State of Society Reports 2005

During 2005, described in one report as a year "filled with growth and challenge," Friends experienced spiritual renewal and strengthened fellowship in their meetings for worship. In their State of Society reports for the year, monthly meetings also affirm their commitment to the Peace Testimony; concerns about gender issues; support of outreach ministries in their own communities; responses to the needs of communities destroyed by hurricanes, tidal waves, and earthquakes; and ongoing care of the environment. The unity experienced in meetings for worship is a theme common to many reports.

Summit (N.J.) Meeting writes in its report, "Members and attenders . . . share a hunger for spiritual growth and connections to the Divine. . . . Meeting for worship continues to be very important to Friends. . . . This year we have experimented with making the way we hold people in the Light more worshipful. . . . Many Friends treasure the silence of meeting for worship as if it were their prized possession in a hectic world." Summit Meeting also experienced the formation of spiritual nurture groups during the year: "Friends involved in the groups ‘feel supported’ and believe they ‘help to share and keep you going.’ Friends believe the groups have a positive, if indefinable influence on the meeting."

At New Brunswick (N.J.) Meeting, Friends "look forward to our meeting for worship as the means of deepening our individual and group spiritual lives. For some of us, meeting for worship offers a way to regain a sense of balance in our lives, for some it offers the joy of shared beliefs and fellowship, and for all of us, a search for the life of the Spirit within us as individuals and as a meeting. . . . We look toward our meeting for worship to help us remain centered in the Spirit and renewed in our struggle to define and strengthen our meeting."

Friends Meeting of Washington (D.C.) reports, "Many of us expressed profound gratitude for the meeting’s role in our lives. We seemed to be remarkably unified in what we appreciate about our meeting. We share core values that give life and Light to Friends Meeting of Washington. . . . The experience of deep spiritual sustenance through meeting for worship is also a powerful joy to many of us. Friends repeatedly spoke of the peace and inspiration found in silent worship. . . . Meeting for worship is at the core of our community and provides spiritual succor for all else that we do as individuals and a community."

The year 2005 is described by Portland (Maine) Meeting as a time "filled with growth and challenge. . . . In an interplay of light and dark, there were times of joy, of tension, and of sadness. . . . Always, we focused on First-day worship as central to our meeting life, a source of connection with Divine Spirit and the Inner Christ in this time of violence and despair in the outer world. . . . Through times both light and dark, we look with hope and trust to the future, and with deep gratefulness for the immediacy of God’s love in our lives."

During 2005, Honolulu (Hawaii) Meeting notes, "continuing violence in the Middle East, military buildup and recruitment in the U.S. and Hawaii, and natural disasters in different parts of the globe have called us to witness for peace and respond with compassion to those who need our assistance. Consequently, many of the messages in our meetings for worship were inspired by Friends Peace Testimony, and much of the meeting’s activity this year has focused on our Peace and Social Concerns Committee and our partnership with American Friends Service Committee."

Palo Alto (Calif.) Meeting acknowledges in its report that, "Just under the surface, many of us feel a frightening, nearly overwhelming sense of dread over the direction the world is going. . . . We see our meeting as an island of safety, a sane place to share our yearnings for connection with God and with each other. . . . We have spiritually vibrant meetings for worship with a significant increase in attendance, intellectually stimulating adult education programs, workshops in Alternatives to Violence, interactions with people from diverse cultures and spiritual paths, opportunities for local and international service, expanded programs for teens and middle schoolers, vigils and public meetings for worship as witness and outreach, and networks of mutual support. Palo Alto Meeting provides a place for spiritual connections; for this we are grateful."

Friends in Oklahoma City (Okla.) Meeting prepared their State of Society report in response to the query, "To what does the Religious Society of Friends witness today?" Over a six-month period, one forum a month considered the query. The answers, included in the State of Society report, are: "We are called to witness against violent punishment and violent conflict resolution. We are called to deal with those with whom we have a difference in a spirit of reconciliation and nonviolence. We are called to find points where we can agree and listen deeply to the other. We are called to treat every person with respect. We are called to seek justice for all. We are called to use peaceful, just, and compassionate methods of dealing with offense, anger, and injustice." Entering 2006, Oklahoma City Meeting seemed "to stand on a threshold of a renewed and perhaps stronger sense of community. Friends continue to dedicate their time, energy, and voice to encourage outreach in prison visitation, criminal justice reform, abolition of the death penalty, interfaith and interreligious dialogue, environmental issues, and ongoing work with the Oklahoma City Peace network."

