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Hopewell Centre Monthly 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 Spiritual State of Hopewell Centre Monthly Meeting Report

No report received.

2019 Spiritual State of Hopewell Centre Monthly Meeting Report

“In practice, Quakerism is a religion of mission. Since the mission has taken many forms in the past, each being unrecognized before its emergence, we can be reasonably sure that this process will continue. At least we know it ought to continue. A religious movement is untrue to its genius when it becomes fixed and ceases to move.”1’”

Over the course of two First Days of late winter and early spring, members and attenders of Hopewell Centre Monthly Meeting queries supplied by Baltimore Yearly Meeting to determine the Spiritual State of the Meeting. It is important to note that these two sessions – particularly the one in which the third query was discussed – occurred during the tumultuous onset of the corona virus which led to the COVID-19 pandemic. What follows is a synthesis of that discussion.

The first query was, “How do we nurture healthy vocal ministry? How do we nurture ministries of other kinds and affirm one another’s gifts? How can we improve the way in which we recognize and speak to one another’s gifts?” As is the way with so many focusing queries, Friends began by defining a sense of what ministry was. An elder Quaker stated, “Quakerism is how we conduct ourselves in our daily lives.” Another elder moved to support that by adding that speaking in worship is for us fairly unusual. “For example, our Spiritual Growth program promotes ministry, a topic we explore in so many other forums.” Another Friend asked, “What is vocal ministry? Do we encourage talk? This query is fertile ground for exploring all those ‘flavors.2’” A new commentator noted, “Ministry begins when two speak.” A new Friend recentered the query by suggesting that we should consider spending a RE second hour, using a source such as Quaker Speak, exploring the notion of vocal ministry. Another insightfully added, “We could do more. Vocal ministry comes from the spirit. We need to keep it brief.” Another commentator said that many who had spoken had given incalculable gifts. The gratitude she expressed came from her “knowing that I was the soil on which that ministry was placed.” She went on to remember a long-passed member George Sheetz, who emphasized the word trust. That one basic word can be the seed of the spirit. “George's long-ago word still grows in me.” An elder announced, “I am proudly Quaker. We have no other clergy. We ourselves grow, develop – possibly lead. It is the concept of inner light – not original to Quakers – that we share with other beliefs. We grow into it. We’ve been blessed in meeting. Once we acknowledge that silence is power vocal ministry then occurs.”

An earlier contributor affirmed the elder “Quakers don’t have clergy. We’ve done away with laity. We all minister to each other.” An earlier respondent added, “We have excellent committees working for us. We almost all agree to serve on them.” She pointed out that we produce excellent community efforts such as supporting the local homeless through the WATTS (Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter) program. “We have often used experiences like that to spur our involvement.” Another voice added, “We get involved and interested. We let everyone know they’re appreciated.” Another commented on the efficacy of vocal ministry, “I have ‘polar opposite’ friends. That’s why we need to express our beliefs publicly.” An earlier contributor returned to praise our clerk, “She lets us know what goes on and welcomes our participation. She engages in welcoming others, emailing before every meeting to remind us that the door to communal worship is open.” Yet another Friend shared her appreciation of our healthy dialogue, which lets us know how we are playing to others. It reveals when ego interferes and prompts us to consider how else we may let the truth shine. The facilitator summed up this interlude by quoting Gandhi, “Don’t speak unless you improve the silence.”

A thoughtful contributor used the story of Jesus at the Temple and his display of righteous anger as an example of an action which improved the force of justice and truth. A visitor called it ‘righteous wrath.’ A new contributor noted, “Most things we do are valuable. I think it comes from an almost desperate urge to serve – to be an active part of the everyday drama of life.” A contributor cautioned us always to “remember the larger community.” Another Friend urged us to “nurture the experience (of vocal ministry). Just showing up is one of the most important things we do.” A new interpreter closed by noting, “When a spoken message doesn’t affect you, it may speak to others. Avoid judging.”

