to embrace difference. We have lost members in the past by making assumptions about our beliefs on controversial topics like gun control, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights or political platforms. In the end we have had to learn to agree to disagree.
- Final Query from the Clerk of Ministry & Worship: Are there general reflections we’d like to share with BYM and those who will read our report on the BYM website?
We did a better job of listening this year; you don’t know when you start where you’ll end up; opportunities for service may materialize in surprising ways and responses of others may be unexpectedly gratifying; we’ve responded to the current political turmoil with consequential actions pragmatically and lovingly executed.
We ended the Meeting in silence.
Ministry and Worship Committee of Charlottesville Monthly Meeting invited the Meeting to consider and comment on two queries in preparation for writing our annual report on the spiritual state of the Charlottesville Friends Meeting (CFM). We gathered during the Connections hour on February 4, 2018 and observed several moments of silence.
Then Laura Lockledge, Clerk of Ministry and Worship, read aloud a paragraph from our 2016 report:
After the November 2016 elections the meeting opened the meeting room for silent worship on several days. There have been more newcomers at Meetings for Worship than usual. As the current political climate challenges us to action, some feel there is an implicit distraction in this work. It is increasingly hard to let the Spirit rise as political ugliness has become so prominent. The tension between actions and an attempt to live a centered life challenges many. We need to try to balance action with silence and contemplation.
There was immediate vocal response. “Second verse, same as the first,” said one Friend, referring to the folk tradition of songs which repeat themselves changing only the number of the verses. Charlottesville has more than once during this past year found itself at the epicenter of powerful struggles that are rocking the nation. Last year’s political ugliness has become “a little bit louder and a little bit worse!” to finish the folk refrain. Provocation and response in Charlottesville has been witnessed around the globe. The very name of the city has at times been used as a symbol of racial strife and resistance.
The Meeting attempted to address the challenge identified in 2016 of balancing action and contemplation. Several people from the Meeting attended the Women’s March in Washington, DC on January 21, 2017. Some have become actively engaged with the issue of new leadership on the City Council. Members have participated in events sponsored or supported by the Charlottesville Clergy Collective throughout the year as well as joining other activist groups such as Indivisible.
During a lengthy and well attended process the Meeting declared itself ready to become a sanctuary congregation. Leaders of all ages carried this proposal through its many stages of dialogue with state and national sanctuary movement leaders, discussion with local individuals and organizations, historical research and a look at the legal implications of providing sanctuary, and not least, the decision to install a shower in the Meetinghouse (a prerequisite for housing anyone). The Meeting has not been called to provide sanctuary for anyone as of this writing, but the shower installation has helped establish a welcoming environment for the homeless women the Meeting houses in coordination with PACEM for two weeks in January, and reminds Friends that we are ready to shelter refugees when called upon.
On August 12, 2017, Quakers from CFM and other friends were present in two of the downtown parks and witnessed first-hand much of what was seen in countless videos across the internet. Wearing blue Quaker T-shirts as a silent means of identification, Friends from the Meeting worshipped in Justice Park, and were joined by others from the crowd. Some from the Meeting worked in the medic tents in McGuffey Park, helping many and gratefully receiving replenishment supplies from Friends outside the park. Quakers were quietly present in crowds that surged and retrenched, marched and in some cases, fled.
In these endeavors and others, including Friendly Circles and leadings to examine racial issues through various forums, there was attention both to the urgency to action and the unfolding of Way through contemplation. First Day School had stronger participation this year and the Junior Young Friends was re-energized as well. We were able to support leadings of all kinds and meditate on what it means to put faith into action. Attendance at both Early and Later Meeting increased in 2017. Several times during the year the meetinghouse was open for special worship with attention towards the contentious environment we find ourselves in.
We considered our second query of this session:
How did the Meeting enrich your spiritual life in 2017?
A Friend quoted Brother Lawrence’s premise that one should practice the presence of God in all that one does as a way of holding continuum between the spiritual and temporal life. Another Friend asked, “Who will take up a concern that a Friend has laid down?” Friends enumerated a number of ways that Meeting in 2017 addressed that question. We reflected on good action and follow-through in various areas of endeavor through the year.
