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Williamsburg Friends Meeting Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports

The text of recently received Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.

2011 Report 2012 Report 2013 Report 2014 Report 2015 Report
2016 Report 2017 Report 2018 Report 2019 Report  

2019 Spiritual State of Williamsburg Friends Meeting Report

Listening with the heart is its own peace ministry.

The Williamsburg Friends Meeting is approaching the end of its third year at our new Meeting House located on the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist (WUU) campus. The excitement and optimism are still present, but we have slowly begun to reach a new normal. We still feel that only good things are coming, and being more rooted has provided us a wider reach, both in hospitality and social action. We have begun to engage in shared community, enabling us to put our faith into even more action.

Although our Meeting House is collocated with a much larger organization with similar, but distinctly different core beliefs, we have maintained our commitment from 3 years ago to know ourselves for what we really are, and to maintain our search for what is true. Daily we are challenged to see things clearly, both personally and collectively.

We have been stretched spiritually—and in other ways. Our course of action has necessitated people stepping up for new duties, and we have been more careful with our process. In short, it has made us grow up. We are aware that to survive and thrive we must do more than we have been doing. We need to grow in our sense of trust and consensus. We need to discern when we all need to approve something as a group, and when we can trust each other to do what needs to be done. We are aware, social action without spiritual foundation is empty, and a spiritual life unconnected with social action is unfruitful. We are comfortable in the fact that our current process is teaching us each and every day.

As always with our small Meeting, strength and fragility are co-existing. Our move has strengthened the commitment of many, and brought out excitement that was stalled or latent in previous years. Still, we depend on a very few people. With discernment and logistics, we are chopping the wood and carrying the water. We have moved away from the ongoing administrative discussions focused on moving into the new Meeting House. We have hung a new sign, placed announcements in the local paper, and updated our website. Much of our second hours have been focused on outreach, or providing topics that may intrigue others to attend, but our Meetings are normally frequented only by members and regular attenders. This allows us to get back to the basics in a wonderful and fruitful way, but also highlights our ongoing human desire to grow the Meeting.

In previous year's SSOMs, we noted an image of our Meeting being a fraying cloth or one under tension; however, these feelings seem to have dwindled over the past two or three years as our Meeting becomes more settled in its new space.

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?

Our Meeting is large enough to have robust and healthy vocal ministry, while small enough to provide a sense of intimacy and community. We are openminded enough to consume the ideas of others—sometimes openhearted enough to be inspired. Our closely-knit Meeting continues to provide a safe, secure, and quiet stillness in the midst of the modern American experience. Although built around our Meeting for Worship, gatherings such as second hours, QuakerSpeaks videos, spiritual reading group, potlucks, and social events also affirm our Meeting’s life. These have been opened to, and are frequented by, members, attenders, and visitors alike.

The Meeting is in a growth spurt—both spiritually and with the arrival of new people. There is a deeper sense of gathering, partially in response to social and political turmoil—both fancied and real. Having a space of our own means a lot. One returning Friend has strong positive feelings about having a home where our sign is always hung, and a space where the chairs are always out.

Newcomers and old-timers alike feel the spiritual depth of the Meeting. There is comfort in knowing that the Meeting is grounded in the Spirit, and that although not a staple in our vocal ministry, traditional church language is welcome. There is a warm and rich fellowship among us. Visiting Friends feel comfortable - often sensing the connection between us.

We nurture ministries of other kinds and affirm one another's gifts. One clear example is our support of one member’s chaplaincy with a local fire and police departments. In addition, Friends have had the opportunity to introduce some well-received Quaker practices at gatherings of the Historic Area Religions Together (HART), the multi-faith clergy fellowship in Williamsburg. There’s a clear sense that the Meeting would be equally supportive of others sharing their gifts with the community.

What paralyzes us or prevents us from answering our call? What fears do we experience? Which fears drive us and which fears create obstacles?

