State of the Meeting Report
Name of the Meeting or Group
Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia
What is the name of the person submitting this report?
In what role does the person submitting this report serve in their community?
Clerk of the meeting
What is the email address of the person submitting this report?
What is the date that this report was submitted?
Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 11:13 AM
Zachary Dutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
What practices and strategies are employed by our meeting to help members and attenders of all ages prepare for worship—whether in meeting for worship or in meeting for business?
Leading by example is the best way to familiarize new members and attenders to our worship practice. Our meeting’s worship has a custom, dating back to at least the last thirty years, of folding into the silence. What I mean is that silent worship is not always broken by ministry or messages. We often have visitors, because of our location, and they often remark that sitting in the silence is an unusual and special experience for them. This is not to say that we do not have meaningful ministry, but compared to other monthly meetings, it is moderate in quantity and high in quality.
Our children (1–5 each Sunday, ages 5–13) join us for the last fifteen minutes of worship. Guided by their parents, they respect the silence of worship as well.
At meeting for business, as clerk I begin with reading a query. This is a good centering activity, which directs the group towards the purpose at hand. If there are several visitors at meeting for business, I give a brief overview of procedure.
What are the challenges to and opportunities for enhancing the worship of our meeting, and what are we doing to address these?
We have a strong Worship and Ministry committee. They report regularly at meeting for business, and thoughtfully bring issues forward for input and discussion. They recently organized a very successful meeting retreat, which was an opportunity to spend quality time together, and a chance for newer members to integrate and contribute to activities. The multi-generational group played games together and enjoyed several spirit-led workshops.
One challenge we have faced, and probably will continue to have, is that of disruptive visitors. Some of these individuals are known to the wider Quaker community, and when they cause a disruption during worship, it is difficult to put their needs before ours. We continue to reflect on our reactions and hope that with Divine guidance, we can be a loving and welcoming place to all.
What opportunities are provided to address topics important to deepening both personal spiritual journeys of members and the spiritual life of the meeting?
We continue to develop a viable and interesting Adult Religious Education program. We are committed to our First Day School, and hope that newer families and members will participate consistently in both programs.
In the past, we offered attenders and members the opportunity to attend the Inquirer’s program at Pendle Hill. Unfortunately, that program has changed significantly in format, and we have had little to no interest in attendance. The clerking workshops continue to be of interest to our committee clerks. We would hope that Pendle Hill could continue to offer sessions of interest to Friends — perhaps shorter in length than a full week. PYM’s Thread gatherings also have had an impact and we would hope that those could be continued.
What is most needed to strengthen the communal witness of the meeting to the local community and beyond?
We could do a better job of reaching out to the Old City community. We do not advertise, though we have redone our meeting website, through the FGC Quaker cloud. It is difficult to have a presence at a building that is used for other purposes (Arch Street Meetinghouse) and that has limited hours and access. Exterior signage, and reaching out into the local community are two of my goals for the coming year.
This past February we welcomed families and staff from Friends Select School for worship, after the Quaker Life committee of the school issued an invitation on behalf of the two monthly meetings that oversee the school (CPMM and MMFP).
In April, MMFP hosted the start of the 15th annual Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation. We successfully organized many volunteers and strategized about the needs of those arriving to begin the event at the ASMH. That was a great outreach opportunity not only for MMFP, but also for the Quaker community in Philadelphia.
To what priorities does God call our meeting? How do our annual budget, our meeting’s standing committees and other aspects of the meeting’s life reflect those priorities?
We are called to uphold the testimonies of equality, simplicity, peace, integrity and stewardship. The constant search for Truth and the Light within are paramount. Outreach and Worship and Ministry committees work hard in our meeting. They help to keep our attendance up, and nurture our community. Our Peace and Social Concerns committee compiles a list of worthy causes, and we contribute funds to projects and organizations that have meaningful local social justice impact.
We are dedicated to the continued distribution of John Martin Trust funds to eligible PYM members. Support in terms of grant-making, perhaps a session on how to direct applicants to other sources, and growing skills in receiving applications would be helpful. We are blessed to have this JMT fund available, but managing it and directing it towards other worthy needs, such as financial aid funds to Friends Select School, take up much time and energy. Finance committee has made great strides this year, in working with a new accounting system to better steward our resources.
