At Farmington Scipio Regional Meeting’s Fall Gathering earlier this month, participants were asked to reflect on three queries:
1) What has changed since we wrote our State of the Meeting reports, and what may need to be changed?
2) How do we recognize what is needed? Describe your sense of how Friends are called into community.
3) Are there practical steps you hope Friends will commit to?
Attenders were divided into small groups according to their Monthly Meeting affiliation, with those from smaller Meetings paired with those from larger Meetings. Some of you may have already had a chance to read the report of the discussion that ensued compiled by Melanie-Claire Mallison and posted to the Ithaca Monthly Meeting listserve. The report is included in its entirety below for those of you that have not yet seen it.
For many months now, I have been considering ways to provide a framework for some conversations that are important to the spiritual health of our community. Though interwoven, clarifying our beliefs and practices, re-envisioning our community structures, and weighing our current needs for inreach and outreach are items at the top of this list. The report from Fall Gathering lifted up many of these threads, and, I hope, will offer the larger Meeting means of continuing the conversation together.
At October’s Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business (October 11, 12:30pm via Zoom), Friends will have an opportunity for worship sharing regarding this report. We will set aside 20 minutes to re-read the report together and to offer ministry as to its contents. I highly recommend reading the report and giving it some time to season before joining us next week. Friends are also invited to share thoughts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In particular, please consider the following queries:
1) Do you feel the report captures the corporate experience of IMM at this time?
2) Where do you see the spirit moving in our Meeting or where have you seen it moving in the past?
3) What is missing from this report?
I look forward to our discussion.
Gina Varrichio, Clerk
Report to FSRM on the Reflections of the IMM Breakout Group
We were most inspired by the second query, “How do we recognize what is needed? Describe your sense of how Friends are called into community.”
In general, it is felt that Ithaca Monthly Meeting has lost its Spiritual foundation and call to work as a community within the Quaker testimony of Corporate Discernment. This is not related to the pandemic, but has been seen as a loss for more than a year. Instead, the Meeting feels like many individuals who come together to support each other’s individual leadings and gifts, and individual work. We long for more community leadings grounded in the Divine Presence, where the Light of each person is seen and acknowledged and loved, but corporate discernment is also honored and the vitality of the Meeting of a whole is addressed.
We have a sense of “dryness” spiritually, of being somehow stuck.
What seems to be missing is the Divine Presence and guidance. We can and DO much in the realm of social activism, but without surrendering to the Presence of God, our work does not come from a corporate foundation of Spirit, Light, and Peace.
An example of how Spirit DOES work within us is the time and intellectual energy put into deciding how outside group might be allowed to use our Meetinghouse and how much we would charge for that use, and when the report was given at Meeting for Business, Spirit moved us to toss out the report and minute that all are welcome to use the Meetinghouse for free.
To further the feeling of individuals gathering, some who are returning to the Meeting or are new to the Meeting find it hard to get to know folks and get to be known. They feel welcomed! But perhaps, not included.
Even so, Ithaca Monthly Meeting feels like a loving and beloved space. Even those who have created some trouble (and you know who you are), still feel loved and listened to and supported.
So our gifts do not always apply to the Meeting as a whole and to the world beyond our meetinghouse steps. Gifts may need to shift and grow, ergo, to rise up to corporate and community needs.
And again, those gifts must seek a Spiritual grounding. Not just come from a sense of social responsibility or “trending concern” but deepen and seek a Spiritual emphasis and foundation for the work.
We must see and seek with Spiritual eyes.
One gift is our gift of numbers. We are a large meeting, which shows our vitality and community nourishment. Our ability to work together, to meet together, to show up, in large numbers, is a GIFT many Meetings do not have.
But. Big numbers also means lots of concerns and tasks, and we now meet in so many ways due to the pandemic, we are even more separated, so the tasks even more become the focus of the work – bringing us back again to the theme of a longing to once again be spiritually grounded, living from Light and Love.