The second query was, “What paralyzes us or prevents us from answering our call? What fears do we experience? Which fears drive us and which fears create obstacles?” A Friend began by saying, “We need to know what our calling is. We face many calls…” Another interpreter voiced a common Quaker worry, “We constantly are discerning when an impulse to speak is spirit-led – or our own intellectual thought.” An insightful contributor described it as, “Opening up to be a willing vessel, letting ego stand aside. Ultimately – the trust to do the right thing.” One analytically compared the process of meditating as one of “figuring out your calling.” She spoke of times where she wished to morph into song or express herself through a body movement. She’s even expressed her presence by sitting on a mat. For her the decision has been often, “Sunday morning dials back. I do not want to bother another’s silence.” Another Friend spoke of his experience at seminary of “discerning your call and gifts.” He invoked Parker Palmer’s book, Letting Your Life Speak, where he described knowing that moment when to speak at meeting as ‘something you can’t not do.’ He then quoted Palmer, “Willful pursuit of vocation does violence to the spirit.” He noted that “there are sources out there, sources that are active in identifying your gifts through reading.” Another pointed incisively to his own past experience which included listening to people speaking in tongues. “My dad said, ‘If someone has a song, let him sing it.’ We recognize spirit through listening. Spirit drove early Friends to quake. Let spirit make us quake. The place then picks up the energy. In fact, a speaking experience led me to fall in love.” Another Friend noted, “Listen is the most powerful verb in the English language.” A Friend pointed out that becoming older helps us pay attention. “Mother Teresa said, ‘Do small things with great love.’” An elder Friend added, “As we age loneliness afflicts us, but there are other gifts too. We return to the spirit. We face life and death experiences. How does God speak to us? We’ve got to draw on the light.”

Another enlarged on the theme: “We face many little calls. We alternate between fear of failure and considering, are we being asked to do too much?” She likened the dynamic to a ‘Jonah Moment.’ She acknowledged the gift of aging as “time to think things through, to contemplate those small steps.” Yet another Friend noted, “It’s good to think about ways not to do things. But when ‘conscience doth make cowards of us all’ (Hamlet)…how do we learn to let things go?” The facilitator restated, “What’s good about growing into the experience.” A new commentator concluded this query by saying, “These are the three things I got: You can’t not do it; listen is the most powerful word, and if I fail, we all fail.”

The third query, explored on a different First Day, one where the virus greatly reduced our attendance, but not our enthusiasm, was, “Do we have the courage to create space for our human fallibility and vulnerability? In what do we find that kind of courage?” A frequent commentator described courage as a space for our fears and added it’s something she struggles with. She noted that it derives from the French ‘coeur,’ which means heart. She said that derivation inspires her to, “Open up and lead with love…to look at the opportunity to speak as a gift.” A Friend archly added, “People are messy. None of us are the worst we’ve done3. Just as none of us are the best we do. We need to forgive ourselves and forget too.” A new commentator finds courage in reading biography, “If they could do it, it encourages us.” Yet another Friend said he was inspired by leaders such as Churchill and FDR, people who had taken steps to help others. He added that that type of leadership in our times has led women in the MeToo movement to open up about sexual harassment. A Friend candidly gave voice to one of his fears in speaking, “I worry about what I am doing to others when I take a strong position. Many times it is easier to just keep quiet.” A newly contributing Friend has just finished a first draft on a presentation of his experience of the last two and a half years, a period which involved the illness and death of his wife. C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed and another work entitled Counterpoint informed his introspection. He realized that his journey involved a process, one that included learning the Goldberg variations of Bach and finding companionship with Tchiakovsky’s Symphony #5. Another avowed that she found courage through prayer and talking to God. She credited the Bible and how memorization of the 23rd Psalm helped her to explore healing points. She also credited her ‘Soul Collage’ work. A new contributor acknowledged her husband’s abundant, unconditional love. Now with his passing she has to hold to the memory of that love. Now self-discovery involves a large leap of faith. That kind of love is a practice. It takes courage to practice it – within and with others. She added, “We must go to those (in the meeting community) who cannot come to us, and listen to what they are not telling us, and respond.”

True to its identity Hopewell Centre Monthly Meeting provided answers to these queries which were dynamic and thoughtful, covering a range of views and interpretations. But the savage cross-currents of pandemic never troubled these responses – only the deep judgment of Quakers, like a natural chorus, rang through this report.

1 i.e. many forms of ministry

2 Trueblood, D. Elton, The People Called Quakers, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1966, p. 264.

3 Stevenson, Bryan, Just Mercy, Spiegel & Grau, a division of Penguin Random House, New York, 2015

2018 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report

No report received.

2017 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report

No report received.

2016 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report

Information for this report was gathered when members and attenders met for two sessions, one in February and the other in March, to discuss queries on the spiritual state of our Meeting.

Most of our members and attenders continue to feel that Hopewell Centre nourishes our spiritual lives. Increased attendance on First Days indicates the important part that the Meeting plays in our lives. We have more participation in our committees which has made the committees more active and vibrant. The strength of the individuals who make up our Meeting and in particular those who have stepped up to leadership positions have increased our vitality and awareness of the need to follow our spiritual leadings.

