A History of Salem Creek Friends Meeting, Winston-Salem NC Approved June 2017
Since ~1970, there have been several attempts at having an independent, unprogrammed Friends group in Winston-Salem. Feeling a clear leading that Winston-Salem needed an unprogrammed monthly meeting, in 1998 John Cardarelli and Louise Harris began a worship group in their home, on Wednesday evenings; Bobbie Torbert was one of the first people to join them, followed in 2001 by Sam Dempsey and Dee Edelman. This group later moved to Winston-Salem Friends Meeting and met at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons; Meg Zulick, Arlene Gillespie, and several others joined the group at this time. In 2003, at Dee Edelman's request and initiative, we began meeting on Sunday mornings at 9:30 at Rebecca Valla's psychiatry office in the West End, again attracting additional new attenders.
In August 2004, we requested that Friendship Meeting take the worship group under its care and support, which was approved in Fall 2004. At Meg Zulick’s initiative, we moved to Blessings at 823 Reynolda Road in March 2005, where we worshipped regularly except for Sundays when other events were scheduled at Blessings; in those cases, we met at individuals’ homes. The group selected the name “Salem Worship Group” in September 2008, when we began to hold monthly meetings for worship with a concern for business as a preparative meeting under the care of Friendship Meeting.
Over the years a number of us attended Winston-Salem Friends Meeting and Friendship Meeting, but always felt drawn back to the worship group. Louise Harris’ death and memorial service in early 2009 were powerful community-building experiences for Friends in the worship group, and an impetus for forming a monthly meeting. We formed several committees (Ministry & Counsel, Nominating, Peace & Social Concerns, and Community Care), although we often functioned as a committee of the whole.
In 2009, Salem Friends set a timetable for becoming a monthly meeting and worked with Friendship Meeting to prepare for that step; our first formal budget was prepared for 2010. By that year there was a nucleus of ~10 to 12 regular attenders who brought decades of Quaker experience with them. In April 2010, Salem Preparative Meeting requested that Friendship Monthly Meeting release us as a preparative meeting, and we became Salem Friends Meeting. The first clerk of Salem Friends Meeting was Meg Zulick; Lisa Gould was recording clerk, and Sam Dempsey treasurer. The first formal members to the monthly meeting were Aaron and Linda Poller, by transfer from Gwenydd Monthly Meeting, approved in August 2010. From 2008 to 2010, our minutes were archived at Guilford College via Friendship Monthly Meeting, thanks to the efforts of Claire Koster. In May 2010 Lisa Gould became the Meeting’s archivist and since that time has archived our minutes and other important documents in the Friends Historical Collection at Guilford College.
Several outreach and educational initiatives began in 2009. The meeting approved financial support for Lisa Gould to attend the two-year School of the Spirit program in Durham, NC, and formed a care committee for spiritual support during the program. The Meeting also provided financial support for Debra Delois to attend Christian Peacemaker Team training, and formed a clearness committee to help Debra process her experiences. Also in 2009, we began taking monthly donations of baked goods to the Samaritan Ministries (a homeless shelter); in 2010 we added a monthly collection of non-perishable food and toiletries for the Second Harvest Food Bank, and in 2011 added a monthly collection of school supplies for the Forsyth Education Partnership. In 2012 we focused the school supplies collections on Old Town Elementary School, where one of our attenders is a teacher, and we have continued to donate to the “Coat Closet” at that school. Over the years we’ve helped several families (recommended by Friends who were staff members at local schools) at Christmastime, and since 2012 have developed an annual relationship with families via El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services. The Meeting has also helped support City of Dwellings, the winter overflow homeless shelters in Winston-Salem, and more recently has looked for ways to help with refugee resettlement in our area.
In 2010 Salem Friends began monthly discussions of the queries from North Carolina Yearly Meeting-Conservative’s book of discipline; in September 2012, we added the corresponding query/advice from Britain Yearly Meeting, and in the following years used queries from several other yearly meetings. For 2017, the Ministry & Counsel Committee developed a unique set of queries for our discussions.
Beginning in November 2010, midweek worship was held at the home of Bobbie Torbert, who was no longer able to attend Meeting; this practice continued up to time of Bobbie’s death. And in December 2010, Salem Friends initiated a monthly Friday evening potluck at members’ homes. The original intent was to have a topical discussion, but we quickly came to agreement that we enjoyed making this a social event, which we continue to this day, sometimes varying the schedule to include Saturday picnics/cookouts. Also in 2010, we learned that Blessings, where we had been holding worship since 2005, would be changing hands and not be available to us after January 2011. After exploring several options, in March 2011 we began to worship in the Community House at the Winston-Salem Friends Meeting. We have been grateful to Winston-Salem Friends for their flexibility and generosity in the use of this space.
