Spiritual State of the Meeting Report – 2009

Coming to meeting makes me feel whole, not fragmented.
The Spirit is manifested at the moment I enter the Meeting House
and am greeted by the silence.

This was a challenging year for Langley Hill Friends Meeting. Much of the year we met at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, while our meeting house in McLean, Virginia, underwent a renovation. This sojourn had both positive and negative sides. On the up side, we received support from various Quaker bodies in the area, most notably Sidwell Friends itself, which served as a gracious and flexible host. On the down side, many in the Meeting found the change in location kept them away, and attendance declined during this time. Since our return, the number of adults has returned to previous levels, but for a variety of reasons First Day School attendance remains at about half what it was before the renovation. In all, there has been collective joy upon returning to our “spiritual home.”

Using the queries provided by the Yearly Meeting, we seek to describe our current spiritual state. How does the Spirit prosper among us? The Holy Spirit is strongly with us and strongly felt in our community as we adjust back to the physical environment that is both familiar – and yet improved. We feel the Spirit clearly residing in our worship, our business meetings, and our committee work. This Divine manifestation requires the attention of each of us and also provides a means for group discernment. And our Young Friends seem enlarged in Spirit. They comment that messages stay with them not just during Meeting but in the week following.

Some people express apprehension about clerking committees and taking on other leadership roles – but they succeed even so, bolstered by the supportive community spirit. Our committees are largely thriving (in the past it has sometimes been more of a struggle keeping things going). This seems to us another sign of our spiritual health and commitment this past year – especially during our sojourn away. We all rejoice in appreciation for the work of those who have made our renovation possible, while leaving the meeting room largely unchanged.

What supports the growth of the Spirit in our lives? The Spiritual energy of the Meeting is expressed as a strong sense of caring for our community, weaving us together as it does our children at Quaker summer camps. We relish our silent worship and rich vocal ministry together, but the Spirit is more than this. Our First Day School program is strongly grounded in the deep spiritual commitment of the committee, the teachers, and even the growing perception of spiritual life among our children. Lateness to Meeting is a chronic problem among us, so a small group intentionally now comes early so that the meeting room is settled into worship well before the appointed hour even begins. This enriches us all.

Fellowship is also part of the explanation. So, too, is worship-sharing and Spiritual Formation, committee work, small midweek meetings, and even hardship. This past year we also experimented with a series of speakers to enrich the Meeting as a learning environment. Coordinated by the Ministry and Worship Committee, these monthly sessions explored Quaker history, world affairs, national Friends organizations, ministry skills, and individual spiritual journeys. Many of the speakers inspired participants to feel more deeply what it means to be a Friend.

How is the presence of the Spirit manifested in our lives individually and in the Meeting community? A number of community activities spring from and are sustained by deep spiritual leadings and commitments among the members of our community. We continue to attend the weekly “Seek Peace and Pursue It” vigil on Saturdays at the United States Capitol. After several years of Sunday vigils at the nearby Central Intelligence Agency against the use of torture, we suspended this witness after deep discernment by the sponsoring committee. As a community, we consider any peace vigiling that we do together as a sign of our spiritual wholeness and activeness.

Together, we have also committed to assisting dozens of peace and social justice groups with monetary gifts. The bonds created through these gifts often lead to deepened awakenings, communications links, and surprising spiritual openings – rooted in trust, solidarity, and love. Such gifts are the product of a spiritual process: familiarization, discernment, and lasting commitment. The value of such gifts is often modest and symbolic when compared to the full needs of the beneficiaries and the budgets of these organizations. However, the spiritual connections are often of great significance to both us and our partners.

How do we recognize the Spirit? The presence of the Spirit may not appear in a bright flash, but it occurs in the subtle ways of serving people humbly. One Friend shared that the Spirit is manifest when we have intergenerational worship and children rise to share a message. Another noted that Spirit is present in Quaker process, in particular, with attentive listening. When every voice is listened to and given respectful review, including opposing points of view, decision-making can be a mystical experience and is strengthened by a diversity of views and deep corporate listening. We seek constantly to grow in community and in the Spirit beyond our present horizons.

Statement by Langley Hill Young Friends: We have also felt the challenges of transition. We used the opportunity of a new space and spiritual environment to become closer in fellowship. Through activities to raise awareness for Right Sharing of World Resources we foster our Quaker values. While interacting with other religious groups, we have gained a greater personal understanding of Quaker spirituality through sharing ideas and spiritual onvictions. In an effort to create a greater community among ourselves, we have reached out to ther meetings. “Our tight community makes our spirit stronger.”

The Spirit is manifest in subtle yet profound ways,
in our messages,
when we listen carefully to each other,
when we share silence,
when we express gentleness,
and when we seek love.

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