The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our meeting in many ways, and we are engaging in ongoing work to strengthen and repair our bonds with one another. We have continued our hybrid Meetings for Worship and Business so that all Friends may be included in these aspects of our community life, with safety and comfort. We include the youth in most aspects of the meeting, and we value their voices and contributions to our community. We join together twice a year for intergenerational retreats, to be still, refocus, and spend time together.
We try to care for one another in difficult times, but as with all communities, there are times when people feel uncared for. We recognize this and are actively working to find ways to be more aware and available to one another, to connect with compassion, and address differences or hurts. Much of this has been occurring informally with Friends reaching out to one another individually. Other Friends have requested more formal processes for regular pastoral care; Worship & Ministry and Care & Counsel will work on this.
Our meeting is experiencing a renewed energy to gather and socialize, and we feel increased connection through these activities. The fellowship after the Rise of Meeting is well-attended as is our monthly potluck lunch. We have an active email listserv where we share about upcoming events. We also have a new monthly Game Night that rotates to different Friends’ homes, which was adopted with modifications from Honolulu Monthly Meeting. This event has helped us to learn the value of lighthearted play in fostering relationships.
We see the beginnings of stronger ties within the Quarter through various new activities and initiatives. Also, we have reopened our meetinghouse space to other organizations who foster fellowship. We have also seen an influx of visitors who are being greeted warmly and without being pressured to join. Hopefully, they will continue to attend, feel comfortable here, and find their place within the meeting. We have members who do regular outreach both in the wider Quaker community and with our neighbors of other faiths. We have had the opportunity to be part of various interfaith programs, such as annual MLK Jr. services hosted by a coalition of area faith communities, COVID vaccination clinics at a local AME church, and a Memorial to the Lost held on meetinghouse grounds hosted in partnership with Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence. We continue our strong, ongoing partnership with Or Zarua, a Reconstructionist Jewish community that shares meetinghouse space and whose Rabbi works closely with one of our members to host a monthly Interfaith Meeting for Song. We try to keep one another aware of what is happening locally regarding social justice issues, as well as local opportunities for education and spiritual growth. We also seek to be of service to those in need in our community, by providing regular donations and gift cards to two food pantries and assisting with a possible new initiative of making and serving dinner to folks living at a local shelter.
In the spring and summer of 2022, we had two worship-sharing sessions on racism after our Peace Committee co-clerks decided to step back from leadership, in part due to lack of clarity about what the whole meeting was willing to explore with regard to our particular history of participating in and benefiting from the institution of slavery. These worship-sharing sessions were unsettling, painful, and deeply necessary. The topic of reparations was lifted up, and this deserves more exploration as action has not yet been taken. Peace Committee has since had two new co-clerks step forward, and some Friends have been attending local meetings of the NAACP. Old Haverford minuted support for Black Lives Matter in June 2020. Many meeting members have worked to educate themselves on racism and are engaged in anti-racist practices and actions in their lives. Some are clearly committed to this work. While individual members have reached out to the local Black community to enhance relationships and be supportive, and others are involved in interracial and interfaith organizations, the whole meeting can and should do more outreach. As a whole meeting, we are unclear on what our role should be in moving forward with focused and ongoing anti-racism work and have not arrived at unity. We have more work to do to figure out how to take real action that is meaningful at this time in history, and in this community where we live and work. A recent suggestion by one Friend to hold a forum discussing the 1619 Project may be the catalyst for more interest and outreach.
Old Haverford is in unity that we are called to respond to the climate emergency. We believe we are called to build a sustainable community, live simply in unity with the planet, work to mitigate the climate emergency, and to address the malignant global culture of exploitation of people and planet. To that end, Old Haverford established the following: Over a decade ago, we opened a large community garden. The garden is organic, has a water system, and is open to Meeting Friends, as well as members of the community. Within the last few years, additional trees have been planted on the perimeter of the garden. In 2021, with the assistance of Haverford Township, we planted a rain garden along the meetinghouse driveway. Old Haverford buys 100% renewable electricity from the Energy Co-op and we have installed energy-efficient windows. There is an established Friendly Households program in our meeting, which we hope will be more active as the COVID virus becomes less threatening. We are looking at the rest of the Old Haverford property to discern ways to implement carbon sequestration and to increase pollinator and small animal diversity. We spent time reviewing the Climate Change Sprint Report, and although we have not named a Climate Witness Liaison, two of us are members of the Eco-Justice Collaborative and one of those is a Climate Witness Steward.
Climate change will continue to be an ongoing challenge globally. We need to investigate how we can be more involved locally and consider climate change’s impact on our families and communities and how we can prepare our children and grandchildren morally, spiritually, and materially for what lies ahead that may not be reversible.
Our meeting has had growth this year in terms of more in-person time together, and some new members and attenders. However, some of us have also experienced hurt and are struggling with our relationships with the community and individual Friends. We need to continue to work together to ensure that all feel welcomed, loved, and valued. One way to strive toward this is by holding each other in the Light more often and reaching out more frequently. We hope to be more open, supportive, and transparent with each other through worship, worship sharing, small group discussions, meaningful forums, and retreats. We will encourage Friends to utilize clearness committees whenever needed, for more than membership and major life transitions.
PYM can support us by listening closely and openly to the wisdom that flows out from monthly and quarterly meetings. This may be accomplished through regular listening sessions, in-person outreach, and providing support without being overly directive. As the Religious Society of Friends is a grass-roots faith, PYM should strive to include all members of the yearly meeting in critical decision-making. Efforts like these may encourage members and attenders of our monthly meeting to become more involved in PYM.