Third Haven Friends Meeting
State of the Meeting Report 2020
In a year like no other, Third Haven Friends Meeting quickly embraced the new reality of the COVID pandemic and its consequences. With the help of computer communications technology, Friends dedicated themselves to the task of finding new and innovative ways to stay connected. We started Zoom meetings in February and successfully combined both Zoom and live in-person worship during the warmer months. We briefly opened our 1684 meetinghouse in September and October, before the pandemic surged again. Safety remains our number one priority, as we carefully follow our Talbot County Health Department's guidelines, frequently speaking to local public health officials for advice. So far, we have been able to continue in-person Wednesday evening meetings for worship, with only 5-6 Friends gathering at that time, following social distancing and mask guidelines. The Wednesday meetings are also held virtually simultaneously. At this point, we realize that some of our members and attenders do not feel comfortable on (Zoom) virtual platforms or meeting in-person. We will continue to develop and implement innovative ways to keep as many people as possible connected and engaged in the meeting.
At the beginning of the pandemic, our Pastoral Care Committee increased its efforts to contact members and attenders on a regular basis. Every person was asked what their needs were, how we could help and what type of contact they felt comfortable with. A variety of responses helped direct us towards individualizing services (how often to call, how much tech help they needed, etc.). The Committee focused on people with serious health problems and their caregivers, families schooling from home, and Friends in social isolation. We are constantly reevaluating our outreach in the Meeting efforts to keep our Friends engaged, while being sensitive to meet them "where they are."
Worship and Ministry
The core value of the Meeting is supporting spiritual growth. Our Meeting is known for its deep listening and Spirit-led vocal ministry. Worship and Ministry worked hard to keep the sense of the Divine alive and pertinent during changing times. We have had discussions about how hard it is to center on Zoom versus when we are together in each other's physical presence. We realize the experiences are not the same. The Committee continues traditional practices of greeting people to worship, reading the queries and offering guided meditation and readings groups. In December, along with Pastoral Care, Worship and Ministry Committee started special services for "Healing-Holding others in the Light" on Zoom.
Testimonies and Concerns
The ways this year has affected our day-to-day activism has been profound. We have all found it frustrating to be cut-off from our usual volunteer work and social outreach. The Committee held several meetings discussing engagements in important issues and found ways to contribute back to our community and to Quaker organizations. We are currently engaging with a group from Baltimore Yearly Meeting to address issues presented to Maryland General Assembly, most specifically environmental issues. Many of us continued our individual efforts including working locally on social justice issues, income and racial inequities, homelessness, meat packing workers, and nature sanctuaries. One special project this year has been to help a historic African American "sister" church, Ashbury United Methodist Church, rebuild its soup kitchen for community use. Our efforts are going well so far. The Committee also allocates funding from our Shoffner Educational fund in international outreach. We have helped pay a Bolivian Quaker's way through her medical school. The Committee publishes an annual Giving Guide to help Friends donate to worthy groups at years end.
First Day School
What a big change this year has been for our families and small children. Children and their parents' lives have changed drastically. First Day School (FDS) has managed to stay in touch with families by Zoom, by sharing of resources and by Godly Play lessons. We delivered games, such as Fox and Fell in the spring, sent families age-appropriate anti-racist books and lessons, had a virtual pizza party and even decorated Christmas wreaths for Meeting. During Advent, we held a "Reverse Advent" activity and collected much needed food and personal items for a local service center. FDS continues to be amazing in their innovation and connection during most challenging conditions.
Property and Grounds
Our hoped-for plans of expansion and renovation have been temporarily tabled. The silver lining in this allows us to carefully plan needed repairs on the 1684 Meeting House. We have located talented craftsmen skilled in historic buildings to help ensure quality preservation work. We continue holding periodic workdays on the property because outdoor activities with social distancing is safe and fun!
Queries for Other Meetings
Everyone misses our in-person worship and wonderful hospitality time. We long for the good food and companionship. With zoom, we hold "breakout rooms" at the end of meeting for worship. This helps gives us some of the more intimate conversations we all miss. How are other Meetings filling the hospitality problem?
We are constantly trying to improve our technology, communications and connections. Have other meetings found technological tools and methods that they really like?
We are not really doing outreach now but have considered making outreach part of other committees such as Pastoral Care. What are other Meetings doing?
We have considered bringing Hospitality into Pastoral Care as well. Have other meetings thought of this? Could Hospitality along with Pastoral Care help with meals to families?
What are other Meetings doing with their library? Are you lending books?
Finally, There are many blessings to be appreciated from this past year:
- As Friends, we enjoy quiet and solitude. That has come in handy this year.
- Struggling with technology and communications together can strengthen new friendships.
- Asking people what they are "comfortable" with is a new way of being kind.
- Being in Community is invaluable and being in community in difficult times is precious.
Molly Burgoyne Brian, clerk