Signs of Hope
in Downers Grove Friends Meeting, Illinois
Donna Bisset, Clerk, writes:
- Silence is central to our worship, and continues to speak.
- Children of all ages grace our meeting. They have their own assembly, but spend the last quarter of the meeting hour learning to know what is important to grown-ups, for they experience it. And they are loved.
- In meeting for worship with a concern for business, which is well attended, worship and outward affairs are combined within a sense of an ongoing search for unity. Sometimes we must be patient until way opens.
- Twice monthly, prior to meeting, an adult religious education group enjoys a rewarding examination of the writings of Friends, old and recent, concluding with private personal writing. Once a month before meeting, members of a Bible study group bring favorite versions to read and compare, while pondering Friends’ principles in relation to scriptural passages.
- Much holy work happens following meeting for worship, when as many as five or six spontaneous tiny groups talk. Then a simple meal or pot-luck allows more interaction between members, attenders and visitors.
- A six-session Quakerism 101 course after meeting was so useful that a second and third series were made available.
- The meeting house is open each morning for silent meditation.
- Meeting has a broad spectrum of seekers, some of whom come for solace in the silence, some of whom find tasks to do, some of whom do more than their share. Meeting reaches out to the wider community, but many members’ whole lives reach-out in service to others. We are learning to talk to one another about the over-extensions of our lives, and to help one another in discernment of wise use of our time and energy.
in Beacon Hill Meeting, Massachusetts,
Margaret Carpenter writes:
Recognizing the centrality of the meeting for worship in the individual and corporate lives of Friends and attenders, our Ministry and Worship Committee wanted to increase its quality and strength by encouraging more vocal ministry, prompt arrival at meeting, and more spiritual education for adult attenders. Though an initial proposal to establish pre-meeting worship was turned down, I felt led to work with a few of the elements creating Collected Visions, a monthly program format for study and sharing.
Collected Visions starts with silence, then we have a short presentation, followed by worship sharing or discussion. We end with some silence before going into worship. There is a greeter at the door and childcare is provided. The first year members and attenders were interested in presenting such topics as Quaker women’s writings, poetry, queries from Faith and Practice, Bible verses that were being studied by the children, and many others. These diverse topics provided for lots of interchange among a growing group who attended.
If a presenter canceled, a query would be presented, so that no month went by without a Collected Vision presentation.
I have had lots of fun coordinating these programs and they have met many of our original goals. We have more vocal ministry, friends arrive at meeting on time, and our meetings for worship seem more focused and centered. Friends, I feel, have felt spiritually nurtured by these experiences. We now have enthusiastic participation in Collected Visions twice a month, a real sign of hope.
in Putney Meeting, Vermont
Julie Forsythe writes:
Questions that get under your skin and make you itch are always the best ones. When FGC asked what might be considered signs of hope in our meeting, I started to scratch. Outwards signs of hope at Putney Friends Meeting are very modest. Our budget hasn’t grown, the building remains in active use by many, but we still can’t do all that we would like in social justice and peace work. As the rest of the country is more and more stressed by lack of support of social institutions, we find more friends coming to our door in great need. Yet, perhaps the hope lies in the fact that as the meeting is under more and more pressure to meet needs that we have never been challenged to consider before, we have grown stronger and clearer in our experience of the healing power of meeting for worship. We pray for the meeting and for one another. We try to be fully present to each other and to avoid a tendency to try and “fix” every hurt that comes. We trust more in the divine power within each, and the overwhelming divine power amongst us all. I think that’s pretty hopeful.