Floyd 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.
|2011 Report||2012 Report||2013 Report||2014 Report||2015 Report|
|2016 Report||2016 Report||2017 Report||2018 Report||2019 Report|
As we began work on the Spiritual State of the Meeting for the 2018 year, it quickly became clear that the queries which were offered did not speak to us. Instead we reported on what had been meaningful for us in 2018. The next to final draft of our report included a statement to the effect that each of gave what we chose and took what we chose from Meeting, and that was fine with all of us. That set off a discussion which made it clear that it was not fine with all of us, and over the course of 2019 our members and attenders answered two surveys about what we felt was strong about Floyd Friends Meeting, and areas where we thought we could do better. We then followed up with in-depth discussions about what we could do differently.
As we reviewed the queries offered for our consideration in preparing this year’s report, we found them interesting and worth consideration. However, we did not think we could complete that process in the time between when they were received and when the Spiritual State of the Meeting is due. We will find an opportunity to review them some time during 2020.
For this report relative to 2019, we are submitting a summary of last year’s work on what is satisfying and unsatisfying about our Meeting. We believe that taken together, these two sections provide a good overview of the state of Floyd Friends Meeting.
The first section below shows the questions asked (in italics) and summarizes the answers received regarding what we find satisfying.
What keeps you involved with Floyd Friends Meeting?
Responses here covered a wide range. For some it is the spiritual elements, a place to worship, to connect with the divine, to be present with and for others for whom the spiritual side of Quakerism is primary. For others, it is an opportunity for social service and activism in a setting populated by people with similar values. Among those with a spiritual focus, there is also a sense of responsibility to keep the Meeting going.
Have you ever considered moving on? What led you to consider it? What made you decide to stay?
One is actively considering leaving; most have not. Some occasionally miss the beauty of a structured service, while others recognize that for most of us it would be difficult to find silent worship without a fairly long drive. Some have considered the ways in which this Meeting can be unsatisfying but concluded that the arguments for staying outweigh the arguments for leaving.
What do you think is the best aspect of Floyd Friends Meeting?
Responses here were largely in the area of the quality of worship and the relationships we have with each other, with a recognition that we try very hard to consistently follow Quaker practice in worship and in business.
What aspect of Floyd Friends Meeting is most important to you? (This could be the same as #3 or it could be different.)
There was significant overlap with Question 3, with more elaboration on the importance of relationships B for some as a place of acceptance as we are or as a source of assistance, and for others an opportunity to stretch one‘s limits in terms of accepting approaches that are not our own.
As you think about possible changes that might come from this activity, is there anything that makes you say to yourself, "Please not __________"?
There was no pattern to these responses; all were quite distinct from each other and clearly reflective of an individual perspective. We will return to this when we are ready to consider changes.
We next turned to the aspects of Meeting that some of us find unsatisfying, and spent substantial time discerning the ways we could respond to those concerns. This part of the process took six months, in contrast to the one month that it took us to identify what we valued and did not want to change. In the section below, the statements in italics are drawn from the survey, and items listed below it show what we decided to do.
I would like to hear more of people's struggles as they search for God's guidance and presence.
a. We will have an adult discussion related to this topic in December
b. We confirmed that anyone who has a joy or concern which they want to be heard prayerfully is welcome to share it during Meeting for Worship.
c. We decided that during post-worship joys and concerns, an appropriate item will be passed from hand to hand. The person receiving the item can speak or pass it along. We encourage all to share their personal struggles, not just concerns for another person. We encourage a short period of reflection between speakers. There should be no verbal response to anything said.
I find it difficult to follow the queries when they are more than a sentence or two.
a. We have tried having the query posted but not read, and decided we wanted to try again to see how it feels having it read. We will eventually make a decision.
b. We agreed that we want the query to be posted where it can be read, but we are continuing to try different ways and places. Eventually we will make a decision.
When I have responded to surveys in the past, I have always given my responses a great deal of thought, yet found them edited in ways that seemed to be more satisfactory to the person assembling the results. It began to feel like the effort I put into this was a waste of time.
a. When summarizing the results of a survey, give respondents an opportunity to review paraphrases or edits to condense what they said before sharing them in a draft document.
b. It can be easy to forget to do things like this; it would be helpful for others to remind anyone who will be using the results of a survey to do this.
