2001 State of the Meeting Reports

In the shadow of September 11 and the ensuing war against terrorism, Friends in their monthly meetings have experienced a renewal of faith, as evidenced by the reaffirmation of and witness to the Inner Light and the Peace Testimony, in the 2001 state of Society reports by many monthly meetings.

"How does Truth prosper among youth?" begins the report of Cambridge (Mass.) Meeting, noting that the query was one of the first asked by Friends in the beginning of our Religious Society. "We are learning anew what it means to live out the Quaker Peace Testimony as we respond to the September 11 attacks and to the continuing war in Afghanistan," the report continues. "We are reminded that our social activism springs from the heart of the worshiping community and that this same activism can lead us to greater spiritual understandingth.We continue to search for a deeper unity in God’s Spirit—a corporate sense of mission and witness while, at the same time, recognizing and celebrating the diversity of spiritual gifts each individual brings to the whole." Cambridge Friends continue, "Several of our meetings for worship, particularly in the months following the September attacks, were deep and consoling. . . . In short, Truth does prosper among us. While not always clear on exactly what we should do at any given moment, we recognize that God is at work among us, sending us out as agents of transforming love to minister to a hurting world."

Similar testimonies appear in the reports of other meetings. Among them, New Brunswick (N.J.) Meeting states, "When we look back over the year, it is hard to see past the terrible landmark of September 11. Not just the time after that day, but also the time before it seems changed by the shock of impact. Some things grew in importance, while others diminished. Our meeting’s stewardship of the opportunity for Quaker worship—the job of creating a safe, simple, focused place for seeking God and fellowship—holds primary importance.

"We have experienced a continuing testing of our Peace Testimony," New Brunswick Friends admit. "We are trying to understand the essence of religious faith in a world that is often more divided by faith than united by it. We are trying to understand the place and role of our own faith among faiths that endorse some of our testimonies and condemn othersth.We recognize anew how important it is that we hold our light steady—be it large or small—and keep it bright enough for others to find."

Hartford (Conn.) Meeting affirms, "Silent corporate worship continues to be the core of our meeting life. . . . We have been blessed with a deep sense of fellowship and presence together, in times of celebration and worship and in times of struggle, as we continue to prayerfully address our concerns around our individual and corporate leadings, our youth, our sense of spiritual community, our callings in the world, particularly following the events of September 11, and our search for spiritual growthth.Our concerns for social justice led some in our meeting to vigil in protest of the current war on terrorism, and against the economic sanctions on Iraq as a result of the Gulf War. Others have begun active discussion groups around nonviolence, terrorism, and civil rightsth.In summary, our meeting is simultaneously blessed and challenged. We value the deep silence of worship, and we draw strength from it and from each other as we walk through our daily lives."

In its report, Montclair (N.J.) Meeting attests, "As Friends, we draw comfort from God and from one another as we seek to apply the tenets of our Quaker faith in our homes, our places of work, and throughout our daily livesth.The violent events of September 11, 2001, have had a profound effect upon all of our lives. We have been challenged, especially in our spiritual setting, to comprehend that which many of us still find incomprehensible. thWe believe both members and attenders have found solace in our meetings for worship, and strength in our spiritual community. We also know that as part of the worshiping communitythwe each can seek and experience God centrally in our lives. This rock core belief has enabled us, individually and in community, to draw even more deeply from our well of faith."

For 15th Street (N.Y.) Meeting, the events of September 11 were immediately and directly personal. No one in the meeting’s community was killed or injured, but many affiliated with the meeting witnessed the planes hitting the World Trade Center and the subsequent collapse of the two towers. Individual members and attenders responded, one of whom is a chaplain at St. Vincent Hospital, where many of the victims of the attacks were brought. A husband-and-wife team of psychotherapists counseled families looking for loved ones; a singer-songwriter wrote songs in honor of the firemen who died in the collapse of the towers; another composed a hymn dedicated to the dead and their survivors. "At least one attender and another Friend did the devastating work of digging at the site," 15th Street Meeting recalls. "Our spiritual strength, both as individuals and as a meeting, was dramatically tested by the tragic events of that dayth.Throughout this period we maintained a Quaker presence and a witness for peace, both corporately and as individuals, to the best of our ability."

At Westerly (R.I.) Meeting, when Friends gathered to consider the state of the meeting, "foremost in the hearts of many were the events of September 11th. Friends feel that the meeting has been challenged by the questions asked in the wake of those tragedies. In particular, Friends Peace Testimony was reexamined and made the instrument of individual and corporate soul-searchingth. We were mindful of our calling as Quakers to actively practice our faith, challenged to place faith in our practice, and above all, to listen closely to each other and for the Spirit moving in our midst."

Robert Marks

Robert Marks, a member of High Point (N.C.) Meeting and a retired newspaper editor and journalist, is a volunteer news editor for Friends Journal.