In preparing for this report Ministry and Oversight conducted a Worship Sharing meeting on First Day February 8, 2009 after our common meal. The approximately twenty Friends who participated considered the following queries:
- How do the work of our committees enrich and focus the spiritual life of the Meeting?
- What do we need most to deepen the spiritual life of the Meeting?
Our community is mindful that our devotion to worshipping together is the glue and foundation of our Meeting. The time spent together in the silence with Spirit nourishes our growth. We share an active concern for each other when a member of our community is kept from attending Meeting for Worship.
Newcomers to our worship, as well as those who have been attending for years, sense the rhythm which allows our community of Spirit to work harmoniously, in most instances. We are quite successful in some activities, need improvement in others and are sensitive to areas of inadequacy. This sensitivity has led to discussions, sitting in contemplation with Spirit and in some instances practical activities. Together, we continue to seek.
Our Meeting does hospitality very well. Our weekly common meal on First Days is our time to show our love and concern for each other and to extend open hearts to those new in our midst. One friend recalled a recent incidence in which a first time attender, about to leave after Meeting for Worship, was invited to eat with us and did. This attender has returned a number of times to worship with us. This is just one example of how Friends reach out in welcoming hospitality, affording newcomers an opportunity to get to know us better socially. The hospitality committee is often the first committee newcomers see in action. If they choose to lend a helping hand with any aspect of hospitality, they are most likely experiencing Quaker committee life for the first time. It is important to note that this committee is sometimes the door to their joining with us on a more permanent basis. The committee’s continuing challenge is insuring that its members put their kitchen preparations aside in order to attend Meeting for Worship, for as much of the worship time as is possible.
The same holds true for teachers serving on the Children’s Religious Education Committee. The children’s response to the religious education program, the growing numbers of children attending on First Day and the dedication of the teachers who lead the program, are a source of great joy to our Meeting. However, the children’s classes are held at the same time as Meeting for Worship and the teachers are only able to worship with us when the children in their class do not show up. The ten minutes the children and teachers join with the Meeting for Worship is not adequate. This continues to be a great concern.
Newcomers, as well as seasoned Friends, can continue exploring their spiritual paths while increasing their knowledge of Quakers past and present by utilizing our well maintained library, attending our First Day mornings’ Adult Religious Education presentations and talking with Ministry and Oversight’s Quaker in the Corner after Meeting for Worship.
Our Nominating Committee has been actively seeking members and attenders who are willing to participate fully in the life of our Meeting by serving on committees. There is an awareness and recognition of gifts given to individuals for the spiritual life of the Meeting. Friends who cycle off a committee are asked to consider bringing these gifts to the service of a different committee of interest to them, bringing with them their energy and ideas.
Committees are asked to regularly report to the Meeting on their activities and to write short articles for the Meeting’s newsletter. These activities have brought an appreciation of what the committees do for our Meeting and the surrounding community. Our joyous celebration after the reconstruction of our carriage shed with the surrounding community was combined with a fund raiser for the United Community Ministry’s food pantry.
The Healing Prayer Committee has quickly become an important part of our Meeting’s spiritual support of those facing health challenges, with Meeting members seeking out committee members for inclusion in the committee’s monthly prayer meetings. The Community development Committee has moved steadily forward, bearing witness to others that the historic integrity of our meetinghouse and property as a place of silent worship must be preserved. The Traveling Ministry Committee has expanded its selection of traveling companions to include our entire membership. This has led to a deeper understanding, interest, and spiritual support by our Meeting of the traveling ministry committee’s work in the wider Quaker community.
Our community has been enriched by the work of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, which participated with another Meeting and churches in awarding Peace Prizes for local high school students. Our community continues to support and participate in Venture in Community’s ecumenical hypothermia program, providing hot meals and overnight shelter for the homeless, as well as in Fairfax County’s Nurturing Parents program. Our civic responsibilities are realized in part by our support of Friends Committee on National Legislation, on reminders concerning voting registration and our involvement with death penalty issues. Many of our members participate in Spiritual Formation groups, enhancing their spiritual experience as well as adding to the spiritual depth of the Meeting as a whole. The Trustees have been faithful in affirming that we value our young people and are willing to sacrifice in big and small ways to help them with financial support for their schooling.
Our Meeting for Worship with a concern for business is exactly that – a Meeting for Worship. Each of the participants feels tender in asking for prayerful silence, while we consider difficult issues. The practice of beginning with Spirit, being open to Spirit and returning to Spirit for guidance when conflicted, influences the entire life of our Meeting.
Ministry & Oversight brings a deep understanding and insistence that all our community activities must be grounded in Spirit. There is no wavering on this point and the committee works closely with committee clerks and members of the Meeting to keep developing this awareness in our community life. The committee is challenged with encouraging our community to explore and avail themselves of clearness committees in making life defining decisions, when appropriate. Another continuing challenge centers on how best to encourage attenders to seek Meeting membership.
There were a few issues which tested our dedication to returning to Spirit for guidance: Our Meeting’s relationship with Baltimore Yearly Meeting, particularly the financial apportionment, and BYM’s relationship with Friends United Meeting, in relation to FUM’s intolerance towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Friends. While either of these issues could have had serious negative consequences for our Meeting, Friends labored, ministered and at times eldered each other over some harsh criticisms concerning these organizations and their policies, while not being actively engaged in the processes that brought these policies about. As a result, our Meeting is now more engaged and realizes that while we are just beginning our involvement we are aware that our Meeting’s spiritual growth and health is entwined with that of the wider Quaker community and the issues of concern to us all.