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Local Meeting Visioning Session Reports

In 2010 and 2011, Baltimore Yearly Meeting undertook a project to consider the vision of the Yearly Meeting community. As a part of that project, members of the ad hoc Visiting Ministers Committee led a visioning session at each Local Meeting. The reports of the visioning sessions are below, in alphabetic order. To jump to a particular Meeting's report, click the name of the Meeting in the list here.


Abingdon Friends Meeting Adelphi Friends Meeting Alexandria Friends Meeting
Annapolis Friends Meeting Augusta Worship Group Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run
Bethesda Friends Meeting Carlisle Meeting Charlottesville Friends Meeting
Deer Creek Meeting Floyd Friends Meeting Frederick Friends Meeting
Friends House Worship Group Friends Meeting of Washington Gettysburg Monthly Meeting
Goose Creek Friends Meeting Gunpowder Friends Meeting Herndon Friends Meeting
Langley Hill Friends Meeting Little Falls Meeting of Friends Louisa County Worship Group
Madison County Indulged Meeting Mattaponi Preparative Meeting Maury River Friends Meeting
Menallen Monthly Meeting Midlothian Friends Meeting Nottingham Monthly Meeting
Patapsco Friends Meeting Patuxent Friends Meeting Pipe Creek Friends Meeting
Richmond Friends Meeting Roanoke Quaker Meeting Sandy Spring Friends Meeting
Seneca Valley Preparative Meeting Shepherdstown Preparative Meeting South Mountain Friends Fellowship
State College Friends Meeting Takoma Park Preparative Meeting Valley Friends Meeting
Warrington Monthly Meeting Williamsburg Friends Meeting York Friends Meeting

Abingdon Friends Meeting

February 20, 2011

Presenter: Riley Robinson

Abingdon Friends Meeting is Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s newest Monthly Meeting, welcomed in 2009. It meets at the ElderSpirit cohousing retirement community in the octagonal Spirit House. It is growing, and now has First Day School twice a month. The visiting team was warmly welcomed by Abingdon Friends, enjoying lively discussion at breakfast and lunch. After the visioning queries had been covered, another discussion ensued about Friends’ desire for meaningful social action. The visitors described a number of Quaker groups to connect with, such as AFSC, FCNL and others.

15 people attending.

Introduction – Brief history of the visioning project, how it came to be. Started with the staff holding a visioning day, which led to YM committees doing so, and then to having all the monthly meetings do so. Goal is to have a full report on the monthly meeting part available at BYM Interim Meeting 3/26. Focus here will be on this meeting’s experience with BYM.

1 – What calls me/us to be part of the Friends’ community?

  • Spiritual connectedness with myself, with this meeting and with the spirit life of all humanity.
  • Belief/experience that the Spirit speaks to all.
  • Experience of silence in community, of value for truth, for justice.
  • Here our spirit path can stand up to rigorous examination, is not indoctrination
  • Quakerism practices what it preaches.
  • Unconditional acceptance, sense of love.
  • Friendship, family support.
  • Elsewhere wished the pastor would be quiet.
  • Being in the Quaker community to emulate people in it; am drawn to be with and grow like these people.

2 – How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting?

  • I feel safe and supported to pursue my own path, without any pressure to do something else
  • When I hear several similar messages, it helps me to get out of my own thinking rut
  • I feel encouraged to follow my leading, feel the trust of the community; I am pushed into my own leading.
  • Support of others, value Friends Journal.
  • By the community’s being available to consult with and share my experience, thinking, questions.
  • The meeting encourages me to explore leadings.
  • When I come into meeting, I feel I am among silent cheerleaders eager to hear whatever is on my mind.
  • I can give to the meeting by just showing up. This says something important.
  • Spiritual energy encourages me to risk with love and care and be met by love and care of all in the meeting.

3 – What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own Meeting?

  • Attended annual sessions for the first time
  • Help prepare Camp Shiloh for camp opening
  • Interested in writing a memoir, “. . . seeker . . .” and interested in exploring the seeker part.
  • A friend said of all Quaker schools that one learns by osmosis there; I liken this to what happens as part of Meeting; I learn things that are good.
  • Clerking workshop, participating in other YM activities and bring the experience back to my own meeting.
  • Blue Ridge Gathering has been my only exposure to Friends outside of this meeting
  • I am drawn to reconnect with a community that had a Quaker school (no longer existing); don’t know where this will lead; it has only personal value.
  • I have done facilitating, bringing people together with opposing views, and could share these skills in the Yearly Meeting, especially where there’s much disagreement.

4 – What do I - does Abingdon Meeting - see BYM called to do to act out our faith?

  • Continue activity on peace witness.
  • Continue giving us global information including from other meetings of activities and inspire us to be active.
  • Have Interim Meeting closer to us.
  • Peace work is the core.
  • In this ever-worse world I appreciate the YM for seeing the bigger picture of both the world and spiritual world and getting us to embrace all peoples and religions and moving us in that direction.
  • Like this visioning process, glad for BYM to come here and listen to this far-distant meeting’s views and needs connecting us to the Yearly Meeting, and the YM to us. These are hard questions for a young meeting.

5 – What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams?

  • Continue to communicate with us.
  • Am excited to learn how I can participate.
  • I want to know what the Yearly Meeting does in peace witness.
  • As one very new to Quakerism I value being in touch with the wider community.
  • I dream of being so committed that I’d risk my life for a cause, such as opposition to nuclear testing, as I recall a man years ago did by giving away all his money and sailing on a ship that went into an atomic bomb testing site. I seek a more effective witness tangible witness for our dreams, such as world peace.
  • I focus on the local situation, local economic poverty. How can BYM deal with this?
  • I seek support to do hard things, to dare to die for a cause. I need a body to encourage me/ the meeting to lay down my life for a cause.
  • I feel in the world an undercurrent of desire to be more like Quakers, live by Quaker values. Quakers have done world-changing things. I want BYM to teach us process, how to do things in Quaker tradition.

Closing silence.

Notes by Jeanne Houghton

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Adelphi Friends Meeting

BYM Visiting Minister's Report
Adelphi Friends Meeting, November 21, 2010

On Nov. 21, Liz Hofmeister and Rebecca Rawls visited Adelphi Friends Meeting for Meeting for Worship, followed by a time of fellowship and a simple meal. Friends then regathered in worship sharing to consider the queries with the number of participants fluctuating from seven and 11, including three Kenyan Friends.

What calls me to be part of the Friends’ Community? For one Friend worship is the core of the draw and being in community with others who are listening for guidance in worship; for another, witnessing the many examples of people who are doing in their lives what she would like to be doing in hers. The Meeting holds up examples to emulate; there is an expectation here that I can do these things too. The Meeting gives a sense of belonging to something that’s bigger. It’s a spring board that sometimes allows me to do more than I could do by myself. Reflecting that Samuel was called by God three times before he actually answered, a Kenyan Friend said the Voice that calls, tells us to use our talents. We have been given different talents that we are to use.

2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting? A Friend said the responsibilities of membership are not very well defined, but one of them is to support others who have gifts that are different from one's own. The Meeting utilizes clearness committees well and has financially supported people who have leadings for which the Meeting feels connected. A Friend felt the Meeting has enabled him to grow and take on tasks outside his immediate areas of strengths. A Kenyan Friend offered that if a gift is not nurtured by the community, sometimes it dies. We have to nurture the gifts of people who are called to serve.

3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own Meeting? A Friend said Jesus did not confine his ministry to only a few; He served everyone. Another who came to Friends through AFSC said, it’s important to her to look at what it means to be in community with Friends who are different from us, to see both our differences and our common leadings and interests. A Friend who supports in practical ways an Adelphi couple's works to end slavery and human trafficking worldwide shared that not enough people know about this work in the wider Quaker community. Another wanted to do more to facilitate the exchange of information among monthly meetings.

4. How do I as an individual Friend, or what does this Monthly Meeting, see the Yearly Meeting being called to do to act out our faith? The need for better communications among MMs and the YM was expressed by several with one person wishing we had a "sort of Quaker cable-TV channel to find out about the good works being done by Friends" throughout the YM and make the information more accessible. BYM needs a good webmaster and to encourage video streaming. But a Friend noted that BYM’s programs can be inaccessible because of their cost.

5. What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams? The Yearly Meeting can nurture the establishment of new meetings and the growth of Quakerism in this area. Maintaining the Meeting's property is a real challenge; the YM might help MMs join together to address this practical need and also to think about how to better use various Quaker facilities to serve a larger purpose in the community. Visits from the YM would enable others to see all that Adelphi is involved in and help the MM share insights with others. The YM could nurture more frequent informal contact between Meetings, perhaps half-day retreats for committees from different Meetings to pool their collective knowledge. Sidwell Friends School will have a new meeting space opening in 2011; could we come together to celebrate that? Might we do some once-a-year things to build community by having fun together, such as what happens at the Women’s Retreat? A number of Adelphi Friends are involved in BYM but engagement by the larger Meeting is lacking. Practical assistance from the YM would be appreciated such as helping the Meeting handle its records -- perhaps with a template for keeping records and putting this online.

Some personal observations and conclusions from Rebecca Rawls: Adelphi is a thriving Monthly Meeting that values its core of worship and has many members involved in social outreach. Many are also involved with the Yearly Meeting. But the Meeting feels isolated and sometimes stretched too thin. There’s a longing for connection with Friends beyond their own Meeting, but in ways that don’t make more work. They want to get together with others to celebrate, to have fun, and to address common problems. They would welcome help in supporting the good works they are already involved in and are looking for ways to inform the wider Quaker community of what they are doing. More than other Meetings that I have attended, Adelphi Friends are interested in outreach and concerned that they, and the Yearly Meeting as a whole, are not doing this well enough.

Visitors: Liz Hofmeister and Rebecca Rawls.

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Alexandria Friends Meeting

Twelfth Month 12, 2010


Led by Riley Robinson, BYM Executive Director
Note Taker: John Carle

Gaining clarity on where the Yearly and Monthly Meeting’s are being led in the next 3 – 5 years on two levels, the Yearly Meeting and the Monthly Meeting.

We are considering the possibility of forming a clearing house for Meetings to share experiences which are unique to them. AMM’s relationship to the military was mentioned, as an example.


(AMM expressed concern over where BYM contributions and apportionments were being spent. Are four Quaker camps needed? Was it financially wise to hire a Development Director during financially precarious times? One member mentioned that monies held in AMM’s Trust Fund were designated for the upkeep of the Meeting House. Income generated from the Trust Fund was used for youth scholarships for schooling and, when available, for adults attending conferences, workshops or continuing their education.)

(Riley): The process for determining contributions to FGC, FUM and FWCC is under review.

The four Quaker Camps are important to the leadership development of our children and furthering of Quaker life values. The Camp Director is contracted for 7 years; the Development Director for 2 – 2/12 years. The Youth Director’s hours have been reduced from 40 to 30 hours.

April will begin the discussion of meeting apportionments for the next fiscal year. Interim Meeting will be held on March 26 at Langley Hill MM. The Finance Comm. will be meeting then.

(AMM: What happens to our Spiritual State of the Meeting Report after being submitted to BYM?)

(Riley): The Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports submitted by Monthly Meetings to BYM are read by BYM’s Ministry and Oversight Committee.

(AMM: Is there an overall Business/Spiritual Plan for BYM and how was it developed and how is it implemented?)

(Riley): BYM has a new financial software package. BYM’s finances being handled with more efficiency. Various committees are operating at differing levels of effectiveness.

(AMM Friends: The four Quaker Camps are for our children as well as for the seeker’s children. It’s an important outreach program. What about the adults? There is the Friends Wilderness Center.)


(Riley): #1. What calls me/us to be part of the Friends community?

1. George Fox quote: “Flock lying down ---------------------.” Mayan weaving: returning to traditional dying techniques and materials vs. dying acrylic yarns. This fits my belief system!

2. Some people are grass (grasp?) people. I came for peace and love. The
Meeting wants me to participate, but I cannot as much as I would like to due to
personal and family needs.

3. Here, I am able to reinvent my Christianity.

4. I was drawn to Quakers because of their contributions to a high school foreign
student exchange program.

5. Friends always represented integrity to me.

6. At AMM I find comfort and safety.

(Riley): #2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by this Meeting?

1. Friends here see gifts in me I didn’t know I had.

2. I am encouraged to use my gifts for the community. Not coerced. I am listened to and my gifts are recognized.

3. We have good use of clearness committees. Maybe using the newsletter would encourage wider use of clearness committees.

4. The Telephone Tree is helpful.

(Riley): #3. What am I led to do in the community of faith beyond my own Meeting?

1. As a birthright Friend I have participated in FCNL, Friends Wilderness Center based on my past experience – part organizational towards better management.

2. I participate in VICPP – mostly state level concerns and not federal concerns.

3. The time at AMM leaves little time for BYM.

4. I use my work with outside organizations as an opportunity for Quaker modeling.

5. Non-violence exploration with friends and young people in the outside community.

(Riley – running out of time): #4. What do I see as an individual Friend or the YM being called to do to act out our faith? And, #5. What can the YM do to help us realize our collective dreams?

1. Meetings could host YM-planned Adult Religious Education events.

2. Networking events between Meetings.

3. YM nurturing presence at our social and work events.

4. Encouraging greater YM participation. How?

5. Reaching out with events such as this one.

6. Know what is happening in our Meeting.

1. Quarterly Meeting reactivation and participation.
2. Developing a speaker’s bureau.
3. YM can blend available materials and organizations that are available.

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Annapolis Friends Meeting

BYM Visiting Minister’s report
Annapolis Monthly Meeting, Annapolis, Maryland
August 22, 2010

Despite the active involvement in BYM of the Clerk of the Meeting, several advance e-mails and announcements, only nine persons were present for the visit. Those who attended were very or somewhat familiar with BYM. About 12 other persons had been at the Meetinghouse for worship from 8-9 a.m. and about 50 attended worship at 11 a.m. The 11 am Meeting had five or six individuals speaking anecdotally without an obvious spiritual message.

The session began with individuals introducing themselves and speaking of BYM – most were very familiar and like Annual sessions. More conflict was expressed about participation in BYM committees which are seen as uncommitted to consistent work together. One Friend who had been active for 50 years in BYM described the current situation as one in which the organization is growing in staff size and program (camps) but not in financial contributions. Friends expressed concern about a Faith and Practice which is prescriptive, but are willing to follow one which is descriptive. Annapolis Meeting does not make much distinction between members and attenders. A Friend expressed concern that some, particularly youth, are involved in activities at the Yearly Meeting level but not in Monthly Meetings.

Friends asked for more visits from Yearly Meeting. A suggestion was made to try having committees from a sub-region of the Yearly Meeting, to allow for more frequent opportunities to work together. Friends noted that this Monthly Meeting was very active in BYM when it was smaller and new, but isn’t so active now possibly because people are more satisfied with what is available locally. Several Friends expressed a desire for more training like Quaker Leadership Institutes or regular training in clerking in various parts of the Yearly Meeting.

Friends expressed gratitude for spiritual friendship and support from the Meeting and the traditions of Quakerism. The Meeting seems to be a place which nourishes individuals deeply, calling out leadership. Friends expressed gratitude that the Meeting is blessed with many youth and newcomers. One member is called to work on writing about Marriage and Family life for the new Faith and Practice. Another member is called to deep work in a local church-sponsored shelter for homeless.

BYM is seen as a place to experience more skilled or sophisticated practice as Friends. The group recognized that energy ebbs and flows and some issues are not continuous. The group had discovered that it had some ideas to take to BYM for sharing, as well as looking to BYM for teaching.

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Augusta Friends Worship Group

Queries and worship sharing with Riley Robinson
9th month 18, 2010

Ten attenders of the Augusta Friends Worship Group met with General Secretary Riley Robinson to share about the Yearly Meeting and our group’s role within it. He started by giving an overview of the Yearly Meeting and its organization and focus. Programs for youth have a lot of attention in programming. Annual sessions provide a way of networking Friends with similar interests. There is much content on the website.


The power of silence in groups has restorative power-more so than practicing alone. I like to plug into that energy.

The values of Friends not only in worship but in living life in a simple manner- I want to be sure that there is a place for others to experience that.

This particular group is a miracle for how perfect it is for me. The first time that I walked in and felt the stillness and silence of a group of people was settling for me. I have had other spiritual practice but this group is supportive, loving and close in an unstructured environment. It is easy for folks to be structured and controlling, but I do not find that here, rather a feeling of mutual respect. Each home that we use for worship is spiritually grounded, and I feel the grace left when we host.

Having the freedom to be who I am and say what I think is a strong attraction for me. As a result people know and accept me for who I really am. This allows for deep personal relationships.


Being able to be in a place where I have to be quiet.

People accepting me for who I am and feeling the acceptance of our diversity.

The personal gifts that we share perhaps during afterthoughts are affirmed by others.

Having this goodly piece of time in worship with this group allows me to get past the restlessness and get to “of course, that is what I need to do.


We have lost an overall connection to Friends beyond because of our energy directed within ourselves. Having lots of other responsibilities right now does not lend itself to taking on more.

