On 1 Second Month 2022 the Committee for Counsel, Ministry and Worship met. One of the items of discussion was preparation of the Spiritual State of the Meeting Report requested of all meetings by the above PYM committee in Eleventh Month 2021. A draft was prepared by a committee member, which was distributed to all members and attenders for comments. A called meeting on 6 Second Month resulted in much active contribution. The following report is an attempt to cover the main points of the called meeting.
The five Guiding Queries presented by the Ministry and Care Committee were all considered. What struck us the strongest was query 4: “What is most needed to strengthen the communal witness of the meeting to the local community and beyond?” About four years ago, our meeting decided to dedicate $100,000 of grants to local community organizations, concentrating on start-up groups, within blocks of our meetinghouse, with the specific intent of helping our community and strengthening our ties with it. While some of our members and attenders live close to our meetinghouse, there is an uneasy feeling among the majority who live in suburbs that it is too easy to detach ourselves from the immediate surroundings of our meetinghouse. Since 2018, almost all of the funds have been distributed, and the search for recipients continues. So far, the following organizations received financial aid from us (in chronological order):
- Capital City Farm – a volunteer-run downtown garden/farm, with guidance of an attender of meeting, about 1⁄2 mile from our meetinghouse
- Mercer County Community College – aid to students for purchasing books and supplies
- Eastern Service Workers Association – funds to improve property to be used for offices of the organization, housing, and counseling
- Trent House Association – to help fund a presentation on Trenton’s founding by Quakers
- Trenton Public Library – to provide computers and equipment for students using the library, a block from our meetinghouse
- Chosen Generation Learning Center – to help fund fire detectors and fireproofing improvements in a local before and after school program (expanded to school hours when the pandemic forced remote learning) run by a Black-led church on the next block, so that the school could pass physical inspection
- Big Easy of Trenton – a Black-owned, community-oriented restaurant several blocks from us, to support their community outreach
- Safe Haven – to fund flooring and remodeling of a clubhouse of a Black-led local organization near us which helps children through organizing sports
- KinderSmile – a Trenton branch (two blocks from our meetinghouse) of a New Jersey low-cost inner-city dental care provider, which has only recently begun services in our area
- Urban Promise Trenton – after school and summer camps
- Global Youth Transformation Initiative – a Black-led start-up organization of one of our attenders which centers on bus trips for education and is gearing for international travel.
Decisions on the investments were made by an ad-hoc Community Investment Committee, open to any member/attender and with full disclosure and discussion with the meeting as a whole. We are in the process of deciding how much funding should take place in the immediate future. It is important for us to remember the excitement we had as a meeting in making contact with the many people who run the above organizations; this has really strengthened our feeling that Trenton Meeting is a true partner of the local community. A feeling of joint trust between our meeting and the local community has been created and strengthened. Query 4 asks what is most needed to strengthen this witness. It is difficult to imagine how it could be any stronger, given our human limits.
Query 1 (action on anti-racism and climate change) has also been acted on. Our Peace and Social Concerns Committee led most of the activity, in which the entire meeting participated. At the urging of Burlington Quarter, Trenton Meeting suggested a “One Book, One Quarter” program, to be led by our member Nikki Mosgrove, on How to be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi. Burlington Quarterly Meeting hosted and publicized the four-session presentation, which was available to any who wished to attend via zoom. The local Black Lives Matter group has been using our kitchen on a monthly basis to prepare meals and care packs and distributing them from our meetinghouse for those who need aid. It is this type of work, which demands much more manpower than our meeting can supply, which we are happy we can assist with. In the fall, this group organized a very large back-to-school festival, distributing hundreds of book bags to Trenton students, providing food and music and partnering with the Trenton Health Team to make childhood and COVID vaccinations available to the community. We contribute to SURJ-NJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), to support their Book and Breakfast program, which originated at our meetinghouse but which outgrew our kitchen facilities and now prepares and servers weekly breakfasts at the local Turning Point United Methodist Church. We make an annual contribution to the Mercer Street Friends. This is not part of the funds program described above since we have a long-term tie to Mercer Street (originally the Orthodox meeting which merged with us, on Hanover and Montgomery, in the 1950’s, and turned over their meetinghouse to the now enormous non-profit organization which provides schools and food through the entire county and beyond). One of our members is on the board of Mercer Street Friends, following their articles of organization. Within a few hundred feet of the Meeting House are two black owned establishments with whom we have strong ties. Orchid House, owned by attenders Elijah Dixon and Nicole Brown, is a gathering place for concerned Trenton community activists and Green Paradise provides space for youth and adult activities and services Other concerns addressed by our meeting, again through Peace & Social Concerns, include Witness to Justice (support for Palestinians), and the Golden Rule boat, a project of Veterans for Peace (addressing ecological concerns combined with anti-militarism). P&SC also wrote letters to New Jersey legislators and the state treasurer urging divestment from fossil fuels from our state pension funds. A letter to our legislators was also written in support of Civilian Complaint Review Boards. The meeting had an Adult Forum of the topic of climate change. Many other organizations receive relatively small annual support from our meeting, which accepts recommendations from P & SC. P & SC also has its own budget for contributions which does not need approval from the meeting as a whole.
Query 2 asks “How has your meeting evolved as a spiritual community given the ongoing opportunities and challenges of the pandemic? We have been holding live/zoom meetings for worship since the start of the pandemic. Technological improvements have made it enjoyable for most attendants. A very unforeseen advantage of the pandemic is the regular attendance of members and attenders from Washington State, Georgia, and Maryland. For this reason, we do not currently foresee dropping Zoom meetings even when the pandemic ends, though this will be open for discussion and reconsideration. The major loss has been a complete lack of first-day school attendance by children. This part of our meeting had been extremely small prior to the pandemic, but we feel the loss. It is difficult to assess how our spirituality has been affected by the pandemic. We have added to our membership in the past two years, and have had no resignations, which suggests that there has been at least no harm.
Our meeting has several queries which we would like to propose to others, which we have not addressed, or have addressed with no apparent results: How can we enhance our meeting for worship to accommodate live/Zoom mixes? What else do we need to do to grow spiritually, within the group, separate from funding and working with outside organizations? How can we attract more members and attenders? Is there a way we can separate our attachment to the physical meetinghouse from our love for our community? Is this necessary?
We appreciate your presenting the five Queries to us, which has instigated a very valuable self- assessment of where we are spiritually, and a realization of the connection between spirituality and service.
Respectfully submitted, Fred Millner, clerk Committee of Counsel, Ministry and Worship For the Trenton Meeting of Friends