Blacksburg Friends Meeting Spiritual State of the Meeting Report
We had two worship sharing sessions to consider the queries posed by the yearly meeting. Both sessions were well-attended and many different people in meeting responded to the queries during the sessions. One friend stated, “I feel moved by the discussion…we came to appraise the spiritual state and instead improved it.” Clearly, we do not all have the same experience of our meeting but some themes became apparent.
During session 1, it seemed that many of us interpreted the query about the Spirit prospering in terms of sharing spiritual experiences and feeling a sense of community in the meeting. We face challenges in sharing spiritual experiences in silent worship because people do not always share or shared messages do not always resonate with all attenders. However, some people felt positively about the authenticity of our meetings for worship precisely because the form responds to individual needs. Some felt that adult education opportunities and the regular post-meeting sharing of joys and concerns also provide other opportunities for sharing. Strongly felt was the notion that “where bonds between people are strong, our spirit is strong” and where there is a sense of breakdown in that sense of community so do people feel more disconnected from a spiritual togetherness at meeting.
During session 2, the query about how we appear to others struck a nerve with several who felt that we are not doing anything to further peace activism or social/environmental justice in the world or local community. These folks felt that we are not Quaker enough in our corporate commitment to serving those outside our meeting. Others felt that we have just been in a period of transition during which we built our meetinghouse and focused inward. Others noted that we are still quite a small meeting and many members work individually outside the meeting for many ideals that fall in line with Quaker values and don’t feel the need to do the kind of activism that focuses a spotlight on ourselves as Quakers. With regard to resolving differences, it seems that differences have been resolved in healthy ways when they arise within committees and very few differences among members of meeting seem to rise to the surface at meeting. However, this complaint about our corporate social activism and whether we characterize ourselves as “not active” or as “acting individually” seems to arise without resolution whenever we discuss our state of the meeting and during some adult education sessions. People do seem to respond genuinely to people’s concerns and some feel that we are moving out of our time of inward focus.
Overall, we believe that our meeting is alive and functioning well. We are carrying a large mortgage and have been successful making those payments so far. We provide First Day School regularly and have even differentiated among some age groups this past year. We provide Adult Education opportunities and our Buildings and Grounds workdays are well-attended, positive events. We have hosted Blue Ridge Gathering and opened our meetinghouse to several community groups. We have hosted an environmental speaker. This spring, we were able to support three families (two from our own meeting) through memorial services held for loved ones. As a small group, we sometimes feel overstretched but we seem to be responding well to baseline and extra demands as they come along.