Goose Creek 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||2017 Report||2018 Report||2019 Report||2020 Report|
2020 was a year like no other. The Meeting House was closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve had to change our paradigm of how to be a community. But as Goose Creek Friends reflect upon the past months, we celebrated the fact that we stepped up to the year’s challenges as well as we did.
Our committees worked to keep us in touch with one another and to offer comfort or aid where needed.
Members of the Meeting Cares Committee and Ministry and Worship reached out early in the pandemic to all of our members and attenders and have kept in touch as needed. Ministry and Worship members took turns sending mid-week meditations to everyone in Meeting and hosted several online discussion sessions following Meetings for Worship. In conjunction with the Property Committee and the ad hoc committee that meets to determine when we can safely open the Meeting House again, Ministry and Worship planned outdoor Meetings for Worship on the lawn while the weather remained warm enough and provided facing bench presences for worship both outdoors and on the internet via Zoom.
Meeting Cares worked hard to support Friends, staying in touch with those who are not attending worship on Zoom, offering a listening ear to those who needed to talk, and compiling an extensive list of community resources. This committee also formed an ad hoc committee, Faith in Action, to help Friends in need; and have been hosting Meeting game nights via Zoom – a wonderful opportunity for light-hearted fun together.
The Religious Education Committee created a number of opportunities for our First Day School students to stay in touch with Meeting. These included online First Day School lessons, Erin’s Sunday story time for the younger children, and Zoom sessions where our teenaged Friends gathered to talk. They also hosted a teen movie night via Zoom, with a follow-up discussion session. They sponsored monthly Children’s Meetings for Worship during the first quarter-hour of our Zoom Meetings for Worship.
The Unity with Nature Committee hosted two films online for us, “Pollinators” and “Kiss the Ground,” with excellent Zoom discussions following them. These and other resources and discussions sponsored by Unity with Nature have been catalysts for changes that Goose Creek Friends are making in their lives to work towards sustainability and a fuller appreciation of the web of life’s interconnections.
Our new Anti-Racism Committee has focused our attention upon the efforts we all need to make, in so many different ways, to end racism. They have ordered helpful books on this subject and made them available to the Goose Creek Friends, as well as inaugurating an all-community book discussion on anti-racism. This committee has helped us reflect deeply on what our work is meant to be, collectively and individually. They have also worked with the Archive Committee to help us understand Goose Creek’s historical involvements in matters regarding slavery and the local Black community.
We report the work of these committees, supported by the work of other committees, groups, and individuals, because all of these efforts have not been just a matter of continuing the regular business of the Meeting during a difficult period. Along with worship, they have been the vital bonds holding us together in a time of personal isolation – comforting us, keeping us in frequent conversation, and inspiring us to continue working for the greater good of one another, the wider Quaker sphere, and our communities and our nation and the world – including the health of the earth. Through the internet, and with the encouragement of our Peace and Social Concerns Committee, we have been able to work with Quaker and interfaith groups. We participated in lobbying with both the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
We are deeply grateful to Goose Creek Friends who have helped us master the technicalities of meeting via Zoom, for worship, committee work, and fellowship. The Spiritual Formation group and the Wednesday evening worship group have continued going strong via Zoom and continue to provide important occasions for deep sharing. We are also grateful that meeting online has brought to us Friends who live at a distance and are now able to join us regularly for First Day Meetings for Worship. (We hope to find a way for this to continue when we are back in the Meeting Room.) We’ve heard that they can feel the love within our Meeting. And we acknowledge the new way in which the Zoom platform has allowed us to be face-to-face with one another in worship and during other meetings. While not allowing us to shake hands or hug, it has created a new kind of acquaintance and discourse among us, one which we hope will bring us closer together as spiritual companions when we are physically together again.
This said, we lament that there are Friends who are not connected with us in worship right now. During warmer weather, some of them worshiped with us outdoors on the lawn, but they do not join us online. We deeply miss being with the children and hope that our connection with them has not become too attenuated. And in spite of the warm connection that we do feel in worship, it is not a real substitute for the sharing of experiential, direct revelation that is possible when we are physically together. Our experiences or beliefs don’t always convey well when faced with a screen full of faces, however beloved. We hold a serious concern that our online Meetings for Worship have not been as Spirit filled as we would wish. We worry that the disembodied nature of online worship works against hearing Divine stirrings and offering truly personal testimonies. In fact, we sensed this even while Friends met to help develop this report. How can we stay not
just connected, but connected in the Light?
Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business are difficult – it’s difficult to read individuals’ responses on Zoom, and we share a concern that some Friends are not speaking up when they would have done so had we been meeting in person.
We look forward with all our hearts to being together in person again. Many of us feel that we are growing during this period of being alone more than usual, and that Quakerism has prepared us and allowed us to dig deeper. This has been true for small groups among us as well. Our hope is that when we are reunited in person, we will carry the new insights that we have gained, individually and collectively, into deeper, richer fellowship.
