In a recent worship sharing for the contemplation of the Spiritual State of Herndon Friends Meeting (HFM), members and attenders expressed appreciation of the spiritual growth we have shared in the past year. In fact, we noted that HFM has experienced a confirmation of continuity, with a second generation of members – the children of Friends who started this meeting – now taking leadership positions. One Friend suggested this transition should reassure us that HFM will remain strong long into the future. A young Friend spoke eloquently of this sense of growth, noting that she is glad to attend First Day School classes and have the opportunity to “move up” in them. Other Friends noted that a willingness to serve remains central to the sense of this Meeting’s health, including opportunities both within and beyond our community. Others focused on the importance of witnessing our collective spiritual journey, through our simple presence and our engagement in activities, through our silence and our spoken messages.
Young Friends spoke about the richness of First Day School in teaching them about the Bible and about Jesus. Older Friends discussed the importance of Meeting for Worship in accepting the diversity of religious perspectives, even allowing considerable room for doubt. Parents noted the joy of watching their children learn to find a spiritual home at HFM, gaining comfort among the Friends of this community. That point echoed across generations, and a returning attender said this Meeting has provided “the place he needed to be” after a life changing event. He appreciated the rich experience of being among Friends, and the opportunity to share that with his wife and son. Two challenges to this growth were mentioned, including a sense that our vocal ministry sometimes feels more like a worship sharing than a Meeting for Worship because of the frequency with which the same people speak week to week. A second concern focused on our ability to conduct the meeting’s business in a spirit of worship, suggesting that as a young meeting we lack clarity on our Quaker process. Adult discussion groups before meeting and Friendly Eights groups that meet at other times provided many opportunities to learn from each other and develop our gifts of ministry.
While we sometimes struggle in our collective spiritual journey, we bring an abundance of love, goodwill, and a strong willingness to serve – both within HFM and in the larger community. Meeting offers all of us opportunities to give in ways that are meaningful to each of us, and those experiences clearly enrich us. One person spoke of gratefulness to Friends who give in areas she does not feel called to participate, and another described how her work as a First Day School teacher has deepened her preparedness for and appreciation of Meeting for Worship. For many, the opportunity to serve within the meeting focused this year on supporting one member who was going through a major life crisis.
The Religious Education committee coordinated four classes for children from infancy through grade 12. The infants and toddlers focused on learning to share toys and to help clean up after play. Curriculum for preschool and kindergarten children included a story with a message and often craft and play time. The elementary class focused on Quakerism in the spring and the Old Testament in the fall. The older students had Bible study and discussed living Quaker beliefs in modern times, group problem solving, and documenting conscientious objector status. They also visited two other Friends Meetings. During the summer, the committee recruited adults of the Meeting to provide fun activities each week for all age groups
The Peace and Social Concerns committee created a partnership with five other faith communities to sponsor a Peace Award in eight Northern Virginia high schools; we plan to expand to more schools next year. The Peace Award is funded by our annual garage sale, which has the added advantage of recycling items from those who do not want them to those who do. We continued our annual plant exchange, our bike collection for Bikes for the World, our sale of ornaments to buy health insurance policies for children of the working poor, and our participation in Works Sunday, an interfaith effort to promote charitable work in our community.. We started collecting food on a weekly basis to take to the food pantry. We sell fair trade coffee and tea, recycle batteries, and collect burned out CFL light bulbs to take to the hazardous waste disposal site.
We noted the difference between “witnessing” and merely “seeing or hearing,” saying that sometimes we witness through our simple presence in this community. The shared expectation that we have during Meeting for Worship means that while every word of every message may not speak to us, and while sometimes the most dramatic and profound meetings include no spoken messages at all, we collectively keep the faith that this practice will continue to gather and refresh us. This year, we witness a spiritual “moving up” at Herndon Friends Meeting, through the many facets of our life in this community, including times of doubt and collective struggle for discernment.
Four attenders became members in 2008. Our First Day school space continues to be a challenge. We continue to contribute to our building fund to give us the option of possibly moving into a bigger space in the future. Attendance at Meeting for Worship averaged around fifty or sixty for the first fifteen minutes and thirty or forty after the First Day School classes move next door. Attendance at Meeting for Business has been around fifteen, a number bolstered by having the children simultaneously assemble bag lunches for the homeless shelter while their parents attend Meeting for Business.