What a lovely time we had together this past weekend at College Park Quarterly Meeting. It was made deeper by two things: First, it was the last spring quarterly meeting the Sullivan family would be our hosts at Ben Lomond Quaker Center, and in fact Traci Hjelt-Sullivan has already gone to Philadelphia to start her new job as gathering coordinator beginning with next year’s Friends General Conference gathering. The goodbyes were many, varied, and sweet. For example, the teens gave Walter a Quaker Center Camp t-shirt they had colored and signed.
The plenary meeting for worship with a concern for business adopted a lovely minute of appreciation and gratitude for the work of the Sullivans. I had suggested including the whole of the Fox quote about “be patterns, be examples, … walk cheerfully across the earth answering that of God in every one.” It really resonated. In fact, one Friend stifled sobs when that part was read aloud, and I knew it was good.
Second, we did actual business in our small groups—not just sharing, which can be lovely or it can be dry, and it’s usually highly focused on the individual. Instead, our Ministry and Oversight Committee asked us to read aloud two or three state of the meeting reports from across the Quarter. We then responded to some simple queries about how did we hear Truth prospering, where were the spiritual strengths and weaknesses, and what was the one thing we thought needed to be brought back before the entire plenary.
It was a very effective exercise. I was fortunate to be in the group that had my own meeting’s report, and it definitely gave me a new perspective. First, others expressed in words some difficulties they had with the report which I had felt but hadn’t found words to express (primarily, that it was wordy and listed lots of things we’re doing, so it was hard to hear how was Spirit moving among us). Second, some Friends confirmed my own (and Robin M.’s) sense that our meeting is actually quite functional and thriving in many ways, though of course we have our limitations, too.
A weighty Friend also said that these reports are full of the things we do, yet we need to report on who we are – inside. “And I’m saying that as a confirmed and committed activist!” he added.
I would like more annual sessions and meetings for business to be like this. I found it more helpful than just individualized reflections. To ask how is Truth prospering among us (collectively as well as individually) is a basic query that is frequently appropriate.
Another nice thing: We get to go back this weekend, for San Francisco Monthly Meeting's annual retreat! Hm, maybe I'll sing a song from JC Superstar for the talent show. ;-)
PS Special shout-out to the New Young Elder! :)