One Friend found Connections, the First Day adult discussion, better attended than any time in the past few years and commented that the Bible study sessions had been particularly lively and enriching. Some Friends described as novel and empowering the opportunity to re-examine the faiths in which they were raised, and to examine their own beliefs about those teachings. Others spoke of Meeting in 2017 as a solid rock, an anchor in a difficult time, or a center in the midst of turmoil.
Quakerism 101 was presented as in prior years to favorable feedback. Committees seemed to be maturing, doing a better job of simply taking care of business. Fewer things were falling through the cracks.
Attendance at both Early and Later meetings for worship, as well as at Connections, is steady in numbers and it was expressed that Friends find this provided a strengthening both of community and of worship. The experience of being surrounded by familiar faces was itself an experience of community. Vocal ministry contributed to this sense and deepened our worship. There was much talk in town about the need to find and grow community, and Friends expressed the feeling that at Meeting we were in community already.
On August 12th, against the backdrop of turmoil and violence in our city, we held a long-planned celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of two long-time members. More than one Friend felt the clouds lift as we rejoiced in love. Friends agreed that the meeting had had great parties during the year and that friendships that originated in Meeting often continued to blossom outside Meeting.
Friends reflected on what we might have done better or further in 2017. For instance, Friends noted that early worship hour was very quiet in the last months of the year. Is there something that inhibits vocal ministry in some way? Are there undercurrents felt but not spoken? Conversely, Friends also expressed concern that education might be in order to clarify what is appropriate as vocal ministry and what is more pragmatic in nature and should be addressed at other times.
One Friend asked, “do we have hubris as a meeting?” responding to the hour of reflection on the spiritual state of the meeting eliciting a decidedly rosy picture of CFM. Do Friends believe we can fix things that do at other times destabilize the Meeting? Did Friends see the hand of the Almighty in the work the meeting had accomplished? Did Friends recognize that love through practical action could be an expression of faith for those who are not comfortable with verbal articulation of faith or abstract examinations of the same?
Friends wanted to express appreciation for the communications from other Meetings after August 11-12th events in Charlottesville. They were healing and supportive and are gratefully received.
We ended the hour with a period of silence.
A group met during our Connections Hour 2.12.2017 to consider the Spiritual State of Charlottesville Friends Meeting in 2016. Below are two queries from Baltimore Yearly Meeting that the group considered and the responses they elicited.
How does your Meeting nurture the spiritual life of members and attenders?
There is good structural support so that almost everything we do as a Meeting nurtures the Spirit. These include Friendly Circle interest groups; potlucks; support committees; the work of Overseers Committee; committee work and our Connections Hour. The Waking Up White study group has helped members stay true to the life each one tries to live. Outreach to sick and homebound Friends is another helpful support.
Meetings for Worship provide a community connection. Silence is our center, which allows us a way to shed our outer worries and consider the Spirit.
What troubles and challenges are you facing?
After the November 2016 elections the Meeting opened the meeting room for silent worship on several days. There have been more newcomers at Meetings for Worship than usual. As the current political climate challenges us to action, some feel there is an implicit distraction in this work. It is increasingly hard to let the Spirit rise as political ugliness has become so prominent. The tension between actions and an attempt to live a centered life challenges many. We need to try to balance action with silence and contemplation.
Our outreach to newcomers is inadequate. Those new to Quakerism are especially baffled by our practices. In 2016 we offered a successful Quakerism 101 class that met several times but in less formal settings we often leave newcomers to figure things out. We are not good at explaining what activities and opportunities we offer. We do not always succeed in making newcomers feel welcome.
Some feel that the moment of silence we call for at the beginning and end of committee meetings or other gatherings is sometimes pro-forma. The Men’s Group values the extended silence at the beginning and ending of each meeting, which might offer a better approach.
We are an aging Meeting and many of our committees have few if any members under 50. Older members need to make way for younger Quakers to take leadership roles. We need to continue to find ways to integrate the generations, taking into consideration the needs and values of younger adults and children.