Hopewell Centre continues to enrich the spiritual and community life of our Meeting with our Spiritual Formation group and Seekers. We have started a mid-week Meeting for Worship on the first and third Thursdays of the month at Centre Meeting House. We also laid the ground work for Friendly 6's to begin in 2017.

Meeting for Worship is described as restorative by several Friends. Many expressed that attending Meeting for Worship each week is a vital part of their lives. We still do not have a lot of vocal ministry in Meeting for Worship. Some of us feel that many of us have meaningful unspoken messages. What is keeping these messages from being spoken? A challenge for us in the coming year is to answer this query.

Many Friends expressed gratitude for the meaningful Religious Education topics presented during the year. These have included individual spiritual journeys, discussions on Quaker Testimonies and Queries, and on social issues.

Ministry and Counsel led several discussions on the Betterment of our Meeting in preparation for a pamphlet that should be ready in 2017. These discussions were a process to discover what makes us who we are at Hopewell Centre and “to find out what it is about the Quaker experience we value most”. The document will describe what we hold dear; Worship, Spiritual Growth, Community, Service, and Outreach, and queries to help us focus on making our Meeting better.

In October of 2016, we hosted a workshop presented by Arthur Larrabee on Friends Decision Making. The majority of our active members attended along with Friends from other meetings. What we learned as a meeting has enriched our Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business. More people are staying and participating in our Business Meetings. Along with the structural processes we learned to help our meetings run more smoothly, we are growing in being more Spirit led in our decision making. We will continue in this as we move forward together.

Our Meeting faces some challenges in the coming year. Although we have new people attending our Meeting, we still struggle with attracting new and younger members especially those with children. We feel that we are not meeting the needs of those who are ill or are physically challenged to come to meeting. Each of us needs to make an effort to stay in touch with visits, emails or phone calls. We wonder if we are recognizing the spiritual challenges in each of us individually. Are we sensitive to or do we know how to help those who are reluctant to share?

The political situation has been a challenge to us in 2016 and continues to be in 2017. Many of us have struggled with how to use our Quaker values as we talk and interact with those who have a different political viewpoint. Can we create a safe place to discuss issues on which we disagree? We need to start with our Testimonies and listen deeply to understand what the other Friend is saying. We need to express our viewpoints with caring and consideration so that we may be heard.

We are blessed with members and attenders who care about each other and our Meeting. We will continue to grow in the Spirit and work together to find ways to meet the challenges that we face.

2015 Report

Information for this report was gathered when members and attenders met for two sessions, one in February and the other in March, to discuss queries on the Spiritual State of our Meeting.

Most of our members and attenders feel that their spiritual lives are nurtured by the Meeting in many ways. Many Friends spoke of how our Hopewell Centre community has nurtured their spiritual lives by providing a safe space where all are welcomed. Friends feel accepted and respected, they feel a “sense of belonging.” Several used the word JOY to describe their feelings of coming to meeting. Several Friends spoke of an “outpouring of compassion” and caring when they were experiencing difficult times. Several Friends spoke of being able to share with each other on a deep level.

Many Friends expressed how important Meeting for Worship is in their lives. Some Friends spoke of how the silence each week fills a need and nurtures their spiritual life. One Friend described how some vocal ministry made him feel as if he had been “tapped on the shoulder”. We do not have much vocal ministry in our Meeting for Worship. We discussed whether the lack of this affected the quality of our worship. Friends feel that they are free to speak if they have a message, but vocal ministry was not a determining factor of the quality of our worship.

The blend and variety of Religious Education topics during second hour have pushed and helped to ground some Friends in Quaker foundations and spirituality. We have had programs on social concerns, environmental issues, and monthly query discussions. Some Friends feel that our RE topics are missing spiritual and Quaker insights. This is a challenge that we will continue to work on.

There are several small groups that meet at different times during the month. One of these groups is Seekers. The Seekers group discusses a variety of topics from Bible passages to books on the environment and Quaker spirituality. Several friends commented that these readings and discussions have had a big impact on their spiritual journey and is a way of “keeping my journey green.”

For the last two years we have sponsored a Spiritual Formation group. Those Friends that are participating this year spoke enthusiastically about how enriching and helpful this experience is for them. The spiritual disciplines that they are practicing as they participate in the group have deepened their experiences in Meeting for Worship. Several friends who are not able to participate in the group have been led to do the same readings and spoke about how it was an enriching experience.