The sense of emotional and communal support in Meeting provides an atmosphere of faith…faith that everything will be okay…faith in one another…and faith in the world as a whole. Being heart-centered in conflict might be what we need to grow through fear. Perhaps our biggest fear is a loss of faith in humanity. A line from Indigo Girls says No one can convince me that we are not gluttons for our doom; but, in Meeting this fear seems unfounded. It was a call to faith when we chose to move to our Meeting House; however, our then, ever-present financial insecurity has been unrealized. This speaks to our willingness to be prudent, while not being paralyzed.

We continue to support Norfolk worship group with ongoing contact and occasional visits. When possible, Norfolk Friends join us for worship and business meeting. They remain a small, dedicated group under our care.

What paralyzes us or prevents us from answering our call. What gets in the way is self-centeredness. If I’m truly focusing on peace or love, I move forward. Otherwise I stand still.

Our spirits are larger than our energy. This self-perceived conundrum provides a sense of urgency—while holding our Meeting to the timeline of the Spirit. Our small size allows us to dispense with the inconsequential and address that which is eternal. Although the small size of our Meeting is an ongoing concern, it allows us to grow together and to find common ground with ease.

Our lack of disposable income forces us to make challenging choices about how to allocate our resources while keeping our door always open. Although not financially able at this time, we would very much like to return to providing our full apportionment to Yearly Meeting. We would like to provide consistent childcare without Members sacrificing Meeting time. We would like to fund a camper…and make donations to our favorite Quaker organizations. We have become resolved to make first things first…as the definitions of wants verses needs has been clarified by our ongoing financial responsibilities.

Do we have the courage to create space for our human fallibility and vulnerability? In what do we find that kind of courage?

We try to create space for our human fallibility and vulnerability. We benefit from those things we do together—breaking bread together, talking together, working together, and getting to know one another. These provide real value, helping to foster a stronger community. Not unlike the kitchen at Friend’s camp—it’s an ongoing dance of leading, following, and figuring out other people’s sense of timing. It would be nice to have more of this amongst us.

Many among us would like our Meeting to have a stronger sense of community. Some Friends haven’t done well with being vulnerable, and some Friends have left. Quakers are famously conflict-avoidant, but we need to do better in using our struggles productively. We have to pay attention to each other in order to work together. We need to strive to better sort through our human differences.

We can over commit - and are often surprised when turns of fate are contrary to our initial leadings and actions. We surely benefit when we take the time to sit in silence before acting. We are, in many ways, a function of our busy lives…struggling with our own temporal cumber…wanting to be more connected…and more intimate in the age of social networking.

These concerns are present, but not primary.

We are doing okay.


2018 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report

No report received.


2017 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report

We gather around the kitchen island passing a multitude of snacks and sharing the joys, concerns, and questions of our lives. We gather in silence in our worship space, together holding a space for the Divine. Both experiences resonate more deeply now for our Meeting because they come with the spirit of being at home.

Moving into our first Meeting House has greatly shaped our spiritual state over the past year. Rarely do Friends gather in our Meeting House without an expression of gratitude for where we are. We assemble with intention for weekly worship and our spiritual reading group, and individual Friends also find themselves drawn there during the week as a place of respite and restoration. We are home.

The discernment and logistics of our move brought energy and exhaustion to our Meeting, both of which are still felt. Our new home brings opportunities for creative expression, connection, and possibilities. But it also brings a need for more collective decisions, logistics and chores, and more opportunities to discover the limits of our size and capacity. We continue to grapple with dreams of growth alongside the realities of time and energy available to us. We echo our previous reports to say that the Meeting’s momentum and care can be heavy on the shoulders of our small Meeting.

While we have been glad to welcome new visitors and a few new semi-regular attenders, our Meeting attendance has not expanded as we had hoped, and outreach efforts have been stymied by logistics and ability. At times in our new larger space it can feel as if there is more distance between Friends, and we are paying attention to how to nurture our existing community while committing to expanding.

Within our group the still small voice remains present. The depth of our Meeting’s worship is an important touchstone for many, including one-time visitors. We continue to seek divine guidance in our lives, in particular remaining open to leadings on how to respond to the challenges of today’s world. Friends often express that Meeting is a place for them to seek respite and reenergize themselves in the work of peace. We also acknowledge our interdependency and have been present to each other spiritually and practically in times of need.

