Based upon responses from a number of Friends regarding the Spiritual State of the Meeting, the following common themes have emerged.
Growth in a sense of harmony and cooperative spirit
There is a sense that the community has grown in self-awareness and confidence. What seems to be occurring is that matters of difference do not cause a great deal of upset; rather these occasions are seen as stages on the way towards unity. People have become aware of Friends’ process.
As the Meeting has grown in its maturity, we have gotten to know each other in our personal stories in more detail. These things have promoted a sense of harmony.
Quality of Meeting for Worship
Our Meetings for Worship tend to be on the quiet side, with spoken ministry not always prevalent and surrounded by much silence. Friends appreciate the quality of both the words and the silence. One Friend describes the experience of Meeting for Worship as “calm waters,” another characterizes it as “inviting and vibrant.” In the time immediately following Meeting for Worship, there is often a rich sharing of thoughts clearly incubated by the preceding time of worship.
More harmony in Meeting for Business
One member perhaps expressed it best: “Meeting for Business is now an uplifting time of worship and work together.” Several factors have contributed to this: respectful, orderly proceeding thanks to close collaboration between Clerk and Recording Clerk, strong sense of shared responsibility, marked reduction in contentiousness, infusions of humor, and, due no doubt to all of the above, excellent attendance.
In three called meetings about our vision for our meeting home, we were led by the spirit to a new shared vision. This carried over into subsequent meetings for business. The called meeting on the budget furthered our vision of outreach to the world and support of our community.
Friends listened deeply, heard one another, and came closer to unity on what we need in the way of space and how we should use our resources. There seems to he less tension around the issue of using resources for meeting space versus using resources to do good works in the wider world.
One of our most striking areas of growth has been the strengthening of our understanding of the role of committees in a faith community. A Committees-Within-Quaker-Process workshop last spring clarified for the many attending both the rationale for committees and the “nuts and bolts” of effective implementation. It has been inspiring to see this implementation in the succeeding months.
Here are but a few examples: the Finance Committee played a key role in called meetings to deepen our vision of our fiscal responsibilities. The Space Committee has been diligent in its ongoing search for a meeting place more conducive to our growing needs, particularly to the development of an attractive and safe Children’s Program. The Peace and Social Justice Committee has been active on several fronts including sustained sponsorship of an Eritrean extended family in Roanoke. The Advancement and Outreach Committee has done extensive work in reaching out to visitors and prospective visitors to our Meeting. The Religious Education Committee’s Adult Program has featured a rich array of speakers on topics selected by our Meeting, culminating in a well-attended, deeply meaningful Quakerism 101 course. A stimulating Children’s Program has also been prepared.
Changing demographics and children’s needs
There has been an increase in attendance, most notably on the part of young families. Perhaps this is evidence that Roanoke Friends Meeting is becoming better known.
There seems to be a more flexible outlook on the search for places to worship. We seem more conscious of the needs of children. Young families bring fresh viewpoints and energy which is all to the good for any community.
Care of one another in difficult times
The outpouring of care and compassion that comes from our Meeting when one of us is in crisis has been a great comfort. This year, various members of our community have experienced emotional and financial difficulties, accidents, illnesses, or the death of loved ones. In each instance, Friends have responded not only in sensitive and loving ways but also with organization and efficiency.