State of Society, 2016

State of Society, 2016

Concord (NH) Monthly Meeting of Friends

This year, Concord Friends used seven queries to focus our reflections on the state of our meeting over the past year.

  • For what are we grateful?
  • What gifts of grace have we experienced last year?
  • Where could we, as a meeting, have been more open to each other and our wider community?
  • What unfed hungers do we feel in our community life?
  • How is our meeting being led to do the work of the Spirit?
  • What form of outreach did we engage in?
  • What structural changes might we consider?

We are grateful for our open spiritual community and the grounding it offers: a sense of belonging, a sense of safety and security, a sense of home, a safe place to seek and explore questions regardless of where we have been … or end up.  We are grateful for the attitude expressed within our Meeting of accepting people where they are, whatever our ‘spiritual age’.  We are grateful and delighted for the presence of our children when they come, and for the presence of people under forty.

We have been gifted with our reaching outside our Meeting community to the wider communities of Canterbury, Concord, Boscawen, and beyond.  We have been continually looking for ways to draw in new attenders: offering ways to learn about us outside of First Days, inviting attenders to homes, sending a welcoming e-mail to newcomers, and offering ‘Quaker Basics’ study groups.  As a small group, we need to be wise about what we choose to do with our energies by asking ourselves ‘What energizes or enlivens us as a meeting?’  We are thinking of ways to expand outreach beyond our booth at Canterbury Fair to Concord’s Market Days.  And how about placing lawn signs on the highway to let others know “We’re here!”? … or suggesting to Arnie and Maggie of the AFSC’s New Hampshire Program to let others know about Friends Meetings in New Hampshire?

Our Meeting does the work of the Spirit ‘by being here for me’, as one Friend put it. Many Friends take their faith into action in the world in many ways, such as the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program, Granite State Organizing Project, New Hampshire Voices of Faith, and New Hampshire Peace Action.  Some in our Meeting wish to make corporate statements and take corporate action in the world as a living expression of our values as they apply to current issues of concern.  We cherish meeting for worship not as an end in itself, but also to learn how to be in the world and not of the world (Romans 12:2).  Although the Meeting as a whole still lacks clarity with regard to displaying a “Black Lives Matter” sign in front of our meetinghouse, our discussion has led to ongoing discernment.  We have started to explore the issue of white privilege and what we can do as a meeting.

We have been graced by the gifts of the Solar Committee to find ways to share the energy gift of a southern exposure of our meetinghouse roof with others.  The Solar Committee has been working working hard not only to decrease our own carbon footprint, but with the help of a grant from New England Yearly Meeting, they have also been working to create a model for other non-profits in New Hampshire to follow.

We have been actively reaching out to our surrounding communities with a monthly song circle; a booth at Canterbury Fair in July; announcements in the Concord Monitor and the Canterbury newsletter; a program by Peterson Toscano that reached out to local schools; making our meetinghouse available to groups that promote our values and testimonies; two programs, including one with the local Burundi community, with a pastor from Burundi who works on restorative justice.  We also continue outreach via our website at

We have also been considering ideas for changes in structure by creating ad hoc ‘task groups’ for faith-based responses to public issues as well as work within the Meeting.  We restructured in this way when we laid down our Hospitality Committee in favor of task-oriented Hosting roles.

Looking back at this past year of political turmoil, we need to remain welcoming to all, not only those who have political beliefs similar to our own.  We are challenged by the guidance in Britain Yearly Meeting’s Advices & Queries No 17.

“Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? …  Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you.  Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language.  Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue.  Think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

One Friend was reminded of Tony Campolo’s metaphor: “Mixing politics and religion is like mixing ice cream and manure; it doesn’t affect the manure much, but it really messes up the ice cream.”

Each year, we are grateful for the opportunity that preparing the State of Society report offers us – to reflect not only on what we’ve done (or not), but what we aspire to do.