Feel that the times that I have tried to be involved have left me feeling less than adequate because of the groundedness of the others there.

Individually, we do things in the community through our work other involvements and a feeling of others spiritual energy that serve life.

The choices we have made are supported by the group.

Individually supporting groups financially, by keeping up with their work and responding to calls for action. Feel I have graduated from doing things.


Putting more out into the conversations on religious freedom and tolerance. Doing things to hold that space of openness vocally amidst all of the shouting that is occurring right now.

Outreach as an organization with emphasis on spiritual openness with attention to connecting to God without owning a book. Make open a world of possibilities for others to see who have a different spiritual drumbeat.

Continued dialogue with FUM regarding gender issues and employment practices. If we believe in that of God in everyone then we should practice it.


The Yearly Meeting can be a place where personal concerns are expressed and if found to be supportable after listening and feedback, then the process continues to help the individual make them known in a wider way.

Pamphlets that are helpful to newcomers to give them an idea about Friends Ad campaigns that put the name of Friends out into the public sphere so that we are not thought of as a dead group.

Continued sharing and support that can be reassuring to individuals and small groups. Allowing openness to happen.

Riley shared that Faith and Practice revision is a way of meetings to find commonality of voice. There was an ad campaign for Quaker camps which had the side benefit of saying that Friends are still in the world. When we know about resources then there is a sense that we are not alone.

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Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run

Stony Run Meeting - Ramona Buck – Traveling Minister
One Page Summary

Date: August 1, 2010
Attenders: 27 Friends

Experience with BYM: The group seemed to vary between two groups: people who had had a lot of experience with BYM through committees, camping, annual session and, on the other hand, people who had no experience with BYM.

Responses to the Description of BYM: Found the descriptions interesting and helpful, especially for people who had not experience of BYM.

Responses to the Queries
1. What calls me to be part of the Friends community? Responses included: It is a movement, although we don’t usually refer to it that way; openness to continuing revelation; faith and action together; relationships and the community; support for my spiritual journey; a place to trust and be trusted.

2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting? Responses included: support by the Meeting through individual comments and encouragement of my leadings; warmth of members in worship; serving on committees is helpful; seeing kids develop in Quakerism; was supported in my leadings by my Meeting only in a passive sense – an active support would have been helpful also – my Meeting hasn’t nourished me directly.

3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my Meeting? Responses included: native American issues; work with Friends throughout the world; need more help with group processes and education of people on how these work; working on boards of Quaker groups such as FGC Central Committee and Friends House; wonderful to work with Friends around the world and to broaden our horizons; working with AFSC.

4. and 5. What is the Yearly Meeting called to do to act out our faith? What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams? Responses included: Provides a structure and framework for the monthly meetings as in providing Faith and Practice – it should exist to support the monthly meetings and needs to consider this area and put more life into it; help us work on peace and social justice issues; too much money going to youth programs – it is 2/3 of budget and shouldn’t be; needs to be a BYM committee on aging; BYM should update the constant ongoing revelation; joining with other Yearly Meetings on things like indigenous peoples; large meetings can become insular and need connection to other meetings through BYM; more personal visits between Meetings needed; it is good that so much resource going into the support of our young people since most young people don’t want to hear from their parents; need to have respect and support for bottom up initiatives coming up from monthly meetings.

My impression was of a Meeting which has been more involved in an individual Meeting visioning process than some people wanted - when they realized that this would not be a drawn out process, some felt better. There was an interesting thread on the topic of Yearly Meeting being the conduit for individual and Meeting leadings.

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Bethesda Friends Meeting

Visioning Visit to Bethesda Friends Meeting
September 19, 2010

On September 19, 2010, we visited Bethesda Friends Meeting. Betsy Meyer led the visioning session, and Charlotte Boynton accompanied her. About 90 people attended Meeting for Worship, about 20 of them children. After announcements and refreshments, 17 people gathered at 12:30 p.m. for the worship/sharing session to consider visioning for Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

We began with introductions; Friends were asked to introduce themselves and to share something about BYM of importance to them or one question they had about BYM. Building on the opening sharing, Betsy noted that instead of a hierarchical structure, we have a "lower"archial structure: the power is with the Divine as discerned in our Monthly Meetings and then further discerned at the Yearly Meeting level, so Monthly Meetings’ input is essential. As she gave a little information about BYM, Betsy stressed that when a person joins Bethesda Meeting he or she also is joining BYM.

We then considered the first two queries: What calls me to be a part of a Friends' community? How can a meeting support my gifts and leadings?
One Friend spoke of the importance of the meeting in raising her children to have the values of Friends. Another found her way to Quaker Meeting as an adult, and was glad for a group that did not tell her what to believe, but pointed her toward a Truth to be sought after. Another noted that she valued the process Quakers use for decisions which is very different from the secular world. One said that as she had teens getting together for activities, she learned about the wider Quaker community. Someone said she has gotten a lot of spiritual development from Meeting. And another said that she has learned that personal love transmission can change the world. Another talked of how kind Friends were to one another, even when delivering negative feedback. Another spoke of how the testimonies resonated and that any work for social change must be grounded in Spirit.

Then we considered the other three queries: What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own Meeting? What do I as an individual Friend or what does Bethesda Meeting see the Yearly Meeting being called to do to act out our faith? What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective leadings and dreams?
One person said that there has been polarization in the Monthly Meeting, in BYM, and in our nation, but that in the wider circles of Friends, one can see that there is a place for everyone. Another agreed, saying that we need to bring our Quaker perspective into the world. A third mentioned the meeting in Ramallah, which we support through BYM. Someone pointed out that we also have contributed as a Yearly Meeting to three different programs in Africa: the AVP, Great Lakes Initiative, and Friends Theological College. One Friend felt it would be good to have more communication from Baltimore Yearly Meeting about what they are doing, maybe with "calls to action" issued to specifically help with some community-based activity (tutoring children was given as an example). Otherwise, BYM seems to be about committee this, committee that. A Friend suggested we have more communication with respect to specific resources.

A Friend says she looks to BYM to do three things: be her voice to wider circles of both Friends and others; grab her attention about things happening "out there" such as in Ramallah; and be a resource for Monthly Meetings. A desire for some further way to generate interest was expressed.

A Friend expressed a feeling that BYM was just “out there” and of not feeling connected. There is a sense of busyness that does not draw Friends in. This Friend asked if BYM could act as a clearinghouse for sharing activities that are going on in the local Meetings.

Betsy answered questions about scholarship for people attending Annual Session for the first time. She also pointed out that the BYM Peace and Social Concerns Committee holds an annual networking day for sharing what Meetings are doing. Would other networking days (Religious Education, perhaps?) be of interest? The Monthly Meetings report on what their spiritual states each year; might these be more widely shared?

A Friend expressed gratitude to BYM for coming to Bethesda. We adjourned at 2:00.

Elizabeth Meyer
Charlotte Boynton

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Carlisle Meeting

April 17, 2011

Peg Hansen

Fourteen present plus Peg Hansen and Jules Arginteanu

1. What calls you to be part of the Friends community?

One birthright Friend said simply, It’s tradition. Another Friend shared that they felt called to be in but not of this world, Friends and the Yearly Meeting community leads to a larger perspective. One Friend stated a call to Quakerism because we are not told what you must believe, but encouraged to seek our own answers and (our own) share of the Truth, as well as what other Friends have found. Another person shared their feeling that Quakerism is a unique combination, essentially Christian faith without dogmatics. True to the spirit of Christian faith.The community support is spiritual and more faithful. Silent worship, the people (themselves) the commitment to peaceful resolution at our best. A Friend shared that they find this a spiritual group seeking a clear path to God and admitting we don't have all the answers. Respect others paths, not told to do things like sacraments. An open feeling of consideration is most appreciated. Finally a Friend summed it up by saying, “The message is essentially of feeling included, "this meeting is all of you, Yearly meeting is all of us." There is a respect for all individuals while in community.“

2. "How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting?"

A Friend shared believing that a sense of humor is helpful. "I've been Clerk of Ministry and Counsel and it is fun." This Meeting shows a wonderful sense of support among Friends, we heard about one Friend being asked by Episcopal priests in town to present on Quakers and the Peace Testimony, they went on to speak about all the ways the Meeting supported this leading, including a book discussion started on that topic. Another Friend from meeting and someone from Chambersburg agreed to help. Also, it was helpful since the meeting was working on Quaker Quest to clarify the Peace Testimony during the in reach. A different Friend spoke about the Meetings recent Quaker Quest experience and how brought them together, the in reach was wonderful and worthwhile. A Friend also spoke about the nominating process among Friends and the chance it gives to look at each Friend to find and support strenghts and leadings.

3. What am I called to do in the communitty of Friends beyond my own Meeting?

A Friend spoke of the opportunity for going to Women's Retreat for the sixth year. She shared a feeling of renewal that comes in being in community with many other Friends. One Friend spoke of their sense of growth and understanding of Friends brought through their commitment to Quarterly Meeting, FGC Gathering and Annual Session attendance. The Friend shared that they are now sitting in on committees and am exploring where they might fit. Another Friend added, "They got me on a committee, maybe because I tend to say 'yes,' and it is wonderful to feel a part of a committee." One Friend shared that Warrington Quarterly is my wider community, it is small enough to be meaningful. I really like visitation with other monthly meetings. "Yearly Meeting is a little large to grasp. "Music is important to one Friend who told us they have written songs the last few years which combine political ideas with spiritual; music builds fellowship.

4. What is Yearly Meeting called to do to act out our faith?

Friends felt that Yearly Meeting brings coherence over the general program. One Friend shared, "Yearly Meeting and Quarterly too, act as our voice to the world. We ourselves whisper, YM is the megaphone." Startled how little the world knows about us; eg., the Monitor had recent article on NGOs without any mention of the AGLI project. During Vietnam AFSC was thought awful for connecting, but it showed courage of convictions. Another Friend compared rise of Quakerism apocalyptic with today and our maybe being at a tipping point for survival. We need to make our message clear to meet the needs of today's crisis. One Friend added a feeling that YM is most useful to encourage inter-visitation, build community, and to extend that, you need person to person contact to find the similarities, build trust and then maybe can find ways of working on differences. There is no short cut. He used as an example, the meeting at Carlisle where he sees things very differently than most people, but he knows that they are people of good will who mean well.

At this point, there was consensus by the group that #5 had been covered, so the session ended with thanks back and forth.

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Charlottesville Friends Meeting


Riley Robinson introduced the BYM visioning process with a review of BYM activities and of worship sharing guidelines. Riley noted that nine Charlottesville individuals serve in eleven positions on BYM committees, one as a Trustee. Seven Friends were present. Riley read the queries into the silence.

Before the first query, a Friend asked if there were any impedimenta to continuing as we are now. “Can we keep going as we are?” Riley responded that Meetings on the edges of the Yearly Meeting have indicated they feel unsupported. Some of the larger Meetings feel diffuse and unfocused. Religious Education, for adults as well as children, is not strong everywhere. Communications need improvement. What do we, as BYM Friends, want and NOT want Facebook and other electronic media to do? Youth programs year round are improving, but what direction shall they take? A year or so ago, 40‐50 youth would attend conferences, but the latest drew 104. Camps are important, but what adult religious education opportunities are offered? Finally, individuals in Meetings do ask: “What does BYM do for me and for the Meeting?” The staff particularly has asked, “What do you, who are BYM, want us to do?”

Query #1: What calls me (us) to be part of the Friends community?
‐ I am drawn to the likeminded community. I’m inspired by Friends who reflect their spiritual insights in their daily life. I appreciate Quaker worship, unencumbered by orthodoxy.
‐ The unique experimental nature of worship. The experiences carry outside of worship into expressions of God’s love in the work of Friends outside of Meeting.
‐ The theology, traditions, and kinship with others in community.
‐ Testimonies, Truth, (not decorating our language with oaths), Equality, Rising above differences
‐ Being among people who value being genuine and simple
‐ Communal worship experience with an expectation of continuing revelation
‐ This is where I am supposed to be

Query #2: How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my meeting?
‐ The meeting helps by naming my gift and recognizing them in meeting.
‐ Meeting is very good at listening, and considering what has been said.
‐ The Meeting helps to find others to share an expressed leading, to support through clearness and oversight committees. We also have Primary Circles. In the fall, individuals indicate topics they are interested in, and others sign up to meet monthly over the academic year.
‐ The meeting avoids judgment of others’ fitness, leadings and actions, based on differences of age, disability, sexual orientation, economic situation or religious background.

Query #3: What am I led to do in the Friends community beyond my own meeting?
‐ Life stages affect my answer. Our children need our attention when young. I am led to do whatever I am asked to do and can do. The more opportunities, the more likely I am to step up. I attended two workshops at Pendle Hill this year. Attending and leading workshops is important. I pray for Friends in the wider community.
‐ I’m not so committed to committee service at YM or at the community level. I attend FGC Gathering fairly regularly, and once served on its planning committee. High level commitment: as co‐clerk of Trustees of Tandem Friends School, which requires a good deal of time and effort.
‐ This is hard to answer because of five years of health, financial and social barriers. I can speak up for what is laid on my heart.
‐ I try to follow my heart as much as my head in Meeting and in wider life.

Query #4: What do I as an individual Friend, or what does this Monthly Meeting, see the Yearly Meeting being called to do to act out our faith?
‐ Communication is a role for Yearly Meeting. It can help Meetings be aware of activities and concerns; link insular Meetings; share best practices, share resources. Some of this is done in the Interchange, but more is needed. Where is our faith leading us? Let’s act together more.
‐ BYM provides space for expressions of our collective and individual faith. It is like a barn for a community of square dancers. It does not provide the faith.
‐ I wish I knew how to make rapid connections to share leadings. I feel isolation, even within the Meeting. I yearn for the YM and the Virginia Meetings to be more public in their witness.
‐ I am under 30 years old, with disabilities, a convinced Friend, well below the poverty line, with repeated problems. We need to be more aware of those with financial and physical disabilities.

Query #5: What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dream?
‐ What are our collective dreams? The YM – its staff, its committees, must be the best they can be. Rigorous self‐examinations such as this visioning process are a good step. The Yearly Meeting should be a ‘city on the hill’, a well‐run, functioning example of good morale, a positive healthy environment for us all to see, a light to help us run this race.

At this point the worship sharing shifted into more general sharing.
‐ A YM can help Friends know what is missing. Each Meeting has some great ideas, and yet do people realize how insular, even exclusionary, Friends can seem sometimes? Are individuals comfortable telling their Meetings that they want more spiritual nurture or education?
‐ Many here in Charlottesville are happy with the Yearly Meeting as it is.
‐ Charlottesville shows present happiness. Its newsletter shows that it offers a lot. There is participation. It is a pleasure to visit, and is welcoming to families.

Friends were asked if there were questions they would like to have been asked.
‐ What has BYM done for you in the past? My answer would be the Spiritual Formation program. It is a great gift of the YM to adult religious education.
‐ Annual Session is my answer: a regular gathering of likeminded F/friends. Interim Meeting helps, too. More Intervisitation to MMs and worship groups would be good, and more support of leadings; more education on Quaker traditions: traveling ministry, elders, leadings, concerns.
‐ There are special groups for Gender & Sexual Diversity, Race, Young Adults. I would like a working group on disability issues, especially for Annual Session.

Notes were taken by Maria Bradley, edited by Riley Robinson.

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Deer Creek Meeting

October 31, 2010

Ken Stockbridge

Drawn from notes by Tracy Haidar, Gunpowder

On 10/31/2010, I visited Deer Creek Meeting in Darlington, MD for the Yearly Meeting (YM) visioning process. Tracy Haidar of Gunpowder was my traveling companion and took detailed notes. Eighteen Friends from Deer Creek participated in the discussion during their normal adult discussion time. Deer Creek’s Sunday schedule is to settle in worship at 10am for 15 minutes, then enter into an adult discussion period for 45 minutes, then settle back into worship until 11:30. (One Friend described this as programmed worship and not her preference.) On some Sundays, including this one, a social hour follows with light snacks. My sense was that attendance was lighter than usual on this day. The week before our visit, the adult discussion had focused on what is Baltimore YM, using at least in part, the two-pager I shared in advance for the visioning visit. As a result, we spent only a brief period on the informational piece and focused primarily on the queries. About 10 Friends shared responses out of the silence.

Deer Creek Friends described a wide range of activity with the YM, from a relatively new attender with little knowledge of it to some who have been very active, either past and/or present. One declared that the YM was his spiritual home (more so than his local Meeting) and that he had met his dearest friends and his wife through the YM.

One friend spoke quite pointedly about the “bewilderment” he felt about the relationship with the YM. He remembered that years ago, Deer Creek used to get many visits from the YM though not so much lately. He noted that their apportionment had increased 25 percent two years in a row, and it wasn’t clear what they got for that. (Riley was scheduled to visit them on 11/7 to talk about that.) He noted there are some hurt feelings over things said regarding Harford Friends School and that some fence mending was needed before we can talk about collective dreams. Though others did not raise the same points generally, perhaps because he had made them, I had a sense he was not alone in his feelings.

Many Friends spoke of their appreciation for Quaker values and community generally as well as YM programs in particular. Many spoke of the total acceptance, tolerance, and diversity they found among Friends, both at Deer Creek and in experiences with Quakers in other settings, including YM. One underscored the spiritual guidance he receives for his daily life. A few specifically mentioned the importance of continuing revelation to them, and others noted the peace testimony and social justice issues. One appreciated the “do-it-yourself spirituality” that she finds Quakers make space for. Various Friends expressed appreciation for the work of AFSC and FCNL or their experience with Friends schools. At least one longed for more opportunities to engage in Quaker service today such as the formative experience she had as a teenager at an AFSC workcamp. One Friend shared his appreciation for Quakers’ peculiar way of doing business, noting that while cumbersome it generally produces the most satisfying ends.

Specifically with regard to the YM, several Friends shared how the camp and/or youth programs had been important for them and/or their children; a few shared specific and moving experiences. One Friend expressed appreciation for the clarity and succinctness of the current Faith & Practice, saying it had helped to draw her to Quakers when she was new. (She was not sure the current draft revision would have the same effect, feeling all the quotes detracted from the clarity and succinctness.) A few shared how the YM was an important opportunity for them to connect with others with similar interests, such as religious education. One noted how easy it can be to overlook the rich resources available through the YM, especially the experience of others that might help on any given issue that might arise. Still, she felt very well informed of the YM’s activities, expressing appreciation for the Interchange and monthly announcements.

Friends expressed an interest in the visioning process and hoped for continued involvement in it as our committee circulates reports and drafts.

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Floyd Friends Meeting

Floyd Monthly Meeting
of the Religious Society of Friends
Visioning Visit

Ten Friends from Floyd Meeting gathered after worship and potluck lunch for worship/sharing around our visioning queries. Floyd Friends expressed a sense of being a beloved community and they are drawn to the profound silence of their meetings and to the power of their worship together. They support one another in their efforts to do no harm in the larger world, and they feel supported by their Meeting as they seek their own spiritual paths.

Floyd Friends appreciate their connection to the wider Quaker world and the rich tradition of Quakerism through BYM, but they generally do not feel called to participate beyond their own Meeting. They feel the importance of tending to the small orbit. This need to nurture their own is consistent with Appalachian culture. Because of their distance from the geographical center of BYM, Floyd Friends feel that BYM is geared to the Baltimore‐Washington corridor, and they feel virtually excluded from events such as Annual Session and Interim Meeting. Floyd Friends are mindful that traveling long distances increases the carbon footprint.

The Interchange is one way that Floyd Friends feel connected to BYM; one Friend said that she reads the whole thing from cover to cover as soon as it comes in the mail! Another connection that Floyd Friends have appreciated is the Marriage Equality Query sent around for discernment by BYM Monthly Meetings. Floyd Friends labored with this query for many months in preparing a response to BYM. They welcome future queries for discernment, and they see this kind of seeking discernment as a way that BYM can be a working and serving community together, including all of its Monthly Meetings whatever the distance.

Floyd Friends would like BYM to serve its Monthly Meetings by providing resources that Meetings need. For example, they would like BYM to gather legal information in the various jurisdictions covered by BYM about choice of entity for Monthly Meetings, marriage laws, and other common legal issues on which Monthly Meetings may need some guidance.

Floyd Friends appreciated being included in the BYM visioning process, and expressed deep gratitude for the personal visit. It was a joy and blessing for me to worship with Floyd Friends and to get to know them.

Elizabeth F. Meyer

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Frederick Monthly Meeting

Frederick Meeting
Ramona Buck – Traveling Minister
One Page Summary
Date: Sunday, October 31, 2010

Attenders: 18 Friends meeting in the library at Frederick Meeting House after Meeting for Worship.

Experience with BYM: While a few did not have much idea of what BYM does, there were a number of seasoned Friends in the group who participated in many BYM activities and explained them. Several people had experience at the camps and a number with annual session.

Responses to the descriptions of what Baltimore Yearly Meeting is: People particularly liked the description of how people in BYM Meetings engage with each other and don’t “walk away when things get hard.” There was a real concern expressed during this section and again in the part at the end specifically focused on what BYM should do. The concern was that BYM should more clearly act out our values in the world rather than just with each other.

Responses to the Queries:
1. What calls me to be part of the Friends Community?
Responses included
: Way of making decisions; reaching the truth through the divine in each of us; the belief that the light of God is within; the Peace Testimony; the organic spiritual journey in the river of Quakerism which includes its history.

2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting?
Responses included
: Coming to Meeting for Worship often – even when busy – is important and through this worship, my gifts are supported; Meeting offers clearness committees and personal support to those attempting to follow leadings; Meeting offers support when leadings do not follow main stream thoughts.

3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own meeting? Responses included: Giving money to Quaker organizations that I believe in; pooling resources to use for greater causes; being involved in wider family of Friends and being part of a Meeting for Worship for Business in a larger setting (such as FGC Central Committee); being part of the camping program or the retreats.

4. What is the Yearly Meeting called to do to act out our faith and what can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams? Responses included: We have to reach out with our faith – we need to go out into the world and try to make changes; It is important to try to gather sometimes to rejoice together – not always to deal with serious issues and weighty matters; We need to feel good about what we have accomplished together at times; We need to grow and expand – not hide. We seem to think that evangelism is hitting people over the heads with Bibles and we don’t want to do that but there are other ways of spreading the word! We need to find a way to respond to the needs of the earth and of limited resources. We need to work together to do this. We need to be a louder voice in the world.

My overall impression was of a dynamic energetic group of Friends, with some people wanting more social action and more evangelism in the outside world.

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Friends House Worship Group

Notes from Visioning Session with Friends House Worship Group
May 24, 2010

Eight Friends joined Liz Hofmeister (visiting minister) and Rebecca Rawls (companion) for this session. All the participants were seasoned Friends who have attended Annual Session and most have in the past, or presently serve, on YM committees or as representatives to other Quaker groups. We began by having each person briefly describe what Baltimore Yearly Meeting means to them.

Friends spoke positively of the social value of Yearly Meeting as a place to get to know other Friends beyond our own monthly meetings. This happens primarily at Annual Session. Particular programs, such as the Women’s Retreat and the Peace & Social Concerns Committee’s Networking Day, were also mentioned as ways that the Yearly Meeting connects Friends to one another. For small isolated meetings this is particularly important.

Friends also valued the Camping Program and Youth Program. One Friend asked, why not keep those and lay down the rest of the Yearly Meeting structure? Friends were disappointed that the Yearly Meeting only seems to write epistles and doesn’t take any action on social concerns or peace issues. Why not have work camps or service projects?

Friends appreciated the programs and speakers that occur at Annual Session, but the cost of attending Annual Session was felt to be keeping people from getting these benefits. Some Friends questioned whether the Yearly Meeting, with its need to maintain property and employ staff, was too expensive overall. What do monthly meetings get for their apportionment?

A Friend spoke of Yearly Meeting as being several different things: an annual event, an institution with a staff, and a community that gathers four times a year (at Annual Session and Interim Meetings). There generally is confusion about which of these is meant when we speak of the Yearly Meeting.

Following this first round of comments, we were invited to settle into worship and to speak from the silence about any of the five written queries. Friends expressed these thoughts:

A Friend expressed appreciation for the Spiritual Formation Program and the Peace & Social Concerns Networking Days.

Another noted that her days of active participation in Yearly Meeting are behind her, and she now hopes there are others who are younger to pick up the work. At this stage of life she values being part of a worship group that doesn’t involve committee service.

A Friend raised his concern that Friends need to be actively engaged in addressing issues of climate change and energy use, and the group spent considerable time considering how Friends might get involved in this issue. Roles for the Yearly Meeting included linking like-minded Friends to one another and introducing Friends to new ideas through speakers and workshops at Annual Session. The work of the Friends in Unity with Nature Committee was mentioned, with its links to Quaker Earthcare Witness and other non-Quaker groups addressing these issues. For this and other concerns, the Yearly Meeting enables a broader dissemination of thinking and expertise.

Friends indicated that they appreciated having this conversation and thanked Liz and Rebecca for coming.

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Friends Meeting of Washington

Friends Meeting of Washington Visioning Session -- April 17, 2011

Liz Hofmeister of the ad hoc Visiting Ministers group met April 17 following Meeting for Worship with eight Friends from Friends Meeting of Washington. Several other post-worship activities were underway which likely contributed to the low number of participants in what was nonetheless a full and lively conversation. Friends shared the following in response to the queries:

1.What calls me to be part of the Friends’ Community?: One Friend said being part of the Meeting made her understand that how we live our lives is as important as what we believe. Another said she felt "empowered" by being part of the Meeting. The spirit in her needs nurture and care and the Meeting gives this. Another Friend said he had struggled early in his life with the philosophy of nonviolence and was "converted" to it by Friends. The Quaker belief of that of God in every person is powerful and other principals flow from this --freedom, justice, and peace. Being a Quaker is a way to declare publicly that you believe in peace, another said. A Friend said that being part of FMW offered her a "safe haven. Another said that he appreciated the "optimism" of the RFS because pacifism is an optimistic approach to situations of conflict and other problems. It allows for a "positive orientation" toward the world.

2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting?: A Friend said the Meeting has shown her where her strengths and weaknesses are. It recognizes her potential. She feels she can make mistakes and still be accepted. A Friend who has worked for Quaker organizations said he sees this work as a ministry but rather than ministering to others, he has felt himself enriched by his service to Friends. A Friend cited the value of using clearness committees to test ones leadings.

3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own Meeting?: Friends cited their involvement with AFSC and RSWR as important involvements beyond their MM.

4. How do I as an individual Friend, or what does this Monthly Meeting, see the Yearly Meeting being called to do to act out our faith?: A Friend noted that the FMW is visited by a large number of Friends from other parts of the country and the world. Located as it is in downtown DC, FMW is a resource to the larger YM. The YM should consider how it might work with FMW to reach out to and make welcome Friends and other like-minded people who come to DC from other places.

Through Interim Meeting and Annual Session, Friends are given the sense of the larger community of Friends. The YM Peace Committee also allows Friends to "test" their concerns about social and political issues in a setting beyond their own monthly meeting. The Youth Program and the Women's Retreat similarly offer larger venues for our youth and adult Friends.

5. What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective leadings and dreams? A Friend expressed appreciation for the opportunities that Annual Session offers to hear speakers address great social issue and provides a vehicle for Friends to gather for solidarity and wider collaboration on issues of mutual concern. A Friends said the Camping Program was enriching for her daughter and by extension for the whole family. The camp experience also provides counselors with a growth experience and should be seen as a way to "grow" young Friends by deepening their experience in Quakerism. The Camping Program also offers a "safe place" for a spiritual experience for the non-Quaker children who attend.

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Gettysburg Monthly Meeting

Report of Visioning Session at Gettysburg Monthly Meeting

Liz Hofmeister with her husband Ralph, acting as traveling companion, joined Friends at Gettysburg Monthly Meeting for worship and potluck in advance of an Oct 3 visioning session. GMM is a very small meeting; the six adults and three children that day comprise the majority of the regular members and attenders. Unlike many small meetings which struggle to cover the cost of upkeep of their meetinghouses, GMM is fortunate in being able to use an attractive, comfortable space on the campus of Gettysburg College for which it pays no rent or utilities.

Those present October 3 included a long-time Friend who is intimately familiar with BYM and the work of its committees, and a younger Friend who grew up in a Friends meeting. He and his wife are now attending another larger meeting where their children can participate in First Day School as there is no such program at GFM. They still return to GFM about once per month. They and another couple have attended Annual Session.. The sixth person attended George School as a teenager and has recently been drawn back to Friends for the spiritual sustenance GFM offers, but she has had no acquaintance with BYM.

In worship sharing Friends explored the queries.
1. What calls me/us to be part of the Friends’ Community: One Friend said that the Peace Testimony and connections with a "wider family" of like-minded people makes her small meeting and BYM important in her life. Another said that the Meeting offered her a place for being mindful of that of God in others. A third Friend said that the Meeting provided a "time out and chance to be reflective with like-minded people." Another said other meeting members offer her "patterns and examples" of how to live her life mindfully.

2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting? The Friends present spoke of the various dimensions in which they all felt supported and affirmed by the Meeting in their spiritual life, their outside interests and in the programs and activities of the Meeting. Some have received financial support from the Meeting and BYM to attend outside Quaker workshops and Annual Session.

3. What am I led to do in the Community of Friends beyond my own Meeting? A Friend detailed the many aspects of her involvement with BYM. Others expressed appreciation for the experience of attending Annual Session.

As there was limited time before Friends were required to vacate the college's building the remainder of the session was devoted to the last two queries, principally #5.

4. What do I as an individual Friend or what does Gettysburg Monthly Meeting see the Yearly Meeting being called to do to act out our faith?
5. What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams?
Friends expressed appreciation for this visit and their desire for visits from other representatives from BYM, specifically from the Religious Education Committee to discuss resources available. They would also like more circulation of information about events occurring within BYM in which they might participate. They would value help from the YM A&O Committee on how to better publicize the presence of GFM within the community and how best to establish a web presence. A Friend said it is important that the YM help small meetings with property maintain this physical heritage.

In summary, Gettysburg Friends deeply value their time in worship and fellowship and are committed to keeping their meeting going, despite its small size. They are not overly burdened with financial concerns and have been able to commit resources to particular programs and projects when the need arises. The clerk, who has held the position for many years, would like to pass that responsibility to someone else but no one has stepped forward to assume the role. However, others do assist the clerk with specific tasks when asked. They would like assistance from BYM with resources and communications.

Submitted: Liz Hofmeister

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Goose Creek Friends Meeting

Goose Creek Meeting
Visioning Report
February 20, 2011

Twelve Goose Creek Friends attended the BYM visioning session led by John Smallwood, accompanied by Betsy Meyer.

Friends responded in many different and personal ways when asked what drew them to the Meeting and how their gifts were nurtured there:

● A seeker who didn’t quite believe in God but was open to the possibility found a spiritual groundedness at Goose Creek. This Friend is beginning to find her own gifts and leadings, and finds support in the way the Friends in the Meeting take her gifts seriously.
● A Friend used to look to the older folks to learn the ways of Friends, but now finds herself among those older folks. How do you not take ownership of the things that are not yours? How do you convey to the new folks that we want their wisdom too?
● A Friend was drawn to the Meeting because of the intention found there – not form without thought. This Friend also was drawn to the history of the Meeting in Loudon County.
● A Friend expressed gratitude for the acceptance of all view found at the Meeting. All persons are encouraged to work through their own metaphors. You do not have to take metaphors as literal truth.
● A Friend came to Meeting because of the need to find a spiritual home for her children. She was looking for an intentional path, and she wanted answers. It took some time to get used to the openness. What keeps her at Goose Creek is the continuous learning. We open doors for others, and we walk through them in our own way finding great wisdom. She is accepted for who she is and finds joy in sharing the imperfections of others.
● A Friend comes for the community. This Friend finds Quakerism to be a breath of fresh air compared to the trappings of other churches. Quakerism is about the journey not about being told what to do or believe.
● A Friend who attended Quaker schools rejected other religions but was comfortable with Quakerism because Friends live in the spiritual questions. The queries open these up. This Friend is no longer hung up on words but has found peace in the diversity of life.
● A Friend who came from a family in which “God” was a bad word felt a longing for a spiritual life as a child. She was drawn to Quakerism through attending Earlham College which treated her personally. She brought her family to Goose Creek Meeting when her youngest child started asking why the family didn’t attend church. She felt welcomed and accepted at the Meeting because nobody was going to tell her that her beliefs were wrong.
● A Friend has used what she has learned at Meeting to nurture her family. In the world, people have called her pacifism naïve. It is refreshing to worship with other pacifists; to know that she is not alone in her beliefs.
● A Friend who always felt like a seeker found Friends for 300 Years in a library, and was drawn to Quakerism after reading it. She found Friends to be just the right fit. After she joined Friends, her mother joined too. It turned out that her mother was from a Quaker family. For this Friend, Quakerism was about coming home.

Goose Creek Friends mentioned much participation among Friends in the wider Quaker Community including attending Friends General Conference Gatherings, School of the Spirit, BYM Women’s Retreat and teaching intensive journaling at Pendle Hill. One Friend said that though she considers Goose Creek to be the most perfect Meeting, the FGC Gathering showed her what a big tent Quakerism is. A Friend expressed a reluctance to participate out of a concern with becoming wrapped up in too many activities. Another Friend noted that Friends are very open about spiritual beliefs but seem to move in lock step on social issues.

When asked to reflect on how BYM is called to act out our faith, two themes emerged: (1) articulate our faith to the world; and (2) nurture our youth through the Camping Program.

A Friend noted that Quakerism has a reputation for doing good, but we do not have a good record on saying why we do good. We need to share with others a sense of how we live our faith in the world. We can offer the world a way to live in faith without compromising intelligence. There is a Divine Power that can light your life. Another Friend spoke of the tradition of Quaker practice finding an outlet in every-day life, such as in businesses founded by Friends. We are in touch with a quiet but powerful force, and we can let our lives preach. A Friend noted the helpfulness of the new queries. Another Friend articulated the importance of being part of the larger Friends community; we cannot exist alone.

