Richmond Friends Meeting Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports
The text of recently received Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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We found that the severe challenges of 2020 inspired growth and creativity for Richmond Friends Meeting. Members found fruitful paths in both activism and contemplation. Many of us made both practical and spiritual adaptations to difficult circumstances.
After the normal activities of January and February, the Meeting began grappling with emerging COVID news. Questions about stopping in-person Meetings for Worship in response to the pandemic brought further awareness of how precious our shared worship and sacred space are to us. When in-person Meetings were reluctantly laid down, we began on-line Meetings for First Day mornings and found them to be surprisingly gathered. Our spring retreat group found creative ways to interact virtually which inspired and influenced our other efforts through the year.
We began a Wednesday night Worship Sharing using queries to encourage discussion after shared silence. These have been well attended and many have reported feeling a heightened sense of community there. In the fall, outdoor First Day Meeting were held twice a month at our retreat center, The Clearing. In general, all the forms of Meeting have had a sense of gathering despite their virtual nature. Verbal messages have reflected spirit guidance. Friends expressed thankfulness and joy about being able to see each other.
The Meeting is deeply grateful to our technologically gifted members who have made all this possible, including tutoring the less adept of us. While we have missed our physical togetherness, many of us have learned how and chosen to gather in worship and committee work using Zoom. In addition, breakout rooms for visiting after Meetings, a telephone member-pairing system, the Wednesday Worship Sharing format and Friendly Eights have allowed mutual care and support to flow among us. Shut-in and distant Friends have been able to join Meetings. A number of new young adults have come, moving easily into the on-line process. At the same time, we have felt the loss of those unable to join in this way.
Committee work on-line has often felt more intently connected and spirit-led as we tended to focus more deeply on matters at hand. Many Friends mentioned feeling closer than before to others in the community in this work as well as in the Worship Sharing. On-going Spiritual Formation and Bible Workbench groups report enhanced sense of their value. These spiritual gathering places have stood in contrast to the turmoil, conflict and illness dominating the national news and the world scene.
Those entrusted with spiritual education, both for adults and children, rose to the new circumstances. Innovative, interactive programs engaged our young children, while adults had opportunities to explore deeper contemplation and mysticism. Our social concerns, especially racial justice and understanding, were addressed with a vigorous film discussion program and a thoughtful, on-going authors of color book group. Friends responding to racial justice issues found consensus for a Black Lives Matter sign on the Meeting House grounds. A group was moved to collect warm clothing and coats for homeless people.
The practical necessity of maintaining our buildings led us to delegate tasks to individuals and small groups who were able to work independently, even making significant progress on long-standing issues like energy conservation for our worship room and facility repairs at the Clearing. With the building sitting empty, we hired professionals to paint the interior of the Meetinghouse education rooms, something that had been needed for years. Friends were moved to contribute financially even more generously than in some prior years so that our budget is on firm footing.
Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business presented new challenges and different requirements. Our clerk modeled patience and sensitivity, negotiating screens to convey complex information and to seek the spirit of each gathering. Members were largely able to maintain focus and presence despite the unfamiliar context.
Our continuing concerns include a sense of having been unable to fully mourn our losses together and fears that we may have lost touch with some who did not find the on-line connection satisfying. We are hopeful that our learnings from this year will flow into blended in-person and on-line forms of worship when that becomes possible.
Overall, there is a strong feeling that Grace has moved among us this year. Our blessings have been abundant, and the Light has shone brightly through the dark circumstances.
Much of this report derives from the Spiritual State of the Meeting meeting, held on February 22, 2020. Numerous and diverse issues were voiced and discussed at the Meeting. They fall under the following headings: spiritual life; new attenders, longstanding attenders, and members; diversity and cultural issues; children and religious education; and life of our
- Our community is open to direct spiritual experiences with the Holy. We accept a wide spectrum of ideas and beliefs. Life is mysterious, and we seek to embrace the mysteries. Past tension has dissipated, although some still feel that we have limited freedom to use preferred words like “God” for fear of some people’s responses. With respect to different expressions of sacredness we are learning to ask what a speaker means, rather than moving away. Our challenge is to find freedom to express our perceived truths without speaking in a manner that makes others feel excluded.
- Richmond Friends Meeting (RFM) is a loving, open, caring group of people. For many it is a beloved community that works well, sharing responsibility to do what needs to be done. Our world is a complex, difficult place, and RFM has good intentions and willingness. Our concerns are diverse, and individuals are encouraged to pursue their leadings.
- Friends feel great appreciation for their experiences in Meeting. For example, we quietly care for Friends who are struggling. Within committees, members share and support each other as they face their own issues. Another example is the quality of our silent worship. One Friend often feels as if a particular message were meant for them. Spiritual life has been significantly nurtured in many small-group settings, such as adult spiritual education sessions, spiritual formation, Bible Workbench, working together in committees, Friendly 8’s, and first day school for children.
