Valley Friends is moving to deepen our experience of Spirit and articulating what that means individually, and corporately as a community of Friends. This movement is unfolding gradually and continues from needs felt over the past some years.
As we speak together the same theme emerges over time: the tension between valuing openness as a community of seekers, and a need for clear expression of Friends practice and faith. A quality of our meeting that is valued particularly by some is what they see as a lack of definition – of orthodoxy- or creed. This allows many to feel welcome and free to discover for themselves what Spirit means and is in their lives. This quality is one of our strengths. At the same time we have Friends who feel a strong need for naming what Friends do believe and find experientially. We are concerned that in not speaking to what we know, believe or struggle with, we limit the potential power of the life amongst us. How do we come together from differing perspectives and strengthen one another’s journeys? We are making space for this dialogue through second hours.
Friends value the silence in worship, and speak of being ministered to by the depth of silence. Vocal ministry is regular and messages come which speak to our conditions. We seek to learn to be together more deeply in the silence, knowing that there we may be gathered together in the Spirit. We seek to learn to experience vocal ministry fully, both in receiving it with an open heart and in discerning our leadings to speak; that we may further the opening to Spirit, not disrupt it.
Friends in general feel welcomed in our community and feel it is a place for growth. We reach out to those in need of support and were mindful to visit those who could not attend. This year we reflected on wanting more ways to connect personally. Some have suffered losses through death and we have reached out in fellowship. A memorial celebration was meaningful.
We recognize that it is the individuals who support the life of the Spirit in our community and we are grateful. Many regularly serve with generosity and faithfulness on committees, with our young people, caring for the property, newsletter, web page, hospitality and countless other tasks.
Community was nurtured through our traditional celebrations, a meeting retreat and second hours. We continued to have a book group and a group focused on our spiritual journeys. A number of social activities also allowed for connection. A monthly newsletter and a web page help connect us further. Some speak to a longing for ways to know one another better and ask how can Meeting help with this and what is our personal responsibility?
RE continues regularly and we rejoice in a growing number of young ones and in the blossoming of the older young friends. The responsibility of teaching first day continues to be carried by a small group. Second hours were offered regularly on many topics. They were valued by those present but at times attendance was low. Second hour committee needs better support from Meeting in the orderly scheduling of offerings.
Work for peace, justice, equality and the earth continue to be expressed through our many individual lives. A number of Friends from our Meeting participated in activities of the wider Quaker world and a few serve on committees of BYM and FGC.
Addendum to State of Society report 2010 Valley Friends Meeting
Many particular activities and events served to enrich our lives, strengthen community and allow us to contribute to the larger world.
We were nourished by our traditional celebrations. We again gathered for our annual end of summer Corn Roast along the river. Friends met at one home for Memorial Day swimming and pot-luck and were welcomed to drop by any Friday for a swim. In December we held our Candlelight celebration followed by a play presented by the children.
Our newsletter was in able hands and kept us informed monthly of events in Meeting, the larger Quaker world and our community. It was enriched with quotes, articles, book reviews, pictures, and interviews of individuals in our meeting. Particularly towards the end of the year Meeting was asked to be better focused on submitting information.
Two groups continued to meet regularly: The Book Group which read Radical Acceptance and 40 Days Journey With Parker Palmer, and “A Circle of Trust” a group focused on support for one’s spiritual journey.
Smaller groups of Friends embarked on some special activities together: hikes, movies, and some small social gatherings. A Tuesday early morning coffee group ran for much of the year and then was ended.
Meeting made decisions to use and offer for sale environmentally friendly items.
We regularly contributed food items to “Patchwork Pantry” in this year of economic trouble. Some Friends supported another church in serving at the ‘HARTS’ winter shelter program.
First Day School and Young Friends: Meeting was able to offer time of study and reflection to the few older children. The number of younger children is increasing to our delight. They are growing with an engaging curriculum. Youth took part in Big Brother/Big Sister Bowling. Youth were part of all activities at the fall retreat. Meeting assisted one young person to attend Camp Opequeon.
Second hours were varied, valued and enjoyed. They touched on Friends Testimonies, Friends History and Practice. We responded to some of BYM’s proposed new Queries and Advices. There were presentations on social issues like Immigration and more. We note that they are not always as well attended as hoped and still are not clear why.
Peace and Social Concerns: Many individuals continue to work directly on issues of peace justice and the environment. Meeting members are taking part in the developing inter-faith discussion in Harrisonburg.
Meeting hosted several events-
- Felicity McCartney from Ireland Yearly Meeting came to talk about Peace and reconciliation efforts in Ireland. She co-edited “Quaker Peace Building Initiative in Northern Ireland.” We were pleased to be invited to co-host this with Rockingham Friends Conservative Meeting.
- Deborah Haines of Woodlawn Meeting from BYM came and met with Friends one second hour to learn about out Meeting and needs and to speak about BYM.
- Several Friends hosted a dinner honoring those attending the Summer Peace Building Institute and the Landmine Action Senior Managers.
- Meeting continues to offer space to several groups: two home school/play groups and a weekly Buddhist Meditation group.
Finance and Property put in much effort in working on the budget and caring for the building and grounds. Once again the budget was met only at the last month but we ended with some surplus. Regular ‘work days’ were held with carefully planned projects. Contractors were brought in to paint outer wood surfaces, cover the soffit and facia and install new gutters.
Meeting began to address the issue of difficulty hearing for those with limitations and a plan was put in place to assess the meeting room and look at sound panels.
Second Hour topics included:
- One Friends journey to the West Bank with “Keep Hope Alive” planting olive trees
- A presentation of the new book ‘Fit For Freedom, Not For Friendship’ Baltimore-area working group on racism –
- Multiple second hours on Friends practice and history, and Meeting for worship
- Multicultural Education in the ShenandoahValley
- A presentation on the – The Fairfield Center – (formerly Community Mediation Center)
- The current issues around Immigration