On January 15, 2023 Birmingham Meeting hosted a special program with guests Adam Waterbear DePaul and Grandmother Shelley DePaul, members of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania. Adam is a member of the tribal council and is its Chief of Education and Tribal Storykeeper, and Grandmother Shelley is a Clan Mother and has also been a storykeeper and instrumental in preserving the Unami language of the Lenape. Both have worked in the university setting and helped bring the story of their people to the wider world through classes and exhibits in libraries and museums, public presentations like this one, and their involvement with the Lenape Nation Cultural Center in Easton, PA. [Read more…] about Lenape Voices: the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania
- Six Friends met to Worship Share around 3 queries, considered one at a time.
- Half were female and half male, representing points of view of young people, new Friends and attenders (4 years or less), and long time members (more than 20 years at Birmingham).
- Query 1: What practices does our meeting provide to improve or help us prepare for worship?
- There was appreciation expressed for opening exercises, both the music and the ministry from various members and attenders of the meeting. The fact that everyone is welcome to give opening exercises and tell about their thoughts and experiences is something that draws the meeting together. It’s good to hear the queries and notice how responses may change over time. The silence beforehand prepares us to hear the queries.
- Singing helps settle the group, creating a common experience and connecting us in the worship that follows.
- There is an intention that Friends come to worship, which is important to the quality of worship. Some Friends come and settle early to prepare the space for worship as others gather. This helps set the tone for the worship that is to follow. We come into a space where it’s easier to settle.
- There is an openness and calmness to the silence that helps us to let go of our work and worries and to help us center. There is a feeling of connection with each other, rather on individual thoughts.
- Worship and Ministry Committee has been intent on keeping the meeting room as a space for worship. They have helped deepen our worship and remove distractions by encouraging us to end Meeting for Business 15 min before worship begins. They also have moved the Greeter’s table away from the door to the meeting room and into the hall, where the initial socializing doesn’t interfere with preparation for worship.
- Query 2: What could the meeting do better to improve our worship and the spiritual life of the meeting?
- There is a desire for more adult education and discussion. Worship and Ministry has organized some discussions around videos or pamphlets, but there needs to be more of these opportunities. Hearing different points of view in discussions help push us out of our own comfort zone and expands our understanding.
- More intergenerational opportunities would give both young and old to learn from each other. There is much to learn from our young people.
- There was a desire by young and old to learn more about the Bible and the specifics of the stories. There was once a Sunday evening Bible Study that is missed, including the conversations and bonding that went on during that time. The youth did express appreciation for activities like the plays that reinforce the Bible and Quaker stories.
- There was a desire for the children to spend more time in worship. Fifteen minutes is not sufficient time for them to get the full experience of worship and the messages.
- Query 3: How does God call our meeting to witness to the needs of the world? What could we do better?
- Birmingham Meeting as a meeting gives to local groups such as Friends Association as well as national Friends organizations. We hold two dinners each year where the proceeds go to charities. We do other fundraising and activities such as gardening at the Barclay Friends’ garden. Children participate in gardening, raising money for UNICEF with pennies for pumpkins, and activities that lead to donations for the children at Friends Association.
- Many individual members and attenders and groups within the meeting have leadings that help people in need, such as work with the homeless, the food banks, refugee support and prison work. These Friends provide inspiration and volunteer opportunities for others within the meeting and the wider community. Many Friends raise our awareness to ways we can become involved in letter writing, marches, and local action. The meeting is a touchstone to access information about these actions.
- We recognize that Quakerism is more than a religion, but a way of life. It leads to a desire to help the world, community and people in need.
- How could we do better? Some members and attenders who live at a distance would like to know more about local charities, centered in the West Chester community. Our meeting may want to focus our engagement in a single issue by discussion and witness. For instance, race relations is a topic that the wider Quaker community is focusing on. This would add another layer to our witness in the world.