Salem Friends Meeting’s “Sandwich Sundays”began in December 2011 (they were named Sandwich Sundays because the discussions are held following worship, and Friends were asked to bring finger food to share). At the first Sandwich discussion we discussed the importance of learning more about ourselves as a meeting. To aid in our own introspection and education, we came up with a preliminary list of topics for worship sharing. They included two major threads: Understanding our faith, such as Christocentrism and Universalism, Quaker “theology”, recording ministers and elders, pastoral versus non-pastoral Friends; and Understanding the fruits of our faith (our witness in the world), such as peace, poverty & hunger, gay & lesbian issues, political advocacy, and community engagement. Topics have ranged widely since that time, including “Friends & Jesus”, conflict resolution, race, military enlistment, the state of the meeting, the formation of a new yearly meeting, FCNL priorities, healthcare, the Meeting’s presence on the worldwide web, religious education, and our desire for our own meetinghouse. In January 2017 we began a Quakerism 101 series, using modified materials from Durham Friends Meeting and led by Christina Connell; these sessions have led to some deep sharing.
Early in 2012, Salem Friends formed a Building & Grounds Committee and began to make contributions into a new Meetinghouse Fund, in anticipation of a future home of our own. An unexpected challenge came to us mid-year: a Meeting attender offered to donate his Winston-Salem home and property to the Meeting. Ministry & Counsel held a clearness committee on this topic, and the Meeting as a whole conducted a threshing session to explore this generous offer. While Salem Friends ultimately decided that the Meeting was not yet ready to accept such a gift, the discernment process helped us explore the financial, physical, legal, and spiritual implications of owning our own space. We agreed that we needed to incorporate, explore liability insurance, and continue to think about how we reach out to the wider community. We also agreed to discuss changing our name, to avoid confusion and issues of identity with Winston-Salem Friends Meeting. After several Sandwich Sunday discussions on The Future of the Meeting, in November 2012 Friends approved the new name of Salem Creek Friends Meeting [SCFM]. Since that time the Building & Grounds Committee has continued its thoughtful discernment exploring options for a permanent home for our Meeting.
In 2014, with the help of the WFU Community Law & Business Clinic (and using as models similar papers of other Quaker meetings), we began the process to incorporate SCFM and develop bylaws. To rotate trusteeship and offer transparency and efficiency, Friends agreed to make the trustees of our corporation tied to clerkships: Clerk, Recording Clerk, Treasurer, clerk of Ministry & Counsel, and clerk of Building & Grounds. Incorporation papers were filed with the State of North Carolina in June 2015, and the first annual meeting of the SCFM Board of Trustees was held 13 September 2015. The Meeting was also assigned an federal EIN.
As the Meeting has grown, we have formed new committees and worked to define their functions. Starting in 2015 we agreed to set the first Sunday of each month as Committee Day, alternating committees from month to month to avoid too much overlap. We also now assign representatives to FCNL, Quaker House-NC, PFF/YM, and the NC Council of Churches; another member has been active recently with the Winston-Salem Interfaith Council. While we have delighted at times to have three generations at Meeting for Worship, attendance by our youngest members is sporadic, and the Meeting’s inability to maintain a consistent First Day School to attract children is a challenge we have not yet fully met.
The first wedding under the care of the Meeting was held in May 2012, when we joyfully celebrated the union of Gary Hornsby and Christin Barnhardt. In 2016 and 2017, we enjoyed as well “welcoming celebrations”, complete with beautifully illustrated certificates for members to sign, for our youngest attenders, Margot Piatkowski and Zeb Hornsby-Barnhardt. Our meeting has also been saddened by the loss of two dear Friends, Aaron Poller in July 2015 and Barbara “Bobbie” Torbert in January 2016. The Meeting community worked to provide support for their families during the difficult days of hospice care, and to hold loving memorial services for these much-missed Friends. Following Aaron’s death the Meeting established a Memorial Fund, and agreed that the use of donations in memory of specific individuals will be discussed with the individuals’ family members.
Throughout its years as a worship group and then a monthly meeting, SCFM was a member of Piedmont Friends Fellowship [PFF]. Once we became a monthly meeting, we also sent representatives to North Carolina Yearly Meeting-Conservative sessions, and later had representatives serving on PFF’s Yearly Meeting Formation Committee. Most Salem Creek Friends felt led to belong to an FGC-affiliated yearly meeting. Our discussions on yearly-meeting affiliation explored the broader landscape of Friends in North Carolina, with recognition that North Carolina Friends are fragmented; several Friends felt that at a time when we should seek spiritual unity within the Society of Friends, so that we can move forward together to face the challenges of our times, there was concern that further fragmentation might dilute our efforts. Nonetheless, we recognized the importance of yearly meeting activities—such as impetus to prepare an annual State of the Meeting report, fellowship with Friends in nearby meetings, and having a book of discipline. After deep discernment, Salem Creek Friends Meeting approved the following minute:
Salem Creek Monthly Meeting at its Meeting for Business on 8 June 2014, seeking to promote unity among Friends in North Carolina and embracing the diversity of Friends Meetings in our region, recognizing the value of membership in a larger Quaker body, and finding ourselves in spiritual alignment with the new Piedmont Friends Yearly Meeting agreed to join PFYM and appoint representatives to the YM in time for the organizational September meeting. These representatives will be identified and approved at the July business meeting.
The first annual sessions of Piedmont Friends Yearly Meeting [PFYM] were held at New Garden Friends Meeting in Greensboro, NC, in March 2015. A number of Salem Creek Friends participated in the formation—and now in the ongoing work—of this new Yearly Meeting, and have found great satisfaction in this process. As a body that arose from PFF, membership in PFF is a prerequisite to joining PFYM. As of March 2017, PFYM includes eight meetings and worship groups from Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.