State of the Society Report
Eau Claire Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Our journey this year has seen plentiful helpings of enrichment and growth, along with ongoing and unexpected challenges. We have been blessed by the addition of several families and their children, intermittent and treasured attendance by young adults, and visitors, both short and long-term. Friends feel blessed and enriched by the time spent in communal silence, caring for young children, and weekly check-ins from each of us at the rise of Meeting. We have grown closer together through social gatherings such as annual picnics, retreats, holiday potlucks, and helping new arrivals move in. And we are weaving growing connections to the wider Friends community through participation in yearly meeting, FGC, Nightingales and weekend gatherings for young teens. In many ways we are haltingly but steadily growing to care more and better for one another.
And our caring has extended beyond our immediate circle to provide service to the community and world in which we live. We continue to offer our Meeting space to small groups focused on personal self-discovery and growth, and collaborating to purchase healthy food. Meeting has deepened its commitment to and support of the ministry, outreach, and world-healing efforts of Northern Spirit Radio. This year Friends served meals to the needy, and organized a successful concert fundraiser to benefit a local organization working to better care for our Earth and its environment. We offered and enthusiastically participated in two sets of community-wide workshops on “Choices for Sustainable Living” that encouraged participants to make regular, even weekly, changes in how they act and live, following our collective leading to care for Mother Earth.
Eau Claire Friends Meeting (ECFM) continues to confront the challenges other small Meetings face, particularly the burdens of leadership and committee work. Our practice has been to rotate the responsibilities of Clerk among a core of four people each year in order to avoid burnout. To help improve our understanding of the clerking process, we brought in Doug Kirk and Pamela Minden to lead us in an all-day workshop on this topic. The workshop was well-attended, with participants expressing new depth and spiritual openings in the experience. Though the leadership core now numbers three, we anticipate growth and renewed participation in the process of conducting Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. In fact, attendance at MfB has almost doubled over the past year, with greater shared ownership of our corporate life.
Shortly after the workshop, ECFM faced a situation that’s made us aware of our differences and need to understand one another better. Eager to grow in membership, we have made a special effort to bring new people into Meeting. It has been an unwelcome surprise then, to find that one newcomer brought with him a history of being cast out of similar environments, banned from our nearby college campus, and facing criminal charges of stalking. Sorting through issues of welcome, inclusion, equality, safety, outreach, and community has been trying. Efforts were made via the Meeting listserv to share information and process thoughts and feelings prior to a short business meeting in which a provisional agreement was reached to exclude the newcomer while greater clearness on the wide range of issues was being pursued. A hastily called threshing session brought many Friends’ stories and values to light, but was not attended by all who had a significant stake in the outcome. As we prepare for a second, longer threshing session, there is some mistrust and difficulty naming what’s happening without rendering Friends of a different persuasion as somehow inadequately friendly, trusting, realistic, etc. Friends have been reminded of the importance of the attitude we bring to decision-making, even over any conclusions reached. Hopefully we can come ready to be led, so that the process will serve to build rather than divide our community.
After a belated spring, we look forward to attending outdoor social gatherings locally, and events in the wider circle of Friends, such as Yearly Meeting and FGC. Many anticipate continued progress on environmental issues, including group study around the Transition Town movement, with the hope of building coalitions that will encourage as many people and businesses as possible in the Chippewa Valley to choose sustainability over the status quo. And after a year of change, we seek a continued sense of the grace, which comes when all are open to that divine Presence in Meeting for Worship, and Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business.
ECFM has added no members this year, though we grieved the loss of one long-time member, Dianne Rhein, to cancer on 9/8/2012, and we’ve celebrated no marriages under our care. Average attendance at our weekly worship has increased, however, from a typical 10-15 in the recent past, to current levels around 15-20, and we have had, for the first time this past year, attendance exceeding 30 on several occasions.
May all Friends find a path to greater Light and a better place in the year to come.
Holding us all in the Light,
Eau Claire Friends Meeting