Our new much-loved Meeting House has allowed us to imagine, as we have never before, an even larger presence in our community and to rejoice in our current fellowship. We struggle, however, with the capacity to fulfill our leadings which is disheartening for many Friends. In the face of this challenge, one Friend’s message from years ago is an important reminder to us: This is not our Meeting. It is God’s Meeting.


2016 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report

The Williamsburg Friends Meeting has embarked on a process to lease a meetinghouse located on the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist (WUU) campus. The excitement and optimism about our move colors the responses to all the questions.

In the last six months of 2016, the question of whether to lease a meetinghouse has pushed us to reflect deeply on who we are, how we are, and how we want to be. We feel that only good things are coming, and being more rooted will provide us a wider reach, both in hospitality and social action. We hope to engage in shared community and projects with the WUUs, enabling us to put our faith into even more action.

We are aware that with this move our Meeting will be in the shadow of a much larger organization with similar values but distinctly different core beliefs. We are committed to know ourselves for what we really are, and to maintain our search for what is true. Daily we are challenged to see things clearly, both personally and collectively.

We are being stretched spiritually - and in other ways. This course of action has necessitated people stepping up for new duties, and we have been more careful with our process. In short, it has made us grow. We are aware that to survive and thrive we must do more than we have been doing. We need to grow in our sense of trust and consensus. We need to discern when we all need to approve something as a group, and when we can trust each other to do what needs to be done. We are aware, social action without spiritual foundation is empty, and a spiritual life unconnected with social action is unfruitful. Perhaps other meetings can tell us how they manage the longstanding Quaker practice of balancing busyness with quietness. Perhaps the process will teach us.

Strength and fragility are co-existing. Our decision to move has strengthened the commitment of many and brought out excitement that was stalled or latent. But we depend on a very few people. Having even one active person called away by personal or family crisis creates a hole that others must fill. Still we move forward. Either we have put Spirit to work, or Spirit has put us to work. With discernment and logistics, we are doing the work to get us there; but we have spent less time just being present to Spirit, less time to just await Spirit. Discussion of the move has taken up many second hours. We look forward to returning to topics more like those we have enjoyed in the past.

In last year's SSOM, we noted an image of a fraying cloth. This year it feels like the cloth is not fraying, but is being pulled in multiple directions. It is knit together, but with tension.

What are your greatest joys as a Meeting? What leadings does your Meeting feel most strongly? What challenges and troubles are you facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than you might wish it to be?

Our greatest joys come in our being together and knowing each other in that which is eternal. Our closely-knit Meeting acts as guiding lifeline in a storm - the eye of the hurricane providing a safe, secure, and quiet stillness in the midst of the modern American experience. Although built around our Meeting for Worship, gatherings such as second hour, Spiritual Formation Group, potlucks, and social events also affirm our Meeting’s life. Many feel that Meeting is one of the most important things in their lives.

Our main challenges stem from the smallness of our Meeting and fluctuating attendance. The small size promotes intimacy, but it means that a few people shoulder many jobs and can dampen our enthusiasm for gathering. Our ability to perform outreach, systematically attend to newcomers, and provide spiritual support is hampered by our physical and material limitations. As with a tandem bicycle, we hope that WFM and WUUs will draft on each other's energy at times, while swapping out the lead.

How does your Meeting nurture the spiritual life of members and attenders? How deep are your Meetings for Worship? Are Meetings for Business held in a spirit of worship?

Our Meeting nurtures the spiritual life of members and attenders by aspiring to listen deeply to each other, to actively welcome all, and to attend in joy and faith to the Inward Teacher. Our Meeting ensures that ministry is nurtured by maintaining a core community of Friends, reaching out to those in need, and providing opportunities for fellowship and meaningful vocal ministry. The Meeting has met the spiritual needs of our most recent newcomers - with both silence and vocal ministry. Although the children who attend feel very much at home here, we are missing an outreach and the facilities to truly provide for the children's needs. We know this keeps families from joining us.

