Shepherdstown Friends Meeting Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports
The text of recently received Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
|2011 Report||2012 Report||2013 Report||2014 Report||2015 Report|
|2016 Report||2017 Report||2018 Report||2019 Report||2020 Report|
Shepherdstown continues to use Zoom as its chief form for meetings and sharing. After silent meeting every Sunday, we take time to share our personal experiences and share our communal interests, both locally and nationally. About 15-20 attend weekly.
The Presidential election, with its January 6th aftermath, has affected us all. The uncertainty of the election’s outcome and the unprecedented behavior(s) of the 45th President, in and out of office, as well as the 2nd Impeachment trial, has affected some more than others, and, at the very least, has left us with profound feelings and concerns about the fragility of our Democracy and our individual and collective responsibilities to ourselves and our community.
As a meeting, we decided many months ago to focus on the matter of racial justice and white supremacy, and how that influences us individually and collectively, and we worked through the Peace and Social Justice Committee to come to agreement as to what activities we might do to become more sensitive as we move this conversation forward.
Perhaps because our forays into the community are currently curtailed by the pandemic, we decided to start a book club, which meets every other Saturday, at 3pm on Zoom. Our first book is My Grandmother’s Hands, Racialized Trauma and the Pathways to Mending our Hearts and Bodies, written by Resmaa Menakem, a narrative which explains that trauma occurs primarily in the body, not in the mind. The author states that regardless of what we may learn/know about the subject, unless and until we deal with the trauma which resides in our bodies, we shall make only minimal improvement. We are reading this slowly, two chapters at a time, and doing the self-examining exercises as we go. With about 15 people at every meeting, there are lively conversations and sharing, and for me, it has been, and continues to be, a eureka experience. Through this book, we are learning to broaden our experiences, our questions and our understanding. This is a great book for reflective Quakers.
Our meeting just started a 2nd book club, The Healthy Book Club, on alternate Saturdays. Our first one is called Food Fix, giving us an overview of the challenges we face about our nutrition in the world today, where only 2% of our arable land is being used for raising fruits and vegetables. We hope to use this knowledge in our community and into expanding and sharing the reach of our Meeting into the community as well.
Six of us continue to meet every Friday morning for two hours via Zoom, as we have for the past several years, to share energy work with one another, and we have all grown tremendously by the experience.
A few of us meet Mondays through Thursdays via Zoom at 10:30am to meditate together, and to share with one another, It is a nurturing and loving experience for each of us, led by Sue Silver. (All are welcome to join.)
The monthly Wayne Jones Vigil was renamed: Say Their Names/Movement for Black Lives, and is now on Saturdays. Our noontime vigils used to attract about a dozen people every month, but now has between 30-40 people. We had more than 130 people, when we combined the vigil with the BLM national protest.
Donations have been made to the NAACP Legal Redress Fund as a beginning seed of our reparations work. During this difficult time, we increased our donations to Quaker organizations, the Havana, Cuba Quaker Meeting, health programs in Liberia, three local food-related organizations providing assistance to families in need, and gave an extra donation to BYM.
The Rockwool Fridays for Future Protests are also continuing each Friday - in spite of snow and cold weather. We usually have around 10 people with 50-70 signs and 100's of people honking in support. We had some people working with Greta Thunberg from Frederick join us and we had around 25 people.
Our First Day school started back up on January 3rd, with three young children attending and with three members working with them. These zoom meetings are orchestrated by a phenomenally gifted teacher who has made learning fun for them in the digital world. At 9:30am, they meet for a short lesson and drawing together. The current theme is: “love and caring for one another”. They then enjoy joining their grown-up Friends for a short period before Meeting for Worship begins.
Finally, we have gathered a group of us to begin planning for the West Virginia annual Gathering of Quakers, which, this year, will be hosted by Shepherdstown at the end of September. Last year, it was done via Zoom, and this year we are preparing to being able to do it either by Zoom, in person, or both. It will be a bit of a challenge to organize it in this two-pronged way, yet it seems necessary to do so until we know more in the months ahead.
Many of our members are getting their Covid vaccines, so we hope to be meeting in-person soon, possibly as soon as the summer and we are considering including a zoom component so that those who cannot attend physically can also join us.
We remain optimistic and look to the time when we can hug one another again. In the meantime, we check in with one another, making the best of the isolation and the quiet, and are looking forward to the promise of Spring.
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Friends met for a potluck to discuss the spiritual state of Shepherdstown Meeting. While there have been many joys that continue to come to our meeting, this last year has had multiple challenges.