As Quakers and members of a peace tradition, we at Goose Creek are deeply concerned about the current climate of divisiveness and strife in our country and the world. Our faith calls us to respond to this challenge in a spirit-led way instead of through the prism of social media or popular culture. The Meeting has supported our efforts in this. We have taken inspiration from the words of Ecclesiastes 11:4 & 6:
He who observes the wind will not sow;
And he who regards the clouds will not reap.
In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
Goose Creek Meeting is a place to be bathed in voices of love, peace, and kindness, providing comfort and encouragement to us. It is not easy to find a climate where people feel free to share our dark sides. Here we can share openly and honestly in a loving environment.
The Meeting community provides lessons in empathy, especially important in a time when there is a strong need to belong and a loss of a sense of place. These lessons provide encouragement for us to listen to those with whom we disagree – not in opposition, but in a more empathetic way. The internal reflection we nurture through Meeting for Worship also helps to remind us how to look with love on all people and all of God’s creation.
We can be thought of as a laboratory in which we prepare to be a Light in the world. One of the successful ways we foster courageous conversations is through our spiritual enrichment programs held at the rise of Meeting. These have included our Bible meditation series, which has become an ongoing program due to very positive response.
We recognize that each of us may be nurtured in different ways, and we seek to provide a depth of opportunities for spiritual nourishment for our community. The Wednesday evening discussion group is one type of ministry that has opened the door for some. It provides a forum to speak openly and honors the gifts that everyone brings, accepting each person for who they are. Another is our monthly spiritual formation group, which seeks to share spiritual wisdom and to support each other’s spiritual journeys.
While these programs have been mostly inwardly focused, we feel led to seek appropriate Quaker ways of sharing our message with the greater community around us. We are aware of and grateful for the many efforts of our Meeting committees and individuals to send our Light outward. They are truly channels of our love, and it is very powerful to feel the Light reflected back to us from those whose lives we touch.
A powerful opportunity to share our Light was presented to us by Virginia House of Delegates representative Wendy Gooditis, who is a member of our Meeting. She invited a small group from Goose Creek to give the invocation at the start of a House session in Richmond. We shared a prayer and a minute of silence in the Quaker way and felt the Legislature’s appreciation for that opportunity for reflection in the midst of a conflict-filled session. We continue to hold Delegate Gooditis in the Light as she works to live her Quaker faith in service to the people of the Commonwealth.
One of our members, whose work we support in Africa on environmental and social justice issues, reports that the Africans we are helping believe that we are now walking with them in their life’s journey, a part of their extended family. We look forward to continuing our partnership with her work and that community.
Other individuals are supported by the Meeting in prison ministry, which has been a traditional way of sharing Quaker Light. Prisoners whose lives they have touched have continued to express their gratitude to us as our members continue to seek justice and grace for them.
We continue to seek ways to build relationships with our African American neighbors, with whom our Meeting has deep historical ties. The Archive Committee was called to respond to a request from the Loudoun County Freedom Center for information on our shared history with this community and was delighted to discover how far back our Meeting’s relationships with them go. Finding this information has provided renewed energy to discussions of how our Light was shared in the past and how we can bring that tradition forward into the present.
The Unity with Nature Committee continues to be active in promoting sustainability within our Meeting and beyond. Committed to right action out of reflection, they look inward for the Light to guide us to a carbon-neutral future. This year they invited Friends and others in the community to the screening and discussion of an environmental film. Meeting’s support of the Friends Wilderness Center, which nurtures our human need for contact with nature, is another example of our outreach and ministry to Creation.
Several committees have been led to continue non-partisan lobbying efforts to promote Quaker testimonies. Our Peace & Social Concerns Committee acts out its faith by joining in the efforts of both the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, while Unity with Nature supports the efforts of Interfaith Power and Light.
Our SPICES group has continued to be a good outlet for members to develop creative, artistic ways to present our testimonies both within and outside of our community. This program provides a unique Quaker way of sharing our message with the greater local community.
The fact that there is more apparent darkness in the world may be attracting more people to our Light. There is a hunger, and our challenge is to feed that hunger. We are doing a better job of helping people learn about Goose Creek Meeting and join our journey. However, we are cognizant of the need to always look for ways to improve our outreach efforts. We believe we have a unique opportunity, as a spirit-led, non-judgmental community, to be a place of refuge for families yearning for authenticity and a tradition that eschews racism, social injustice and intolerance. We see a need to reach out to those families and our community and not “hide our Light under a bushel.”
We understand the importance of education and social interactions for the health of our Meeting, especially for our many new attenders and families. More basic Quakerism programs, such as one we presented this year on Core Quaker Beliefs, can promote understanding of Quaker testimonies, process, programs and terminology.
Credit should be given for the growth in young families in our Meeting to our Religious Education Co-Clerks and the Religious Education Committee, who provide constant, dependable programming for our First Day School. It is a testament to how we continue to be perceived in the world that parents are bringing their children to our Light.
We recognize the many benefits to both children and adults of intergenerational activities, including teaching First Day School and providing Friendly Adult Presences (FAP’s). We intend to increase opportunities for intergenerational interactions and meet-ups, both at the Meetinghouse and outside of Meeting.