Meeting for Worship is deep, and the quality of silence makes clear that all are contributing. Our vocal ministry is heartfelt and sincere. We share an attitude of respect and honesty that allows us to speak in love, while reflecting a willingness to be vulnerable. We feel comfortable bringing our struggles into the Light.

Meetings for Business are held in a spirit of worship. Although they are focused on the business of the Meeting and the activities of the committees, the Meeting for Business contains a lightness and sense of ease most of the time.

Is your Meeting as diverse as you would like it to be? How well do you attend to the needs of newcomers? Do Friends of all ages feel fully a part of the Meeting community?

Our Meeting is not as diverse as we would like to be, although Friends of all ages, races, and genders feel a part of our Meeting community. This is true both in the Meeting itself and during Spiritual Formation Groups. Members and attenders are predominately white, with appreciably more women than men in attendance. Our attendance reflects the entire age spectrum from children to seniors. We are welcoming to members of the LGBT community. Several members express a desire for more outreach; however, natural attraction of new attenders continues to be the mainstay. Newcomers tend to be new to Quakerism and need additional nurturing.

Do you engage with other Meetings through visitation or shared projects? What message would you like to share with others in Baltimore Yearly Meeting and with Friends around the world?

We engage with other Meetings through visitation and occasional attendance at Quaker events, and we enjoy monthly visits from members of the Norfolk Preparatory Meeting. We have enjoyed social events with Mattaponi Meeting in previous years; however, none in 2016. Having our own space will enable us to host gatherings with Mattaponi and Norfolk in ways we have not been able to. A few members of our group cross-pollinate with the broader Quaker community while participating at other Quaker events such as Baltimore Yearly Meeting, the women's retreat, and Quaker camps.

At this time, the Williamsburg Friends are not led to share a specific message with others in BYM and Friends around the world. Some wish more WFM members and attenders went to BYM annual sessions and other activities as they are a way to make one’s circle of spiritual connections both wider and deeper.

How do you put your faith into action for justice in the world? Are you aware of the encouragement of the Working Group on Racism within our Yearly Meeting? How has that awareness shaped your work for justice?

As a group, we have supported food drives, prepared meals for a local women's shelter and Habitat for Humanity, and have written occasional letters to the editor. Our meeting cosponsored a bus to the Woman's March on Washington. We facilitated the transport of 55 individuals to and from the event to help promote community, equality, and integrity.

The true and overwhelming presence of the Spirit and social justice is manifested in our individual lives as love, clarity of thought, and a desire to be of service. Friends carry the strength from Meeting into their weeks. It guides them in their meaningful work, nourishes them as they serve others, and leads them to peace in situations of conflict and difficulty. Most individuals within our group have selected career paths, and frequently engage in volunteer opportunities, that exemplify the Quaker value of social justice. The desire to be of service to others is a core leading for most of us, and is reflected in our daily lives.

A few members are aware of the encouragement of the Working Group on Racism within our Yearly Meeting, but this awareness has had little if any influence on our work for justice. We have been swamped with other endeavors.

Has your Meeting made any witness to your community or the wider world as a result of the recent Presidential elections?

Many members and attenders have a desire for more witness to the world, and many have a desire to set political activism aside on Sunday morning.

We strive to respect the decisions of other people that may differ from ours and to see the people underneath the politics. We need to look deeply at who we are, not jumping on any bandwagon. Outside issues have been drained of any transcendence, and we feel our Quaker value for listening is needed most in the world now. We feel providing social witness on racism, democracy, and the environment is a close second to listening. Several members and attenders have actively taken to building bridges and publicly testifying as led by and in conjunction with their deep Quaker beliefs. Since the election, it seems more important for us to find what our call is, not only in the public dialogue, but also in service. We have understandably been caught up in the practicalities of our impending move, but once we are in the new space, we hope to explore these other sides of ourselves.


2015 Report

What are your greatest joys as a Meeting? What leadings does your Meeting feel most strongly? What challenges and troubles are you facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than you might wish it to be?

Our greatest joys as a Meeting include the sense of community, the love, and support, and intimacy of our group. Our closely-knit Meeting acts as a guiding lifeline in a storm - the eye of the hurricane providing a safe, secure, and quiet stillness in the midst of the modern American experience. Although built around our Meeting for Worship, gatherings such as potlucks and social events also affirm our Meeting’s life. Many feel that Meeting is one of the most important things in their lives.

