Port Townsend Friends Meeting finds echoes of our year in Isaac Penington's writings:
Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness: and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand. _Isaac Penington, 1667
That lovely word "tender" describes the feeling at worship; we are becoming more tender. There is a tenderness in the depth of love we sometimes experience in Meeting. The core of the Meeting is the Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Business. We support each other in our leadings, that are rooted and grounded in worship.
We are amazed at how much our small meeting does, putting our hands and feet where we are led: Members and active attenders took lead roles with supporting the Tribal Canoe Journey during its overnight stop in Port Townsend (supplying dinner for 1,200 people); Hiroshima Day events, including a candlelight vigil on the waterfront across from Indian Island Naval Weapons Depot, with a faux coffin decorated with pictures depicting the effects of nuclear weapons and depleted uranium; starting a restorative justice organization in Jefferson County, beginning with a presentation to an audience which included the prosecuting attorney and the sheriff, and building an organization of trained individuals; cooking and supplying night monitors for our winter homeless shelter; working on establishing lobby relationships with both state and federal legislators from our district. This past year, we were successful in asking Representative Norm Dicks to sign on as co-sponsor of a resolution declaring support for a diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These things involve a wider circle of people than those active in the Meeting. Our numbers are small; ripples are felt from our work.
For such a small Meeting, we have major connections to wider Quaker groups_FCNL, FGC, FLGBTQC, FWCC, AFSC, FCWPP, and Chris Hall's ministry. Port Townsend Friends Meeting established a support group for Chris Hall, who feels called to a ministry involving starting a Quaker School of the Spirit for west coast programmed and unprogrammed Friends.
We are very generous. With a small budget, we manage to exceed expectations in donations, and contribute well to other organizations. We are a corporate body in the spirit of Quakers; last year there was recognition of ourselves as a corporate entity, in legal terms. We became a Washington state nonprofit corporation.
Our Meeting and Whidbey Island Worship Group (which is under our care) have responded to families of our three members who died_there were impressive memorials for Peter Bennett (Whidbey), Rusty North (PT) and Bill Woolf (PT) and good ongoing support for their families. Meeting continued to support our members with five ongoing care committees and several clearness committees during the year.
Early in the year, Nominating Committee asked for a threshing session. The session answered the queries: What is essential to maintain our satisfaction with our role toward one another, the meeting and the larger community? Who are we as a meeting? What is our unified vision? Our answers included: sharing love, tolerance, caring and understanding with one another; remaining centered; and looking at whether we should combine some committees.
We held a fruitful discernment session to set recommended FCNL priorities. Important priorities for us include withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, reduction of military spending, work for a world without nuclear weapons and without depleted uranium, immigration reform, collaborating with the Native American community to ensure the rights of their members, clarifying that corporations are not natural citizens and supporting campaign finance reform, reducing threats of global warming and increasing implementation of alternate energy sources.
Later in the year, we spent time looking at where we are in our journey_Friends Meeting: Past, Present and Future. We started by holding up a mirror to ourselves as a Meeting_our demographics show an elderly Meeting with no children. With 30 members, all but two are over 50. At a retreat, we shared deeply about four queries:
Spiritual: How shall we enrich our spiritual life?
Maintenance: How do we each take an active part in the life of the Meeting?
Pastoral: What kind of care will we be able to give and what kind of care will be asked of us?
Social Concerns: What concerns might draw us and other in the future? How will we meet those concerns?
We are working to get past the shoulds and let our Light shine. We've been deepening, lightening, getting more buoyant in a way. We've been maturing as a body, becoming more tender and generous with one another. We are challenged to renew ourselves in terms of the future health of our Meeting. Coming challenges include gracefully letting go of our members, being tender but still candid, and also the challenge of coming back to life again with new life, young life.