The content and format of the Spiritual State of the Meeting Report for 2010 departs from the reports of recent years in an effort to focus on a smaller number of priority issues. Through reporting the comments of those participating in the preparation of this report, our intent is to describe key positive and negative feelings (apples and onions) and to identify a few specific items to work on throughout the year. It is important to note that the views presented in this report are not necessarily the Sense of the Meeting, but collections from responses by many.
Our Spiritual Life
Apples: Friends feel that we often have very centered meetings and we have had good participation in programs associated with our testimonies. Friends appreciate the efforts of Ministry and Counsel to enhance and deepen worship. Our Meeting is a loving place for people to come for spiritual nurturance. Meeting does an excellent job of honoring various viewpoints and respecting each individual along with their range of religious beliefs. Although at times controversial, vocal ministry is strong and reflects the truths within strongly held beliefs. Most of the time the messages flow and curl throughout and Meeting and we end up in a gathered space. Friends appreciate the vitality, growth, and witness of Shepherdstown Allowed Meeting under the care of Frederick Monthly Meeting. We recognize that the ideas encompassed by the Peace Testimony extend to every facet of life and includes relationships between individuals, families, Friends, and political entities. We struggle with our fears so that we can embrace those in opposition to solve a shared problem. We are aware that we need to listen to each other to understand and respect different points of view and realize that people can hold multiple truths in the light without judgment. We appreciate the efforts of the Peace and Social Concerns and Property Committees for their dedication to global social and environmental issues. These efforts have led to our improved ecological awareness and to the continual increase in “greening” our Meeting space.
Onions: Some Friends feel that we need to “stretch” ourselves spiritually into areas that might be uncomfortable but enriching for Meeting. Atheists cheerfully remain atheists; people who dislike the Bible seldom challenge themselves to explore what it might have to say, etc. Through this stretching process, we may be able to grow spiritually, understand differences among each other more deeply, and, perhaps, overcome the divisiveness that sometimes occurs during differences of viewpoints. Our vocal ministry is often personal and heartfelt, but not often something that draws us down to the root of our spiritual lives. Some feel that there is a strong need for education and understanding about what defines a vocal ministry. Some Friends who seem to have found meaning in peaceful silence ask for more guidance in how to use the silence and more education in how to listen for the spirit’s voice. Although we have had full and enriching First Day School programs in the past, we have had difficulties recruiting enough teachers this year to place children in smaller groups with those of their own age.
Our Quaker Community
Apples: Friends feel that the informality of Meeting allows each person to feel at ease and comfortable. Many Friends feel loved and supported by Meeting and feel that being part of
Frederick Monthly Meeting feels like a long-term, deep relationship. Meeting, with leadership by the Program Committee, organizes many social events such as Friendly Eights, gatherings at the homes of Friends, and our annual retreat at Camp Catoctin that build our community. Housecleaning and potlucks provide an entry for everyone to contribute.
Onions: Many Friends felt that it is hard for new people to get integrated into our meeting and its community. People are greeted warmly during their first few visits, but find difficulties engaging in deeper interactions early on.
Our Business Practices
Apples: Friends appreciate that we appear to have improved our ways of dealing with difficult issues. While not yet perfect, our efforts seem to be paying off in increased patience and civility with one another. We have used Quaker process to struggle through issues surrounding the level of participation by a sex offender, an issue that has divided us for many years, often with great acrimony stemming from deeply-held beliefs and feelings. Although many Friends are unhappy with the current decision of meeting to invite the individual to mid-week worship only, many feel that we now seem to have stability after years of unrest. We seem to be managing this year without a Clerk of Meeting. We have met regularly prior to Meeting for Business to establish a working agenda and to share information related to building clerking skills, invited Katherine Smith to lead a clerking workshop which was attended by 27 of us, and rotated the position of Acting Clerk through several volunteers. We feel a strong sense of cooperation as we draw on a wide range of each other’s gifts.
Onions: Many Friends feel that the business of Meeting has become out of balance with spiritual pursuits. Many feel that valid leadings towards improving our organizational framework have gotten out of hand and have risen to higher levels of priority than necessary. As a consequence, we seem to spend more time in practical meetings than we do in learning about, witnessing, and experiencing Quaker life and thought. When doing the work of Meeting, we want to feel that we are feeding rather than draining our spirits so that we can cope with the world in a more centered way. Some think that we send too many items to Ministry and Counsel during Meeting for Worship with an Attention to Business and feel that the Committee needs to focus more of its attention on Meeting for Worship and in helping us develop our spiritual paths rather than administrative issues. We have toiled to install a beautiful floor and now we want to dance.
Queries for Improvement of Spiritual State of the Meeting over the next year:
- How can Meeting balance building efficient organizational frameworks with nurturing spiritual growth? How can efforts be directed from business-related tasks towards religious development and First Day School?
- How can we better develop practices that are more inclusive to those who are new to us and more welcoming to those whom we have not seen lately?
- How can we learn to better listen to the Light? How can we improve the content and depth of vocal ministry? How can we develop better understandings of background related to our Testimonies and then apply them in our lives?