Roanoke Monthly Meeting and Lynchburg Indulged Meeting
The following report is a composite of Friends’ responses to the three Baltimore Yearly Meeting queries.
General Participation in the Life of the Meeting
Our average attendance for Meeting for Worship is growing, and many who visit have returned. We are a young meeting in terms of total years in Quaker life. Most of us have come from other traditions. Our Meeting itself does not have as lengthy a history as some, and yet we do often manifest intensity of purpose in both our individual & communal strivings.
In Galatians 5: 22-23 we find these words: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self–control.” We cannot better express manifestation of the Spirit than this. People may come to our Meeting out of curiosity or out of a sense of shared values, but they continue to come because they feel the Spirit manifested in this gathered community.
Spirit Working in Meeting for Worship
The Quaker tradition puts up few impediments to the Spirit dwelling and prospering among us. There is a vibrant, welcoming Spirit-community grounded in gathered and covered meetings for worship. Corporate worship has been rich this year, an oasis of spiritual refreshment.
Meeting for Worship has the occasional message which touches the mind & heart. While there are occasionally messages that are rambling and lengthy, there are often messages that are spiritually powerful. Yet in a recent Meeting for Worship, the vocal ministry moved from our not being able to take anything for granted, even the ground we stand upon (the previous day’s quake in Chile following so soon the even more destructive one in Haiti challenges our commonplace assumption that we can count on terra firma beneath us), to the recognition that the only sure footing is the inner terra firma, the Ground of our Being (called by whatever name), and then finally to that synthesizing vocal ministry that captured beautifully the heart of our community: “We are terra firma for each other!” There is ground to stand on, not only within each of us individually (“that of God”) but among us when we are open and responsive and loving to each other. That is how the presence of Spirit is manifested in and among us.
Presence of Spirit Manifested Individually
Friends report that they practice disciplines which compliment and enrich both individual spiritual growth and the corporate spiritual growth of the meeting. These include spiritual reading, journaling, regular silence and silent meditation. Friends are inspired by the Christian tradition and the respectful exploration of other traditions to find that which unites us across religions. Individual work for peace and justice in the tradition of Jesus and other spiritual leaders enriches individual spiritual growth.
Spirit Working through Committees/Business Meeting/Discernment
Our Meeting seems to be maturing. Our conduct in our Meetings for Business is a good example of that. Friends have come to behave respectfully and thoughtfully, not rushing to speak and asking for silence when it is helpful. The Meeting chooses to wait for Spirit’s leading and the development among Friends of a sense of unity before moving on major decisions.
Friends are becoming comfortable with committee structure. Committees are functioning well and more Friends are taking on responsibilities of committee work. Participation in committees not only nourishes the growth of the meeting as a whole, but also the growth of individual participants. Friends come to know the working of Spirit within the committee and come to know each another.
Clearness Committees for individuals struggling with discernment have been a valuable spiritual resource in the past year.
Growth of Spirit in Community
Our Meeting is vibrant and active on many levels. It has been an eventful year, one of sorrows and losses but also great joys. All of this has resulted in a deepening sense of community and responsibility to one another.
Support for the growth of the Spirit in our lives includes the simplicity of silent worship, our strong sense of community, and our testimony of peace and social justice. These elements support and encourage each of us to grow and become more Spirit led, both in our individual lives and as a community.
Spirit prospers among us in proportion to how we relate to one another. The process of coming together in groups large and small for the purpose of really seeing one another and listening deeply to one another reveals and affirms our shared commonality. Examples of this are Bible Study, Meeting for Healing, and the Reading Group. Friends have eagerly supported work projects when they are offered and enjoy being together. Our monthly potlucks are our primary source of socializing at present. We would do well to look for other ways to gather and know each other better and deepen our sense of community.
Our Meeting has a strong commitment to peace and social justice causes within our local community and the wider world. We assign one third of our budget to support peacemaking efforts, to assist organizations and individuals working for social justice, and to help “the least of these,” locally or globally. Striving to enlarge our circle of love is the ultimate manifestation of the Spirit in our lives.