State of Society, 2002

State of Society Report, 2002

Concord Friends Meeting

Approved at Meeting for Worship to Conduct Business 4th Month, 13, 2003

The defining experience for Concord Meeting this year was being able to accompany 3 elder friends through their final days including providing support to their families in the time of acute grief. Following the deaths of Marjorie Gordon, Robert Nichols and Eunice Smith, Concord Meeting facilitated Memorial Meetings which celebrated the life of each of these beloved elders.

In providing this compassionate care, we are reminded of the other ways Concord Meeting provides compassionate care to members and attenders. We continue to care deeply for our children through the dedication of the Religious Education Committee and the teachers in First Day School. We have organized clearness committees for those in our community facing important decisions. We have provided pastoral care committees for those in difficult life circumstances. We have an on-going support committee for a member whose life is drawn increasingly into expanded ministry among Friends. There is a deep sense of caring and community among us.

We continue to face challenges in our life as a community. We notice with concern that there are few young adults and families with young children in our Meeting. About one third of us are over 65, another one third are between 40 and 65, and the final third are under 18. Coupled with this is a concern about nurturing the next generation of leaders among us. We will be reflecting on this in the coming months as we seek a new Presiding Clerk to serve in the coming year. A related challenge is outreach which includes the need to be more visible and known in the wider community as well as more consistently welcoming to visitors and newcomers.

Concerns about depth of worship and vocal ministry continue to challenge us. While we celebrate the quality of vocal ministry, we are concerned that it seems to be the same few people who share their insights and journeys with us. Others have much to share and need some kind of encouragement to speak in Meeting. Many of us find our current time structure is not conducive to a deep and gathered sense of worship. For the past seven (7) years our pattern has been that many of the adults join the children in another part of the building to sing for the first 15 minutes of the worship time. These adults then join the un-programmed worship and the children join worship about 30 minutes later. As we move into 2003 we will look for ways to lengthen First Day School classes and the length of time of uninterrupted worship with the hope of deepening our life in the Spirit. We also continue to question the role that our current worship space plays in the depth of worship. The day care center in which we meet provides great space for our children but the worship space lacks quiet and freedom from distraction, and the acoustics make hearing messages difficult for those with any hearing loss.

We continue to heal from the break-up of three marriages which occurred several years ago. We are aware that there is still grieving to be done and forgiveness which must be nurtured if we are to move beyond those painful times. At the same time we are challenged to consider how we can nurture and support marriages and other interpersonal relationships and commitments. We struggle to discern when caring becomes meddling and to find ways to provide nurture within the resources of the Meeting.

We are challenged by our children and others to be more involved in the wider community and the community of other Friends Meetings. While we can celebrate the many of us who are active individually, the Meeting as a corporate body has not been a presence in local community issues like homelessness or in the national and international crises facing us such as the shadow of war in Iraq. In the coming year we will need to continue to struggle with our corporate witness and with discerning what, among the many concerns we care deeply about, we are called to spend our energies on.

Even amidst these challenges, we find much to celebrate. We have had several years of skilled leadership from our Presiding Co-Clerks. We have an active and dedicated Ministry and Counsel Committee serving to guide and nurture the life of the Meeting. We have wonderful teachers in our First Day School providing lessons and caring to the children of the Meeting. We now have an active Adult Education and Community Building Committee which has taken our concern for religious education for the adults of the community and has established a year-long study of the Peace Testimony. Many are finding this to be challenging and enriching.

In the Fall, our annual retreat at Camp Wilmot (in Wilmot NH) introduced us to emerging connections between Friends in New England and Friends in Kenya. Our children "caught fire". After studying Kenya and Friends' witness there, they worked to raise money for a primary school in the Kibera part of Nairobi being operated by Africa Quaker Vision. They took their concern and message to adults in Meeting, Dover (NH) Monthly Meeting and to All New Hampshire Friends Gathering. The children ultimately raised over $900 for school tuition assistance and $1300 for the school to purchase land to build a replacement school. As a result of the children's efforts, the adults in Meeting are more aware of Friends' work in the world and how to visit among Friends.

We celebrate our continued representation on the Concord Interfaith Council. We have made a qualitative impact on interfaith worship including securing a Moslem speaker for worship on the 9/11 anniversary. Our Meeting representative to the Council has brought back to Meeting local community concerns for our consideration.

Another accomplishment this year which we celebrate was the passage of a Minute welcoming all who chose to worship with us including people of gay or lesbian sexuality. We affirmed our willingness to celebrate same-gender unions as joyfully as traditional marriages. This required many months of tender threshing to reach a final sense of the Meeting. We continue to explore how we reach out to a diversity of people and welcome them into our community.

Most of all we celebrate the individuals who make up our Meeting community. We have a deep well of experience and callings. More adults this year have been involved in doing individual spiritual work which has contributed to a groundedness in our Meetings for Worship and in our lives with each other. The children, the elders, and each of the individuals in this community are contributing to the life and Spirit of the Meeting. By the grace of God we will continue to grow together in the life of the Spirit.