“When you are met together in the light, listen to it so that you may sense the power of God in every one of you. In doing this you will find your ear being tuned to hear the counsel of the Lord God, and your eye being opened to see the Lord Jesus Christ among you”. (George Fox).
Gunpowder Friends gathered in worship sharing to reflect on queries that helped us to discern the Spiritual State of our Meeting. Each member of our Ministry and Counsel committee then gathered the voices on a single topic into a paragraph. The multiplicity of voices in our report is, therefore, by design: we sought to reflect the rich mosaic of voices that represent the breadth of our experience of community and the depth of our listening to the living Presence in our midst.
Meeting for Worship.
Meetings for worship vary from week to week, sometimes in complete silence, and sometimes with a few verbal messages. Rarely does spoken ministry make up a significant portion of worship. Members and attenders draw strength from both the silence and the ministry. The silence accentuates the sounds coming from outside the meetinghouse: the sounds of nature, the sounds of farming, and the hum of I-83. The silence and spoken ministry are helpful in personal reflection and in deepening our sense of community and our experience of gathered worship at Gunpowder. This sense of community is a source of strength that enables us to respond faithfully to the challenges we face outside the meetinghouse.
First Day School.
Our Meeting feels strongly that our children contribute to the spiritual state of our Meeting by simply being present and by their interactions with Friends. They join our Meeting for Worship for the first 15 minutes. The children bestow upon us an aliveness and a presence of a growing spirit within all of our generations. As our children grow and change, we witness how they model the behavior of Friends which in turn gives us hope that the children are growing up in a community that will allow them to become peaceful, loving and confident adults. Friends continue to be concerned about the First Day School teachers in respect to the amount of support they may need and also the ability for parents to attend Meeting for Worship more regularly. Several Friends have volunteered to help in the classroom and parents continue to communicate with each other to help share the teaching workload. The First Day School committee is venturing into new territory in planning for our pre-adolescent children. We will need to continue to develop ways to maintain the involvement of our older children.
Activities and Gatherings.
We have many activities and gatherings (Adult forum, First Day School, Bible Study, Quiet Saturdays, Quakerism class, Spiritual Formation program, Spiritual Autobiography group, Spiritual Literacy group, handwork group, local camping experiences for children and families) which are helpful in building a background and richness to our spiritual lives and to our Meeting for Worship. They draw us closer together at a deeper level and help strengthen our spiritual community. We have several pot lucks throughout the year, usually in conjunction with an intergenerational program. We cherish these opportunities and we look for more ways for intergenerational connections. A number of our members and attenders are active in Quarterly and Yearly Meeting activities, as well as Indian Affairs, biweekly Peace vigils, FGC, FUM Triennial, FWCC, FCNL, and FLGBTQC gatherings, and attendance and service at Pendle Hill.
Meeting for Business and Committees.
This year Gunpowder chose to have co-clerks. This works to facilitate the transition from one clerk to the next. We feel very fortunate to have had clerks with exceptional clerking skills. Our Meetings for Business are conducted in a very worshipful way. They are conducted in a deliberative manner in which we can reflect on issues. In the fall we began having a very brief meeting of committee clerks the week before Meeting for Business to help set the agenda. This has also helped our committee clerks to interact more effectively with one another. More people, especially younger members and attenders, are getting involved in the work of the Meeting. There is a sense of shared purpose and effort. For a relatively small Meeting we have many committees. We like that the work of committees is supported and generally approved by Meeting for Business rather than trying to re-do committee work. The decision to have Peace and Social Concerns issues addressed by the Meeting as a whole, rather than a committee, is felt as a definite drawback by some, including one Friend who faithfully keeps us abreast of FCNL and other peace related matters.
Relationships in the Community.
It is a great gift to be reminded of our need for one another in times of both celebration and challenge, and to recall, as Sandra Cronk noted, that it is in the Meeting Community that we practice the art of love. This year we were called to help one another through traumatic injury and recovery, job loss, and death and grieving. One Friend who coordinated a holiday food and gift drive for several families was “overwhelmed at the response and generosity” of our Meeting community. Another Friend acknowledged that when one of us asks for help, all of us grow spiritually: we all need to recognize our interdependence and learn the humility of asking for help. We extend this care to one another through the work of our Care and Oversight Committee; more importantly, however, are the webs of attentiveness that exist across the Meeting. Our First Day School families attend lovingly to one another, and our Broadmead “seniors” draw us to the ministry of cards and visits when some of us are low or unwell. Even as we recognize these examples of the strengths of our relationships, we see opportunities to deepen our practice of love. One Friend asked “how do I form spiritual relationships with Friends I do not see at the activities in which I participate?” Another Friend reminded us that we have experienced the consequences of “unmet needs” when we feel the pain of someone who leaves our community because their needs were not being met. We need to make sure we are paying attention. As we grow together in love, we pray for this attentiveness, for the humility to ask one another for help, and for the grace to help one another sense the Light.
Our Meeting reaches out to the wider community by participating in the Crop Walk, being a member of the United Churches Assistance Network (UCAN), conducting our Book Sale with the proceeds going to UCAN, and through financial support of other organizations which meet the needs of others on a broader spectrum. Friends agree that we need to persevere in our outreach locally and nationally. Our First Day School parents and children have taken the lead in many of these activities, especially the Crop Walk and the collecting and distributing of food and assistance to those in need. Quaker outreach has two goals; one being to get the message out for people who are looking for a spiritual community and secondly to clarify what Quakerism is and is not so people can make an informed decision about whether or not the Society of Friends would meet one’s spiritual needs. Our outreach is not a means to an end for convincement, but yet a way to provide witness to our testimonies and alternative ways of being in our world. Gunpowder Friends Meeting seems to possess a special way of welcoming new attenders to our Meeting so as to encourage those on their spiritual journey.
Friends experience life in our Meeting as serene, healing, welcoming, supportive, spiritually nourishing, and sometimes challenging. It provides opportunities that balance silence and stillness with sharing and activity. As we seek ways to sustain this richness, Friends suggest that we consider the following questions: How can we prepare ourselves for the challenge of keeping teenagers involved in the life of the Meeting? How can we foster more intergenerational activity? In particular, how can we help those without children get involved? How can we assure that the intense sharing during various activities doesn’t draw the spiritual energy away from Meeting for Worship? How can we encourage cultural diversity in our Meeting? How can we better discern needs of our members? Would an extended time for sharing following Meeting for Worship offer needed opportunities? Could Quaker Quest help us reach out to the wider community? In what practical ways can we develop our spiritual connection to nature and thus enrich our spiritual lives? How could music enhance the life of our Meeting? Should we change the starting time of Meeting for Worship to address some of the families’ needs in relation to scheduled activities on First Day?
We hold all these questions in the Light as we continue our journey together as a spiritual community.