Midlothian Friends Meeting is a small but strong community of Quakers, dealing with the same issues as other meetings. We continue to welcome and encourage those on their spiritual journey. Yet we also recognize that there are some concerns which need to be addressed – our unprogrammed format may be difficult for some to accept, we have some difficulty in keeping young friends, and we need to publicize information regarding our Meeting and Quakers as a whole. However, we provide a warm environment for those who come, we have strong committees without which there would be no Midlothian Friends, and we continue to seek ways to support our testimonies of Peace, Equality, Simplicity and Truth.
Our Meeting still has the spark of Inner light with which we started, nurturing both members and attenders. We accept people for who they are, as they are. Some are amazed at the depth of the worship found at Midlothian Friends Meeting (MFM) – it has touched their lives and their personal spiritual journey. MFM continues to offer a safe haven for those on their spiritual journey, providing a community in which spirituality is encouraged. We have a welcoming environment for participants. We embrace those who are newly attending, regular members/attenders, and those returning from an extended absence. A relocating attender stated that, “I’ll never find another community like Midlothian Friends Meeting.” Newer attenders express appreciation for being recognized, introduced, and welcomed. However, it has been expressed that our strength may also be out weakness. There may be a sense of no direction without structure, resulting in a need for doctrine or dogma. It’s difficult to have to travel on a spiritual journey on your own as opposed to having a pastor or written rules as a guide. Also, we have difficulty keeping young friends. As one member put it, we don’t have that sense of adventure young friends seem to crave.
It has been said that our Meeting House has an aura of worship. Members are impressed at the depth and seriousness of our worship; without an instruction manual, we seem to know when it’s appropriate to speak and when it is best to simply bask in the silence. The spoken worship is always spiritual and meaningful. Members have expressed that they have felt that a message was delivered, personally for them, only to find that it touched many or all in attendance.
Over the past year, two major issues have been addressed at the Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business (MFB) – same sex marriage and improvements to the Meeting House. We reaffirmed out support for same sex marriage. With respect to the Meeting House improvements, we are blessed with a sense of unity allowing us to make decisions without laboring over them. The various committees work well, presenting their work, concerns and thoughts at MFB. While attendance to MFB is small, we do continue to see a diversity in the members attending, which contributes to the richness and authenticity of those meetings. Due to this diversity, we have a strong sense of the Meeting in our discussions.
As indicated above, the committees have worked very well, nominating committee ensuring that all were adequately staffed. The committees provide members and attenders opportunities to participate and to contribute his/her own gifts for the benefit of the Meeting. It is because of these committees and their members that there is a MFM. Members express their appreciation for the work done behind the scenes that make Meeting happen. Those who have attended MFM for several years know of the various committees and their functions; however, it seems that this information – as well as who actually serves on the various committees – may not be as well publicized as it should be. We have added an interactive calendar on which the various committees may post their meeting dates; the calendar may help in this endeavor, but it is an area which could use improvement.
Because we do not proselytize, it is difficult for Quakers to raise awareness of who we are and what our testimonies are. This is also true within our own Quaker community. A few years back, a speaker presented some of the projects in which Quakers are involved and many who have been members for years were surprised by the variety of these projects, one example being that Quakers have provided security (body guard) services as needed. These services are provided regardless as to the person’s political or religious affiliation. They are rendered without weapons, using only bodies as shields. There has never been an assassination in these situations. To improve awareness, members’ suggestions include more adult RE in the form of studies – possibly Bible study – and movie nights. It was suggested that as we live our Quaker testimony in the community at large, we may wish to promote our values more by talking about them – or, as George Fox said, “walk cheerfully over the Earth, answering that of God in everyone.” That having been said, there are examples as to how we actually do reach the community at large. Our Peace and Social Action Committee keeps us well informed, concentrating on the Peace Tax but keeping us abreast of other developments, seminars and meetings. The Thrifty Quaker provides an excellent outreach to the community, selling gently used and new items at low prices (the proceeds of which are donated to various charities) and also making outright donations of these items. Bumper stickers related to the Peace testimony were discussed. While the Peace testimony is the most noted of the Quaker testimony, Simplicity is another favorite. In today’s world, this is one of the more difficult testimonies to practice, requiring us to slow down, be creative and encourage simplicity in our daily lives.
Midlothian Friends Meeting continues to offer members, attenders and guests a safe, nurturing community in which to pursue their spiritual journey. It is because of our strong committees and sense of community that we are able to do this. We do have concerns and we continue to address those concerns in a loving and thoughtful manner.