While we are a very loving and accepting community, we recognize a need to continue to work on how we deal with the conflicts that arise occasionally in our Meeting community. We are not always comfortable with these conflicts and sometimes we let them simmer to a boil. We are reminded that it is loving and kind to be open, direct, and truthful with each other about our feelings.
While recognizing the good work we are doing at Goose Creek and beyond, we also acknowledge that working on being kind is work enough. Kindness has been a constant theme for our Meeting this year and one we believe will continue to guide us as we work together to nourish our inward and outward Light. We take to heart Mary Oliver’s words from “Wild Geese,” as shared in ministry this year:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves.
Living the lives to which we aspire as Quakers often seems to be in conflict with modern life. In these troubled times, it can be difficult to believe that we can make a difference in the world. Nonetheless, Goose Creek Friends are mindful of the need to be both patient and steadfast. Trying to be patient, we find help in the words of Martin Luther King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Seeking to be steadfast, we have turned to the passage from Ecclesiastes quoted by Jimmy Carter in his book Sources of Strength:
He who observes the wind will not sow;
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with
child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand; for you do not
know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
We strive to see the Light in darkness, and then to discern what it is that we are meant to do in order to walk in that Light. Goose Creek Friends seek ways of bringing healing to the world, and we seek to support one another’s healing work. Individually or collectively, we have worked in prison ministry; found practical ways to help avoid gun violence; collaborated with local and state groups as well as the Friends Committee on National Legislation to address issues of homelessness, racism, climate change, and poverty; and cherished the work of two of our members in Africa and in Haiti. We also realize that it is our responsibility as Friends simply to be awake in our daily lives to opportunities for sharing the Light as we see it.
We feel the profound link between acting in the world and worshiping together as Friends. Goose Creek Friends Meeting continues to grow in spiritual strength and intention. Small groups within Meeting such as a spiritual formation group and a Wednesday evening discussion group deepen our individual and collective spiritual lives and strengthen our intentions with respect to Meeting. Friends gather after Meetings for Worship once a month or so for presentations and discussions such as a series based on Douglas Gwyn’s A Sustainable Life and a more recent series, begun in December, on Quakers and the Bible. These various groups, as well as our thriving First Day School program, create a synergism within Meeting that helps to keep us spiritually alive and also knit together as a community.
For we are a loving community. We recognize that Quaker politeness can cause Friends to avoid discussing important subjects on which they might not agree. We are not immune to this. However, Goose Creek Friends do hold a widely divergent range of political, philosophical, and theological views. This is one of our great strengths as a Meeting: We regard one another with honor and respect. Respect and affection are present not only in handshakes and hugs at the rise of Meeting, but in the way we welcome diverse messages during Meetings for Worship and in Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business. We believe that we have much to learn from one another.
Many of our Meetings for Worship remain silent. In others, Friends are opened by others’ messages and find the spirit working in them to witness also. Our mutual trust helps to deepen our faith and our sense of worship as a body of seekers.
We acknowledge the lack of significant racial and economic diversity in our Meeting community. However, our Quaker language and beliefs help us nurture a diverse outward community. We strive to forge and to keep relationships with the various communities around us. Goose Creek Meeting has been blessed with bequests from which we are able to offer a large number of scholarships every year that result in relationships with a very diverse group of students. Goose Creek Friends have supported NAACP events and continue to work with interfaith groups within Loudoun County, including Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i and Muslim representatives, to foster interfaith community and help disadvantaged groups of all kinds. SPICES, Goose Creek’s traveling peace troupe, provides a joyful, creative, and fun way to share our faith with the larger community.
We love Goose Creek Meeting, but are not so attached to it that we do not recognize the dangers of losing humility or of becoming a closed circle. Over the past few years we have worked hard to welcome newcomers, and we believe that we have improved in this regard. We are grateful for the ideas and experiences that new attenders bring us. In addition, through the work of our committees we have increased our outreach to the greater community, providing opportunities to share our faith with others. We understand that humility is essential as we work to keep our hearts open to one another and to the world, striving always to keep to the paths that will lead us in the Light.
Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations,wherever you come; that your life and conduct may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone… George Fox 1656
The events of 2017 affected Goose Creek in many ways, leading us to struggle with our desire to advocate for action and change in the larger society, but at the same time, needing to stay grounded in our belief that action is most effective when it comes from a spiritual leading.
In the same way, we attempt in our Meeting for Worship, to encourage verbal ministry that will open us to new spiritual insights, yet we also value the nourishment we find in extended periods of silence where we can let go of control and deepen our relationship with the divine. We recognize the need to encourage our quiet Friends to speak when they are led, even if they feel hesitant.
As our community grows and as members and attenders now come from far distances, we need to be mindful of developing ways to stay connected to each other and to reach out to those who cannot come on a regular basis or who might be feeling isolated.
As we are trying to find our way, we look to our history. Having just celebrated 200 years in our beloved Meetinghouse we remember the example of faithfulness, patience and action of our Meeting ancestors. Our bicentennial celebration both reminded us of our long history and shared it with those new to the Meeting,
We attempt to be faithful to those traditions that have served Goose Creek Quakers well in the past:
- To stand still in the light, waiting for the spirit to lead us.
