Tuesday, May 16, 2017

State of Society--almost

State of the Society Report
University Friends Meeting
Draft April 30, 2017

[Annotated after Meeting For Business; RantWoman expects there should be a link for a final version at some point. Uses of “spiritual:” 6, down from 14. Shared mirth with drafters about going overboard even worse as a joke.  MUCH improved but RantWoman thinks excess verbiage could still be eradicated. RantWoman also still crabby because of tensions about mentioning matters beyond Meeting’s walls. RantWoman not crabby? Take her temperature!]

University Friends Meeting (UFM) strives to live and act in accordance with Quaker testimonies and practices, and to build a caring Meeting community. While there is much to say about the work and state of our Meeting, this report emphasizes the interests and concerns related to the spiritual health of UFM.

The current number of adult members is 141, which is a net gain of one adult member in 2016. UFMprovides the opportunity for its members and attenders to balance their busy lives and spiritual needs.

We regularly have three meetings for worship each week. The 11:00 o’clock meeting on Sunday
mornings typically has an attendance of 40 to 70. It is a meeting with the most vocal ministry, and is attended by a mix of newer members and attenders, members with younger children who take advantage of the preschool and First‐Day School offerings, and many long time members. The 9:30 meeting typically has an attendance of 15 to 30, many of whom seek a deeper worshipful experience with less vocal ministry. There is also a Wednesday night meeting for worship which typically has attendance in the single digits.

The quality of worship is generally considered to be good. When problems with worship are recognized, steps are taken to restore a worshipful atmosphere. At the conclusion of the 9:30 meeting, Friends introduce themselves and may share concerns or experiences that are important to them. At the conclusion of the 11:00 o’clock meeting, there is a time for sharing joys and sorrows that do not rise to the level of vocal ministry during the meeting for worship proper. As the Meeting has become accustomed to this practice the time spent in worship has become more centered as there is now a separate time for sharing other concerns.

A number of UFM members have participated in Quaker spiritual enrichment programs such as Way of the Spirit, Woman’s Theological Conference, Quarterly and/or Yearly Meetings, and local and national Quaker organizations. This has deepened the spiritual experience for our entire Meeting. Another way we deepen our community is through worship/sharing groups that meet for several months. Our preschool program, First‐Day School program, and Junior Friends program enrich the lives of our children and teens while allowing parents time to attend to their own needs in meeting for worship. [Elders? Senior citizens?]

We have a relatively high number of attenders who have varying familiarity with Quaker worship and practices. Maintaining the quality of worship is a challenge at times when there are a relatively large number of attenders new to Quaker worship. The majority of our members come from white middle class backgrounds. We are challenged with how to build a Friends’ community which embraces the cultural diversity of our region. We have had some attenders from minorities who have worshipped with us frequently for several months, even joining a committee only to decide that we were not the religious community that they wanted to call home.

[This paragraph makes RantWoman cringe on multiple grounds. RantWoman is VERY grateful for a number of comments during Meeting for Business. RantWoman is unclear what was actually decided about wording but remembers comments about various reasons people do not feel they fit in and based on Rantwoman’s fixation on linguistic diversity a count of how many different languages people in Meeting speak at home]

UFM recently had an all‐meeting retreat in which members shared their memories of how they lived their faith during trying times. UFMs Adult Religious Education committee is sponsoring a month of follow‐up programs to this retreat. This committee continues to be a valued source of information, discussion, and spiritual nourishment for our community, covering a wide variety of Quaker and social issues every Sunday morning. Our community is becoming more aware of issues and concerns of transgender and other gender nonconforming people. An upcoming program will be UFM’s first formal step in seasoning the minute proposed for Yearly Meeting action on Gender Inclusivity.

The two long term ministries of UFM have been our QuEST (Quaker Experiential Service and Training) program and hosting of a SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resource Effort) homeless shelter. UFM sponsors QuEST fellows who live as a community in our building called Quaker House and work at non‐profit agencies. A spiritual mentorship program was implemented to enhance support to our QuEST fellows.

The SHARE organization temporarily closed its shelter system during 2016 due to funding cuts [and organizational concerns. Government] Funding was recently restored, but the UFM shelter did not reopen. The Meeting is now considering our options with how best to proceed with our homelessness ministry. [Added wording about availability of two Travelers Rooms]

Over this past year we completed many maintenance projects and repairs to our aging meeting house. The worship room was completely upgraded this year. We anticipate the loss of our long time tenants American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Global Gardens Preschool. This creates an opportunity to determine how to best utilize our whole property (including Quaker House) and examine our ministries in the changing University District. We have appointed an Ad Hoc Campus Discernment Committee to explore how we may best use our property. The maintenance of the physical plant of our campus will continue to be a stress to our Meeting’s energy and finances.
The Meeting has several part time employees, some of whom have been with us for many years. Our meeting has begun discussing potential changes to our personnel structure that might more effectively meet the Meeting’s needs. This has proven to be a challenging discussion due to many factors, including concerns about current employees losing their job, as well as interpersonal conflicts within our community. Working through these issues can be an important opportunity for healing and growth within UFM.

UFM continues to be challenged with adequately filling our committee rosters with people willing to commit their time and energy. We have had previously active and valued members who have been clerks of committees, and then have stopped being active in the Meeting at the end of their terms. UFM has benefitted from their valuable service. It is possible that they needed respite from a heavy workload. However, there are feelings that their work is not appreciated or is criticized in ways that are hurtful. UFM has become increasingly concerned about the way we communicate with one another, and is also working to make an environment where bullying is not tolerated. It is our intention to deal with all involved in a supportive and loving way with the hope that all parties may come to an understanding and either resolve or embrace their differences. As a community we try to be more affirming of the valuable contributions that each person makes. Like all human endeavors this is a work in progress.

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