In terms of joys, we continue to engage in Meetings for Worship that have been powerful and nurturing, and we enjoy fellowship and comradery that support us all. A baby shower, frequent, excellent potlucks, and the presence of new attenders gives us energy to look forward to a positive future. We have many strengths, including a commitment to paying attention to the Spirit, and love for one another. Our Meetings for Business are held in a spirit of worship. A Spiritual Formation Group was formed during 2016 and continues to meet monthly. We are involved in Quarterly Meeting, the West Virginia Friends Gather, and social actin supporting the local investigation of the shooting death of an unarmed African American.
There have been multiple challenges. The recent election has evoked painful disagreements, and we are seeking a stronger course of action to address social and economic injustice. We have lost some key members of the Meeting. This pains us and we are seeking reconciliation with them.
A long-time attender of the Meeting continues to publicly espouse divisive and hate-engendering views. He has distributed flyers documents his views and links them with his attendance at meetings with the Society of Friends. He was told this was unacceptable, yet he persists, believing that he is speaking Truth. Friends’ responses to this have varied considerably, causing strain. We are actively seeking spiritual guidance to deal firmly but compassionately with this individual and to comfort those who have been deeply offended by his actions. Some fear that this person’s public expression of hate speech, coupled with his public presence among us harms our ability to attract and support diversity in our Meeting. Friends believe this issue needs urgent attention.
As a community, we affirm our commitment to social justice, and look forward to putting our faith into action. We agree that Quaker testimonies and values are timeless and transcend political party. We consider ourselves blessed for the Light that we experience in our Meetings for Worship, and the fellowship we experience. We are resolved to act faithfully, as we perceive the Light to lead us.
Friends met over three separate pot luck meals in each other's homes to discuss the Spiritual State of the Meeting. We continue to feel grateful for the Spirit working in our community, and for the fellowship we share. Meetings for Worship tend to be centered and a source of great nurture; we are blessed by both deep silence and vocal ministry. Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business are conducted in a thoughtful manner, with consideration for both time constraints and the Spirit moving among us.
We are continue to grow in attenders, vitality, and deepening our Quaker practice. Our first marriage after the manner of Friends occurred on Valentine’s Day, and was met with joyous celebration. Notably, this was also a celebration of the attainment of marriage equality in our state, West Virginia. Experienced Friends and attenders are joining us, bringing with them welcome perspective and experience. Attenders new to Friends are actively seeking more information about Quaker process, and we are working to meet this need. We continue to search for a more suitable location, where our First Day School and community gatherings can be better supported. There is a gathering sense that Friends need to become more vocal in promoting tolerance, inclusiveness, and nonviolence. We have a sense of the Light and excitement for the future.
Friends affirmed the power of our shared worship and the central place of Meeting for Worship in our community. Our experience of worship has varied; at times it is deep and silent, and at other times we are blessed by vocal ministry. We are profoundly grateful for the presence of the Spirit as it moves among us and are sustained by the relationships that have sprung from our shared experience of the Divine.
We are growing. We have had new attenders, requests for membership, and regular visitors from other Meetings. In the past year we have also increased our outreach through our participation in the Shepherdstown Ministerial Association. We co-sponsored a concert for the wider community and took a leading role in an ecumenical Thanksgiving service.
Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business have been lively and Spirit-filled. In an effort to increase attendance, we are experimenting with limiting the duration of these meetings. We have focused on creating structures that support the Meeting now and for the future, with many Friends involved. Our move to the Shepherdstown Train Station has been a significant milestone, allowing us to accommodate greater numbers, although we would wish for a kitchen for potlucks and a more comfortable space for First Day School. The recruitment of a teacher with new ideas and experience has brought renewed energy to our First Day School program and allowed us to better serve our children.
In Spring of 2015, a majority of Friends from Shepherdstown Meeting met to discuss the Spiritual State of the Meeting at three different potluck discussions. Friends have identified many near-term and long-term goals, and committees are working diligently to support them. A longrange vision involves creation of a Quaker school, programs for nonviolence, and other community outreach. Consequently, our long-term vision involves a new meeting house where we might pursue these goals as way opens. There is a sense of Light and excitement for the future.
We continue to grow spiritually as a Meeting and as individuals, though the path is occasionally quite challenging. Our ability to apply Quaker process when dealing with divergence of opinions was mentioned as a source of spiritual growth. Also comments about Friends tardy to Meeting have resulted in some tender feelings. We are seeking a balance between the needs of those who
want worship to start in a quiet, punctual manner and our desire to be inclusive to all who want to worship with us.
To summarize, we have witnessed continued growth and stability over the past year, and give thanks that the Spirit continues to work among us. We face several challenges as we continue to be responsive to the Spirit, our Meeting, and our community. Yet there is a sense of love, vitality and energy present that encourages us that we will continue to meet these challenges.
