Hopewell Centre Meeting is thankful to be a part of the larger Friends Meeting — Baltimore Yearly Meeting —and so is grateful to be given the opportunity to address the queries of its Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee. As we ourselves have come to understand the importance of the pastoral responsibility we all hold, we truly know the significance of asking:
How does the Spirit prosper among you? How does your Meeting ensure that ministry is nurtured and that members and attenders feel valued and cared for?
What supports the life of the Spirit in your meeting community? What challenges and troubles are you facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than you would wish it to be?
How is the presence of Spirit manifested in your lives individually and as a meeting community?
Since questions about how many and how much are answered elsewhere, we have chosen to focus on these queries fully this year, in an effort to be faithful in our service. Friends have gathered in a series of meetings and in the Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business in an effort to discern our leading on these issues.
As Spirit does prosper, and Friends feel united that it has, one thing that stands out for us is a sense of what it means to be a part of a community that truly cares for one another. Many experienced our Anniversary Year as a time during which their faith and practice as a Quaker was deepened. And during this time, we gained a truer sense of ourselves, our gifts, and place in our spiritual family. This has enabled us to call, with clarity, upon people to truly serve as well as to answer callings we might previously have felt ill-equipped for:
- The spiritual invitation of witnessing wedding vows in the meetinghouse
- Taking on a more active role in Ministry and Counsel
- Taking on a deeper involvement in Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology
- Reaching out to other faith communities in a spirit of fellowship
- Taking on a deeper involvement with Baltimore Yearly Meeting
- Speaking to those who came to anniversary events, about one’s own faith and beliefs
- Deepening one’s involvement in the daily life and events of the Meeting
- Experiencing our faith as a living example to others
Moving towards the renovation of the meetinghouse, though it is a practical activity, has turned out to be an exercise in the spiritual health of our Meeting. The spiritual journey is: Can we do it? Can we learn how to take on this sort of activity as one body? Can we work together on this large of a project? It reveals the strength of where we are and challenges us to strengthen ourselves even more as we move through the work. The articles in the newspapers and in the Interchange keep us visible in the wider community, and result in ongoing inquiries, curiosity, and outreach. All of which we see as an outward manifestation of the Spirit.
Friends who are newer to attending our Meeting shared their experiences in coming here: They stated that they witness a deep and unusually brave faith at Hopewell that is very alive! Friends said they have felt a direct line to the past as they sat in worship – a river of direct connection to everyone who has worshiped here. Long-term members nodded in agreement, pleased to confirm that this experience is shared by all.
It seems Friends experience a synchronicity of influences; for instance, one Friend starts a conversation, and another has already brought a book on the topic and is ready to pass it along to others. The community encourages this. We embrace the use of the Internet to continue this connection since we are widely spread across a broad geography. Friends say this helps them feel connected when they are unable to attend Meeting.
This year we have addressed some new topics that were aimed particularly at our community’s issues. In particular, we have spent many second hours discussing aging; death and dying; caring for one another in long-term illness; and utilizing hospice. As with many meetings, we have a large population of “baby boomers,” and these are issues near and dear to us. We have tried to be bold in offering to be present for our Friends with particular needs. We are asking each other and ourselves, “What is our pastoral responsibility to each other? What does it mean to be part of a community that cares for one another?”
Sometimes in addressing one need, we may overlook another, and we are aware that we need to address revitalizing our Youth Religious Education Program. We are overjoyed as young people continue to come to our Meeting, and we have begun to build a program that will be ready to grow with them. Our teens and young adults have approached us to do the same for them and we are building a Young Friends Program in the Meeting as well.
We asked ourselves if there were wishes we had for the year 2011, and these are our wishes thus far:
- More opportunity for outreach, to meet and experience fellowship with people and other faiths in the surrounding community
- A need to incorporate the queries more into our monthly routine at Meeting and into our daily lives
- More teaching about Jesus and the Bible and examining our responses
- An incorporation of music into our lives as another way to connect and grow
As we move forward into this year our goals are that each Friend would grow in his or her personal relationship with the Light that is God; that we would each grow in our understanding of each other’s view of the Holy; and hold a still deeper appreciation for the time spent dwelling in silent listening.
We submit this report with deep appreciation for the work of the Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee.