State of [the Spiritual Life of] the Meeting Questions
1) What practices and strategies are employed by our meeting to help members and attenders of all ages prepare for worship—whether in meeting for worship or in meeting for business?
We make a point of encouraging the children of First Day School to come into meeting at around 10:45 to make sure that they feel part of the meeting for worship and to help them prepare for being more fully involved in meeting for worship as they grow older.
We often close the doors between the meeting room and the other parts of the meetinghouse to reduce noise. Last year, we pondered whether leaving the doors open would feel more inclusive and welcoming to visitors. Our current preference is to close the doors at 10:00 to remind all that Meeting for Worship is beginning and to create a quiet space.
Close of Meeting – We have tried a “close of meeting” practice to allow individuals to have a chance to share in a method of their choosing (a hymn, a short reading, or nothing at all if desired!) and to provide personal and community sharing time with our community following the handshake. In 2019, we are continuing this practice, reserving our 4th Sunday for the reading of a query.
2) What are the challenges to and opportunities for enhancing the worship of our meeting, and what are we doing to address these?
Due to this questionnaire, we have had healthy discourse on the issues that challenge us. At times, our egos can get involved, particularly during Meeting for Business, leading to hurt feelings and resentments. It is a challenge to find a balance between being able to speak freely and directly, and also having all members feel valued and respected. It is also a challenge to listen well to one another, prepared to receive others’ truth without offense. Conflicts can impact our ability to worship together as a community.
As of 2019, our conflicts seem to have noticeably decreased. Egos are currently less of an issue, and we’ve been able to more easily reach consensus. We had a significant and unexpected expense to deal with this year, and our meeting constructively addressed the decisions that needed to be made.
Our meeting has a diverse range of Quaker longevity. Some of us are lifetime Quakers, and others are relatively new to Quakerism. We recognize that long-term Quakers need to be open to new ideas, and newer Quakers need to be open to learning the traditions. Respect for each member and for the decisions made as a group in Monthly Meeting is crucial.
Another challenge to our meeting is the relatively small number of members we have and the other time commitments of our members. This limits some of the activities and programs that we can support as a Meeting.
3) What opportunities are provided to address topics important to deepening both personal spiritual journeys of members and the spiritual life of the meeting?
We have held forums on spiritual topics and topics of current interest that are in line with Quaker testimonies (panel on gun violence with teens, conscientious objectors, increased militarization of our society).
We continue to have thought-provoking forums (Prayer, qualities of leaders, counting our blessings, “Why am I here? (at a Quaker Meeting)”, Quaker clothing, SEGA school (for girls in Tanzania), Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, understanding ourselves and each other through the Enneagram, writing personal notes to connect with all of our members).
4) What is most needed to strengthen the communal witness of the meeting to the local community and beyond?
We have been talking about ways to make the our meetinghouse be more appealing/inviting to people passing by. Unfortunately, we don’t get much residential traffic past the meetinghouse, so it is difficult to “attract attention.” We currently have an active presence online and in social media, but have discussed other ideas like advertising in the local press, having speakers come in (but limited resources of meeting), offering tours of the meetinghouse as part of local history. We could also put pamphlets of information about Quakerism at an accessible spot outside.
As of 2019, we are in the early stages of discussing a social gathering with local residents and businesses. There is currently a new residential development under construction across the road. We are working on signage to advertise the meeting in cooperation with the developer, and we’d like to reach out to our new neighbors when they arrive.
5) To what priorities does God call our meeting? How do our annual budget, our meeting’s standing committees and other aspects of the meeting’s life reflect those priorities?
Our gift donations (this year to Foundations for Learning in Tredyffrin/Easttown , International Rescue Committee and Chester County Food Bank) have reflected our priorities (supporting those in need in our communities and around the world) as a meeting. We also crafted a statement in support of the DACA program which was widely viewed on our Facebook page and support two students in the SEGA Girls School in Morogoro, Tanzania.
As of 2019, we’ve also given money to SEGA School (Tanzania), First Place, and our local fire company. We also have periodic collections of items for St. Mary’s, a local shelter for families.
We have made it a priority to have a First Day School staffed full-time by hiring a professional teacher. We have placed increased focus and attention on the spiritual life of the meeting as evidenced by the resumption of and regular meetings of the Spiritual Life Committee and attempts to schedule regular forums.
We are in the process of implementing a Living Memory project which will record and preserve the memories of our long-term members via a series of interviews.
6) What specific issues of concern has your community experienced in the past year?
Climate Change and Social Justice (EQAT) (continuing effort)
Panel on gun violence with youth
7) What threshing, dialogue and/or discernment has your community recently experienced regarding the purpose and importance of membership?
None recently, but we want to have individuals committed to the Meeting community. We have celebrated new members by getting together for lunch and encouraging them to become active in all aspects of the life of the Meeting.
In early 2019, we had a forum where we sat together and wrote personal notes to our members who are unable to be with us on Sundays. We wanted to make sure that all members feel valued and connected to us.
8) What anti-racism work has your community engaged in or explored in the past year?
We have put out “Burma Shave” signs (short, sequential messages using multiple signs) in front of our meetinghouse with socially conscious messages about love, saving the planet, and ending gun violence. (continuing in 2019).
DACA statement (referenced above)
EQAT (Earth Quaker Action Team) – One of our members is active in this group which is actively working to try to get PECO to increase its plans for green energy and jobs in communities of color in North Philadelphia. Our meeting fully supports this work.
We held a forum using “39 Questions for White People,” using questions from the American Friends Service Committee.
As of 2019, we created a display out in front of our meetinghouse. Baby onesies are used to spell out REUNITE FAMILIES (one letter in each onesie).