1. 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?
• While we continued to offer virtual meeting for worship on Zoom, for the most part we have returned to in-person (hybrid) worship. It has been such a joy to be able to meet in person again, which Friends appreciate all the more after being apart for almost 3 years.
• Our young Friends are invited and encouraged to help with meeting events, such as our annual auction in the fall, and quarterly meeting, which we hosted in February. Their participation at these events was greatly appreciated. The young Friends also held a drive-through toy and food drive in December for the Bucks County Housing Group’s food pantry in Penndel. One young Friend has volunteered to be trained to run the equipment to facilitate hybrid meeting.
• Members and attenders often provide rides to or from meeting for worship for several of our members who do not drive.
• A copy of our monthly minutes is printed in extra-large type for one of our visually impaired members.
• Our Ministry & Nurture Committee sends cards and flowers to members and attenders who are ill or who have suffered a loss in their family. We share joys and concerns in our newsletter.
2. How have you sought to be neighbors and in relationship with other communities?
• Our meeting supports the Bucks Learning Cooperative (BLC), a self-directed learning center for homeschooled teens. BLC rents our schoolhouse, participates in some of our community events, and holds some classes in the meetinghouse and garage. Two of our members serve on the BLC board. At our invitation, BLC staff, students, and parents provided a well-received program at the February Bucks Quarterly Meeting.
• The meeting has been an active member of the Langhorne Area Ministerial Association (aka the Ministerium or LAMA) for decades, sending a meeting representative to monthly meetings and participating in community events such as the annual Good Friday Cross Walk and Thanksgiving Eve service.
• The meeting wrote a letter to PennDOT to protest their plan to increase nonlocal traffic on Route 413 through the Black community and past its churches. The plan would also be detrimental to the physically and developmentally challenged community at Woods Services. Several meeting members have been active on the Borough planning committee, working with a traffic engineer to come up with alternatives and traffic-calming strategies to minimize the impact of the planned changes.
3. 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?
• Our meeting supports the African American Museum of Bucks County and recently made a substantial donation to their building fund. Several members are actively involved with the group, including one who has researched and written a book about the Boone Farm in Middletown, the future home of the AAMBC, and is donating the proceeds from the sale of the book to the museum.
• The Meeting has provided support for a Langhorne community member who is planning to hold a Juneteenth celebration on the meetinghouse grounds on June 24. This event was first planned for June of 2020 but had to be postponed until now because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Meeting is covering the liability insurance for the event and has arranged for parking at the nearby Heritage Farm and golf carts to transport attendees from the parking area through the woods to the event. For the past three years we have worked with this same community member to display a large Juneteenth banner in front of the meetinghouse.
• Last fall, our clerk was contacted by representatives of the Rainbow Room, a group sponsored by Planned Parenthood that provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth to gather for fellowship and support. The group currently meets in a church in Doylestown and after receiving a large state grant is looking to expand in the lower part of the county. They were very interested in using our FDS/childcare room and Friends were initially quite receptive to the idea. An ad hoc committee met with Rainbow Room staff to negotiate the details, but it became apparent that their requirements would not only leave us without a FDS room but the physical space would not meet their needs. This was a difficult decision, leaving a number of Friends very disappointed. A letter of support for the Rainbow Room was drafted and shared with Bucks Quarter, the Rainbow Room, Planned Parenthood, and our state senator, who was instrumental in getting the grant money.
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?
• Unfortunately, we were unaware of the climate change spirit report and have not appointed a Climate Witness Liaison. We will put this on the agenda for our next business meeting.
• A section of our graveyard is designated as a green burial ground, with one green burial thus far.
• We recycle, not using paper or plastic products when reusable dishes and utensils are feasible.
• We set the thermostat low when the building is not in use.
• We have a butterfly garden that is certified as an official Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch.
5. What learnings and yearnings particular to your meeting would you like to share?
Last fall, our clerk attended a meeting of the Langhorne Area Ministerial Association (aka the Ministerium or LAMA) for pastors only to find himself under attack and the Quaker faith questioned by some area pastors. There is a growing conservative movement in the Ministerium led by Langhorne Presbyterian, which has dropped out of PCUSA and joined an evangelical branch. The Presbyterian Church also asked the Boy Scouts to leave, after meeting on church grounds for decades. The general feeling among the pastors seemed to be that the Ministerium should not be dealing with social justice issues; the main focus should be on tending to one’s flock and exalting Christ. One pastor quoted information from FGC’s website that stated that Quaker belief in Jesus is optional. This pastor said that he was uncomfortable being yoked to non-believers (Quakers) in the annual Cross Walk and bearing witness. Other pastors said that maybe the Cross Walk has seen its time and takes the pastors’ energy away from preparing for Easter services at their own church. Reaching out to the community and planning joint programs such as the Thanksgiving Eve service no longer seems of interest. Instead, the group may re-form as more of a support group for area pastors. The clerk noted that there were no representatives from the Catholic, Baptist, or AME churches present at the meeting, and that there were a few who defended him and the Quaker meeting.
Friends were appalled, disappointed, and angered by the way our clerk was ambushed at this meeting. It was noted that the Ministerium was formed as an ecumenical organization for all faiths, not just Christian, as our late Friend Charlene DiMicco often pointed out to the group. Many Friends felt we should step aside until a new organization that better reflects the Langhorne community is formed.
But then the Ministerium (minus the Langhorne Presbyterians) decided to go ahead with the Cross Walk. Friends decided to participate, choosing to not let the prejudice of one group influence our actions. As in years past, the walk began at our meetinghouse with brief worship in the manner of Friends. Our clerk was instrumental in planning the walk, obtaining a shuttle bus from Pennswood Village and making other arrangements. Other Friends provided baked goods and refreshments for the group. We received many nice comments from participants from the other churches and felt good that we were a part of this community event.
6. What are things the Yearly Meeting might do to support your meeting?
We have been talking for some time about outreach and ways to grow our membership but other events always seem to arise that need more immediate attention. While we understand the role of a strong FDS program in attracting new families, our youngest attender is now 9 years old and most of our young people have aged out of our traditional FDS program. We have a good core group of active Friends but sometimes, when considering potential events or initiatives we have to ask if there is enough energy or interest make these things happen. Perhaps we could benefit from PYM materials and support in the area of growing our meeting.
Both Middletown Friends Meeting and Bucks Quarter (according to the clerk of the Quarter, who is a member of Middletown, and our representative on the Quarter Budget and Nominating Committee) feel that the Quarter and the monthly Meetings are quite separate from PYM—distant cousins, if you will. Bucks Quarter and its member meetings are a tightly woven clan with real commitment to grassroots decision making. A few of our members feel that PYM seems more interested in management than in us. Perhaps it would serve both bodies well if PYM were to open its committees to wider participation to encourage bottom-up, rather than top-down, decision making.
Approved April 16, 2023 at Meeting for Business; submitted by Robin Hipple, Convener of the Ministry & Nurture Committee at Middletown Friends Meeting at Langhorne.