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State of the Meeting Report 2010

State of the Santa Fe Friends Meeting

April 4, 2010

 

A gathering of Friends during potluck after worship on April 4 agreed that the state of our Meeting is generally good, but that we do also have some concerns.

 

Reports from committee conveners indicate that we are doing a good job on the "housekeeping" aspects essential to sustaining the life of the Meeting. For example, the Finance and Good Works Committees "were very pleased that the Meeting was willing to engage in thoughtful consideration of our responsibilities to the community we live in as well as to the needs of the Meeting. In several special sessions and through email we actually talked about money, how to spend it and how to get it."

 

The Building Committee reported that "At the end of 2008 we received a 55% interest in a 1.534 acre property through the generosity of one member with the intent of long term planning for a new meetinghouse (the remaining 45% interest will be deeded to the Meeting in 2014). We have also continued to self-fund the maintenance and improvements of our existing deeply historic property. Despite the economic climate, we have had donations which support both the Meeting's operations and also our contributions to Friends organizations and local 'good works.'"

 

Inspired in part by our resident Friend, members and attenders embarked on an ambitious renovation of the garden which is an integral part of our meetinghouse property. Our resident Friend also reminded us that our guest apartment is a form of outreach and that the visitors staying in it express "gratitude for our maintaining this affordable, chemical-free accommodation."

 

Other committees reported many positive developments in the past year, and the Nominating Committee reports that almost all who are asked to serve are agreeing to do so.

 

While we no longer have an active Peace and Social Concerns Committee, it is obvious from announcements after worship and on our Meeting's email announcements list that we are individually active in service to our broader community, especially in support of the winter homeless shelter, collecting winter clothing for distribution through the schools, immigrant advocacy, and efforts to promote peace. It also seems we are doing an adequate job of responding to attenders and members with specific needs, but we recognize that we need to contact more regularly those absent from meeting for worship, who may also require care.

 

Our First Day School is thriving, and we are grateful to our retired teacher for her skillful guidance and for the increased participation by adults who are not parents. We are pleased to have several new families with young children. The FDS is using the FGC version of "Godly Play," and it has been well received. FDS middle-school age children raised $500 for a Heifer International project through participation in a summer reading program and a lemonade stand.

 

We do not have a regular adult education program, but we have had a number of ad hoc programs in the past year, such as Quakerism 101, three spiritual formation groups, two discussions on marriage, women's retreats, and a series on white privilege.

 

Our Meeting has a 9 am and an 11 am worship. Participants in the 9 am worship tend to prefer a silent meeting, and there typically has not been much contact between the two meetings. Last fall, however, representatives from each meeting initiated a well-attended, monthly 10 am discussion of articles from Friends Journal, such as "Are We Christian?" and "Eldering."

 

There are four worship groups under our care. Clearlight in Taos lost its regular meeting place when the Peace House closed, and they are now meeting in homes. The three members who live in a Taos retirement facility which declared bankruptcy apparently have not been adversely affected, as was initially feared. Los Alamos meets twice a month in homes, and they gained new attenders last year. Our contact with Las Vegas has been spotty, but we understand that they are still meeting regularly. South Santa Fe has regular events, including monthly Wednesday potlucks that are popular with some Canyon Road Friends. Quaker House, the South Santa Fe meeting place, has been a good space for gatherings such as NM regional Meeting, an AFSC workshop, and study groups such as our Quaker 101.

 

Although we feel that the overall health of the Meeting is generally good, we do have some concerns about the spiritual life and worship of the Meeting. One participant in our reflection on the state of the Meeting who has been active with our spiritual formation groups said that the groups -- which were laid down last fall -- seem not to have had much effect on our worship. She asked what makes our meetings for worship differ from a support group or a place to air political concerns: "There is rarely reference to God or the Divine in meeting." Another long-time attender said "I looked to the elders to speak in meeting, but now the elders are gone," and spoken ministry is important because "it helps focus me."

 

Our meetings do tend to silence, sometimes with no vocal ministry. Not surprisingly, in almost all of our discussions of vocal ministry, there are those who worry whether their message would rise to the level of a message for the meeting as a whole. A few years ago we introduced an announcement about 10 or 15 minutes before the end of worship inviting "joys, sorrows, or concerns." Some in our discussion felt that this has been successful in encouraging the timid or the uncertain. Certainly it has been successful in helping many to speak of their or others' need to be held in the Light.

 

One person, however, suggested that the timing -- toward the end of worship -- may incline some to wait for the invitation and thereby lessen the opportunity for engagement with some messages. Our Ministry and Oversight Committee will consider whether to move the announcement earlier in the worship, perhaps to just after the time when the children leave for FDS. We are planning to focus on the spiritual life of the Meeting in a retreat next fall led by an experienced Friend provided through FGC.

 

One long-time member observed that we don't appear to have factions in our Meeting. But we do have concerns about our ability to deal with some of the painful differences among individuals in the Meeting. In particular we are still struggling with the consequences of our inability to respond in a timely and appropriate way to a complex and sensitive situation which has now alienated one member and upset others.

 

The experience has been painful for those concerned, and we are trying to learn from it. We have taken some steps that may be helpful in the future, and we are committed to exploring ways to engage the whole Meeting in a healing process.

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