- The installation of a new sound system by CTSI was a multi committee collaboration with Building and Grounds, Ministry and Worship, Financial Stewardship and Care and Counsel. Friends with hearing loss found it challenging to hear messages and as a result felt isolated from meeting. The system's different options have helped many participate more fully in worship. However, some people are not able to fully access the system. Ministry and Worship is committed to making sure that CTSI staff work with us to assist them.
NEW ATTENDERS, LONGSTANDING MEMBERS, AND ATTENDERS
- We have been seeking new ways to attract people who are reaching out in their spiritual journeys, who can add variety through spectrums such as age, race, geography, education, and ethnicity. Our meeting is reaping the benefit of the hard work from Visibility Coordinators, Religious Education Committee and the Growing the Meeting Ad Hoc Committee. Happily, we have seen many new faces in Meeting over the last year, and many young children as well.
- Most new attenders report experiencing a welcoming spirit. Some have found RFM through our website and Facebook page. Many share our concern for the environment and social justice. We would like to do more to attract young adults and people of color, perhaps through preparative meetings in other neighborhoods or colleges, offering Quaker experiences to varieties of people.
- In a presidential election year, politics can create a tension. We have developed a policy that we avoid personal announcements or messages about specific parties or candidates; rather, personal announcements or messages should address issues that arise out of our Quaker testimonies and values.
- Much of Meeting leadership is 60 or older, and we are concerned about what will happen in 10 years. We are gratified that we now are attracting younger attenders and children. Many individual Friends and committees have contributed to making RFM more welcoming. A happy challenge is integrating these new, younger persons. We are gratified to see that new attenders have participated in Spiritual Formation, and many are attending our potlucks.
- As Quakers, we believe that our efforts and activities grow out of gathered meetings for worship. Much going and coming can make it difficult to settle together into a deeper silence. We have reworked the policy on late entry to be friendly to those who are late, mobility-impaired or bringing children, while seeking to minimize distractions for those who are troubled by late arrivals.
DIVERSITY AND CULTURAL ISSUES
- Geography plays a role in our lack of diversity. We may be welcoming, but we are not accessible. We are in the near West End of Richmond, a largely white, middle class, well-educated community. Many friends yearn for greater diversity, but there are barriers, which may include race, class, and geography. We also recognize that our meditative manner of worship may never appeal to some. Many who live in lower income communities may be reluctant to come to our location for worship or may lack means of transportation. How can we physically reach out to other neighborhoods, and appeal to other groups? One idea is to go where the potential Quakers are. This might include worship groups on college campuses as well as in other geographic locations in the city.
- Our perspectives on people of color can be informed by examining not only racism, but also positive aspects of their experiences.
- When there is a gathered meeting for worship, all else grows from the core: kindness, friendship, and truth. It is a challenge for many to be brave and truthful, rather than reticent and polite. Quick conflict resolution can be incomplete and “too nice.”
- We recognize that other people in the world are facing persecution, such as in war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East, and that Muslims are persecuted in the USA. Peace and Social Concerns’ fundraising lunches have promoted awareness of world issues as well as Virginia organizations addressing great needs here at home.
CHILDREN AND RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
- Attendance at the Nursery and the Primary class has been steady and growing. Religious Education has made spaces vibrant, positive, and fun for our children. Friends have varying visions for this program. Balancing the perspectives of teachers who prioritize a curriculum with those who mostly want children to enjoy the process can be a creative tension. With deliberate patience and a prayerful focus, the committee is working through this challenge. It has been a joy to see the children and their families reinvigorate our faith community. However, this joy is shadowed by the RE teachers’ beginning sense of isolation. More meeting members are needed to help with nursery and classes for the vitality of our whole community.
LIFE OF OUR MEETING
- Friends appreciate RFM’s website/technology committee and the outreach which brings us into the 21st century. For example, some of the support for RFM vigils around Richmond’s gun rights rally came from individuals who learned about the rallies through our Facebook page.
- One of the strengths of Meeting is that many Friends share responsibilities. It is healthy for committee memberships to evolve and for individuals over time to assume varied roles.
- Meeting has many “unsung heroes” who do the work and quietly serve as role models. There is a spirit of willingness to serve, both within meeting and in the community. As a notable example, many Friends pitched in to provide sanctuary six full days each month at the Unitarian Church for Abbie Herrera and her two children, who are fighting her order of deportation. Friends also provided rides to immigrants who need to attend monthly ICE check-ins in Midlothian or immigration court appearances in Arlington. Friends also provided food, supplies and kindness to immigrants traveling north on buses from detention centers.
- The Clearing provided spiritual renewal and connection for Friends and for like-minded organizations. Like the meetinghouse, stewardship of the building and grounds is the responsibility of our members and attenders, whose work is appreciated by RFM. For young families, The Clearing offers another spiritual home which is embraced by Meeting.
- A generous bequest will allow Meeting to undertake a number of innovative initiatives. It has also raised awareness of legacy issues about which we have been uninformed. We appreciate the ad hoc committee that led Meeting through a potentially difficult process, without guidelines to follow, to a unified result. There is a need for guidelines for wills leaving funds to RFM.