- To listen carefully to the other and “to the place that the words come from”.*
- To search for common ground with those with whom we disagree.
- To value and follow Quaker process, waiting with patience for the leadings of the spirit.
Over the past year we have noted a revitalization in our committees and spiritual study groups. The chaos of the larger world ,the environmental problems, social justice issues, lack of civility in discourse make us realize our responsibility to do what we can, both individually and corporately, to make a difference. In doing so we rediscover our own gifts and abilities as well as find a deeper understanding of each other. Helping each other exercise our individual gifts helps the entire Meeting to be more rich and full.
We made a decision to increase our financial grants. As we increase our donations, we realize our responsibility to choose carefully and be knowledgable about the organizations to whom we give. We support Quaker groups such as FCNL and AFSC, as well as local groups dealing with environmental problems, gun violence, and the social needs of our surrounding communities. We have a scholarship grant program that provides grants for young students in our Quaker and our larger community.
Last year we welcomed the development of The SPICES Traveling Peace Troupe. Its mission is to engage and enchant audiences with live interactive performances of stories – and other activities – built upon themes of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship (SPICES) as a way to sow love and nurture these values in ourselves and the community.
We also benefited from the opportunity to reach out to many of our neighbors, reacquainting us with local African American congregations, greeting the Adams Center Muslims after their Friday Worship and participating in Interfaith and Multicultural events throughout the county.
Our first Day School is thriving despite the ever present problem of having many young people one week and few the next. Revolving teachers and Friendly Adult Presences give each of us the opportunity to get to know our young people and learn their view of the world we live in.
We gather, each First Day, in Meeting For Worship. It is the center of our spiritual community. We settle into silence, seeking support from the divine, and seeking support from each other as we find our right relationship to the world.
*John Woolman. Worshiping with Native Americans,spoke without interpretation, an Indian who didn't understand English said, "I love to hear where the words come from."
“The light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never mastered it.” John 1:5
Though our year has had its moments of bleak darkness, out of the darkness have unexpectedly sprung rays of light. As we have mourned the loss of individuals central to our Meeting, we have celebrated their lives and service. Concerned about political events, we are encouraged by the resurgence of social action and outreach of our members.
As in the past, our spiritual anchor is Meeting for Worship. Here we seek to release anger, anxiety, and disappointment to tap into our inner center, to see events from a divine perspective, to gain spiritual guidance, and to be led into the world from a place of greater clarity and purpose. As we listen to our inner light, we are more empowered to see the light in all people.
The Meeting community offers solace, support and hope in times of personal loss, illness, or despair. Feeling great empathy from Friends, we who mourn are comforted by the companionship of others have also walked our difficult road. The Meeting likewise reminds us of our central belief that there is that of God in all persons, whatever their political and social opinions, whether rich or poor, educated in classrooms or schooled on the streets, American or otherwise. Just as we reach out to others in our own Meeting community in empathy, we need to walk in the shoes of those we see as opponents. At Meeting we receive support to be channels of love in a society of widespread conflict and strife.
Several groups in the Meeting nurture the light in a personal setting: the new SPICES Peace Troupe with its puppet skits on the testimonies, the Spiritual Formation group and the Wednesday night worship group. These have all been sources of joy, light and growth to individuals. Watching our children grow in their spiritual journey brings special joy to us.
As we consider our history and beautiful Meeting property, we are grateful for all those individuals who operate behind the scenes to enable our Meeting to run smoothly, to preserve our rich history, and to challenge us to move forward. In addition, we celebrate efforts to use our property more sustainably.
Rays of light are evident in our outreach: from making our building available for activities in Lincoln to our website, listserv, and newsletter; from the increase in persons participating in the activities of Friends Committee on National Legislation to the SPICES Peace Troupe, as well as the distribution of gun locks and continued support for Mobile Hope’s services to homeless and precariously housed children and teenagers. Especially noteworthy are our scholarship programs for local students which serve a diverse population as they in their application process reflect on a topic related to Quaker values.
While we note sundry joys and successes, we face daunting challenges as we seek to apply our Quaker testimonies in the political arena, to be thoughtful and self-aware instead of reactive to sensitive issues. We ponder ways to overcome our anger as we seek to find commonality with those with whom we do not agree, ways to discern the difference between speaking the truth in love and lashing out in anger, ways to “stand still in the light” until we are empowered to speak from a spiritual center. When we fail in these areas, we hope to be patient with each other. As we struggle with these challenges, we seek to follow Friends Committee on National Legislation’s example of expressing concerns regarding issues in a positive manner based on our Quaker testimonies without being critical.
In our Meeting, we continue to be challenged to involve more adults in our religious education program. While more individuals are serving on committees, we need to communicate to younger members and new attenders ways to become engaged in our Meeting, to offer sessions about Quaker process and ways to discern leadings regarding vocal ministry during Meeting for Worship, and to provide information on clearness committees and threshing sessions.