Shepherdstown Monthly Meeting experienced a year of growth, change, and adjustments in our first full calendar year as a monthly meeting. We have been blessed with active, committed Friends who have given generously of their time during this transition, and our Meetings for Worship have nurtured us and attracted new attenders. While the growth in the number of members and attenders has been a source of joy, it has also presented challenges, physical and otherwise.
On the physical level, after outgrowing our space in the bookstore, we searched for a larger space to rent. For a time we met in the historic chapel of Trinity Episcopal Church, with First Day School still held in the bookstore a couple of blocks away. We then moved to the train station, which has a large open area for Meeting for Worship. With permission, we added a door between the main room and a smaller side room. The addition of some sound-proofing and a white noise machine has allowed us to have Meeting for Worship and First Day School in the same building. Friends feel that these physical changes resulted in a welcoming space for Meeting for Worship.
Friends find solace and feel nourished by Meeting for Worship, and many feel that attending the meeting each week enriches their life and helps them address challenges with renewed energy and a stronger spiritual connection. In an effort to deepen our collective experience of worship, we held an afternoon workshop where we broke into small groups to share perspectives on listening and speaking during Meeting for Worship. This exercise had the added benefit of allowing Friends to get to know each other better, deepening our sense of community as well as our experience of worship.
Our goal of building and maintaining a sense of community has also been aided by our new physical space which provides added flexibility for community events. We are very aware that there are new attenders among us, and we strive to welcome them warmly without overwhelming them. We are working to find ways to meet the educational needs of those who are just beginning to learn about Quakerism, while supporting more experienced Friends in deepening their own spiritual practices. Several Friends expressed interest in an expansion of Meeting activities to include gatherings to discuss world religions, energy healing, inter-generational activities, Quaker processes, and sacred dance. While we are gratified that some Friends travel long distances to worship with us, those distances can present a challenge for fellowship outside of Meeting, committee work, and pastoral care.
Within our Meeting there is a considerable range of religious beliefs and political opinions. We strive to be mindful of that of God in everyone, to listen respectfully, and to work through our differences in threshing sessions and open discussion during Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business. This year, Quaker process was applied to address disagreements between Friends. Emotions ran high, but several Friends noted that the respectful, Spirit-filled listening employed during the clearness process helped to deepen our worship and our community. The broad participation in the business of our Meeting shows that many friends are committed to this search for discernment, although seeking a true sense of the Meeting can be a slow and difficult process.
We recognize that service is a form of ministry. Friends have given generously of their time in to our Meeting community and to larger Quaker organizations. Developing the internal structures needed to function as monthly meeting necessarily consumed substantial time and energy this year, especially on the part of our finance committee. We have also been able to reach out to the wider community through our participation in the Shepherdstown Ministerial Association. The clerk of our Peace and Social Justice committee currently serves as president of that body. Of note, our Peace and Social Justice committee drafted a minute on gun violence that was presented to surrounding local governments. The minute helped spark discussion in other churches about the issue, and was used as a model by two other congregations.
Our First Day School currently serves three children and occasional guests. We completed our unit on Quaker testimonies in June with a presentation by the children to the Meeting. The curriculum this school year has focused on world religions since we felt that a basic knowledge of other faiths would help the children understand the role of religion in world events. We are grateful for the adults who have volunteered as teachers throughout the year.
Looking forward, we would like to schedule more intergenerational activities that would allow adults and children to interact outside of First Day School. Additionally, some older Friends within our community have expressed a desire for a group to discuss concerns relating to aging. We also note that despite our location in a college town, we do not have many young adult Friends attending our Meeting. We hope to increase our outreach to the surrounding community, including Shepherd University. Encouraging smaller gatherings of Friends, organized around specific interests or perhaps modeled on the Friendly 8's organized by other meetings, is one way under consideration to nourish community during a time of growth.
In summary, we are challenged by an abundance of blessings, at times aspiring to more than we can easily accomplish. Our Meeting includes and aspires to serve newcomers and children, older Friends, persons with diverse political and religious backgrounds, and persons traveling from significant distances. Nevertheless, we have been graced by the Spirit who inspires us to love and serve one another and to practice discernment as we seek our path forward.
Shepherdstown Monthly Meeting is pleased to report an ongoing sense of nurturance by the Spirit as we continue to encounter challenges related to our new status as a growing Monthly Meeting. In Seventh Month 2012, following much corporate and individual discernment involving threshing sessions and informal discussions, Shepherdstown Preparative Meeting became Shepherdstown Monthly Meeting. We are grateful to Frederick Monthly Meeting for their continuing support throughout this process. This transition and our growing attendance have created a need for more structure. Friends are mindful that our spiritual focus and sense of community must continue to be nurtured as we make these changes.