- Our Aging group is a support group for retirement-age members and attenders and their spouses/partners. It is affiliated with Meeting but operates independently. One of its members serves as liaison to Care and Counsel Committee. It is handling problems for their members effectively and efficiently. Starting two years ago, no fee is required. Some members of Meeting express regret in not sharing as fully in the care of this part of our community since this group takes care of its own needs. Perhaps care-giving opportunities may be announced more generally in future.
As we enter a new year, Spirit is at work among us, and we are grateful.
With “fierce winds of political discord and violent expressions of hate swirling in the world around us,” our meeting is a place of comfort and safety. We strengthen the Spirit in meeting by attentively protecting the worship environment. Richmond Friends Meeting holds two meetings each first day, one at 9:30 and a later one at 11:00. The early meeting typically is smaller and described as the “deepest possible silence.” We broadened our policy for coming into meeting after 11:00. Folks are welcome at any time but in a manner that does not unduly interrupt ongoing worship. The Ministry & Worship Committee provides guidance on vocal ministry both individually and collectively. While messages often contain concerns of the day, we are careful not to mention overtly partisan issues either in messages or announcements. Ministry & Worship in collaboration with the Adult Spiritual Education Committee provided William Taber’s “The Four Doors to Meeting for Worship” pamphlets to people who wanted to attend a two-series session on deepening worship. Participants explored entering the spirit of communion during worship and throughout the week.
The quality of our worship has been diminished for those among us with hearing impairments who cannot hear all or part of the spoken messages. This has led to feelings of isolation. Ministry & Worship, Building & Grounds, Care and Counsel and Financial Stewardship Committees have worked together to upgrade our hearing system. Plans will be completed in 2019. We look forward to deeper worship when everyone will be able to fully participate.
One Friend observed that strengthening Spirit is not something we “do.” Rather it is what happens when we “show up to meeting in a spirit of generosity.” Some members and attenders feel strengthened in the Spirit in their connections with others in the meeting. Newcomers have mentioned the importance of the warm welcome to meeting. Programs such as the Care and Counsel Committee’s Friendly 8’s, forums held by Adult Spiritual Education and Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Spiritual Formation program all provide ways for us to deepen our relationships with one another. Our coffee hour at the rise of meeting has continued to be very popular. The informal “take a break for coffee” at a local coffee house once a month offers another opportunity for friendships to deepen. A shared meal is offered twice a month. Some have found that discernment on issues such as Sanctuary and the climate have been Spirit-led. Sharing the experiences of both the joys and sorrows of our lives enriches us all.
The bedrock of operating our Meeting is the committee structure. Committees are led in a spirit- filled way. The end of year committee reports show a care and intentionality about how our business is conducted. It is an important way in which friendships are formed and our spirituality is deepened.
In examining the query of how our Meeting strengthens its roots, one friend recalled the Richmond Friends Meeting retreat on The Hidden Life of Trees. Trees create an ecosystem which protects the living community and allows them to withstand the effects of severe climate changes. Our meeting works in much the same way. The Spirit-led way in which we conduct our business, marriages, and other celebrations of life connects us to our rich history. Further considering our roots, we deeply feel the loss of four dear Friends in 2018, Tom Washburn, Bob Rugg, Donna Knicely, and Bill Hughes-McIntyre. Each has been a loving presence in Meeting for many years. Additionally, Friends appreciate the use of our 1988 Faith and Practice and the v.2013 Resource for Faith and Practice.
Adult Spiritual Education forums were well attended. Our roots are fed by our connections to the wider world of Quakers. We offer financial support to families with children attending camps as well as support to attend BYM and FGC functions. We have members serving on BYM committees and other Quaker organizations such as Quaker House. We are enriched by their participation in the wider world of Quakers.
We addressed queries regarding our experience with the expression of differing points of view, despite the possibility of resulting tension. Do we welcome discordant voices? What are we doing to encourage diversity in its varying aspects?
In our meeting, dealing with discord will sometimes get “messy.” We strive to remember that the ability to openly express strong feelings is a mark of a healthy meeting as it indicates that Friends feel safe here. If we pay attention to the Light, we establish a bridge of trust strong enough to bear the weight of discord. The challenge for us is to listen deeply in order to more fully understand each other. Almost forty of us had a chance to practice this skill at our fall retreat. BYM members Joan and Rich Liversedge led us in the workshop, “Debate into Dialogue, Speaking our Truth so that others can hear.” A Friend expressed appreciation for those who have helped us address “messiness” and said that when it is affecting the community we need to be made aware of it. Unaddressed tensions affect our spirituality in all of its aspects.
We have come to realize that Friends in our Meeting hold a diversity of religious beliefs. We are gratified that Friends with differing spiritual perspectives accept and value each other, adding depth to our spiritual experience. Our form of worship is strong enough to embrace different points of view.
