Friday, April 15, 2016

The State of Society as Stood Aside From

[2016 State of the Society Report, as approved in Meeting for Business with RantWoman standing aside and requesting that the report be held over for further work, with multiple other Friends expressing unity with RantWoman’s views after the close of Meeting for Business.The report is not due until April. RantWoman notes a desire that edits not make the report longer than it currently is, approximately 987 words. Do urls count? How about Twitter handles?  Hashtags? Never mind. Further editorial comment left to UFM's bedbugs separately. The bedbugs do sincerely wish to thank God Almighty for the ABUNDANT data  the seasoning process offered to feed RantWoman's Show me don't just tell me Inner Editor. Possibly no one but the bedbugs realize that RantWoman even has an inner editor. Hold that point in the Light!  ]

University Friends Meeting 2016 State of the Society Report - Draft

We are a large, urban meeting, diverse in our personal theologies, length of Quaker experience, and expectations of community. Our size means we can take on many ministries and activities. It also brings challenges: our many visitors and new attenders are not always fully welcomed. We struggle with issues of privilege, class, and race. We often find ourselves overextended.

Before all else we are a spiritual community. Our mission is to nurture each other into our best, spirit-led selves and into the work to which we are called. Each of us needs to take up this challenging task. Many formal and informal activities at UFM contribute. Several members who are current students or graduates of Way of the Spirit bring the fruits of that work that to our community, as well as deepening our connections to programmed Friends.

Adults are nurtured by worship, vital and well-attended adult religious education sessions, and by our pastoral care committees. Many adults contribute to the spiritual nurture of the children and teens as teachers, mentors, and a caring adult presence. We do struggle to meet their needs across all age groups and especially for the middle school age who begin to drift away from First Day School. There is a long standing monthly regional gathering of Junior Friends (high school), and a newly-begun similar gathering of Central Friends (middle school). Together with South Seattle Meeting and Salmon Bay Meeting we support quarterly Sunday joint meetings for the nurture of Quaker families.

Worship remains the heart of the meeting and our great blessing. Meetings for worship are often deeply centered and endowed with rich vocal ministry. Many experienced Friends uphold the worship and vocal ministry. Our three weekly meetings for worship each have their own character. The small Wednesday evening meeting is valued by its attenders. At 9:30 on Sundays 20 - 30 gather in a close community for worship that is rich in silence. The 11:00 meeting is much larger, with many children joining us at the end of worship, frequent newcomers, and much vocal ministry. Particularly at the 11:00 meeting we note the challenge of discerning the difference between spirit-led vocal ministry and other types of messages.

We serve the UFM community, our local community, and the world. Our two structured ministries to our local community are the 24 year old QuEST program which places six or seven recent college graduates into a year of service in organizations with Quaker values, and our nine year old SHARE shelter, which provides a dry safe sleeping place for homeless individuals in our worship room. This year the possibility of affiliating QuEST with Quaker Voluntary Service led us to a period of active discernment about the relationship between QuEST and the relatively new Quaker Voluntary Service. We have not reached a conclusion but have been influenced by the process to strengthen the QuEST relationship to other meetings in Seattle and build stronger experiences for QuEST fellows. As the homeless population in Seattle grows rapidly our SHARE shelter continues to provide a nightly haven for about 20 people. We are grateful for the opportunity to get to know these folks and feel especially enriched on holidays such as Thanksgiving when our two communities come together.

Several members of UFM are called to leadership in broader Quaker organizations. We feel fortunate to have, among our members, deep Quaker experience that we can lend to the world, but we also see the reduction in energy and experience available to UFM itself. Like many meetings, we have difficulty filling all the positions on our committees. More worrisome is the serious difficulty we have finding Friends willing to assume clerking roles at UFM. We sometimes fail to bring the necessary level of practical and spiritual preparation to business meeting. Like many other meetings, we seek good ways to manage disruptive behavior so that everyone can contribute helpfully to our committees and business meetings.

Our buildings and grounds receive the good care of staff, members of the Facilities Committee, and individuals with a special gift for gardening with native plants. The costs of maintaining our aging buildings, neighborhood construction impacts, graffiti, and inadequate parking present challenges, however, our finances have been stable and healthy the last few years. Discerning our role in a rapidly changing neighborhood, how we can be better stewards of our facilities and how our ministries can better serve this changing community will be an important task for us in the coming years.

We nurture each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually through twice monthly light lunches, numerous and robust care committees, and clearness committees that assist Friends seeking discernment at significant life decision points. Members of the Friends Center Committee put considerable energy into Sunday morning social hour, light lunches, and holiday gatherings, especially the big Thanksgiving feast.

Several committees and numerous individuals are seeking ways to provide a more welcoming environment to new attenders and to help them integrate into the meeting. Improvements might be a step towards improving diversity. Integrating newcomers is a challenge as it is easy for someone to be ignored in a meeting as large as UFM. We recognize that diversity in our community of seekers is essential for us as a community and as individuals if we are to come to deeper understanding of the Truth, and see past our own limitations.

As of February 2016 we have 138 members. Since last June we have lost one member to death, one has resigned, one has transferred out, and seven missing members have been dropped from our rolls. We have welcomed one new member and two transfers into the meeting.

We understand from the Friends who attended the December 2015 consultation at Ben Lomond that other Western unprogrammed meetings face similar challenges to the ones we document in this report, and feel energized to hear about and learn from others' experiences and approaches to addressing these challenges.

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