In July 2021 PYM approved minutes of action to be taken on anti-racism and climate change. How has your meeting been called to address these issues? What other concerns and initiatives has your meeting been led to address this past year?
- Beginning in 2020 and continuing through 2021, Fallsington Monthly Meeting (FMM) sponsored a series of classes to increase awareness of members and attenders concerning anti-racism and social justice. The meeting worked with the Bucks County Peace Center, Newtown, PA to facilitate the sessions over Zoom on weekdays and during some Sunday adult class time frames. Three final sessions took place during the first half of 2021. • Members of the FMM’s Worship and Ministry Committee led several Adult classes in a discussion of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to be an Anti-Racist, to continue the Meeting’s Anti-Racism concerns.
- On March 21, 2021, Jondhi Harrell accepted Worship and Ministry’s invitation to talk about his work in the area of Social Justice as Executive Director for The Center for Returning Citizens and through the Ujima Friends Peace Center in Philadelphia. The program was announced throughout Bucks Quarter and all were invited to join the program.
- FMM continued its commitment to contribute substantial financial support over a three year period (2020 – 2022) to Men for H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Elevate) and the Father Center of NJ. Both organizations are based in Trenton, NJ and offer support to African American men in local communities.
• On December 2, 2021, the new African American Museum of Bucks County honored and recognized deceased FMM member Samuel Snipes for his Social Justice work in the 1950’s. Several members of FMM attended the ceremony.
- FMM demonstrated a high level of activism and support through the ongoing work of members Tom Wells and Jonathan Sprout. On December 9, 2021, Tom and Jonathan organized support for climate change awareness through the FMM’s Peace and Service Committee and coordinating an educational event with Katherine Kayhoe, atmospheric scientist, “Finding Hope in Combating Climate Change,” Bill Mettler of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and introducing 2 short films “Ice” and “Solar” produced by Jonathan Sprout and Rodney White of Force for Good. The program was a hybrid presentation that included an action activity where participants were encouraged to reach out to representatives via email in support of holding Global Warming at no more than 1.5℃..
- Members Jim and Debbie Fine presented a program for adult class on their involvement relating to activities of the Middle East Collaborative of PYM and the Bucks County Interfaith Coalition for Refugee Resettlement (BCICFRR) assisting immigrants and refugees. Their specific focus was on Bristol Meeting’s commitment to help local refugee families relocating from Afghanistan
How has your meeting evolved as a spiritual community given the ongoing opportunities and challenges of the pandemic?
- The pandemic provided both opportunities and challenges for FMM in sustaining its spiritual community. The choice to close the Meetinghouse for in person worship and gathering was difficult, however members of the property committee worked to implement the technology to conduct First Day Classes for both adults and children and Meetings for Worship (and attending to Business). Initially the technology was uneven, however as time passed a dedicated WiFi connection was installed at the Meeting House and the continued attention Property Committee members Bill Schier, Jonathan Sprout and Mike Caro resulted in great improvements. Meetings for Worship and for Worship to Attend to Business were conducted on the Zoom platform and provided opportunities for Friends to attend from a distance. Friends expressed appreciation for Neil Vance’s regular hosting on Zoom for both Adult Class and Meeting for Worship remote and hybrid sessions over the past year. When Covid rates were decreasing FMM shifted to a hybrid worship opportunity and the Meeting House reopened. Being able to conduct Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Worship to Attend to Business in a hybrid model (in person and Zoom) provided opportunities for more people to participate, opening the door for those not feeling comfortable with joining in person, while allowing for others to gather in the Meeting House.
- The Religious Education Committee including Susan Snipes Wells, Melanie Douty Snipes and Mike Caro provided opportunities for the children’s classes to meet on Zoom, however most classes were able to be held in person either on the Meetinghouse grounds or at Snipes Farm.
- Adult Classes continued to use the Meeting’s Zoom connection to conduct on-going Faith and Practice studies, to host Anti-Racism workshops, book discussions, and to welcome guest speakers.
- Over the past year FMM’s Nominating and Clerks’ Committees re-envisioned the approach to clerking positions. Facing a lack of persons to accept nomination for the vacancy of the Meeting’s Clerk position the members began to seek potential alternatives in the approach to the position. Members considered structures in other meetings of the quarter and finalized a proposal resulting in a new approach that met with consensus. The new approach includes positions of Clerk and Rising Clerk who will share responsibilities and participate in clerk’s training provided by PYM and FGC. The Rising Clerk will move to the Clerk position after a year and a new Rising Clerk will be nominated. Many thanks to Amy Duckett Wagner and Susan Snipes Wells who have agreed to serve as Clerk and Rising Clerk respectively. This is expected to improve transitions as future clerks begin their roles.