It seems to me that we are struggling to have enough energy to care for the building and grounds.
a. We will schedule two spring work days and two fall ones, so that people have a choice about which to attend each season.
b. Everyone should feel responsible for what needs to be done, and should bring things to the clerk for Building or Grounds. That clerk should bless the individual’s taking it on, handle it himself or herself, or ask for assistance in getting the matter resolved.
c. The Building Clerk has revised the building care sign-up sheet to indicate the frequency with which cleaning tasks need to be done.
I sometimes feel pressured to participate.
a. Anyone who wants someone to join in an optional activity should feel free to issue an invitation, and if the activity planned is contingent on a minimal level of participation that should be included in the invitation.
b. The person issuing the invitation should pay close attention to the response. If the response is positive, feel free to proceed. If it is negative, neutral, or if there is no response, do not mention it again. Assume the person is not interested.
We don’t seem to be consistently following our “two adults, always” policy about children in First Day School.
a. Two people are always scheduled. Anyone who expects to be absent is responsible for finding a replacement.
Do we always have to sing? It feels forced at times.
a. People who want to sing need to take responsibility for assuring that they are ready with a song at the end of meeting.
b. If the above breaks down, we agree that we will not sing that day.
Why are we not attracting more attenders and children?
a. We could think of nothing we could do to change this.
Do I/we come to Meeting because we WANT something with no sense of GIVING? If Floyd Friends is my spiritual home, don’t I have certain obligations to tend to and care for the Meeting?
a. We agreed that there is no policy or procedure that Floyd Friends can adopt that will address this. All were encouraged to consider what they could do, and were willing to do, as individuals to strengthen the Meeting community.
The queries offered by Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Pastoral Care Committee did not speak strongly to Floyd Friends Meeting. Perhaps they would have about 2017, as we were coming to terms with tremendous changes in the political climate and the presidency. Our approach at that time was to avoid being drawn into opposition for its own sake, but to consider what we could do individually to make the world in which we live a better place. While Floyd Friends has always had some of its members active with one or more issues, the number doing so has increased in the past two years.
It is significant to note that most of the activism and service work has been done individually rather than as a Meeting. This comes from two sources: our small size, which makes it difficult for us to undertake projects of any significant scale, and the fact that we are individualistic rather than group-oriented as a Meeting. We have had to learn – and periodically relearn – that we need to be careful about committing to too much as a Meeting, as this generally ends in frustration and disappointment with each other. Our most recent revisiting of this challenge led us to distinguish between endorsing an activity one of our members/attenders is pursuing, and sponsoring an activity, which involves a commitment to participate actively.
Even with its small size, our Meeting has a range of involvement by its members and attenders. These run from consistently being at Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Business, work days, adult education programs, and teaching in First Day School; to participating in some but not all activities; to rarely or never appearing in person but reading emails to stay informed while contributing financially. We appreciate what each person brings and welcome them to take what they need from being part of Floyd Friends Meeting.
One of our recent priorities, and especially in the past year, has been to get to know each other better, both at a personal and a spiritual level. Friendly Eights, monthly worship-sharing, and adult education programs all contribute to this. Some members make a practice of meeting regularly with others for the greater depth of sharing which is possible with one-on-one encounters.
On the whole, our spiritual condition appears to be solid, although there is a tension between recognizing that we need to allow individuals to participate to the extent that they are led, and the sense that we could have a stronger spiritual community if more people were more deeply committed. This disappointment may be what is behind the relatively new development of intentional one-on-one relationships.
We believe that this calls for a continuing slow-paced gentle discussion of our hopes, feelings, joys, and disappointments.
❖ What are your greatest joys as a Meeting? What leadings does your Meeting feel most strongly? What challenges and troubles are you facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than you might wish it to be?
Our Meeting supports many groups facing difficult challenges (listed below the third query). We have a Peace and Social Concerns committee of several members (which is rare for our small meeting where committees have historically been comprised of only a clerk) which meets regularly. The committee keeps us aware of these challenges and how we can offer support or be involved.
We are diligent in our efforts to develop our ability to listen to Spirit and to one another. Our clearness committees, our support of The Peoples Supper, our Presiding Clerk’s teachings at the beginning of our Meetings for Business with Attention to Business, our monthly worship sharing and our 8 week Spiritual Deepening Program last fall have been meaningful steps on this path.
Many of our members/attenders have commented that our Meeting nurtures a sense of family. Like families, we enjoy connection and too often ignore discord. Those who feel hurt by actions in Meeting have often stopped attending which deprives them, and the Meeting, of the opportunity to practice the Peace Testimony and to develop more intimate relationships. One Friend has said that she appreciates the support she has been given at difficult times in her life when members offered to sit with her.