Our meeting is aging, demographically. A decline in the number of younger individuals and families in our meeting has resulted in a sharp decline in the number of children attending Meeting. The Religious Education Committee continues to love and care for the children who come and to think deeply about what experiences to provide so they feel part of a loving community. We are delighted that grandparents have started bringing their grandchildren to meeting.
The aging of Meeting is also impacting our retreat center. The Clearing enjoys a good rate of use and a good income. In general, the facilities are in good condition. However, we would love to see more members and attenders making use of this uniquely beautiful facility. The aging demographic of our Meeting community is having an impact on The Clearing both in usage and in maintaining the facilities.
We recognize that we are predominantly white, liberal, and middle-class. Quaker silent worship—which goes to the heart of who we are as a community--may not have broad appeal to many folks with strong religious traditions of their own. Even so, we need to pay attention to the work of FGC on systemic racism and consider using the steps they are taking as a model for us. It is not unusual for us to have several visitors each first day. We want to ensure that they feel welcome, whether or not the potential exists for long-term attendance. As mentioned earlier, we have continued to make changes in this direction. We emphasize greeting new people at the rise of meeting. Each committee has been asked to think about ways to incorporate welcoming into its work. The coffees after meeting continue to be popular. We constructed a brochure container at the sidewalk outside.
We also need to take advantage of opportunities to connect with other faith communities. If we pay attention to the Light and live our lives accordingly, our actions will have ripple effects into the wider community. Coming to meeting is only the beginning. For example, the Work Camp Committee builds community relations by planting shrubs and flowers with first time homeowners identified by HOME (Housing Opportunities Made Equal). The Visibility Coordinators represented us (RFM) at several events and organized our presence at demonstrations, displaying our Quaker banner. We offer the meetinghouse to like-minded groups, who use it every day of the week. The Clearing provides an affordable retreat setting for a variety of individuals and groups.
A working group of Friends is staffing the Unitarian Universalist Church two days per week to provide sanctuary to an undocumented Honduran mother. Several Friends are providing transportation to immigrants to bi-weekly check-ins in Richmond and to appointments with Arlington, VA, Immigration Court. The Peace and Social Concerns Committee holds monthly lunches to raise funds for various organizations working for a more just society.
We also need to open ourselves to being challenged in new ways. For example, we could consider establishing a worship group in a different place and time attuned to the lives of young people. We move forward, looking for opportunities to carry our Quaker Light into the world while tending the spiritual and personal relationships that anchor our community.
Richmond Friends Meeting is a vibrant, committed group of members and attenders, united in a quest for the Inner Light that can guide individual lives and collective action. The Ministry & Worship Committee remains attentive to a balance between silence and spoken messages in the well-attended 11:00 a.m. Meeting for Worship. The 9:30 a.m. Meeting for Worship is small and settled, with deep silence. During 2017 our Adult Spiritual Education committee arranged and presented meaningful programs. These programs have been quite popular and provided opportunities for exploring and deepening our spirituality. In addition, such offerings as Bible Workbench and Spiritual Formation create opportunity for deepened spirituality, using a variety of approaches and written texts.
In 2017 we recognized both the joys and challenges of having an aging population. Because many of our members and attenders have joined in Quaker worship and activities for many years, the community possesses great depth and strength of caring for each other. Those bonds grew as we assisted several members through losses and significant health events. We also found ourselves in a sound financial position. At the same time, aging creates new challenges. For instance, while the majority of attenders and members are very involved in the life of the Meeting and are willing to take on leadership roles, it has been more difficult to fill our committees. Those who have simultaneously served on multiple committees have wanted or needed to scale back.
We have a keen awareness of another changing demographic of our Meeting. We deeply miss the presence of more young families and children. As a result, we have been actively involved in reaching out and welcoming people from the Richmond community. While we welcome everyone, we are particularly focused on attracting young adults and young families to Meeting. Through newly established Visibility Coordinators, we had tables at both the Richmond Peace Festival and Richmond Pride Festival. We have been more attentive to visitors who have come to Meeting for the first time, including a renewed emphasis through Care & Counsel on wearing name tags. Coffee at rise of Meeting and our monthly pot-luck lunches have been very successful at connecting people. The Website Committee, with help from many in Meeting, made major improvements to the Meeting website, including pictures, to make it livelier and more welcoming. A major effort also is underway to use social media as a means of outreach. Responding to the leading of Clerk Randee Humphrey, Meeting reached out to our community neighbors by opening the Meetinghouse doors on a summer evening and holding an autumn open house as a way of celebrating sixty years at the Kensington Avenue site.
There was concern that our long-standing practice of having latecomers to 11 a.m. Meeting for Worship wait to enter until 11:20 a.m., when children and teachers leave for classes, was particularly unwelcoming to young friends and families with children, as well as newcomers. The Ministry and Worship Committee conducted experiments to determine the least disruptive way for latecomers to join Worship. After a trial period of leaving both the front and inner doors to the Meeting room open during the whole hour of worship, it was decided that closing the inner doors at 11 a.m. and asking people to enter quietly through the front door during worship was the best option for having both a settled and a welcoming Meeting for Worship. The inner doors of the Meeting room may still be used for entry at 11:20 a.m.
