Friends General Conference

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2021 State of the Meeting Report

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2021 State of the Meeting Report
The past year has been difficult for our meeting community, as it has for everyone, as we have navigated the new and constantly changing terrain of the COVID pandemic. We have been challenged and opened in new ways as the spirit helps us to reweave and heal the torn places in our lives.

In the spring, we were overjoyed to begin coming together in person again for outdoor worship, family outings, and our traditional Easter egg hunt! We gradually returned to worshiping together indoors, and we learned how to hold hybrid meetings with many Friends still participating online. We worked hard to create the safest possible space for being together in person, and we are profoundly grateful for the energy and expertise of those who contributed technology skills and worked to improve ventilation in the meetinghouse to reduce the spread of disease. It was a learning process for all of us, and for a while, when the weather turned cold we held meeting for worship wearing our coats, with windows still open! The changes have been especially hard on our older members, some of whom are not comfortable with meeting either in-person or on line, and also on our families with young children. There are several Friends who have attended very rarely this past year, and we sorely miss them. However, there are others who began attending virtually who otherwise would not have been able to worship with us. In fact, we've had a new member join the meeting who lives at a distance and can only attend online.

Our Meeting Renewal in September was facilitated by Ken Jacobsen, with the theme of Reconnecting our Spiritual Community. Ken shared a moving personal story about finding an opening of new life and new hope after experiencing much grief and loss. He then invited us to enter into personal refection on the query, "Where do I find life and hope in my personal life at this time?" Our responses helped us to open ourselves to the great mystery beyond despair where we find joy and light, and know that we are loved. In the afternoon, we reflected on what draws us together, what lifts up the goodness in us and binds us together as a community. Several of us shared that we feel connected in the spirit, that we lift up and support one another's gifts and leadings. We bring our different experiences and spiritual journeys and languages, and we are enriched by this diversity of experiences. It was shared that the word Community has the same root as "communion", which means to partake in one another's being. We each bring our gifts, our joys, our sorrows, our longings, and our inspirations, and we are connected deeply.

We have been holding a variety of spiritual "inreach groups" throughout the year. One group did a study of Ibram X. Kendi's book "How to be an Anti-Racist." Another group is holding monthly healing circles, and an Intro to Quakerism class was offered. These groups helped Friends to connect more deeply with one another as we explored new ideas and practices. We have also continued several ministries in the community that let our lives speak. We provided support for an immigrant family from Congo as part of a Sanctuary Coalition, and we continued providing a monthly home-cooked meal to the residents at Tender Mercies. Several Friends are part of an active FCNL lobbying group that engaged in very informative and meaningful conversations with legislative aides. One member has been leading very well-attended "Experiment with Light" sessions for the local community.

At our meetinghouse, work was done to improve air circulation. The library was reorganized, and a youth member created a digital listing of all materials available in the library. The basement playroom was repaired and children's furniture was refinished in preparation for children returning in person. The grounds have been lovingly cared for, including a great deal of work to remove lesser celandine by hand while we are continuing discernment about the use of glyphosate to remove this invasive plant from our woods. We had a wonderful harvest of blackberries (some of which was enjoyed by the wildlife) from the bushes that were planted in the front yard a few years ago.

These challenging times have made us see the world with new eyes and appreciate our spiritual community more than ever. We are surrounded with love and beauty, even in times of grief and despair. Ken Jacobsen reminded us in his poem, Let the Weaver Work, "Whenever there is a tear in the fabric of things, ...something knows about repair, something knows how to weave us together, how to weave us back into beauty... you, friend, whoever you are, however hurt you are, come, feel with me--the weaver is at work, let the weaver work."