Some Friends have not been interested in joining these groups. Others have time and distance restraints. A concern was voiced for more opportunities to gather for fellowship. We will be looking for ways to include more Friends, perhaps by reviving the Friendly 8s.

We also discussed the many challenges we face. Many Friends feel that our Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business need to be more spirit led. We have already begun to work on this, and will continue to look for ways to educate ourselves to be able to hold our business meetings in a spirit of worship.

Another challenge is membership. We currently do not have any children regularly attending Meeting. We miss the children and will look for ways to attract families, but we do not have a Children's RE committee functioning at the moment. We want to have an outreach program so that others who would like our form of worship will know that we are here. Some Friends feel that we need to be more present in our local community through giving and participation. They suggested more events like our participation in the WATTS program and Highland Food Pantry. Some Friends feel that we are not as diverse as we would like to be. Although one Friend thought that our group does have a diversity of backgrounds, thinking, and beliefs.

There are many good things happening at Hopewell Centre. Our discussions on the Spiritual State of the Meeting were well attended with active participation and listening. We learned a lot about who we are as a Meeting and what our strengths and weaknesses are. Even though we have some daunting challenges ahead, we have a strong foundation on which to build. There is a sense of hope that we will find ways to work together to deepen our spirituality and overcome the challenges that we face.

Hopewell Centre Meeting


Seekers group met throughout the year

A writers' group met throughout the year

Many property improvement projects completed: sealing the meeting house, electrical upgrades at Centre, improvements to the house next to Hopewell, new shed at Centre, tree work at Hopewell.

Regular monthly discussions of the queries

Wedding held at Hopewell in October – under the care of Herndon Meeting

Very active Peace and Social Concerns Committee

Many outside groups continue to use Centre Meeting House – AA, Metropolitan Community Church, BaHais

Memorial service for Jim Smith

Hollingsworth family reunion toured Centre in June. Also the Hollingsworth Graveyard which is maintained by the Meeting

Several members continue to be very active in the Highland Food Pantry.

Annual fundraiser providing parking at Centre during the Apple Blossom Festival. Half of the proceeds goes to Highland Food Pantry.

BYM Young Friends conference at Hopewell over Memorial Day

Memorial service for Margaret Lupton Lancaster in June

Annual Homecoming at Hopewell in August

More emphasis in the meeting on environmental and sustainability issues

Spiritual Formation Groups – one finished and a new one started

2014 Report

This past year seemed to most of us a very ‘normal’ sort of year. By ‘normal’ there were no major emergency renovations or repairs, issues or concerns that would disrupt the Meeting at large or even unruly squirrels or snakes in the attic that couldn’t be tamed. That being said, of course there were friends lost and illness that have become the notion of everyday life. Being open to what occurs in the life of the Meeting and allowing for those moments is what makes Hopewell-Centre a special place for all of us.

Being together and in the midst, is how Hopewell-Centre members described their joy of our Meeting for Worship. By extension, it becomes our framework of support for all activities, decisions and actions that arise from our time in silent worship. In particular, our RE programs are rich in personal sharing as individuals open their hearts to deep listening and sharing of ‘Spiritual Journey’s’ which are often awe-inspiring to witness. Other RE programs are geared towards social issues, that recently involved two of members attending the General Assembly in Richmond, advocating for improvements in a variety of social injustices. Still other REs focus on Quaker history and changes over the years, as we are also actively involved in the revision of Faith & Practice.

Although the demands for maintenance and upkeep of graveyards and our two historic buildings is ever present and ongoing, it is that commitment to them that seems to shape their ‘character’ and brings a connection felt by all who enter. It‘s been said that the history of ‘this place’ is really ‘who we are’ and the care of our particular past, our ‘cloud of witnesses’ is in truth the foundation of our deep ties. George Fox mentioned that there were no sacred places, that they existed in our hearts. We find this to be a true experience for members, friends and visitors alike.

During our time of discourse listening to all interested in contributing to this report, there were several longtime attenders and friends participating. In response to defining the term ‘right relationship’ it came to light how welcome they feel at Hopewell-Centre, and no one is considered an outsider. That their input is appreciated, welcomed, and even sought is validation to members that we as Quakers are on the right path of accepting that of God in everyone. And as our numbers are low, we do this with as much love and support possible. To that end, Hopewell-Centre felt a need and was able to create a Spiritual Formation Group of approximately 10 members who have committed to their own path of growth but wish to grow together in right relationship, with connection through honest and forthright intimacy. In addition, a group known as Seekers, which for years has structured itself to meet the needs of those in attendance continually, evolves to find the right structure as they consider new discussion topics of interest.

