State of Society, 2015

State of Society, 2015

Concord Monthly Meeting, NEYM

Concord Friends Meeting in 2015 remained smaller than we might wish but is also vibrant and growing.  Growth has been slow in numbers but spiritually we feel our growth has been nourished and nourishing due to both inreach and outreach activities undertaken in this year.  There have been several new attenders and some have become regular participants of our Meetings for Worship.  Some Friends that we hadn't seen often over a number of years came more often.  To our joy, some attenders were welcomed into membership as well.  Unfortunately, one family that we enthusiastically welcomed were then called away from us by an exciting employment opportunity far away.  We do know that they will return to visit us often and felt comfortable in adding them and keeping them on our membership rolls until they find a new spiritual home that can be as enriching (and enriched) as was true for them and us at Concord Meeting.  It is a weakness but also a strength that our size helps us to come to know each other as a close spiritual family but we feel such loss keenly.

The family that moved away had expanded our regular First Day School attendance substantially which had been gratifying to our well prepared youth education leaders.  We struggle still with maintaining our high quality of spiritual foundation building for children due to inconsistent attendance of children on Sunday mornings.  Even so, parents know that when they can come, their children are safe and respected and loved; it feels homey.  And the regular Meeting for Worship clearly enjoys the ministry of the children's presence when they join us for the last several minutes of gathered worship time on Sundays. In an effort to reach out to families not yet coming to Meeting who share our values, we offered first Sunday discussion groups for parents for four months; the topics were Conflict Resolution, Appropriate Risk Taking for Children, and Talking About Race with Your Children, and we had a celebratory brunch for parents the fourth month.

We have been active in Outreach in other ways, largely through dedicated efforts of our Outreach committee.  Many outreach events were fun and have strengthened our community by the sharing and fellowship provided.  We had a booth at the local Canterbury Fair, providing fun children's activities while many adults stopped and talked to members staffing the table. We organized a wonderful “Rise Again” concert at another venue and began holding follow-up monthly Song Circles at the Meetinghouse.  We had a screening of a movie on racism (“Dear White People”) and hosted a showing of a NH produced documentary on the challenges African American teens and their families face as they assimilate to our culture; this was well attended by many people from the wider community.

One long term member has again led a Deepening Spiritual Practice group that has helped some members and attenders develop a consistent spiritual practice and keep that going.  This seminar has led to an increased presence of attenders at Meeting for Worship as well as being helpful in development of new habits of mindfulness in daily life for those who participated.  This and other activities held on many Fourth Sundays are helping Meeting stay in alignment with the practices of simplicity and moderation and loving-kindness.  They also contribute to the good balance we experience in Meeting for Worship of waiting silence and spoken ministry; First Day worship often feels ‘covered’.  Both in and out of worship, expressions of steadfast loving-kindness are moving and inspiring and instructive.  We want to spend more time together discussing readings of relevant literature as a further way to nourish spiritual practice.

We believe we have grown to be more consistently attentive in our efforts at Hospitality, but we are aware that we may still be somewhat wanting in this area.  We do sense that new attenders feel welcomed and appreciated.  We feel that we are welcoming, but need to work harder on how to reach out and sustain attenders' interest after they have visited our Meeting for Worship.

One member with a leading began a monthly midweek Quaker worship group at the state's prison for men under care of Ministry and Counsel.  This is a follow-on to consistent support for a prisoner there by other Meeting members and seems to be valuable and appreciated though it has not yet attracted more participants.  Another member of our Ministry and Counsel led a Quaker Basics Study Group that was quite meaningful to those who attended; an attender has now joined the Meeting.  Ministry and Counsel meets regularly and has been active in its work to strengthen the Meeting both individually and corporately.  Some of these and other efforts at outward and inward ministry felt incomplete and we know they reflect important concerns that we need to continue to raise up in future.

In some ways, we have found ourselves struggling with how to do outward witness as a Meeting. Our Peace, Social and Earth Care Concerns committee has been inactive because those named to the committee felt the need to put their time into other activities.  After a Fourth Sunday discussion on Outward Witness, no sense of a need to revive the committee was felt.  It is noted that many members and attenders give visible witness towards remedying societal ills and regularly share their concerns with the Meeting as a whole.  It has been a year in which many have participated in vigils at the State Legislature supporting better health care access for the less financially well-off in our state.  These were organized with Quakers and others forming an organized presence as “Voices of Faith”; members also actively testified on this and other issues.  Some also gave expression to Quaker values working with NH American Friends Service Committee on its “Governing Under the Influence” project that brought increased visibility to issues of military expenditures and injustice related to immigration and prison policies. Other members continued being active in the move to abolish the death penalty and in volunteering at the local homeless shelter.

Our Meetinghouse space is now five years old and feels like home.  The building is not as much of a burden as many had feared because of good design, bi-monthly work periods organized by Property Committee, and the dedication of a few to being sure that various details are not lost sight of in between meetings of the Property Committee and those organized work periods.  Quarterly Property Committee meetings have addressed most needs, although one member does a lot of the care of the meetinghouse which we need to be aware could lead to problems in future if their ability to do that declines.

We know that Concord Meeting remains a vital part of the larger community and an important spiritual community that can endure for many years to come.  One concern is that the average age of active participants in the work required to sustain a Monthly Meeting has been getting higher.  We believe that our continued loving work to support the involvement of young people, especially those with children, will eventually pay dividends in their lives that will allow them to begin assuming leadership in the coming years.  We remain steadfast in God's grace and love in times that often seem challenging and dark in the affairs of the wider world.