Hello my name is Joshua Ponter. I am a member of Haddonfield Monthly Meeting in South Jersey’s Philadelphia area. I have embarked on a year-long mission to travel around the country collecting stories about the founding of different meetings and looking at the way we practice Quakerism today. I will be blogging about my travels on the PYM website. Find my latest entry below. Please email me at JPonter1@gmail.com if there is anyone from your meeting who would like to sit down with me and speak to some of your history — or if you would like more information on me or my project . Thank you!
It seems our mother nature does not take my plans into account when she comes up with plans of her own. This is how I ended up staying at an Airbnb for two nights in Greensboro. The camp ground that I booked right outside of the city called me the day I was supposed to get there to let me know there was a foot of snow still on the site and they were expecting to soon be underwater as a torrential rain storm swept in, melted the snow, and put the whole area into a flash flood warning. I know it comes as ironic for someone who has been a swim coach, scuba diver, and lived on a boat for the past five years to say; but I am so done with water… The experience turned out to be better than I could have imagined.
The house at which I ended up staying was owned by a lovely, warm, and welcoming family. It was also right down the street from First Friends Meeting; a place at which I ended up spending more time than not.
At some point along my journey I was asked by a Friend if I had ever been to a meeting in which I was made to feel “unwelcome.” I was a bit surprised by the question but not the answer. While a certain amount of anxiety brews within me every time I enter an unfamiliar place of worship it is something I need not mind to an extent to which I know this is where I am supposed to be. Though this willingness to be guided by God waxes and wanes throughout this journey, it is a concept I have become more comfortable with accepting as time goes on. Here time is measured by the sunlight creeping up Friends faces as the sun shifts slowly in the sky; by the soft measured breathing of the bodies in the room; by the padded footsteps in the hall; by the restless wanderings of a child at play.
This was what they considered to be a semi-programmed meeting, which in this context meant they had a 45 minute unprogrammed session in one roomfollowed by a programmed service in a chapel-like room they called the “Sanctuary.” I had heard this terminology before when I went to visit an Evangelical Quaker Church in Virginia. I decided not to write about that experience because, though I did get a chance to sit down with the Pastor, I was not able to attend the worship so I felt I did not get a full survey of the experience.
The worship consisted of some introductions and announcements, a few words from the Pastor about how important it was to share this time with people and look out for the folks who might have trouble with the holidays, with a great deal of intermittent singing. =) Afterwards I was able to attend their monthly business meet, which as far as I can tell was exactly like the ones I have been used to.
I was told by the Pastor at the Evangelical Church they had individual elders who made all the decisions that would normally be made by committees so I was expecting something similar at First Friends, however that did not prove to be the case. The only difference from my monthly business meetings, as far as I could see, was they had quite a few more paid positions and financial considerations involving community out-reach. After that I was treated to lunch,given a tour of some of the various Meetings in the city, and told some histories involving Greensboro and its history of Friends.
The following day I was rewarded with a chance to do some service work at the food pantry run by First Friends, by handing out holiday meals to people in need from the area. I once read a study that talked about what makes people “happy.” The conclusion of which showed that the pursuit of happiness was ultimately self defeating. In other words the idea of doing things in order to make oneself happy (buying things we don’t need, earning money for the sake of having money, obtaining power for the sake of feeling like we are in control) are not the things that create happiness. After being able to give away more than 50 complete dinners and as many holiday wishes I can indeed say I went to bed very happy that night.