Our activities that give of our time and resources to community organizations, our support of members in distress, the way in which we seek to deepen our friendship outside of regular Meeting for Worship is testament to our ability to respect each other and our individual quests. The opportunity to connect to BYM provides a sphere of influence that speaks to the part of us that wants to be in-line with that which is greater than our own small world.

Without dogma, we find there are certain ‘truths’ that we as Quakers follow and reach from many different directions. Through these differences and commitment to Quaker Process, we are bound in sharing our faith from that which is common to us all.

2013 Report

Spiritual State of the Meeting – as discovered in two sessions of Worship sharing in March, 2014

“The experience of being listened to and held corporately by the Meeting has strengthened me. It is present in my life and carries me,” Linda Wilk

How does the Spirit prosper among you?

Several friends commented. One noted how we spread Religious Education around; we don’t just cycle it through a few members. Thus it was a richer experience for the meeting. Another pointed out our interest in a new sound system to assist those of us who are auditorily challenged. A third pointed out that our meetings are deep and spirit-led and that the meeting itself had just conducted a series of RE’s this Fall discussing the broad theme of Why are We Quakers? (answers to which ranged from the silence, the obvious love of children, to the gathered sense of worship) Another speaker said, “For an hour a week, I feel in the Presence. It is so refreshing and good to be here, experiencing and sharing this with others.” Yet another mentioned how our meeting values highly the welcoming of others and how we experience great comfort in corporate worship. A further commenter noted that the spirit here was quite prosperous, that we were more fortunate than other places of worship he had attended. Lastly, a thoughtful elder shared how the queries we consider play such an important part in our lives, leading us to examine and re-examine ourselves, promoting a deep sense of self-search: they help us to stay on the path.

What supports the life of the Spirit in your Meeting community? What challenges and troubles are you facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than you would wish it to be?

Much sharing ensued. The first Friend to speak noted that it is always a challenge to attract families with young children. Another spoke on the challenge of discovering the gifts of others and encouraging them to share. “Our committees need to work,” she said. “Two or three do not need to do the work of the whole Meeting.” A Friend who had experience from across the continent expressed wonder (he said, “I was surprised and startled.”) about Adult RE and how the topics rise to meet needs and how broad and encompassing they are. He added how pleased he was to have been asked to present and was given a full month to prepare. Another Friend praised our new Children’s RE program and related how strong and positive our kids’ reactions to it were. She also added how much of a concern health challenges to members of our Meeting have been, and yet, the Meeting has supported and held these members both spiritually and physically. She further noted that she sees the blessings inherent in looking at the whole which have made her and us more mindful of others. Someone else noted that the environment in which we worship serves as a metaphor for the people behind the building. A further comment highlighted the good works we participate in, such as supporting CCAP (the Congregational Community Action Project of Winchester, VA) and the Highland Avenue Presbyterian Food Pantry. She urged us to broaden that support and look to other areas our Meeting hales from, “We should not just be Winchester-centric.” The final comment came after much reflection, “The challenge is how may we project our values to the world? Can we do more?”

How is the presence of Spirit manifested in your lives individually and as a Meeting community?

Strong comments emerged to address this query. One stated, “The Meeting emphasizes the strong power of living. We all value what each says.” Another Friend showed how the Spirit manifested itself in tangible ways, commenting on the new counter top at Centre Meeting House in Winchester and how that building serves as a meeting space for community groups such as AA and others. Other denominations such as the Metropolitan Community church worship there. “Many people know that we are here.” Her partner quipped that visitors lounge on the counter and maybe we should consider adding stools. An elder characterized our Meeting as a charging station. “I get charged there,” he said, “It empowers me to go out and be as good a Quaker as I can be.” Another poignantly reflected, “I was raised in a judgmental sect. Friends have broken through that for me. Their values have contested that tendency in me to judge.” The next commentator reflected, “The free exchange of ideas has compelled me to seek more. This change in life has charged me—charged and emboldened me.” An elder concluded, “We cannot choose our family, but we can choose our community family. When I don’t come, I miss my family. I feel nurtured here.” The closing commentator noted the sense of “broadcast,” how Hopewell charges and enlarges your spirit.

How can you bring that of God or peace into political or other difficult conversations?

