We are grateful for faithfulness. It is a gift from God, whose presence has been manifest among us. We have known our need for that gift, and for that Presence, perhaps more so than usual this past year. Three beloved members of our Meeting, rich in faith, have died: Elaine Carte in Second Month after an illness of several years, Leland Beckes in Fourth Month less than one year after diagnosis with a fatal syndrome, and Dorothy Sippel suddenly in Fifth Month after injury due to an accident. At the same time, many Friends have suffered loss among their families and dear ones, and we have also been touched by losses of the St. Croix Valley Meeting. Friends have ministered to one another as we grieve, sharing food and transportation, fellowship and prayer, and worship in homes and hospitals. Frailties of the body have called out strengths of the soul, inviting and informing our ministry.
We ask for greater wisdom in that ministry. The thirst for this directed us to some activities by which the Meeting has been blessed. These blessings include centered and deep worship at unprogrammed, semi-programmed and mid-week meetings, a ten month study group, in which 18 Friends based their reflections on John Woolman’s Journal and a Pendle Hill study guide, All Friends Day with Johan Maurer as our guest and teacher, participation in Friends General Conference planning and over fifty attending the nearby Gathering, speaking, performing, and workshop and other leadership by Minneapolis Friends at yearly meetings, FGC, and other Quaker events, attendance by three of our Friends at a conference on education for Quaker spirituality and three at the Friends in Pastoral Care and Counseling annual conference, and a vigorous religious education program for fifty children, taught in four classes by 24 teachers using the biblically based Jubilee curriculum. These high points, however, do not leave the Meeting satisfied. We continue to struggle with the place children have in the life of our Meeting. Wanting to nurture and provide grounding for our young Friends, and wanting to support young families, we continuously face our time and energy limitations, and our own yearning for adult spiritual nurture. These important aspects of our Meeting life often seem in conflict. The Meeting wishes to improve our adult education program, which now features no weekly class on First Day mornings. Creating such an activity is a challenge which lately occupies much of our attention to business, thus far without clear opening.
A monthly average of 46 Friends are present at worship with attention to business. This is more than double the average of several years ago, but fewer than at semi-programmed meetings the same hour other weeks. We also note sparse attendance at First Day School when worship with attention to business is in session. Barbara Ziegenhagen succeeded Vici Oshiro as presiding clerk in the fourth month of this year. Since Fifth Month of last year, attention to business includes a period of open worship in which Friends are invited to consider prayerfully “business process, meeting conflict, healing and strengthening.” This mid-meeting interval has helped to keep God at the center of our attention to business. Conduct of worship with attention to business continues to be a tender subject among us, and we join Northern Yearly Meeting in prayerful attention to Faith and Practice concerning it.
We continue to benefit from Northern Yearly Meeting, as well as the general life and work of the Society of Friends. In Twelfth Month of last year, we approved a request to take Winona Friends under our care as a preparative Meeting. Most of our contact with Winona Friends has been through a liaison committee, as well as joint clearness committees. Through this relationship, we have cared for one marriage and one new membership in the Society of Friends. We believe increased visitation with these Friends would be of mutual benefit.
We seek opportunities to strengthen our local community also. Our service of between four and five hundred meals at Loaves and Fishes four or five times each year is one such opportunity. We continue to benefit from our ecumenical partnership with the Oakland Avenue Methodist congregation, and our tutoring, worshiping, and singing together. Among Friends in the metropolitan area, we are pleased to report increased and enthusiastic attendance at a multi-Meeting picnic, as well as a workshop on Quaker ministry, both in St. Paul. Among our members and attenders, we note a third year of weekly Community Nights, a second year of quilting, a men’s group, a “Golden Oldies” group, longstanding groups for the support of marriages and other relationships, and care for a new marriage. We are grateful for the enrichment, growth, and opportunity that new attenders and members bring. We rejoice, also, that those most experienced by virtue of longer lives, continue their faithful participation and gentle eldering of the Meeting and its members and emerging leadership.
The web of personal ministries and vocations which bind us to each other and to God cannot be defined fully at this nor any other writing. It can be strengthened, however, and we pray for that. We pray, too, for the vitality of the whole, that the gift of faith illuminate and that by looking through the great lens of our shared losses, our shared strengths, and our shared faith, God might be known.