State of Society, 2014

State of Society, 2014
Concord Monthly Meeting, NEYM

State of Society has become for us a time of shared examination of our community and its life over the past year.

In Meeting for Worship, there is a rich and deep silence out of which one or two messages are given most First Days.  Some days one message seems to lead to deeper and deeper sharing from others, other times there are no other messages.  We find our space conducive to this deep reflection and shared sense of seeking.  We seek to go beyond messages from the head and deeper into the seed from which they spring to discover what message they bring to our heart.

We have tried other kinds of programs to help us deepen our shared spiritual community.  We have again held a Deepening Spiritual Practice Program, which is attractive to newcomers and others wishing to develop a more sustained spiritual practice.  We have started having a discussion on Fourth Sundays following a message from a QuakerSpeak video or other planned topic.  Our topics have focused on worship and what it means to be Quaker; they have been rich in sharing.

Our weekend long program on Mindful Mortality facilitated by a long-time member with a calling to this work was a powerful and deep sharing time.  We hope we have begun an annual tradition of retreating for a day of reflection; creating a safe space for sharing about deep questions is important to us.

A joyful challenge we have is welcoming several families with young children.  Our wonderful First Day School teachers provide joyful programming, while all enjoy the presence of children.  We recognize that phone calls to families are integral to their participation and that this ministry of calling is important to cultivate.  We wonder if the children are grown enough to join us for a longer time in worship, as all are an important part of our community.

In the fall, we heard about the opportunity to be in the pilot program for Outreach by New England Yearly Meeting.  We spent time discussing whether this was the right time to reach out more since we feel settled in the new building and ready to use it more.  More people are coming in, learning about us in various ways, often through our website, which our webclerk has developed into a resource about Quakerism (and which we seek to develop more in the future).  We have a display of brochures with a growing number of resources for newcomers.  Our application was accepted and we are excited about this opportunity to begin more effective outreach in 2015.  Although we are no longer located in Concord city limits, we are working actively to maintain that connection.

Our care of our membership concerns us deeply.  A long time elder passed away this fall.  She taught us much about the grace of aging and living with disability, lessons we learned in our hearts.  A new member leaving abruptly without group discernment leads us to questions of how to nurture and create a more beloved community.  We seek for ways to reach out to young adult Friends.  Several of us are very involved in the Quarter and Yearly meetings.  Though this takes us away at times from our own community, it also brings more resources into the community.

We have worked together on learning to manage our building.  Our property committee has been working diligently on improving the management of our heating system.  They also instituted community cleaning days on a regular basis in which many participate.

Our witness in the wider world is often individual or as part of another group.  As a meeting, we have agreed to sponsor a child at the Kakamega Orphanage in Kenya.  We have joined the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty as a Meeting and many members were active in this campaign.  We have active representation (and often leadership within) the Concord Interfaith Council and AFSC and Peace Action.  Finding time and words to witness together is hard but our Peace Social and Earth Care Concerns Committee worked to plan an All NH Friends Gathering in January of 2015 on energy issues and the environment to be focused on responding to climate change.

Yet we do not feel our presence as a Meeting is felt as prominently as it could in the wider community.  How can we come together as a group and make our witness known as we did in a letter published almost three years ago?  We did agree that adding our support to the local Housing First was a good approach to homelessness, but never found a way to make a public witness to this.

It has been a year of growing more at the edges of our faith.  We sing joyfully to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions.  Truly, many of us find that belonging to Concord Meeting has become central to our lives.  We seek to become a beloved spiritual community open to and reaching out to other seekers.