Each year at Annual Sessions there is a thick book with printouts of the prior year’s collected ‘State of the Meeting’ reports. Last year we were unable to share in the special joy of leafing through those printed reports. People missed learning about each meeting’s activities.
This year we have compensated for that loss by creating a virtual “book” of all of the reports. You can access them in this news story and they will also be in the Annual Sessions Advance Documents.
The State of the Meeting: Portraits of Communities
We have a total of 55 reports from Monthly Meetings and Quarters. We have organized them alphabetically by quarter, featuring all of the submissions Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) has received over many months. Each report is formatted as each community chose to present it.
Some appear as signed letters, some are in Q&A format, and some present as lists, notes, or poems. All are wonderful snapshots focused on a year of change, challenge, and gathering together.
We have made some spelling, spacing, and formatting or punctuation adjustments as we assembled these for digital publication. If you think we have missed a copy of your community’s report please be in touch with Zachary Dutton at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can create an additional news story on any additional submissions.
Please also read the Spiritual State of the Meeting Report (.pdf) by the Ministry and Council Committee of the Quaker Life Council. It closes with these observations about the spiritual condition of our yearly meeting.
- The pause in being able to gather physically has created, for some Friends, a deeper quiet, an opportunity for deeper listening, and a shift in priorities.
- We see and hear that there is a thirst for transforming ourselves, our meetings, our communities, our Yearly Meeting, and our world into one that is anti-racist and not one dominated by white supremacy.
- There is a thirst to know how to communicate with each other and resolve conflicts in a deep, spirit-led way.
- The past year has revealed both the durability and elasticity of our connection and the deep importance we hold in one another’s lives.
We include the membership statistics (.pdf) with this news story. We note a small decline in members (from 10,129 to 10,053).
For the first time we asked meetings to estimate their attender numbers. We can share a conservative estimate of 2000 attenders that is not reflected in the Membership Statistic Report. Meeting Recorder feedback documents attenders as active participants in the life of many meetings. They serve on committees, as committee clerks, and even treasurers.
This means we have an estimated faith community of about 12,050 Friends.
Reports by Quarter
Beautiful Summaries of a Challenging and Sometimes Joyous Year
The reports document the persistent efforts of meeting leadership, committees, tech savvy Friends, care and counsel teams, quarterly meetings and PYM leadership to rebuild our Faith community during a period of deep isolation.
Meetings coped with utterly unanticipated pandemic conditions, deeply traumatic events, and political divisions.
And yet, our communities shone. They ran food drives, set up vigils, made their meetinghouses available to others, and kept their people as safe as they could.
They celebrated Christmas in new ways, with Zoom pageants, special activities and deliveries. “Quaker mice” stories were told in lighted meetinghouse windows. There were group carols, Zoom dinners, and new youth program activities.
Friends were busy. They set up phone trees, volunteered in the election, upgraded meetinghouse internet networks, mailed youth care packages, celebrated birthdays with drive by parties, and made community grants.
Meetings helped their preschools, schools, nearby continuing care communities, and neighborhood Black Lives Matter organizations (Trenton). One meeting started a new school (Lancaster Friends School), and many meetings partnered with local community based supports, and researched, then organized, ways to get involved in good causes. Powerful work with refugees continued. Important building repairs got done.
Friends Met in Unique Ways; Friends’ Communities Grew Differently
There were meetings that grew by welcoming new people to Zoom worship and in-person worship too. Many communities reconnected with old members and attenders via Zoom worship accessible across multiple time zones. These revitalized relationships proved enduring.
Friends brought their own chairs and met outside (even in the cold). They also met indoors with windows open wide, coats and masks on, and wood burning stoves fired up.
Many communities had new groups of Friends assembling for midweek worship, some created parallel worship opportunities (Zoom and in-person outside). Others went to hybrid worship early in the pandemic, and some meetings found small numbers of masked Friends could be hosted in meetinghouses that were large.
The pandemic isn’t over, and Friends continue to innovate. We look forward to reading next year’s reports and learning how Spirit is with you!
Featured Photo by Grace Cooke: London Grove’s Meeting Oak