The spiritual state of Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Homewood, is increasingly healthy. Meetings for worship, attended by about 35-40 each First Day, are often rich with messages from both seasoned Quakers and new attenders. Most all stay for lunch, which is lively with conversations and animated interaction between the mix of adults and children. The children’s table frequently has not only parents but other adults sitting with the children. All are thankful for the many F/friends who prepare, serve and clean up after our lunches.
In the three previous years, the Ministry and Worship committee used listening sessions and guided questions to discern the spiritual state of the meeting. The committee had observed a downshift in attendance and an inability of its busy membership to sustain some meeting activities and witness. Efforts to simplify committees and to build community were suggested from those who participated in the discernment process.
As a result, the meeting has combined several committees. The Ministry and Worship Committee was merged with Clearness and Counsel to create the Ministry and Counsel Committee, thus coming full circle to its organization over a decade ago. This has allowed for one larger committee to oversee meeting and care for members and attenders. Also, Homewood’s Peace and Social Witness Committee joined with the Peace Committee of Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run, and Old Town Friends Fellowship to form a joint committee, the Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee. The members meet alternately at Homewood and Stony Run to facilitate participation from the meetings and to share energy and activities.
Nevertheless, the meeting is still challenged by some lack of time commitment, as many of its members have multiple and complicated work and family responsibilities. For example, the meeting has not been able to find a single clerk who was willing and able to commit to a full term. It reached temporary resolution first with the short term return of a previous clerk and now with two co-clerks. Also, early in the year, Old Town Friends Fellowship asked Homewood to be taken under its care. Still reconciling issues with fragile committee participation and financial challenges, the meeting was unable to find unity to do this.
Yet, Homewood’s community continues to be strengthened through the weekly Adult Religious Education which occurs prior to Meeting for Worship. First First Days have a variety of topics determined and led by volunteers. One session which had almost thirty in attendance was on the financial status of our meeting. Another was on sustainable living. On fourth Sundays a constant cohort gathers for Experiment with Light. On third First Days all are encouraged to attend Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business following simple lunch. Beginning in November 2010, on second First Days, 15 to 20 members and attenders have gathered for a Quaker Book Club which has been reading Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity by Catherine Whitmire (2001). The meeting has felt the impact of these activities in a deepening of its Worship as reflected in the messages offered. Finally, the community has been enriched through external Quaker activities such as the BYM Women’s Retreat, which is heavily attended by Homewood women, and the frequent meetings of the Young Friends at Homewood.
Homewood has suffered some losses this year. Members feel an absence of elders as some long-time members have retired and moved elsewhere. Additionally, a number of Homewood’s teens are attending Stony Run where there is a critical mass of youth, as well as several dedicated FAPs; their parents are going there also. “Weighty families” are missed by many.
But Homewood also shows signs of new life. The nursery is vibrant with children of attenders as well as third generation Homewood toddlers. An assertive nominating committee has performed extraordinary outreach, bringing newcomers and those who have returned to meeting into active committee participation. An active solar panel ad hoc committee brought to completion the installation of solar panels to generate about half of the meeting’s energy. The committee hosted a meeting-wide Solarbration to celebrate this accomplishment, which was enjoyed by many. Even as it struggles with challenges related to its aging building, Homewood goes into this next year with a sense of gratitude for gifts from its forbearers and optimism that it will have the strength of its community to move ahead.