Many Goose Creek Friends emphasized the importance to them of the BYM Youth and Camping Programs. Friends shared how these programs helped their children grow up to be committee Quakers. Camps are especially good for children who can’t absorb Quakerism from sitting on a bench. Goose Creek Friends left us with the message that the importance of the Camping Program cannot be overemphasized. Even if our efforts and funds seem imbalanced – tipped too much toward the Camps – that is ok.

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Gunpowder Friends Meeting

Visioning Session with Friends at Gunpowder Friends Meeting

About a dozen members of Gunpowder Friends Meeting met with traveling minister Liz Hofmeister during the 9 am pre-worship forum period on March 6. With the exception of one couple, all were older Friends, well acquainted with Quakerism and with BYM. Several were residents of Broadmead Retirement Community. At 10 am about 45 Friends came together for worship including a number of young families. The Meeting appears to have a strong First Day School program; about 15 children were present for an initial time of worship before leaving for their program.

The Meeting has just written its 2010 Spiritual State of the Meeting report and I have very briefly extracted from this report responses to the first two queries as follows: Gunpowder FM has a vibrancy and joy in gathering for worship and in activities that bring its members together as a community. It acknowledges the need for "ongoing and intentional attention to spiritual and practical life of our community" while celebrating the strengths of its First Day School program, the work of its committees and other less formal small groupings of members that have strengthened personal relations and in the process enhanced worship and meeting for business.

The March 6 visioning session focused on the last three queries which we did in a worship sharing mode.

3. What am I lead to do in the Community of Friends beyond my own Meeting: The majority of visioning participants are regular Annual Session attenders; a number have been members of YM committees. They expressed appreciation of the fellowship found at YM and in wider Quaker community and the "sense of connectedness with like-minded people." Some families have youth who have been involved with JYM which has built a sense of community for them. However, the Meeting has a number of newer Meeting members who do not understand the value of YM and are unaware of the many resources YM offers. GFM has a responsibility to encourage these newer members to become acquainted with YM. It has a dedicated fund to support attendance at YM and other Quaker forums and the MM needs to be more intentional in making these funds available to newer attenders and members.

4. What does GFM see the YM being called to do to act out our faith, and
5. What can the YM do to help us realize our collective dreams
: Friends spoke appreciatively of the "foundational importance" of YM's Spiritual Formation Program and the "joyful reconnection" some who have participated have found with other participants and with their own spirituality. It is a program that needs to continue. They also express hope that the YM Ministry and Pastoral Care can be more supportive of MMs, particularly of smaller ones, to help them "not lose sight that they are seeking the will of God." Others noted that the YM has "been spending a disproportionate time and energy on contentious issues" like FUM and now needs to find opportunities to come together as a family and to "just have fun." The YM should facilitate various venues for this. One Friend offered that there may be creative ways for Friends with a common leading to come together from across the YM outside of the established committee structure. Elder care and state legislation were offered as examples of issues that might bring Friends from several MM in a region together in an ad hoc grouping. One Friend observed that the YM is different from a diocese because it is not just an umbrella administrative structure. Rather the YM is a family that shares common leadings.

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Herndon Friends Meeting

BYM Visiting Minister’s report
Herndon Monthly Meeting, Annapolis, Maryland
September 19, 2010

This is a relatively new Meeting, residing in a very old town. The meetinghouse has previously been a library, and is small for the number of youth attending. The Meeting has a very active group of individuals, and turned out a dozen for an early morning meeting. A couple of people have been active in Yearly Meeting, but most were familiar with it through camp program or women’s retreat. About 60 people were present for the regular worship group, plus about 30 children and youth. The group spends time singing together before worship.

A member of the group engaged me in a long conversation about whether the Yearly Meeting is really the central organizing unit of Friends; like most Friends, he feels that the Monthly Meeting is the center. While it was clear the Friends here have considerable talent and interest in Quaker activities, it seems doubtful that many would find time for Yearly Meeting service. Indeed they said as much. Their interest is in the group around them and in the wider community immediately around them. Most are committed to camp programs and to the women’s retreat.

Individuals spoke movingly about the Meeting’s support for them in their social action and in their spiritual searching. Most felt that Meeting support was really individuals supporting other individuals. They spoke of liking the lack of hierarchy and appreciation for the patience of others. Many realized that their talents had been developed by or used at the Meeting.

The group realizes that worship in a group from a wider geographical area helps discernment of Monthly Meetings. One individual spoke of the demise of three boards of Quaker organizations through lack of training on how to be board members. A recent member of the Yearly Meeting Nominating committee said that Interim Meeting and Yearly Meeting are perceived as cliquish and are off-putting to newcomers. She felt the new people feel left out of activities.

The Clerk of the Meeting spoke with appreciation about the fact that the YM Clerk, the General Secretary, the Development Associate and the Interim Meeting Clerk had all visited the Meeting in the past two years. These outreach visits are essential and really helpful to a group which is locally focused. She said such visits could make a difference in the future.

Meg Boyd Meyer, with appreciation to Geni Elliott for taking notes

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Langley Hill Friends Meeting

Langley Hill Meeting
Ramona Buck – Traveling Minister
One Page Summary

Date: July 17, 2010
Attenders: 15
Experience with BYM: Lots of positive responses and most people very familiar with Yearly Meeting, including the camping program, the overarching umbrella of BYM to support many programs, annual sessions, individual Friends from other Meetings, vitality of BYM, and young people’s groups.

Responses to the Description of BYM: One person commented that an important function of BYM is to support young and new meetings; one person said it is important for BYM to support Meetings in keeping their spiritual centers and not becoming too secular; one person said that the intervisitation aspect of BYM deserves more space in the description of it; one person said he/she would like to see a listing of the committees.

Responses to the Queries
1. What calls me to be part of the Friends community? Responses included
: We require community to discover what we believe; gratitude to BYM for providing camps and the gifts of different monthly meetings; likes the fact that Quakerism is a religious community that doesn’t require a specific belief; wants to be part of a service community; likes the backing of community for individual service in the world.

2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting? Responses included: Meeting is my family; unity with nature important; support for individual leadings by having ad hoc committees; need more adult education not just RE for children.

3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my Meeting? Responses included: Quaker Quest; have conversations with non-Friends about Quaker issues; set up new organizations such as FCNL started by Raymond Wilson; intervisitation.

4. and 5. What is the Yearly Meeting called to do to act out our faith? What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams? Responses included: Look more into the future, such as responding to the ethics of science inventing robots; accumulate money so that we have it for future projects; have more programs for young adult Friends; We need to have more time to focus on visioning because we need to think about the future – need to have a discussion about 100 years into the future – we need a dream.; BYM should be a place where we deepen our trust in each other and share our emerging dreams; Youth Secretary might visit all the Meetings and tell them all about the youth programs; Have an exercise like: “This I believe” in order to share beliefs among Friends.

My impression was of a Meeting which includes many Friends very knowledgeable about and involved in the Yearly Meeting – but also a group that has some disagreements within it about priorities. There was a push for having sessions where people will share their spiritual beliefs.

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Little Falls Meeting of Friends

BYM Visioning Minister’s Report
Little Falls Meeting October 31, 2010

Little Falls is an active meeting in a “bedroom community” to neighboring areas of business. Few residents continue to be farmers. Most of the members of the Meeting are aging, although there are active younger members as well, and the Meeting maintains a First Day School for a few, irregular, young people. A dozen people came to meeting early for visioning; three had been to Yearly Meeting long ago, one recently on a committee. Some were familiar with the camping program. Several had viewed the Yearly Meeting website. Despite this, no one could see much reason for involvement with Yearly Meeting. The Monthly Meeting is very actively involved in service to the local community and Harford Friends School (which has been involved with the Yearly Meeting.) Meeting members do feel linked to AFSC and FCNL and thought they would feel more connected to BYM if it provided more services for Meetings.

Meeting is very important to individuals as a place to know Spirit and self. Individuals are known and encouraged. Friends are grateful that they ‘aren’t required to be perfect to be here.’ They are aware that Yearly Meeting provides a place to meet others who are searching spiritually, but wish to go to Yearly Meeting only for things that Monthly Meetings can’t do themselves. The group recognized that Yearly Meeting can bring together groups of people with similar interests, when there might not be such in a Monthly Meeting (e.g. Indian Affairs). Yearly Meeting should be more proactive on projects, and should be an information resource on who is doing what. Several expressed the view that BYM is primarily focused on camping and less on other concerns. In an earlier era, public figures were identified as Quakers; that doesn’t happen today. Yearly Meeting could help encapsulate “this is Quakerism” in the public eye. Friends felt that Yearly Meeting ought to consider whether all its committees are necessary; there seem to be a lot of them. A Friend asked if the Monthly Meeting should appoint representatives to Annual Sessions, and the Meeting realized that it doesn’t appoint such individuals.

About a dozen people (about half changed from the prior group) attended Meeting for Worship. Appreciation was expressed for BYM’s visit to the Meeting. After Meeting for Worship those present had an additional conversation about Yearly Meeting. At that time, the view that “vision” is the wrong formulation for BYM was expressed; it should really be trying to state a purpose and role. What is the job of the Yearly Meeting? What can Monthly Meetings expect of Yearly Meeting and what can Yearly Meeting expect from Monthly Meetings? Such a statement would be welcomed.

After this, my husband and I went out to lunch with the clerk of the meeting and his sister. These two individuals and a third sister, all in their 70’s probably, are sustaining members of this meeting. There are a few other very active elder people as well. Members of this meeting have been active at Friends School of Baltimore, and one is currently Clerk of the Board. He was very active in the conversation about Baltimore Yearly Meeting; he has never attended any function of it. Several youth from the Meeting currently attend the school. Quarterly Meeting is an important part of this Meeting’s larger connection. They were surprised to hear that Virginia doesn’t have Quarterly Meetings.

Meg Boyd Meyer

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Louisa County Worship Group

Under the Care of Charlottesville Friends Meeting
October 3, 2010

Notes by Riley Robinson

Louisa has two people regularly at worship. Both were present. Both live at the Twin Oaks Community and meet for worship there.

“Twin Oaks is an intentional community in rural central Virginia, made up of around 85 adult members and 15 children. Since the community's beginning in 1967, our way of life has reflected our values of cooperation, sharing, nonviolence, equality, and ecology.” (from the web site home page)

One person has lived in intentional communities before. The other lived in the city, gradually finding that being involved in various communities for various good purposes did not add up to a sense of mutual connectedness. Both have some experience with Quaker events such as FGC Gathering. Neither has participated much with BYM. We found that we all have a mutual Friend in someone who used to live at Twin Oaks who now lives near Philadelphia. One longtime Twin Oaks Friend is now at Friends House in Sandy Spring. A Twin Oaks person is now interested in meeting with them for worship.

Both people attend Charlottesville Meeting on the second first day of each month for worship, potluck and “Connections,” an education/discussion time, which is quite valuable.

We discussed the importance of community today when so many people tend to lose track of each other in a near-storm of electronic media and worldly haste. The need for restful solitude and for face-to-face relating can go unmet. Still, they would sometimes like a deeper level of communication within their own interdependent community. Too, the community has a highly developed system of governance which works, but they would like to see more Quaker process used. We mentioned how Friends lived interdependently in community in past centuries.

Observations: Many Friends come to Quakerism to find community. These are members of a vital like-minded community who are particularly seeking Quaker worship and testimonies. Too, many rural Friends worry about isolation, but these are among the least socially isolated Friends anywhere.

There are limits on their ability to travel and to attend Quaker events. Community comes with limitations and responsibilities – but so does family life.

Helpful to them would be more information about Quaker history and testimonies far sharing with community members. Recordings of plenary talks at Quaker events would be enjoyed. They know that there are many Quaker websites, but reading extensively on a computer screen is a labor.

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Madison County Indulged Friends

Report on Visit to Madison Indulged Meeting on 10/3/2010
by Charlotte Boynton

Hi, everyone! I visited Madison on October 3, but having a computer problem, couldn't do this report until later.

Madison is an undulged group, under the care of Charlottesville Meeting (busy folks!), and as such, it only meets on the first First Day of each month. Seven people were present besides myself, and I did not have a travelling companion, since I barely had a week's notice during which to plan.

After meeting for worship, there were announcements, and refreshements, and we settled back to consider the first two questions of the Visioning Project. Though I had outlined to worship sharing method, the clerk chodse to speak for the group, pointing out that they are an indulged group, and have a small amount of time together, though it is treasured by all. They do not have a lot of need to connect with wider circles of Friends, I was told.

However, these people all have busy lives, with lots of their time spent among less-like-minded people, and so the meeting group is more valued because of this. Having spiritual support, not having to measure one's words, a source of strength, were all mentioned. Some of the ones present also go to Charlottesville on the other Sundays, and so are connected there as well. At one time, the group met twice a month, and had a space they rented, but found that meeting in someone's home as they do now is working fine.

The group meets very close to Shiloh Quaker Camp, and is very involved with work days at the camp, and feels a strong connection to it. They tend to not be as interested in what Baltimore Yearly Meeting does collectively, even though it is interesting. They are all somewhat involved with a local Free Clinic; one person takes the lead, announces needs, and raises money which aids the clinic.

While I found it a bit awkward to take notes on my visit, as well as listen, I am glad I was able to go see them when given the chance. They are a little over an hour away from me, and I may well go down to worship with them again.

A last impression: We are all so busy! Going to meeting, I heard, is like seeking a haven from the rest of the tensions of life, the demands, the inimical people with which one has to deal all week. To some extent, I was listening for a spiritual component in what was said, and instead, I heard a long sigh: give me a peaceful place I can pause in, if only for one hour in the week.

In the Spirit who is both challenge to our complacency, and balm to our soul, Charlotte Boynton

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Mattaponi Preparative Meeting

Report on Yearly Meeting Visioning Visit
to Mattaponi Preparative Meeting, 10/17/2010
submitted by Ken Stockbridge, Patapsco
drawn from notes by Maria Bradley, Sandy Spring

On 10/17/2010, for the Yearly Meeting (YM) visioning process, I visited Mattaponi
Preparative Meeting on Dayspring Farm in Cologne, VA, which is north of Williamsburg, across the York River. Maria Bradley of Sandy Spring was my traveling companion and took detailed notes. Riley Robinson also joined us for the visit, combining the visit with the trip to Richmond for Interim Meeting the day before. Fourteen Friends from Mattaponi were there for worship, which was preceded by hymn singing. These Friends substantially represented the typical First Day attendance; all who participated in worship stayed for most of the visioning discussion. Relatively few of the participants had much experience with or knowledge of the YM, so we spent a good deal of time going over the information sheet, responding to a lively and wide-ranging round of questions, and sharing information about resources available to support them, especially from the YM. We then discussed the queries somewhat informally over lunch, though each person spoke in turn generally, rather than having a back and forth discussion. The Meeting proposed considering the queries further in worship sharing at a later date and sharing a report from that with me, which may result in revisions to this report. Maria hopes to participate in those sessions and more generally visit Mattaponi more often from her home on the Potomac River on the Northern Neck.

The group has been meeting twice a month for about 20 years at Dayspring Farm, under the care of Williamsburg Meeting. It recently began to meet weekly and feels itself to be growing. Originally, it met in the parlor of the farm house. About 5 years ago, an addition was built on the back of a barn where the group has met since. The farm engages in sustainable agriculture and community supported agriculture, which may be of interest to others in the YM. It welcomes visitors and routinely hosts interns seeking to learn about their farming practices.

As we went around for introductions, we asked each person to share an experience with or question about the YM. Just a few had any experience with the YM or with Friends outside of their local Meeting. Two families had children or grandchildren that had gone to YM camps, and one of these had children that had also been active with the YM youth programs, including annual session. One of those children is now in the Quaker Leadership Scholars Program at Guilford College. The Meeting and farm have hosted YM youth gatherings. One woman had attended the YM women’s retreat, and another had attended an annual session in Pennsylvania and recalled participating in wonderful workshops there. One Friend serves on the board of Haverford College. One mentioned appreciating communications from the YM office. One especially appreciated the queries from the Faith and Practice, while another applauded the efforts to revise it. Two Friends in particular expressed support for FCNL’s activities. Many of those noted here overlapped, so about eight of the fourteen said they had no experience with the YM or other Friends.

One Friend in particular noted that she has been trying to get away from hierarchy and so was curious about it in a Quaker context. The concern about hierarchy and organization appeared to resonate with a few others as the discussion proceeded. That prompted me to close with a query for reflection on whether we are a community or an organization, and if we are a community, what level of organization is needed to sustain it?

In the response to the queries shared that day, Friends expressed appreciation for the Meeting’s role in their individual spiritual growth. They valued the non-organized worship, meditation, and time to be still. They felt part of a sharing community that supports an interior and challenging spiritual journey and provides the acceptance, tolerance, safety, and non-judgmental support that trust requires. They felt the community empowered and strengthened them as individuals, helping them be deeply seen and known and go beyond what they can accomplish as individuals. One in particular suggested the community might help to grow from taking things in to being ready to give outwardly.

