Rooted in Grand Rapids – Our Quaker Meeting as a Garden

Over the past few weeks our Meeting has experienced various leadings to more deeply consider our place and role in the broader Grand Rapids community. How does the Grand Rapids Friends Meeting bring light and blessings beyond the walls of our meeting place?

These leadings have emerged as vocal ministry from Meeting members during worship as well as during planning and business sessions. In fact, our two Seeker’s Meetings this spring (March 29 and May 31) are both devoted to group discernment and discussion as we seek the Light in terms of our way forward.

The Grand Rapids Meeting has been a presence in the larger community for over 50 years. Throughout those years our members and the Meeting itself engaged various outreaches, projects, and ministries that helped transform lives, touch hearts, and bring about positive social change.

Now, we are sensing as a Meeting that it’s time to ask again how can we serve others? How can we bring healing? How can we be bearers of light and love?

Our Meeting is small. Our resources are finite. Prudence and discernment will be required as we seek the way forward.

At this past Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, I compared our Meeting to a garden.

We are the plants within the garden and together we cultivate our Quaker soil and each other. Our primary responsibilities are to see that our members grow and thrive. The fruit we produce is used to feed each other.

But doesn’t our Meeting produce more than enough fruit that we can fed others, outside our Meeting as well? I’m convinced that our garden yields more bounty that we might realize.

There’s much merit to organic gardening and our Meeting’s discernment and way forward must be organic too, reflecting who we are and our particular skills, talents, and wisdom. We need to avoid artificial efforts and find the fruits that Spirit has encouraged and nourished among us. Those are the gifts we should share with those beyond our Meeting.

I hope you can join us as we discern together.


Adventures in Quaker Programs

In this week’s adventures in Quaker programs:

BOOK DISCUSSION – Thursday, 10/10 7:00 PM We’re discussing chapters 2+3 of The Quaker Way. Come even if you haven’t read the book. All welcome.

QUAKER DINNER GATHERING – Saturday, 10/12 7:00PM A casual opportunity to hang around with your favorite Quakers. And a great opportunity for many of us to get to know some of the newer folks better, and vice versa. It’s pot-luck. I’ll be making soup and will have some wine and iced tea. If you can, please bring a dish to pass. All are welcome, bring a friend! or a Friend!

Both events are at Gregory’s

3322 Devonwood Hills Drive, NE Unit D Grand Rapids, MI. 49525

Northwood Hills Condos – off Beltline, just north of 5 mile.

PLEASE – RSVP for both or either event. Email me at OR text or call me at 616-710-0641. Or leave a reply below! Looking forward to see many of you!

Engaging the Quaker Testimony of Simplicity

Quaker testimonies are time-tested commitments to particular values that give witness to the world. We tend to talk about these testimonies using the acronym – SPICES – for Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Sustainability-Stewardship.

Each Quaker may consider these testimonies, finding how they might take shape and expression in their own life. No two Quakers will live these values in exactly the same manner, just as no two cooks will spice their meals exactly the same way.

Simplicity has been a value-discipline that’s been dear to me even long before I became a Quaker.

When I was in my early 30s, my career required a significant amount of travel, much of it international. While it was great to see much of the world, I could be gone at times for up to a month. That sort of schedule takes its toll and leads to an unsimple life of coordinating paying bills, scraping out little time with friends, trying  to care for a home – life felt like an endless cycle of meetings, conferences, hotels, and long flights, only to rush home exhausted to do a month’s worth of laundry, repack, and get on the next plane a day or two later.

After 5 and half years of living that way, I decided I’d had enough, and quit that job. I had a new position lined up, but which wouldn’t start for almost a month.

I woke up on my first post-travel Saturday and did as I done for years – running lists of things I had to urgently do that day in order to just keep up. After a minute, I stopped and realized that I no longer had to live that way – and that this particular Saturday I really didn’t have to do much of anything. I dropped back into the bed and laughed and laughed – savoring the freedom of simplicity for the first time in years.

Simplicity means different things to different people. For some of us, it means keeping our schedules light and enjoying free time. For others, it means disengaging from the consumerist culture with it’s pressuring messages of do more and buy more. And for others still, simplicity is about decluttering – which can include one’s personal belongings, emotions, relationships, and commitments.

I think for most of us, simplicity serves as a means to and end. We live simply, keeping clutter and complexity at bay so as to enjoy the freedom to engage what really matters in life.  In this sense, simplicity is about avoiding what’s not necessary or vital or life giving so as to focus on that which is.

In the twenty-something years since that happy Saturday, I’ve taken other measures to live simply. I don’t own a TV, I keep my screen time to a minimum, I refuse to over-schedule my life, and I strive to avoid accumulating clutter. It’s a never ending struggle in a world that grows increasingly complex and demanding.

What does simplicity mean to you? How do you engage this fundamental Quaker testimony?

September Programs

With no sermons, no minister preaching, we Quakers teach ourselves, guided by Spirit. All are welcome!


Evolving Quakerism
Sunday, September 15 – following Meeting for Worship
Brief presentation followed by discussion and questions.

Book Discussion – The Quaker Way – A Rediscovery
Wednesday, September 25 – 7:00 PM (Location to be announced)
Preface, Intro, Chapters 1&2

Seeker’s Meeting – The Quaker Toolbox
Sunday, September 29 – following Meeting for Worship
Brief presentation followed by discussion and questions.

Update on Fall 2019 Programs & Events

Today is “Back to School” for many Grand Rapids area schools. For most schools, if not today, then classes begin this week.

Where did summer go? We say this every year, and every year, we share the collective shock of the calendar turning to September.

What did you do on your summer vacation? (I went home to New York City to visit family for 10 days. I stopped in Ohio, at my old university, saw friends in Pittsburgh, and spent time with family and old friends in Queens and on Long Island.)

All summer long, we’ve been asking for your input for ideas, discussions, and events for our Meeting this fall. It’s become our tradition to have the Third Sunday of each month feature a presentation and discussion after Meeting for Worship. We also revived Seekers Meetings – discussion and Q&A on the Fifth Sunday of months that have one. Many of us have also been reading and discussing books together. Finally, many of us have gathered for social time, enjoying snacks and drinks together, sometimes to discuss a topic, sometimes to celebrate a holiday or event.

We don’t want to simply discuss, present, or read on just any old topic – so we ask those who attend Meeting to tell us what books, what ideas, and what topics interest them.

Last week, we sent out a survey asking for input on specific ideas and books and dates. If you haven’t seen the survey yet, it can be found here.

It’s only 10 simple questions, all “choose and click” answers. Please take the survey if you haven’t yet. If you have longer comments and input, feel free to email me ( or feel free to any other members or our Clerks.

For a moderately small Meeting, we’re rather active. We’ve had 15 responses to the survey so far. I will share results with everyone once we have given a chance for a few others to respond.

We care what you think. We value your input. After all, it’s our meeting.

Peace & Light!