❖ How does your Meeting nurture the spiritual life of members and attenders? How deep are your Meetings for Worship? Are Meetings for Business held in a spirit of worship?
The most obvious attempt was the 8 week (FGC) Spiritual Deepening Program led last fall by our Clerk of Ministry and Worship. Since this was the first time our Meeting participated in the SDP we realize that there are ways it can be improved upon in the future. The first offering was a smorgasbord of ways to deepen individual and group practices. Future efforts perhaps need to find ways of focusing on a few and practicing them more together.
At the beginning of our monthly Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business our Presiding Clerk has spent a significant amount of time on instruction in the ways in which Quakers through the centuries have practiced this very spiritual process of doing business, ways which are rare in society at large.
Several of our members struggle with the human need for more intimacy, but a fear of taking the risks involved in getting there. To help support that effort of building a spiritual community, we have initiated several activities: 12 of our small membership are participating in monthly Friendly 8 dinner groups. We also hold monthly Worship Sharing gatherings, and have had a regular discussion group focused on end of life issues. We have begun monthly gatherings to hear the spiritual journeys of two members each month.
In spite of all these efforts, our Meetings for Worship remain consistently silent. This is comfortable for some, but causes an arid hour of worship for others.
❖ Over the past year in our country we have become increasingly aware of those things that divide us rather than those that unite us. Many “isms” (e.g., racism, nationalism, ageism, sexism) and political-ideological issues (e.g., environment, social justice, women’s rights, refugee crisis, immigration, etc.) have come to the forefront. In this contentious environment, how has your Meeting explored those issues that divide us and/or attempted to listen across the divide?
Mainly by delegating discussion of these issues to a committee (Peace and Social Concerns), or encouraging individuals who are following a leading. There is strong encouragement for those who feel a Leading from Spirit to request a Clearness Committee, which is followed by a regularly meeting support committee. Two members have availed themselves of this process and support; one committee was laid down in the past year.
There is deep concern throughout the Meeting about the divisions that exist among us in the community at large, and we have been represented by at least one, often more, of our members and attenders at many local events which attempt to bridge the divide. These events included People’s Suppers, community programs to bring Black and White neighbors together, video presentations on inequities in Palestine, Gay Pride events, lobbying in Richmond and Washington, supporting our member who has been led to improve Virginia veterinary education, and supporting FCNL and AFSC programs.
The Clerk of Ministry and Worship sent the 6 questions posed by BYM to all members/attenders. Out of our small meeting, 13 people took time out of busy lives to respond thoughtfully, which is about 65% of the number of people who attend Meeting for Worship each First Day. Thinking that it would do disservice to the responders to editorialize too much their thoughts, we are including for BYM’s use the following gently edited/combined forms of their responses, using direct quotes.
1. What are your greatest joys as a meeting? What leadings does your meeting feel most strongly? What challenges and troubles is your meeting facing? In what ways is the meeting less than you wish it would be?
“We share our joys and concerns at the end of worship, but it would be nice to lay aside time to meet and celebrate.”
“We are small, like a family.”
“I feel led to become better informed and make a difference.”
“I wish the meeting showed more interest in singing together.”
“I am impressed with the sincerity of my Support Committee.”
“I feel supported and loved, safe to share troubles and pain.”
“We are a functional family. We turn fairly easily to Clearness Committees when there is trouble.”
“My greatest joy is the deepness of the worship, so deep at times that it would need to be cut with a knife to disturb it.”
“We need to find ways to meet the needs of children who may be experiencing difficulties in life.”
“Serving our children is our biggest challenge. We only have one room for the children who range in age from infants to 10 years. We have altered our end of meeting routine so that we stay seated when the children return from their room. This seems to help calm them.”
“As a new member this year, my greatest joy is learning the process of being a part of the Quaker meeting, in considering how I can be of service to the Meeting, and in slowly discovering how I can live outwardly as an extension of the Light within. I absolutely love being a part of this Meeting.”
2. How does your meeting nurture the spiritual life of members and attenders? How deep are your Meetings for Worship? Are Meetings for Business held in a spirit of worship?
“Meeting for worship with a concern for business is becoming more silent and worshipful as our clerks remind us each meeting to take time between agenda items to settle, center down.”
“We nurture spiritual life by having work days, clearness committees, adult education, and encourage each other in our leadings.”
“Being fairly new to Quakerism, I continue to be amazed by the breadth and consideration of social outreach and personal support within the meeting.”
“I feel comfortable, encouraged and held by the meetings. This feeling allows me to enjoy my time in worship and relax into a closer relationship with God and my fellow Quakers.”
“My experience with Meetings for Business has resulted in a personal shift in the way I make decisions and negotiate conflicts.”
“Our Clerk of Ministry and Worship will lead us in a Spiritual Deepening course in the coming year. I look forward to that.”
“Maybe we go too far in prohibiting electronic devices at Meetings for Business.”
“I sometimes leave Meeting for Business on edge because of our failure to follow Quaker practice. Responses made too quickly (indicating self is responding without time for listening to spirit), too much responding to each other (debating issues as is done in secular decision-making), too much lobbying for a personally held position (rather than looking for divine guidance for the best way forward.)”
“Vocal ministry has increased a bit since last year. After the election, we found solace and refuge in our connections with each other as many shared their heartache and concern.”
“Recently, there has been more testimony during worship, and I have truly gotten the sense of what spiritual strength there is in our Meeting.”
3. Is your meeting as diverse as you would like it to be? How well to you attend to the needs of newcomers? Do Friends of all ages feel fully part of the meeting community?
“Our county has a very low diversity percentage, with 3% people of color.”
“Our meeting has children from infants to elders, but no teens.”
“I feel diversity is strength for us and that we would welcome anyone who visited.”
“I would love to have discussion about how to support parents with very young children, so that they would know that baby sounds are OK.”
“I like the fact that some of our members attend other places of worship regularly. I would like to attend some Jewish and Islamic services as a group.”
“We are supportive of the diverse nature of individual leadings. One of our elders was led to hold President-elect Trump in the light and several members/attenders join her in the practice at appointed times each week.”
“We have very few young/middle age men and young adults.”
“I love seeing my kids get excited to sit with other Friends and have their own relationships with others in the Meeting, whether they are similarly aged or not.”
4. Do you engage with other meetings through visitation or shared projects? What message would you like to share with others in BYM and with Friends around the world?
“Several members attend the Blue Ridge Gathering for Blacksburg, Roanoke, Maury River, Floyd and Fancy Gap Meetings each spring.”
“I would like to see more between-meeting support to address common problems. I think we could communicate with Roanoke and Blacksburg meetings more.”
“Having recently participated in a 12 organization lobbying event for Palestinian rights in the General Assembly, I would have liked to have a spokesperson from AFSC/QPIN.
“Several of our members plan to attend FGC this year.”
“The majority of our members/attenders are new to Quakerism; I would like to see increased focus on answering the question: ‘How would Quakers through the ages respond to this problem/issue?’”
5. “How do you put your faith into action for justice in the world? Are you aware of the encouragement of the Working Group on Racism within our yearly meeting? How has that awareness shaped your work for justice?
“We discussed the UUC Anti-Racism Audit during adult religious education. Turnout was slim.”
“We had an adult study group on Waking Up White.”
“I am deeply concerned with wrongful imprisonment of minorities and want to become more involved with The Innocence Project.”
“I would like to show the DVD that documents Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to Palestine and invite the two black congregations in Floyd to join us in viewing it.”
“We put our faith into action in a variety of ways, perhaps mainly through our individual actions.”
“I am a full time volunteer in the community and work hard the serve the needs of those who are hungry.”
“I have a calling to birth work, as well as mothering and teaching and modeling for my son the values I believe benefit the world.”
“I would like to find ways to bring my doula services to mothers of color, mothers at risk and mothers in financial need.”
“One of our members is very active with the LGBT community; this has led him to visit many local churches and school board meetings.”
“We have sent letters to representatives, written letters to the editor of the Floyd Press. Several of us are meeting twice monthly with people of opposing political persuasions to study Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy, using it as a tool to be able to hear each better.”
“I serve breakfast at the Rescue Mission.”
6. Has your meeting made any witness to your community or the wider world as a result of the recent Presidential election?
“I think we are wondering, along with many meetings throughout the country, how to respond to the tone and policies of this administration, many of which are at odds with the Quaker values of love, equality, peace and stewardship.”
“There has been no ‘meeting as a whole’ witness to the larger community. However, members have participated in the Woman’s March locally and in Washington. Members have written letters to the editor. A member has offered her home for weekly focus on political action, including Floyd Friends and other citizens in the area.”
“Our meeting signed letters to Washington opposing the nomination of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel. A member lobbied for 2 days in Richmond to identify himself in association with AFSC/QPIN and Quaker values.”