This query began our second worship sharing session. The first commentator expressed frustration, saying that she has friends whom she knows are politically opposite of her. She said how she has to work to find the smallest common ground and using the kind of patience she learned from her father and good humor, to start building conversation. Another Friend said, “There’s the possibility of peace in each of us. I hold Putin in the light, seeing him as a tough kid who had to bully.” The next commentator, who had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador, spoke about a situation involving cooking gas among the natives there. The people rose up, and the whole country joined in. Mass movements can work. Lastly, aphorism emerged. “Live simply. That’s a powerful statement.” “Be a model of your values. Be an example.”

How can you learn to accept seekers in your Meeting with different concepts of God and find ways to help them on their journey?

The first commentator avowed, “We accept others on the journey we share.” Another expressed the fear of “…arrogance,” stating, “Maybe they don’t need my help.” The next Friend noted, “We encourage a variety of members to share Religious Education. We are careful to spread it around.” She added, “And we offer Seekers (an independent program of RE which meets bi-weekly on Mondays) as another level for spiritual exploration.” The last commentator summed up the Meeting’s collective feeling with, “Isn’t that what we do?”

To what extent has your worship strengthened you in the healing process? How has healing transformed you as a person and/or meeting? To what extent do you recognize worship as a pathway to transformation?

The first sharer stated, “It is so healing in the Silence. The communal Spirit holds us.” She went on to say that she had been five year’s a pastor’s wife and that the conditions surrounding healing for him was “such a burden. This seems so much healthier.” Another answered the To what extent… portion rhetorically, characterizing Worship as an opportunity to use other resources. She closed with, “How do we learn unless we are challenged?” Another mentioned the seeming increase of disease among our members this year, “It has increased the meaning of Worship this year.” Another said, “To be held in the light is calming and comforting.” Reiterating with, “It is nice to come to Meeting and know you will be held in the light.” A different person said, “Worship equals healing—to experience the freedom of laying out of problems knowing you will be heard.” A Friend noted the “synchronicity” of meeting, “We come because we have an ongoing need to experience refreshment.” A person supporting that speaker added, “Worship here is a qualitative system.” A visitor at this point spoke, “It is this setting. This is what I need. This is why I’m here.” Yet another spoke of worship as “a literal healing. If I’m having a bad morning and come to Worship, invariably I feel better.” Another Friend spoke of the discipline and consideration of Worship, “It helps you cultivate in yourself the resources of healing when you can’t attend.” The next sharer spoke of a year in his past that “started with death and ended with death—from the same form of rare cancer.” He found, “It so refreshing to focus on the inner light.” The last Friend to speak went in a different direction, “Experiences can be different.” She spoke of a poet who honored illness with writing of hai-ku. She concluded that Worship creates a person and process of Integrity. The community and its worship was qualitative, a good way to consider the ongoing path to health.

And with the deep gathering around the term “qualitative” our worship sharing sessions on these queries closed.

2012 Report

“A Person cannot Come to Meeting and Sit in the Presence of God and not be Changed.” Kathryn Knott

We discussed the following queries over two First Days, Third Month, third day and seventeenth day, and they served as the catalysts for response:

  • How does the Spirit prosper among you? How does your Meeting ensure that ministry is nurtured, and that members and attenders feel valued and cared for?
  • What supports the life of the Spirit in your Meeting community? What challenges and troubles are you facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than you would wish it to be?
  • How is the presence of Spirit manifested in your lives individually and as a Meeting community?
  • How can you bring that of God or peace into political or other difficult conversations?
  • How can you learn to accept seekers in your Meeting with different concepts of God and find ways to help them on their spiritual journey?

A reverend and weighty Quaker began, “When Spirit moves, it moves mightily. There are dry spells. But when it returns, it redeems itself totally. It is such a highlight. We are kept totally – no matter whom. We feel a great sense of nurture and love.” This opened the way for specific comments about our Meeting and its life. One Quaker expressed his appreciation of the guidance of Ministry and Counsel. Another noted that due to schedule and obligations she had been away but was urgent to attend today, “I came for attendance because together we bring light which encourages others to come.” Another Quaker pointed out, “It is the way we care for and respect each other. Our Pastoral Care committee is so active and supportive. It says that we are thinking of you.” A reverend Quaker told, “I started here at Hopewell when I was one or two. Now I am in my ‘80’s. Hopewell is like a temple to me. It is more about the attenders than the issues. My heart is still here and I am happier when I come. It inspires me and makes me appreciative.” Yet another Friend chimed in, “There are echoes of people who have been here, an essence of sorts.” A last Friend commented, “Even a check-in call to home is friendly and informative, but it is always an entrée to conversation, a 20-30 minute conversation.”

