In the past year Shepherdstown celebrated the change in its status from an Allowed to a Preparative Meeting. We are grateful to Frederick Monthly Meeting for their continued care and assistance.
Many of our joys and challenges during the past year stem from the same source: the continued growth in attendance. Often more than twenty people attend Meeting for Worship on First Day. We have had to rearrange the chairs in rows instead of in a large circle to accommodate our vibrant and growing community. We note that we may have to look for a larger meeting space than the bookstore where we currently gather if the trend continues.
Overall, members and attenders feel that Meetings for Worship were infused with the Spirit. Friends have searched together for the truth, and the vocal ministry has been inspiring and often deeply moving. A small (usually 3-4 individuals) but regular group gathers for Meeting for Worship in Harpers Ferry in the evenings at midweek.
Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business have been held bimonthly and have been well attended and conducted in good order. There is a strict time limit on these meetings because the bookstore where we meet opens at 1:00 pm. In general, Friends feel that the discipline imposed by this constraint is good. However, there have been occasions when it was not possible to reach a sense of the Meeting on all business in the time allotted. Therefore, we have had to hold a few called Meetings in between the scheduled ones.
Prompted by a minute and a query from Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Ad Hoc Committee on Gender and Sexual Diversity, the Meeting devoted considerable time to the testimony of equality. A sense of the Meeting was reached on the fundamental equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals. Further practical actions, such as the conduct of marriage under the care of the Meeting, remain under discussion.
With more people attending Meeting, we have been able to form a First Day School committee. Since starting in January, the First Day school has served five children. While a few more volunteers to help work with the children would be desirable, parents and teachers alike have been pleased with the venture despite the challenge of dealing with a wide age range. We are actively searching for appropriate curriculum materials.
Another challenge presented by the growth in attendance has been that of pastoral care. In the past, an informal network of friendships allowed Friends to keep in touch and to aid one another when necessary. In January, a Ministry and Pastoral Care committee was formed to help ensure that Friends’ concerns, including those of Friends who have been absent a long while, would not be overlooked.
Since the Meeting has taken on more responsibilities, more people have been needed to volunteer. We have experienced some difficulty filling all of the required positions. Specifically, our nominating committee has been unable to find a new co-clerk. Also, a concern was raised that the Meeting has not done much corporate work on peace and social justice in the past year.
Some Friends have reported missing the intimacy of the smaller group and the chairs in the circle. Looking forward, we are considering arranging gatherings in smaller groups, something like Friendly Eights that have been formed in other meetings. Additionally, there has been a request for a repeat of Quakerism 101, or perhaps a series of discussions arranged around the queries or testimonies.