ACTION and CONNECTION
In 2009, Herndon Friends continued their individual and community spiritual journeys. Our membership roll now totals 80, and 50 to 60 members and attenders gather each First Day. At a Worship Sharing Service on 3/7/2010 Friends reflected on the current state of our journeys, dwelling on two themes: connection and action. In coming together for worship and other meeting activities, we draw inspiration and strength to take our faith into community action.
2009 was a challenging year for many Herndon Friends. We sustained the loss of loved ones, difficult financial times and job worries. The meeting remains a central source of strength in dealing with these difficulties.
What supports the growth of the spirit in our lives is the time we gather together on First Day Mornings, to sit in silence and listen. As we share the journey with one another the spirit grows and we are able to leave being refreshed on a deep level. Meeting provides a fresh start. The “moment of silence”, now recognized in our public schools as an appropriate opportunity for a diverse community to acknowledge a shared appreciation of the importance of something larger than ourselves, may not be a Quaker invention, but it fits closely with our beliefs.
Yet, the vocal ministry, which we conceive as a cornerstone of Quaker practice, is in large part an individual discipline. Although it comes from within the gathered meeting, it is the individual’s discernment of the Great Voice that is spoken. Without a creed to recite or a clergy to direct us, we seek other ways to reinforce our mutual connections.
We gather before meeting to sing, sharing our musical and spiritual aspirations. We recognize that we sound better when we sing together. Our practice of sharing joys and sorrows at close of meeting provides another opportunity to be there for each other starting with the most basic knowledge of what our Friends are enduring or celebrating. That sharing is extended in after meeting meals together once a month and weekly coffee and refreshments supported by the Hospitality Committee.
The spiritual search is pursued in other forums as well: in Sacred Chant sessions, in Friendly Eights discussions, in adult education classes, in readings from the pamphlets of Pendle Hill, and in the pastoral work of our Ministry and Oversight Committee. We connect with the wider world of Friends at Baltimore Yearly Meeting and the BYM’s Women’s Retreat.
The spiritual search leads to and blends seamlessly with action. At the most basic level, the meeting requires maintenance. We joke about the “ministry of the vacuum cleaner” and the “ministry of the donuts”, but in a real sense, the shared work of the care of the meeting house involves all Friends. Whether it be just rearranging the chairs for Pot Luck, tending to the Spring and Fall Meetinghouse Clean Up Days, or doing a major cabinet installation our work together reminds us that Herndon Friends Meeting is not a place we go on Sunday Morning, but a thing we do, a part of what we are.
A major part of the work of meeting is the First Day School Program. The First Day school program helps guide our young people, giving them the history they need to know where we have been as Quakers and where we are now. It fortifies them against constant cultural bombardment and teaches them the skills to center down. Drawing from the Pendle Hill program on Faith in Play, our teachers for the youngest class started a new curriculum for the Little Friends class; responding to the needs of our teenagers, the Young Friends class has also adopted new strategies for outreach.
Action extends beyond the meeting through the work of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee. It is the spirit of the gathered meeting that drives us forward in support of the social justice programs: Someone has to make the sandwiches for the homeless shelter. It takes a lot of community work to get the spring rummage sale organized but it is important in funding the Northern Virginia Peace Awards Program. The growing Peace Awards Program has brought us together with other faith communities who share our understanding of the importance of promoting peace and not just hoping for it. The spiritual energy of that collaboration leads us to expand our efforts further evidenced by our support for a Unitarian Universalist program on non violence, and our participation with the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
The state of Herndon Friends is not static, because the essence of the work of the spirit at Herndon Friends is in growth, and the emphasis is on the spiritual journey. We are surrounded by people who see the world very differently from us. Rather than avoid or reject those people, we have learned it is better to be out in the world, and to bring some of what being Quaker means into the world. Like a tree that takesCO2 out of the air and puts oxygen into it, we Quakers can act as a filter for the world.