Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends
"Walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone." -George Fox

Notes from the Listening/Threshing/Discernment Session September 17, 2017

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These notes were taking by co-Recording Clerk, Sita. 

After a short break to rearrange the room and allow people to get food while maintaining intentional quietness, we reconvened with worship. 

Friends were asked to hold each other tenderly and with great care, to speak from our own experiences and share what is coming from the Divine, but not a conversation, do not respond to each other, but listen for the truth in what was said. If a question arises, please give voice.

Name the changes that our community has experienced in the last few years, honoring those who have given so much but are no longer able to carry the responsibilities, and the many Friends and their gifts that are no longer with us.

Fewer in our community are carrying a lot of the work. Meeting has lost a great deal over the last few years.

83 people were named which I will not list here due to cofidentiality. Not all of the names have been recent members of our community, a few were active many years ago but have not been in a decade or more. The majority of the names were of people and families who have been active within the past 6 or so years.

A new friend remarked that she did not know most of the people on the list, but if we feel as strongly about them as she does about the people who are now with us, she can empathize with the sense of loss.

Many of those who have left bore leadership roles: Clerks, Recording clerks, Children’s education, etc.

A parent said she made a commitment to participate in Meeting with her children even though there often are no other children in First Day School. Wonderful care in First Day School. She has decided to keep coming in the faith that other children will come.

What can I do to continue relationships with those who have left? Is it just part of the coming and going of life? Who have we lost? How lost are they? What can we do? Some have left this world. Some are close or far away. What can we do to touch those who are far away and make meaning with those who are near, and honor those who have departed.

Consider changes in the Meeting community, our activities and priorities. What are we called to do, to lay down? Where we are called to action as a Meeting, who will engage in the work?

Friend was thankful for the meeting, but stayed at the edge. Going through personal healing. Questions arising: How can I support the life of this meeting? How can I contribute?

A friend thinks of himself as a new Quaker, knowing that others have been here for decades. Looking at the list, he realizes that he has been here long enough to know many who have departed. There are deaths, changes of heart, changes of employment, moving. As I visit with these names, they are still part of this body. All of these people contributed and were integral to the community. We are no different now. Reminder, invitation: we are a body together. We all are a precious part of this body, life, this journey.

We have burned out some precious people by not attending to their need to step back when they need to. How do we make it clear to people that they are needed in the Meeting, but at the same time it is okay to say no or play a small part. The work today is to find a new balance where ever Friend plays a part, but we listen more deeply to each other.

Also new to Meeting. But the spirit has led me to reflect on Jesus’ and Elijah’s ascension, and the grief that those who were left behind felt. I’m going and I will send the Spirit for you to do this work now. I had not thought how much taking up of their prophetic authority was entwined with grief. Creating fabric, each person is an individual stitch. When people leave, it can feel like dropped stitches and can feel like a bigger hole if there is a tug on the fabric. But stitches can be picked up. I don’t know where the dropped stitches are, but we do know the new community, and I wonder how we can pick up the work that our dear Friends have left us.

Expression of loss and grief after a spouse. I went through what I should lay down that we did together and what I should continue. That resulted in changes, large and small, good and bad. In a Meeting, it is not such a defined process, but this is giving us an opportunity to recognize what we have lost, what we can lay down, what we continue, and what the new people bring.

Important exercise to more and bring closure to those who have gone. A chameleon loses a tail, but it grows a new one. Cut down a tree, sprouts grow from the trunk. Being born is very important.

The children who were raised in this meeting, their hearts are tender and they are in the world, many of them very active. They carry the spirit of gentleness and peace that they learned in this Meeting.

Many of these names are unfamiliar, but “Temporary is as permanent as it gets.”

Period of silent worship holding these changes in heart and mind, allowing ourselves to feel what rises, and seeking a unified awareness of the presence of the Divine.

Current work. Where do we spend our time, money, and energy? 

Meeting for Worship

Meeting for Business

Community/pastoral care (clearness committees, etc)

First Day School


Child care

Committee work

Alternatives to Violence

Spiritual deepening groups

Meeting for healing

Prayer committee


Maintenance of the building – work days

Fall retreat

Spring regional gathering


Financial support to Friends in emergencies

Quaker cottage

Meeting space as community resource

Visiting other faith communities

Financial support of varied causes

Warming shelter

Tutoring at Salvation Army

TN Interfaith Power and Light

Fundraisers/movie nights

Food pantry

Education – learning from Friends

Activities and committee work as opportunity to build relationship

Hosting and hospitality for regional or out of town Quaker gatherings

SAYMA Yearly Meeting Friends General Conference Gathering

If we laid everything down and built Nashville Friends Meeting anew, what would be completely central and who would do it?

What is central to who we are?




Safe place for spiritual exploration

Communication – nurturing Friends community

Caring for children and young people

Welcoming and nurturing

Peaceful place

Relaying Friends’ living traditions

Intentional healing

Not central, but very important



Community service

Owning property, physical presence

Meeting house, Quaker cottage?

What feels like a ‘should’ 

Sending cards to acknowledge needs, celebrations

Community engagement (although AVP is a community engagement activity/method)

We we will be continuing this work at a two-hour Second Hour on October 29. After the rise of worship, a light lunch will be available. We'll settle back into worship at noon and will pick up with the work we do and where and how we feel and if we feel the leadings of the Spirit in and through Nashville Friends Meeting.