2015 Spiritual State of the Meeting

April 2016

What are your greatest joys as a Meeting?

  • “We just do things.”  While we have active committees doing the work of the Meeting, as individuals we don’t wait for a committee, a crowd, approval from others to act when there is a need.
  • Inspired messages spoken out of the silence of Meeting for Worship
  • The Commitment Ceremony for Cynthia & Tom
  • The myriad of activities and actions we are engaged in in our Southern Maryland community
  • Our faith in the value of the consensus process, that never fails us when there are challenges to resolve
  • Our ready sense of humor
  • The wide variety of ways we invite our community to make use of our Meeinghouse
  • The unique and numerous ways we have been a part of initiating dialogue in our community, encouraging people to share and listen with respect
  • Our cheery optimism hosting BYM Interim meeting, despite all the challenges of such a small meeting taking care of a large crowd.

What leadings does your Meeting feel most strongly?

  • Our considerable activities in support of the homeless
  • Our active support of individual member’s community outreach efforts
  • Our loving support of each other in our individual pursuits of our passions.

What challenges and troubles are you facing?

  • Small size
  • Only one young Friend in First Day School
  • Limited participation by Friends in support of First Day School
  • Tracking and supporting persons who drop off our radar screen, whether in the short term or the long term
  • Disorganization following rise of Meeting.  Ideally we would like to share “after thoughts”, welcome sharing from First Day School, hear announcements.  But some walk away while Friends are sharing.  There is uncertainty as to whether to sit or stand, and more.

In what ways is the Meeting less than you might wish it to be?

  • We feel the need to have a better understanding of what it means to be a Friend, a member of the Religious Society of Friends.
  • We often don’t know when Friends need extra help.  We sometimes find it hard to determine if help is appropriate or intrusive.
  • Some do not feel comfortable asking for personal help from the Meeting community.
  • Quaker Quest momentum disappeared.

How does your Meeting nurture the spiritual life of members and attenders?

  • Cooking and sharing food while enjoying the company of one another
  • Lovingly holding the space for messages in Meeting, holding the speaker in the Light, then holding the space again for the quiet inner voice
  • Gathering for discussion groups on chosen Spiritual literature  (the Aramaic Bible Lord's Prayer and the Four Doors to Meeting for Worship)
  • Caring for each other, offering emotional support to one another

How deep are your Meetings for Worship?

  • Depth of worship varies - some are deep, some not, some felt, some gathered or covered.

Are Meetings for Business held in a spirit of worship?

  • Yes, and with humor, joy and laughter.
  • It is not uncommon for Friends unable to make it for worship to show up for Business Meeting.

Is your Meeting as diverse as you would like it to be?

  • We are not diverse enough.   Our meeting community has a rich diversity of religious backgrounds.

How well do you attend to the needs of newcomers?

  • For those who have stayed on and become attenders, “Pretty well, no complaints”.

Do Friends of all ages feel fully a part of the Meeting community?

  • Adults and older Friends do
  • Younger Friends are included in meeting activities and discussions.

Do you engage with other Meetings through visitation or shared projects?

  • In 2015 we hosted BYM’s Interim Meeting at our meetinghouse.
  • We held a Quaker Quest session with enthusiastic participation by almost all of our members and attenders.
  • Our kids participate in BYM youth projects. 

What message would you like to share with others in Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and with Friends around the world?

  • We come together with Spirit when we have group projects. Many Happy Helping Hands make projects more fulfilling and uplifting.

 

Quarterly Meeting at Patuxent Friends Meeting, June 2014

 

2013 Spiritual State of the Meeting

March 2014

            As one of our members said, “This Meeting puts me at peace to know that I am loved in a community. I am able to give in return to Meeting knowing I am valued.” Another said, “We, as individuals, come to Meeting vulnerable and feeling spiritually depleted. It is there in the circle of communal worship that we find support, gain strength and experience healing.”

            Our willingness to listen to Spirit was tested this fall. During a called Meeting for Business in late October we were presented with the framework of an opportunity. Our trepidation led us to enter into discussion at November’s Meeting for Business pretty sure we couldn’t do it. Through prayerful listening we were led to say “Yes We Can!” Spirit opened our minds and hearts, way opened, and we joyfully proceed.

            This artwork, created by a young friend 8 years of age, spoke to us during this time of introspection.  

Members of Patuxent Friends, with support of the Meeting, founded the Community Mediation Centers (CMCs) of Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties over a decade ago. Many of our members serve as mediators. Members also facilitate conversations in the community about difficult topics such as race. In mediation or in these community events, the goals are the same – to share perspective based upon personal life experience and discern areas of common understanding, as well as to understand why we might disagree.