Letting our light shine involves efforts to seek justice in the world. In our visits to an African American church in our village and to a local mosque, we have affirmed our desire to be neighborly. Individual callings have led to legislative advocacy with the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, support for Loudoun Interfaith Bridges programs engaging us with other faiths, and participation in a Quaker prison ministry. A community Meeting for Worship before the presidential election attracted persons from the Lincoln area. Children distributed “Sow Love” seed packets for several weeks after Meeting.
Affirming that the light does indeed shine in the darkness, we seek to be channels of light in the world, to be peacemakers in a society rife with strife.
We feel that our worship is deepening. We were delighted when a new Friend told us that each week he feels a sense of anticipation on the way to Meeting for Worship. “Something really happens here,” he said.
Friends have noted that our Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business feel more spiritually focused than heretofore. Our clerk has instituted a practice of reading the month’s queries at the beginning of each Business Meeting. Friends speak to these queries out of the silence before we discuss Meeting business. This reflective period helps us remember that we have gathered to seek God’s help in discerning right courses to take.
Drawing together spiritually in small groups has helped create a feeling of spiritual fellowship among us all. This also provides opportunities for Friends to participate more fully in the life of the Meeting, and encourages fluidity and mixing among us. These small groups include a Wednesday evening discussion group, a Spiritual Formation group, and a new women’s group for conversation and sharing, in addition to Friendly Eights groups. In the spring we held several evening potluck gatherings – planned for the benefit of newcomers, but also attended by longtime Friends – in which we answered questions about Quakerism and shared stories about our personal spiritual journeys. This has helped knit newer Friends into our community, and has reminded older Friends of the connections among us and with Quaker traditions and teachings.
Our religious education co-clerks have been successful in keeping a consistent and coherent First Day School program going for all age groups of children. They have involved more adults in First Day School activities, helping to build more intergenerational bridges. There is an ongoing program in which students interview adult Friends about their spiritual journeys and their lives in Quakerism. Also, students have been challenged to think hard about how to tie Friends’ testimonies to their everyday lives. Still, sometimes First Day School attendance is quite low, and we would like to attract more families with children to Meeting.
We are grateful for the Friends who quietly provide valuable support for our spiritual work together. The Meeting newsletter, listserv, email list, and website help keep individuals in touch with Meeting events and activities; and the Cares and Concerns Committee helps keep Meeting in touch with the life events and needs of individual Friends. The Hospitality Committee supports important gatherings for outreach and fellowship. These functions are not always seen as ministry, but we realize that they are, and that behind the scenes many of us are constantly knitting and re-knitting our community into a whole.
Goose Creek Friends have been working to create a Meeting infrastructure that allows us to attend to spiritual matters. We recognize that when we feel that the work of Meeting is going smoothly, we have the luxury of the peace that brings us more deeply into silent worship.
We have continued to work hard to welcome newcomers, and feel that we are doing a better job of this than in the past. The Library Committee has put together bundles of pamphlets and information about Quakerism to offer to visitors. We believe that we are welcoming to people of all ages, races, classes, gender identities, and religious/ethnic backgrounds, and have included an icon on our website indicating that we welcome gays and people of color. However, our success in attracting new Goose Creek Friends who differ a great deal from the rest of us is limited. We do have new young adult attenders, who gladden us. We recognize that a Quaker meeting for worship is not an easy thing to walk into, and ask ourselves how we can be more inviting to everyone. We see the most diverse groups within the Meeting House walls at community gatherings such as last fall’s harvest festival, and at memorials and weddings. The harvest festival was a wonder-filled celebration of our caretakers’ fifty years with us. Talk about faithfulness and commitment!
But for the most part, our outreach successes consist of forging bonds with other groups. Our scholarship programs grant college scholarships every year to local young people of a wide range of races and ethnicities. The program begins with a discussion of values that Quakers prize, and applicants gather to write a relevant essay. We hope that this experience will remain with them. Goose Creek Meeting has contributed members to Loudoun Interfaith Bridges, a multicultural religious group. Some Friends work one morning a week at Mobile Hope, a program that serves homeless and inadequately housed local youth. Without a formal plan to attend together, twenty or more Goose Creek Friends showed up for a religiously diverse candlelight vigil in Leesburg, Virginia, to demonstrate unity, promote community safety, and counter prejudice. Farther afield, a Goose Creek Friend spends several weeks a year training midwives in Haiti, and another works with relief programs in the Himalayas. They receive our financial and spiritual support. Our Unity with Nature Committee has participated in both Quaker and non-Quaker environmental groups, and Goose Creek was one of the first of BYM’s monthly meetings to endorse the Shared Quaker Statement on Climate Change.
One Goose Creek Friend is a faithful participant in South Mountain Friends Fellowship, a Friends worship group organized by Patapsco Monthly Meeting that meets every Saturday at the Maryland Correctional Facility at Hagerstown. Others from Goose Creek have accompanied her on occasion. We are struck by the multiracial nature of this small group of incarcerated men, and are humbled by how much our limited interaction means to them. A Christmas letter to Meeting from one South Mountain Friend filled our hearts with sadness and joy.
