Scarsdale Friends Meeting 2014 State of the Meeting Report

Members and attenders of Scarsdale Friends Meeting met in a Threshing Session on Sunday, January 4, 2015, to gather thoughts for the 2014 State of the Meeting Report. This report is a summary of that session.

Quality of Worship and Spiritual Ministry

Several Friends spoke to the sense of strengthened spirituality and deepened worship in Scarsdale Friends Meeting. A Friend who returned to our Meeting after several years shared that our Meetings for Worship now feel more gathered in Spirit with fewer “popcorn” Meetings and fewer superficial messages. A newcomer who came looking for an answer to the question, “Why?” found peace in the calm quiet of the Meetings, the Quaker belief in the ‘goodness’ in all people, and the warm welcome she has received. She gets strength from the messages and uses them for inner exploration.

Other Friends spoke to the centrality of the Meeting in their lives, a centrality that allows them to lead better lives. One Friend who works in the Bronx may have spoken for many when she said, “I need the strength of being a Quaker and being a part of this Meeting, to confront the daily sadness at work and in life.”

Friends spoke highly of the efforts the Meeting puts into arriving at answers to questions that arise. For example, for at least fifteen years Scarsdale had been wrestling with the question of whether or not membership should be granted to persons who could not attend meetings. This year the question resurfaced when two incarcerated men, longtime attenders of the Sing Sing Prison Worship Group, applied for membership in Scarsdale Meeting. After some laboring, we were granted a clear leading from a question posed by a Friend: “Why are we are going into the prisons if we aren't willing to offer them membership?” This query helped us “frame the truth,” and helped the Meeting arrive at unity to consider membership for the two incarcerated men. Another Friend spoke about how she now tries to use Quaker process to gain clarity and not rush to make decisions in her personal life.

Efforts to Foster Spiritual Growth

We spoke to the efforts made by the Meeting to foster spiritual growth. One practice was that of encouraging Friends to share afterthoughts at the rise of Meeting for Worship. While those who shared might not have felt that their afterthoughts rose to the level of messages, they often deepened our experience of worship.

We also expressed appreciation for the newly adopted practice of holding an After Meeting gathering for spiritual nurture and adult education. This Meeting, held the third Sunday after Meeting for Worship, asks us to look more closely at the quality of our worship. Through Worship Sharing we seek to understand and learn from each other what we bring to the silence, how we experience it, and what we receive out of it. During the year individual members attended several different weekends at Powell House, from which they benefited spiritually. Many of us together attended the annual Scarsdale Meeting Powell House retreat in the fall, which deepened our understanding of how to listen to our own messages from God. In addition to the annual Powell House retreat, the Meeting also holds a one-day retreat each spring at the home of two members. In 2014, the theme was Seekers and Seeking.

One Friend mentioned a list of communal activities that she has found in the Scarsdale Meeting which supported and enriched her throughout the years, such as a ‘lowering the carbon footprint’ workshop, the Experiment with Light groups, a peace vigil, the women’s group, an Alternatives to Violence Project workshop, and the Bible Study group (which helped her make the transition from one stage of her life to her current stage). Other Friends also expressed appreciation of the Bible Study group that met for several months during the year at a Friend’s home. These members learned a lot from each other as they studied various books of the Bible, and they expressed gratitude for the experience. Friends also agreed that the Scarsdale Meeting Women’s Group provides outreach and a supportive community for some women who do not often attend Meeting for Worship on Sunday.

Stands Taken on Friends’ Principles

Our discussion turned to the efforts made throughout 2014 by Scarsdale Friends Meeting to express its deep respect and acceptance of the Quaker testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship.

During the year we acted on our testimony of stewardship for the earth by participating in the 2014 Climate March, offered our time and effort to the community by continuing our tradition of faithfully ministering to the incarcerated, and providing warm winter clothing to those in homeless shelters. We shared our testimony of peace by providing conflict resolution strategies to various groups in the community through AVP workshops. And we wrote a letter of encouragement and friendship to Moscow Friends Meeting upon learning of some of their challenges and of their efforts to witness for peace in the face of the conflict in Ukraine. In addition, some of our members participated in the Right Sharing of World Resources program to assist with the mission of sharing the world’s resources more equitably.

However, a Friend’s surprise at the “lack of outrage” displayed by the Meeting over several disturbing events and trends in our society generated further thought. Some agreed that we should be doing more to let our voices and actions reflect our principles and make a significant difference to those who are suffering and are in need. As one Friend put it, “Sometimes we turn inward to regenerate and strengthen ourselves. Maybe now is the season to encourage relationships with the larger outside community.” Another encouraged us to look beyond our “comfort zone” to see the huge differences between our own privilege and the lives of so many others, and to pray about it and take action.

Community and Religious Groups

Throughout the year we have welcomed visitors from other religious organizations. It was with great pleasure that we hosted Sacred Spaces, an organization composed of members from various religious affiliations. They spent time with us learning about Quaker history, beliefs, principles, and way of worship and then joined us in Meeting for Worship.

Individual members have participated in activities of other religious organizations, working together for the good of the community. Scarsdale Friends Meeting is a member organization of the Scarsdale-Hartsdale Women's Interfaith Council and individual Friends have participated in various events presented by other member congregations.

A Friend spoke to the joy of knowing that the five-day-a-week nursery school is teaching Friends principles to little children in the wider Scarsdale community. The children are taught respectfulness, they practice silence for brief periods during the day, and they sing Quaker songs. Participation in General Activities of Friends

Throughout the year members of the Scarsdale Friends Meeting have reached out to the wider Quaker community. Several from our meeting attended New York Yearly Meeting sessions and some serve on yearly meeting committees. One of our members is the assistant clerk of NYYM.

Some members attended a workshop entitled “Conflict Transformation in Your Meeting,” presented by a facilitator from the New York Yearly Meeting Committee on Conflict Transformation. Other members participate in prison ministry, while others actively promote the Alternatives to Violence Project.

Significant Activities or Concerns of the Local Meeting

This year, Scarsdale Friends Meeting welcomed into membership two men in Sing Sing prison. We spoke to the energy and spirit of the clearness committees for membership of these men as the committees got to know the men, gathered information, and made recommendations regarding the membership applications. Each committee met at least four times with the men in Sing Sing and felt that they were enriched by the experience.

A Friend who participates in the weekly Sing Sing worship group shared how those regular meetings have cleared away some of the suspicion and superficial differences and created a feeling of solidarity between the incarcerated men and the visiting Friends. Another Friend reflected that “God has laid prison ministry on the heart of Scarsdale Friends,” adding, “I was in prison and ye visited me” (Matthew 25:36). We shared appreciation for those members who continue the long tradition of ministering to the incarcerated in various prisons.

Several Friends mentioned the great effort and time exerted by the facilitators of the AVP workshops and their value to them and the outside community. Complementing the Meeting’s participation in the Climate March, a portion of our First Day School lessons related to respect and care for the earth. We hope to develop the children’s understanding of Quakers’ testimony of stewardship of the earth.

Friends shared appreciation for the work of the First Day School teachers and wished to celebrate the progress made in helping the children understand the worship when they enter for the last fifteen minutes of the Meeting. We feel blessed in having several families with preschool children coming to First Day School and Meeting for Worship regularly.

Other Friends were thankful the members faithfully respond to the needs of the Meeting to make sure that the “nuts and bolts” are taken care of, so that the building and grounds are maintained and the business of the Meeting gets done.