Spiritual State of the Meeting – 2009

We are grateful to gather weekly for meeting for worship in this large community of Friends. We approach the writing of the Spiritual State of the Meeting Report humbly. The variety of experiences in the community creates many “spiritual states of the meeting,” weaving a rich tapestry of spiritual experience in our meeting. We are aware of the great purpose and deep spiritual renewal that arises from waiting in silent communal worship. We seek to include this in the multitude of activities undertaken and supported by the meeting and are mindful that our practices support our faith. The circular nature of this spiritual experience is then appreciated: gathered meetings for worship feed our activities, which nourish and inform our worshipful gatherings.

Sandy Spring Friends participate in the spiritual life of the meeting in numerous ways, as a community engaged in many activities, with many leadings, concerns and interests. We hold meeting for worship on First Day, at midweek, at Seneca Valley Preparative Meeting, at Friends House Retirement Community, in First Day School and at many of the programs and events supported by the meeting. These enrich our worship experience, and are the heartbeat of our community.

Because there are opportunities to attend meeting for worship at different times during the week, Friends often experience the spiritual state of the meeting in groups that represent a portion of the community. These various gatherings expand and enrich our community. Yet some Friends feel a loss of connection with the larger community at Sandy Spring Meeting. While this persists as a concern — perhaps in all large meetings — the rich and spiritual nature of offerings provides sustenance and enhancement of our spiritual community.

Friends’ concerns are many and various in seeking to live out our Quaker testimonies. We remain mindful of the call to bring discernment into action at the rise of meeting. When the time comes to put the fruits of silent worship into action, the meeting community endeavors to support those Friends who are called to service with love, material aid, time and prayerful effort to anchor them in our worship. We recognize that at this time our emphasis has been on spirituality more than on our social witness, and we are open to new leadings for social witness, for we are aware with James that faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

The meeting has undertaken many forms of support and outreach. A Welcome Circle invites attenders, members and seekers who want to know more about meeting for worship, Quakerism, and Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting. A vocal ministry nurture group offers discernment and accountability for those led to this work. Spirit-grounded ministry has grown over the past year deepening our listening and spiritual ties to each other through Adult RE programs with continued interest in Bible study, Quaker readings, Spiritual Formation Groups, Friendly Eights and Seeker Sessions. Friends have gathered to discuss the queries from Faith and Practice, which form a framework for our religious community. As each person brings a different perspective, we come to understand our faith and practice.

We have a vital community life with seasonal events including an early Memorial Day picnic with a welcome for new members, an annual Labor Day retreat at Catoctin Quaker Camp, and several intergenerational activities. Committees are working together to understand our needs. We have a renewed “belief in what we may become… and draw upon that respect for one another that enables the other to feel taller and more capable.” (BYM F&P 2009 Draft, Queries, Advices and Voices; Children and Young People, Barbara Windle, 1988) New connections enable us to experience deeper worship while attending to business.

The work of committees continues to enrich the spiritual life of the meeting. As a result, the meeting website was revised and the library catalog is now online. In the face of difficult economic times, the finance committee provided transparent information, and members and attenders responded by financially supporting the meeting. A transition budget was adopted for 2010 which aligns our expectations and abilities. Through the work of other committees, our facilities are being improved. The meeting approved a simpler master plan for our campus. Now we have a clearer understanding of our needs, but much effort will be required to realize our goals in the building process.

Religious Education Committee has implemented new practices. Our Friendly with Kids workshops provides parents of small children an opportunity to discuss the trials and rewards of childrearing and to enjoy each other’s company. On Singing Sunday the First Day School students gather to sing songs like “Imagine” and “The George Fox Song.” This program shares the children’s experience of worship and brings the generations together in our meeting. The children giggle and lean into each other and sing as adults file into the Community House after worship. At first, they are tentative and don’t want to interrupt, but as they circle around the cluster of children, their faces light up, and many start to sing along with the children. Some adults stand with their coffee and gaze in delight at the children singing.

We are called to love each other corporately and personally and to honor that of God in each other. To that end Sandy Spring Meeting has a network of support to provide pastoral care. Friends have appreciated the support and have felt encouraged by the love and Light they have received from the meeting during challenging times.

Friends report frequent small disruptions during worship as Friends come and go. This is another side effect of the largeness of our community, and we must work together to find the best way to create a meeting for worship that both welcomes and provides a quiet, centered space for all. At times we experience more success in our deepening worship than others. Through our travails Sandy Spring Meeting continues to turn to the Light and seek center. Our patient waiting for Divine guidance has provided us with recurrent opportunities to find a healing presence and deepening spirituality among Friends.

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