The core of our life together as a faith community is our meeting for worship. On many First Days, our meetings are completely silent. There are rarely more than two or three spoken messages. In the silence and the heartfelt sharing, we find ourselves knitted together as a community. We rise from meeting for worship feeling refreshed in heart and spirit and ready to face the challenges that life presents. About twenty of our members are involved in Spiritual Formation groups that meet once a month. A few come faithfully to midweek meeting, or to the extended meetings for worship we hold once a month on a Saturday morning. We find that creating opportunities to attend to the life of the Spirit during the week not only enriches us individually, but deepens our gathered meetings for worship.
We continue to rejoice in the strength and resilience of our meeting community. Our rich program of Adult Religious Education during the 10 o’clock hour on Sunday morning gives us a chance to learn from each other and from outside speakers who come to share their concerns. Our children are a continuing joy and delight to us. Our common meal after worship gives us a chance to break bread together and get to know each other through one- on- one conversation. Our fall open house and fundraiser for United Community Ministries, enlivened by the musical gifts of our members, continues to be a joyful community-building event. We are also continuing our program of monthly “Friendly Gatherings” at the home of a member or attender, a time of relaxation, fellowship and fun. All of these activities help to strengthen our community and to provide ways for our many visitors and new attenders to get involved in the life of the meeting.
Our committee structure provides another avenue for strengthening and expanding our community. The Hospitality Committee, responsible for preparing our weekly common meal and hosting other special events, has been wonderful at drawing in newcomers looking for a way to serve. Our Children’s Religious Education Committee, Adult Religious Education Committee, Peace and Social Concerns Committee, House Committee, Property Committee, and Library Committee not only provide services that are valued by the meeting, but give Friends a chance to share their particular gifts and concerns. One Sunday a month, our children make sandwiches that are delivered to a nearby homeless shelter. In the spring, they host a meeting picnic as a fundraiser for a program or charity of their choice. Our Fall and Spring meeting workdays, organized by the Property Committee, have been generally well attended, Many of us feel drawn to spend as much time as possible at the meetinghouse, and take joy in caring for it.
Our Ministry and Oversight Committee has particular responsibility for the spiritual life of the meeting. This committee oversees not only the Spiritual Formation program, but our Healing Prayer Committee that meets regularly to hold in the Light friends and attenders who are ill or troubled. Ministry and Oversight is also prepared to organize clearness committees for anyone who asks for help with discernment, to answer questions from visitors, and to provide emergency financial assistance to member or attenders facing special needs.
With regard to our core committees—Ministry and Oversight and Trustees—we are experiencing a generational transition. Long-serving Friends have rotated off during the past year or so, to be replaced by those with somewhat less experience. Our Nominating Committee has intentionally sought out younger Friends to serve on these committees. We rejoice in the change and the promise of the new generation. We have discovered, however, an urgent need to pull together a “meeting handbook” which explains who is responsible for what and how various programs and activities are handled. As we gather all the documents our various committees have developed over the years to guide their work, we are reminded of just how much we do as a meeting. Creating the handbook, which began with a feeling of confusion and anxiety, has turned into another celebration of our meeting community.
Alexandria Friends Meeting also feeds a deep concern for the community around our meetinghouse. Our Heritage and Community Relations Committee works in a spirit-led manner to preserve our property as a place of peace and serenity during sometimes difficult negotiations with our neighbors on either side—the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir and the National Trust for Historic Preservation at Woodlawn Plantation—over proposed construction and development. We have also felt a deep concern for the poor and homeless who live up and down the Route 1 corridor. We are actively involved in United Community Ministries, an interfaith service organization, and the Hypothermia Outreach Project organized each winter by a group of area churches. We have had fewer homeless people attending our meeting this past year, but we welcome those who come to worship and eat with us. This past spring we helped pay the funeral expenses of a homeless woman who had attended frequently for several years and whom many Friends in the meeting had reached out to.
We appreciated the chance to participate in the Baltimore Yearly Meeting visioning project, and continue to explore our relationship with the Yearly Meeting. We are becoming more aware of our connections to the wider Quaker world. Friends among us are active in the work of many Quaker organizations, including William Penn House, Friends Wilderness Center, Alexandria Friends School, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends House, Friends General Conference, Pendle Hill, and the American Friends Service Committee. We would like to hear more reports on such service, to deepen our sense of involvement.
We are aware of areas in which we might improve the life of the meeting. We would like to reach out more effectively and inclusively to high school and young adult Friends. We would like to find ways to support the families in our meeting raising children. We are grateful for the diversity among us of age, belief, and condition, but we wonder whether there is as much ethnic diversity as there could be. Are we as truly open as we want to be?
We rejoice in the opportunity to minister to each other, as we are all ministers, to care for each other and to love each other. There have been losses and hardships among us, but for the most part we are com foiled and contented. There is a deep peace to be found at Alexandria Friends Meeting, and we who worship here are constantly grateful for the way it sustains us.