Minneapolis Friends Meeting
State of Society Report 2011-2012
This past year has been one of transition and tension: introspection and self-definition coupled with outreach and activism; a yearning to be more welcoming and open to others different from us but recognizing, and not wanting to lose, the unique character of our community; seeing need among our own membership, economic and other, and grappling with our limitations in offering help; wanting an even richer community life and having difficulty accomplishing the work to bring it about.
Winds of Change workshops gave us insight to our unspoken biases and the existing barriers that have kept more diversity from our meeting community. With our new understanding, we have made fresh attempts to reach out, connect with and minister to people different from our usual demographic. A group from MFM was trained and then volunteered to door-knock in North Minneapolis, counseling residents on how to utilize existing resources to avoid foreclosure. Closer to home, we hosted an ice cream social for our neighbors.
Renewed efforts to include metro area Kenyan Quakers in the life of the Quaker community here resulted in times of programmed worship, complete with visiting musicians from William Penn University and singing in Swahili. Though an intertwined relationship with these Friends seems unlikely, Friends at MFM were grateful for the opportunity to experience this different form of Quaker worship. We are warmed that a programmed Friends worship group is being nurtured in the north metro area. We hope to be a continuing support to these dear Friends.
We have benefitted from increased programming in the community life of Mayim Rabim, the Jewish congregation to whom we rent our meetinghouse. They are generous with invitations to events they plan. Friends have participated in a variety of these, including a discussion and information evening around the proposed marriage amendment, an issue many at MFM feel prompted to work on. We have been enriched by their offerings and by a growing fellowship with them. In addition to these acts of person to person outreach and connection, we are increasingly coming of age in the digital world – better utilizing our webpage and starting to create a presence on Facebook as a way to be known.
While experiencing these broadening avenues, we embraced a Quaker Quest workshop which helped us better understand our identity and articulate it to others. It was a rich time of sharing and understanding, deepening our relationships to each other and to our corporate body. Participants felt invigorated by the experience and eager for more like it. Two new circle eight groups and at least one other group were sparked by the workshop. Friends are hungry to connect substantively with one another – nurturing each other’s spiritual growth and learning from each other’s experience and insight. This impulse to greater connection has found expression in higher attendance at Fall Camp, remarkable attendance at adult programs on prayer and Bible study as well as sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, always rich storytelling gatherings. More Quaker Quest work will be undertaken over the coming years.
We have been diminished at both ends of the age spectrum. Long-time, well-loved members have died; children have graduated; families have moved away. We mourn the deaths of those who brought a generous measure of wisdom, wit and good humor to our community. We treasure the elders still with us and trust those in the next generation will grow in God’s grace and, in turn, bring similar gifts to the meeting as we move forward. We have fewer children in our first day school program than we have had in decades. We give thanks for the children still at meeting and feel concern about offering a rich, varied experience that will adequately feed their spirits and interests. At the same time, we have been blessed and give thanks for new attendance from a growing number of adults. They bring enthusiasm and breathe new life into our Quaker life and expression. We are searching for ways – old and new – to make them feel part of the fabric of our community. We are reminded of the need for Quaker education for new-comers and old-timers alike.
Our committee structure has presented a challenge to us this year. It is extensive and, while it creates a clear idea of how the work of the meeting can be done, it feels ill-suited to our current situation. Added to the regular committee work, we have experienced an increased need for pastoral care. We do so want to be supportive and nurturing to those Friends in need. We struggle with being consistently attentive and responsive to each other. Guided by the Nominating Committee and an ad hoc committee, we are working to make committees smaller and to restrict the scope of committee responsibilities. There is energy to pursue some work previously outside the committee structure, like Quaker Quest. We are endeavoring to evaluate what work we can retire so we can put energy where fresh winds of the Spirit are blowing.
Many members in our meeting have felt, keenly, the effect of the economic downturn – experiencing unemployment or under-employment. This financial hardship for some coupled with the retirement of many others has left us straining to meet our budgeted obligations.
It feels as though we have been tilling the soil this year with the transitions we have faced and the work we have done. We have a deeper understanding of who we are; a more profound grasp of where our weaknesses lie; a commitment to strip away extra busy-ness in our meeting life and an eagerness to embrace endeavors that add depth and richness to our common experience. We wait, expectantly, to see what God has prepared us for in the coming year.