Maury River Friends Meeting
The text of recently received Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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|2016 Report||2017 Report||2018 Report||2019 Report||2020 Report|
No report received.
In 2019, Maury River Friends found ourselves facing dilemmas and finding our way forward in relationship. We were moved, as we prepared this report, to realize that we have heard more vocal ministry in the past year or so; completely silent Meetings are less frequent. We believe this change is due in part to an increase in the number of Friends worshiping together. Then, too, the deep silence during Meeting is treasured. We are glad for the oasis of quiet and spiritual reassurance that Meeting provides us, from which we gain the strength and confidence to move outward into the wider world. We have experienced a variety of responses to vocal ministry among us, usually positive. Many “next steps” begin during the period of fellowship that follows Meeting for Worship. Other follow up thoughts may come later as "ah-hah” moments.
Gifts among us are most consistently recognized through our nominating process and through our support for those Friends who witness on our behalf in community affairs. These are not official appointments through the nominating process. Rather, they are leadings that are often shared with others in the Meeting.
Sometimes we struggle to follow a call because we see so many unmet needs around us, or we fear what the call may involve or where it may lead. Some of us experience fear as a stop and others as a challenge. Way can open through serendipity, a nudge, or an invitation from another. For instance, recently one of us was led to offer a youth “Peace Academy,” which is now a focus of many of us. Individual leadings like this often shape our meeting community. Another example is our participation as a Meeting in the Martin Luther King, Jr. march held for the last two years in Lexington, Virginia, on the weekend of his birthday in January. Acts of witness like this march create in us a sense of hope as we face the increased darkness and difficulty in the wider world.
We have experienced varying styles of leadership in our meeting, as well as in the wider world. We find that willingness to admit mistakes is essential in those taking leadership roles. Also, the very human experience of intuition either to move forward or to put on the brakes happens to some of us, which we consider an instance of continuing revelation. For example, for years we have remained prepared to welcome new families in the hope that some might join us, and we are now delighted to see two young families with some regularity.
We continue to deal with a smaller number of Friends who are able and willing to serve on and clerk committees. Many Friends in our meeting have extensive individual involvements in the wider community, which limits the time they have to devote to meeting work, especially sudden or emergency concerns.
The Meeting faced a difficult situation when one of the two heaters in the Meeting room broke in the fall of 2018. Work to find a replacement heater became a trying experience since, initially, there was no clarity over the best approach. There were too few Friends on the Finance & Stewardship and House & Grounds committees, both of which needed to be involved in the discernment process. The Nominating Committee combined the committees, but, after it became clear that the Meeting was not willing to use the opportunity to redo our heating system with a priority on shrinking our carbon footprint, the clerk of the combined committee felt unable to continue and resigned from the committee. The presiding clerk stepped in to clerk the committee. Eventually, after the discernment process was well underway, a newer attender offered to serve as committee clerk through the purchasing and installation process. The Meeting survived, and the new system is working, but the strain on the combined committee resulted in Nominating being unable to fill vacancies on either committee for 2020. We feel among Friends an increased sense of our ability to find ways to manage. It may be necessary to call on this ability in the coming years as our spiritual life, property ownership, and political/geophysical realities fail to keep to their customary shapes.
We have delighted in Friends’ willingness to experiment with birthday celebrations for the new, young children in our meeting. It is wonderful, once again, to have little children among us. We also tried meeting at an earlier time (not a big hit) and rearranging the chairs in the Meeting room to accommodate the various chair-related needs of Friends.
Finally, Mhe meeting came together for a wonderful Memorial service for Nancy McLaughlin; many people shared deeply in the celebration of her life and participation in our Meeting.
● With fierce winds of political discord and violent expressions of hate swirling in the world around us, what does your community do to strengthen our attention to the Spirit in Meeting for Worship?
