This year about 145 members, attenders, sojourners and others (about 50% were members) provided extensive, thoughtful comments on the spiritual state of our Meeting. With faith that they reflect caring and the Light within, these comments collectively reveal a deep appreciation for the spiritual home FMW provides nearly all of us and a sincere yearning to make our community even more welcoming, nurturing and spirit-centered. These responses also provide many observations our community may use as we strengthen our fellowship, assist each in their spiritual journey, make our physical space more accessible, address social concerns, and build caring relationships among ourselves and in the world.
“I love knowing that Meeting is alive.”
Like an entwined rope of many fibers rather than a single strand, FMW remains large, diverse, transitory, and a magnet for seekers at all stages of their spiritual journey, which includes individuals in need of an accepting, nurturing community. Some long for more cohesion and a deeper acquaintance with Quaker practice among FMW members and attenders; others find the flow and diversity of new Friends and seekers increases the Meeting’s vitality. Many hope for a more compassionate community where we collectively and as individuals embrace each other with respect, patience, attentive listening and an open appreciation of our differences – recognizing that all are seekers of the Light within.
“Meeting provides a space for focused worship and inspires bringing the Light into all actions. Silent worship helps me know what it feels like to be centered; Meeting keeps me grounded, focused and humble.” “What I learn in Meeting is crucial to [my] ability to work passionately in the world.”
By far, our primary interest in FMW is Quaker worship. Over 96% of our survey respondents see the presence of the Spirit manifest in our Meetings for Worship. Social concerns, direct service, companionship, and personal study and growth are seen as important secondary priorities. Nearly a third of us find the Spirit manifest in our Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business, committee work or social and learning interactions like Young Adult Friends. While most of us attend the 10:30 a.m. Meetings for Worship, many appreciate the variety of worship opportunities FMW offers, each with its own character and varying amounts of vocal ministry. Many still feel that our community would benefit from a deeper individual understanding of spirit-led vocal ministry and of when and where political messages are appropriate. Over half of our community attends Meeting for Worship at least twice a month but many are unable to attend due to family issues or because they live outside the Washington area. Some feel alienated by messages that seem self-generated rather than Spirit led.
“[FMW] is the center from which I can stand. Learning from other friends, watching as we all struggle and stumble and experiment and reconnect with the Holy Spirit”
During this year many have sensed a trend toward spiritual revitalization, highlighted by the growing engagement of Young Adult Friends and children, volunteer efforts that have refreshed our buildings and gardens, committee activities devoted to welcoming newcomers and healing and reconciliation, and a more inclusive approach to our ongoing enhanced access and renovation project. Many continued to find spiritual inspiration in Friendly 8s, inquirers class, the Shoebox Project, peace and social concern programs, and other learning and service activities. Some, however, still feel less integrated into FMW and hope that FMW will continue to equally nurture families with and without children and individuals, while also much more actively seeking racial diversity. Adequately communicating with and integrating Members and attenders who are at a distance or who feel alienated remains a challenge, as it does for many Quaker Meetings that do not rely on a “clergy” to provide individualized contact and attention. There is a deep concern that FMW depends heavily on a relatively small group of individuals to meet a large, complex set of Meeting and worldly needs. Serious concerns about honoring our fiscal obligations also continue. Many hope that more members and attenders will be moved by the Meeting and the Spirit to shoulder personal responsibility and take up activities that build our spiritual community.
“I experience the FMW as a touchstone and I am encouraged that it endures.””[It] refreshes my spirit; reminds me that I am part of a corporate body seeking the Spirit in how I approach everything I do.”
As we move forward in the next year, the spiritual state of our meeting and our community is strong; however, there are also many who long for more connectivity and inclusiveness. Many feel that the Meeting does not respond meaningfully to their personal needs and hope that it will grow in its ability to supply spiritual nurture to members and attenders. As our survey respondents said, there is wonder and blessing in the spirituality FMW offers us now and there is promise in what it can become as we consider our shared concerns, move forward to meet our Meeting community’s needs, and turn to the Light for spiritual discernment and God’s guidance.
“In countless ways I carry the values and practices of Friends into daily life.” “I have Friends who are friends who support my spiritual journey. That keeps me coming back…It has been a great joy”
“The Meeting makes it too hard for people to come into it. From our peep-holed doors…to our answering machine message…a visitor could have a sense that [it] is only for those in the know.”
“Being a Member of FMW… I think about being a Quaker a lot in my life.” “It grounds me in what is important.” ”For me [it] is like returning to ‘the well’ or an oasis for nourishing.””[It] provides a spiritual space in my life…and for my family.”
“The Meeting’s light has been under a bushel for too long…the losses of the AIDS Coffeehouse, Senior Center, bazaar, and other programs need to be countered with new ways to reach out, engage, and bear witness; at the same time we must ‘in-reach’ to nourish all in our beloved community.”
‘I cannot get through the week happily if I have not been to meeting for worship”.
“Once upon a time it served as the foundation of my life – it helped me raise my kids and gave me a way to see the world in a positive and loving way. The last couple of years I attended, I would leave feeling angry every Sunday.”
“The Meeting provides a strong spiritual anchor in my life. It helps me turn to silence and sustenance, witness and wonder, love and Light.” “I am reminded to see the Light within others, to withhold absolute judgment, to reach out, to live simply, to be a good steward for the environment, to pray and to take time for silent meditation.”