“A member is active in LGBT issues and has a committee of FF members who meet every 6-8 weeks in support of his work. Two members are on a local planning committee for an upcoming interfaith service that will be held at a local mosque. Our Clerk served on a panel that discussed religious freedom during a recent local celebration of the First Amendment.”
“Overall, I would say that our meeting, especially given its size, has had an active and broad reach on issues of concern to so many of us since the election.”
“I have been a member of this Meeting for quite a few years, and I am amazed at how much we have expanded during those years. We are more active in the community and with each other.”
No report received.
A few weeks ago, as Clerk of Ministry and Worship, I posed the following five questions to all members and attenders of Floyd Friends. I have collated, with little editing, the following responses. We are sending then to Baltimore Yearly Meeting in this form without further editing. I think the answers indicate that the full spectrum of experience is owned and honored at Floyd Friends.
1. Do you feel nurtured and valued at Floyd Friends?
(Each bullet indicates a different response.)
- People smile and hug me at rise of meeting. I felt listened to in Quaker 101.
- Yes, I do and always have. During the time I was working and could not be fully engaged, I felt much supported by the members/attenders who were active. That continued through the illness and death of my spouse, and then has reappeared as the Meeting has begun to actively support a leading I have followed.
- Yes. When my brother died and I asked for assistance with food, the community provided me meals, love and support.
- With the death of my son last year, my journeys to Floyd became an important time to center myself, not only in nature, but also in the Friends Meeting. While I didn't always arrive in time for gathered worship, I always took time to enter the Meeting House to sit in silent meditation and feel at home again. Those times have been very special to me and have allowed me to go forward in my grief in a Quakerly way. I can honestly say last year was the greatest year of my life because of that inner journey.
- I have always been accepted just as I am at Floyd Friends, even though my spiritual path has been more nurtured by Buddhist teachings than those of Christianity (as I have experienced the latter). I always expected Quakers to become defensive about my questioning but that never happened at Floyd Friends.
- My heart and my house are on the map of Floyd Friends Meeting.
- I feel a depth at our Friends meeting that I have not found in other places. No matter how long I am away, when I walk through the doors and sit in fellowship with other Friends, I know it is where my Spirit is supposed to be. Even at a distance when I travel I feel I am nurtured by Floyd Friends meeting.
- Ministry and Counsel has been very diligent and has spent time in seeking clarity for all concerns brought forward.
2. What in our community supports your soul? In what ways is the Meeting doing this less than you wish it would?
- Floyd Friends have steady Friends who attend to the life of Floyd and give when called on. I like the idea we have agreed to only endorse a project if specific needs are met, as in the breakfast for Skyline staff.
- Knowledge of the work of Plenty! makes me feel supported by Friends ‘Spirit’.
- I was helped a great deal with an essay I wrote about personal convictions.
- Since Floyd Friends have decided not to have a “suffering fund” line in the budget I wish they would publish on a regular basis that money is available to those in need if they request it. I have not asked this of meeting because I get the feeling others are tired of me talking about it.
- In Meeting for Worship, although I rarely reach a deep state of openness to the divine. I am especially aware of the quality of the silence when I enter with the children near the end of worship. I really enjoyed the Worship Sharing before Meeting for Worship and regret that it has come to an end. And I value our adult education programs.
- The love we have for one another. The involvement in Meeting for Business. Nothing less than I wish it would (except I wish parents were more involved and brought their children more regularly.)
- My personal challenge is: Where do the words "God" and "Holy Spirit" fit into my experience and sharing at Floyd Friends Meeting?
- I continue to search for a comfortable way to refer to soul, inner teacher, true self. I think I have settled on mystery. I would welcome hearing more people at Floyd Friends speak of their personal experience with that mystery.
- I feel completely buoyed by the knowledge of our extremely diverse backgrounds which include Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Mennonite and Buddhist heritages to name a few.
Out of deference at best and perhaps some insecurity at worst, I sense that we tend to tiptoe around the vocabulary of our spiritual journeys. Some of us have experienced severe pruning. But I feel the welcoming message of Quakerism as an inclusive and expansive widening. I feel that the more ways we describe our experiences the better we defined them and I welcome the faith lexicon from other friends' paths.
- I have always been touched deep in my heart by the level of compassion for the simplicity of our state as humans at our Friends meeting. The challenges we have inside ourselves, the decisions we need to make as a meeting and our communications with other Friends in our meeting are all met with something I do not have words for. It is like the river’s current, you might not see it on top but you can feel it deep and ever present within. Knowing this is there deeply nourishes my soul.