A Friend asked why so few people attended this discussion. Does it mean those who didn’t come aren’t interested in the topic?
There are many more women than men active in the Meeting, which prompted the question of whether there is something about Quakerism that does not speak to men. Rarely if ever do men sign up to provide snacks for attenders of Meeting for Business. Can we change this imbalance?
We continue to ask questions about how we can do better as a meeting. Are we open to the new? Do our traditions support us or ossify us? Our Meeting community is like a family, sometimes working well as a unit and other times being divided. Our Meeting experiences its ups and downs.
The call to sit together in expectant waiting is what guides us and offers a way forward.
Interested Friends met on February 28, and March 20, 2016, to consider the spiritual state of the Charlottesville Friends Meeting, guided by queries from Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Friends view our meeting as healthy. The two worship hours each First Day, which are the spiritual core of our Meeting, are nurturing and "deep." We try to hold Meetings for Business in a worshipful manner, and are perhaps as successful as is reasonable to expect.
During 2015 we had specific opportunities to learn of one another’s spiritual lives and beliefs during programs on individual spiritual journeys in "Connections," (the gathering between the two worship hours), a weekend retreat held at Camp Shiloh, and our Friendly Circles interest groups. We greatly value such opportunities.
There are areas of tension in the Meeting, offering opportunities to "see what love brings" as we allow the Spirit to move. Friends noted some tensions that have arisen around how to address what feels to be a growing number of newcomers. We have tried to renew our commitment to welcome newcomers, being mindful to provide them with friendly contact and information. We have also established a Communications Committee to address the need for information both for potential new attenders and for those who have long attended our Meeting.
We find that tension also arises over issues of race and class. We have been blessed by the activities of one member whose leading inspired us to offer the film "I'm Not Racist, Am I?" to the Charlottesville community. This work continues. Some friends express concern around issues of economic privilege as we seek to clarify our relationship with Tandem Friends School of Charlottesville. A member offered a Friendly Circle, which continues, on this topic.
The Meeting also has challenges over how best to foster the spiritual growth of our children. We struggle to find ways to keep preteens and teens engaged in the Meeting. One of our deepest hopes is that our young people will find a continued home in the Meeting as they grow into adulthood.
Many Charlottesville Friends are active in BYM and FGC, and find themselves and the Meeting enriched by this participation. However, few of us have met with nearby Quakers in Virginia. Meeting outreach to our immediate community is largely left to individuals with particular leadings. For 2015, these included welcoming Syrian refugees, and engaging with the community immediately around our Meeting House. In November Charlottesville Friends invited neighbors to join us for a potluck. The Meeting comes together as a whole to help house homeless women in PACEM, an inter-congregational effort in the Charlottesville area.
Many of the areas mentioned above describe the joys and challenges of living in community. Living well in community is an act of the Spirit; listening for the Spirit within and nurturing its growth in our individual lives is a more subtle process. We continue to look for ways to foster both these inward and outward leadings.
Ministry and Worship committee currently consists of Hank Schutz, (recording clerk) Elizabeth Shillue, Dave Lockledge, Joyce Hillstrom, and Judy Cahill (clerk).
We met to consider the spiritual state of the Charlottesville Friends Meeting, with an initial focus on the Meetings for Worship, including Business Meetings. There were many favorable expressions from Friends, suggesting a "healthy" spiritual state. Several reported feeling enriched by the worship and our community, and another that our meeting is a source of spiritual comfort. Regarding Business Meeting and referring to some discord we have experienced, a Friend opined that there was a "healing spirit amongst us that is quite welcome”.
A number of concerns were raised. One friend felt that we are not forthright enough in talking about how we are affected by the spirit. Another spoke of several years of discontent (but recently ameliorated) arising from her inability to discern that we are all seeking and serious about religion. Some friends feel that we are tending towards formalizing our practices and becoming too church-like. And there are those among us who feel a need for more clear, consistent, and effective processes. Sometimes our Business Meeting seems to disrespect the result of committee work and dwell on our deficiencies and problems rather than a search for unity.