MRF does not bring politics into the meeting room; during a previous experience of "fierce winds", we informally agreed that vocal ministry of political preferences was damaging to the Spirit working amongst us. When we enter into worship we are led by Spirit, which is not changeable. Meeting for worship is an oasis to be together to get re-charged to deal with things outside of the meeting. The deep sustaining silence gives food for the spirit. Quiet helps us get energy where we can gather the tools for work beyond meeting. Readings at the beginning help set a tone, and spoken messages about love, joy, and beauty help to ground us.
● What do you do to strengthen the Quaker “roots” of your community?
Although our meeting house is 1870's style, we purchased it in 1995. In updating and adding to it, we have found much fellowship and a sound introduction to Quaker practices. Currently, we are once again examining our methods of providing heat during the winter months.
Outside of our Meeting community, many members participate in outreach efforts into the local community in actions which share our beliefs and values. Two members regularly attend other churches and enjoy the opportunities to develop relationships to different perspectives and to share Quaker perspectives. Several members do immigration work in the community and are part of other groups. It is important to keep attention on the fact that Quakers “got rid of the laity”; we are all ministers.
There seem to be dueling forces among Friends. We recognize we can be a shining light and healing presence in troubled times, while on the other hand, we value our individual Meeting community so much we can be unwelcoming to change or discordant voices. What is your Meeting’s experience of this? Do you sense a tendency to avoid tension by not discussing differing points of view?
We are homogeneous enough in many of our views that we wonder if those with differing views would feel comfortable among us. We need to keep in mind that it is possible that we may be mistaken, and we need to have the patience, the courage, and the care to learn of others’ points of view. There have been several conflicts that we have not dealt with directly; this avoidance has not helped our Meeting grow. We lean heavily on our fellowship time between worship and 2nd Hour, and our frequent potlucks in homes to maintain our connections enough to weather difficulties that arise. Currently we have a broad range of opinions about how to balance desires to diminish our carbon footprint while we care for and grow our Meeting community.
Is your Meeting a diverse community: racially philosophically/politically, theologically? How is that expressed? In what ways?
We have welcomed diversity in our meeting from our beginning in the 1980’s. While we do not have racial diversity, we are open to any opportunities which may come our way. We do have economic, philosophical and theological diversity. In addition, we support a variety of personal outreaches outside of our small meeting. As one friend said, “One way to manage diversity is to welcome it lovingly when it shows up.” This has worked well for us.
It is a Joy to recall that MRFM is approximately 40 yrs old; that a number of us have been with the Meeting for that long. We seem stable no matter who or what is rocking our boat. Worshipping in the "known-ness" is a comfort to us, bringing us Joy. Friends find Meeting a very safe place, with people who are kind and noncompetitive, and who listen carefully. Our sharing in the circle before rising into fellowship at conclusion of worship has deepened. Our individual leadings in 2017 were as diverse as ever, accommodating new "old" ones such as sanctuary and immigration.
As to nurturing our spiritual lives, we appreciate the fellowship before our Second Hours, potlucks in homes, and small groups attending various cultural events in our area. We are sometimes troubled by lack of vocal ministry during Meeting for Worship though the silence is often deep and refreshing. With regard to Meetings for Business, these are not as well-attended as we would like, which occasionally makes for difficulties in moving forward together.
"Isms" abound. Many of the current ones are for some us repeats from previous decades, albeit with more and differing emphases now. We continue our witness as before, understanding that we are not in charge of outcomes. The events of 2017 have encouraged us to unite in larger, local groups in support of forums where civility remains. These led to participation in a Martin Luther King Day march, and the formation of a Coming To The Table chapter. For our Meeting in particular there was a difficulty concerning Kendal-at-Lexington's plans to expand.
