Monday, April 12, 2010

State of the Meeting Report


In December 2009, after 18 months of work and 4 retreats, we concluded a “Year of Discernment.” Together we affirmed UFM’s calling to be a worshipping community, to be good stewards of our resources, to help each other discern how we are led to serve, and to care for and support each other.

Worship is at the center of our community life. On First Days, we continue to hold two Meetings for Worship, one at 9:30, customarily smaller and more likely to season messages mainly in silence and one at 11:00. We continue to hold Meeting for Business on the second First Day of each month beginning directly out of 11:00 am Meeting for Worship. We are gratified to find both a greater number of Friends participating in Meeting for Business and better grounded work as a result of this practice.

Meeting for Business this year has included spirit-led consideration of some testing issues. We seasoned a minute opposing torture and found ourselves challenged to articulate shared language about our motivations. We approved membership for a Friend who identifies as Pagan, who has an ongoing ministry overseen by a committee including Friends from our Meeting, about Quaker Paganism, and who shortly after joining moved with her wife away from Seattle. We have taken a Quaker / Jewish marriage under our care. We have considered at length our expectations of Nominating Committee, Friends with concerns about nominations, and Worship and Ministry committee. We are presently reviewing how Meeting seasons ministries it undertakes as a community.

Our Adult Religious education program provides rich choices and lively discussion. We continue to collaborate with the men and women of the UFM SHARE group who sleep in our Worship Room at night. Our worshipping community still includes an identified sex offender as well as ministries for survivors of sexual abuse and about the safety of our children. Many musicians, poets and artists in our community share their gifts at our monthly Art Salons and monthly art exhibits. 29 Friends lobbied for services for the poor and prison reform at our annual Quaker lobby day in Olympia. We have organized both small worship-sharing and Quaker-8’s potluck groups. Library Committee’s book sale, a holiday crafts fair, a New Year vision collage making time, and a plant exchange are popular annual events.

This year’s QUEST interns include two young men as well as the young women usually drawn to QUEST. We have an active First Day School program. We have adjusted our schedule so that children join us for worship at the end of the hour instead of the beginning. Last spring we asked our children to discern and recommend how our Meeting should spend a percentage of the funds budgeted for donations to outside organizations.

Our Year of Discernment generated renewed energy and restored our sense of practicing discernment with faith in the abundance of our resources and gifts, rather than fear of their scarcity. Our Year of Discernment has expanded our shared awareness of the ways in which each of our committees and individuals do the work of being a community. Many have described feeling, and seeing others, more engaged with Meeting than ever before. We have seen an increase in committee volunteerism, slight and temporary growth in donations (despite hard economic times for many among us), and more attendance at Meeting for Worship.

The four day-long retreats at the Meeting House were so successful that we have decided to hold a similar retreat this spring to build community, get to know each other, and care for our physical plant.

A remodel task force has been formed to move forward on a tight timeline with details and staging of existing remodel proposals.

A communications task force has been formed to look at how our Meeting uses many different tools including both computer or online resources and a variety of practices. This task force has already begun experiments distributing materials for Business meeting in advance by email and making it easier for newcomers to be added to email distribution lists for our weekly bulletin and for our monthly newsletter.

We have also given attention to practical matters: management of Quaker House, cleaning up a basement room to provide our grade-school First Day school with its own meeting space, installing an improved sound system in our worship room, installing lighting in our parking lot.

Currently, about a dozen children, from infants through school-age, come to First-Day School. Few Junior Friends are visible at UFM, although a number enjoy Quarterly and Yearly Meeting activities. We enjoy the presence of a number of Young Adult Friends. We continue to be blessed with a rich stream of adult newcomers of all ages -- some seasoned Friends, some eager seekers -- including seniors drawn to the Northwest by family ties ("magnetic grandkids") as well as younger adults and families with young children.

We welcomed three new adult members by convincement, two junior members and two adults by transfer. Three members passed away. One Friend noted for her own gifts and 13 generations of family Quaker history passed away in October. Another Friend passed away in February after Meeting approved but before it completed her transfer back to her family home in Maine. Our last founding member passed away in March. We also celebrated one birth. We reached out to support a Friend injured in a motorcycle accident. We witnessed, sometimes with round-the-clock hospital presence the remarkable recovery of another Friend who was struck and critically injured by a car and who, six months later has already returned to work. We offered spiritual and financial support for a longtime attender and large community presence at his immigration court hearing. We joyously unite with South Seattle Preparative Meeting’s move toward status as a Monthly Meeting and are forwarding their request to Quarterly Meeting. We are also holding a member in the Light as she clerks the FCNL General Committee. Many of our members also play active roles in the work of Quarterly and Yearly meetings, FWCC and other Friends’ bodies.

Friends have spoken often of hunger for deeper spiritual connections. We experience, again and again, times when we feel equal concern for one another, and equal appreciation for what others share with us.