We are striving to engage more deeply with the nation’s growing sanctuary movement, protecting undocumented immigrants who are in danger of being deported. Following the leading of member Sally Gudas, the Peace & Social Concerns Committee met with community leaders in the sanctuary movement, studied the issue, and recommended that Meeting create an ad hoc committee to consider options for the Meeting. That work is ongoing. The Meeting also continued its support of an Iraqi refugee family with transportation and other general help, as well as a scholarship for the son to attend Shiloh Quaker Camp.
The Meeting also continued its support of an Iraqi refugee family, which included a scholarship for the son to attend Shiloh Quaker Camp. While we had already approved a minute in 2014 for Marriage Equity, a more encompassing minute strongly affirming support for LGBTQ+ equality, was composed and approved by the Meeting.
Despite a significant decline in the number of children at Meeting in the last two years, the Religious Education Committee worked creatively and actively to engage youth and families. Members collaborated with the ad hoc Welcoming Committee to seek ways to appeal to families with young children, including assisting with a “You Are My Sunshine” sing-along and inviting a growing list of potentially interested folks to the Homemade Christmas and Candlelight Christmas events. The Young Friends, who were a vibrant, active, and spiritual group, connected with the larger Meeting through their Coffeehouse, Christmas program, UNICEF drive and Senior Recognition Day.
As the Meeting became more aware of the desire for greater interaction between Young Friends and the adult community, we made joint efforts to improve the situation. Leaving open the doors at the front of the Meeting room during worship addressed a longstanding request from the Religious Education Committee to make worship more accessible. The Young Friends delighted Meeting by hosting Coffee with an assortment of home-baked goodies. We’re aware that this group also is dwindling in size as its members graduate.
We strive to be open and inclusive of cultural differences and to avoid unintentional exclusivity. However, we recognize that, particularly for newcomers and those who grew up in other faith traditions, Quaker worship is likely to be different. It takes time and nurturing to comfortably settle into silent Quaker worship. We are exploring ways to convey this to new people to avoid losing them. In addition to sending several of our own youth to Quaker camps, we financially supported Baltimore Yearly Meetings’ STRIDE program, which seeks to increase diversity at the camps through scholarships.
We recognize that it is often challenging for us to deal with conflict among ourselves. We also know that it is important that we have difficult conversations, held in the Light. Our shared experiences in worship and our care for each other help us navigate through conflict. When we fail, as we sometimes do, we strive to begin again.
In a year of deep national conflict over political developments, we sought individually and collectively to find balance. Our fall retreat focused on sabbath, the practice of finding inner quiet in a hectic world, and on mindfulness. At the spring retreat we celebrated finding joy in the natural world, including kite making and marveling at wolf spiders carrying hundreds of offspring on their backs. The Clearing continues to be supported by a committed group, which also voices concern that members are aging and are not always strong enough for the job of maintaining this beloved space.
Richmond Friends Meeting gathered for a half-day on the 18th of 2nd Month, 2017, to consider the spiritual state of our Meeting. More than forty of us opened with brief waiting worship before passing the microphone to introduce ourselves.
We find joy in the vitality of our Meetings for Worship, gathered and grounded in silence and blessed with nurturing vocal ministry. Attendance at bible study and sessions offered by Adult Spiritual Education (ASE) have deepened our communion and helped us grow comfortable with the range of beliefs in our Meeting. The experience of accessing deep truth, both personally and corporately, has been life changing for us. We leave Meeting for Worship uplifted.
Our business is conducted in the same spirit. The addition of a microphone to our hearing assistance offerings allows more of us to participate in our practical concerns. Our March and April Business Meetings resonated with the ministry of young Friends, who culminated their months-long exploration of what it would mean to be a conscientious objector by courageously sharing their personal testimonies.
This vitality is carried into our committees. We are eager to serve. We are grateful for our faithful attendance at committee meetings and continuing generosity with time, talents, and funds. This year, our committees devoted tender attention to coordinating workshops, meetings, and forums so events did not occur at the same time. We recognize addressing tensions within our Meeting as a priority. In doing so, we encourage an understanding and appreciation of the gifts we each bring. Our Meeting remains rich in opportunities for socializing, serving, and spiritual growth. Our life together is busy and satisfying.
Answering a need to educate ourselves on what it means to be a Quaker, ASE committee engaged our community in a series of six sessions called Living the Quaker Life. Both long-term attenders and people new to Meeting participated, with counts from 37 to 55. The topics included how we worship, our testimonies, and Quaker process.