In addition to growth as individuals, they valued the experience of community, finding power in numbers and working together. Some expressed a desire for outreach, inviting others to check out Mattaponi and also reaching out and witnessing to the larger community. For example, Mattaponi is sponsoring a series for the public on Islam. Friends wanted their Meeting to focus on effective ways to work for peace and tolerance.

Friends wanted to explore and understand how the YM could help facilitate such efforts by their Meeting and also extend beyond it, noting that both Mattaponi and its parent Meeting are small and individuals are isolated. Some felt a desire for connection to local and regional associations of Quakers and also others with shared concerns. One Friend particularly noted that as Quakers, we should not focus on what divides us but what unites us.

Friends expressed appreciation for the visit and the visioning process and wanted to know what comes out of it. They saw value in the idea of pursuing a larger vision beyond the local Meeting. They wanted to see increased communication with and within the YM. More generally, the idea of visiting among Friends resonated with several people there. They would welcome more visits and were prompted to consider what visits they might be led to make.

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Maury River Friends Meeting

BYM Visiting Minister's Report
Maury River Monthly Meeting, December 12, 2010

On Dec. 12, "visiting minister" Liz Hofmeister and companion/notetaker Ralph Hofmeister joined some 30 Maury River Friends in Meeting for Worship. After refreshments, 22 Friends stayed for the visioning session. Friends had gathered the previous First Day to consider the queries and largely focusing then on an the strengths and challenges of the Meeting: Friends have found their worship together rewarding. They have strengthened the RE program for their younger members and the second hour adult program. They've found fellowship and a sense of community in potlucks, camping and workdays. The Dec. 19 second session with the Hofmeisters only loosely followed the queries with most of the discussion focused on the Meeting's relationship with BYM.

MRMM is 200 miles from the Washington/Baltimore epicenter of BYM and MR Friends are keenly aware of how that distance inhibits their participation in YM functions. Despite the distance, the Meeting has at least two members with long-time, deep involvement with BYM and a number of Friends have attended Annual Session ("rewarding and enriching"). Some have attended the Women's Retreat and a number of youth have attended the Camping Program and Young Friends which one Friend said have been "dramatic and life-changing for my family." The YM can offer much to our pre-teens and teens who tend to feel different from their local peers, another Friend said. They get reinforcement of Quaker values though associations with YM youth.

Friends expressed appreciation for BYM's outreach through the visioning process and more generally for visits by Friends from BYM and other MMs. A Friend said that past visits and workshops by weighty Friends such as Chuck Fager and Marge Larrabee had "a significant impact on his life." Similar short workshops offered by YM would be welcomed. Another Friend said that until now she had never considered herself a member of BYM and hoped for more "coming to us" from the YM and other MMs. Friends agreed that with quarterly and halfyearly meetings having fallen into disuse, they would welcome some new regional configuration, not for doing business, but for mutual spiritual support and socializing. The Blue Ridge Gathering serves this purpose and should be encouraged/replicated, they said.

Even as MR Friends expressed a desire for Friends from the outside to come to them, they also wanted ways to better share some of their activities and concerns with larger Quaker world. MRMM has spent time in discerning its relationship with the environment and would like to see the YM bring MMs together to articulate a larger vision of how Quakers can move forward as a body on the issue of sustainability. Similarly, YM committees, such as Religious Ed and Peace and Social Concerns, need to find better ways of ascertaining what innovative things are being done at the MM level in these areas and to encourage cooperative efforts.

MR Friends said they want to be part of the larger body of Quakerism so that they and other Friends can all speak with a larger voice. To encourage a better sense of interconnectedness, the YM needs to facilitate more communication between and among MMs and the YM and to encourage intra-visitation among Meetings.

Personal observation: That so many Friends came out on a cold, icy First Day and then stayed for the visioning session was testimony to the strength and cohesiveness of MRMM and also to their desire to be part of the larger body of BYM -- LH

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Menallen Monthly Meeting

Visit to Menallen Friends Meeting (Biglersville, PA)
Deborah Haines

I visited Menallen Friends on October 31, 2010. There were about a dozen Friends at worship (plus children), and ten stayed for the second hour program. I started by asking everyone to introduce themselves and to say one thing they highly valued about Menallen Meeting. Two mentioned a long-time family connection. The rest are convinced Friends. They talked about the quality of the silence, the welcoming feel of the meeting, the idea of the Inner Light. One Friends said: “This group feels more like a family than any group I’ve ever known.”

Here is a summary of responses to the questions:

“Looking for Light in someone is much more rewarding than looking for sin”; “I wanted a religion that guided my life all the time, not just on Sunday”; “the peace in the meeting is very reassuring—different from other religions he’s known”; “I love the way the past supports the present and points toward the future” “I like the patience with which we allow things to be revealed”; “we come together as a community of faith, and see what happens.”

“In a small meeting like this, everyone has to work hard to keep it going. Everyone’s gifts are called on to the fullest.” “It takes a lot of faith. Things get done by a series of miracles.”

Four of those present have participated in Quarterly Meeting. One went to Annual Session when it was at McDaniel, and one (the Clerk) has gone more recently. They are not involved in any other Quaker organization or activity—they feel very separate from the wider Quaker world. They do participate in the FUM prayer chain in March.

The meeting desperately needs help caring for the three meetinghouses and five cemeteries that were left in its care as Quakers migrated west 150 years ago. Is there some way the Yearly Meeting could help? There is considerable resentment of the Yearly Meeting, because the apportionment money goes out to the Yearly Meeting, and nothing seems to come back. Their apportionment was lowered on an emergency basis last year, but they didn’t make it to the meeting in March, and now it’s back up. They need a new furnace in the meetinghouse. They simply can’t afford it.

This is a wonderful meeting. Their greatest strength is something that wasn’t touched on in the queries but came out in discussion. They are extremely active in their local community. They run a day care center in the meetinghouse during the week. (It used to be a pre-school, but they lost certification because the building doesn’t meet the code standards.) They host a series of events every year for the wider community, including an international peace concert in cooperation with international students from Towson University; a week long peace camp in the summer; and a children’s Christmas pageant. Last year they had a May celebration at the meetinghouse and sold 230 barbecued chickens. A member of the meeting has done extensive research on the meeting’s role in the underground railroad, and its active support of a nearby community of freed slaves. She offers tours and educational programs that attract quite a few visitors. The meeting have an ongoing relationship with the local AME Zion church, and a concern for the migrants who work in the local orchards, many of are undocumented immigrants.

Menallen desperately needs some financial relief. Their immediate need is to replace the furnace in the meetinghouse, which would cost about $5,000 (they have put together a grant application). If they were not so burdened by the cost of maintaining their historic properties, they would love to put up a prefabricated building that complies with the current codes so that they could go back to hosting a community pre-school, with particular emphasis on serving immigrant families. Coming from a relatively affluent meeting, I felt humbled by their generosity of spirit, the enormous number of things they do for their community, and the burdens they are carrying.

BYM should be making better use of the Quaker history resources available at Menallen. Young Friends and JYFs could be traveling regularly to Menallen for history weekends. The tours and resources should be posted and publicized on the BYM website. We have a treasure in our midst that most of us know nothing about!

BYM should find a way of spreading out responsibility for the historic properties now being cared for by Menallen. They are, after all, a Yearly Meeting resource. It might be possible to raise funds to provide an endowment for the cemeteries and abandoned meetinghouses. It might be possible to create volunteer work crews to do regular maintenance—Young Friends, for example, could adopt some part of one of the properties and care for it. It would certainly be possible to advertise Quaker history, and perhaps solicit contributions from the wider public for preservation, or Quaker tours.

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Midlothian Friends Meeting

Midlothian Monthly Meeting (MFM)
Visioning Report to Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM)
16 January 2011

Riley Robinson’s introduction included “his perception of the role of the Yearly Meeting” as well as an overview of the visioning process. BYM is seen as a central point of governance, a central host for the community, the author of Faith & Practice, a linking point, a wisdom repository and a source of inspiration. He gave the meeting several BYM publications before the queries began. Because of lack of time, questions 4 & 5 were combined. Friends thought this change was appropriate for answering as well. Eleven people participated. [note: the scribe did not repeat the questions for the report.]

1. The themes were tolerance, acceptance, spiritual worship which let individuals grow into the Light at their own pace. In the quiet community of worship and the shared vision of the Light, the silence leads to something more profound than words. Midlothian Meeting was formed with a strong sense of self on a strong spiritual foundation. It may have become somewhat smug. Newcomers help to balance that tendency. They are eager to model acceptance and tolerance and to spread it.

2. Involvement in the meeting grows from relationships, especially those formed in committees. The basic belief of goodness in all helps develop Quaker tenets; spiritual seeking and listening to revelations of the Spirit encourage action. Individuals can effect change. Each is encouraged by others, especially through the care of the Nominating Committee. One gift of Friends is the clearness committee which allows individuals to process beliefs in a spiritual way. Leadings may then come under the weight of the meeting. The involvement of Quakers in the Civil Rights movements of the 20th century and other testimonies support and solidify one’s beliefs.

3. Children are an important focus in Midlothian Friends. There is a summer Peace Camp offered to the entire community. For some, it was their children who drew them to the FGC Gathering and later to BYM annual sessions. But as the children become adults, the connection and the energy are lost. Some of the newer Quakers are focused on learning more about the Religious Society of Friends, and passing this on to their children. There is an attempt to connect with a nearby meeting’s youngsters, to be together in larger numbers.

The BYM Women’s Retreats are an important connection for several.

As age and other commitments take hold, the focus is local because of a lack of energy and time to travel distances. Simplicity modeled in individual lives, modeling for others becomes a major element of outreach to the world. Sometimes this feels like being stuck in small things. Sometimes it is education for self and family to grow as examples and in wider service in the future.

4. & 5. The visioning is an example of what the meeting expects from BYM. More visioning, participation and challenges by the YM are needed. BYM needs to be more responsive to the monthly meetings. The two visitors were refreshing and brought a deeper experience, rich with spirit.

When Riley asked about additional concerns, one person asked “What do we get for our financial commitment to BYM?” The BYM-MFM connection has not been as strong as it could be. The opportunity for visioning helped reconnect the two.

Submitted by Maria Bradley

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Nottingham Monthly Meeting

BYM Visiting Minister’s report
Nottingham Monthly Meeting, Oxford Pennsylvania
August 15, 2010

The group responded promptly and arranged a pre-meeting visit followed by worship and a pot-luck. Fourteen people, most of the active group, attended. Over 90% had attended Annual Sessions or Interim Meeting, and/or had children who had participated in BYM Youth activities. The participants ranged from a non-theist to a Bible reader/minister in prisons. This Meeting is responsible for a school, three buildings and some burial grounds. One of the buildings has a small endowment. One Friend said he didn’t see how the Meeting could contribute to BYM.

Despite a high familiarity with Baltimore Yearly Meeting, friends felt very distant and uninvolved; although the treasurer said that she had gotten helpful information by phone or e-mail from BYM staff. The Meeting has worked hard on responding to Faith and Practice Drafts, but has not been acknowledged for their communications by the committee. Many members of the Meeting are participating in Quaker activities beyond the Monthly Meeting, but not in BYM. Quarterly Meeting has been important.

This Meeting has held regular worship sharing groups, allowing it to know one another well. The group seemed close and open with each other, and willing to share personal matters. Friends reported feeling very supported by the Meeting whatever their individual leadings. Many reported the Meeting had provided funds for participation in Quarterly Meeting, Interim Meeting, Annual Sessions, Camping, or other Quaker enrichment or extension activities.

This Meeting wishes that the Yearly Meeting would provide services to small meetings, such as advice on practical matters of building maintenance and historic matters, and guidance on maintenance of burial grounds. Financial assistance probably would also be welcomed, although it was not specifically mentioned. The fact that this meeting is close to the center of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and far distant from Baltimore Yearly Meeting also should be considered. Appreciation for Youth activities and camp activities at the Yearly Meeting level was expressed. Friends felt that they were most likely to be involved in weekend (not weeklong) activities in a place near to them. Small group activities were welcomed. Inward Bound had played an important part for this group.

Worship – after the manner of Friends – is clearly the most important thing to these Friends. No vision statement beyond the maintenance of a worshipping community would seem very important to them, I think. Worship leads to caring for one another, and that is the next most important thing for them. Business after the manner of Friends is important to some.

Friends expressed discomfort with the idea of BYM as “central organizing unit” rather than Monthly Meetings as the center of BYM. The visit was appreciated.

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Patapsco Friends Meeting

Visioning Comments about Quakerism and Baltimore Yearly Meeting--Patapsco Monthly Meeting
January 9, 2011
BYM Visioning

Five Queries
1. What calls me/us to be part of the Friends Community?
2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting?
3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own Meeting?
4. What do I as an individual Friends or what does this Monthly Meeting see the Yearly Meeting being called to do to act out our faith?
5. What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams?

12 people present

People in attendance include Susan Hills, Jim Rose, Ramona Buck, Linda (clerk), Ken Stockridge

The majority of people appear to over 50.

Comments about first two queries.
1. What calls me/us to be part of the Friends Community?
2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting?

“Three of us in Meeting had a leading to endorse a statement to repeal the Death Penalty.”

“I grew up in a Quaker Meeting, and we were expected to go to Meetings each week. That also spoiled me to going to a religious service with a minister. But I feel an especially strong commitment to this meeting, as it has a strong spiritual foundation to it.“

“I am led to be part of Patapsco because I feel this is a family.”

“I realize I have been coming to meeting for 2 years now (this woman is younger). She has just applied for membership. “What calls me to be here is it feels like home. Being here inspires me to be myself. Everyone takes one another as they are.“

“Living in Howard County, we saw the opportunity to start a meeting here. I haven’t been a Quaker that long. If you ever want to know how Quakerism works, start a meeting. You learn a lot. I am getting similar learning also by being a member of the Faith and Practice Committee (of BYM?). It has been a tremendous journey. Every moment I spend with Friends has been rewarding to me.“

“I came to this Meeting as an attender, partly because I work for Hospice, in home care. I stay because I stay reminded in my work that life is finite. The people I see having the most peaceful deaths are not the ones with the strongest church connections, but rather those who have a sense of God within, right there. That part of the Quaker philiosophy speaks to me. Another bonus is the sense of community.”

“For me, the sense of community was the whole thing. (male). “I grew up Catholic, but I like the questions and sense of ongoing revelation. I am gay, and I am accepted here. This is the core of my community. I feel a lot of support and connection here.“

You could go around thinking you were sick, but when I got here, I found support. Sitting next to a couple of gays, black guys, etc, I felt, I have arrived. I had prejudice, but I knew I wanted to get rid of it. Coming into this meeting was comfortable, not confrontational.

“I hear too many human voices. For me, coming into the silence was the most powerful experience in my life. One of the things Quakers do for me is help me see who I am a little more clearly. I feel my gifts (like my failings) are mirrored back to me in Meeting. We need to touch what’s real in life. And this is a place to touch what’s real.”

“For me, I am part of Quaker community because there is something missing, and it’s not right to be here.” (Did I get this?) I started at Sandy Spring a number of years ago. I think I should ask for more support from the meeting for something I am starting, but I have not done that.”

“Fellowship, worship, and the peculiar way Quakers have of practicing community. If we could bottle that and share it, who wouldn’t come back week after work. The ways of Quaker community. Listening spirituality (from Pat Loring).”

“Whenever I miss a week or two of Quaker workship, I feel like I’m coming home. I feel like at home here.“

3. What calls me/us to be part of the Friends Community?

“I am still learning. When I was on vacation, I went to meetings. That was interesting, to see how every Meeting develops its own sense of community, but there is still unity in the structure of an un programmed meeting.” (She is a new member, and also younger, around 30.)

I do a lot in Yearly meeting, and I have some concerns about it. Conncerns with Quakerism is it is well-kept secret. There is a wonderful phrase in a Pendle Hill pamphlet, “Why don’t you Quakers preach what you practice?” Why do we so much hide our light under a bushel. Why don’t we let the world know. And how do we do it? Let us uncover those in Yearly Meeting who know how to do this. Let us preach what we practice.”

“Two respects: 1) Wider Quaker community and 2) wider geographic community. I had always sought to be involved in my local community, and I didn’t find a Quaker meeting there. I felt myself drawn to the wider Quaker community, not locally. First real involvement was with Young Adults, and at Pendle Hill—young adult friends. To FGC. Go every year. When I was too old for the young adults, then this meeting came along. And for a while, this was everything I was involved in. Then, I was drawn back to the wider Quaker community. When this meeting sought to become a monthly meeting, I wanted to represent this meeting to the wider Quaker community

“I am glad that you said that not everyone at the point of involvement with wider Quaker community. I am involved in another organization, and I have to decide where to put my energy. Integrity. Am involved in the outreach to the Hagerstown Prison, from this meeting. It’s a 2-way street. I get so much. I have had a clearness committee for membership, but haven’t moved forward. Am a bit afraid of commitment. I can only do so much, with my schedule.“

“My experience of stepping out in the wider Quaker community is I always seem to find guides (e.g., in FGC).