MRFM recognizes that "the seasons of our lives" pertain also to the organizations humans create. At around 40 years, our Meeting has experienced such seasonal changes. Early on we had lots of youth, lots of gray heads, and many in between. Now we are mostly gray heads with a few middle age, and one younger family. Also 2017 saw more of us traveling away for longer periods of time than heretofore. We felt this keenly. Resilience is a current buzzword, indicating an ability to find other ways around a problem. We were able to incorporate reports of these away-nesses into our Second Hours so that we learned about South Korea, China, a Pendle Hill program, and biking thru the American Midwest, in addition to many other topics including our Quaker Camps. Our committees remain active though it continues to be a challenge to adequately fill each of them. We now have an Advancement & Outreach committee. Our Ministry & Counsel committee has started interviews with individuals members of the Meeting to solicit their feelings about the highs and lows of Meeting. Our Fellowship Committee helped with a Simple Meal around Thanksgiving and a wonderful Christmas Eve celebration as well as other activities. Our Peace & Justice committee remains active and often shares ways members can reach out beyond the Meeting.
What are your greatest joys as a Meeting?
Looking back over the joys of 2016, we found one of the greatest of these was having several new people become regular attenders at Meeting including one who transferred her membership. One family is looking forward to MRFM becoming the spiritual home for their young child. Rise of Meeting was cited as being a time of deep connection where we had a chance to hear one another in meaningful ways. Several people spoke about enjoying initial readings at the beginning of Meeting for Worship—especially the Mary Oliver poems. We had potlucks in people’s homes during the year, a talent show after our simple meal, and a beautiful Christmas Eve celebration with sharing of personal thoughts, poetry and music, bountiful potluck, and candle lighting. Finally, our hosting of Interim Meeting this past June gave us the opportunity to work well together on a big project. Everyone seemed pleased with how that meeting took place.
What challenges and troubles are you facing?
Our Meeting experienced several challenges, beginning with the great amount of work involved in hosting Interim Meeting. And it was a success! We continue to be challenged by our infrequent vocal ministry. We have had difficulty carrying out our plans for singing before Meeting for Worship. For those Friends who do not live in Rockbridge County, it is hard to feel part of the local community that forms the core of our Meeting. We miss having children in our Meeting and so would welcome more families. Many Friends find it challenging to attend Meeting regularly due to family commitments and volunteer responsibilities. Finally, we have experienced a sad rift in our meeting over the proposed expansion of a local retirement community in which a number of our members live. Some members who are residents of that retirement community have felt unwelcome in our meeting; hopefully, we are moving toward healing.
How does your Meeting nurture the spiritual life of members and attenders?
Friends continue to find spiritual nurture through leading and participating in our Second Hours, the time following Meeting for Worship when we consider various topics of interest in our spiritual lives. In the past, members have participated in Spiritual Formation groups. Perhaps it is time to do so again. There is a potential blessing in such small-sized groups: we have the opportunity to be deeply personal and vulnerable with one another.
How do you engage with BYM and the wider world of Friends?
During 2016, eleven Maury River Friends served in seventeen capacities for BYM. We have one member who serves on the Pendle Hill Board. One member is on the Blue Ridge Gathering Planning Committee. We held two 2nd Hours to discuss FCNL priorities for the 2017-2018th Congress and submitted recommendations to FCNL as they requested.
How well do you attend to the needs of newcomers?
We enjoy working with newcomers. One of our members regularly stands at our front door to welcome anyone who might be new as well as to greet all of us. At Rise of Meeting we continually try to be specific talking about family members in our sharing so that new comers are not left in the dark about connections the rest of us already know. Newcomers report that they feel welcomed and nurtured though perhaps we should re-visit the idea of wearing nametags. A last idea for helping newcomers is once more taking pictures of each member and posting them along with names in the library.
Many of our members put faith into action for peace and justice in their daily lives. Quite a few of our members work with community action groups—including helping with a refugee/immigrant family recently resettled in Lexington. We stood up against racism and homophobia, and approved carrying our MRFM banner with the message “Peace on Earth” in a local march to honor Martin Luther King. With the money collected from our Simple Meal in November, we are sponsoring a Haitian family’s recovery from Hurricane Matthew. Our Sharing budget gives money to many groups working on peace and justice issues. Overall, we find both challenge and comfort in our members having much the same political outlook. We need to be aware that some newcomers might hold other views, yet on the other hand, it feels comforting to be with a group sharing many of the same values.
