As a springboard to creative discussion of what our meeting as a whole is thinking, feeling, coming from and going to, each person was encouraged to consider seven queries—provided by BYM—about their own relationship with the meeting community. How do we minister to one another? How do we help one another sense the Light? How do we nurture one another’s spiritual growth? In what ways does our diversity strengthen our love and community? How does our spiritual love for one another shape the ways we address our differences and resolve our conflicts? What do we need most to deepen the spiritual life of the meeting? What was so painful or controversial last year that I do not want to put it into the state of the meeting report?
Forums were held for group reflection and sharing of these queries at the meetinghouse, during first day school, in the home of members, over meals and through email. This report is an amalgamation of the responses of dozens of contributors over a period of several months.
There is a general sense of satisfaction within meeting. The perception is that our meeting community is safe, healthy, vibrant, and growing in faith. We greet each other. Coming to meeting is “…like seeing a best friend. I always feel embraced, welcomed and accepted.” We encourage each other. We share food (and cooking). We express humor. Meeting is “home away from home for all of us.” Absent Friends feel “connected with the life of the meeting” through email.
We celebrate our religious diversity—our meeting roster includes birthright Friends along with practitioners of a wide range of faiths and denominations—which “illuminates our spiritual life.” We respect and value our differences; we meld rather than overcome them. We are “all connected.” We pay attention to God with bright inner light. “The inner light is not a flicker that will get blown out.” We are blessed by revelation through our young people. “God speaks with such a tiny voice, you’ve really got to listen.”
We are strong as a group. This collective strength allows us to be active and committed in Friends service to community and world with organizations that reflect our shared values. Patuxent Friends invests time, resources and energy into peace building initiatives based on principles of economic and social justice and religious tolerance. Long-term projects include mediation training and services in Southern Maryland and Liberia, area food pantries and homeless shelters, a school and orphanage in Nepal, and a local food coop.
We struggle with a lack of widespread adult involvement in first day school. We labor with what constitutes ”appropriate behavior” of meeting children. We have concern with the manner of “eldering” by meeting adults. We wonder about the effectiveness of our pastoral care. We feel inadequate when asking about and meeting certain needs of others. We don’t do well integrating newcomers into the life of the meeting. We aren’t “green” enough. We sense malaise. We fear “something is missing” or perhaps “we’re missing something.”
Our strength in the light and in each other will help us meet these challenges. In 2009 we will guide one another collectively in Friends practice. We will integrate all ages and stages into the life of our meeting. We will focus our evolving understanding of the practice of peace within our meeting community as on the world without. We will grow greener and walk more lightly on the land. We will be enthusiastic! We will make sushi.
Average attendance at meeting for worship during 2008 was 16.5.