Our Care and Relief committees work to nurture current and prospective members, and to assist those with extraordinary needs. Those committees are full, and meet regularly. Nominating committee is small but works hard, and manages to achieve the desired result of filling spaces on committees. Hospitality, Outreach and First Day School committees are smaller and need the clerk’s nurture from time to time.
What specific issues of concern has your community experienced in the past year?
We experienced the deaths of several longtime members in the last eighteen months or so. The number of elders in our meetings is shrinking, and we are feeling the impact. However, the “next generation” is slowly stepping in to fill the breach, and I have hope that we can adjust to a new normal.
We continue to search for a way forward in our ongoing relationship with PYM and the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust. As we do not own or control the building in which we meet, many challenges have arisen over the last several years for the monthly meeting in terms of building use. I am hopeful that with love and support, we can reach a place where all needs are met for everyone involved. I ask that we be held in the Light as this discernment continues.
What threshing, dialogue and/or discernment has your community recently experienced regarding the purpose and importance of membership?
We have work to do in this area. As clerk, I hope to lead MMFP through the discernment of releasing members who do not participate in the life of the meeting. This is a fractious issue, but an important one. What does membership mean? What obligations does one have as a member of a monthly meeting? These are questions I would like to use to frame our discernment. Hopefully I can address this in the fall at MMFP.
What anti-racism work has your community engaged in or explored in the past year?
MMFP has several individuals who participate in POWER and/or other organizations that explore solutions to racism in our community. There is always more work to be done, and we have recognized this as a meeting. However, other issues have gotten in the way of our direct exploration of anti-racism, and having a plan or approach to delve into this requires more attention from me.
Buckingham Monthly Meeting
Annual Report to Bucks Quarterly Meeting
May 20, 2018
Held at Camp Onas – Ottsville, PA
The last year has been an exciting and spiritually nurturing one at Buckingham Monthly Meeting. We recorded 62 adult members and 23 minor members (including 2 new members), for a total of 85. There was one death.
Most notably, our Meetings for Worship and First Day School have been enriched by new attenders—multiple young families with children. We try to be welcoming toward new attenders, and our post-meeting gathering—our snacks have now expanded to be nearly a brunch each week—also helps to facilitate meaningful connections. Our attenders, some of whom have become members, have shown exceptional willingness to participate in all aspects of the life of the meeting, as well as finding new ways to get the rest of the membership to be active.
Meetings for Worship have been peaceful and gathered, perhaps more quiet than in the past, with consideration of appropriate messages by Friends in attendance clearly evident. We held meeting for worship outdoors in the graveyard on several Sundays during the summer under a large shady tree. Members have been providing rides for older Friends who are no longer able to drive to meeting themselves. A few power outages also found us worshipping in Buckingham Friends School, which we thank for its hospitality.
Numerous programs outside of worship have also brought our faith community closer together. Our monthly informal “Quaker Conversation” adult programs have continued, and our Social Concerns committee has facilitated other engaging events, including a performance by the META Theater group and a guest speaker from the Peace Center. We frequently seem to have so much going on that it is difficult to schedule committee meetings to get our work done. Unfortunately we were not able to sustain our Games Night this year, but are looking forward to find other ways to gather and socialize.
This year we laid down our formal newsletter (or at least it went on a well-deserved vacation), but communicate more regularly through two different Google email groups, one for general Meeting business or announcements and one for social concerns and activism. We also maintain our web site at www.buckinghamfriendsmeeting.org and Facebook page, which attract inquiries from the wider community. Internally we completed an evaluation of our property manager, and continue to be led in business and spirit by our co-clerks, Pam Caprio and Bethann Morgan.
Last year’s Peace Fair, which we host under the care of Quarterly Meeting, was again very successful, with a record number of exhibitors. The Peace Fair committee is now a standing committee of Bucks Quarterly Meeting, and asks that every meeting try to contribute a member, or at least provide a point of contact within their meeting. Last year there were more volunteers at the Fair from the Quarter than ever on the day of the Fair. The 2018 Peace Fair is on Saturday, September 22.
Our First Day School is a hive of activity every week with new children, whose parents are attending regularly. Committee members have been rotating teaching duties so as to not put too much responsibility on one individual, but we are actively considering hiring a paid teacher to expand our program while letting parents stay in meeting to worship. Our efforts to reach out and stay connected to our college-age Young Adult Friends have resulted in several applying for full adult membership.
