Life in the Meeting: State of the Meeting Reports

Many monthly meetings go through an annual process in the spring of assessing the spiritual condition of their fellowships, their meetings for worship, and their witness to their communities. Growth in the number of both members and attenders is noted. Improvements to meetinghouses are listed. Concerns about participation in meetings for worship and the depth of the spiritual experience encountered in meetings for worship are described. Joy at the renewal of First-day school is expressed. A sense of strengthened fellowship is recognized. A commitment to the ongoing seeking of a greater union with the Presence in the midst is acknowledged.

Here, as gleaned from meeting newsletters, are summaries of the state of Society reports of ten meetings from Maine to Hawaii:

Remodeling and rebuilding the meetinghouse and peace and social concerns issues were addressed by Portland (Maine) Meeting last year. "Our meeting brimmed with life," the meeting’s annual state of the Society report affirms. "Attendance at worship grew, as did the number of individuals serving on committees. . . . This combination of new energy and prayer was a great blessing. . . . May we continue both to enjoy the blessings of our Society and stretch ourselves in the service of the Spirit."

South Berkshire Meeting in Great Barrington, Mass., experienced a "new situation" as "stewards of a house and 29 acres of meadow, mountainside, and swampland" that brought "new responsibilities and the problems that go with increased budgets and difficult decisions." The meeting rejoices, however, "in the existence of a worship group in Lenox, Mass., under our care" and also affirms that "our leadings seem to have been in the direction of spiritual growth. . . . Our meeting supported the Campaign of Conscience without a dissenting voice. . . . We look forward to a significant increase in the size of the meeting."

For Westerly (R.I.) Meeting, last year was a time of growth, in numbers both of attenders and new members, and in the transformation of the meetinghouse grounds with new landscaping. "The presence of the Spirit is felt moving through both our silent worship and vocal ministry," Westerly Meeting reports. "Various members have shared their skills and knowledge with First-day school. . . . Outreach has extended support for the AFSC coffee project, kits for Iraq. . . . We share a gratitude for the presence of the Spirit among us, which inspires us not to tell each other what to do, but to lead and learn by example."

Montclair (N.J.) Meeting, struggling "with issues both mundane and significant," restated its opposition to the death penalty, supported Carolyn Keys as a member of the Friends Peace Team Project in Africa, and reexamined the Peace Testimony. "Our meetings for worship have provided a time of silence, prayer, and meditation. . . . We are renewed by the Spirit as we come through the often slow process of reaching the sense of the meeting and then acting, in community, upon our leadings."

Friends at Ridgewood (N.J.) Meeting "have begun to work with one another, guided by love and the Light within." The meeting’s Peace and Social Action Committee supported the Million Mom March on Washington to protest the availability of handguns, and the Ministry and Counsel Committee has introduced "interviews" and birthday celebrations among members and begun a study of Faith and Practice. The "meeting has received enough spiritual nourishment from its members and attenders to make us increasingly hopeful about our ability to enrich the new year."

Two queries were presented to members of Friends Meeting of Washington (D.C.): "Where do you find community within the meeting?" and, "How do you nourish this community?" In their responses, according to the spiritual state of the meeting report, "Friends report a deep satisfaction with the level of community they experience. . . . All point to engagement with individuals, small groups, and worship as sites of greatest community. . . . Those involved in any one of the many outreach and fellowship programs report satisfactory levels of community." Despite concern over too many messages or lack of silence between messages during meeting for worship at 11 a.m., "Friends at Friends Meeting of Washington appear to be looking for that of God within themselves and each other, and express anticipation for moving forward in partnership with the Divine."

Meeting for worship is the center of spiritual life for Olympia Meeting in Tumwater, Wash. "As one member wrote," according to the meeting’s state of the Society report, "'(we) sit in Silence, expectantly, listening for that voice and letting God own us.’ Out of this working of the Divine Spirit comes our witness, our care for one another, and our lives, lived in the Light." The report also finds that "participation in a number of sharing and learning groups, as well as committees and community service activities, appears to be the great dynamic in deepening our sense of connectedness" that includes answering to numerous social and peace concerns in the community.

Eugene (Oreg.) Meeting defines "spirituality" as "the awareness of our connection to the highest Light within, however named; the oneness of all, the recognition of that of God in each person." Consequently, the state of the Society report continues, "We are reminded to be tender as we take political actions, to preserve the dignity of all; and to avoid being drawn into adversarial positions that could harden our hearts, close our minds, or jeopardize simplicity in our management of time, talent, and resources. . . . We are seekers everyone. . . . Together we wait, in repeated, expectant silence for both divine leading and that compelling willingness to follow."

For Multnomah Meeting in Portland, Oreg., "The past year, 2000, has been rich and lively . . . ; we have deepened our sense of community and of worship, and we are gradually strengthening our offerings of ourselves into community service and activism." Some of the concerns Multnomah Meeting focused on last year were global warming, peace, and homeless youth. Three other worship groups are also under the care of Multnomah Meeting. "We realize that the more we give to the meeting, the deeper our roots grow into the living stream that sustains us."

For its state of the meeting report, Honolulu (Hawaii) Meeting approved a "ditty" of couplets, "respectfully submitted" by Marjorie Cox, clerk. Among some of the accomplishments of Honolulu Meeting during the past year are the refurbishing of the meeting’s library, growth of First-day school, extended outreach in response to concerns of the meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee, and Thrift Shop workers donating their earnings to American Friends Service Committee. The Honolulu Meeting report ends with an exuberance that speaks for all state of the meeting reports:

"As our meeting tries to meet memtenders’ needs
We are inspired by the thought of past Quakers’ deeds.
And their search for truth which continues still
For the voice within us gives us the will.
We are trying to stand with all Quakers, Friends,
Convinced that such actions will lead to good ends."
And . . .
"Living our beliefs should be joyful and give pleasure.
Laughing, we believe, is a God-given treasure."

—Robert Marks