In this past year, how has your meeting worked to create and strengthen the reality of a Beloved Community? How has your meeting fostered an environment in which members and attenders of all ages know they are loved, cared for, trusted, and respected?
Friends in Spirit Worship Group was officially formed in September, 2022. Through a long and difficult process, the North Branch Friends Meeting, comprised of the Sterling Worship Group and the Forty-Fort Worship Group, decided to lay down the Sterling Worship Group. The Friends in Spirit Worship Group has arisen from those ashes.
Each of us has experience with Quakerism. Friends in Spirit includes three Quakers who have been active members of monthly meetings for decades, and all three have served as Clerks. In addition, the attenders have participated in Monthly and Quarterly Meetings on Zoom and in person for several years. Since the pandemic, our members and attenders managed technology for online meetings, led the adult education discussions, and contributed to the planning and technological needs for the webinars of 2021-22. We have all served on a variety of committees for North Branch Monthly Meeting.
Friends in Spirit was created to better support our spiritual growth and our need for a welcoming community. We are building on our Quaker relationships, experiences with Quaker process, and leadings to create a unique community that meets our diverse needs. We are a totally virtual worship group without geographic boundaries. We find that Friendly discussions and Spirit-led worship hosted through technology can bridge physical distance.
During much of 2022 and 2023, Friends in Spirit developed an online space for discussion and worship on Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. This worship group was born from a place of wanting to stand in Truth and Love. We sought to connect from the place of our hearts and to honor the perspective of all individuals and the thoughts and feelings they expressed. We feel respected, appreciated, understood, accepted, and nurtured, so each one of us can say, “I feel very much part of this group.”
We share our truth plainly, listen without judgment, and respond to each other with love. We endeavor to explore our realities including our varying understandings, needs, and questions about the Spirit.
We are very grateful for guidance from the elders of the wider Quaker community, especially the Upper Susquehanna Quarterly Meeting Ministry and Care Committee.
How have you sought to be neighbors and in relationship with other communities?
We reached out to the Beloved Community by participating in a nationwide Election Eve Worship Meeting. We were joined by a woman on a train as well as several from their homes and meeting houses from Maine to Maryland.
We invited past members and friends of the Sterling Worship Group to a Candlelight Meeting during the holiday season. Several attended.
Even though we are a totally virtual worship group with our members physically located over a widespread area, we have reached out to the needs of neighbors financially and through direct action.
Individual members attend Upper Susquehanna Quarterly Meeting weekly worship and business meetings, as well as our Friends in Spirit Monday night discussion, followed by worship.
In October 2022 several Friends in Spirit participated in World Quaker Day set up by Friends World Committee for Consultation. We worshiped with Meetings located in Australia, Great Britain, Canada, West Virginia, and New York.
How has your meeting been called to address issues of racism this past year? What additional concerns and initiatives have your meeting or meeting members been led to address?
We are looking forward to resuming our interests and activities about racism.
4. How has the Spirit guided your work on climate change? How has your meeting addressed the five action areas identified in the climate change sprint report? Has your Meeting appointed a Climate Witness Liaison?
We will resume our climate witness as soon as possible. We have not yet appointed a Climate Witness Liaison.
5. What learnings and yearnings particular to your meeting would you like to share?
Our meeting is learning that when breaking new ground, it is good to focus on the possibilities rather than the obstacles to be overcome.
We have learned that the virtual system allows people to be involved who would not be involved otherwise — for example, the distant and mobile people who joined us for Election Eve.
We have learned that worship can be deep as we meet virtually. We feel more a part of the larger Quaker community through our virtual worship with the Quarterly meeting.
Some miss the shared music of the in-person meetings and would like to re-create that somehow.
We’ve learned that cohesiveness isn’t in numbers. We are few, but we find community, contentment, and growth in shared worship and discussion.
6. What are things the Yearly Meeting might do to support your meeting?
Recognize us as a unique, totally virtual worship group with an affiliation with the Upper Susquehanna Quarter.
We would appreciate representation in PYM meetings and activities. Consider creating PYM structures that would include groups such as ours.
7. What are things the Upper Susquehanna Quarterly Meeting might do to support Friends in Spirit?
We are inventing something new. We are very grateful for the ongoing support and encouragement of the Ministry & Care Committee of the Upper Susquehanna Quarterly Meeting.
We would appreciate representation in USQM and PYM meetings and activities.
We would like USQM to consider creating structures that would include groups like Friends in Spirit Worship Group.
Submitted by Elaine Leet Contact Person for Friends in Spirit Worship Group firstname.lastname@example.org