At times I stumble and feel alone in my journey at Meeting and would like to see and hear more conversations around our spiritual journeys. I am happy for the diversity we have, yet at times I struggle with not being able to have more biblical explorations with other Friends. I know that all I have to do is reach out and our meeting will be there for me. The real challenge is for me to learn how to reach out.
- When Friend Chloe was endorsed by meeting, Floyd Friends were generous in monetary support, however, only two Friends, other than Friends already part of PFLAG, came to support her during her talk at the Parade Event. That felt strange in light of the fact that she was a traveling minister for Aldelpi Meeting.
3. Does your Inner teacher manifest itself in your individual life and/or in the community of Floyd Friends?
- Unfortunately, my soul is more nourished by outside activities than in Floyd Friends activities, except for certain Religious Education sessions.
- I think that it does, although I am not as skilled in discerning its lessons as I would like to be.
- I don’t use this term, but yes. When I am away, I feel I lose touch – but that is my fault – not the Meeting’s.
- I value my participation in intimate sharings in a Covenant Group and in the numerous Clearness Committees in the past year. I have no doubt that my soul is more easily welcomed and heard when I am sitting quietly with others who are also welcoming theirs.
- I felt led to find Floyd Friends Meeting and continue to feel led in the meeting: a symphony of sweet empathy in word and deed.
- Yes, I feel this teacher in so many aspects of my life; I am so thankful. The waiting in expectant silence at Meeting is a time that I feel this presence often. Feeling held in the light as we worship, I am able to see my stumbling blocks more clearly. The gift of our quiet meeting has enabled me to more deeply discern when a message is for me alone or is for me to share in worship for others to hear. When a message is shared in our meeting, its truth can be felt like a thickness come and pass. I feel Spirit moving in our adult discussions, meetings for business, in covenant meetings and in clearness meetings.
- I miss the Meeting for Healing Roanoke Friends use to support. As Floyd Friends are mostly a silent meeting with very little verbal ministry, I no longer have a way to “interface” with Spirit on a regular basis, now that Meeting for Healing isn’t part of Roanoke’s meeting.
4. Does Floyd Friends encourage you to bring “that of God” into political or difficult conversations?
- Absolutely. It is all of the years of Quaker training that I have had, and the support of people who take the commitment to the Testimonies seriously, which makes it possible for me to see the "opposition" that I deal with in my advocacy work as children of God and not as enemies.
- Yes, by our bringing up difficult conversations and having F/friends share their own stories of doing this.
- Floyd Friends Meeting has birthed the Quaker Testimonies to action in my life: candlelight vigils at the courthouse, meetings with public officials, letters to legislators, petitions and political action for environmental issues, planning for reducing the carbon footprint of our meeting, community advocacy for LGBT issues, community outreach and service, newspaper announcements, etc.
- I witness Friends at our meeting bringing “That of God” into action all the time. I have seen it politically with a local Veterinary school or PFLAG or resisting pipelines, building a local fresh food pantry and other advocacy work Friends are doing in their lives. I have no trouble using these words “that of God” when I witness what Friends are doing. When I participate in challenging decisions at meeting I feel “that of God” being a corner stone, especially if weighty Friends are involved in the discussion.
- I don't know of any political talk at Floyd meeting. The only difficult conversations I've been part of have been asking about things that are not the agenda during Meeting for Business.
5. Do we accept seekers and help them on their spiritual journey?
- I hope so. I know there was a seeker who was struggling with the unprogrammed Quaker approach. I hope he felt that his questioning was welcomed and responded to.
- Thanks to a clarification of what an unprogrammed meeting is on the web site, my comfort level has resumed and I look forward to worshiping with Floyd Friends when I return to the area.
- I think we could do more to reach out to seekers. I feel a great deal of gratitude to a seeker who recently asked why we have a Bible on display in our Worship space. As I sought personal answers to that question, I embraced for the first time in my life an appreciation for the teachings and actions of the fully human Jesus.
- As a meeting I sensed a traditional reticence to 'go public.' I think we have made progress in selectively sharing the programs we have through newspaper announcements which have been appreciated by kindred souls. I feel that the meeting is sensitive to mentoring or shepherding instinctively for the continuing nourishment of new and old attenders. I am glad to see requests and special needs made known through emails. I would like to hear from less vocal folks more often. I would like to do a better job of sharing the exemplary work of Friends national legislation and service committees.
