To sustain spiritual life, we need one another’s eyes and hearts as surely as we need help creating food and shelter. This reflection and encouragement is no small thing. As Adrienne Rich says, “Truthfulness, honor, is not something that springs ablaze of itself, it has to be created between people.” – Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry
Our report represents a rich mosaic of voices representing the breadth of experience within the Meeting community and the depth of our listening to the living Presence in our midst. First gathered from a worship sharing experience, thoughts were edited into topic paragraphs by the Ministry and Counsel committee and perfected in Meeting for Business.
Meeting for Worship
God’s presence is often deeply felt in Meeting for Worship. However, a few find Meeting dry and hope that those who participate in activities such as spiritual formation, Bible study, Quakerism, etc. will share more from those experiences to strengthen the spirit of the Meeting. Although there has been concern that intense sharing in activities and gatherings might draw energy away from the Meeting for Worship, a number of Friends sense that these experiences strengthen the community and enhance Meeting for Worship. Yet, it is regrettable that not all Members have been able to take part in some activities that have been particularly bonding, especially when this intensity is not experienced in Meeting for Worship. The relationship between Meeting for Worship and other activities needs to be better understood
Meeting for Worship is where the loving community brushes the edge of the Divine mystery when we collectively hold the expectation that it will happen. Meeting for Worship is often seen as a time set apart to wait for and utter only what is divinely inspired. Could there be too high an expectation regarding discernment of that which is divine and that which is not? Yet, we are reminded that every word matters and carries weight in all settings, such that our words should always be intentional and divinely inspired, and that we let out lives speak. Worship is deepened when we are facing one another, when we are caring for each other, and when each individual is intentionally calling on the Spirit in each of us. The process of changing the Meeting for Worship time from 11:00 to 10:00 AM began with a worship sharing session and testifies to the trust shared by the community. The act of driving to the Meeting House is a preparatory spiritual practice for at least one member. The area around the Meeting House draws members to connect with and draw spiritual sustenance from nature. It is wonderful to see the Meeting experience nature collectively and individually, both in summer meeting for worship on the porch and in other activities.
First Day School
Our Meeting feels fortunate to have such a strong first day school program. Friends have been struck at how children have shared during first day school lessons, during a memorial Meeting for Mary Mills, and during the end of year picnic meeting for worship. The first day school committee takes the time for careful planning with the intention to create a worthwhile program for the children. Friends continue to think of ways to keep our children involved and, in turn, realize we need to be prepared to tolerate different perspectives and different ways of being in the life of the Meeting. Friends feel that if our pre-teens are given responsibilities critical to the life of the Meeting, they will want to stay involved with Meeting. Our older children wrote an insightful book on their experiences with the Quaker testimonies and gave copies of the book to F/friends as gifts to enjoy. The relationships between our young friends and all other Friends continue to grow under the care of our Meeting.
Activities and Gatherings
The diversity of the Meeting’s activities mirrors the multifaceted nature of spirituality. The varieties of sharing and experiences that these activities offer have helped to foster the trust we have in one another. Trust and depth of relationships both stand as the great strengths we derive from our community because they allow us to share deep spiritual feelings and to recognize that we are all on a journey together and have a variety of beliefs about and experiences of the Divine. As we share with one another, we discover where others are in their spiritual journeys and receive encouragement in our own. Trust has divine importance.
Energy is brought into the meeting by such collective experiences as camping. We could use more experiences of pure joy, such as singing together. The intergenerational game night is a step in that direction. In addition to the social bonding that occurs during the monthly coffee hour, Friends of all ages have begun writing letters to politicians under the guidance of information from FCNL. Among other things, such activities involve the intellect. Regular monthly activities include:
- Adult forum
- Coffee hour
- Saturday silent retreat
- Quakerism discussion
- Spiritual formation
- Spiritual literacy (added this past year)
- Bible study
- Handcraft and worship night
- Quaker parenting group (also added this year)
Other activities and gatherings this year have included:
- Annual Meeting picnic
- First Day School camping trip at the Schmaljohn’s
- First Day School worship and fellowship day at the Lane’s farm
- Intergenerational game night
- Spiritual Formation retreats
Friends have also gathered formally and informally with one another in numbers great and small, fostering relationships in our own and the broader Quaker Community.
Meeting for Business and Committees
Since our change in time for Meeting for Worship, the spirit of worship flows helpfully into Meeting for Business. The time change also enables more parents of young children to participate in business meeting and in committee work. With the involvement of more Friends in committees, we share the workload. This shared sense of work allows Friends to participate in other areas or to take a well-deserved break.
Relationships in the Community
One of the strongest characteristics of our Meeting is our caring for one another in many different ways. Our young families have done a particularly good job of this. Our older members continue to be a source of strength for the Meeting community, many of whom look out for each other on a regular basis. All ages help out in First Day School and participate in intergenerational activities. We joyfully welcome new members with small social gatherings in our homes. We hope to continue to reach out to those who feel on the periphery of the Meeting community, those who don’t attend regularly, and those who don’t participate fully. As we continue the process of discernment about same-gender marriage, we want to support those members who celebrate their lives in same-gender relationships. Joys and sorrows shared in the closing minutes of Meeting for Worship have been very helpful in bringing needs forward, and this time of personal sharing and holding each others’ concerns in the Light has brought us closer to each other. The word ‘trust’ kept coming up in our reflections on our past year, trust as a kind of “love in action.”
The strong trust within our community leads us to reach outward. From our solid Meeting community we go into the world, strengthened as individuals to reach out in many directions. We report about our experiences as Quakers, as much by questions as by answers or statements—questions that we live as well as speak. Some may feel that religious beliefs are private and may be reluctant to speak. Yet one Friend takes every opportunity to say she’s a Quaker, shattering stereotypes and emphasizing that Quakers are regular people. Letter writing sessions during coffee hour have improved our outreach. In the fall we began a major redesigning of our website.
As the Meeting looks forward to the coming year, two particular issues will garner our attention. One is the completion and implementation of the Gunpowder website that was begun so ably by Mary Mills. The meeting has committed to this work, and its fruition remains a high priority. The second issue is the positioning of benches within the meeting room. Many Friends have expressed a preference for a ‘square’ rather than a ‘front-back’ arrangement, and we will need to determine the sense of the Meeting, one way or the other.
In general we are enthusiastic and optimistic about 2010. The Meeting has many areas that are functioning well and many opportunities to strengthen the community.