The first comment on this query spoke to our unique circumstances, “I think we do a wonderful job for the size of our meeting. Our committees all work. We have home visits and are always performing service for others. The Meeting supports that of God in others.” Another went right to the mystery, “Words are not helpful. It is the Silence which is deeper. We don’t have the meaning of words, they always mean something a little different to others. That difference enlarges, playing off the meanings (and ambiguities) of other words.” A third commented affirming the first, but added, “Each can only do so much. No one feels left out. I’d like to see more on an Elderly Program, Group Aging, and End of Life issues. We need that kind of information and support.” She continued, “We are fortunate to have this beautiful Meeting house. I think we do a good job of balancing the needs of our building and the needs of our faith. We need to be conscious of being a museum of Quaker faith or a living temple.” A Friend closed this query with, “We have active persons who would like to see more: more worship, more light, and more people come…….to people our committees and perform their works.”

The third query opened with this commentator, “It’s the community. I feel such a kindness here, a quality which protects us…so different from the world. I am grateful for the trust of this community.” Another Friend offered, “I do the best I can daily. But it is this community which supports and understands me.” Yet another stated her feelings about Worship itself, “A person cannot come to Meeting and sit in the presence of God and not be changed. Worship broadcasts a sense of peace.” A long-time Friend shared, “I love singing the hymns and Bible Study. I’d like to see more.” A further commentator averred how deeply she had been moved, “When that Friend asked that her friend be held in the light. How the friend had asked especially for a ‘Quaker prayer.’” This revealed a widespread and deep recognition of the power and mystery our Quaker worship has in the world at large. A final Friend said, “I am grateful to be part of BYM. The opportunities it offers broaden life and contribute to the Spiritual life of this Meeting.”

The fourth query provoked animated commentary which began with this sage observation, “I believe the willingness to listen without the insistence of being heard is at least a starting place.” Another Quaker quickly supported her, “You have to start by having a conversation, not avoiding one. Then, practice Plain Speaking, which is so much different than political speech.” A new commentator offered, “Why not find and explore the areas where we are similar rather than the areas where we differ.” “Speak from your own experience, staying away from theory,” another proposed, adding, “Just this week a senator from Ohio changed his stance on an issue because of what he had learned from his family.” The final insight affirmed, “Use Plain Speaking. Avoid name-calling and innuendo. These cut off conversation.”

The last query inspired the most commentary. When addressing the issue of those with different or unique visions of God, a Friend began, “You must find common ground and work from there. Often it is the connecting of two distinct languages.” Another Quaker explored the issue deeply and said, “Accept and acknowledge the differences. It is important in First Day School to offer different voices and news of other belief systems. We need to be receptive and listen. Eccentric doesn’t mean bad. We don’t need to shape someone into us. Nor do we need another to shape us. We are Quakers. We must be courageous enough to eventually say, ‘Perhaps we aren’t the best fit.’ We can’t be everything that someone has missed in life. We must balance ‘what we are’ with ‘what you need.’” A Friend then added the anecdote of “…George Fox and William Penn. Fox was Fox and Penn was a noble…with a sword and fancy wig. But Fox didn’t mention it. And one day Penn gave the sword away. Later while horseback riding together the wig blew away. ‘Oh well,’ Penn allegedly said.” A Friend offered, “Different views challenge us to get out of our boxes and that’s good.” Another provided this aphorism, “Certainty is a feeling that should be tempered with doubt.” A different Friend speculated, “But you know George Fox was so sure of his truth he would keep on until he had worn you down.” Yet another added, “I would hope that way would open and we would figure it out.” A further Quaker noted, “So many of us are here because of the discomfort other religions have left with us.” “That’s why we sponsor Seekers for discussion and exploration about belief and spirituality. We must be responsive to other voices in providing programs. Likewise we should stand up for who we are,” a Friend concluded. Another stated, “We should hear others share their differences. Different beliefs should be respected. It is a good learning experience.” A chorus of comments ensued, “Try to love one another.” “Understand one another.” “Learn to lead with questions rather than declarations.” “Have conversations.” And, finally, “Love the God of Light.”

2011 Report

Mike Hambach, member

At Hopewell Centre the Spirit moves among us mysteriously, manifesting in our continual sharing. This year, to address our spiritual state of the meeting report, we met for two sessions to answer the questions from the Yearly Meeting. One friend noted that Spirit showed itself mightily in the restoration of our building: how what seemed so few of us came together and with delight and surprise raised the money for the great renovation project , exercising our many forms of ministry and creativity. Another friend noted that Spirit moves gently among us, searching and seeking the relationship of opening and transformation. Others witness Spirit alive in the richness of small group sharing. Yet another friend felt the compassion, sharing, trust, and love to be so special. All friends agreed that the coming together in worship and sharing through small groups, in our committees and in corporate meeting is most important in supporting growth of Spirit.

