Hello Friends. As most of you know, every year at this time Lake Erie Yearly Meeting (LEYM) asks us to provide an updated State of the Meeting report, in preparation for their Annual Meeting in July. The report was reviewed and approved by our Meeting for Worship with attention to Business on May 12th. Here is the full report:
Grand Rapids Friends Meeting – State of the Meeting Report, 2018-19
- The spiritual condition of the Meeting, both strengths and challenges.
A strength of our Meeting is the dedication and commitment of a core group of Friends; the fact that we have quite a bit of experience of and connection with the wider world of Friends for such a small meeting; the fact that we seem to have a small but fairly steady influx of new seekers, some of whom become regular attenders and a few of whom become recorded members; and the fact that our individual gifts seem to complement each other well. Our two weaknesses are still our small numbers and our aging community, with all that implies. But it is also good to see some younger attenders becoming interested in Quakerism and the life of the Meeting.
- The nature of meetings for worship during the year, including the quality of the silence; and the content and quality of the vocal ministry.
We still have small Meetings for Worship, typically with 10 to 12 attending, but the number of visitors and new attenders seems to be steadily increasing. Our meetings are usually silent except for the occasional heartfelt spiritual message, which is always much appreciated. Near the end of the hour, the closer asks if there are joys, sorrows or concerns to share, and at that point, a few worshipers usually speak. Those messages are often requests to hold someone in the Light who is facing a significant life challenge, or an appreciation for some joyful event or experience.
- The meetings for business during the year, including the range of concerns considered, attendance of members, and implementation of Meeting’s decisions.
Meeting for Business is generally held on the second Sunday of each month, following Meeting for Worship. As with last year, the agendas have focused mostly on creating experiences for Friends to get to know each other better, and to learn more about Quakerism. Attendance at Meeting for Business is generally low (5 to 8 people), and the decisions made are still implemented by the same small group. However, a few new attenders are beginning to become much more involved.
Last year we reconfigured our seating arrangement, with the Clerk and Recording Clerk sitting at a table together and all others in attendance sitting close together in a small circle of chairs around the Clerks’ table, so everyone can hear and understand what is being said. Also, the format for our Meeting for Business agenda now has a section for each specific area of responsibility (see item 4) as well as a separate line item for New Business. These improvements have helped us become more effective in our Meetings for Business.
- The contributions of committees such as Peace and Social Justice, Religious Education, Ministry and Nurture, Youth and others.
For the last several years we’ve functioned with no standing committees. Everything was being done by the Meeting as a whole. But recently we have been feeling the absence of those committee responsibilities. So we decided early in this year to give specific responsibility to individual Friends who bring certain gifts to the Meeting. Those areas of responsibility are: Hospitality, Ministry & Nurture / Outreach, Technology / Communications and Administrative items. Anyone in the Meeting can still support any of these activities, and we all do so. But this new way of organizing ourselves has led to an improvement in how we are serving each other as a Meeting community (see item 6).
- That which is most needed to deepen the spiritual life of the Meeting and to strengthen its witness of Friends’ testimonies to the world.
While most of us seem content with the spiritual life of the meeting, we have acknowledged that recent new attenders are seeking a deeper understanding of Quakerism, and long-time attenders would like to know each other and our spiritual lives better (see item 6).
- Key events during the year which helped build the Meeting in the Life.
In August, we welcomed one of our regular attenders into recorded membership. In April, we had two recorded members resign their memberships. One has moved out of state and the other has decided to stop attending. In May, we welcomed another one of our regular attenders as a new recorded member. Our total number of recorded members is currently 18.
On the 1st Sunday of each month, a potluck follows Meeting for Worship. Last year in October we started a tradition of having a “Homecoming” potluck to celebrate FWCC World Quaker Day, which has included a beautiful group photo that was shared worldwide.
Last year we initiated a monthly program for 3rd Sundays called, “My Quaker Journey”, with Friends sharing the story of how they came to Quakerism and a summary of their spiritual beliefs. This series continued in the fall. In the spring we began a new series of programs, focused on diversity among Quakers and our origins of Faith and Practice. These programs are led by individual Friends.
We have started hosting regularly scheduled Seekers Meetings on 5th Sundays. So far there have been two, in September and March, with another one scheduled for June. These meetings are primarily Q&A sessions for new attenders, but also refresher courses for long time attenders, because we know we are all Seekers.
In summer and early fall, three of our Friends hosted a 4-session book discussion on Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak. In March, we started a new book discussion group, reading The Quakers – A Very Short Introduction, by Ben Pink Dandelion. The group is meeting on weekday evenings in the homes of Friends, with some social time with snacks and beverages included.
In September, we participated in the FGC Digital Outreach program, to increase our outreach to people interested in Quakerism. The primary benefit was that it helped us recognize the need to update our Meeting website and to improve our social media outreach. After several months of dedicated work by several Friends, we launched our new GRFM website in early April. The response has been wonderful.
We are encouraged by the fresh enthusiasm and energy brought to Meeting by our new attenders and newly recorded members, and we feel we are learning to more fully appreciate the gifts that everyone in our Meeting community has to offer. We are looking forward to another Spirit filled year together.
Submitted by Wayne Norlin, Recording Clerk on behalf of Grand Rapids Friends Meeting – May 12, 2019