Midlothian Friends gathered on April 30 for the annual “Gathering for Clearness.” As a central part of this day, Friends held a worship sharing and responded to a series of queries about the spiritual life of our community.
Friends recognize that there is a welcoming spirit present in our community. While we acknowledge the complexity of our family and work lives, we affirm our sense of connectedness in spirit. Whether caring for aging parents or dealing with financial stress, it has been challenging for some to be as actively involved in Midlothian Friends Meeting. At times, concern has been felt about the small number of people attending meeting. As a result, the Care & Counsel Committee recently fostered opportunities for a number of “Friendly Eights” that allow for more community involvement and support. Throughout the various transitions and natural evolution of this Meeting, even amidst the more difficult aspects of change, there is trust that Way will open. The gifts of Meeting are many, and there is gratitude for the acceptance and understanding that Friends offer to one another. The relationships and sharing found in Meeting are a source of joy and sustenance, and there is an overall sense that Meeting is “going in the right direction.” Meeting feels safe and supportive, providing a sense of home to those who attend regularly, as well as those who come from time to time. The spirit continues to move in ways that open us to one another and to new possibilities for deeper community.
During Meeting for Worship, people speak mindfully, with care and attention. The vocal ministry varies from week to week, with Friends carefully discerning and listening to the leadings of that still, inner voice. One member expressed that Meeting for Worship provides a taste of “eternity,” a mystical experience in community with others. Often Meeting provides a much-needed respite, with a quiet space that is essential to our well-being and replenishment. Whether we are silent or vocal, Meeting for Worship continues to be the essential center of our Meeting community.
Meeting for Business has more recently been conducted in a worshipful and spirit-centered manner. There is appreciation for the care, attention and discipline brought to this by our clerk. Given the small size of our community, finances and the budget are ongoing challenges. Despite these concerns, Business Meeting has stayed true to the Spirit and “kept the faith.” The process of decision-making is respectful, beneficial and productive. Those who attend Business Meeting find it very meaningful and enriching. There is a sense of energy in Business Meeting with good representation of the overall community. It enhances and mirrors the qualities of the regular Meeting for Worship.
Midlothian Friends committees provide the foundation for Meeting business, and members find great support in these group relationships. Our committee clerks are aware of how important well-functioning committees are to the life of the Meeting, despite fluctuating attendance. Our committees cooperate in a way that moves the entire community along joyfully, led by the Spirit. Using Quaker process helps our committees to move forward, authentically addressing issues or problems. Committees also provide an interface for the larger community, providing us with an opportunity in regards to social action.
We not only find support within our individual community, but also through various resources that continue to be a powerful source of community outreach. The Thrifty Quaker, a thrift store established by Midlothian Friends Meeting for the purpose of providing outreach, exemplifies positive engagement with the larger society outside of our own Meeting. Quaker witness and process is evident in the manner in which employees behave, and Quaker literature is provided to those who may be searching. It provides one avenue for inviting people outside of Meeting to Quaker events. The Quaker Town Crier, an internal email distribution list, is also a very effective communication tool that benefits Meeting. It assists us in keeping in touch with each other, and staying abreast of what’s going on in one another’s lives as well as in the overall Meeting community.
Midlothian Friends continues to grow and evolve. We cherish the loving relationships found in Meeting, and the sense of spirit we find in silent worship. We continue to seek the light, and aspire to walking “cheerfully over the earth, greeting that of God in everyone.”