Roanoke Monthly Meeting and Lynchburg Indulged Meeting
If God/Spirit is love, the Spirit is prospering among us. Spirit manifests in our lives individually as well as communally. No matter what issues we face and sometimes wrangle with, we find openings, messages, and guidance to hold steady and see our way through to better clearness and unity. We not only listen and remain open to Spirit, but the sharings and teachings and awareness of Spirit continue to inform us. As a community our sense of continuity continues across weeks and months as well as geographical distance, nourishing us, and allowing us to nourish the Meeting and one another. We are attracting new attenders. Our Meetings for Worship and for Business are well attended, and our work together is energizing. Our various committees are made effective by wonderful dedication and collaboration. Some Friends have had to serve on more than one committee but more newcomers are being asked and stepping forward to participate. Increasingly, Friends are involved in the wider Quaker world as well as locally, so we are looking beyond ourselves to widen our experiences and service.
Our meeting has tried to ensure that ministry is nurtured, that the intellectual and spiritual growth of all our members and attenders is fostered, and that all participants in the life of our community feel valued and cared for. Ways in which we believe we have carried out this charge in the past year are spelled out in the Appendix to this Report.
Certainly there are areas that detract from our spiritual equilibrium, specifically times when conflicts and dissension among Friends have arisen. Thankfully, instead of sweeping these difficult situations under a rug or meeting them with a heavy hand, we have tried laboring with love through them. The outcome has not always been reconciliation. Personality and/or philosophic differences at times are so great that a parting of the ways seems to need to happen for the benefit of all. This is not to minimize the pain involved when relationships are sundered. It feels then like holes have been torn in our woven fabric. We respond to conflict awkwardly at times but there is great effort taken to listen and be responsive to criticism while placing our highest priority upon the well-being of our spiritual community. A lessening of tension in the community seems a good indication that we are moving forward.
Friends see our search for a more permanent meeting home as our most immediate challenge. We have been through a process of threshing sessions, surveys, and discussions, and in December we formally decided to seek a permanent meeting home. While there were different points of view on how we ought to proceed, our clerk shepherded us through the process in such a way that everyone was heard. As we move forward, there will certainly be hurdles to overcome and difficult decisions to be made, so we will need to proceed tenderly and patiently with one another.
We are a caring community, responding quickly and lovingly to one another when needs are made known, but we need to explore ways to identify when circumstances change for our members, especially in cases of stress or emotional turmoil which are not always obvious.
Some Friends find vocal ministry in our Meeting to be a gift and marvel at the humble and entirely original messages. While some find vocal ministry during Meeting for Worship deep and rich, others have a mixed reaction. Sometimes space is not allowed between messages to let the wisdom settle within. Rarely, there are Friends who speak more than one message during Meeting for Worship.
Immediately following Worship, our Meeting has the practice of “afterthoughts,” during which Friends are invited to share messages that did not rise to the level of vocal ministry. Some find afterthoughts a welcome addition. Others are concerned that a period for afterthoughts dilutes vocal ministry, believing that some afterthoughts could have been powerful vocal ministry if seasoned and offered during the regular worship time. Some Friends believe that afterthoughts unduly lengthen the time following regular worship, presenting a hardship for those who have physical difficulties sitting for long periods, and for children, who reach their squirm limit, as one Friend observed. Our Meeting is discerning way forward.
Appendix of Specific Activities
–Newcomers are welcomed, given information about Quakerism, and invited back.
–When Friends are ill, we are there to support them by holding them in the light as well as by telephoning and visiting.
–Potlucks invite monthly socializing, as do special celebrations at such occasions as the equinox and Christmas.
–Ongoing spiritual and intellectual growth is provided by monthly religious education, Bible study, and book group meetings and by a wonderfully informative monthly newsletter.
–Opportunities for community involvement (such as support for Pastors for Peace, local refugee families, Springwood Cemetery cleanup, Congregations in Action) are found for us by our Peace and Social Justice Committee.
— Our Meeting’s commitment to Friends testimonies of peace and social justice is strong. We allot one third of our annual budget to peace and social justice causes locally as well as the wider world.
–Time, energy and money support the ministries of others. One example is a member of our Peace and Social Justice Committee, who has become involved in a local organization, Congregations in Action, that assists students in the city schools. Now the Meeting, as well as the Peace and Social Justice Committee, has taken an active role in supporting this effort. Several Friends have not only supported her efforts but joined in and become volunteers themselves. This represents another opportunity for our Meeting community to be involved locally.
–Individuals’ creative activities outside the Meeting (pottery and art exhibits) have been strongly supported.
–Several Friends have been attending a monthly chanting event offered by two Friends at a nearby arts center.
–When there is an article in the paper by or about an attender, it is brought to the attention of the Meeting and posted on our bulletin board.
–Additional opportunities for worship, beyond Meetings for Worship, are offered, for instance Healing group, Prayers for Peace group, and the Remembrance Meeting in late October for those who have passed.
–Our community rejoiced together over the marriage of a lifelong member of the meeting and sorrowed together over the death of a much-loved member.