How does the Spirit prosper among you? How does your meeting ensure that ministry is nurtured & members & attenders feel valued and cared for?
Life in the Meeting continues to be meaningful on many levels. As with any human institution, there’s always work to be done, always room for improvement.
Vocal ministry has been rich and spiritual. New friends’ leadings to speak have been enriching. New families continue to contribute energy to Meeting in ways that enrich the life of the Meeting. It is evident that the Spirit doesn’t recognize political and other boundaries.
We continue to build community through activities and service. Activities have included the initiation of Quaker Quest, and ongoing versions of Quakerism 101, intergenerational breakfast, social hour at the rise of meeting, assorted potlucks and committee work to mention a few. Service opportunities have included Interfaith Mission bell ringing at Christmastime to raise funds to help needy families. Care and Concern committee initiated a database called “friendly hands.” Its idea is that by having a list of the gifts and abilities of our members and attenders, we can provide services to meeting families and individuals. It saves money & provides opportunities to get to know each other on a deeper level. A group of members and attenders decided that the meetinghouse needed some TLC. Their ideas, approved by business meeting included painting the meeting room, new curtains and a new carpet. Time shared while working provides a framework for conversations deeper than “hi, how are you doing?”
Some friends have expressed that they feel some are accorded more importance or value than others. Another piece of that is that some feel un/under appreciated. We are working to understand how to address and remedy this.
What supports the life of the spirit in your meeting community? What challenges & troubles are you facing? In what ways is the meeting less than you would wish it to be?
Shared experiences are the heart of life in the meeting, whether through worship, work parties, committee work, social hour, adult forum, spiritual formation, or any of the other activities of the meeting. All of these activities help us to know where others are on their spiritual journey, something that is necessary if we are to be able to provide support and guidance to each other.
It has been difficult to fill positions on some committees. One friend has observed “a strange apathy,” where friends feel that the work of the meeting will be done by others. We are using a combination of appealing to friends to discern where they might be led to serve, combining committees and/or laying them down to address this matter. As friends at Foxdale retirement village continue to age and die, their ability to participate in the life of the meeting continues to decrease. Their presence and wisdom are missed though some new faces from Foxdale are now seen. Foxdale Friends have had a midweek meeting for worship for some time. Recently a Sunday meeting has sprouted for those unable to travel to the meetinghouse, and those who find it difficult to worship for a full hour.
The members & attenders of meeting are people, a fact which should go without saying. We see ourselves and others for what we are not and tend not to see our own gifts and graces or those of others. There is a continual need to practice patience, understanding and empathy, both for ourselves and others.
The generational change and influx of those inexperienced in Quaker ways sometimes result in the short circuiting of process. In addition, there is a need for long range planning. Life is best lived in the median: Too much planning stifles spontaneity and living solely in the moment sacrifices the ability to accomplish larger goals.
How is the presence of Spirit manifested in your lives individually and as a meeting community?
Broadly one can say we are active in service and witness. Members have made extraordinary commitments such as going to Palestine with Christian Peace Teams, work with indigenous peoples in Chile, and the reinvigoration of the Alternatives to Violence project.
Our Meeting has had the State College Friends School under its care for many years. The school’s bylaws require that a certain number of Quakers be on its board of directors. More recently, a Quaker Life committee has formed to seek ways to retain the school’s “Quakerness.” Meeting has also had a preschool program under its care housed in one wing of the meetinghouse. Recent events have required the laying down of that preschool at the end of this year. However, the Friends School is planning to open a similar venture in the fall of 2011. This has already resulted in meeting and the school working more closely.
We witness in Meeting and through our lives. What we learn in meeting we strive to apply in our lives. A Friend related a work experience where a coworker was behaving inappropriately. The first impulse was to respond tit for tat. Spirit prompted a loving response, seeking to understand why the worker was acting that way. Healing followed.
Peace and Social Action committee continues to work on concerns of social and environmental issues, including: FCNL, Right Sharing, AFSC, Native Americans, mistreatment of chocolate workers, natural gas drilling, nuclear power.
Overall, life in the Meeting is nurturing and fulfilling. Sometimes we struggle with our human-ness to be tender towards others. We continue to seek way forward, to grow in the Spirit, to learn its ways and lessons.