Minneapolis Friends Meeting, March 2006
In the past year we have celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first regular Meeting for Worship of the Minneapolis Friends Meeting, which was also the first regular meeting of Friends in Minnesota. The meeting’s Ad Hoc History Committee worked for several years to prepare for the observances, with the final production work by committee members Linda Coffin and Jim Haefemeyer.
The kick-off planning and delivery was done by the Ad Hoc History Committee and the Advancement and Outreach Committee. A banner for the celebration was made and displayed on the outside of the building for months. People who have been part of the meeting during the past 20 years or so, as well as Friends from other meetings in the area, were invited to attend the Kick-Off.
At the Kick-Off on Sunday, April 24, 2005,a historical slide show was presented by Linda Coffin, and historic characters of the Meeting were acted out by people in the Meeting. The middler first-day school class (3rd-5th graders) acted out one of the minutes from a monthly meeting from the 1880s. Subsequent programs were offered to local Friends and community groups. Linda and Mary Leikvold also created several panels displaying Quaker faces from early days, multiple-generation Quaker families in the Meeting, and old minutes. Linda, an eleventh generation Quaker, is in the process of writing a book about the history of Minneapolis Friends Meeting.
While the Meeting did not have the energy to achieve everything the planners had hoped for during our anniversary year, other celebratory activities may be planned for the future.
Jesus and the Bible
There is considerable theological diversity within the Meeting. For a long time the Meeting has not grappled as a body with the ways that we use and present the Bible and the place of Jesus of Nazareth, or as many would say, of Jesus Christ, in our faith. A felt need for such a discussion has emerged:
- A small Bible study group which meets once per month has been started. The group first studied the Gospel of John and now has moved to consideration of Tom Gates’ book, Opening the Scriptures: Bible Lessons from the 2005 Annual Gathering of Friends. The group hopes that this study of how early Quakers used the Bible and how it might be instructive to modern Quakers will assist discussion in our Meeting.
- Some First Day School teachers have felt limited by the Jubilee (Mennonite) curriculum which we have used for about ten years. One large topic of concern is how and when to present the Bible. We will conduct several threshing sessions on the topic before the end of the school year in search of new curriculum resources.
Pendle Hill Pamphlet Discussions
During the past year Diane Barrett has facilitated a Ministry and Counsel initiative by leading Saturday morning discussions on several pamphlets: Four Doors to Meeting for Worship by Bill Taber (Pendle Hill), On Speaking Out of the Silence by Douglas Steere (Pendle Hill), The Mystical Path, a Quaker Universalist pamphlet by Dan Seeger which was used along with Quaker Views on Mysticism by Marjorie Post Abbott. The response of the 8 to 12 participants at each meeting was enthusiastic.
Children of the Meeting
This year overall attendance of senior youth (9th through 12th graders) during the semi-programmed Meeting hour was about 17 young people with regular attendance at 9. There was a strong core group that attended pretty much every week. Senior youth also held a monthly meeting for business. In the first half of the year the group studied comparative religion, covering Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, Hindu, Krishna, Morman, Unitarian Universalist, Catholicism, Wicca and Satan worship traditions. They also viewed a movie about Amish coming of age. During this section the group had visitors who gave presentations on Morman, Wicca and Satan worship. They also visited a Buddhist temple and had Unitarian Universalist visitors.
In the second half of the year the senior youth studied Quaker background, reading from various Quaker journals and exploring what it means to be a Quaker teen. During the year they had four overnight social events, including a delightful winter weekend retreat to a member’s northwoods home.
The senior high and middle school (junior youth) students held a fundraising Oatmeal Breakfast to help fund an Urban Immersion Service Retreat at the Russ Ewald Center for Service Learning attended by senior and junior high youth. They also worked with the other youth groups in organizing and running a Red Beans and Rice fundraiser for Katrina victims. The junior youth have explored what it means to them and to the outer world to be a Quaker, alternatives to violence, and have discussed Quaker testimonies in the context of their lives. Overall, for both groups the year was focused on relationship-building and faith exploration.
Three additional classes complete the First Day School Program: middlers (3rd, 4th and 5th graders), primary (kindergarten to second grade) and early childhood. The middlers covered a range of Quaker, Biblical, environmental and current event topics. They read a play about John Woolman’s work to bring Quaker marriage process to slave couples and read a story based on a true account of early English Quaker children whose parents were imprisoned for worshipping in the manner of Friends. The children in the story continued to worship, even under threat of bodily harm. The middlers are particularly passionate about the work of the Heifer Project and the local Animal Humane Society and have done fundraising projects for these organizations. The primary class was especially large this year. To help add more structure for the big group, the students drew each week from a job bag, selecting from turning off the light, getting story figures ready, helping with snack, and they took more time to talk about their feelings and experiences with Bible stories.
- A number of people are facing unemployment, job loss, financial concerns and difficulty finding new employment.
- Some members have stopped attending and we wish to consider when and how to contact them.
- A significant number of members of Meeting who were active in the past are returning to the Meeting.
