Our Community / Membership
Camden Friends Meeting welcomed several new attenders in 2022, and greatly appreciates their continued participation in both worship and fellowship. Every visitor and every regular attender adds something to our community. An average of 12-15 Friends worship together each First Day, with 4-5 Friends meeting for mid-week worship on Wednesday afternoons. Often, messages are given, or a gathered meeting is sensed even when no messages arise. Several Friends have responded to a request by Appoquinimink Meeting in Odessa, Delaware, to worship with them once a month, as they are able.
We mourn the loss of 4 Meeting members to death, 3 of whom we lost quite suddenly: Harry Andersen, Sonia Dotson, Bill Postles, and Eleanor Matthews. Their absence is still felt; their memories are dear.
Several other valued members chose to step away from the Meeting, due to personal reasons and unresolved conflicts. This is a different kind of sad. We are forced to recognize that we have no firm mechanism in place to help Friends constructively address conflict with one another, or with Meeting practices. Hence, we sometimes suffer the loss of valued & active Friends, and we are left with the lingering effects of unresolved conflicts, hurt & anger. In 2023, we are returning to our pre-pandemic practices of regular in-person worship, fellowship & social gatherings; committees meeting in person; an adult education or discussion group; and trying to communicate well with one another, with kindness & openness.
A New Year’s wish for “more Light, less heat” was a timely message recently shared in meeting for worship. This may serve us well as a theme for the year to come.
We long for the presence of children in our midst, and maintain a small space in the Gathering Place where visiting children may play, or be nursed, or enjoy a story. We value & celebrate our elders, both in Camden and in the Lewes Worship Group. We are especially enriched by the presence of several Friends not yet in their fifth or sixth decade, and welcome their participation & their ideas.
Many of us experienced health issues in 2022, often related to aging, or we are helping a spouse or partner deal with their health needs. An endearing facet of our community is that Friends often step up and quietly assist one another in times of crisis or a particular need.
Several Friends are interested in exploring ways we can connect with the wider community again, after several years of increasing insularity and decreasing membership.
Queries: What can Camden Meeting do to attract & welcome seekers beyond our typical demographic of mostly white, college-educated people over the age of 60? When visitors outside of this demographic do become enthusiastic attenders for a time, and then suddenly leave our community, do we seek to understand why they have left, or are we more comfortable in not asking?
Although many Friends are active as individuals, regularly signing petitions, donating funds, or emailing government officials, Camden Meeting’s Peace & Social Concerns Committee was laid down several years ago. This had been our main venue for making charitable donations, and choosing causes to become involved with.
At the end of 2021, the Meeting approved the weekly use of our annex building by a local 12-step group which had been active for many years, but now needed a new meeting space. Their appreciative use of the Gathering Place has worked out well throughout 2022, and is a first step towards possibly opening our space up to more use by the community.
A group of 8-10 Friends gathered in the Spring to discuss the nationwide ‘Quaker Call to Action.’ They drew up a list of positive actions that people could take, and worthwhile organizations to support, such as Color of Change nationally, and the League of Women Voters locally. Their suggestions were then shared with the rest of the Meeting. Several Friends became involved with the local chapter of Moms Demand Action [against gun violence], joining other people of faith from around the state in protests, and in being a presence at state legislative sessions in Dover, while new gun safety laws were being introduced & voted on.
A Friend has represented Camden Meeting at the monthly lunchtime gatherings of the recently formed Central Delaware Interfaith Alliance. Through this group, we become aware of opportunities to worship with people from different faiths, or to participate in charitable events sponsored by larger faith groups that have a greater level of resources than we currently do. It’s also a way to let faith leaders know that there is a Quaker meeting in the area. The Alliance works closely with the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing, an organization serving the homeless population, that we have supported both financially, and with food contributions, for many years.
A number of long-standing committees were informally laid down in recent years, or have stopped meeting regularly, due to aging, health problems, the pandemic, active Friends moving away, or simply, no one is willing or able to clerk a committee, thus keeping it organized & meeting regularly. Because decisions still need to be reached and new matters considered, we have often found ourselves doing committee work during Meeting for Worship w/a Concern for Business. This has been useful, although it is not our preference.
The forced confinement we experienced during the Covid pandemic led us more toward serving the Meeting as individuals, instead of together. This necessary move toward individual, rather than corporate, activity is something we are now having to unlearn, as committees re-group, meet in person again, and resume their Spirit-led work for the Meeting. The fact remains that a committee meeting, or a Business Meeting — where Friends speak honestly & thoughtfully, all voices are heard, and consensus is sought on the matters at hand — can be a spiritual experience, and a deeply satisfying and uniting one.
Our current Hospitality Committee is quite small, but has been dedicated to providing refreshments during fellowship time each & every First Day. Various Friends contribute food & baked goods, which are enjoyed by all. Now that we may freely gather again, this welcome social time together is a balm for the isolation, loneliness & uncertainty that many of us experienced during the past 3 years.
In April, the Building Committee & several hardy volunteers met at the Murderkill Burial Ground in Magnolia, Delaware, and hefted a sturdy roof onto a large wooden sign that lists all the Friends buried there during the past two centuries. Accomplishing this difficult physical & historical task was very satisfying.
The Building Committee’s tasks & responsibilities increased tremendously back in 2009 when we opened our new Leed-certified annex building: the Gathering Place. Thirteen years later, we still appreciate the spaciousness, natural light and comforts that the Building provides. We also acknowledge that its care & upkeep demand far more of us than we ever anticipated. Its complex “green” systems, as well as the hi-tech media equipment installed in ‘09, have proven difficult and costly to comprehend, maintain and repair. More of our people-energy, time, money, and mental space are used on caring for this building than on anything else we currently do. The Meeting is faced with the choice of attempting to keep this building on a par with its original glory, or simplifying everything we possibly can, so that we are freer to focus on other matters.
Queries: How can we continue to maintain both of our buildings, without this work severely draining our time and our energy? How would we use our time, energy & funds if we were released from this responsibility? Can we find ways to share our spatial abundance with the wider community? Are we willing to do so?
Priorities for 2023
Spending meaningful time together – contributing & connecting further to the community around us – deepening our worship experience – being more closely in touch with other Meetings, including the Lewes Worship Group – inviting seekers to join us for worship & fellowship.
Submitted in faith by Patty Hartmannsgruber, Clerk, Camden Friends Meeting