We recognize the need to abjure complacency, and endeavor not to forget to keep questioning our habits. On the whole, we feel that we have been willing to look afresh at what we do, and to take the risk of making changes. Committees have been working to discern whether they are doing the work that they are truly led to do.
Friends feel one another’s spiritual support as they move individually into the community and the world to help remedy inequities and hardships. We feel the support of Quakerism as a whole. As one Friend reminded us, “Remember the testimonies!” And here we return to the central fact of our worship together. Weekly meetings for worship and the meetings of our various spiritual small groups – these are what keep Spirit before us in our individual daily lives.
Goose Creek Friends Meeting nurtures the spiritual life of members and the community by providing opportunities for individual and communal exploration through Meeting for Worship, spiritual formation groups, First Day School, and social interactions. Though sometimes difficult and challenging, listening to one another affords a respectful sharing of beliefs and deepens our understanding of ourselves and others as we attain new ideas. Our Listening Ear at the rise of Meeting for Worship continues to offer a time of sharing questions, concerns, and problems.
One focus in the past year has been strengthening the committees within Meeting. Quarterly meetings of committee clerks and co-clerks have helped committees become more active and have encouraged greater participation in their endeavors. The Publications Committee has been diligent in supporting activities through the newsletter, on the web site, and with emails sent out through the list-serve. The Finance committee backs committees and individual activities with budgetary considerations.
A wonderful example of committee cooperation was the community dedication of the historic Civil War Sign sponsored by the Archive Committee on December 6th. This committee worked directly with four different Civil War committees responsible for the Virginia Civil War Trail markers. By focusing on the Peace Testimony, the committee was able to spread the message of our legacy and Peace Testimony to the Meeting community, the wider Quaker community, and the larger community around us. All members and attenders were asked to participate, and the Hospitality, Property, Religious Education, and Peace and Social Concerns Committees were actively involved in the event. First Day School children participated by performing a short play. Many hands assisted with invitations, advertising, hosting duties, and refreshments which led to a richer experience for all.
Religious Education is an area we can support better in the future. The number of children varies from week to week making planning somewhat difficult. Although the RE committee meets regularly and asks for assistance when needed, we continue to question whether our actions support our values and words regarding First Day School. A threshing session on this topic is scheduled for early March 2015.
The Camping Committee continues to support the attendance of our children at Quaker Camps where they experience simplicity in a natural setting away from their everyday lives. The Scholarship Committees host a discussion on Quaker values and concerns that encourages our young people to examine and write about their own views on life. The Nominating Committee continues to invite young people to join our committees and participate more fully in our Quaker community. These young Friends add vitality to committees.
Members of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee have contacted local leaders regarding issues of peace and social justice. Committee members continue to distribute gun locks and to lobby for gun safety. A number of members attended the Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence at the Washington National Cathedral on December 11th.
Unity with Nature hosted a four-part discussion of Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. They will be presenting ideas to Meeting in early 2015 on concrete areas for “going forth.”
Visitors and new attenders are welcomed on a regular basis. Though we do a good job of modeling Quaker process, newcomers sometimes remind us that diversity is a positive thing; and they help us to reconsider our beliefs and practices. We encourage participation on committees in open conversations about opportunities to serve. In addition, we are planning for the creation of an Outreach Committee in 2015 to more fully focus on these efforts.
In September, more than twenty Goose Creek Friends and members of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church hosted and provided for needy persons a free sit-down dinner with entertainment as part of the Community Table of Loudoun Program. With an eye to increased outreach and a concern for greater service in our local community, we have invited executives from Tree of Life Ministries and Mobile Hope to speak to Meeting regarding their missions. We continue to look for good ways to be of service both individually and as a group.
The Meeting speaks through both action and inaction. We strive to live within the parameters of what we are called to do without our ego taking charge. We come together in a loving community where we can share our joys and concerns, hold each other in the light, and foster dialogue among ourselves.
A Goose Creek Friend compared the flow of the Spirit to an underground stream whose presence is difficult to discern from the surface. Nevertheless, springs erupt here and there corroborating its existence. Occasionally, gathered Meetings for Worship descend upon us where messages emerge on related themes out of a palpable silence. Children in First Day School impress teachers as unusually self-aware and reflective for living in an age of noise and technology. Our committees benefit from the presence of Young Friends as members. Older Friends with serious illnesses or recovering from surgery receive support, visits, food, and rides to appointments. Personal expressions of gratitude encourage vocal ministry in Meeting for Worship. Friends listen thoughtfully to one another in deliberation of business. New members note cordial welcomes into our Meeting. Our Listening Ear at the rise of Meeting for Worship offers newcomers and others an opportunity to bring questions, concerns, and problems to a member of Meeting.
The underground stream of the Spirit is watered by small group and committee retreats, workshops at Friends Wilderness Center, our Spiritual Formation Group and Wednesday evening Spiritual Discussion Group, which all foster growth, ministry and leadership. Encouraged by personal affirmation of gifts, Friends are more likely to risk new roles. Working together in the kitchen, on committees, and on events such as memorials reminds us of the multiplicity of gifts in our community, all of which are vital. Struggling to reach the right decisions in committees requires patience, honesty, persistence, and listening but results in greater appreciation for each other and our process for arriving at a sense of the Meeting.