This year our meetinghouse will be 250 years old! Caring for our National Historic Landmark property is always a challenge, particularly financially. We applied for and received one grant from PYM’s Quaker Buildings & Programs Granting Group to repair our roof, but were unsucessful in securing another to help strip our shutters of centuries of built-up paint. Our all-volunteer effort to renew the wooden cap on our graveyard wall continued, and now over half of the wall is completed. The many storms we had last winter wreaked havoc on trees all around our property, some of which fell in the graveyard and damaged the wall. We discovered that it is possible to make insurance claims that will cover some of the removal and repair costs, and that doing so does not raise our premiums.
Our relationship with Buckingham Friends School has continued to be strong. It is very helpful that the clerk of the school board, Michael Godshall, is a member of our meeting, but we (and other meetings) have not yet filled our quotas for membership on it. While the school continues to be challenged by enrollment and budget considerations, they have hired a new permanent head for next year, Paul Lindenmaier, who will help take them in a new direction (and who is a Quaker).
Bristol Friends Meeting Annual Report
Presented at Quarterly Meeting – May 20, 2018
Camp Onas, Ottsville PA
Bristol Friends Meeting membership continues to be low. We have had a few meeting with six or eight folks attending, but that is the exception. Many meetings have had just three people. We are happy to see a new Quaker couple has moved into the borough, and look forward to them joining us in worship. We continue to gather once a month, usually on the second Sunday, for worship followed by our business meeting.
It was approved by the Quarter that Bristol Friends become a preparative meeting under the aegis of Fallsington Meeting. This move reflects the reality of our current situation and provides needed financial oversight for endowments and accounts in Bristol Friends’ care. The members of Bristol Friends thank the Quarter and Fallsington Friends for their loving concern and generous help.
Jim Fine continues as our treasurer, currently performing his duties from far away Iraq. Although halfway across the world, his quick responses and active involvement in our affairs makes it feel as if he is still here in Bristol. We wish him safe travels and look forward to his July return.
Bristol Friends collected many bags of warm clothing, including coats and jackets. These were passed along to families who had fled to our area from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
We worked locally promoting peace and non-violence in cooperation with the Peace Center. They presented an anti-bullying program in the Bristol schools.
Paul Shaffer attended the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting gathering of clerks at Hockessin Meeting in Delaware. The clerks spent time working on examples of microaggressions and institutional racism.
Going forward, Bristol Friends Meeting will continue working with the clerk’s committee on small meetings to explore ways to increase our outreach effectiveness. And finally, this October, Bristol Friends will have an extra special event held during Historic Bristol Day…
Historic Bristol Day dig! Researchers from Bucks County Community College and Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation are conducting ongoing excavations in Bristol borough. It is just possible that our yard is untouched over the past three hundred years. The public would be invited to participate in the archeological dig. Who knows what we could find?
Paul Shaffer, clerk
Annual Report of the Clerk
Bucks Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Presented to Bucks Quarterly Meeting
May 20, 2018
Held at Camp Onas, Ottsville, PA
The Bucks Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends continues to be an active and sound part of its Members and Attenders religious, spiritual, social, political, educational and economic lives.
Our Meetinghouses have the financial support to keep open their doors and to improve facilities. Southampton has been able to reopen first day for worship. Bristol has received new support from Fallingston Meeting as it has become a Preparatory Meeting under its care. The Quarterly budget once again has proven that we are currently sustainable, as Friends have met their obligations and responsibilities.
I believe a fine example of the attention to the religious and spiritual needs of the Quarter was the success of the Spiritual Formation Group which involved 14 members from many Meetings – more than were expected.
Singing and reading groups were organized. A group attended an aptly named Trenton Thunder baseball game. Many attended the showing of the movie “Quaker Oaths” for a great success. Our poets contributed to and did well in a regional contest. Newtown Meeting invoked a scavenger hunt to explore its history.
Politics and government concerns have played an especially important part in many of our lives. Changes and upheavals in policies that are important to Friends have led to disappointment, frustration, calls to action, anger and even depression. We were shocked and heartbroken over more gun violence. Individuals, committees and Meetings are working to find ways to express feelings and opinions as they look to find appropriate paths to seek truth and justice.
