As is true of all living bodies, our membership waxes and wanes, and the collective energy of individuals grows and lies dormant, always, it seems, to grow again like the new shoot emerging each year from the bulb. But the spiritual center of our meeting—the “divine”—is constant. We come to meeting for worship with the expectation of renewal, and we are rarely disappointed. As one Friend notes, even in dormancy, we grow; we dream.
We have welcomed new attenders this year, and many of us feel encouraged that there seem to be more cars in our parking lot each week, although others are concerned (one Friend says “frightened”) by the small size of the meeting relative to times past. Over the past year, we are aware of new energies suffusing many of our efforts. Significant work by our committee on buildings and grounds has provided us with an enhanced sense of caring about our meetinghouse and its surroundings, building on the renovations of the recent past and recognizing the need for a safe and comfortable environment for our worship. Our women’s group continues to thrive, nurturing a solid core of both long-time and relatively new Friends through discussions centered on both books and spiritual and personal topics. A new administration in our Nursery School has brought a sense of renewed energy, with innovative attention to curriculum, a plan for expanded enrollments, and collegial efforts in identifying and responding to needs presented by the physical plant of our meetinghouse and its furnishings. Our First Day School has grown, with lively clusters of young people coming every week. Our spring retreats, held at the home of members, continue to encourage lively discussion around personal and spiritual challenges. Our library committee has seen a renewal of energy and effort, focused both on finding a way to bring our wonderful collection of books and periodicals more fully into the life of the meeting, and on making the room itself more welcoming. In all these ways, we sense our new shoots rising and finding sustenance in the spiritual sun and particular air of our meeting. We hope as a meeting to find new ways to bring Friends together in the kinds of small groups that help connect us to each other, and help each of us discover our leadings.
Our fall retreat drew fewer participants than in the past, although one Friend noted that it was deeply rewarding for those who did attend. We regret that our First Day School, while larger than in recent years, continues to be tended by a small group of Friends, whose long involvement in this endeavor limits their time in meeting for worship. We regret the necessary loss of the large elm that had stood outside our meetinghouse for unknown years, whose ever-expanding roots were beginning to pose safety threats by heaving up both interior floor and exterior macadam. Some Friends find themselves concerned that the merger this year of our committees on Ministry and Worship, and Clearness and Counsel, into a single committee leaves us with less focused energy to spend on “ministry”—on enhancing our meeting’s spiritual life—because of the challenges of pastoral care. Others, however, feel that this is an appropriate use of the people, time, and energy available in our meeting, given the number of active committees.
Although we rarely unite as a whole meeting around the particular social witness projects in which individuals and small groups are involved, these projects are many and various. One Friend notes that “we provide a safe nest for the birds that are tending those activities,” although another suggests that “we [as a meeting] are less than the sum of our parts.” We are all enriched and strengthened by those who actively follow their leadings in the world, specifically including (but not limited to) providing support for area shelters for the homeless, prison worship, Right Sharing, and Friends Council on National Legislation.
Many Friends are making efforts to move members of our meeting to understand the biases that are built into our lives and that affect each of us daily. We want our meeting to be a welcoming, comfortable, safe haven for all individuals, but many of us are troubled by the fact that it does not reflect the demographic reality of our world; in particular, we are concerned that we have so few people of color in our meeting community. We hope to keep this reality in front of us as we reach out to a more diverse population. Many Friends are also trying to help all of us look at how, in our daily lives, we may reduce the burden of our living on the planet. We are not all leaders in these areas, but our willingness to listen and exchange experiences on these subjects brings with it the possibility of being affected by those messages. As one Friend notes, there will always be an inherent struggle between individual and community; we are differently “gifted,” and converting faith into action is not easy. We note, however, that wherever we raise these issues of social justice—at work, in our families, in meeting—the process is valuable. The simple act of questioning in all arenas of our lives is the measure of the value of our faith.
As we face the challenge in the next year of how to use the large bequest left to the meeting by our Friend Cecile Vickrey, we look forward to holding many of our values and beliefs in the Light and finding common ground.
For those members and attenders who have been at Scarsdale Friends for many years, one Friend suggests an old joke as a metaphor: First man to second man: “My wife thinks she’s a chicken.” Second man: “Then why do you stay with her?” First man: “I need the eggs.” Scarsdale Meeting provides, for many of us, the eggs. We find some strength, perhaps mysterious, at the core of our meeting that provides sustenance for us, no matter what the failings and flaws of the meeting may be.
Perhaps it is best to remember that Quaker meeting is a mixture of two very different things: the spiritual center or divine, and our individual members. The center does not grow or diminish; it is steady, always there, always available to us. Individuals, however, do change. We are alive, which means we are necessarily always in transition. We mourn the loss of our elm, but we recognize that life goes on. People come and go; individuals have devastating concerns; individuals have joys. Perception plays a role: Is the parking lot half full or half empty? Each Friends meeting is important and unique, but no matter how different the individual members and attenders, each meeting has at its core an everlasting Light.