- We have many new attenders, some former Quakers, some not. They bring freshness with them.
- Our membership holds a number of people who came to the Meeting in the 1950s and are now our most senior members. There is a smaller group in their seventies, another group in their fifties and sixties, and an influx of younger people in their thirties and forties.
- We continue to grieve the deaths of Gordon Coffin and Joe White who died in 2004. In the past year we lost two more dear long-time and weighty friends, John (Jack) Parker and Elizabeth Watson.
- Many precious members and attenders have moved away from the area in the past few years and we miss them.
- An unusually larger group of graduating high school seniors (five in all) left to begin college. They had given greatly of themselves in rebuilding a youth community in the Meeting and are deeply missed.
A Heaviness in the Meeting
Our spirit was burdened by war and conflict, misplaced national priorities and local concerns about youth, the schools, violence and underfunding of so many important needs. Some of our organized responses were as follows:
Eyes Wide Open
Many people from the Meeting became involved in the leadership, planning and implementation of the AFSC Eyes Wide Open exhibit in St. Paul in September. One Vietnam veteran from the Meeting spent many hours talking with people at the Gold Star boots table. Some young people from the Meeting helped during the exhibit to put name tags on boots of soldiers who had died in the couple days since tags had last been put on. In addition, scores of Meeting members attended the event. Some people said it was the most meaningful event they had ever been involved in. A newspaper article linked the project with Quakers and gave Quakers a higher profile in the area last year.
In response to Hurricane Katrina a New Orleans-style meal was served after Meeting for Worship one Sunday to raise money for a fund administered by the Baton Rouge Meeting for the benefit of Quakers in the four-state area. One member went to an Indian reservation in Louisiana to do restoration work with an AFSC work team. Two other members spent a week in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, on a relief project related to Hurricane Rita. The work was organized through AFSC’s connection with the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimache Indians and in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity.
We supported the community-based membership organization, Out Front, which has provided education and advocacy on behalf of the GLBT community. We have also taken a public stand opposing a Constitutional amendment which would outlaw marriage between two people of the same gender.
World Hunger Relief
In early 2005 members of the Religious Education Committee and Meeting children, led by Linda Harding, organized a World Hunger Banquet as a fundraiser for Second Harvest Heartland (local food shelf supplier) and the American Refugee Committee for their work in Sudan/Darfur. The event took place April 16, 2005 at the Meeting House and was attended by the Meeting community and interested individuals from the neighborhood and larger community. Participants ate meals based on a lottery system, whereby the largest percentage of participants ate meager servings of beans and rice, and the smallest percentage were served a multiple course banquet, with the percentages approximating the actual consumption of food in the world. First Day School students provided oral reports on world hunger facts and wrote and performed first-person accounts of people struggling to live with not enough to eat.
The Fiscal Year
Contributions to the Meeting’s general fund in 2005 were considerably lower than in recent years, and in January 2006 we found ourselves facing a large budget deficit. We alerted our community to the situation by sending a letter to our members and attenders as well as to some Friends who no longer attend but still have close ties to our Meeting. The response was tremendous: during February and March, more than 80 households contributed to the Meeting, giving a total of over $27,000. This turned our budget deficit into an $8,500 surplus for the fiscal year. We are very grateful for this strong show of support for the Meeting and our existing program.
We Look Ahead
- It is anticipated that a number of people from the Meeting will be involved in planning for and serving at the 2007 Friends General Conference (the "Gathering") in River Falls, Wisconsin. Many look forward to hearing Marcus Borg, the second Elizabeth Watson Lecturer. We expect to hold Marcus Borg book discussion groups in preparation for the Gathering lecture and to help address the topics of Jesus, the Bible and Christianity.
- We want to look at the disparity in our support of singles and couples.
- We are among those looking at creating a Minnesota-wide Eyes Wide Open tour.
- Three members are planning to attend a long and intensive training on diversity at Pendle Hill this summer.
- We have begun discussion on how to make monthly meeting for business more interesting, worshipful and more inclusive in order to increase attendance. Ministry and Counsel has done a survey as well as several adult forums to raise issues and begin the process of facilitating change.
We Are Grateful For
- Gifts of ministry of many kinds which have emerged from individuals in true expression of who they are, including the teaching ministry, vocal ministry, ministering to children and youth, the ministry of music (rich and varied forms) and pastoral care ministry.
- Leadership provided by clerks of Meeting committees. We express special thanks to Linda Coffin for her four years of service as presiding clerk and her four previous years as recording clerk. We welcome our new presiding clerk, Jane Furnas.
There are approximately 100 active members of Minneapolis Monthly Meeting and 18 active associate members. There are 47 regular adult attenders and 42 regular attenders who are children. We had one new member by convincement (Lin Butler, tenth month, 2005), and three members released from membership: John Parker, 15th of first month,2006, and Elizabeth Watson, 24th of second month, 2006, both by death; Corrine Matney,seventh month, 2006 by transfer (to Cannon Valley Friends Meeting).