Over time, we have developed concerns about whether the sign at our doors directing latecomers to wait outside Meeting until twenty-past the hour (the time when children leave) is welcoming to visitors and others. We are aware that the sign has caused discomfort when Friends wanting to worship arrive slightly late and feel they must wait outside. We have also questioned our willingness to welcome people who may hold differing political beliefs. We are sometimes confused over how to phrase political announcements at rise of meeting. How does Meeting encourage a grounded passion for social justice while abstaining from partisan politics that may unsettle our hearts or offer offense?
We have a vibrant Meeting, spiritually and socially, but we are deeply saddened by the relative absence of young children in Meeting. We have considerable work to do in creating an equally vibrant atmosphere for adults under fifty, young families, and persons of the more diverse global majority. We are struggling with these challenges but we are also doing a lot that is good. We believe that, especially in these unsettled times, Quakers have something positive and hopeful to offer. We are heartened when younger adults tell us of the warm welcome, inclusion and support they have each experienced among us. Our Meeting is wonderfully responsive to members in times of sickness, injury, or other need for support.
Our LGBTQ members and attenders are integral to our community. We know and love each other well. We seek to prepare ourselves, through readings and workshops, to offer the same spiritual home to anyone. Our fall retreat at The Clearing continued the process of recognizing barriers to inclusion we may unknowingly support. Materials from BYM’s Working Group on Racism have been shared. Our new Ad Hoc Working Group on Welcoming and Growing Our Meeting gives focus to these efforts.
Following the recent campaign and elections, more of us are led to be pro-active in the world. Our work for social justice, an outgrowth of our deepening spirituality, is broad. We are aided in this work by connections between members and committees, and the wider Quaker fellowship including BYM’s committees on Unity with Nature and the Working Group on Racism, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends General Conference, Monteverde Friends Meeting, and Quaker House. Locally, we work with Midlothian Meeting on social justice issues, and we are involved with the Richmond Peace Education Center and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. Our Disaster Relief Group spent a week in South Carolina repairing damaged houses. Our Meeting has enthusiastically assumed the responsibility of aiding and mentoring a refugee family from Iraq.
Our clerk has received several requests for a Quaker viewpoint. On our behalf, she presented remarks with spokespersons from other faith groups at the Standing Together Press conference here in Richmond. Through this and other efforts, we know our work is understood and acknowledged outside our Meeting House. As we seek ways to express our values in the current contentious political climate, we consider how to remain in Quaker process while not letting opportunities go by.
We embrace Meeting for Worship as our core, our heart. We seek to meet in love. We value honesty and kindness and trust that the Light will guide us as we move forward.
Richmond Friends gathered for a half-day on the 27th day of 2nd Month, 2016, to consider the spiritual state of our meeting through the queries provided by Baltimore Yearly Meeting Pastoral Care committee. Twenty-six friends participated in the worship sharing.
Meeting for Worship is the foundation of our spiritual life together. We gather expecting a deep and robust silence, balanced with vocal ministry, that nourishes and refreshes us.
We see an increased cooperation between committees that strengthens the life of the meeting. As seasoned friends, we tend to do thing as they have been done in the past, but we are learning to go deeper and rest in the spirit. We gratefully acknowledge that we now know an open and free conversation that allows space for new ideas. This is the fruit of years of intentional work.
Our members and attenders generously dedicate time, talent and resources to our meeting. Though our financial obligations are ongoing, fifty percent of unrestricted contributions were not received until December. We proceeded on faith. Significant in-kind donations also maintain us: accounting, cleaning and yard work, website, etc.
Meeting was able to offer financial help to those in need, scholarships to Baltimore Yearly Meeting camps, and grants to members to enable them to broaden their spiritual experience. Members and attenders nourish the meeting with connections both inside and outside the wider Quaker fellowship.
In addition to both 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. meetings for worship on First Day, meeting offers many diverse and enriching programs, potlucks, retreats, workshops, Friendly 8’s, and uplifting service opportunities. These have served the life of the meeting. We know each other well and Love is strong among us. However, with so much offered, we sometimes feel pulled in different directions. We fear we sometimes forget that Meeting for Worship is the core of our life together.
There is a sense within committees to Do a Lot, to be in service to everything. We are waking to the challenge of discerning what work is rightly ours and when the entire meeting is called to be engaged. As a body, we joyfully united in sponsoring a refugee family. We trust we will gain more from this experience than we give.
Though we are grateful that so many of our members are retired and have time for the work of our meeting, we see few young families among us. We recognize that families have many responsibilities that may prevent them from participation in meeting activities, but we yearn for them and for their children and young people to attend Meeting for Worship. Meeting needs them.
We seek to be more welcoming and inclusive. We seek to understand the ways the dominant white culture within Richmond Friends Meeting hinders our hope for the blessed community. We see efforts across committees to address racism and we welcomed guidance from Baltimore Yearly Meeting and others on these issues particularly.
This past year, Richmond Friends Meeting’s growth in the spirit was spurred by an unlikely source; the hostile actions of a neighbor. We met under the shadow of “What will he do next?” Uncertainty and unease held meeting in its grasp. Expressions of anger and fear were not uncommon.