We are aware of BYM’s Working Group on Racism but have not yet participated in those programs. We had a Second Hour on racism, which was interactive and well attended. One couple periodically attends a local black church to listen and share. Many of us would like to do more in this way.
Following the recent presidential election, Maury River had a Second Hour to “grieve the outcome of the election.” As action groups have emerged in our local jurisdictions, Friends have begun to participate. Finally, several of our members planned to participate in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. the day after the presidential Inauguration.
No report received.
Maury River Friends devoted two Second Hours to BYM’s questions about the Spiritual State of our Meeting.
Friends enjoy group singing before Meeting for Worship on first and third Sundays, and Second Hours continue to be vital to the health of our Meeting community. 2014 Second Hours provided a good mix of discussion and fellowship that helped explore our world, understand, and share individual and community Quaker life. The new approach to organizing Second Hours by asking members and attenders to suggest topics and lead discussions, has been productive and positive. Recording some Second Hour presentations is a possibility.
The frequency and depth of vocal ministry—“amazing synthesis in a few sentences” – during worship feels very important as well. One friend said that while she liked the silence, which was often very powerful, she relished vocal ministry and found worship more meaningful when vocal ministry was shared. “I want to know what Quakers are all about.” The etymology of ‘worship’ being based on “worth” was discussed – when worship is thought of as “worth-ship,” vocal ministry may be less intimidating, becoming a process of sharing what arises when we open ourselves to consider what is of worth in our lives and experience. Some of us find that messages can cause discomfort since Truth sometimes involves shining the Light on darkness – and that as a group, we are too prone to say what we don’t do (fight, clergy, sacraments…) rather than what we do do and why. Worship and Ministry drafted a statement this year on Maury River’s practice of vocal ministry. Both by inviting and encouraging vocal ministry, and by addressing the concern of “self-censoring” and the harm that can do to both individual and corporate spiritual growth, the statement was felt to be caring and supportive.
Meeting encourages newer attenders to come forward to fill committee needs. Despite smaller numbers on most committees, members and attenders feel that we do a good job of loving those who are with us, and of supporting families in need. This year we brought Worship and Ministry back together with Care and Counsel (now being Ministry and Counsel) to be able to do all our work better.
Though our numbers are smaller, we are getting grayer, have fewer young families, and very few children, we recognize with gratitude that our children who have grown and gone continue to send ripples out from their years with us. The physical distances between us – mostly we see each other only once a week – make close social interaction difficult. As a rural meeting, demographics are not on our side, but the quietude and grace of our Meeting House is seen as supportive of the spirit. This year we participated in the Rockbridge Historical Society’s tour of historical local churches and Friends were able to share with visitors information about the history of our building and of Quakers in Virginia.
The up side of our years in MRFM is being seasoned in doing business together. Even when we grapple with strong differences, our gratitude for the disciplines of centered clerking and the willingness to speak, listen, and learn in the Spirit help us move through together.
Many individuals in the Maury River community have been involved in BYM committees, Pendle Hill and FGC, and enjoy the broader Quaker connection. And the larger number participating on our Peace and Justice committee reflects Meeting’s involvement in the larger world. Challenges before us include taking our consideration of right relationship to creation to a deeper level toward meaningful action together, and finding ways to show up better for Rockbridge County’s college-age community. Perhaps aspects of Quaker Quest and the workshop discussed for this fall will help.
Maury River Friends Meeting is committed to caring for its community of members and attenders as well as to reaching out to the wider world of Friends. There has been a continued openness to listening to individual journeys, ideas and challenges. As one member stated, it is our Meeting’s commitment to Quakerism that binds us together, and that can be observed in all that Maury River Meeting does.