Whereas streams of living water gush freely in some aspects of our Meeting, other areas seem more arid. Some committees report low energy levels evident in the difficulty of mobilizing members for tasks. If persons feel that issues important to them have not been addressed, they are encouraged to bring their concern back to the committee so that these concerns may be heard and reconsidered. Some would welcome more speakers and workshops, as well as spiritual friends and mentoring. Attendance at First Day School and the Wednesday evening discussion group varies weekly, affording little opportunity for continuity from one week to the next. Older Friends hope to become better acquainted with our young folk and to offer support to our RE committee.
In addition to having more intergenerational activities including our youth, we hope to focus on outreach to the wider community, to be more visible outside our walls, and to publicize our special events. Although our county demographics have changed recently, our Meeting remains relatively prosperous and predominantly white. Perhaps we might participate in nearby church projects of service to less privileged groups. Greater support from Meeting people of Loudoun Interfaith Bridges events would enable us to relate to our neighbors of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds.
Our Meeting recognizes the need for Friends to talk more openly with one another about our differences of opinion. Some members appear reluctant to ruffle feathers in meetings by expressing unpopular views. We encourage Friends to risk speaking their truth in love.
In addition, the flow of the Spirit seems impeded by the challenges of life in the twenty-first century U.S. Overwhelmed with stressful work situations, some Friends do not attend Meeting for Worship regularly. However, others say their weekly attendance enables them to withstand the demands of difficult job positions. Like exercise, commitment is critical. We hope to alleviate the stress on our people by offering solace and renewal. Multiple demands also render many Friends too busy to devote quality time to their spiritual lives. Our challenge is to simplify and set priorities.
Despite our needs for growth in these areas, the Spirit’s living water is manifest in individual members’ participation in the countywide Interfaith Bridges seeking closer dialogue between different faith communities, in our Meeting’s financial support of a clinic in Haiti of Midwives for Haiti where one Goose Creek Friend travels twice yearly to train midwives, in our Unity with Nature’s program to create way stations for Monarch butterflies last summer, in a program on our local Quaker history during the Civil War, and in our presentation on the Mountain Institute’s work in Nepal to create sustainable, environmentally friendly jobs.
Likewise, the Spirit has been present in our efforts at peacemaking and bringing that of God into controversial situations. Attempting to speak from their hearts, two Goose Creek friends along with Friends from around the nation lobbied Congress and state legislatures on issues of peace and social justice. Members have conducted workshops on being open to one’s enemies. Last spring we had a series of threshing sessions on gun violence. Students applying for our Meeting scholarships participated in a discussion on listening to others with divergent social views.
Whether in worship or Meeting activities, we strive to create the conditions where healing and growth are more likely to occur, where Friends feel loved, supported, and held in the Light. Together we hope to grow into channels of universal love.
Goose Creek Friends have felt lifted up by one another, whether in times of illness, loss, or joy, and supported in their individual leadings to let their lives speak. There is much tenderness among us.
The 2012 Nominating Committee engaged in a deep effort to address the spiritual life of the Meeting, affirming that committee work is spiritual work that can nurture those engaged in it. The Nominating Committee’s members spoke extensively with individual Friends, and as a committee they worked together to discern and encourage the leadings of individuals within Meeting. It is widely felt that this nominating committee’s spiritual energy has spread to other committees and to Meeting as a whole.
Other ways in which Goose Creek Friends have gathered for mutual support in our spiritual journeys include a Wednesday evening worship sharing and discussion group, a Spiritual Formation group that meets monthly, and a small weekend contemplative retreat in which a few of us participated last spring. We note that attendance at Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business has increased, and that we have been able to conduct business in good order.
The First Day School is flourishing, and this is reflected in a strong and growing sense of community among the children. Families know that they can count on rich programs for their children every week during the school year. As always, we support Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s camping program, and many of our young people’s spiritual lives are greatly enriched by their wonderful camping experiences. Several young Friends have become members of Meeting committees so that we can work together intergenerationally. We hope to continue the deepening of our intergenerational relationships.
We note with sadness the deaths of some members of our older generation. This reminds us that the nature of Goose Creek changes as Friends deeply rooted in the local community, and in Meeting’s history, are lost. The rest of us are aware of our responsibility to carry forward the Light that we found in their teachings, and to nurture and recognize the gifts of those who are newer among us.
In the last months of 2012, Goose Creek began to offer a Listening Ear at the rise of every Meeting for Worship. This has already proved to be a conduit for personal concerns that Friends wish to share with Meeting but in a private manner; a way for attenders to ask questions about Quakerism, membership, or the workings of this Meeting; and a place for attenders and newcomers to find out more about our way of worship. Everyone present on First Day knows that there is a particular Friend available to speak with.
