As expressed in a second hour meeting on 2/19/2017
And improved on in meetings for business on 2/26/2017 and 3/26/2017
As a small meeting, we lack the committees and structure that some Friends are used to. However, the small size provides a simplicity and intimacy that creates a real community where people know each other better. We are too small to have social cliques, so we have become more open to each other, which makes us more open to those who visit. The intimacy of the meeting leads to more intimate messages, providing for some a place for deeper meditation.
This small size brings challenges as well. The standard Quaker disparity of beliefs becomes more apparent. This leaves some without a feeling of spiritual companionship, leaving them with a soul not fed. There are too many things we want to do, and too few people to do them. But challenge and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. Our spiritual diversity highlights our common commitment to peace. Our lack of resources brings focus to our priorities. Our diversity of thought makes us appreciative of inclusivity.
As a meeting we face challenges in terms of diversity, and there was a sense of whiteness and educational elitism that was expressed by members. There was a sense insularity and a lack of social networks, and that we don’t have an adequate plan for greeting newcomers to pull them in through that insularity. At the same time, there was a resistance to changing ourselves to attract newcomers. We have changed to accommodate newcomers, and we are developing a Firstday school program to accommodate Friends with children. We hope to continue to be accepting of those who come to us.
There is also a sense of insularity as a meeting within the greater Quaker community. Friends expressed joy at doing things with the yearly meeting and the broader Quaker community. There is a sense of benefits to being a small group in a larger denomination. However, there was a feeling that we do not engage enough with other meetings. A tension with our parent meeting was especially noted, and a sense that they see us as dysfunctional. This relationship is something we feel needs to be repaired.
We do not have the committee infrastructure to engage in social work with the community. This is not seen as a deficiency by members. Instead, members see the meeting as a spiritual home base to empower independent work in the community, a place that supports the individual ministry of its members, and a place where information about work in the community is exchanged. Our one group commitment to gleaning in the local farmer’s market was seen as a valuable ongoing witness.
Our meetings for worship and our meetings for business have what was variously described as an energy, a power, or a worshipful feeling that helps Friends even when they feel distracted, not present, or pulled by other callings. One friend expressed a sense of nurturing from the accommodations provided by the business meeting. Another felt that our practice of reading the queries before business meeting provided a spiritual focus that allowed our business record to be a spiritual document.
As to the last, impertinent question concerning the recent presidential election, there was much support for one Friend’s heartfelt response of “Bite me.” This is not what we come to meeting for, or what we look for meeting to do. We have not put flyers out in the community, and we have not purchased billboards to express our faith. We will continue to let our lives speak, and to lead by example as we are led by the Spirit; as we did for the last president, and as we will for the next president.
This document should not be taken as a list of complaints about our meeting, but rather a recognition of the challenges our meeting faces. We find joy in our meeting, week after week. We find joy in our meeting because our meeting is the way it is.