- Yes, I think so. I do see the challenges of needing to dig deep to learn more about Friends since we are an unprogrammed, meeting. We are also very quiet about things in general and do more sharing of our faith by doing rather than explaining. I think some Friends in our meeting do not choose to learn more about our history and Friend processes and thus struggle to understand how to share these when new people want to learn more. I did love that I was directed to a book shelf instead of a pastor’s office when I first began attending meeting. I appreciated that I had to be the one who initiated and asked questions about Friends. There was no push and not really any hand holding, but I quickly found support once I started learning where to look, who to ask, and what to start reading. The method was perfect for me, but it was challenging and at times.
The calendar year of 2013 was a rich one for Floyd Friends. Our membership grew by one member, but it seemed as though it were more because our attendees were plentiful and very active. Children were so regular in attendance that we began considering near the end of the year whether we should provide regular paid child care for Meeting for Worship and Adult Discussions. For years we have had many Meetings when no children were present. The decision to go out on faith and provide childcare, thinking that the decision might help children and their parents attend more often, was a big one.
In addition to the energy provided by children, the meeting house became a livelier place in other ways. An attender regularly provided guitar music during shared meals. Singing, spontaneously as an expression of worship as well as at the circle at rise of meeting, became part of the fabric of our gatherings.
New energy also revitalized the physical building and landscape. The newcomers were able to see with fresh eyes that our building and grounds had become a bit run-down. The building foundation was even raised a few inches and a problem with moisture at the foundation level was corrected. Community work days resulted in our brick entrance being repaired; the walkway was made beautiful with rocks in a Zen-style.
Floyd Friends has had a presence in a number of LGBTQ issues including a candlelight vigil at the county courthouse. One of our members has represented us at the Floyd Ministerial Association meetings. A simple meal of beans and rice was prepared one month, with donations for attendance being given to our local food bank; an Adult Discussion on the testimony of simplicity followed.
Members were supported in times of need: one member lost her home to a fire, one attendee dealt with chronic and severely debilitating illness, another had a baby. Food prepared by Friends supported them through their challenges and transitions. Clearness committees were gathered 3 times during the year and the process blessed each person who participated.
Members helped connect Floyd Friends to the wider Quaker community by attending Baltimore Yearly Meeting’ Annual Session and by taking advantage of FGC’s Quaker Cloud website. BYM input helped us decide to tackle the issue of child safety, specifically in terms of protection from any inappropriate actions towards them. This will be a slow careful process which is not completed as of this writing. We are committed to grappling with how to honor ‘that of God in every person’ yet facing the possibility that our precious children could be harmed. We want to provide a safe place in a way which does not involve our becoming overly suspicious or fearful.
Deep spiritual growth has been encouraged by a number of Worship Sharing sessions which were held prior to First Day Meetings for Worship. Also, our two Covenant groups met monthly and a third is planned for parents of small children.
The year ended with something that has become a custom for Floyd Friends, New Year’s Eve worship and shared meal. The building was filled with singing, children laughing and good food, an ending to the year which was in keeping with the rest of the year.
- Membership – 2012 was an active year for us with 2 members joining and 2 founding members who had not attended for several years transferring their membership. Several new people began attending regularly this year, adding to the vitality of the group as they added their energy to our support of people in same gender relationships and to a new practice of worship sharing.
- Worship sharing – After several attenders and members expressed an interest in facilitating greater sharing within our mostly silent community of worship, an attender researched this accepted Quaker practice and suggested that we try incorporating it into our worship. She has led most of the sessions which are held a half hour before our regular First Day worship hours. She has chosen a piece of poetry or other inspirational or thought provoking piece of prose and has emailed them to members and attenders during the week before Meeting. A small number of people have regularly attended and shared in a round-robin manner what the piece brought up for them. This practice has led to more people speaking than has been the habit in our regular First Day Meetings; at the minimum the sense of community seems to be enhanced.
- Same gender relationship advocacy – After months of discussion and seasoning, Floyd Friends decided to submit an article to the Floyd Press concerning our willingness to perform same gender weddings. The article spoke to the injustice of same gender marriages not being performed in Virginia. We also had a booth at Gay Pride Day in Roanoke and agreed to be listed online with Equality in Virginia and gaychurches.org.