“I’ve been involved in a number of activities outside meeting, at Yearly Meeting, and elsewhere. It does have its frustration and challenges. Working in Quaker groups, it’s principles and being led in different ways. It’s a thorny ways, but you see the thorns. And they may be roses in disguise. It’s complex, yet also very rewarding.”

I travel to other Friends meeting locally. And I come back here for refreshment. I am member of Annapolis Friends Meeting, but am sojourning here. Membership is a thorny thing for me. I value it because it does feel nice to be with Friends you know. But there is time to take that out to the wider world, and at that point, I start to wonder what is important about membership. We are born into the club of being children of God. And any membership below that starts to get thorny for me.”

“I’ve been serving on the Friends House Board, and it’s exciting this year to be undergoing strategic planning. And I’ve also been involved in prison ministry. But I like small groups. What is the right balance of being involved here and also outside.“ (Note: she is incoming Clerk of the Meeting.)

4. What do I as an individual Friends or what does this Monthly Meeting see the Yearly Meeting being called to do to act out our faith?
5. What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams?

“I am thinking I should attend Yearly Meeting.” (new member)

A Friend contributed a thoughtful letter: “So, in sum, I would like to see a Quaker college, Department of Peace, and the schism with FUM healed.”

“Friend bringing up the rift speaks to me. It’s in our own backyard. One of the leadings I am following now is to speak of a mission for Friends in Baltimore City. I’ve been visiting a little groups of Friends who are meeting , but not Quakers have met there for years.

“I have a vision, and ____ speaks to that vision. It’s of a new meeting. I would say we got precious little support from Yearly Meeting. So, my vision is of Yearly Meeting supporting new meetings.

Each meeting is a spring that flows out. Yearly Meeting is the larger body of water. So, the YM is the concerns generated by the MM. We need to think freshly of how to do this. One way to do this is to do away with committees of the YM as they exist, and to start committees that come from the meetings.”

One is to look outside the Quaker community to learn from others. We are uniquely
positioned to bring together other faith groups. I also think that offering something experientially is important.

“The Friend speaks my mind.”

“I belong to PA___T, people acting ___ together. One current activity is to prevent water running off.”

When George Fox said be patterns and examples, you collectively. Be the community we are called to be, not just to individuals, but as a community. What does it mean to be a pacificist community?

The vision is of a larger community that is living into God’s purpose. “

“To visioning committee: it is your job to determine critical mass. Don’t relax the requirements on yourself. It’s not just individuals. “

“What do we mean by BYM?”

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Patuxent Friends Meeting

Patuxent Meeting - Ramona Buck – Traveling Minister
One Page Summary

Date: Friday, October 29, 2010

Attenders: 13 Friends plus Ramona and John (Traveling companion and note taker) gathered at Dusty and Vicki Rhoades’ house after a wonderful pot luck meal.

Experience with BYM: Most of the people in the group felt disconnected from BYM, even those who have been involved in BYM activities, such as spiritual formation group, annual session, women’s retreat, camping. Several said they felt more connected to their Quarterly Meeting than to the Yearly Meeting.

Responses to the Description of what BYM is: There was a reflection that a small meeting may not have the full range of Quaker interests represented in the group and that the BYM committees do provide a connection and access to larger resources.

Responses to the Queries:
1. What calls me to be part of the Friends Community? Responses included
: a connection to the spirit and energy of Friends; find strength in Meeting for Worship; unconditional acceptance and respect by Friends of each other; spaciousness about the concept of God and spirit; shared values; Meeting is home; don’t feel right when I don’t go to Meeting regularly.

2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting? Responses included: The shared discernment of the Meeting allows me to test my leadings; purchase of the Meetinghouse allowed us to have a physical home which can be used during the week to support our leadings (music, giving to food pantries, mediation); Meeting provides the calm and serenity to deal with frustrations in my work; gifts and leadings support the Meeting and the Meeting supports gifts and leadings.

3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my Meeting? Responses included: Bring my grandsons to Meeting to experience Quakers; can’t respond to community of Friends beyond my Meeting – I have all I can do right now; rather put energy into local Meeting; Patuxent Meeting is very satisfying – haven’t gone to wider Friends’ community in awhile although have done so in the past.

4. and 5 What is the Yearly Meeting called to do to act our our faith? And, What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams? Responses include: What difference does BYM mean for our Meeting? We support BYM but not sure what BYM does for us; I would like to feel a stronger connection; We feel like we are a little entity by ourselves; Yearly Meeting is very helpful to support youth and to be the face of Quakerism beyond our borders; If BYM weren’t there, we would be floating, disconnected in space; I think of FGC as a more unifying organization than BYM; BYM grounds us; I don’t have a strong interest in what’s happening around the world – I wonder what it would look like to be part of a bigger thing; We go to Quarterly Mtng but we were disappointed when we hosted it and only 3 non-Patuxent Friends were here; Maybe we would feel closer to BYM if the Quarterly Meeting was laid down; our constant use of Faith and Practice is a strong connection to BYM.

My overall impression was of a very vibrant and likeable community of people who are extremely active as Quakers in their own community and haven’t fully experienced being part of BYM.

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Pipe Creek Friends Meeting

Pipe Creek Meeting Visioning Visit
November 7, 2010

Six Pipe Creek Meeting Friends gathered for Baltimore Yearly Meeting visioning with Betsy Meyer and companion/note‐taker Tracy Haidar. Betsy invited Friends to introduce themselves and gave some background about the Yearly Meeting and the visioning work in which we are engaging.

Friends are drawn to attend Pipe Creek Meeting because it is a place where they find kindred spirits. Many who live in this geographic area seem unkind, selfish and un‐Christian, though they may call themselves Christians. At their Meeting, they can be among people seeking to do the right thing, and let their lives speak. They can be their true selves here, not making excuses for their beliefs, and openly subscribing to the peace testimony. In other places, the Bible preaching seems devoid of reality, but here the Biblical message is relevant to today’s world (Pipe Creek Friends gave me a button that reads, “When Jesus said, ‘love your enemies,’ I think he probably meant don’t kill them.”). One Friend expressed feeling like being on an island surrounded by sharks; the Meeting is an island of Friends with open minds and generous hearts. The Pipe Creek Friends community gives its members hope and restores their faith in humanity.

The Meeting supports the gifts and leadings of its members by organizing activities that act out their faith such as collecting food for the local food pantry, gardening to supply the food bank, and “coats for kids” campaign. Working together to preserve their historic Meeting House has been satisfying and unifying. Pipe Creek Friends are building a children’s religious education program, even though they have no children attending now. They want to be prepared and believe that children will come if they are ready for them. In addition, they have established a weekly book discussion group and a Wednesday evening worship for those unable to attend on Sunday or who want to worship mid‐week. They also are establishing a Ministry and Wellness Committee to nurture one another.

Pipe Creek Friends have reached beyond their Meeting to participate in Quarterly Meeting and to seek the resources of an outside Friend (Lamar Matthew) who taught Quakerism 101. However, there is such a sense of busyness that they find it difficult to do much beyond their own Meeting. One Friend noted that busyness is a state of mind rather than a reality, and another Friend thought that Pipe Creek Friends just don’t take advantage of what is available to them from the Yearly Meeting. They believe that communication from BYM to its Monthly Meetings certainly could be improved, but they do not want more mail (email or snail mail) because they all get so much. Why not go back to the old‐fashioned way of doing things? Face‐to‐face communication and visits from “weighty Friends” would be welcome.

It was a joy and blessing to worship among Pipe Creek Friends and to begin to know them better.

Elizabeth F. Meyer

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Richmond Friends Meeting

Richmond Meeting
Ramona Buck – Traveling Minister One Page Summary

Date: Sunday, September 26, 2010
Attenders: 12 Friends meeting in the Richmond Meeting House after Meeting for Worship

Experience with BYM: Most people in the group had experience with BYM, including annual sessions, interim meeting, women’s retreat, camps, BYM committees, and Young Friends. A couple of people were newer and were interested in learning.

Responses to Description of what BYM is: There was interest in understanding the difference between interim meeting and quarterly meeting;- and interest in learning more about what interim meeting is and how often it meets, etc.

Responses to Queries:
1. What calls me to be part of the Friends Community? Responses included
: Quakers have helped me to be myself; manner of worship; values and decision making approach; helps me to be more peaceful; listening – “we are quiet but we are riding the wind, and riding the wind is larger than ourselves . . .”; stillness and corporate stillness.

2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting? Responses included: through small groups, I can see my gifts; clearness committees; focusing on the questions rather than the answers; feeling support by being there; in committees and groups of Friends, I notice what my leadings and gifts are.

3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my Meeting? Responses included: working for promotion of tolerance; want to participate, but distance is an issue; seduction of being re-united with those I haven’t seen for awhile, but I now want to put down roots and let go of the wider community; Show up! – be there at meetings and be supportive of groups; I have not felt called to be involved outside of RFM; As we age, we are less involved in the larger community. I could be more involved, but there is enough to do here in my own Meeting.

4. What is the Yearly Meeting called to do to act out our faith and what can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams? Responses included: Structure and seeking – as long as we do these things, we are open and willing to help in the wider world; I would like BYM to send more information to the monthly meetings; If you participate in the Yearly Meeting, you are asked to do things – there are many issues and not as many people – too much to be done; Support people who have strong leadings and gifts; many times, people can supply information without being asked. Issues can be galvanizing in the monthly meeting and Yearly Meeting is the top level of support for the monthly meeting. Dream: gender and sex roles will not be a part of marriage. Dream: BYM has done a tremendous job through Camp and Young Friends in working together and moving into life. Bound faith and strong center that holds the community together – the YM can be that for the monthly meetings. BYM can be a center and a structure and opening for our concerns. There needs to be a stronger flow of communication between Yearly Meeting and monthly meetings. It is hard to be in both places.

My impression was of a group of people who are involved in their Meeting but feel somewhat far away, both geographically and symbolically, from the “center” of the yearly meeting.

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Roanoke Quaker Meeting

Traveling Ministry Visit to Roanoke VA Meeting, July 12, 2010

Jean James and Grace Palmer

We were very pleased by the attendance at our discussion. Ten of the fourteen people who attended meeting stayed for our discussion. Two arrived after meeting simply to attend the forum. Roanoke is a growing meeting. Five of the attendees have been attending one year or less.

The majority of our time was spent in education about the structures involved in our alphabet soup – BYM, FGC, FUM, the difference between "Yearly Meeting" and Annual Sessions, what an Interim Meeting is, and many of the facts of recent history. Jean was surprised when several people didn’t know what BYM stood for and/or if it did anything other than camp.

Friends were appreciative of the new knowledge and perspective. Their main concern is what they perceive as a lack of attention to the Southwestern portion of Virginia. Due to distance it is difficult for those who might be interested to attend meetings. While this is true, we did not point out that they do not have any facilities capable of accommodating, as an example, an interim meeting. We did remind them that there will be an interim meeting in Richmond on October 16 and 17. Secondarily, there were several folks that are participating in BYM and they expressed concern over the cost for Annual Meeting and wonder if there could be a fund established to provide financial assistance to the children to attend BYM Annual.

Jean is particularly concerned about Roanoke’s feeling of isolation and ignorance. Our thought from this experience is that a project that may be well worth BYM's time and the small amount of money needed to produce a pamphlet that explains the things Friends do not know beyond their Monthly Meeting. We will be interested to see if our future visits and others' experiences bear this out.

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Sandy Spring Friends Meeting

BYM Visioning at Sandy Spring MM
14 November 2010

Present: John Smallwood (Bethesda, Visitor); Betsy Meyer (SS, Companion); Steve Berry (SS Assistant Clerk), Natalie Finegar, Howard Fullerton, Deborah Legowski, Joan Liversidge, Rich Liversidge, Maria Bradley

Introduction: The visioning process began couple of years ago as BYM began looking at its structure, the activities it does, and what it is to be doing in the 21st century. It was seasoned through a planning committee, Interim Meeting and then Annual Sessions.

The process: worship sharing on queries which were developed to consider community – the local community to begin with, then moving more broadly to the Yearly Meeting, which is just part of the Quaker community which extends both from local to international. The day is really a meditation on community: how we as individuals fit into the Quaker community, including the
national organizations.

All meetings and worship groups will be working through the same queries. It is not a discussion, where we leap to agree or disagree.

We step back to go forward in and as a community. There is no need to agree on results. The purpose is to collect insights and where BYM might go from here.

Here John asked for questions about the agenda for the time together. His role, he explained, is just to move us through the queries, the process. He is not present to answer any questions.

1. What calls me/us to be part of the Friends’ Community?
DL: I came seeking, rather than being born into the community. I stayed because of the accessibility of God. No trappings of ritual, liturgy.
NF: Quaker testimonies and seeking spiritual journey alone, but found it richer in a corporate body. I could teach the children Quaker like values on my own, but it is a broader experience for them when they see them in other children, and in adults – older, single, not just their parents. I like to “watch God flow”, seeing the testimonies lived out by many different types of people in many different ways. I also come to worship for renewal during the week.
JL: I missed being a birthright Quaker because of a family estrangement. I found Quakers through exploring my family heritage at a time when I was seeking. I found the lack of a creed freeing. Within that freedom I discovered an experience of Christ that I had not found in the Presbyterian church. I appreciate the Inner Light, Spirit, God. It is a paradox that now I have the freedom to believe what I want, but in community, I am pulled to live a life of the Spirit, in a Christ-like way. There is a demand to live in a certain way and to do it with others.
RL: I am drawn by the bias towards honesty in relationships together and outside of the community. The same bias can be found elsewhere, in other organized religions, but it is stronger here. There is a different kind of sense of community, stronger and with more connections.
HF: Remnds me we keep redefining community. For many it is is the worshiping group. For others it is wider groups, even including Kenya. A broader experience of Friends Community. Finding Quakers who are not like me, make me uncomfortable. We can either withdraw from them, or live with the discomfort and grow. This meeting is known for those who went out and lived with others who were different, and we, the meeting as well, grew. There are concentric circles reaching across the world and across cultures.
SB: I grew up in an Indiana Meeting and Earlham College. After graduating, I rarely came to Quaker Meetings. When I moved to the Olney area, and was getting married, I came back. I find a grounding for the inner journey and in the outer world as well. I get “support even if poor” [even if I am a poor Quaker?]
MB: 24/7 living of Sunday professed religion (attorney/Sanctuary) brought me; worship kept me. The opportunities to learn about what it meant to be a Quaker, through Pat Loring’s classes; the inclusion – those who spoke to me and invited me to participate in activities within and beyond the meeting; the opportunities I was given to serve, being asked to be on a committee, etc., and the incredible lives in action.

2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting?
MB: We had retreats naming gifts. Others encouraged me to serve on committees, as a representative, and in other ways. I’ve had travel minutes for several years, and clearness and anchoring committees. The local Spiritual Formation program as well as the small groups of the BYM Spiritual Formation program. I would have liked more accountability to the Meeting as a whole for what I did at their request or encouragement.
JL: There has been movement at Sandy Spring. [recovering the ?] lost the process of identifying, supporting, welcoming back and embracing those who travel. The YM had the same struggle a number of years ago. The YM felt the support for individual leadings belonged in the Monthly Meeting, not at the YM level. But MMs don’t know how to provide that support. Do we know how to do Accountability here? After our recent Intervisitation to Kenya we have been invited to speak at 5 – 6 meetings, but not here at Sandy Spring. It was difficult even to get on the agenda of MWAB to report. It is hard to get support for our Couples Enrichment work here at the meeting.
RL: The impetus for doing anything is from the individual, not from the meeting naming or offering. The Meeting may say ‘okay’ but it does little else. There is little support. How do we as a community even support those who transfer in, their marriages for instance. When we wanted to renew our vows, in the manner of Friends, no one had any idea how to go about it.
NF: There are small ways of nurturing and supporting gifts. It isn’t possible to have everyone speak during MWAB. Small groups help to develop support. Membership and Spiritual Care and Trustees, in their committee meetings, check in at the beginning. It is a way of sharing what is going on in the world outside of the committee. My profession is my ministry. When my profession was in crisis, people checked in with me.
DL: Creating community within the meeting ebbs and flows. It is my ‘job’, my ministry. MWAB hasn’t really looked to see what hasn’t been addressed. Can we see the holes? What might be there?

3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own Meeting?
DL: I haven’t gone beyond the Yearly Meeting level. Within the YM, there is the Women’s Retreat which I ‘ve attended for 12, 13 years. Also the camping program and the year round Youth programs – JYF & YF Conferences.
NF: Not doing anything on a national or international level, but I would like to, once the kids are older and easier to travel with. I’m busy in the YM, but would like to go to the YAFs. When I talk with the kids’ camp counselors, or Alison Duncan, they have such energy, and ideas. They are living intentionally living in a Quaker way. We have lots to learn from them.
JL: Out beyond the MM, among those who are not like us, there are opportunities for growth. I got involved in FUM, following Rich. This led to involvement in the Intervisitation committee. The downside is that it keeps me away from the MM, and I feel a real loss. When my life was kids and my job, we couldn’t go to BYM annual session and the FGC Gathering and family vacations. So we consciously chose BYM to build a Quaker community.
HF: Once active, how do I disentangle? It is necessary partly so others can have the experiences I’ve had. And I don’t want to find myself in a responsible position when I am in diminished capacity. It is surprising how open many places are to youth in service. They name them and train them into responsibility.
RL: Beyond the monthly meeting, other organizations discern leadings and/or recognize skills needed. Opportunities around financing and funding issues have helped him develop skills, but does that mean he has a leading to do the work? Too often ‘nice’ people are put in positions of responsibility and authority, rather than because they have the needed skills or calling.

