Not long ago, a typed narrative from a transcribed letter written by a Quaker farmer in “Chester Township” Pennsylvania showed up in some files. It was dated 10th month, 1725, and began “Dear Sister Mary Valentine, this goes with a salutation of love to thee, brother Thomas, and the children…”
Name of the Meeting or Group
Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia
What is the name of the person submitting this report?
In what role does the person submitting this report serve in their community?
Clerk of the meeting
What is the email address of the person submitting this report?
What is the date that this report was submitted?
Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 11:13 AM
Zachary Dutton <email@example.com>
What practices and strategies are employed by our meeting to help members and attenders of all ages prepare for worship—whether in meeting for worship or in meeting for business?
Leading by example is the best way to familiarize new members and attenders to our worship practice. Our meeting’s worship has a custom, dating back to at least the last thirty years, of folding into the silence. What I mean is that silent worship is not always broken by ministry or messages. We often have visitors, because of our location, and they often remark that sitting in the silence is an unusual and special experience for them. This is not to say that we do not have meaningful ministry, but compared to other monthly meetings, it is moderate in quantity and high in quality.
Our children (1–5 each Sunday, ages 5–13) join us for the last fifteen minutes of worship. Guided by their parents, they respect the silence of worship as well.
At meeting for business, as clerk I begin with reading a query. This is a good centering activity, which directs the group towards the purpose at hand. If there are several visitors at meeting for business, I give a brief overview of procedure.
What are the challenges to and opportunities for enhancing the worship of our meeting, and what are we doing to address these?
We have a strong Worship and Ministry committee. They report regularly at meeting for business, and thoughtfully bring issues forward for input and discussion. They recently organized a very successful meeting retreat, which was an opportunity to spend quality time together, and a chance for newer members to integrate and contribute to activities. The multi-generational group played games together and enjoyed several spirit-led workshops.
One challenge we have faced, and probably will continue to have, is that of disruptive visitors. Some of these individuals are known to the wider Quaker community, and when they cause a disruption during worship, it is difficult to put their needs before ours. We continue to reflect on our reactions and hope that with Divine guidance, we can be a loving and welcoming place to all.
What opportunities are provided to address topics important to deepening both personal spiritual journeys of members and the spiritual life of the meeting?
We continue to develop a viable and interesting Adult Religious Education program. We are committed to our First Day School, and hope that newer families and members will participate consistently in both programs.
In the past, we offered attenders and members the opportunity to attend the Inquirer’s program at Pendle Hill. Unfortunately, that program has changed significantly in format, and we have had little to no interest in attendance. The clerking workshops continue to be of interest to our committee clerks. We would hope that Pendle Hill could continue to offer sessions of interest to Friends — perhaps shorter in length than a full week. PYM’s Thread gatherings also have had an impact and we would hope that those could be continued.
What is most needed to strengthen the communal witness of the meeting to the local community and beyond?
We could do a better job of reaching out to the Old City community. We do not advertise, though we have redone our meeting website, through the FGC Quaker cloud. It is difficult to have a presence at a building that is used for other purposes (Arch Street Meetinghouse) and that has limited hours and access. Exterior signage, and reaching out into the local community are two of my goals for the coming year.
This past February we welcomed families and staff from Friends Select School for worship, after the Quaker Life committee of the school issued an invitation on behalf of the two monthly meetings that oversee the school (CPMM and MMFP).
In April, MMFP hosted the start of the 15th annual Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation. We successfully organized many volunteers and strategized about the needs of those arriving to begin the event at the ASMH. That was a great outreach opportunity not only for MMFP, but also for the Quaker community in Philadelphia.
To what priorities does God call our meeting? How do our annual budget, our meeting’s standing committees and other aspects of the meeting’s life reflect those priorities?
We are called to uphold the testimonies of equality, simplicity, peace, integrity and stewardship. The constant search for Truth and the Light within are paramount. Outreach and Worship and Ministry committees work hard in our meeting. They help to keep our attendance up, and nurture our community. Our Peace and Social Concerns committee compiles a list of worthy causes, and we contribute funds to projects and organizations that have meaningful local social justice impact.
We are dedicated to the continued distribution of John Martin Trust funds to eligible PYM members. Support in terms of grant-making, perhaps a session on how to direct applicants to other sources, and growing skills in receiving applications would be helpful. We are blessed to have this JMT fund available, but managing it and directing it towards other worthy needs, such as financial aid funds to Friends Select School, take up much time and energy. Finance committee has made great strides this year, in working with a new accounting system to better steward our resources.
Our Care and Relief committees work to nurture current and prospective members, and to assist those with extraordinary needs. Those committees are full, and meet regularly. Nominating committee is small but works hard, and manages to achieve the desired result of filling spaces on committees. Hospitality, Outreach and First Day School committees are smaller and need the clerk’s nurture from time to time.
What specific issues of concern has your community experienced in the past year?
We experienced the deaths of several longtime members in the last eighteen months or so. The number of elders in our meetings is shrinking, and we are feeling the impact. However, the “next generation” is slowly stepping in to fill the breach, and I have hope that we can adjust to a new normal.
We continue to search for a way forward in our ongoing relationship with PYM and the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust. As we do not own or control the building in which we meet, many challenges have arisen over the last several years for the monthly meeting in terms of building use. I am hopeful that with love and support, we can reach a place where all needs are met for everyone involved. I ask that we be held in the Light as this discernment continues.
What threshing, dialogue and/or discernment has your community recently experienced regarding the purpose and importance of membership?
We have work to do in this area. As clerk, I hope to lead MMFP through the discernment of releasing members who do not participate in the life of the meeting. This is a fractious issue, but an important one. What does membership mean? What obligations does one have as a member of a monthly meeting? These are questions I would like to use to frame our discernment. Hopefully I can address this in the fall at MMFP.
What anti-racism work has your community engaged in or explored in the past year?
MMFP has several individuals who participate in POWER and/or other organizations that explore solutions to racism in our community. There is always more work to be done, and we have recognized this as a meeting. However, other issues have gotten in the way of our direct exploration of anti-racism, and having a plan or approach to delve into this requires more attention from me.