The Williamsburg Friends are large in spirit, which is expressed in both our group and individual leadings. As a group, we have supported food drives, prepared meals for a local women's shelter and Habitat for Humanity, and have written occasional letters to the editor. However, the true and overwhelming presence of the Spirit is manifested in our individual lives as love, clarity of thought, and a desire to be of service. Friends carry the strength from Meeting into their weeks. It guides them in their meaningful work, nourishes them as they serve others, and leads them to peace in situations of conflict and difficulty. The majority of individuals within our group have selected career paths, and frequently engage in volunteer opportunities, that exemplify Quaker values. The desire to be of service to others is a core leading for most of us, and is reflected in our daily lives.

Our main challenges stem from the smallness of our Meeting and fluctuating attendance. The small size promotes intimacy, but it means that a few people shoulder many jobs and can dampen our enthusiasm for gathering. Our ability to perform outreach, systematically attend to newcomers, and provide spiritual support is limited by our physical and material limitations. At times we do not meet our budget, and this is a concern.

Countering the pluses of our small, close community, some feel that currently the Meeting is a small and fraying piece of fabric; each thread is loved, but the sense of unity seems thin. The fatigue of Meeting is, at times, palpable. The Meeting has lost several key members in the last couple of years, and some remaining members attend out of loyalty while sensing Meeting as a whole is somewhat lacking.

How does your Meeting nurture the spiritual life of members and attenders? How deep are your Meetings for Worship? Are Meetings for Business held in a spirit of worship?

Our Meeting nurtures the spiritual life of members and attenders by aspiring to listen deeply to each other, to actively welcome all, and to attend in joy and faith to the Inward Teacher. Our Meeting ensures that ministry is nurtured by maintaining a core community of Friends, reaching out to those in need, and providing opportunities for fellowship and meaningful vocal ministry.

Meeting for Worship is deep, and the quality of silence makes clear that all are contributing. Our vocal ministry is heartfelt and sincere. We share an attitude of respect and honesty that allows us to speak in love, while reflecting a willingness to be vulnerable. We feel comfortable bringing our struggles into the Light.

Social time is a vital part of our life of worship. Spiritual Formation Group, second hours, potluck, and teatime are important for us as we connect as a community. These provide a chance to build community, and to listen deeply, learn from each other, and grow spiritually.

Meetings for Business are held in a spirit of worship. Although they are focused on the business of the Meeting and the activities of the committees, the Meeting for Business contains a lightness and sense of ease most of the time.

Is your Meeting as diverse as you would like it to be? How well do you attend to the needs of newcomers? Do Friends of all ages feel fully a part of the Meeting community?

Friends of all ages, races, and genders feel a part of our Meeting community. This has been seen both in the Meeting itself and during Spiritual Formation Groups. Members and attenders are predominately white with appreciably more women than men in attendance. Our attendance reflects the entire age spectrum from infants to seniors. We are welcoming to members of the LGBT community. Several members express a desire for more outreach; however, natural attraction of new attenders continues to be the mainstay. Newcomers tend to be new to Quakerism, not seasoned Friends. We are aware that we need to help them understand Quaker faith and practice.

Do you engage with other Meetings through visitation or shared projects? What message would you like to share with others in Baltimore Yearly Meeting and with Friends around the world?

We engage with other meetings through visitation and occasional attendance at Quaker events, and we enjoy monthly visits from members of the Norfolk Preparative Meeting. We have enjoyed our occasional social events with the newly established Mattaponi Meeting. Members of our group cross-pollinate with the broader Quaker community while participating at other Quaker events such as annual session, the women's retreat, and Quaker camps.

At this time, the Williamsburg Friends are not led to share a specific message with others in BYM and Friends around the world, but we are requesting help from BYM in finding ways to increase our attendance.


