This spiritual life report is from the Worship and Ministry Committee of Plymouth Monthly Meeting. It does not address our Green Minute progress for Climate Change nor does it address the work for refugee, racism and indigenous peoples. Those aspects of Meeting community are part of the Peace & Social Concern reports.
Meeting for Worship at Plymouth is held regularly on the first, fourth and fifth day of the week. Our Firstday worship begins at 10 am. It is a plain worship format (no technology). Four to 12 people attend this opportunity of worship. It is regularly attended by members of other Monthly Meetings of our Quarter. At 11:15 am the worship blends those onsite with those attending from a distance using a Zoom conference call. Five to 15 people attend this worship onsite and 1 to 7 people attend via the Zoom link. Several of these people attend both of the worship services. Fourthday evening worship is a blended worship in which 0 to 6 people attend. Fifthday worship is a plain worship held by our school students and staff. One to four members of our Meeting regularly attend this time of worship. Our times of worship can be silent or have multiple vocal ministries shared from both those in the Meeting House and those online. There are occasional visitors to our times of worship. Most visits are one-time visits. Some have returned for multiple weeks, but their life situation changes, and they have not returned. This year we have one new long-time attender still attending.
Covid has infected several of the members of our Meeting (some severely) but has not (to our knowledge) spread due to our worship gatherings or other get togethers. The virus has changed how members and attenders of our Meeting interface with one another. There has been a decrease in the number of opportunities for face-to-face interaction starting with worship and extending to committee meetings and social gatherings of the Monthly Meeting. We are conscious of this separation or risk of separation caused by these changes. Worship and Ministry has paid attention to the need to create opportunities for people in all groups of the Meeting to mix. We have asked ourselves: How often do people participating in the plain worship and blended worship interact with one another? Beyond worship how do those at a distance interface with those here at Plymouth? These questions lead to the creation of two separate ways for interactions and sharing to occur: Friendly Fourth presentations and the queries about the essence of Plymouth.
Friendly Fourth at Plymouth has for years been an opportunity for people to remain after Worship to enjoy a community meal and good fellowship. Often where one sat at the table brought you into contact with a person you did not know very well. In the conversation that flowed over the enjoyment of the spontaneous assortment of food new friends were made and new understandings of one another developed. With the intent of getting people to know one another across the various groups of our Meeting, we added a presentation at each Friendly Fourth where one of our members would speak about what was happening in his or her life. We heard from young Friends who were no longer so young who spoke about the work they are now doing out in the world and what brings meaning to them in their lives. Friends who have recently published a book spoke of their writings and their lives. And friends who were gifted in artistic endeavors and interpretation shared their gifts and invited us into exercises that helped us appreciate art from a variety of perspectives. Presenters and participants were both online and onsite, achieving our intent of bringing the groups together in a shared experience.
The second opportunity of sharing was the creation of queries about the Essence of Plymouth. These were presented during the final three business meetings of the year for consideration and comment. The three queries are:
- Who are we, and why do we come?
- Who are we, and why do we stay or stick it out?
- Who are we, why have we considered leaving? Why do people come and not stay?
Friends considered these queries thoughtfully and responses were recorded with the minutes. During our annual Meeting to be held in the first month of 2023 we will consider all of them in a community reflection on what has been said. In doing so we trust there will be a discernment that can guide us in deepening our sense of community and shared faith.
Worship and Ministry provided the pastoral care of a family and the oversight of their memorial and graveside service for a husband of a Meeting extended family. Care was taken to be of gentle guidance to the family as the discerned what would be their best way of meeting the needs of a diverse family both in gathering as a group and ministering to individual needs. A Meeting for Worship and farewell meal was held for a family that was moving away after difficult circumstances that forced life changing decisions. The Meeting continues to process this loss. Two of our Worship and Ministry committee members participate in the local Interfaith Council that meets monthly and has two regular scheduled programs; a Thanksgiving service that rotates among the churches and synagogue and a Good Friday service where each of the Christian faith communities provides a reflection on the one of the last 7 words of Jesus. We as a Meeting participated in attending Shabbat services to support our Jewish neighbors in this time of heighten antisemitism. In the upcoming second month 2023, we will host all the faith communities at our Meeting House for a sharing about antisemitism lead by the Rabbi and the Cantor of the local synagogue.
Technology for blending meeting for worship has been a challenge to assemble in a way that is reliable each week, with minimal set up and simple enough to operate by multiple people so that it is available each week, and not dependent on one person. In addition, the chosen equipment has the requirement of being portable so that it can be used in both the Meeting House and the Annie H Wilson room. Two computers were purchased this year to replace the chrome books. Two Owls are paired together to provide the microphone and speaker functionality for the meetings. A Mevo web cam is used to obtain a wide-angle picture of the room. In addition, FIOS WiFi was installed in the Meeting House and the Annie H Wilson room. This combination has reduced the number of issues observed when comparing the springtime reliability to the fall Zoom conference quality, but we continue to have issues with picking up ministry and transmitting from all parts of the Meeting room. This issue has a high priority for addressing so that all our community are full participants in our Meeting’s for worship. There is an energy and desire at Plymouth to grow our Meeting’s relationship both to God’s living spirit in this world and to a loving relationship with one another and to those yet not known to us.
Submitted for the Worship and Ministry Committee
By David Miller