2005 has been a year of integration and increased activity. Our now medium-sized meeting is addressing the need — spiritual and physical — of its growing community. Attendance at Meeting for worship varies from 20-50 each Sunday. In addition, we experienced the joys and challenges of being the host site for Friends General Conference (FGC) in July, 2005. We were honored as a community to have been part of the process that brought “Eyes Wide Open” to rural Southwest Virginia as part of FGC.
Our meeting has maintained its healthy attendance and we have several new Members as well as attenders. Our newly formed committee structure is in place and is serving the Meeting in a more predictable way.
We are meeting the challenge of the physical needs of our growing meeting. In the fall, the Meeting was provided with a challenge to pay off the mortgage on our Meetinghouse property that had been purchased the previous year. We met the generous challenge and paid off the mortgage in December and joined in celebration at the home of long-time members. The Meetinghouse Committee has worked hard this past year and our special use permit to develop the land has been approved by the town, we have had several work parties to clear brush and plant trees, and plans for a driveway and picnic shelter are underway. Members held a land blessing in May to honor the sanctity of the land with approximately thirty adults and children in attendance.
We continue with our religious education efforts with both First Day School and the monthly adult education program. The Religious Education Committee made significant efforts to provide a teaching information packet to encourage more members of meeting to consider teaching First Day School. Attendance at First Day School has been steady and included approximately 15 children ages five through high school. We continue to provide child care services for our youngest attenders, enabling the parents of young children the opportunity to attend Adult Education, and Meeting for Business as well as Meeting for Worship. Once again, we celebrated the advent season with a Waldorf-inspired candle lighting ceremony. With a much-simplified ceremony, we enjoyed a truly unique experience of being in community with song, transformation, food, and conversation that spanned all generations. The adult education program included programs that reflected both the spiritual needs of the meeting as well as those reflecting a social consciousness. Adult Education invited Members who had attended workshops at FGC to share their experiences with the larger meeting. Attendance at adult education varied from approximately five to twenty-five.
The Hospitality and Outreach committee has been challenged to meet its goal of four outreach projects — one in each of four categories: local need, feeding the hungry, peace and social justice, and AFSC relief effort. One additional project was the creation of a much-needed directory of our growing number of Members and attenders.
Our Meetings for Worship are occasionally silent although Friends seem increasingly comfortable sharing messages in Meeting. Many people find the silence to be spiritually nourishing.
Our Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business have not been silent. They have been well attended, and full of ideas.
We have created opportunities for our community to meet outside of meeting. We now have a Women’s group as well as a Youth group that meet monthly.
Our Adult Education program has responded to the growth in the meeting with an educational meeting on the worship sharing process. In addition, we have purchased materials for a Quakerism 101 experience to begin in 2006. Interest in the program has been almost universal throughout the meeting and includes our high school age youth. In response to last year’s concern that the Meeting seek a balance between an internal focus and an external focus on issues of importance locally, nationally, and globally, our peace and social justice committee works to bring issues of special importance to our attention, but it has been difficult to encapsulate and prioritize from all of the issues which are of critical importance. We continue our efforts to include peace and social justice activities into other activities, such as religious education topics. We continue to struggle with this balance and acknowledge that the different life stages of our diverse community positions each of us differently.
Additional activities include an “Alternatives to the Draft” project, of special interest to many in our community.
Finally, it is important to acknowledge the experience of having FGC here this past summer. As a Meeting, we worked together on a range of tasks from participating on the planning committee, collecting needed supplies, providing local arrangement support, staffing the nursing station, leading tours, providing housing, facilitating activities, and myriad other tasks. We found the workshops and FGC experience as well as the heightened experience of being in community nourishing.
We move into the next year looking forward to both the challenges and opportunities that it may bring. We welcome visitors, and have experienced an increasing number of visitors from neighboring states as well as locally.