4. What do I as an individual Friend or what does this Monthly Meeting see the Yearly Meeting being called to do to act out our faith?
JL: Early Friends did have an ‘end time’ attitude. Then, after a couple of decades, we came to believe that the Kingdom is here and now. What we are all about furthering the Kingdom of God here on earth NOW. How do we an a YM further the Kingdom of God NOW??
NF: My calling? What goes right when I do it? If it goes right, God is in it… 2 things seem to be flowing well in the YM. *Representative Travel* to other organizations: the service to those organizations seem invaluable. Representatives to FUM seem to end upon the Executive Board. *Youth related activities* Camping, Quaker education, etc, even when it is not Quakers we are serving.
DL: it is like ‘rain drops’ – from the individual to the small group to the Quarterly Meeting and the YM, the drops collect and grow into ever bigger forms which become forces for change.
RL: I read “Your Money or Your Life”. Where you spend your money shows what your values really are. 2/3 of the YM budget goes to youth, especially the camps. How is the YM using our resources? What are the real costs to have so much money going on the camps? He is now on the Camp Property Management Committee. It is a good thing to have a skeptical view on the camps on the committee.
[Mochiko DeSilva came in at this point, but I don’t think she ever said anything.]
HF: Visioning is because the MMs are giving 1/3 of its budget to the YM. they are asking “what are we getting in return from the YM? What is the YM doing for us, since after all, the camping program is self-supporting; we pay for them to go. We are doing more conferences on clerking (with Art Larrabee), on small meetings. But we need to do more travel within the YM. We need to have ministers traveling and talking about what is going on.
[Ron Lord and Alan DeSilva came in]

5. What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams?
DL: My two Quaker communities are frequently in conflict: Quarterly Meeting occurs on the first day of First Day School. Perhaps when QM occurs, we should ALL go. Cancel Meeting for Worship and other MM activities for the day.
HF: we are moving more towards north & south meetings, whether conferences and consultations offered twice in two different locations, or even N/S committee meetings.
MB: The YM can help with the expenses and coverage of advertizing. It can provide conferences and consultations about what it is to be a Quaker, different aspects like the old Quaker Leadership [Life] Institutes and Bible Conferences.
SB: In Indianapolis, the 3 Quaker meetings used to have joint meetings for worship on special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas.
NF: YM has the necessary capacity – there is no lack of money or ideas or enriched lives. We don’t have time together to see what is being built. There are multiple communities, but many are not engaged. If a large part of your market is not getting the market product, what is missing? How can we bring Quakers together? Maybe not just for Business Meetings. Religious Education seminars perhaps – opportunitites to share interests and ideas and support. The Interchange comes out 2 times a year. Is there somewhere for a “Quaker Events
Bulletin Board” so groups could find out what is going on in other meetings. For instance, there are meetings occurring in this next week to learn about and support the Friends International Center in Ramallah. COMMUNICATION.

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Seneca Valley Preparative Meeting

Visit to Seneca Valley Preparative Meeting (Boyds, MD)
Deborah Haines

I visited Seneca Valley on December 19, 2010. There were five Friends present, plus myself. I was told that attendance at worship normally ranges from four to twelve. We had an informal discussion over lunch that lasted about an hour and a quarter. Most of the group are very seasoned Friends. Two were born into Quaker families, and one became involved as a third grader at Lansdowne Friends School. He was awed by the way children were invited to speak out of worship. Only one person present was a new attender, relatively unfamiliar with Quaker beliefs and practices. Here are some responses to the queries:

“Meeting is a sanctuary; no one needs or wants anything from you for an hour.” “Quaker testimonies are a wonderful guide to a way of life.” “Non-judgmental community support; people here listen deeply, even when they don’t agree.”

“Everyone has gone through tough times; Friends support and care about each other; “supportive well-wishing.” “We question each other: ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Why are you doing that?’” Ongoing support is given to David Zarembka, who was a founding member of the meeting. Friends feel the meeting supports them in their individual work and service, even when they don’t talk about it much.

One member is head of a Friends school; another is active in international reconciliation and development projects, growing out of Quaker leadings but not Quaker sponsored. Two are teachers who expressed an intention to put a lot of energy into Quaker volunteer service when they retire. All (except the new attender) seemed aware of the wider Quaker world, and drawn to Quaker service.

One Friend said: “Quakerism seems to be in a dormant stage—there is not much questioning or creativity (especially at Sandy Spring). We need more stimulation. Traveling among Friends is a way of questing, searching.” Several Friends emphasized the importance of Friends schools and Quaker approaches to education. They suggested that BYM should take more of an interest in Friends schools. It could provide corporate care and networking for those involved in education, in colleges and public schools as well as Friends schools. We need forums to explore how Quaker values shape educational theory (very different from mainstream educational theory). Could there be charter schools based on Quaker educational theory? We also need forums to explore and publicize Quaker stands on other issues, like gay rights, peace, and reconciliation. How about a Quaker blog?

This is a small but high-energy group. One Friend said that she doesn’t want Seneca Valley to get much bigger; she likes being part of a small, focused meeting where everyone knows each other. Yet the meeting has a clear outreach orientation. They may not emphasize growing their own worship group, but they are full of ideas about how to grow the Religious Society of Friends. BYM would do well to try to tap the energy of individuals in Seneca Valley, especially those who are approaching retirement and looking for new ways to be of service.

BYM should be exploring, developing and promoting Quaker educational theory as a contribution to public discussions of education reform. Quaker education emphasizes community, openness, inclusiveness, individual integrity, recognition of many styles of learning, and an approach that nurtures the whole person. The public debate, on the other hand, seems to focus mainly on testing and other ways of promoting competition among both teachers and students. Many Quakers are educators. BYM could provide a very useful service by creating networks and forums where they could share their insights and ideas.

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Shepherdstown Preparative Meeting

Visioning the Future of Shepherdstown Friends Meeting
February 13 2011

The session was preceded by a sumptuous potluck lunch at Marie Tyler‐McGraw’s home. Fourteen people attended, including presenter Charlotte Boynton and companion/note taker Jeanne Houghton.

Charlotte first gave a description of Baltimore Yearly Meeting and its relationship to Friends United Meeting, and then explained the worship sharing format to be used.

What calls me to be part of the Friends community?
• I feel safe to scrutinize myself, to raise questions, without judgment. I can hear my own voice in a new way.
I’m drawn by the silence, the contemplative way of worship, of people together in the silence. We gather in silence and listen more deeply, contemplate, as is not possible in more “talky” groups.

The God within, all are ministers to each other, we share simple living values.

Am drawn by the historical continuity. Before knowing Quakers, his worldview was diffuse, from many sources, but coming to Friends was like coming home to a community supporting all parts of values, lifestyle, etc.

Drawn by commitment to children. . . Appreciate open give and take.

What can my Meeting do to support my gifts and leadings?
• One has a right to be “wrong”. Some leadings are counter to Quaker practice… some are frivolous. Sometimes the meeting has been faced with choices that make us uncomfortable.

One attender anticipated that the meeting would join him in supporting a program of providing community dinners, and when they didn’t, he left.

Becoming known comes before supporting leadings. We must learn to let ourselves be known. I know myself differently in Meeting. It’s the place where I can know myself best and know what’s in me.

It’s important to know when to support and when we can’t or shouldn’t. We seek a higher vision/level than is possible. We must not expect too much.

We are a new meeting, are young and don’t know ourselves yet. Reflect on other community focus, on support service…. Balance between praying and acting…. Patience, wait. Spirit of group is not an individual leading.

What am I led to do beyond my own Meeting within the community of Friends?
• Participate in annual sessions, as a number of people have. Frederick Meeting has been a great support; they would like more participation in reverse from Shepherdstown Meeting.

FGC, visit other meetings, attend workshops. Helped at the Wilderness Center and at Frederick Meeting, where we helped put in new wood flooring. Helped at Opequon Camp with cooking and gardening.

What is the calling of our Yearly Meeting – as I see it? as my Monthly Meeting sees it?

The group did not answer this question. [perhaps because they were feeling new enough to be still focused on becoming a meeting and knowing themselves.]

What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams? [Hard to get our heads around this one.]
• We want a first day school and more young families. We have curriculum [but just a couple of kids.]

Can BYM help us get a meeting house?

We’re growing & changing.. short term goals.

Want the Yearly Meeting “to be there as we muddle through.”

Charlotte: (a) idea for all monthly meeting peace committees to meet together to cross‐generate/support each other. (b) More electronic cross communication via email, website. (c) more RE materials. Recommend more monthly meeting newsletters on the Yearly Meeting website.

This group is very aware of being very young and new. We’ve only had a ministry & worship committee for two months, same with First Day School.

notes by Jeanne Houghton 703‐609‐1065

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South Mountain Friends Fellowship

Notes from Meeting with South Mountain Friends Fellowship – Ramona Buck
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Present: 5 attenders

1. What calls me to be part of a Friends community?
- Have been to different places and have seen different religions but people in this worship group are like brothers. Life has been changed by the worship group.
- Knows that some churches won’t let released inmates attend, but Quakers aren’t like that.
- Like the fact that there is no “judging”
- Has his niece and her boyfriend reading up on Quakerism as a result of this Meeting.
- One Friend indicates he saw an ad in the Howard County Times that someone had left at the prison and he contacted Susan Rose to ask if there could be a Quaker meeting at Hagerstown. Has always been a spiritual person and is drawn to the room for worship. The method of worship sharing “calls” him. He went to many worship services of other religious groups but didn’t find a spiritual home until he came here.

2. How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting?
- Whatever one experiences, either individually or alone can be brought to the Meeting for learning which is very fulfilling. Going to Meeting is kind of like seeking a spiritual high.
- If someone has a leading, then you help because that person is part of the community.
- Flexibility and unprogrammed nature is helpful.
- Meeting helps to guide people in the right way/direction.
- It is helpful to hold people in the light.

3. What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own Meeting?
- Meditate and send good vibes to inmates and the world at large
- The gossip mill is very high at the prison and I am led to try to interrupt the gossip and to decrease it if possible. If it continues, it can actually result in gang violence and/or something being put in people’s files which will affect their futures.
- People are also bored here – and I am led to respond to that.

4 and 5. What is the Yearly Meeting called to do to act out our faith and what can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams?
- Yearly Meeting is like the community at large – out of sight, out of mind.
- Prison ministry should be mentioned in the Yearly Meeting, and emphasized as important.
- Community members should be educated as to how to visit inmates and what to expect and not to be so scared.

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State College Friends Meeting

BYM VISIONING VISIT - February 6, 2011

State College Friends Meeting is a member of two Yearly Meetings – Philadelphia and Baltimore. About a third of its members belong to Baltimore. The Friends community, aware of its “outpost” location, have developed a sizable retirement community, Foxdale, and State College Friends School. BYM Friends at State College are a part of Centre Quarterly Meeting, along with West Branch and Dunnings Creek. State College members have occupied important leadership positions in BYM. This report has been compiled by Riley Robinson from notes taken by Jules Argentianu and Peg Hansen.

Was the day emblematic of State College as a Meeting? Perhaps in some ways. A limited number of Friends were able to make it to 9 AM Meeting for Business after the previous day’s ice storm, a common occurrence in central PA. The Clerk did not have his papers due to the weather conditions. Nevertheless, important business was transacted. The Meeting has a wing of rooms for religious education, now empty during the week. The Friends School would like to use the space for preschool, and there was a discussion about how that might happen. The budget was also discussed, including about ways to think about contributions to numerous other organizations, including ones in which members participate directly. A number of smaller items reflected the Meeting’s presence in a university town. The Meeting has much to do, and takes its work seriously.

More Friends arrived for gathered worship and a lively potluck as temperatures warmed. The visioning session was attended by perhaps a dozen people, a few of whom never spoke at all. It might be that these were PYM Friends who felt that they could only “audit” the BYM session. Afterwards, a few BYM Friends commented on that as indicative of other gaps that they feel in their community. It’s easy to wonder if the Meeting has trouble keeping track of all of the possible advantages of being a part of two Yearly Meetings, and instead feels some stresses because of it.

What calls me/us to be part of the Friends’ Community?
● The silence leads to Faith in others' "God within" and our own "God within."
● After being a Friend for some time, our conflicts led me to church shopping, and then back to Friends where I belong. Worship with Friends differs – it leads to a wider witness in the world.
● Starting with the individual, the way of Friends leads to a commitment to the world. Guidance received helps us grow, in reflection, in service, in support for leadings. Catoctin helped broaden our boy's appreciation for nature, and a shared closeness in our family.
● The only connection with a group that I find can compare with that in Meeting for Worship is to be found in gospel church, the singing church. However, the creedal stuff there I can’t accept
● The Meeting is a loving tired mother, works very hard and is overburdened. Therefore it is hard for one to ask for support, even though it would be given to best of the MM’s ability.
● Helping and being helped in aligning life as God would have us live. Corporate worship, reading, study. Monthly Meeting has a glass ceiling. I need to go outside sometimes, and YM helps.
● Answering God goes in both directions, being able to hear and be heard.
● In the past there may have been more freedom to recognize gifts rather than just follow leadings, a “who me?” moment . . . this would be good to see again.
● Perceptiveness of fellow members to ask something that leads to growth before I realize the need to ask.

How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting?
● Messages can go both directions. We listen tenderly whether we agree or disagree. My gifts to others come back to me. Interest (by MM), engagement, accountability.
● It seems to me that MM recognized gifts that one didn’t recognize by one’s own perception more so in the past. Persons could have a "who me? " reaction. The surprise was good.
● I’ve grown into a nicer person, deeper feelings and beliefs. I have tried to interact with non-Quakers on a different level with varying success.
● Serving a wider community has added stability of my understanding of God. It’s exciting.

What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own Meeting?
● After so many years it has led me to be a nicer person outside of MM.
● I had a longstanding dream of running bookstore, so I had fun with BYM bookstore. I had only limited responsibility as volunteer, and clientele was grateful – and fun!.
● I have more challenge than I can manage with current family commitments. I could maybe work with BYM if it’s a well-defined task and short-term. Otherwise it’s too daunting.
● It adds stability vs. “my particular God .” It was made plain when I joined MM.
● Having two Yearly Mtgs makes it different but it would be wonderful for the YM to facilitate sharing between the Meetings, like the networking day of BYM’s Peace Ctte. This would let MM committees know we are not alone on issues.
● Act as a conduit to bring like-minded Friends with shared leadings together. Also for Friends with inspired ministry who are not working through MM to share their work.

What do I as an individual Friend or what does this Monthly Meeting see the Yearly Meeting being called to do to act out our faith?
● Having two YM adds richness to the experience. It facilitates communication, eg, possibly being the on same committee in both BYM and MM.
● Fear is a dominant theme in the world. We all probably have a focus on job stability. For others, it’s sheer survival - having enough food and water. How can faith deal with fear?
● Social networking on the internet is helpful. These tools might help bridge the physical distance between MMs to draw in Friends, including YFs.
● “Dreams” takes me to “How can the YM provide inspiration?” We want to live out stewardship responsibilities; the YM might provide leadership and resources toward such actions.
● Early Friends sought gospel order. It helps to have a bigger, farther-away, visible reminder of what is going on - a place to get past ourselves and be reminded of what we might be.

What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams?
● Current technology can bridge distance. For us it’s three hours minimum each way to BYM activities. It’s also more appealing to younger persons as well.
● Meeting to provide inspiration as it already provides organization, compassionate concern and decision making. We are yearning to live out stewardship/ Building faith role models for society. The YM can enable MM’s in areas both of social concerns and spiritual, e.g., the Earlham workshop on pastoral care at Langley hill. Maybe these could be put on by MMs.
● It helps us not be so petty -a check on, a perspective of what it’s really about. A grounded inspiration. Humans are flawed.

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Takoma Park Preparative Meeting

Visit to Takoma Park Preparative Meeting (Takoma Park, MD)
Deborah Haines

I visited Takoma Park Friends on November 21, 2010. My daughter Rebecca served as my traveling companion. There nine Friends at worship plus the two of all, and all stayed for the second hour program. Here is a summary of responses to the questions:

“People in meeting share my values—they are good people trying to do what’s right;” “I started coming because of the testimonies on peace and simplicity. When I come to meeting I feel I don’t have to pretend;” “I was attracted by the Quaker record on peace and justice issues—I like the balance between contemplation and activism;” “I started attending meeting during World War II because of the peace testimony. I like the belief in equality, the lack of hierarchy;” “I expect people here to see what’s divine in me, and challenge me to live up to it;” “Christ in his resurrection has given us the inward tools to build the kingdom of heaven. This is where we explore and test and live out what we are led to do;” “Quaker meeting is a place where we experience inward truth, and wrestle with hard things;” “Quaker practice is based on mutual respect. Instead of believing that people are bad and need to be made better, Quakers look for the good in everyone.”