Speaking of the importance of individual spiritual experience, one friend said that it was recognizing the inner voice when you hear it. Another added that it was recognizing that voice and then listening to it. Yet another friend noted that his experiences of the year often took him outside of monthly meeting and one of the great joys of the year has been in experiencing this phenomenon of listening and following the inner voice; how the Quaker world manifests itself in a tapestry of continuity.

In our personal lives, there is a yearning to experience the Presence. Some experience the Spirit in daily reading, prayer, and meditation. In meeting, this is shown in experiences people share with all of us of how the spirit works. Spirit becomes manifest through the actual messages. Growth often occurs when addressing great conflicts as well, and in overcoming pride, and in surrendering our own judgment. “It often ends as if I am crawling and I finally say ‘I’m sorry,’” a member shared. Others affirmed that for them it is a struggle against inner pride and the ego.

There has been a dynamism in our Seekers Group, which meets biweekly. Many voices praised the recent Grief Session run and moderated by one of our own members. The answers come when we turn it over to God. “How does {god} do it? How does {god} know? For when {god} answers prayer, it is miraculous.” “God really hears when you let go,” a friend affirmed. “When it happens, according to another, the turnaround is so powerful all you can say is, 'Thank you, God.'”

Many friends spoke of the wonder of our children where Spirit seems so richly evident. One friend spoke of being called her name today, for the first time, by our youngest member. Another spoke of how a small child spoke to her recently and asked about how her spouse was doing, since she had requested the meeting hold him in the light. Another chimed in about a youngster he saw walking out of meeting with a huge smile on his face, full of joy. The children inspire us to be like them, vessels through which Spirit appears.

One newcomer shared that Hopewell Centre was two words for her: inviting and engaging. Our community worries that we might become closed and too focused on ourselves, and might exclude others, so this was a comforting thing to hear. We look forward to repeating our public talks this year, as we continue our concern that there exists a lack of information about Friends in the world, and we have realized in our past year of outreach for fund-raising that we feel respected when we speak about ourselves. “I’m not advocating we should stand on a street corner, but it’s nice to get the word out.”

A ‘weighty’ Quaker noted that what had brought her to Quakerism was its broad-mindedness and acceptance of different beliefs and belief systems, wondering if perhaps this did not translate into an appearance of not being Christians. She added further that the earliest Friends were so deeply Christian they ‘quaked.’ A visitor who is returning to Quakerism noted once in her Mid-west meeting visitors had arrived with Bibles and never returned because others did not have any. The consensus was we allow our differences in belief to be strengths and embrace everybody. One noted Christ did not say “Join a church.” He said, “Follow me.” A final commenter said, “We are who we are because we don’t believe that one could only get to God through Christ.” She added,” We try to be Spirit-led and do the right thing, but we are human and err. We try to learn from our mistakes and advance in the spirit because we are human.”

One of our longest attending members stated she thought we handled differences head on with straight talk, supporting the notion we try to be Spirit-led: “Everybody does their best.” A visitor noted a recent, bitter experience she had just had in her religious community, which was not Quaker, an experience which seemed to advance doctrine over individuals-where all movement seemed behind her back. It left her wondering. “Where was Christ?” One of our members addressed this type of conflict in saying there can be a lack of hearing or listening. She added that she wanted to get better in letting others know she had heard them, because in her words it was “hurtful when direct speaking is not heard.” She added that like any group we have struggled, it is a learning process, and it is always good to work on communication. Another friend affirmed that we are making progress in confronting differences and listening to others. She credited us with “staying part of the journey” and added that we see critically the need to be more generous with ourselves and each other.

Another elder member noted that he had just relearned to not take personally the words others spoke and realize they came from the wells of the speakers’ experiences. Another friend noted that it was always important to say things in a way that was understandable. A friend reminded us that we have the tradition and service of a clearness committee to help us with issues. Yet another friend noted the struggle to weigh messages and discern if they were from Spirit or from our own egos. The greatest test is how to carry these messages out of the meeting: Were they meant to move individuals or meant to move groups?

Hopewell Centre continues to grow as a spiritual body. We thank you for these queries which have opened us to much learning, and we share these insights with you in that same spirit.

Humbly submitted,
The Ministry and Counsel Committee,
for the
Hopewell Centre Monthly Meeting
of the Religious Society of Friends

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