Our community encountered significant challenges in 2008: a move, ongoing discussion of unresolved issues, and several deaths. It has been a good year, yet at times our Meeting sometimes has fallen fall short in responding to our individual and collective spiritual, emotional, and physical welfare. In this awareness of our shortcomings we are humbled.
For our long-awaited meetinghouse renovation, we successfully moved to a temporary location at Sidwell Friends School in September. This move was thoughtfully prepared for and overseen, with care taken for the First Day School, the safekeeping of the Meeting’s belongings, travel instructions and practice runs for attendees from our various geographic locations, and a new relationship with the hosts of our temporary quarters, the Sidwell Friends School community.
The presidential campaign this past year brought a promise of hope and positive change that engaged many of us. Weekly vigils at the U.S. Capitol for peace and a monthly vigil at the CIA against torture were ongoing public expressions of our testimonies as Friends. In these actions, participants often spoke of the constant inspiration of former members Tom Fox and David Boynton, both recently deceased but with us in spirit.
Our finances remained stable in spite of extremely difficult conditions in the economy at large. Through wise stewardship of funds and tender facilitation of gift giving motivated by monthly reports to our Meeting that were free of pressure and competitiveness, our increased financial obligations were fully and carefully addressed.
To prepare this report after the end of the year, we met in small worship-sharing groups to address the three sets of queries in Faith and Practice and assess our experience as a spiritual community. This process deeply enhanced our consciousness of the Light working among us during 2008.
Meetings for Worship: Many appreciated the way we transitioned to our new location. However, we remain concerned about the best way to integrate our children into the first half of our meetings for worship, and we continue to address this in dialogues between the Religious Education and Ministry and Worship Committees. Another ongoing concern is our shared desire for meetings for worship to be held “in expectant waiting for Divine Guidance.” Do we adequately distinguish thoughtful ruminations from messages that the Spirit truly means us to share with one another? How “expectant waiting” is interpreted and experienced varies among us. Late-coming to meetings for worship continued to be a concern for some of us. Do we prepare ourselves for worship by traveling to meeting without hurry and in a preparatory state of silence? We also asked ourselves whether we look for the good in each message and listen free of judgment.
Meetings for Business: We felt grateful that we had largely handled delays in the renovation with forbearance and good humor. We share satisfaction with our corporate participation in the processes of packing and moving. For the question about right relationship with Friends United Meeting, we were able to engage the relevant questions thoughtfully and deeply without the urgency that could have made us impatient with the often deliberate movement of the Spirit. We did not risk our respectful and loving care for one another. We recalled the useful contextual information and threshing sessions and our consideration of a proposal drafted and brought to Meeting for Business by a small subgroup . We duly reported to the Yearly Meeting our inability to arrive at unity on this issue; and we have not yet re-visited it as we said we would. We strongly wish to listen to all points of view on this complex issue and hold them lovingly in the Light.
Our Community: There was, in general, a lively expression of many interests and concerns. Among these was our intensive support for five Iraqi refugee families who needed sustained legal, economic, and social assistance in becoming resettled in our area; many members of our Meeting became deeply involved in this work. Our small Working Group on Racism inspired two of our members to travel to Kenya to meet with Friends there, with our Meeting’s active blessing. The Social Concerns and Peace and International Outreach Committees supported those who wished to participate in spirit-filled vigils and community service projects. The Fellowship and House & Grounds Committees adapted creatively to the move, putting in long hot hours sorting, disposing, and packing. The Care and Clearness Committee continued to welcome new members and nurture the rest of us. The Religious Education Committee valiantly moved to new classrooms and also conducted deep intergenerational worship-sharing on fifth First Days. Religious education has become a foundation stone for our community. One Friend requested a small midweek meeting for worship at his home – and this has proven deeply fruitful for all involved. Some members of our community chose not to attend meeting or First Day School during our sojourn at Sidwell – we are hoping they return once we are resettled in Virginia. During the year, we lost two members of our community to death, Fred Koomanoff and Virginia Colin’s son, David Barge. These losses brought us together tenderly in celebration of the Light received from their lives.
We close with a summary of the past year from our Young Friends: For both Langley Hill Young Friends and the world community as a whole, 2008 was a year of change. In the midst of economic turmoil and a dramatic election year, our Meeting experienced a new locale and atmosphere for our worship when we moved from our soon-to-be renovated meetinghouse to Sidwell Friends School. With this shift came a feeling of uncertainty coupled with excitement about a new range of possibilities in our new location. This change has had a significant impact on both our role in the monthly meeting as well as the global community and has caused us to reconsider what we can do in support of the development of our faith and activism. Acting on these feelings, we endeavored to widen our participation in charitable activities, such as a visit to So Others Might Eat and community building through fellowship activities. Overall, the spiritual state of our Meeting reflects a feeling of fellowship, activism, and optimism for the future.