This question sparked a painful discussion. Individual Friends suggested the possibility of small group meetings to get to know one another better, naming each other’s gifts, or holding clearness committees to help each other with hard choices and problems. None of these things are being done in the meeting at present. One Friend commented that he had known people in the meeting for years, but had very little idea of what was happening in their lives. Another noted that he did not want anyone telling him: “these are your gifts, and I don’t think you’re using them properly.” He had been part of a group once that had done that, and it was very distasteful to him. The mood of the conversation was probably set by the second person to speak. She complained that no one seems willing to help her with the table at the local farmer’s market, which, she said, was “the only thing we do as a group.” Others noted the difficulty of getting anyone in the meeting to do anything. The Clerk’s comment was that people need to be doing work for the meeting because it is a leading, not just a job that has to be done. People aren’t volunteering because they don’t feel led. As one Friend summed it up: “we start with a bunch of pre-conceived tasks, and fail to do them, and feel crappy. If we just felt free to listen and do what we are led to, we might feel more fulfilled.”

Friends at Takoma Park are far more active in the wider Quaker world than is the case at most meetings. They are well represented on BYM Committees. Many of them came up through the BYM Young Friends and Young Adult Friends programs. Several have worked on AFSC projects or the Alternatives to Violence Project. Several have been involved in Friends schools. Individuals also mentioned being involved in Friends General Conference, Washington Quaker Workcamps, and the World Gathering of Young Friends.

This query elicited a fairly vehement critique of the decision to hold Annual Sessions in Frostburg. It is simply not affordable for college students and those just starting out. It is inaccessible to those who don’t have cars. It is far enough away from the metropolitan area so that those who have full time jobs cannot easily come at all. It was described as “a week-long retreat in the mountains for those wealthy enough to afford it.” If Annual Sessions were held in the DC metropolitan area, hosted by one of the larger meetings, it would be possible for far more people to participate. People could have their choice of paying for a hotel, or arranging home hospitality, or commuting from home. This is how it used to be done in horse and buggy days. The idea having a “residential” yearly meeting as a way of building community needs to be re-considered. It excludes too many people.

There were, however, a number of positive suggestions. One Friend noted that BYM is a regional gathering, and should focus on regional projects, not national policy or local concerns. He suggested that this would include: 1) the camping program; 2) the counseling program which was laid down a few years ago—it was extremely valuable to small meetings; 3) a program of planting and supporting new meetings.

Several Friends are very much interested in the Alternatives to Violence Program. Could BYM do more to publicize and support it? One Friend suggested that BYM should serve as a keeper of local/regional Quaker history—a sort of clearinghouse for local archives and history projects. Another Friend suggested that BYM should be doing more to support Quaker education and help those with limited resources attend Quaker schools. Another suggested that BYM should host a Quaker blog, to encourage networking.

In my experience, when one or more people begin complaining that others aren’t doing their fair share, it sucks the life out of a group. Everyone withdraws, feeling unappreciated and resentful. This dynamic needs to be broken. I don’t know how.

BYM could perform a wonderful service by promoting the Alternatives to Violence Project among Friends. There are AVP projects in Maryland, but not Virginia. There are a great many Friends interested. Dissemination information and supporting networking could make a real difference and this is a natural role for the Yearly Meeting.

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Valley Friends Meeting

Valley Friends Meeting (Harrisonburg, Virginia)
Deborah Haines

I visited Valley Friends on October 17, 2010. There were about twenty Friends at worship (plus children), and 17 stayed for the second hour program, which I thought showed an impressive level of interest and commitment. I started by asking everyone to introduce themselves and to say one thing they highly valued about Valley Meeting. It was a wonderful way to get started. Friends talked about the sense of community in the meeting, the acceptance of diversity, the absence of dogma, and the way the silence enriched and grounded them.

Here is a summary of responses to the questions:

“The mystery and miracle of silent waiting worship”; “the gift of quiet time”; “the belief that God is within each person and each of us can know for ourselves”; “the way Friends try to live their spirituality every day”; “honoring inner truth and providing opportunities to speak it”; “the invitation in Friends’ practice to engage with Spirit and live in that flow”; “the Quaker approach to decision making”; “the emphasis on community”; “the idea that God is found in relationship, not in doctrine”; “simplicity in beliefs and honesty in relationships”; “the way we care for each other”; “the acceptance of diversity”; “the way I was welcomed”; “the affirmation that God is loving, not judgmental”; “the way children are encouraged to discover their own inner goodness and speak their truth”; “continuing revelation, available to all”; “when I first attended I felt embraced by love, in a room full of light”; “meeting is my anchor”.

Coming together with intention/attention to the Spirit; sharing meals, creating opportunities and space for sharing; affirming trust and connection; the clearness process; opportunities to serve and speak out. Do we know each other as well as we should? Do we know what others are doing to live out their faith? How can we practice friendship on a deeper level? How can we ask for help, or ask others what help they need? How can we challenge each other to be more faithful?

Knowing I would be short of time, I handled this one by passing out a little questionnaire listing lots of Friends organizations. There were several people new to Friends who said they weren’t familiar with any of them and would like to know more. Of those who turned in the questionnaire: 8-9 said they had taken part in or given financial support to AFSC, FCNL and Pendle Hill programs; 6-7 mentioned BYM, FGC, FUM, Friends Journal and Right Sharing. Seven had made financial contributions to BYM. This seemed to me to be an unusual level of involvement in the wider Quaker world.

The first response was: “Do more of this sort of thing.” Visiting and talking with each other is really important. One Friend mentioned that the Yearly Meeting helps with discernment of big issues, like gay rights. The camping program and youth program were mentioned as valuable activities beyond what local meetings can do for themselves. Friends asked if the Yearly Meeting could help set up workshops or find speakers for regional gatherings. The idea of a regional gathering, perhaps centered in Charlottesville, generated considerable excitement. It was noted that the Great Lakes Initiative has BYM roots—could the yearly meeting do more to publicize it and get Friends involved? Finally some Friends expressed the opinion that annual sessions are too expensive and too time consuming—seven of those present had been to annual sessions in the past five years, but most only once or twice during that time.

Because we had such a large group, the session ran over the allotted time by more than half an hour, but everybody agreed to stay. Most of those present responded to each of the questions, and the quality of the sharing was tender and deep. It seems to be a wonderful meeting. I would love to go back. In fact, I feel a certain leading to go back. It seemed to me that the session opened up some questions that need further exploration, and I might have a further role to play. Perhaps others have had the same experience. I think we should consider whether there might be an ongoing relationship with at least some of the meetings we have connected with in this initial round of visits.

BYM should help pull together regional gatherings of Friends, especially in Virginia where there are no quarterly meetings. This could be done by offering to provide speakers, assisting with logistics, etc. Charlottesville would be a good location for those in central Virginia.

BYM should do more to publicize and celebrate David Zarembka’s work in Africa. This is something that belongs to us and should be more widely known and supported within the yearly meeting.

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Warrington Monthly Meeting

Report on Yearly Meeting Visioning Visit
to Warrington, 11/21/2010
Submitted by Ken Stockbridge, Patapsco
Drawn from notes by Tracy Haidar, Gunpowder

On 11/21/2010, I visited Warrington Meeting in Pennsylvania for the Yearly Meeting (YM) visioning process. Tracy Haidar of Gunpowder was my traveling companion and took detailed notes. Eight Friends from Warrington participated in the discussion, along with one Meeting House mouse (though some said it was a vole). I gathered that they represented most of the regular attenders. I was struck by the particular beauty of the historic Meetinghouse, which was quite distinct from other old Meetinghouses in that it had a low wooden-beam ceiling, relatively small windows, and corner fireplaces. Both the building and the people had an unusually intimate feeling.

As Friends shared what their Meeting meant to them, I could not help feeling moved by the level of intimacy and mutual commitment they expressed. One Friend shared that she came from a family with a long Quaker history and when she found Warrington, she felt like she was “coming home,” and Friends there have become part of her family. The Quaker and Bible studies and potluck meals have been a great support to her. She especially appreciated that Quakers tend to go beyond just tolerating differences; they are accepting of them. Three others also had a Quaker family history. One said, “I think I’ve always known I was a Quaker, even when I was attending a Baptist church.” Several spoke movingly of what the people there meant to them and feeling welcomed, accepted, and supported. One said, “There is a purity of heart in all the people [here], and I cannot find this anywhere else.” One shared that she felt the presence of God in Quaker Meeting and feels she does not need a minister. Several spoke of the spiritual growth they had experienced since attending. One added that he can make mistakes and be himself. Another expressed appreciation that “they let me come her and they leave me alone.” Several spoke of having a community in which they meet each other’s needs and are creating a closer and even more supportive community. One spoke specifically about her leading to provide religious education for the youth of the Meeting.

Few Warrington Friends have much experience with the YM. One said his main interaction was email exchanges with Wayne Finegar, who has been extremely helpful and “does a fantastic job.” Another said her only interaction was reporting income to the YM for the apportionment and wondered why the YM does not also ask for information about expenses. She also noted having included some questions when she submitted the apportionment form, but she never got a response. Still another said that all he hears about the YM is “they want money.” Another questioned the need for three camps and felt having so many was a financial burden. They expressed a desire for a visit from the YM to discuss the apportionment. One had known Lamar Matthew before he became clerk of the YM. Others have no contact except receiving emails, and several said they had not felt a leading or inclination to participate beyond their local Meeting or taken time to learn what’s available in the YM. At least one said she’d appreciate the YM helping to educate their Meeting about what it does. They did express a desire for help and resources pertaining to religious education for children.

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Williamsburg Friends Meeting

Williamsburg Monthly Meeting (including Norfolk Preparative Meeting)
of the Religious Society of Friends
Visioning Visit

Nine Friends from Williamsburg Meeting, including two members of the Norfolk Preparative Meeting, gathered after worship and lunch for worship/sharing around our visioning queries. Though they live at some distance from the geographic center of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, many Williamsburg Friends feel connected to the Yearly Meeting, and BYM connects them to the larger community of Quakerism. A Friend expressed the joy of attending Annual Session: for a person from a small Meeting, it gives a sense of living in a large Quaker community. Many expressed how important BYM’s youth programs and camps had been to their children, who are now Quakers because of BYM. Williamsburg Friends see BYM as a support system for Monthly Meetings, and this is especially important to small Meetings. The Faith and Practice is an important resource for them, and thanks was expressed for the new queries and for the voices which make the practice and testimonies discussed more real and less theoretical.

Williamsburg Friends expressed their sense of feeling supported and at home in their Meeting. One Friend spoke of feeling like she was hard-wired for religion, but the church she grew up in was not the right fit. She was grateful to find Quaker worship, and Williamsburg Friends support her gifts and ministries. She finds specific support from her spiritual formation group which asks her the tough questions. Another Friend spoke of finding Quakers by doing research on line, and felt the leading to begin worshiping with Friends as God’s call that he had never felt before. His sense of God’s presence has been nourished by Williamsburg Meeting and by Annual Session. A Friend from Norfolk spoke with gratitude for how Williamsburg Friends helped the Norfolk group raise $5,000 for Heifer International. Friends said that the Meeting was good at helping its members through hard times, and Friends know that Williamsburg Friends are there for them no matter what. They also recognized that a person gets out of the Meeting what s/he puts into it.

Williamsburg Friends recognize that both their small size and their distance from the geographic center of BYM separate them somewhat from BYM. They are aware of BYM and its events and activities, but these are not central to their thoughts. They treasure the fact that this remoteness insulates them to an extent from the busyness found in many larger Meetings. Williamsburg Friends appreciate the more comfortable, relaxed, less busy feeling of their Meeting.

Williamsburg Friends appreciate the BYM events and programs in which they have participated. They were grateful for the visioning visit, and hope that they will receive at least one visit each year from someone representing BYM. They also were appreciative of Robinne’s recent visit to talk of development work. The Spiritual Formation Program and the Women’s Retreat are both important programs to Williamsburg Friends. They also were appreciative of the Clerking Workshop.

Williamsburg Friends see BYM’s role as: (1) providing resources for Monthly Meetings, (2) connecting Monthly Meetings, and (3) acting as a corporate witness to the wider world. One Friend recalled how helpful it was when Wayne sent some resources on procedures for weddings in Virginia. Because many of these Friends feel less experienced, they would like the Yearly Meeting to provide resources on topics such as discernment (what are we called to and what are we not called to?) and clearness committees. They would love to have visitors from other Meetings who are following leadings and who would share their journeys (talking about discernment and clearness and support processes). BYM connects meetings through the Monthly Announcements, which Williamsburg Friends really appreciate (and kudos for Wayne’s work with these!). They would like BYM to find additional ways to connect small Meetings. Finally, BYM can speak out on behalf of its Monthly Meetings on matters of national importance.

Williamsburg Friends expressed gratitude for their connection to BYM, and they urge all in BYM to keep up the good work. They appreciate the expectation that each Monthly Meeting will write a Spiritual State of the Meeting report annually. Williamsburg Friends take this assignment seriously, and the labor they put into it strengthens the Meeting.

It was a joy and blessing to worship and visit with Williamsburg Friends who appreciate their connection to BYM while they treasure their own very special Monthly Meeting.

Elizabeth F. Meyer

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York Friends Meeting

Seventh Month Twenty Fourth Day, 2010

Eight members from the York Monthly meeting met with Peg Hansen from the Yearly Meeting’s Visioning Group and her traveling companion, Ellen Johnson Arginteanu. After a time of silent worship and introductions, a traveling minute was read; Peg Hansen introduced the purpose and general outline of the meeting, asking the group first to share what Baltimore Yearly Meeting meant to them, indicating that this would be followed by specific queries.

The eight member’s experiences with Baltimore Yearly varied widely from having served as Yearly Meeting clerk to having several having very little to no experience. Several stated that they only became involved with Yearly Meeting due to the influence of others in the Monthly Meeting who spoke about it so highly, underlining the importance of this as a route to involvement in YM.

A couple expressed that they didn’t know what Yearly Meeting had to offer, while another said they felt Yearly Meeting was a place to turn when help was needed. One member expressed a wish that Yearly Meeting’s Committee’s could connect more with their respective Monthly Meetings committees and interact on concerns. A wish was expressed that there could be an offering of workshops and trainings. Several people had served on Yearly Meeting committees and shared that this experience gave them a better sense of what the Yearly Meeting was

The Annual Gathering was mentioned as an important time to find out what had happened across the whole of Yearly meeting over the year and is a place to meet other Friends. They expressed an appreciation for the sense that everyone whether from large or small meetings, urban or rural, conservative or progressive has a voice--that all voices are listened to and cherished.

The five queries were read (what calls me/us to be part of the Friends Community? How can my gifts and leadings be supported by my Meeting? What am I led to do in the community of Friends beyond my own Meeting? What is the Yearly Meeting called to do to act out our faith? What can the Yearly Meeting do to help us realize our collective dreams?)

People spoke feelingly about what drew them to Friends. Themes of a being part of a faith community which lives out the testimonies, and deep respect for other people were repeated as values which drew people. Several mentioned Friend’s belief in continuing revelation as a pull, and experiencing continuing revelation with oneself and others, and the sense “that God speaks to me through gathered Friends” (more easily than elsewhere.)
One Friend spoke of people being drawn to us for “what we aren’t (i.e., no creeds, no ministers, no sacraments) we need to focus on what we are and that is a realization that we are one, even with the others that they are rejecting (those who have creeds, ministers and sacraments.) Beyond my own meeting: “I plant seeds for participation in larger Friends community, I water them and sometimes they grow. The ones that grow, I nurture. Involvement in the larger community gives a feeling of belonging, working together for a common good (whatever that
may be.)

What can the YM do to Help:
● One Friend spoke to the history of Friends that before we had a sect we had a
movement and we had to have something to hold us together and YM is that mechanism. He went on to say that just as community saves us from our ego, Yearly Meeting helps the Monthly Meeting not to go off on it’s own.
● YM can develop leadership training and development programs, regional meetings or workshops on leadership/clerkships/spiritual concerns/testimonies. (These don’t have to be done by YM staff.)
● Dissemination of information
● YM (as whole) should look at how central the camping program is to YM: the budget is larger than other programs, it offers an opportunity for a transformative experience, it is a model for and envy of other yearly meetings. Could we capitalize on this strength and offer something for adults, especially for those who have not had the experience at a younger age; this could be transformative for us also.
● Programmed opportunities for spiritual growth.

Suggestion/Reminder to the Monthly Meeting:
Each MM should give time to people who have attended YM to fully report.

A query was given: How can involvement in meeting business -Monthly or Yearly-- be presented as tending to your spiritual growth rather than a “hunk” of time doing something. “Human doings vs. human beings.”

We thank York Meeting for their work and shared thoughts on this process.

In Light,
Peg Hansen

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