- Friends concurred with the recommendation to re-envision the Outreach committee and become Membership Development to enrich current members and attenders and attract new potential members and attenders. The Committee is planning a workshop for meeting members and attenders on Saturday, January 29, 2022, to be facilitated by Bucks Quarter Coordinator, Wendy Kane, and consider the theme – 2022 – A Year to Grow Our Meeting. The program will include opportunities for small group discussions and gathered sharing and generate new ideas. *see final query for an overview of the retreat
What practices and strategies are employed by your meeting to help members and attenders of all ages prepare for worship – whether in meeting for worship or in meeting for business? – Faith and Practice p. 214
- FMM’s Care and Concern Committee worked especially hard to keep Meeting members in touch this year. The continuing pandemic and the non-Covid deaths of several members put strain on the committee and FMM’s family. The committee and FMM lost a significant member with the death of Sue Jasiewicz who succumbed following a long battle with cancer. Her passing left a major void in terms of her spiritual and personal contributions to FMM and many other peace and service organizations, Quaker and non, in the Bucks area. Care and Concern maintained a personal connection with members and attenders of FMM with birthday cards, letters, and phone calls throughout the year. Facilitator Sue Madeira keeps in touch also through the FMM’s Google Group to keep everyone aware of special needs or requests within the FMM’s family. Special thanks for Sue’s continued diligence.
- FMM’s monthly newsletter provided a connection with information about Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Worship to Attend to Business, Called Meetings, Yearly Meeting and Quarterly Meeting sessions and programs, special activities and personal updates as to what is happening with each other. Newsletter editor, Liza DiMino, reaches out to members via email each month to request additions for the newsletter and helps to maintain those important personal connections among our members and attenders.
- Meetings for Healing continued to be held via Zoom and facilitated by Lisa Collins. Attendance remained strong and Friends welcomed to opportunity to seek and provide support for each other and those on whose behalf requests were shared.
- FMM held special Easter and Christmas programs that were well attended. The Easter program was held on Zoom. The program included music and singing, readings from the Bible, excerpts from Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, and Quaker writings on the meaning of Easter, and small and large group discussions of the Beatitudes and the query, “What are we being resurrected for?” Between rain showers, the Religious Education Committee was able to coordinate an Easter egg hunt and flower planting to spruce up the graveyard and grounds around the Meetinghouse. The Christmas program began with a delicious breakfast, provided by Sandy Otis and Jim Collins, and then a hybrid intergenerational program that incorporated the tradition of the Posada, Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, with singing and readings of hardships endured by refugees today. FMM members continued to provide Christmas gifts that were wrapped by the children during their gathering during Meeting for Worship for the Mercer Street Friends organization in Trenton, NJ.
- FMM maintained a stable financial situation through management of meeting funds, contributions of members, and the generous bequest of Sue Jasiewicz. In addition, the Finance Committee reported the repayment of half of the funds committed by FMM by the William Penn Center for building improvements and window replacements, and interest payments from the sound investments through the Friends Fiduciary and other accounts. The Meeting’s
Finance Committee, Bill Schier and Jonathan Sprout, is to be recognized for its attention and oversight.
- FMM continues to maintain care of Bristol meeting, members participate in Bucks Quarterly Conference and PYM events, several committees worked together on a project to record those interred in the FMM’s Orthodox graveyard. The acknowledgement and recording of names of past Friends acknowledge their existence, participation and contributions to FMM and realize that as we follow in their footsteps, we can expect that other Friends may follow in ours.
- Memorial services celebrated the lives of members and attenders who have died. The services are held in the manner of worship of Friends and all are invited to speak and share memories out of the joined silence that recognize and remember the lives of those who have passed.
- Hymn singing is an important part of preparing for worship and celebrating each other. FMM has conducted several intergenerational programs that incorporate songs and encourage musicians to participate in sharing their gifts. Music leaders included Sallie Gordon, Bill Schier, Jonathan Sprout, Neil Vance, Susan Snipes Wells, Tom Wells, Jonathan Snipes, Melanie Douty Snipes and Amy Duckett Wagner.