Many of us feel that it is largely through participation in activities outside of worship that we are able to get to know others within the Meeting. These activities include Friendly Circles, committee work, helping with PACEM (a local coalition of religious groups housing homeless people during the coldest months) and work days. While, in general, there is a sense amongst us that we need to continually stretch ourselves in order to assure that newcomers are welcomed and included in our community, we are (for the most part) comfortable with how we are handling this concern. An area where some are feeling less comfortable is around the question of whether our channels of communications are effective.
Most of us long for a greater diversity. This is a challenge for our Meeting and numerous others. However, we are fortunate to have diversity in several areas: age, family structure, gender, sexual orientation, and philosophy. Our quest for diversity requires us to diligently reach out to new attendees and welcome them warmly.
We value our youth and hope that the way is clear for them to lead Quaker lives. This includes a path to membership in the Meeting. How we handle youth membership is unclear at the moment. Our Meeting is blessed with many children who are served by a dedicated group of Friends offering religious education. This year the Meeting laid down first day school for the teens in favor of a youth fellowship. We will continue to seek ways to support and guide the older youth within our meeting community. We are also unclear with our relationship with Tandem Friends School and our obligation to the spiritual life of Tandem students. Currently a few of our members are joining students and faculty for weekly midday worship. In addition there is a Tandem liaison, representatives to their spiritual life committee, and two of our members are school Trustees.
The meeting as a whole engaged in only a few projects related to social issues. However, there was much individual initiative among members. For some, our worship provided the needed focus to live the testimonies through social activism. Others believe that corporate activism detracts from our Meeting's attention to spiritual nourishment. Yet others make no distinction between spiritual life and practical witness.
Our Meetings for Worship continue to be the spiritual center of the life of the Meeting and are often held in a spirit of expectant waiting and communion with the divine. Early and late First Day worship sessions, as well as mid-week meetings for worship, are usually spiritually enriching varying from silent to rich in vocal ministry. We treasure the silence and engage in a continual discernment process regarding when to speak, what constitutes a message and when to preserve the silence.
In worship we seek leadings of the spirit. Such leadings inspire friends to reach out, both individually and corporately, to those in need. Some friends are also led to work to improve the social order. We feel nurtured by our spiritual community. Friends have reported feeling transformed by worship while others say they practice faithfulness by attending even in the absence of transformative experiences. “It strengthens me to be among people who have faith and are seeking”, commented one Friend.
We have room for growth in our meetings for business. Sometimes we seek divine guidance together but at other times we try to persuade others rather than seeking the truth. We can be unwilling to speak what can be uncomfortable or unpleasant. Friends are concerned that some meetings for business felt rushed while others seem to drag on endlessly, with deep divisions not always acknowledged or healed.
At times there was tension among the expectations of individuals, committees, and the Meeting as a whole; a few friends experienced this tension as unloving or disrespectful. Some Friends lost trust in the meeting’s ability to live the Quaker way. We need greater clarity about the relationship between committees and Meeting for Business and the process to follow when we lack unity. Friends have spoken clearly about the need for continuing education about Quaker process; we must learn to listen to one another.
Our Meeting offers numerous opportunities beyond Meeting for Worship to deepen relationships and for spiritual growth. Committees form part of the core of spiritual experience in the Meeting. We value the opportunity for getting to know each other at a deeper level, spiritually and interpersonally.
The year 2013 highlighted the need for mindfulness in our practice of Quaker process, including the need to speak our understanding of truth, to listen deeply and to take the time needed for discernment. We are heartened that we have started to identify some of our problems and we are open to change and committed to healing. We have begun to take steps to correct our course.
Our Meetings for Worship continue to be the spiritual center of the life of the Meeting and are often held in a spirit of expectant waiting and communion with the divine. Both early and late worship sessions are usually spiritually enriching, varying from silent to rich in vocal ministry. We treasure the silence and engage in a continual discernment process regarding when to speak, what constitutes a message, and when to preserve the silence.