Our Quarter has struggled to find the right way to make and to take corporate action regarding a request to endorse a Minute on Korea from Newtown Meeting. We were reminded by Yearly Meeting about the importance of seasoning minutes of action and have experienced the difficulty of communicating among ourselves in a timely and rightly ordered fashion. I believe this process will need more exploration and development. I also believe that this exercise gave me the chance to see how different Meetings looked at the proposed Korea Minute. All agreed with the basic sentiment of encouraging diplomacy and avoiding war. However, there were enough differences to show that we, as Friends, should not allow ourselves to be caught up in “group think”. It is not fair to assume “all Friends” might be in favor of any one particular action such as boycotts or sanctions, for example. However, as a result, we were not as a Quarter in unity with the Newtown Minute as written.
A few other notes of vitality and interest:
The Quaker School at Horsham reported a very healthy enrolment and much positive feedback from its community; the elevator at Friends Home is completed; children have been an important part of fund raising for refugees and animals and recreational needs for Rwandan children at Quakertown, Lehigh Valley, and Wrightstown Meetings.
- Solebury and Fallingston Meetings organized hugely successful clothing and furniture drives as many help in our continuing support for refugees.
- Buckingham Friends sponsored a sobering and important look at women’s prisons via a presentation by the Meta Theater group.
- We have seen structure support for the Peace Fair increase as a Committee guide entered the Quarter Handbook.
- Well known speakers such as Eugene Sonn and Paul Chappell have been invited to address Friends.
- Quarterly Meetings have gone “off campus” to United Friends School and Camp Onus.
- Quakerphernalia has now become electronic except for a few which are still sent or delivered.
In conclusion, it is very important to note that our coordinator, Holly Olson experience a year with health challenges. We are grateful for the hard work that she continued throughout her treatment. And, we are also grateful for the support that so many gave to help her doing this time.
Bucks Quarter Clerk
Fallsington Friends Meeting Annual Report
To Bucks Quarterly Meeting
May 20, 2018
Held at Camp Onas, Ottsville PA
This past year Fallsington Friends Meeting continued to grow as a close, loving community. Grounded in worship, we support each other in our individual and Meeting-wide ministries and are an active presence in our local community. We have paid renewed attention to our nominating process, strengthened committees and worked to avoid burnout. Nurturing spiritual gifts and sharing leadership roles have been central to this process.
This past year we completed moving all our investments to Friends Fiduciary, reaching a long-held goal of screening and greening our money. As a result of this work, more financial resources are available to support charitable causes and address long delayed maintenance of our buildings and grounds.
Our membership continues to grow. We welcomed three new members, and are blessed by the presence of new attenders. Our inreach and outreach are supported by public events and our adult classes, including an on-going study of PYM’s new Faith and Practice and “Meeting for Healing,” a powerful practice of holding in the Light and laying on of hands. We enjoy singing at the close of worship (we put the “sing” in Fallsington!) and sharing lunch each Sunday.
We have wrestled with ways to reduce disturbance to worship by late coming. We affirm that worship begins at 11 am, and ask Friends arriving after to wait to enter until the children leave at 11:15 for First Day School. This practice of waiting has caused distress to some Friends, but has led to deep discernment about caring for each other and our commitment to our worship life as a community.
In January a concern to provide winter clothes for people moving to our community from the hurricane destruction in Puerto Rico lead to an unforeseen outpouring of local community support. Our Meetinghouse became the collecting point of 80 bags of clothes! Sweaters, hats, socks and more covered the benches as volunteers sorted and prepared for donation. Clothes were also available to people coming to Bucks Food For Friends, a monthly shared meal for those in need held at the Meetinghouse.
Other concerns of our Meeting and individual members have been:
- Climate change
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Earth Quaker Action Team
- Middle East peace
- Bucks Peace Center
- Refugee aid
- Mercer St. Friends Center
- Heifer International in Bangledesh
After careful discernment, and the support of Bucks Quarterly Meeting, we agreed to take Bristol Friends Meeting under our care as a Preparative Meeting. We are supporting Bristol Friends in caring for their finances and Fallsington Friends have attended Bristol Meeting’s worship.
As we look to the coming year, we feel a strong concern to attract more families and grow our First Day School. We hope to make deeper connections with the Hispanic Community, working with them on issues of racial profiling and deportation. We also want to be allies with those in Trenton, NJ who are working on issues of racial injustice, mass incarceration and poverty.
We are both soothed and challenged by our worship and community life. We find comfort in our close Meeting friendships. We seek to deal lovingly with diversity and conflict, and to grow from it. We encourage each other to seek the Spirit and go deeper in faith, as were challenged in our recent intergenerational Easter program to “roll away the stone!”
Jonathan R. Snipes