Coming Home to Hopewell
We’re Hopewell Centre now, but we weren’t always two meetings joined, and I suppose that’s part of the homecoming story (one you’ll have to visit us to find out about). It’s probably hard to imagine us as the wilderness, but in the settling time of our country, that’s exactly where we sat: on Apple Pie Ridge, the line between civilization and the great vast unknown. We were part of William Penn’s vision that there would be Meetinghouses spread out across these colonies about one every ten miles, and so there was, many years ago in the Shenandoah Valley.
I don’t know if that’s how Homecoming got started or not. The first one we have on record is in 1944, with an attendance of 65. The largest since then was 1956 with 130. Our 275th anniversary homecoming brought over 100 to us. This might not seem like many to a big city meeting, but to our ‘country mouse’ meeting, this is a welcome chance to see the meeting benches filled and it does our hearts good to see the meeting half again as full as it usually is, welcoming ‘cousins’ from Maine to Ohio to Colorado, or from right down the road!
Here’s what we’ve learned about Homecoming: There’s a Spirit that lives among us (you knew that, yes) and we may be tempted to let it go a bit dormant, yet when we get to tending to the work of the Meeting, readying ourselves for the Presence of guests, waiting for the return of those come Home, there’s something that awakens in us as well. Hearts beat a little quicker, hands work a little faster, minds seem just a little more at the ready. Jobs that needed to be done seem to all of a sudden get finished, and people who were just a bit too busy to find the time, squeeze that time out, and find themselves at the ready.
So whether we are harboring and feeding the Exiles of 1775, shuttling slaves finding their way north in 1860 (yes, one Friends’ home was found to have a secret hiding place), sheltering a sojourning peace worker in 2005, or just making chicken salad and setting up tables for homecoming 2010, it is a truth that hospitality is foundational to our core beliefs, we are a community that is one Body, and when we function that way, we experience what Marty Walton (The Blessed Community, p. 8) and so many others have told us:
Our meetings are living entities, not theories…we can’t nurture our spirits in isolation from all the other ways we relate to each other– our spiritual lives can’t be sepatated out. Whether we want it this way or not, we inevitably find out that our whole being is engaged in spiritual growth.
So Homecoming is our chance to meet and greet new friends and old, but it is in that process that we are all invited into the Light. The blessing of working together brings into reality the vision of God’s presence among us. It isn’t just that the Light is in, with and around each of us at every moment, it is that somehow, whenever two or more are gathered, it is so much easier to feel that Presence.
At worship last first day, almost as an afterthought, after someone reminded us of an ancient tradition of holding the names of those gone by as sacred, someone rose and said, “let us call out the names of those come before.” In those final moments of silence, they came to be with us, filling the room, as spirit filled us all.