The Spirit is nurtured and prospered among us in as many ways as we are individuals. That can sometimes be a challenge for our Meeting. The language of the spirit is individual and sometimes misunderstood. However, the intent and meaning of the Spirit is universal among us. We nurture that through shared spiritual journeys, threshing sessions and clearness committees, in addition to Meeting for Worship which is central to everything we do.
We hold 2nd Hour each Sunday to explore topics of Quakerism that are important to the Meeting and to individuals. There continues to be an expressed need to spend more time together in community building activities. Due to the large geographic area our meeting serves, finding additional shared gathering time is hard. We do meet for traditional events such as our Christmas Eve candlelighting, the summer Goshen Pass potluck, Meetinghouse workdays, and potlucks held in Friends’ homes throughout the year. Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s activities are attended and enjoyed by a number of our members/attenders.
Our committee work is active and supports the life of the meeting. Care and Counsel has had a fairly quiet year in 2013, and looks forward to focusing again on our Planning Ahead for the End of Life booklet. Worship and Ministry is aware of the desire for more vocal ministry during worship and is engaging with that challenge. Youth Religious Education works to include a wider spread of volunteers from Meeting to share time with the children. Our Fellowship Committee facilitates a number of ways for us to grow together as a community. Our Meetinghouse is well cared for under House & Grounds Committee’s leadership. Our Trustees and the Finance and Stewardship Committee drew up a long-range plan for our use of the Meetinghouse in response to concerns about its ecological footprint. As a Meeting, we continue to be challenged with outreach. We have had no Advancement & Outreach committee for some years and currently have few young adult members/attenders and children. There is little apparent diversity among us. We are welcoming to newcomers and visitors, but perhaps could do a better job with helping them to feel more comfortable in our fellowship activities. We do participate in community service projects and have created a “tree of impact” – basically a visual of all of the local community organizations which MRF members/attenders participate in. We also now have an updated website on the Quaker Cloud focused on providing information and inspiration to possible newcomers.
Maury River Friends have adopted a version of “benevolent giving” which we call the ‘Sharing Budget’. We give to Friends’ organizations and/or local organizations that reflect our Meeting’s social and environmental concerns. Our Peace and Justice committee has created a binder holding those organizations’ names, contact information, and giving history - this is kept in the meeting house. We also keep emergency special needs opportunities in the book.
Maury River Friends Meeting is committed to its community of members/attenders and to nurturing their individual spiritual journeys.
In preparing this report for Baltimore Yearly Meeting, we have been struck by a sense of deepening spiritual community at Maury River Friends Meeting.
Friends often express gratitude for the spiritual community we have and the support we give one another. During worship sharing, one Friend spoke of the warmth and love she has felt and how Meeting has enriched her marriage. Another Friend spoke about when women appeared at his home to help him when his wife had an operation and was undergoing physical therapy. These personal relations with others in Meeting lifted her
spirits too. Even Friends who cannot attend Meeting for Worship or second hour every week report Spirit-led experiences in worship and in committee meetings.
Such experiences of spiritual community can be difficult these days. Our fast-paced and busy lives make connections harder to forge and maintain. And we may find it easier to do the good that needs to be done than to speak about the Spirit’s movement in our lives. It is hard to express the Spirit in words, but Friends have led us in several profound second hours devoted to their spiritual journeys. Such communication builds trust
and understanding and helps us come to know one another “in that which is Eternal.” We also need simply to spend more time together to know each other better in that which may not be eternal. Second hours are valuable both for sharing ourselves with one another and for clarifying our sense of the Spirit among us. In these digital days, the e-mailed messages and
newsletter, especially the front-page column of reflections and calendar, have been helpful in keeping Maury River Friends connected.
This past year was our second year without a consistent Clerk of Meeting. Sharing the clerking duties among ten different Friends, we knew we risked losing the continuity and coherence that the Clerk of Meeting can bring.
