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A History of Salem Creek Friends Meeting, Winston-Salem NC 8 September 2013

Since ~1970, there have been several attempts at having an independent, unprogrammed Friends group in Winston-Salem. Feeling a clear leading that Winston-Salem needed an unprogrammed monthly meeting, in 1998 John Cardarelli and Louise Harris began a worship group in their home, on Wednesday evenings; Bobbie Torbert was one of the first people to join them, followed in 2001 by Sam Dempsey and Dee Edelman. This group later moved to Winston-Salem Friends Meeting and met at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons; Meg Zulick, Arlene Gillespie, and several others joined the group at this time. In 2003, at Dee Edelman's request and initiative, we began meeting on Sunday mornings at 9:30 at Rebecca Valla's psychiatry office in the West End, again attracting additional new attenders.

In August 2004, we requested that Friendship Meeting take the worship group under its care and support, which was approved in Fall 2004. At Meg Zulick’s initiative, we moved to Blessings at 823 Reynolda Road in March 2005, where we worshipped regularly except for Sundays when other events were scheduled at Blessings; in those cases, we met at individuals’ homes. The group selected the name “Salem Worship Group” in September 2008, when we began to hold monthly meetings for worship with a concern for business as a preparative meeting under the care of Friendship Meeting. Our minutes were archived at Guilford College via the Friendship Monthly Meeting, thanks to the efforts of Claire Koster.

Over the years a number of us attended Winston-Salem Friends Meeting and Friendship Meeting, but always felt drawn back to the worship group. Louise Harris’ death and memorial service in early 2009 were powerful community-building experiences for Friends in the worship group, and an impetus for forming a monthly meeting. We formed several committees (Ministry & Counsel, Nominating, Peace & Social Concerns, and Community Care), although we often functioned as a committee of the whole. Our first formal budget was prepared for 2010.

n 2009, Salem Friends set a timetable for becoming a monthly meeting and worked with Friendship Meeting to prepare for that step. As of 2010 there was a nucleus of ~10 to 12 regular attenders, who brought decades of Quaker experience with them. In April 2010, Salem Preparative Meeting requested that Friendship Monthly Meeting release us as a preparative meeting: we became Salem Friends Meeting. The first clerk of Salem Friends Meeting was Meg Zulick; Lisa Gould was recording clerk, and Sam Dempsey treasurer. The first formal members to the monthly meeting were Aaron and Linda Poller, by transfer from Gwenydd Monthly Meeting, approved in August 2010.

Several outreach and educational initiatives also began in 2009. The meeting approved financial support for Lisa Gould to attend the two-year School of the Spirit program in Durham, NC, and formed a care committee for spiritual support during the program. Also in 2009, we began taking monthly donations of baked goods to the Samaritan Ministries; in 2010 we added a monthly collection of non-perishable food and toiletries for the Second Harvest Food Bank, and in 2011 added a monthly collection of school supplies for the Forsyth Education Partnership. In 2012 we focused the school supplies collections on Old Town Elementary School, where one of our attenders, Debra Delois, is a teacher. The Meeting also provided financial support for Debra to attend Christian Peacemaker Team training, and formed a clearness committee to help Debra process her experiences.

In June 2010, Salem Friends began monthly discussions of the queries from North Carolina Yearly Meeting-Conservative’s book of discipline; in September 2012, we added the corresponding query/advice from Britain Yearly Meeting. In November 2010, midweek worship held at the home of Bobbie Torbert was begun. And in December 2010, Salem Friends initiated a monthly Friday evening potluck at members’ homes. The original intent was to have a topic to discuss, but we quickly came to agreement that we enjoyed making this a social event.

Also in 2010, we learned that Blessings, where we had been holding worship since 2005, would be changing hands and not be available to us after January 2011. After exploring a number of options, in March 2011 we began to worship in the Community House at the Winston-Salem Friends Meeting.

Salem Friends Meeting’s “Sandwich Sundays”began in December 2011 (they were named Sandwich Sundays because the discussions are held following worship, and Friends were asked to bring finger food to share). At the first Sandwich discussion we discussed the importance of learning more about ourselves as a meeting. To aid in our own introspection and education, we came up with a preliminary list of topics for worship sharing. They include two major threads: Understanding our faith, such as Christocentrism and Universalism, Quaker “theology”, recording ministers and elders, pastoral versus non-pastoral Friends; and Understanding the fruits of our faith (our witness in the world), such as peace, poverty & hunger, gay & lesbian issues, political advocacy, and community engagement.

Early in 2012, Salem Friends formed a Building & Grounds Committee and began to make contributions into a new Meetinghouse Fund, in anticipation of a future home of our own. An unexpected challenge came to us mid-year: a Meeting attender offered to donate his Winston-Salem home and property to the Meeting. Ministry & Counsel held a clearness committee on this topic, and the meeting as a whole conducted a threshing session to explore this wonderfully generous offer. While Salem Friends ultimately decided that the Meeting was not yet ready to accept such a gift, the discernment process helped us explore the financial, physical, legal, and spiritual implications of owning our own space. We agreed that we needed to incorporate, explore liability insurance, and continue to think about how we reach out to the wider community. We also agreed to discuss changing our name, to avoid confusion with Winston-Salem Friends Meeting. After several Sandwich Sunday discussions on The Future of the Meeting, in November 2012 Friends approved the new name of Salem Creek Friends Meeting. 

The first wedding under the care of the Meeting was held in May 2012, when we joyfully celebrated the union of Gary Hornsby and Christin Barnhardt. And in December 2012, we increased the Meeting’s local outreach efforts with support to two families from El Buen Pastor.

As of September 2013, Salem Creek Friends Meeting has not affiliated with a yearly meeting, although the meeting is a member of Piedmont Friends Fellowship [PFF], has sent representatives to North Carolina Yearly Meeting-Conservative sessions, and has representatives serving on PFF’s Yearly Meeting Formation Committee. Salem Creek Friends are led in general to belong to an FGC-affiliated yearly meeting. Our discussions on yearly-meeting affiliation have explored the broader landscape of Friends in North Carolina, with recognition that North Carolina Friends are fragmented; at a time when we should seek spiritual unity within the Society of Friends, so that we can move forward together to face the challenges of our times, there is concern that further fragmentation might dilute our efforts. Nonetheless, we recognize the importance of yearly meeting activities—such as impetus to prepare an annual State of the Meeting report, fellowship with Friends in neighboring meetings, and having a book of discipline—and continue to explore our options.