2014 Report

Our meeting is complete. As with one definition of Shalom, it has nothing missing, nothing broken, and nothing lost. When entering the Williamsburg meeting, you can lay down every burden and focus on the spiritual life at hand. The quality of silence makes clear that all are contributing. Our vocal ministry, though spare, is heartfelt and sincere. We share an attitude of respect and honesty that allows us to speak in love, while reflecting a willingness to be vulnerable. We do not engage in chitchat or manufacture things to say. We feel comfortable bringing our struggles into the Light; a number of friends have utilized the process of clearness committees for discernment and guidance.

Our small size allows us to dispense with the inconsequential and address that which is eternal. The group is family-like and there is a real sense of nurturing wherein each individual is valued and made to feel special. Although the small size of our meeting is an ongoing concern, it allows us to grow together and to find common ground with ease. We are considering how best to conduct outreach, as we recognize we would benefit from a greater breadth of experience and ethnicities. Over time, the ratio of members to attenders, women to men, and the average age at the meeting have all shifted downward.

The belonging felt in the meeting allows us to reflect on how we fit in a larger world. We flex our spiritual muscles to help us to find our way - often being led to change and to grow. Individually, many of our career paths reflect Quaker values, and it is gratifying to know that as we each go out to do our work, we have the support of others. As a group, we participate in events which support the community, such as food drives, preparing meals for a women's shelter, and potlucks. We appreciate these opportunities to be of service, while sharing with each other and the larger community.

Our meeting is becoming more of the beacon that many of us wished it could be. Through food drives, donations to shelters, and letters to the editor, we feel our light is slightly brighter than in the past. We intentionally try to keep our public testimony and social actions spiritual rather than political. We feel our connection to the community at large must demonstrate our determination to do God’s will. There is no lack of interest in what we do and how we live our faith. While talking about Quakerism to others, we find excitement, interest, and humor. Some of us speak about our experiences on clearness committees, while others field questions about long dresses and horse drawn buggies.

We have an active Spiritual Formation Group which follows the spirit of the BYM guidelines. These gatherings lead to intimacy and intellectual stimulation among both members and attenders. Our second hour and youth programs lead to deeper sharing, sometimes hard to find in our culture. Our younger attenders are grateful for the opportunity to participate in Quaker camps, Young Friends, and second hours. We feel their shared experiences and thoughts bode well for our future.

Some individuals have taken leadership positions out of a sense of obligation, and sometimes out of concern that no one else will. We are beginning to trust that when a position opens up, someone will step forward to fill the vacuum. Questions have arisen regarding the amount of "encouragement" to give an attender to become a member. A concern for attenders is whether to become a member simply to be eligible to fill key positions. Alternately, a concern for members is whether to allow non-members to fill key positions. We are planning to set aside a time as a meeting to examine the role of membership in our lives.

We have gained insight from our limited interactions with other meetings, and found many of our issues and outlooks the same. Our Ministry and Oversight Committee has reached out to BYM, and we feel we can access their corporate wisdom and insight, when needed. We have used information at BYM’s and other meeting’s websites for research when developing letters to local newspapers. We are especially grateful for the assistance we received from the BYM office and other meetings as we developed our youth safety policy. We have good relationships with Mattaponi and the Norfolk Preparative meeting. Our website development committee has reached out to BYM and in turn has helped Norfolk Preparative to develop their website. Our meeting has enjoyed the experiences of reaching out to others, seeking and sharing what we have found.


2013 Report

Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s vision statement says:

“We aspire to listen deeply and inclusively to each other, to actively welcome all, and to attend in joy and faith to the Inward Teacher, whom some call Light, some call Spirit, and some call Christ.”

This quote describes the soul of Williamsburg Friends Meeting. Our Meeting is a small community with deep care for each other. We do “listen deeply and inclusively to each other,” embracing a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints. Friends pay attention to each other’s needs and seek to accompany each other through troubles, ministering actively to each other’s needs whenever we can. We bear witness to and draw out the Light within each other.

We are also a welcoming Meeting. We have both temporary visitors (who are visiting Colonial Williamsburg) and newcomers who become regular attenders. As a small Meeting, we are always eager to see new faces, but more than that, we strive to have a welcoming spirit. Newcomers feel welcomed and accepted, sometimes in ways that they haven’t experienced anywhere else.

We rejoice to seek the Light together, and this attending to the Light has become an anchor in the lives of our members and attenders. Friends feel that they carry the strength they receive from Meeting into their weeks. It guides them in their meaningful work, nourishes them as they serve others, and strengthens them and leads them to peace in situations of conflict and difficulty.

Our spiritual formation groups are a significant factor in nurturing the life of the Spirit among us. We have an unusually high participation rate in our spiritual formation program. We meet as a large group once a month to prayerfully discuss spiritual reading, and we meet as smaller groups to provide encouragement to each other in our spiritual journeys and disciplines. These meetings draw us closer as a community and spur us on in our spiritual lives. Our larger group, in which we discuss spiritual reading, also helps nurture us as a fellowship of people with different concepts of God, as we choose books that come from a variety of traditions.

We also consider social time to be a vital part of our life of worship. Tea time after Meeting for Worship is important for us as we connect as a community. Our Second Hour discussions provide a chance to listen deeply to each other, to learn from each other, and to grow spiritually. We also nourish our connection with each other through frequent pot lucks. We are seeking to find ways to volunteer together as a community, both as a way of being of service and as a way of deepening our relationships with each other.

Our Meeting is pursuing two main areas of growth. The first is increasing participation in the leadership tasks of Meeting. As a small Meeting, we have historically had a few people shouldering most of the responsibility. In the last year, we have expanded the base of people taking on responsibilities. This has been successful, but it will be an ongoing need.

The second area of growth our Meeting is seeking is in our social witness. Friends have a strong social consciousness lived out in their individual lives, but we have not had much social activity as a community. Our Peace and Social Concerns committee has been addressing our heartfelt desire to do more as a Meeting, though with an extremely limited budget. The committee has taken on a letter writing campaign, sending letters to the editors of local newspapers on issues that Meeting cares about. The committee has also been letting Friends know about volunteer opportunities in the community, and has been seeking to find projects we can work on together. We also fed our desire to grow in our social witness by having a retreat on privilege led by Pat Schenck. We hope to continue to increase our group involvement in social justice as time goes on.

Williamsburg Friends Meeting looks forward to a coming year in which we continue to be a place where we seek the Light together, where both new and seasoned Friends can share openly, confidently, and safely, where we grow in sharing responsibility and in social witness, and where we serve as a spiritual anchor for Friends’ daily lives.


2012 Report

How does the Spirit prosper among us? How is the presence of Spirit manifested in our lives individually and as a Meeting community?

The Spirit prospers and ministry is nurtured in our Meeting through grace and intimacy rather than program. Deep, caring relationship is the bedrock of our community. We respect, admire, and love each other. Meeting is a place that gives permission for authenticity, to share both joys and sorrows with honesty. Our spiritual formation groups, which many of our members and attenders participate in, are an integral part of this. In Meeting, members and attenders feel cared for as each person’s voice is heard and taken into account. Through the richness and presence of each person, from children to adults, we are aware that the intangible, invisible Spirit dwells among us.

What challenges or troubles are you facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than you would wish it to be?

Our main challenges stem from the smallness of our Meeting. The small size promotes intimacy, but it means that a few people shoulder many jobs. It also means that our social justice witness has been smaller than some Friends would wish it to be. Our community has recently felt led to put more focus on this aspect of our witness through a retreat and second-hour discussion.

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

One Friend shared a beautiful analogy of compassion being like candles on a birthday cake. One candle is compassion for self. Others are compassion for friends and family. Others are the flame of compassion for those who are different from us, and even for the violent and for those who cause pain. As we nurture compassion in our Meeting, we hold a match to more and more of those candles, challenging one another and ourselves to extend our compassion and love to difficult arenas.

Friends have found that the peace that we nurture in Meeting has followed them into many difficult situations. The presidential election this year and the violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, with the ensuing debate about firearms, have given rise to many opportunities to practice peace in tense conversations. Friends have found that Meeting guides them in being able to see the real person underneath inflammatory opinions and to answer questions more fully and lovingly.

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?