We are reminded weekly to donate to a local food pantry. The spiritual messages provide food for thought as well as a loving reminder to think beyond our family’s needs.

 

2012 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report

March 2013

How does the Spirit prosper among us? How does our Meeting ensure that ministry is nurtured, and that members and attenders feel valued and cared for?

It has been our custom for many years to stand in a circle at rise of Meeting for Worship, holding hands at first. The clerk asks for “afterthoughts.” We use this period to share vocal ministry that may not have been fully formed during meeting. Subsequently,  Members and attenders express personal concerns, such as holding loved ones in the light or asking for spiritual support, while others respond with listening and kindness. We are comfortable with this practice, and it helps us feel included as members of a caring community. We make a general effort to stay in touch with each other’s issues and struggles, and while we don’t always succeed in knowing just what each person needs, we all benefit from the feeling of support this generates. We strive to nurture each other without being overbearing, and we struggle about how to be aware and give care where it’s needed without being too nosy.

What supports the life of the Spirit in our Meeting community? What challenges and troubles are we facing? In what ways is the Meeting less than we would wish it to be?

We are a very social meeting and greatly enjoy our potlucks, work days, and special events. We have had some “meetings for skiing,” where some of our community go to Canaan Valley in West Virginia during the winter for skiing (cross-country and downhill), snow play, or simply enjoyment of nature and each other’s presence. One friend commented that we seem to like each other in addition to sharing spiritual directions.

We also note that there is too much noise and bustle in our daily lives, and we value very much the quiet space that the meeting for worship and other Quaker activities provide.

As a very small meeting, we have had the usual troubles with first-day school. Sometimes first-day school will have just two or three attenders but might still span an age range from toddler through teenager. Other times it is difficult to find two friends to be in charge on a given first day.

How is the presence of Spirit manifested in our lives individually and as a Meeting community?

One friend wrote that the presence of the spirit is “manifested in a flower growing through the snow.” Our Meeting has always given high priority to social action directed toward our local community, and many members and attenders are active in this way individually, in addition to acting through the meeting. Homelessness has recently become a focus of concern, as we learn how many more homeless people there are than can be supported by local agencies, such as Project ECHO, which we have supported enthusiastically.

How can we bring that of God or peace into political or other difficult conversations?

“Take a chill pill and turn off the cameras,” remarked one friend! The media seem to thrive on the “show” of political debate—the anger and frenzy—rather than the substance of the issues, and we find that this attitude often spills over into personal conversations. Political conversations often become so charged and fast that we often find that simply walking away from them is the best policy. Several people cited a recent article in Friends Journal about the gun issue as an example of a quiet, understanding political discussion.

How can we learn to accept seekers in our Meeting with different concepts of God and find ways to help them on their spiritual journey?

We listen to other’s views and try to accept them without judging. We realize that everyone has a different concept of God and religion. We feel that our meeting does this fairly well, and indeed our members and attenders follow a wide variety of spiritual paths.

  • Should we make the community more aware of our spiritual concerns and how they drive our social actions, and if so, how should we do this?

We added this query during discussion of our Spiritual State of the Meeting Report, because as a very small meeting we sometimes wonder if the community is aware of us at all. However, as we discussed the matter we decided that the community—particularly those parts of the community involved in caring for others—is quite aware of our activities and our motivations. Occasionally someone involved in one of the projects we support will come to meeting and remark with great surprise on our small size; we seem to have an outsized influence, which gives us joy. As a meeting we have written letters to the editor of our local papers in spiritual support of marriage equality and repeal of the death penalty, and this too helps make the community more aware of us.

 

2011 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report

How have we recognized and addressed (or failed to address) issues that have caused difficulties among us?

We have found ourselves this past year transforming conflicts in our meeting over some issues. We have done this by caring more for and about each other, than about the difficult issues that have arisen. Have concerns been voiced and not heard? Have  concerns been heard, but forgotten  or not acted upon? We wait and let the way open as the Spirit so moves us or our committees to make things happen. We found that with patience, speaking plainly, persistence and holding the matter or person in the Light, the way would (eventually) open and resolve itself. We are learning the importance of identifying issues and referring them to the appropriate committees to be worked upon and brought back to the meeting for business. We now have a new bathroom in our meetinghouse, after five years of being a 'concern'. We have found 'profound listening' in meeting for worship while allowing the silence to manifest knowing.

How do we as a meeting appear to ourselves and others and how do we wish to be?

