We are joyful and optimistic about the state of our meeting, a sense so different from past years. This year there was new energy among us. After a period of lingering doubts about our staying power, after the loss of many older, weighty Friends from the Meeting, we seem to share that sense of joy and optimism. There was strong faith manifested in doing Quaker Quest with the result that the meeting pulled together, individuals were affirmed, and a new energy emerged. The Experiment With Light Groups stopped meeting but new adult education ‘after-meeting’ sessions demonstrated fluidity in creating spaces and opportunities to meet our needs. However, loss of Bible study was sorely felt by at least one Friend. Women’s group continues to nurture many. Investments were made not only in Quaker Quest but also in the last phase of renovations: we invested in our property by installing a lift, creating a new gathering room, renovating the library and putting the holdings in better order.
While it was disappointing that the few non-Quaker newcomers who attended the Quaker Quest sessions haven’t returned to Scarsdale Meeting, suddenly there are lots of new people in the meeting room on Sunday and lots of children downstairs. Ministry to the children is strong, carried out by a small committed group of Friends who feel called to the work. However a thriving First Day School presents a nice problem. There’s so much to do. New families. New love being manifested. Now we must identify a few more First Day School teachers to meet the needs of a growing group of children and our current teachers.
Love among us is strong and manifests itself in ways both large and small (example: visits to an elder homebound Friend, the support provided to a member, now thankfully returned, during his time away from his family in Afghanistan, a basket with a large jar of homemade soup and other goodies delivered to a Friend whose mother had died). A Friend remarked on the absence of gossip in our meeting, “I haven’t heard anyone tearing anyone else down in a long time.” This love has been noticed by others and reflected back to us. At the Purchase Harvest dinner, two individual members of Purchase Meeting mentioned to one of us how much they admired Scarsdale Meeting because we seem like such a solid, loving community and we get things done. One suggested that we might worship together sometime. Facilitators at the fall Powell House retreat similarly commented on our loving sense of community. Faith might be reflected by the Gospel of John: “They will know you are my disciples by the love that you show for one another.”
As usual the meeting for worship is at the center of meeting life. Two recent gathered meetings for worship have manifested faith, love and ministry and continue to be richly felt by all who attended.
Some know that there is an underground life to the meeting. Several Friends took it upon themselves to engage in FUM’s 40 Days of Prayer. “It was the action of individuals, not coordinated by the meeting, but we knew we were there and doing it.” Others in the meeting confide in each other about their relationship with Jesus, but feel uncomfortable speaking openly about it. Several Friends shared a sense of being reluctant to quote from the Bible, referring to a sense of intolerance in this meeting for “religion”. It’s clear that we need to be open to hear among us voices of those following a Christ-centered spiritual path.
The meeting has agreed to support one Friend, concerned about the environment in which her granddaughter is living, in her leading to take Alternatives to Violence to White Plains adults and youth. As we agreed to take on this project we acknowledged that we were led by the faith that the funds for this work would become available.
Three applications for membership have been received from men in Sing Sing prison worship group. There is a sense that this tests our Meeting, but we have been helped to get past our initial fears and move toward finding the appropriate process for making this happen. In a meeting for worship with a concern for business, we heard vocal ministry offered with utmost simplicity that when we go into prisons to take Quaker worship inside, we are implicitly offering the opportunity for membership. And we knew that was the truth.
As we savor the joy of having new attenders we feel the responsibility to provide them with an appropriate introduction to Quakerism. (“We are not Ethical Culture; we are not Unitarians.”) Many of us feel that educating new attenders as well as deepening the spiritual and historical knowledge of many of us “old timers” is our challenge for this new year.
Other challenges include finding ways to support young families, especially new attenders, and to get to know one another more deeply, perhaps with contacts outside of Meeting. The Friendly Suppers that were part of Quaker Quest gave an opportunity to know people outside of worship, committee meetings, and meeting-wide events.
We’ve fallen down sometimes at keeping up with departed members: older people no longer able to attend, families who have come and then disappeared, grown children of the meeting. This is important work: one new member spoke of how moved she was to be contacted by someone from Scarsdale when she hadn’t been to meeting for a while. That was part of what convinced her to apply for membership.
So much of what we identify as challenges is the responsibility of Ministry and Counsel. This committee is struggling, both with prioritization and with process. How can this committee be supported? Combining Ministry and Worship, and Clearness and Counsel was approved as an experiment several years ago. Perhaps it’s time to consider splitting this committee back into two committees. We need to remember that ministry belongs to everyone in the meeting.
This was a “pivotal year” for Scarsdale Friends. Several years ago, we faced dwindling numbers, a restricted budget, and not enough friends to fill committees. Now we sense growth, energy, renewal. Maybe there is a “spiritual Keynesianism” at work here. Keynes argued that when economic times are hard, that’s when you most need to spend money. For us, when there was no energy, and we even approached despair, that’s when we felt the need to throw ourselves energetically into the work at hand. . We have done that this year. Now we must find ways to knit all these pieces into a strong fabric: integrating new attenders in meaningful ways; reaching out to absent members; opening ourselves to seekers on all spiritual paths; reminding ourselves of the core values and beliefs of Quakerism.
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- Sacred Nature
- Marriage Equality
- Happiness is Being a Member of the New York State Council of Churches
- Salt boxes
- State of the Meeting 2015