Gender issues continue to be an ongoing concern for some meetings. Athens (Ohio) Meeting reports, "We find ourselves with many blessings, some concerns, and some challenges before us. We are grateful that we have a diverse group of members and attenders. This keeps us open to new ideas and challenges us to truly listen and learn from one another. . . . We remembered this year that we want to be supportive to our Friends and community members who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. We reviewed our earlier minutes on welcome of gays and lesbians . . . and, in June 2005, we approved the following minute: ‘Persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transsexual are welcome at Athens Friends Meeting. All are invited to attend and, if so led, request membership. We affirm that membership includes the privilege of marriage under the care of the meeting. . . . We are not finished processing this issue,’" Athens Meeting stresses in its State of Society report.

"Discerning gifts in ourselves and others was an important focus during the past year," according to Rochester (N.Y.) Meeting‘s report. "A call to bear living witness to seeking that of God in every person came to us in the form of a request from an individual with a past history of child sexual abuse expressing his wish to join our community. Other valuable opportunities to move beyond fear and address one another tenderly have come in the form of workshops on forgiveness as a spiritual practice, which has become a ministry for one of our members. . . . We are grateful for continued opportunities to discern our identities as Friends and spiritual seekers."

For Twin Cities (Minn.) Meeting, 2005 was a year of "searching and maturing. . . . There are many ministries within our meeting," according to its report. "Peace-related activities draw many of us. . . . Another ministry within our meeting is our ongoing interest in issues affecting ‘Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Allies’ (GLBTQIA) persons in our society." According to the State of Society report, Twin Cities Meeting has one group working with the larger meeting to become more aware of issues facing individuals and families of "diverse orientations," and another group focusing on legal and family issues, especially regarding an amendment to the Minnesota state constitution banning same-sex marriages. Meanwhile, the meeting "is in the process of rewriting its statement of marriage procedures to strengthen the support of gay and lesbian marriage, as well as seeking other ways to support this ministry."

University Friends Meeting in Seattle, Wash., acknowledges in its State of Society report that it "has changed in the last year: we are a smaller group with many new members gained and even more beloved Friends departed through transfer or death. . . . But we continue to hold gathered worship, and ministry is guided by the Spirit of Truth seeking to do right; this binds us together. . . . We have struggled to understand healing as a process of accommodation to everyone’s experience, of education, and of guidance by the Spirit. This year has again meant dealing with the presence of a confessed sex offender among us. We have a sub-committee . . . to guide us in working through the concerns, both of those affected negatively by the reminders his presence provokes, and of others who are ready to accept him under the current conditions. We continue to learn about guidelines for protecting our children and setting boundaries for our adults. . . . We will continue searching for a way forward."

Then, possibly reflecting the spirit of Friends everywhere of whatever persuasion, there is this brief State of Society Report from Allen’s Neck (Mass.) Meeting: "We face challenges. We are a Quaker meeting, yet to many we are a rural community church. Sunday worship grows. Can we integrate new families and retain our identity? We remain a pastoral meeting, while pastoral work spreads among members. We like our pastor’s help to see that we’ve all a stake in pastoral work and care. Our worship looks for balance between silence and programmed time. Both have improved as a result. Many of us feel the Spirit of God is moving amongst us. First-day school flourishes. Where will we put all these kids? A good problem to have. The meeting lost three treasured elderly longtime members. Pastoral care rose to this difficult occasion and we learned much from it. Outreach continues locally and globally. We continue to nurture leadership and look to the future, yet cherish our past."

Robert Marks

Robert Marks, one of Friends Journal's volunteer News editors, attends Broadmead Meeting in Toledo, Ohio.