Heartland Friends Meeting State of Society Report, Fifth Month, 2016
Heartland Friends find themselves in a cohesive, relaxed and focused fellowship after several years of transitions and deep discernment. The loss of eldership as members passed on and our maturing from the energy of building construction to the needs of maintenance management have been challenging. We are thankful, with full hearts, for God’s presence among us and for the sacred Listening we do together as we discover what God is calling us to do and to be. We have added some intentionality to our listening with 4th week Pancake House breakfasts prior to worship, small group lunches that specifically invite non-member attenders into deeper fellowship, and 1st and 3rd week soup-salad-sandwich lunches following adult worship and children’s Godly Play/Faith & Play worship.
Members and attenders find deep fulfillment and peace in our unprogrammed worship and vocal ministry from the silence. The simplicity of our worship time together speaks to our individual and corporate souls. In our (more vocal) First Day adult education time we have been led to topics that explore and challenge our faith connection with the wider world. We worked together in a 2½ month self-directed study of Islam, concluding with a visit from a member of our local Wichita mosque. Several members have continued some attendance at local Muslim events and are pursuing additional study. FGC’s Let Your Life Speak card series stimulated thoughtful discussion and conversation with two guest speakers who shared their personal stories of our immigration and prison systems. Immediately following the Let Your Life Speak series we devoted several Sundays to rich discussion of FCNL’s legislative priorities and forwarded our discerned priorities to them. We feel deep gratitude for FCNL’s work to keep integrity and faith values connected with our national governance and legislation. These two discussion series, Let Your Life Speak and the FCNL priorities, have led us into an examination process to discover how our Meeting’s corporate life is speaking and how we might be more vocal and publically active as a Meeting.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Jesus’ words have challenged us for several years in budget discussions as we allocate limited financial resources to meetinghouse maintenance and concerns of Peace and Justice. After several years of discerning our way forward about the cost of maintaining our grounds, we are moving toward sustainable landscaping in our garden areas and have developed hardscaping plans for the west façade of our building. While we hire people to mow our grass, we are enjoying the friendship and bonding of working together as we trim trees, pull weeds and do interior housekeeping on “work days.”
We are working to be more intentional about a ministry of welcome and coming together by making our physical space available to others. Friends from other regions have used Heartland for personal retreat in the past, and during 2016 Carol Mullikin and Joanna Pinkerton are using Heartland to offer “Feed My Shepherds”, a retreat series for spiritual care-givers. In March Heartland hosted a wide gathering of old Friends and new acquaintances for a deeply moving labyrinth walk, presented by Carol Mullikin. Throughout the year we welcome the energetic love of Wichita Friends School children as they use our space and gardens.
Energy and resources came forth this year to complete two physical additions to our property. To protect the Wichita Friends School playground area from inappropriate traffic on our gravel connecting path, Dean Young designed, created (welded) and installed metal gates that blend artistically with the architecture of both buildings. We added a Peace Pole to our front garden area with “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in four languages – English, Spanish, Osage and Swahili. English reflects our Heartland membership, Spanish is the next-most-common language in Wichita, Osage speaks of our love and appreciation of our Friends in Hominy, Oklahoma and Swahili honors Kenya Friends who are increasing numbers in the Religious Society of Friends with so much enthusiasm.
Our average number present for worship has increased due to regular attenders and long-term visitors to the Wichita area. We are grateful to have been given a ministry of welcome to those who, for one reason or another, do not wish membership but who enjoy our faith family. Last summer we extended hospitality to a visiting Friend from Australia who was in Wichita for Lyme disease health treatment. Last fall, Heartland Friends joyfully welcomed Aaron Beach as a new member to both Heartland and the Religious Society of Friends, presenting him with a copy of Britain Yearly Meeting’s Quaker Faith and Practice signed by all our members. In 2015 we were blessed with Myrliss Hershey’s presence and elder wisdom until she moved to Topeka to be near family in October.
Christmas Eve fellowship is a cherished time for us as we welcome visitors and extended family members to a candlelight service that includes singing, the Christmas story and unprogrammed worship, followed by fellowship with food. For our Christmas story this year, the Ternes family shared a reader’s theatre presentation of a children’s book, The Angel’s First Christmas. Susie was Mary, Grant was Joseph, and Luke, Riley and Sophie were the little angels tagging along behind Gabriel. At the close of quiet worship, we were led in song by Patrice Stephenson’s energetic signing of Go Tell It on the Mountain.
Heartland Friends celebrated joyously with Wichita Friends School families and supporters at their new building dedication in August. Heartland’s involvement with the school has many forms: board and committee membership, grass mowing, food ministry at special events, leading Monday morning worship, library management, teaching a weekly music class and leading Godly Play/Faith & Play time once a week.
We are a small group of Friends with many blessings. We give thanks for the love we share with each other, for the challenges we present to each other and for the deepening of our individual and corporate experiences of God’s presence.
Angela Young, Presiding Clerk