As we commence the celebration of our 150th year, Minneapolis Friends Meeting finds itself riding a wave of youthful exuberance as the largest cohort of high school youth in our memory catches the spirit of Quaker faith. In addition, concerns for diversity and peace filled our sails, even as two lifelong Friends departed our midst. Withal the heights and depths, prodigious connections were wrought in the Spirit within our Meeting and without.
The youth of the meeting had a year of unprecedented activity in unprecedented numbers. Adults and youth participated in the Youth Committee to facilitate their undertakings. Five teens who attended Northern Yearly Meeting were reported to have returned “lit up” by their experiences of Quaker spirituality, and four attended the FGC Quake That Rocked the Midwest conference in Illinois. In April many youth participated in an NYM Quaker teen retreat held at Twin Cities Friends meetinghouse.
High schoolers began their own monthly meeting for business in addition to their first day school class; the group of about fifteen requested a senior youth clearness committee to find space and organizational tools for their class. Junior and senior high teens were the largest age cohorts at Fall Camp. A particularly momentous undertaking for them was a trip to El Salvador, where five youth from our meeting and one from Wisconsin met young Friends in Soya Pongo and San Ignatio and experienced an El Salvador Quaker Youth Gathering, the digging of a cistern at a Retreat Center and teaching in a village Friends school.
In addition, two young Quakers attended William Penn House Youth Seminar in Washington, D.C. where they focused on the Peace Testimony. They also participated in the Washington Quaker workcamp that followed. Two attended the Friends General Conference gathering, and one attended the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage in England and Europe. Three also requested and were accepted into membership and one into associate membership. During a senior youth clearness committee meeting it was suggested that part of the reason the youth are cohesive and active as a group is that they have gone on service projects together. Perhaps, also, they are strong because they have determined, themselves, that they want to be a group that continues meeting and that plans its own activities.
While our youth and many other new attenders and members brought the promise of new life to our meeting, two lifelong Quakers with nearly 140 years of Meeting membership between them, Joe White and Gordon Coffin, departed our midst. Deeply bereft, we pulled into our center to seek a new equilibrium with God. We know these two lives remain a vital part of our meeting and thank God for the Light they have brought to us and to the world.
As if in tribute to the music of their souls, the Meeting invested in a grand new piano, signaling joy and commitment, the music of the spirit. It is an expensive piano; yet by January 2005, almost 2/3 of its cost had been borne by 23 households. Though we wrestled with contending needs over many months, the spirit moved us to bring this instrument to the aid of our music-making. It promises to bring us full circle into the exuberance of faith and the renewal of our Quaker mission.
Hope has been voiced that music will bridge gaps and that the diversity of our world will be encompassed in our songs of love. Diversity has been a by-word for us this year; it has shaped many a gathering, many of our acts and queries. One member attended the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent in Atlanta in July. Northern Yearly Meeting attenders and our own Meeting members responded to leadings by participating in the trip to El Salvador, offering service to the Kwanzaa Community Church youth program and celebrating the wedding of a beloved same-sex couple. We queried how we can be open to a greater range of seekers and participated in diversity programs at Fall Camp and in other activities. Two members did further Beyond Diversity training, one at Kirkridge Retreat Center in Pennsylvania (in March 2004) and the other at Pendle Hill.
The quest for peace, ever more urgent, fueled offerings of conscientious objector counseling to our youth and support for the intrepid and brilliant work of Friends for a Non-Violent World, under the leadership of Phil Steger in its Peace in the Precincts program, People Camp, Alternatives to Violence and more. This support resulted in a record-breaking net of $13,232 for the FNVW Craft Sale this year, an event held at Minneapolis Friends Meeting for over thirty years. The Craft Sale not only funds the work of peace but knits together the local community of Friends. Meeting members serve on the board and as key volunteer staff as well, and several are involved in FNVW’s Alternatives to Violence Project.
Integrating the beloved community is a constant labor and urge of love, expressing the pastoral concerns that are natural to any caring society. Members have made contact with Friends as far afield as Australia and El Salvador, while Metro Friends continues to summon together Quakers from near-range meetings. Our director of ministry joined an AFSC delegation on a U.S./Mexico tour, while in our own Meeting increased Friendly education has been pursued. The AFSC annual meeting was attended by three of our members. Our Meeting also contributes a member to the board of FWCC, a clerk to Right Sharing of World Resources, and two board members, a business manager and several committee members to the Friends School of Minnesota.
We have reached out to worship at home with a number of Friends; we have opened our hand to the homeless through Loaves and Fishes; one member continues to correspond with a death row prisoner; we continue to share our meetinghouse with a small reconstructionist Jewish congregation; we maintain contact with Winona Preparative Meeting, which is within our care. In such a river of connections and commitments, our life flows on.
Our life flows on in endless song; Above earth’s lamentation, we hear the sweet, though far-off hymn That hails a new creation. Through all the tumult and the strife, we hear the music ringing; It finds an echo in our soul, How can we keep from singing? (Adapted from “How Can I Keep from Singing?”)