With time and reflection, we held a different question: “What are we called to do?” We turned our hearts to the people who are our neighbors. An ad hoc committee brought revised guidelines to the meeting for renting out our building. These guidelines bring the use of our building into closer alignment with Quaker values.
We also experienced confusion on what it means to act of behalf of the meeting or to be under the care of the meeting. We saw sad misunderstandings of Quaker process. There were hurt feelings. We are now deliberately deepening our understanding of what spirit-led discernment and action looks like.
The last year has been one of challenges and great activity. Though we are a meeting of Friends with varying beliefs, we share a faith in Quaker process and our concern for each other and the world. Our work together is undertaken amiably, our love for one another and our Meeting reinforced by that work. We can look forward to the new year confident in that love and the spiritual nourishment of our Meeting for Worship.
Richmond Friends gathered for a halfday on 21st day, 2nd month, 2015 to consider the spiritual state of our Meeting in a worship sharing format, centered around queries provided by Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Approximately twenty Friends participated.
Richmond Friends Meeting is a thriving community. Reflecting on 2014, we notice that much of the work we have done in prior years has come to fruition. This is especially seen in our Meeting’s unity on marriage equality, our prison ministry, and our child safety policy. These are the results of our patience, love, and peaceful presence. We are grateful for the way our Meeting trusts Spirit-led Quaker process.
We cherish our integration of spirituality and action. It’s “how,” not “what,” we do. This Light shines most brightly in our social justice work. We nurture personal leadings, some of which have grown into educational programs and actions supported across several committees. Our Meeting sustains the work that Friends do in the world.
We note our strong willingness to join and contribute to committees, as well as just lend a hand whenever needed. Intercommittee cooperation and collaboration is strong. This has led to creatively exploring topics such as privilege and the environment. Our Meeting was inspired to consider these topics deeply and to commit to action within the larger community.
We value inclusivity in Meeting for Worship. We have a growing awareness of the challenges around hearing and mobility and we have been identifying ways to better accommodate these needs. We recognize the gifts that shine through our different expressions of the Light.
Although there are fewer children and young adults in our Meeting, we value the gifts they bring to the life of the meeting. We see that, from young to old, Friends are encouraged to expand their involvement in the wider Quaker Community, through FGC, BYM, and BYM camps.
Smaller groups within our Meeting flourish. Spiritual Formation, Spring Retreat, Men’s Retreat, Work Camp, and Friendly 8’s are eagerly attended, providing opportunities for Friends to get to know one another and deepen spiritually. Our new website supports both a reaching in and a reaching out for our Meeting.
2014 has felt like a good solid year for Richmond Friends Meeting. We seek to maintain balance individually and as a meeting between outreach, nurturing our measure of light, and caring for one another. We remind ourselves to be humble and listen deeply. We trust Spirit-led Quaker process as we face emerging issues in the coming year.
2013 was a year marked by growth out of pain. Our community struggled with a traumatic event early in the year. This brought the Meeting together in a shared awareness of how we really care for one another. The bewilderment and the range of responses forced us to deepen spiritually, and re-build security in the community. In this way Meeting opened itself to being transformed. We sensed a deep and broad knowledge that should we develop a grave need, the Meeting would be there for us and hold us in the Light. There has been an awakening of sorts, a freshness and renewed energy. Our vocal ministry has been rich, and yet not overpowering. We found our spiritual state to be strong, deep and nurturing.
Our ongoing practice of holding business meeting during 11:00 a.m. Meeting for Worship continues to nourish us. Friends’ attentiveness to Spirit as part of our business process provides powerful witness to other Meetings. And there seems to be increased harmony in our coming to unity on actions and minutes. We do not try to rush the Spirit. We are learning to be balanced and engaged. We are patient, but we also know when it is time to act.
Messages in Meeting for Worship have been seasoned by individuals and committees and the Meeting community has responded in a focused, tender and caring manner. Adult spiritual education, the Spiritual Formation Program, and regular retreats, including our first men’s retreat, continue to be a source of rich spiritual flourishing. After deep listening and discernment in Meeting for Worship, these leadings, messages and inquiries have led to broader themes and further investigation. These programs and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business have given newcomers and attenders a new point of access to the community.
We are prospering. Numbers of those attending Meeting, educational events, and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business continue to increase, and we are also challenged to be more welcoming to new people in Meetings for Worship. Our committee system works well. Friends speak to their Quaker spiritual life having deepened through the work they do on committees. As embodied spirits, we also appreciate the tangibles provided by the community of caretakers – oiling the benches, hospitality, tending of the garden outside, the library, etc.
We are encouraged that we have many children participating in the life of our Meeting, and we yearn for more Young Friends to be present in Meeting for Worship. We value our children and the vibrancy they bring to our Meeting and we need to continue to find ways to invite youth into the life of the Meeting.