But our dedicated committees maintained continuity, so the burden did not fall on the temporary clerks. It was reassuring to find those resources among us. We have had some difficult issues before us this year, and well-seasoned
clerks have helped us move forward with good Quaker process.
Our Meeting has occasionally had trouble grappling with complex and detailed practical matters, but the manner in which we received and adopted a new approach to our budget was a good example of Spirit making itself felt among us. We decided to divide our budget into four segments, each of which would receive equal funding. This increased our
budget significantly, while providing the sense that our values were driving our expenditures, rather than the other way around. Our minute on Right Relationship with Creation was another long-term commitment that we
undertook both within the Peace and Justice Committee and in Meeting as a whole. Now we face the task of bringing this commitment to bear on changing wasteful habits, individually and corporately. We long for a “third way” to emerge in a Spirit-led process, and we strive for willingness to be surprised.
The work of Religious Education Committee has led to a deepening of Spirit for adults and children. Our Meeting has felt buoyed by the young people, and we treasure the young Friends who come to meeting. Older Friends are also experiencing the ways in which our spiritual community has affected their adult children who have left home to begin their own journeys.
A clear sign of Spirit prospering among us is the addition of three new members, one by transfer and two by convincement. While numbers do not tell the whole story, they suggest the deep current of spiritual community running through Maury River Friends Meeting.
Clerk, Worship and Ministry Committee
Report on Spiritual State of the Meeting 2011
Two keywords, “support” and “deep,” have come up often as we responded to queries about the spiritual state of Maury River Friends Monthly Meeting.
Friends have felt supported in their spiritual lives this past year because discussions with others in Meeting have deepened our understanding of one another, whether in book groups, during second hours, in gathering for fellowship, or in simple phone calls. Meeting for worship also becomes deeper as a result, and in turn the gathered meeting deepens the supportive network of Meeting. Even when there is little vocal ministry, the silence of worship can be very deep, opening possibilities and surprises to all. We appreciated having Betsy Meyer visit us for a workshop and second hour in October, and we have felt new life in vocal ministry as a result.
After several years of seeing our children grow up and move on, we have been delighted to welcome two new babies into our midst. One of the deep joys of Meeting has been the growth of love among us, clearly witnessed in young Friends and children. As one very young Friend remarked about the contributions to the Heifer Project from the annual fundraising spaghetti supper, “It’s like holding someone in the Light, only more efficient.”
Worship and Ministry Committee planned a series of second hours in which Friends shared their spiritual journeys. This successful effort has fostered a growth in trust, a willingness to take risks, and a building confidence that we are large enough to surround differences. Many remark on the feeling of warmth and acceptance from Friends, and many respond to that feeling with gratitude. Care and Counsel Committee has had several clearness committees that have been helpful to Friends, and the practice of listening with care has grown among us.
Peace and Justice Committee has worked all year on drafting a minute on right relationship with Creation, and this work will continue with Meeting as a whole in 2012. Many Friends express their sense that right relationship is fostered among us as a Meeting as we struggle to discern truth, spiritual presence, and a way forward in our lives together. We understand that the minute will record our ongoing search for openness and discernment, and we are confident that Spirit leads us in positive directions.
While we continue to be grateful to our committees, we have been challenged in 2011 in several ways. We have not had a full-time clerk of meeting this year, nor have we been able to settle upon a clerk going forward in 2012. Instead, we have rotated the clerk’s role among six Friends, being careful to communicate well and be attentive to the continuity of matters before the Meeting. We have much work to do in encouraging committee work and being sure that our committees function well and that members are energized and positive in the work they do for us all. Many committees and their members feel stretched by the pressures of time and commitments in busy lives, and some have felt less supported than they would hope to be.
As we move into the new year, Maury River Friends seek to share their spiritual journeys in acceptance and love for one another. We trust in Spirit to support and deepen our journey.