“Be still and know that I am God.”
Friends gathered in March of 2010 to review last year’s Spiritual State of the Meeting report and spend a period of worship over the queries presented for this year’s consideration: Several members said that hearing last year’s report, they felt as though it could also stand as this year’s report. The Meeting continues to go through many changes with the loss of elders, the entry of new families, and with illnesses and life changes of many. We have continued to pull together in order to serve each other as different members go through times of transition. We see over and over again how pain is a touchstone for growth, pulling us closer, but stressing the ties that bind us.
Even with these losses and changes, however, Friends felt that the 275th Anniversary celebration had brought an infusion of energy to our Meeting: “The Anniversary celebration was like a turning point, and brought incredible outreach throughout the year. Any time that we were put in a position to explain our faith to non-Quakers, it took considerable self reflection. So that was a big growing point for our Meeting.”
We had the opportunity to engage in a variety of outreach activities this year. We held an Open House, inviting the local community to come and experience our Meeting and learn about Quakers. We widened our Homecoming Celebration to include Quaker meetings beyond our own. We held a series of talks for the public, inviting people from other faith communities to join us. A desire for further discussion on the part of those who attended the talks resulted in a revival of our Seekers’ Group. In September, we held a Hopewell Birthday Party, and again were pleased at all who joined us.
In the process, at least six new families have begun attending worship, and we are pleased at their enthusiasm and curiosity and what it lends to all of our spiritual journeys. New families have brought children of all ages to us, and the circle of life continues within the Meeting. Friends in the Meeting also had the opportunity to join other denominations at a dinner sponsored by the Religious Studies Students at Shenandoah University. There Friends were shown an intense amount of respect for the way that we live our lives. You could see it reflected back from the young people, when one of our members, asked to speak of our worship, said simply, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Several students have joined us for worship throughout the year as a result of that meeting and our outreach program. Some Friends have become more involved in Yearly Meeting activities and we have found that their involvement with the larger meeting community has been directly enriched our Monthly Meeting.
Far-away Friends also report that the electronic newsletters and other e-mail communications enable them to stay connected to their Meeting community.
Our Seekers’ Group has continued to be active, along with our other Religious Education groups. Together, these groups provide members and attenders with a quiet time and space in which they can explore their beliefs; ask questions about how what they believe fits or doesn’t fit in with what others believe; and explore how they can put their beliefs into action in the world.
One member summed up our year’s journey: “I was thinking about the process we went through to plan for the Anniversary. We had a lot of ideas and possibilities…. . It really was an opportunity for us to look at ourselves and say, ‘What do we want to say, and how?’ We did it very well. We had a notion that we should limit ourselves since we are small and somewhat inexperienced in how to get our message across. I affirm the Meeting for its decisions. We learned that it may not be as hard as we thought to share our beliefs. I hope we can carry forward the memory of that and keep doing it.”
The biggest wish was that everyone would attend worship at every opportunity and participate more fully in all aspects of the life of our Meeting. That way our sense of community would grow even stronger within the Meeting and we would feel even more connected with those outside of our Meeting.
The impact that an event like a memorial service or a wedding has cannot be over-estimated. In times like this, as we draw together in the Light, the shared experiences in the ministry of relatives, friends and strangers, is something that will be carried with all of us long past the hour or two we are together, enriching all, Quaker and non-Quaker.
Friends feel it is hard to separate individual from meeting-wide spiritual experiences. In going through difficult life events together —such as our elder Virginia Riley’s death and illnesses of dear members — we have drawn closer in the past few years as a faith community. With God’s help, our community , with its newly gained level of trust and communication, can make a difference in many ways. The sense is that even in the most difficult time, people feel supported. It is our hope to continue reaching out to each other in Meeting and learning to grow our community, and to touch the world around us in this same manner.