Some of us wonder how we can better live in the world as Quakers. How do we better integrate our social action and spiritual witness? What does it mean to be likeminded? There are signs that we are becoming more open to a diversity of theological perspectives. Messages in Meeting for Worship have changed as Friends become more comfortable in using the language of spirituality. But are we inclusive and respectful to those with different political values, both within and outside our community? Should we be more visible as Quakers in the world? Do we have the courage to wear it on the outside? Can we live the Quaker Way of speaking truth to power – speaking truth in love? There is a calling for greater visibility amongst our Meeting. Finally, as we come closer to discerning our marriage equity minute, five couples previously married under the care of our Meeting, but not legally married in the Commonwealth of Virginia, had legal civil marriages outside the state this year.
In 2012, we felt grounded here at Richmond Friends Meeting (RFM) where our spiritual state is rich in wisdom, love, depth, ministries and kindness. Meeting for Worship is the bedrock upon which our spiritual life can continue to flourish and thrive.
Several people expressed the active and transformative nature of their spirituality in their work lives and other environments outside Meeting. We are thankful for the broad participation in the life of the meeting, from Spiritual Formation groups to forums, committee work and reaching outward. Spiritual lives are so private; the diversity of our beliefs may not have a common language, but there have been openings to discuss the differences in this area during the year.
We feel the tension between enjoying the friendships, loving kindness and comfort of our Meeting and yearning for a more diverse Meeting community. We have a concern for those at the edge of our community and are challenged to express our care without being intrusive. Recognizing the limitations of how deeply we can reach out to people is difficult. Spiritual support may be the best and most powerful thing that we can offer.
The demography of our Meeting continues to change and we look for ways to bring the generations together and cherish the spirit in both young and old alike.
Corporate financial stewardship has been an area of challenge and growth within the life of the meeting. The meeting has experienced the challenge of thinking with business heads and also trusting that the spirit will provide. Do we trust that the gift of spirit is enough when we are faced with worldly decisions and distracted by the practical things that might be done? We are grateful for the committee work that continues to educate and enlighten our community in the face of myriad concerns and problems in the greater world.
Committee work continues to be one of the best places to learn and live Quakerism. We are challenged to take on a new committee, one that may be our least likely choice, as a way to grow. Our tradition of rotating committee clerks and clerks of meeting allows for both the rest of retiring clerks and growth of new ones. In 2012, we noted that we have been holding business meeting at 11 am on third First Days for 10 years now. We are grateful for the many voices and thoughts now in business meeting due to that change.
An ongoing concern is RFM and our participation in the legal aspect of marriage. Meeting-wide, we have been looking deeply into whether to separate the spiritual union from the legal one. The educational meetings, Listening Circle and discussions on this concern have engaged and moved the thoughts of many.
We continue to face issues in a tender way as we address them.
Guided by queries from Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM), we examined how the spirit prospered amongst us in 2011, what we do to support and nurture the spirit, and how it is manifest individually and corporately in us. We looked deeply at the challenges the Meeting has faced in the past year and what we most seek as a Meeting.
One friend observed, “Way seems to always open,” and that indeed has been a result of following Quaker process through some complicated and challenging committee work. We have tremendous gratitude for the work done and have had many joys in it throughout the year.
We are a Meeting that continues to benefit from turnover in committee members and position assignments. The regular reconfiguration of personnel ensures that new perspectives are seen and appreciated. We feel particularly blessed to have been well Clerked in recent years with the result that we corporately trust in good results from Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business and beyond. Having Meeting for Business at our regular Meeting for Worship time continues to ensure that the process is spirit led and engages the whole of the Meeting community.
Our interest over the past several years in deepening the spiritual life of the Meeting has resulted this year in the formation of our Adult Spiritual Education Committee. That committee’s programs have enriched us greatly. We are similarly expanded by the willingness of individuals who have participated in programs elsewhere to share their experiences with Meeting.
Ongoing and newly innovated activities, such as singing before 1st and 3rd First day, the Children’s Candlelight Christmas, parent meetings and programs, and involvement in BYM camping programs help to nurture the spirit among all the generations at Meeting.
We have a desire and a need to find balance in Meeting for Worship by bringing the fruits of programs into the inner life of our unprogrammed Meeting. We labor to foster diversity and honor social issues while at the same time being careful to leave time and room for deep reflection, centering, and the Gathered Meeting.
We are particularly mindful of the spiritual experience for our children and young people. We endeavor to have our children, Young Friends, attenders and adult members be part of the same Meeting whole, to know and nurture one another. We strive to maintain balance between programs intended to meet this need and maintaining an unprogrammed Meeting.
We are aware that even as we search for people to fill out committees and positions, that we must manage these resources wisely. We want to ensure that committee work nurtures and supports both Meeting for Worship and the individual, and that there is less burn-out and more satisfaction. In harmony with the testimony of simplicity we acknowledge that “more can be less”. In other words, more busyness can lead to less centeredness.
Meeting for Worship is the heart of all we do and hope to do. As one Friend put it, “[Meeting for] Worship is the place we are renewed and gain strength to be ourselves in the world.”