During 2010, the Mattaponi Friends Preparative Meeting changed its meeting schedule from every first and third Sunday of each month to every Sunday. First Sunday is spent with Meeting for Worship first hour and Meeting for Business second hour; third Sunday is spent with Meeting for Worship first hour and Meeting for Discussion second hour, followed by a potluck social lunch; on second, fourth, and fifth Sundays, only Meeting for Worship is observed. Meeting for Worship begins with 10-15 minutes of group singing followed by silent meeting for the rest of the hour. Fifth Sundays are sometimes used as a time for social gatherings or committee meetings.
In 2010, the Mattaponi Friends Preparative Meeting enjoyed the regular support of six families, couples, individuals with additional support and the occasional attendance of member and attender Friends. Some Young Friends continue to join us occasionally in Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Business. Early this year (2011) some new very young friends joined us (with their parents), and we are enjoying this “renewed” dimension to our meeting.
One of our initiatives during 2010 was to learn more about Islam and to reach out to our Muslim neighbors. We progressed in this initiative by hosting Professor John Williams from the College of William and Mary in a discussion on Islam and, in February 2011, visiting the Hampton Mosque, where Dr. Ahmed Noor presented on Islam, answered questions, and gave us a tour of the mosque. Dr. and Mrs. Noor were very welcoming and invited us back for Friday services and Saturday afternoon adult education class.
Our outreach efforts for 2010 also included a sea grass planting on the shore of the James River in Williamsburg in the spring, support of Katie Maloney’s summer work with No More Deaths in the southwest, and Thanksgiving and Christmas donations to the local food pantry at Proporone Baptist Church.
Queries: How does the Spirit prosper among us? How does your meeting ensure that ministry is nurtured and that members and attenders feel valued and cared for? What supports the life of the Spirit in your meeting community? What challenges and troubles are you facing? In what ways is the meeting less than you would wish it to be? How is the presence of Spirit manifested in your lives individually and as a meeting community?
Meeting provides a place where we can share the spirit within and a place where we can make ourselves available to the light and then make changes accordingly, the silence and witness part of Quakerism. Friends like the option for after-thoughts after each silent meeting. It allows for people to speak “that voice” outside of the silence.
Spirit moving among us is often felt in the full and vibrant silence that can characterize a meeting. Our communal silence can be a very powerful stillness. One friend noted that characterizing her meditation as expectant waiting on the light gave her practice a more powerful and richer feeling/experience. Another friend observed that the way we in meeting help each other nurture spirit in our personal lives affects how we relate to the larger community. Meeting is a place where the week before is given closure and the week ahead is supported. Meeting is a place where friends can feel grounded and bring their lives into focus. Friends observed that meeting on a farm enriches their worship experience.
Friends employ the following spiritual practices during silent meeting as well as outside of it: reading material of a spiritual nature, prayer, gratitude for blessings, meditation, personal search for promoting and nurturing peace, spending time in nature as means of renewal and inspiration, and nurturing gladness.
Outside of meeting, at least one friend finds it rewarding to tell people that he is a Quaker and to provoke questions about Quakerism. Some others are more tentative about sharing, unsure about reactions or not wanting to proselytize.
We have wanted to publicize our meeting to make others more aware of our existence and have recently done so in the local newspaper. We are also redoing our signage to provide the local community with accurate meeting times. We have found witness and outreach through the beach grass project, our exploration into Islam with John Williams and Sabreen Shakir, Katie’s experience with No More Deaths, and the local food pantry. We are doing more and we have grown more.
Overseeing Paul and Jenny’s wedding resulted in positive consequences not only for Paul and Jenny but for meeting as well. Good process for Paul and Jenny as a couple. Also the Quaker wedding made guests aware of Quakerism and what it is. The wedding provided a way of practicing our faith among folks who were not familiar with Quakerism. We would like to do more in the community and be more visible.
Our attendance has changed and grown over the past year, but our meeting remains open and nonjudgmental enhancing the capacity to experience the spirit. The recent addition of young children back in our midst after many years is both refreshing and challenging. We are also challenged by the distant locations of our members and sometimes by our small size, though getting big could change the character of our meeting. Additional challenges include time for adult education and for recreation together. The new schedule of meeting every Sunday seems nurturing and comfortable and is not presenting any challenges. It is important that Friends feel that it is their meeting and that the Maloneys don’t have to be in attendance or in charge even though the meetinghouse is on their property. Could be a challenge but doesn’t seem to be.
We started as a worship group focused more inwardly; we’ve grown more enthusiastic for more of a presence in the community.