- Floyd Ministerial Association – One of our members regularly attended this group’s monthly meetings. Her presence at this meeting which is composed of many who are more conservative than Floyd Friends seemed to bear witness to our testimonies. When the group had a heated discussion of the article Floyd Friends submitted to the Floyd Press about same gender marriage, her presence seemed to be calming, possibly because she listened without judgment and spoke without rancor. Rather than denouncing Floyd Friends’ position in the paper (which was suggested) the Ministerial Association wrote a milder letter saying that they disagreed with us. Three area ministers later wrote a letter to our member supporting our position. Toward the end of the year, our delegate to the Ministerial Association moved from the area and we decided to continue to send a representative.
- Adult Education – We looked for ways to enable more members to attend these monthly discussions. We alternated meeting on Sunday after Meeting for Worship one month and on a weekday evening the next month. Some this year included Different Faith Perspectives on Non-Violence and Common Ground between Quakerism and Buddhism.
- First Day School – Attendance continues to be low. Only one pre-school age child has attended regularly. Although several people have offered to teach First Day School, children have attended sporadically and people have not tended to have prepared lessons for the variety of ages that might present on any given First Day. Serving our children continues to be a dilemma we have not solved. At one point the parents of children suggested that they planned to focus on getting their children to Meeting on 1st and 3rd First Days so that teachers could count on having students those days. This approach has not seemed to work.
- Dish washer – Our ancient dish washer died this year. We decided to put into action our testimony of simplicity by not replacing it. Several people have commented that they enjoy the sense of community which they experience as people share the washing of dishes after shared meals, often singing as they do so.
- Time Bank – One of our members put into action a program she read about in AARP magazine called Time Bank. It encourages people at Floyd Friends to offer skills they have. An hour of work is equal in value, regardless of what it is. Participants can then draw upon hours when they have needs. It is hoped that this program will at least allow Floyd Friends to share needs and abilities. If this pilot program works well, it may be offered to the larger Floyd community.
- Political activism – Floyd Friends wrote a letter to Senator John Warner asking that he maintain the plan of the 2011 Budget Control Act to reduce military spending. One of our attenders scheduled a meeting with Senator Warner’s aide and said that she felt she was listened to. The aide then explained why the Senator might not be able to agree with our request.
- Peace and Social Concerns donations – We continued our practice of making a mid-year local donation, this year to the SNAP Double Match program which subsidizes eligible people being able to purchase locally grown food at the Floyd Farmer’s Market. The end of year donation was made to the American Friends Service Committee’s West Virginia Economic Justice Project which focuses on opposition to mountain top removal.
- Covenant Groups – There has been a Covenant Group comprised of four members and attenders of Floyd Friends for the past 4 years. Each person found that the intimate setting and monthly meetings supported her spiritual path in a powerful way. The group decided to split and offer membership as two new groups to those interested in making the regular investment of time and energy. Enough people responded to support two groups. One group decided to close membership until September 2013, one group decided to remain open to new members.
In summary, Spirit seems to be moving in members and attenders at Floyd Friends and the community at large is benefitted.
We continue to feel the spirit prospering among us. We remain a small group, but have added one new member and one new devoted attender. We are still a group of varied backgrounds, education levels, and ages, and find that this adds to our enjoyment of our diversity. We are accepting of all, and no one feels intimidated when sharing their ideas or beliefs. We value the varied viewpoints.
Our meetings for worship are nourished with a deep silence. Messages are welcome, but are not given every First Day. People often remark about the richness of our silence. We continue to ask for thoughts of joys or concerns about ten minutes before the rise of meeting, and frequently there are spoken words at this time. We also have the clerk read the monthly query about ten minutes after meeting has opened, in order to give a possible direction for thought. Some of us have felt a lack of music, so we have started singing a song before we leave the circle after meeting. We choose a simple song and sing it for about a month before going on to a new one, with the idea that we may remember it and carry it with us through the week. Our toddler is captivated by the music.
We have enjoyed our monthly adult study discussions, but people are becoming more involved in community activities and are becoming increasingly busy. We are struggling to find a time for these discussions when most can attend. We are evaluating methods of dealing with this problem.
Our first day school has become poorly attended, but we continue to try to find ways to show our regard for our children.
We continue to have a covenant group that meets monthly. Those involved derive great support from this intimate approach.
We have made a tradition of greeting the New Year with a half hour silent worship followed by a shared meal, starting at 6:00 p m. This early hour allows the children to participate, and the adults to be home early.
We continue to have quite a few trying family sorrows among our relative small group. We are able to give emotional support through a prayer circle that meets one evening a week, at times in actuality in the meeting house and at other times in virtuality. When actual assistance is needed, the group is quick to respond, even when the need is on going. The burial committee was able to be of assistance on the death of a member’s spouse.