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?
Providence Friends Meeting sought to reconnect with its members and attenders during the time period of April 2022 to April 2023, the focus of this annual report. First Day worship was offered using the hybrid format. Annual events were held in person with renewed energy, such as the Christmas Breakfast which is shared with a neighboring meeting, and the Christmas Eve Service which was offered in a hybrid format, incorporating candle lighting and caroling in the worship space and readings by online participants. Meeting for worship with attention to business was held using a hybrid format, and Christmas Crafts was also held using a hybrid format, with folks connecting three meetings simultaneously – one as an evergreen wreath-making space, one as a greens-free crafting space for those with allergies to greens, and one as a paper crafting space. A new initiative this past year was to celebrate birthdays of members and attenders each month on a First Day selected by the birthday celebrants. Cakes, pies, ice cream, etc. were enjoyed by the birthday VIPs along with all the members/attenders at rise of worship. This monthly event helped to engage people to return to worship at the meetinghouse who had been away for a period of time due to COVID and/or other disruptions to their lives. In addition, other events were held in person this past year which increased the energy level of the community, including planting a sapling from the great Salem Oak, a hands-on session hosted by the Climate Crisis Committee for how to build a solar oven, hosting an outdoor picnic for Chester Quarter in the summer, hosting an art exhibit of artworks by members/attenders of the meeting, offering Puttering Days for folks to work together on small tasks at the meetinghouse, hosting a welcome back picnic in the early autumn, and having MPFS students visit the meetinghouse and share in worship there.
How have you sought to be neighbors and in relationship with other communities?
Members and attenders of Providence Friends Meeting actively participate in various organizations in the region and county, including the Delaware County Office of Sustainability, the Environmental Advisory Council of Media borough, Transition Town Media, and Nether Providence Municipality Police Accountability Group. The Meeting maintains ongoing dialogue with the neighbors who reside in housing around the meetinghouse. Providence also serves as a CSA (community supported agriculture) pick-up site for about 50 households who participate in a Lancaster based program.
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?
During the past year, Providence Friends meeting turned its focus to reparations, with sessions being provided by the Racial Justice Committee outlining the history of harms as recorded in national, state and local documents. This work built upon sessions the committee had provided to the Providence community for approximately seven years. Included was an understanding of primary source documents (manumissions) from our meeting when it was a preparative meeting under the care of Chester Meeting. In January, 2023, the meeting sent seven members and attenders to participate in the course on reparations sponsored by the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission for Faith-based and Interfaith Affairs along with the Truth Telling Project. In the winter of 2023, the Racial Justice committee offered several more informational sessions including a worship sharing session. This was followed by a month of seasoning. In May, the meeting will enter into a called meeting for business to share what has been learned and discern next steps for the meeting in this important work.
How has the Spirit guided your work on climate change?
From the Climate Crisis Committee of Providence Meeting: All of us have had the natural world minister to us and have experienced how love is available in creation’s healing care. We’ve rejoiced in the splendor of the continuing creation of the Divine. As Quakers we are committed to a reverence for life and seek to have our actions express our dedication to the well-being of the earth as a part of our spiritual relationship with God. We recognize a personal and collective responsibility to ensure the poorest and most vulnerable peoples and future generations do not suffer as a consequence of our desire to maintain our comforts and to deny and distract ourselves from a commitment to the challenge to our time and focus this moral duty requires.
With our choice of life, nurturing a Spirit-led relationship to our earth, we can celebrate the opportunity to work together with dear Friends joyfully challenging the forces driving us toward environmental destruction with the same passion and commitment that we challenge the forces of injustice and war. In this time of exhaustion and isolation, we can be empowered to cooperate, use our skills, wisdom, creativity, love and faith to take action and address and work to resolve this climate emergency.
How has your meeting addressed the five action areas identified in the climate change sprint report?
This year, Friends from PMM/Climate Crisis Committee participated in the Chester Grandparent March against the pollution of the COVANTA incinerator organized by the Chester Residents for Quality Living.
After a presentation by the Climate Crisis Committee, PMM sent a letter of Support for Community Based Solar to Media Borough.
EQAT’s Vanguard Campaign was supported by many members/attenders of PMM.
PMM Friends attended the Delaware County Office of Sustainability Conference (2 members of CCC); other members of PMM will attend this coming year as well.
The Climate Crisis Committee held a hybrid “OPEN House” event illustrating solar systems in 5 homes of PMM members. During fellowship, a family activity was presented to demonstrate how solar panels work as families built a solar oven (this was organized by the Climate Crisis Committee).
CCC organized an educational Zoom meeting for members and attenders: Let’s Walk the Talk Together (Calculating your carbon footprint), Electrify Your Life.
In July we will join with several other regional Religious groups in the “Plastic Free July” event. This will be both educational and will allow us some hope that even individuals can help to shift the trajectory of the carbon overload the planet faces.
Reducing our Carbon Footprint:
The CCC described the possibilities of a Solar Panel Project for the reduction of the PMM carbon footprint. PMM approved the project and a contractor has signed a contract with us. PMM felt most comfortable moving forward only after the money to fulfill the contract was raised. In 3 months, Meeting members and attenders raised enough money to move forward!
In the last year, the PMM Property Committee has completed several projects designed to make the PMM meetinghouse far more energy efficient.
The Meeting community donated funds for the entire cost of installing solar panels on meeting property. (See above)
The meeting provided a budget for its Climate Crisis Committee.
PMM participates in Friends Fiduciary.
Mourning and Hope:
While many of us speak about and share our grief at the suffering of life around us based on the impact of climate change, we have chosen to focus on action with the concept that we can still change things for the better or at least build in some resilience in the face of the climate crisis.
The sense of unity around moving to install a solar array has provided hope.
The Climate Crisis Committee is planning an event in the fall that will focus on the ways all of us can be “climate heroes”. We will share approaches and provide education around actions anyone can take.
Has your Meeting appointed a Climate Witness Liaison?
Climate Liaison: We do not currently have one. Ed Dreby volunteered to serve moving forward.
What learnings and yearnings particular to your meeting would you like to share?
During the past year, the meeting realized the value of using the hybrid format for committee meetings, meetings for worship, and meetings for business. The Meeting also realized the necessity and importance of nurturing in-person participation in order to strengthen the life of the meeting.
What are things the Yearly Meeting might do to support your meeting?
The Yearly Meeting can continue to maintain a vibrant website, offer workshops and events that are both hybrid and in-person, and model the Beloved Community for meetings to emulate.