A board member of Project Echo (the homeless shelter in Calvert Co.) commented on the seemingly high quantity of Quaker members in our community, and was surprised to learn we have less than 25 members. Our robust activity in the community suggested a larger presence. We are action-oriented. We show a willingness to listen. To ourselves we appear as a small, caring community. A circle of trust exists, despite the eclectic gathering of spirit.

How is the presence of the Spirit manifested in our lives individually and as a Meeting community?

Spirit manifests itself on the individual, corporate and universal levels.

The realization of spirit is different for each person and has been defined as:

Belief, Light, Service to Others, Loving, Prism of many paths, God (code word)

Spirit supersedes anthropomorphism

Spirit created the universe; exists outside the Universe; contains it

Spirit is beyond individual experience and definitions

Spirit is Quiet, not dogmatic (breathing room)

One cannot know spirit in itself, for it is an abstraction; one can only perceive manifestations of the spirit, such as love, gratitude, respect, tolerance...

Spirit as Truth (each of us carries a small piece of the truth)

Spirit is joy for each other (as can be experienced with children)

Spirit is Movement, Drive

In the healing tradition of the 12 Steps:'...Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we name that ...'

How does the Spirit prosper among us?

The spirit prospers via our social actions in the community. In the messages shared in our meetings and our coming together as a community and fellowship. It also manifests through silence and inspiration.

What supports the growth of the Spirit?

A collected gathering.

Energy, Life Force, Community action.

Spirit as the 'Good' in a Platonic sense.

How is the presence of spirit manifest in our lives?

In the level of sharing under the surface known in silence and inspiration

A collective gathering with intentions and with joy.

Meeting for Worship is a source of spiritual nourishment.

Silence and messages are equally important.

Through social action-oriented activities in the larger communit

 

2010 Spiritual State of the Meeting Report
Patuxent Friends Meeting, Lusby, Md.

How does meeting ensure that ministry is nurtured, and that members and attenders feel valued and cared for?

We find joy in coming together as a Meeting; to worship, to work, to play, to share in the communion of a potluck meal, to support those in need, to consider what it means for us to be a Friend.

At the rise of meeting each week we take time to share and listen to “after thoughts”; messages that weren’t ripe enough for sharing out of the silence and/or heartfelt responses to messages spoken during meeting. We ask for and listen to the children’s report of their First Day School activity, and often query them further. We share the joys, sorrows, and challenges in our lives and ask that others hold us in the light. We introduce ourselves and welcome any guests that are present.

We find joy in caring for one another, checking in with one another, especially those we have not seen for awhile or those who are going through a tough time.

Many of us feel that Meeting supports our inner lives so that we can let our light shine forth in the world. Meeting for Worship has been likened to an oasis, refreshing our spirits from the week we just had and nurturing our spirits for the week ahead, so that our lives can speak as Quakers.

What supports the life of the Spirit in our meeting community?

Our love for one another, imperfect as it can be at times, and how our lives speak to one another.

Many of us have come to Quakerism as adults, seeking, and finding, support for our spiritual journey in a religion and a manner of worship that allows us to have a sense of our own spirit while becoming part of the spirit of the Meeting community. We value the support from the seasoned Friends among us, as they guide us in the Quaker forms and protocols.

The life of the spirit is especially enriched when we come together as a meeting to give loving service to one another, to our meeting house property, and to those in our community.

An openness to the Spirit as it manifests in each of our own lives, and as it manifests in those in Meeting.

There is a willingness to look at our own selves and sit with our own “stuff” (both as individuals and as a Meeting); to labor with issues or concerns that inevitably arise from being human and endeavoring to live as a community.

What challenges and troubles are we facing?

For some of us, there is a fear or reticence to share messages out of the silence of meeting.

We are laboring to become clear on how to support Friends who do good works, but do not participate in the life of Meeting.

In what ways is Meeting less than we wish it would be?

We wish to see and have more exposure to the larger Quaker community. We feel that our spirits would benefit, as individuals and as a meeting community, to meet and hear about the experiences of other Quakers.

Our meeting is small, and we long to see more new faces and have more diversity among our members and attenders. We have a wonderful diversity of religious experience and backgrounds, but not  much  socio-economic and racial diversity.

One of our members envisions having a school.

Our First Day School is a continual struggle for us in that there is less participation from the adults in Meeting then we wish for.

How is the presence of Spirit manifest in our lives as individuals?

In many ways. When we really see people and are present with them;being friendly to those we see in the course of our day; making eye contact, smiling, and acknowledging them.

When we practice “seeing that of God” in every being that we meet.

Through our daily lives and interactions with all those beings with whom we share this bittersweet existence, looking to find/being open to seeing “that of God”.

When we slow down and allow time to be present with ourselves and others.

In a tremendous ministry of action to the community.