As Quakers, we are connected through our value for living an honest life and connecting with the Light in ourselves and others. This honesty of testimony takes precedence over any dogma or beliefs, creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to those with different concepts of God.

While members and attenders from various religious backgrounds have found a comfortable and nurturing place in our Meeting, those who have had non-religious upbringings have in particular found that this Meeting is a space that has nurtured growing into faith. Friends are patient and welcoming of questioning and process, not demanding a certain outcome. Faith and Practice has also been a help to newcomers in understanding the Meeting.

We are all seekers, and we are all developing in our beliefs. Because of this, our Meeting is a place where travelers anywhere on the journey can join in the seeking.


2011 Report

Spiritual State of the Meeting, 2011

How does the Spirit prosper among us? What supports the growth of the Spirit in our lives? How is the presence of the Spirit manifested in our lives individually and as a Meeting community?
We see the work of the Spirit as we observe the ways Spirit has woven together the vibrant spirituality of our individual attenders into meaningful corporate worship and into the larger community of Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

Our community is full of individuals living out their faith in many ways. Individuals have various spiritual disciplines and practices that enable them to bring spiritual depth into both silence and vocal ministry during worship. Attenders also live out the testimonies of peace, love, and social justice in many ways through their individual work, volunteer opportunities, and relationships. This brings a living testimony to our community even when we don’t have many corporate ministry events.

As a community, we experience Spirit through strong connection with each other, ready pastoral care, and a willingness to adapt to and serve those with needs. We have accompanied each other through illness, death, emotional needs, spiritual storms, and physical difficulties.

In Meeting, we have seen the Spirit prosper through several of our programs as well. Our Spiritual Formation Group and its small accountability groups constitute a strong core to our community, both spiritually and socially. First Day School has seen more children join and more adults get involved in teaching them. One of the highlights of the year was when the children presented a lesson to the adults called “Dare to Be Different.” They gave encouraging affirmations to each of the adult members. Adult second-hour has been a source of encouragement as well, focusing on Quaker faith and practice. We were enriched by two workshops this year—a joint workshop with Mattaponi Preparative on chanting, led by Elizabeth Krome, and another on Centering Prayer (a big thank you to Betsy Meyer!).

The Spirit has woven us into the larger BYM community as well. As individuals participate in various events, they bring much encouragement back to our meeting. Some of the most meaningful experiences have been through the Women’s Retreat, Shiloh Quaker Camp, and the Junior Young Friends Conferences.

How do we as a meeting appear to ourselves and others and how do we wish to be?
We see ourselves like a monastery along a pilgrimage path. The monastery is home for those who live there, and for pilgrims it is a place of welcome, hospitality, refuge, and insight. Our members and regular attenders agree: our meeting is indeed “home”—a safe place, a place of refuge and refreshment from our work and outside ministry. New attenders and visitors seem to experience our meeting as a watering hole along their pilgrimage path.

As is the case with many monasteries, people find us only if they know where to look. As a meeting, we are somewhat hidden from outsiders. Some attenders noted hurdles to overcome in visiting Meeting for the first time. We want to have an open door to visitors and outsiders, so we are discussing how we can make our virtual doorway more accessible. Attenders were quick to point out that though coming the first time was difficult, they have found warmth, open-hearted welcome, and beauty in Meeting.

As a small Meeting, we function more as an organism than an organization. This has many positives, including strong pastoral care and a personal, relational feel to all that we do. However, a few people carry much of the workload, and those people sometimes feel weary and burnt-out. We would better express the community heart of Quakerism by spreading the load more widely. We would like to have more attenders involved in tasks like leading second hour, representing our meeting to the Virginia Interfaith Council, and attending more BYM events.

How have we recognized and addressed [or failed to address] issues that have caused difficulties among us?
As a group, we feel grateful for the peace and unity that tends to pervade our Meeting. Our biggest challenge this year was the receipt of hate mail directed to us as a gay-friendly place of worship. Friends thoughtfully considered our response, affirming our position as opening arms and hearts to all, regardless of sexual orientation. In accordance with advice from others, we reported the hate mail to the FBI and have closed the matter.

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