Meetings for Worship continue to be held in the expectant waiting upon the Spirit. We are gratified that some Friends travel great distances to join us for Worship. Newcomers report feeling welcomed. However, it has become clear that we are outgrowing our space in the bookstore. We are actively seeking an alternative space for Meeting and First Day School. In addition to the large Meeting on First Day in Shepherdstown, a small but regular group gathers for Worship at midweek in Harpers Ferry.
Our regular bimonthly Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business have also been well-attended and held in good order. Due to the press of business surrounding our transition to a Monthly Meeting, especially changes in how our financial affairs are handled, we have also held additional called sessions as needed. As we gain supportive structures and experience, a larger proportion of detailed business will be handled within committees, and then brought to the Meeting as a whole.
Three children regularly attend our First Day School, now in its second year. Adults volunteer to spend one First Day a month with the children, and two adults are present at all times. We find that different teachers bring different skills and materials to share, and the children get a chance to interact with a number of adults. Involvement in First Day School is rewarding for many who are deepening their knowledge of Quakerism as they teach it.
We have completed our discussion of Quakerism 101, roughly modeled on the curriculum distributed by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. These sessions followed a potluck after Meeting for Worship, were well-attended by seasoned friends as well as new attenders, and provided a forum for much lively discussion. These occasions also provided an opportunity for friends to become better acquainted. Our active list serve also serves as a means for Friends to connect with one another.
Our Peace and Social Justice committee organized a silent vigil for peace and nonviolence last fall. Friends gathered in advance to make signs to display. Both adults and children participated.
The Meeting has also been active in the wider community of Shepherdstown. A representative of the Meeting attends the Shepherdstown Ministerial Association meetings. Friends have given generously to the Caring Cupboard, a program that provides food for school aged children over weekends. Friends also participated in Shepherdstown's 250th anniversary celebrations. Our small meeting is also represented on committees of Baltimore Yearly Meeting and Friends General Conference.
In our discussions preparing for this report, it became clear that Friends were looking forward as much as reviewing this past year. Based on the success of our Quakerism 101 series, we intend to propose holding monthly potlucks and discussion on topics of interest to Quakers. Since our Meeting is comprised of individuals from various religious backgrounds and is growing, we feel it is especially important that we are patient and listen deeply to each other's concerns. We have experienced both continuity and change in this past year. We are still learning, and that is how it should be.
Shepherdstown has been a Preparative Meeting for about a year. We are grateful to Frederick Monthly Meeting for their continued care, guidance, and encouragement.
In the past year Friends have reported a growing sense of community and nurturing of relationships. This sense of community has been fostered through conversations at rise of meeting, potlucks, informal gatherings at a local restaurant, and other social occasions. Our active list serve also serves as a means for Friends to stay in touch.
Meetings for Worship have been well attended and held in the expectant waiting upon the Spirit. A small but regular group of friends have also gathered for Meeting for Worship at midweek in Harpers Ferry. Overall, Friends feel that there has been a balance between silence and vocal ministry. Attenders new to our Meeting have expressed a desire for more guidance in Quaker practice. Also, since the bookstore does not have a waiting area, a particular concern has been latecomers arriving while someone is giving a message. We will address these and other issues in our continuing Quakerism 101 discussions.
Our bimonthly Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business have also been well attended and held in good order. The strict time limit imposed by the opening of the bookstore at 1:00 p.m. promotes a certain discipline and may encourage attendance. Called meetings, usually with only one agenda item, have been held when there has not been sufficient time to come to a sense of the Meeting on an issue.
In its first year our First Day School has served 3-5 children. Friends with children have expressed strong support and gratitude for the program. More volunteers are being sought to assist since two adults must be with the children at all times.
We have also formed a Peace and Social Justice committee within the past year. In cooperation with the Shepherdstown Ministerial Association, we have been collecting donations for the Caring Cupboard, a program that provides food over the weekend for elementary and middle school aged children in the Shepherdstown area. We have co-sponsored a speaker on the damaging effects of polarizing political rhetoric at an event open to the public. We will seek to foster additional connections with the community over the coming year.
Responding to a request from last year, we are offering another series of Quakerism 101 discussions. To date there have been two sessions, one on Quaker history and the other on the Inner Light. We are planning to have additional discussions in the coming months, with topics including Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business, and Quaker Witness. In order to provide a chance to get to know each other better, these discussions have been held in conjunction with potlucks.
Future challenges include planning for space needs as a growing Meeting. We note that our current Meeting space lacks access for persons with physical disabilities. We would also like to encourage the attendance of more young and young adult Friends. Finally, we will also consider whether we are led to become a Monthly Meeting over the next year.