Goose Creek Meeting prospers in the health of our meetings for worship. The quality of silence is profound and corporate, leading to rich, spirit-led messages that echo in our hearts from First Day to First Day. One Friend who speaks in Meeting only rarely says that our felt community is such that Friends speak for her. Another Friend says that she feels supported and loved when she occasionally rises to her feet. And a Friend who offers more frequent ministry says that the mutuality in our silence helps in the process of discerning whether or not a message is meant to be offered aloud. We have added a time for Friends to voice afterthoughts at the end of Meeting, hoping that this will encourage sharing from those who have been not certain whether they should break the silence. A closing time for raising up joys and concerns allows for more personal messages and for holding one another specially in the Light.
Additionally, smaller groups of Goose Creek Friends come together in other ways to worship and to share in Spirit. A worship-sharing group meets regularly on Wednesday evenings; a small Spiritual Formation group meets monthly to discuss spiritual readings; Friendly Eights groups seek to expand their memberships, especially to newer Friends, and to deepen the spiritual quality of their fellowship; and other Friends meet less formally to discuss their reading, devotions, and spiritual leadings. Worship on Christmas and New Year’s Eves at the Meeting takes place among a small group but is meaningful and deep. We feel a growing willingness to acknowledge among ourselves that it is God at work among us, and to discuss deep spiritual experiences and longings with each other more frankly and openly.
Goose Creek Meeting prospers also in the growing health of our First Day School. Loving Friends with gifts for leadership have put in place a coherent program of spiritual education that nurtures growth in the Spirit, week after week, whether we have three children in attendance or two dozen. Meeting is blessed with the attendance of new families, and we believe that our First Day School is helping to keep their interest in Goose Creek and in Quakerism. Our program for teenagers has been moribund for some time, and at the end of 2010 a committee was planning a new program for our growing group of Young Friends from fifth grade through early high school. We continue to have a contingent of youngsters who attend Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s wonderful camps, and to support them with “camperships” of one week’s fees. We have among us young adult Friends who testify to the crucial influence of the camps while they were growing up. In addition, our administration of scholarship funds that have been entrusted to us provides an opportunity to nurture our own Young Friends and, in the case of scholarships available to the wider Loudoun County community, to spread an understanding of Quaker values.
Recently, several Friends have voiced a concern that we are not doing enough to reach out to nurture one another, and that even some Friends and attenders of long standing do not feel truly included in the life of the Meeting. We are trying to understand how this happens. We devoutly wish for everyone among us to feel personally cared for, and are looking for ways to ensure this.
Part of the problem is undoubtedly owing to slippages in communication. It has been suggested that as our community expands geographically, word of mouth does not work as well among us as it once did, and also that the mixture of paper, electronic, and telephone communications leads to dropped information. This problem needs to be addressed. The Meeting Cares Committee has been very active in ministering to those among us who have needs or griefs or other trials, and we have been told that flowers, cards, notes, and visits from Meeting have helped Friends feel valued and in touch. However, we have not established a sufficiently organized method of getting information to the members of Meeting Cares, or of expanding appropriate communication about Friends’ needs to the rest of our community. Finally, we need to be sure that visitors to Meeting and new attenders are welcomed as they should be. We have received mixed reports about how successfully we are doing this.
More profoundly, we are led to examine our own behaviors—at Meetings for Worship, committee meetings, and in between—to see where we have fallen into patterns of easy conversation with Friends we know well and failures to reach out to others. We at Goose Creek have received reminders that we must not let laziness or shyness or social awkwardness create the impression that we do not care about one another.
We did find during the last year, as we faced a decision about whether to purchase a neighboring property, that Goose Creek Friends were willing to work together in patience, to set aside their individual ideas about what would be best, to listen to one another, and to be open to what the Spirit was leading us to do. We did not make the purchase, but we give thanks for what we learned during the experience. More generally, our Finance Committee has led us in an effort to transact all our business with as much transparency as possible, and to act with greater corporate discernment as we make budgetary decisions. This greater clarity with respect to finances has led to more careful discernment about how the money we can spend to help others should be allocated. We are gifted with Friends who are active in various charitable activities, and we have supported these efforts, which we know to be effective and with which we have personal ties. One member spends several weeks a year in Haiti working to train midwives and provide maternal care; one helps to find support for a Quaker jobs training school in Zimbabwe; several Friends tutor Hispanic workers in English. Closer to home, we continue our involvement with a county-wide interfaith group.
Many of the gifts practiced among us are practiced very quietly, so quietly that we take them for granted. We are not ungrateful, and we wish, through this document, to say thank you.
Our ongoing challenge through the coming year is to retain and augment the vitality of Goose Creek Meeting, and of Quakerism as a whole.