What is most needed to strengthen the communal witness of the meeting to the local community and beyond? – Faith and Practice p. 214
- FMM must take advantage of opportunities to meet in person. Considering activities that can be conducted outside will reduce the concerns of many of our members. Members did engage in more outdoor activities in light of covid restrictions including bonfires, attending Holly Night at Pennsbury Manor, a group walk in Fallsington to view the living Nativity at the Fallsington United Methodist Church, children’s First Day classes held at Snipes Farm and on the Meeting House grounds, a farewell party and bonfire for Jerry and Evelyn Throne who moved to Vermont, an Easter Egg hunt between showers in the Meeting’s graveyard and a meeting canoe afternoon. FMM also hosted refreshments following a community Christmas tree lighting and carol sing in Historic Fallsington.
- The Meeting must think outside the box and create connections and keep in touch with people for whom Zoom does not work either because they do not have the infrastructure to participate or because it is not their inclination. FMM has revised its website, refreshed its Facebook presence and created a new Instagram account to reach current members and attenders as well as attract potential members and attenders who are used to using newer platforms to find opportunities for spiritual development and nurture. Many thanks to Zhenya Pevzner for revising and maintaining the FMM’s website; and Lindsay Fisk for creating a new Instagram account.
- In conjunction with the preceding point it is important to rethink how FMM communicates with others. For younger people, consider that they may communicate differently, with stories, images or video; not necessarily face-to-face. Offer this in ways compatible with Friends’ testimonies and beliefs. For example, storytelling can strengthen historical connections, provide insights to one another, and introduce foundations of the Quaker experience of worship, decision making, and testimonies.
- Amy Ward Brimmer (Way Opens Wellness) and Lisa Collins (River Rock Healing) continue to provide alternative avenues to increase awareness of Friends’ worship and testimonies through opportunities to participate in wellness, mindfulness, meditation, spirituality and healing sessions/workshops/programs. At the end of 2021 Lisa opened a physical location for River Rock Healing Arts where she envisions offering events, classes, and services of a wide variety as the healing arts are broad and encompassing. Both Lisa and Amy look forward to welcoming members of FMM and the wider community at their events and strengthening the spiritual bond among participants.
Is there a query (or queries) that your meeting would like to respond to that has not been included here? Please share it (or them) and your response.
The following comments/concerns came out of a called meeting for worship to consider the queries of this Spiritual State of the Meeting Report. The points will be revisited for discussion and consideration by FMM committees and meetings over the coming year.
- What can we do or share that is not just words?
- What spiritual practices can we explore and cultivate together to nurture our spiritual lives?
- What are the ways that each of us would prefer to communicate? What do each of us need from FMM?
- Generational differences and technology – these have changed immeasurably over time. If we conclude that gathering remotely or through hybrid worship is here to stay, how do we build on it? How do we see this as an opportunity and embrace it?
- How can we move forward and make use of what we have learned about alternate forms of gathering over the past two years to strengthen FMM, widen participation, yet not discount the in-person contact that is so important?
*The following article by Melanie Douty Snipes offers a summary of the Meeting retreat that was published in the February 2022, FMM newsletter.
A recently formed Membership Development Committee had a vision for a Meeting retreat as we emerge from the pandemic: 2022 — A Year to Grow Our Community. After several months of planning, we realized that we would all benefit from the presence, skill and wisdom of a facilitator and we were so grateful that Wendy Kane, our Bucks Quarterly Coordinator, accepted the invitation. Twenty-seven Friends participated in the zoom retreat held from 1-3 p.m. In a little more than 2 hours we covered a lot of ground beginning with Friends writing in the chat how they found Fallsington Meeting and Quakerism. One Friend noticed that the sign said Welcome. Several Friends had William Penn Center connections. One Friend was walking with her baby in a stroller and took an interest in the Meetinghouse. Several Friends were invited by Friends. Paired sharing about what nurtures our Quaker lives and what we are longing for gave Friends a chance to share about their spiritual journeys with just one other Friend. Friends mentioned worship and ministries, eco and social justice activism, fellowship lunch, adult classes, holiday programs, singing, Meeting for Healing and First Day School as nourishing. There were longings for deeper explorations and sharing about our experiences of the divine and spiritual life and pursuit of deeper relationships with one another, community partners and commitments to sustainability. The recent inventories of activities and contributions made in 2021 and the spiritual life of the meeting were the springboard for wondering what we wanted to continue, embark on or deepen in 2022. Then Friends chose a committee to further explore programs, projects and events that would be relevant to the needs of seekers and through which we can invite others into.