Meeting for Business has been regularly well attended, with about thirty Friends. Meeting decisions were implemented appropriately. However, we have encountered challenges this year. Meeting ran into difficulty when there was tension among the expectations of individuals, committees, and the Meeting as a whole. Some Friends lost trust in the Meeting’s ability to live the Quaker way. We need greater clarity about the relationship between committees and Meeting for Business, and the process to follow when we lack unity. By year’s end, we had begun to actively explore these issues as a community, and we continue the work at this time. Members have spoken clearly about the need for continuing education about Quaker process, and we seek to rededicate ourselves to it.
Committees form part of the core of spiritual experience in the Meeting. Members value the opportunity for getting to know other Friends at a deeper level, spiritually and interpersonally. We grow through participation, although this may be uncomfortable at times. Other activities, such as the spiritual formation group and the “Connections” hour between the worship hours, provided similar opportunities for deeper relationships and spiritual growth.
Our Meeting community continues to strive to seek truth and to address our failings. Our experiences this year have highlighted the need for mindfulness in our practice of Quaker process, including the need to speak our understanding of truth, to listen deeply to others, and to take the time needed for discernment. We entered 2013 more aware of our yearning for the divine, desiring to know each other in that which is eternal.
We are most grateful for the Spirit’s presence among us this year. We experienced this presence through acts of kindness, through the humility and forbearance needed to work through difficulties together, through gathered Meetings for Worship, and through intense but prayerful Meetings for Worship with a concern for Business.
This year, much spiritual energy was expended in laboring with a Friend who was excluded from Meeting activities due to incidents of aggression. The Meeting deepened in prayerful consideration as we struggled with finding a way to support this Friend. We tried to settle differences among us in a loving way. We grew in our value for worship as we recognized the need to protect both our Friend and our Meeting. By the end of the year there was growing unity that removing this Friend from membership was the only way forward. As we labored with this issue, we experienced a variety of emotions, personally and corporately, including sadness and a sense of failure based in an awareness of our limitations.
The presence of the community in our lives, through our Meetings, Friendly Circles, committees, and outreach, supports our individual spiritual lives. Our Quaker endeavors outside Meeting for Worship deepen our worship together, while at the same time the Spirit manifest in Worship informs our outreach as a community. The spiritual lives of those participating in the Religious Education program have been enriched through a Friend’s leading, which has resulted in the implementation of the “Playing in the Light” curriculum, and a focus on engaging teens, whose attendance has increased. The Meeting continues to serve the wider community by offering a safe space for a wide variety of groups to meet. The spiritual lives of some Friends were enriched through their relationships with the wider Quaker community, including Quaker camps, Pendle Hill, Baltimore Yearly Meeting and Friends General Conference.
Friends were sustained by our Meetings for Worship. In addition to our two regular First Day Meetings, increased opportunities for worship came with the addition of mid-week and extended two-hour Meetings. Vocal ministry was rich and sustaining. We continue to encourage Friends to be open to all vocal ministry.
We have been reminded this year that conflict offers an opportunity to listen carefully and deeply to one another and to the Spirit. In asking "what would love have us do?" we learned the necessity of waiting for Way to open.
Appendix: list of activities and outreach
Early, Late, Mid-Week and Extended Meetings for Worship and Meetings for Healing
Religious Education for children
Connections (weekly adult religious education)
Providing a caring presence for a beloved elder of the community to accompany her on her journey from this life
Friendly Circles, including Spiritual Formation
Community outreach, including work with PACEM (homeless ministry) and IMPACT (community organizing)
Neighborhood outreach with the Rose Hill Neighborhood Association, including a neighborhood Halloween activity and a Saturday Spring Festival in the park.
Expansion of our webpage as outreach to the wider community
Financial support for many organizations, such as food banks, African American Teaching Fellows, Offender Aid and Restoration, and a training program for trauma healing in Burundi.
Support for Tandem Friends School, including the spiritual life group
A partial list of groups using our Meeting House includes:
On Our Own (mental health)
Gift of Hope (support group for women released from prison)
PFLAG (parents and friends of lesbian and gays)
Dialogue on Race
Dances for Universal Peace