In addition to the Listening Ear, we have organized informally to make individual efforts to greet visitors and meet with new attenders. We now have a welcome packet of information to offer those who are interested in reading about Friends. We have fostered fellowship by holding several soup and bread lunches at the rise of Meeting. Newcomers and new attenders have seemed pleased to join us there and at the potlucks we hold on other occasions throughout the year. Several attenders became new members in 2012.
Outreach and connections with the wider faith world in 2012 included mutual visits between Goose Creek Friends and Friends from Rockingham Monthly Meeting (VA), an affiliate of Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative). One of us again attended Quaker Spring in Ohio. Several Goose Creek Friends have been involved with Loudoun Interfaith Bridges, a small group of faith communities in the county who engage in regular interfaith dialogue; and one of our members gave a talk on Quakerism as part of a regional initiative, “Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion.” Closer to home, we have continued to enjoy a deepening friendship with Hispanic guest workers who share potluck meals with us during their warm-season sojourns in Lincoln. Some of them study English with a small group of Goose Creek Friends.
However, Friends at Goose Creek have been feeling deep concern about how well we organize to help with problems in the larger world. We try as individuals to let our lives speak, and there are those among us who give much of themselves to help others, both in the U.S. and abroad. Meeting has supported them, spiritually and financially. But, we have been asking ourselves, how can we embrace the local community and its needs in a more defined and generous way? How well do we as a community recognize and act upon our commitment to peace? What is the relationship between stewardship and suffering? What does it mean to live comfortable lives in a world where so many lack the most basic needs? How can we find common ground among ourselves so that we can work together as a faith community?
Contemplating these questions, we are reminded that we are endeavoring to walk in the Light, and that way will open if we proceed in that awareness.
Goose Creek has had a joyous year of growth and conversation accompanied by an increasing depth in our corporate worship. We have been delighted to note increasing attendance at our Quakerism 101 series as well as at Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business. As we smile at the sounds from our youngest members and attenders, we feel blessed with the intergenerational nature of our Meeting. We have hosted several simple soup lunches during the past year that have been well attended and provided opportunity for continued conversation after Meeting for Worship. As a result, we feel that connections are being made and relationships are growing at Goose Creek.
We are mindful that with growth there are also growing pains. We have begun examining whether some of our old ways of doing things continue to serve us. Historically, Ministry and Oversight committee appointments have not come under the purview of the Nominating Committee but have instead come from the committee itself. Is this still a useful process? Could it be perceived as exclusionary? Should Ministry and Oversight hold open meetings? Do members and attenders feel comfortable coming to Ministry and Oversight with their concerns? Should members rotate off of Ministry and Oversight after a period of service? These conversations which have begun both within the committee and within other Meeting venues will continue as we move forward.
The Nominating Committee has initiated a more inviting process of talking with members and attenders, as well as current and new Committee Clerks. We view committee work as an expression of our spiritual beliefs, as well as an opportunity to be mindful stewards of the Meeting’s work and business. Here, too, we are looking for a balance between recognizing and acknowledging members’ and attenders' gifts and performing the same jobs because we always have. Nominating Committee has recommended, and Meeting has approved, quarterly meetings of committee clerks and the Presiding Clerk in order to facilitate continued dialogue and to provide opportunities for increased collaboration among committees.
Our spiritual growth as a community is reflected in the quality and depth of our corporate worship. We gather together in community to seek truth and to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. Often our silences are deep – at other times it is clear that the Spirit moves among us in vocal ministry. While sometimes the words speak to us, at other times we simply appreciate the Spirit behind the words. We have seen an increase in participation in a number of spiritual support groups, including Wednesday night Worship Sharing, the Spiritual Formation Group and Friendly 8s.
Our concern as to whether we appear welcoming to newcomers and attenders has prompted discussions in committees and in Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business. Our Library Committee, after establishing an Introduction to Quakerism section, is in the process of gathering a collection of pamphlets (including a welcome letter) to be given to interested newcomers. A postcard has been created that can be sent to newcomers who sign our guest book, inviting them to call a designated person if they have questions about Quakerism. These conversations have helped us all to be more mindful of the newcomers and visitors among us, and have served to remind us that we all can reach out to those around us.
Our discernment has led us to become more aware that we are not widely known in our greater community. Despite ample use of the Meeting House by various community groups, we tend to be viewed as an artifact of the rich history of our area rather than a living, spiritual presence. We continue to struggle with our visibility in the community and see this as an opportunity for future conversation and reflection.
While we have focused on building a stronger sense of community and revitalizing our committee structure, we have likewise been aware of persons suffering in our local community and in more distant lands who do not enjoy our comforts. At our celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, stories of returned volunteers reminded us of the significance of assisting people of different cultures. Our dinners for the Hispanic workers at a local nursery, as well as our ongoing financial support of one member’s work with Midwives for Haiti and other humanitarian efforts provide important links to our brothers and sisters who lack adequate food, health care, and education.
In reflecting on our year, we are grateful for those in our community who have triumphed over life-threatening health issues, for those who have extended helping hands to others in distress in the Meeting and beyond, for those who have nurtured our spirits, and for those who have challenged us to change.