Spiritual State of the Meeting Report
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Third Haven Friends Meeting, Easton, Maryland
1. In July 2021, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) approved minutes of action to be taken on anti-racism and climate change. How has your meeting been called to address these issues? What other concerns and initiatives has your meeting been led to address this past year?
Due to the 2020-21 pandemic conditions, our Outreach Committee has offered and hosted fewer programs. We had a very successful, well-attended film festival on racial issues in 1st–4th month 2018. We hope to return to these kinds of community programs against racism as pandemic conditions allow.
In 2021, Third Haven took on an active role with Quaker Voice Maryland (QVM), a state-wide Quaker legislative advocacy coalition operating under the care of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting. During the 2021 legislative session QVM provided guidance and support to Quaker meetings regarding legislation addressing climate change, criminal justice system reform, police accountability, health care and educational equity.
Third Haven has formed a "sister congregation" relationship with the Asbury United Methodist Church, an historic African American church located in the heart of Easton's historically Black neighborhood known as The Hill, which dates to 1788. The Meeting contributed $5000 towards the renovations of the church kitchen, which has traditionally been the source of meals and food distribution for many residents of the community (including Marilla's lunches), in which Third Haven is a partner. Third Haven members and attenders made very substantial additional financial contributions to Asbury renovations.
In 2021, to increase our understanding of race and racism in our community, the Meeting and its Worship and Ministry Committee initiated conversations with Clinton Pettus on Trust Circles. The Meeting will train facilitators and offer programs in 2022. As the Meeting becomes grounded and gains experience in this program, we hope to welcome Asbury Methodist Church into Trust Circles.
Third Haven has over 7 acres of property that hosts our historic meetinghouses, common room, caretaker's cottage, burial grounds and natural features. We recognize that the changing climate will impact the ways in which current and future members and attenders will be able to worship and gather as a community on these grounds. As part of Third Haven's planning for the future, we established a Planning Committee, focused on the needs and priorities for our buildings and facilities. The Meeting established a Land Use Planning Committee (LUPC) aligned and coordinated with the Planning, Property and Grounds Committees and the Trustees of the buildings and grounds. The purpose of the LUPC is to plan for future uses of the grounds in a manner that will strengthen the Meeting's resiliency to climate change, and preserve and encourage biodiversity and the overall ecological health of our grounds. Students in an advanced studio, in the graduate Landscape Architecture program at Morgan State University will work with LUPC to address land use planning in the spring 2022 term.
Third Haven understands the importance of helping children to become adaptable and resilient in the face of climate change. The Meeting's First Day School (FDS) and summer camp programs place a heavy emphasis on providing experiential learning about the importance of good stewardship of the natural environment. Children participating in these programs spend over 80% of their time outdoors, exploring the grounds, woods, meadows and the stream that borders our grounds.
2. How has your meeting evolved as a spiritual community given the ongoing opportunities and challenges of the pandemic?
Since the beginning of our pandemic response in 3rd month 2020, Third Haven has provided for in-person (outdoors and indoors), Zoom only, and "hybrid" gatherings depending on pandemic risks, vaccinations, weather and other conditions. The Meeting provides for virtual attendance for meetings for worship, FDS, committee meetings, and religious education programs. Monthly Spiritual journey presentations, and various other programs, including Jungian dream group and the Experiment with Light group, continue on Zoom and in person. In response to pandemic isolation, new opportunities for support were created, including a Care Givers Support Group and a weekly Friday evening Happier Hour, mostly on Zoom.
The Pastoral Care Committee, as well as members and attenders have gone to great lengths to maintain contact with members and attenders with mobility concerns, living at a distance or simply very careful in the pandemic. Some simply do not care for Zoom. So, attendance at meeting for worship has declined from averaging about 50-55 to 35-40. Nevertheless, the community remains active and vital.
In 2021, 6 members or attenders of the Meeting died. We found that Zoom enabled family members and Friends to participate in our memorial services, from all over the US and even foreign countries. Some Friends who moved away to various locations across the country, often to be closer to children, continue to participate in the meeting for worship and committees on Zoom. Special virtual events and activities were organized in support of the FDS children.
3. What practices and strategies are employed by your meeting to help members and attenders of all ages prepare for worship—whether in meeting for worship or in meeting for business?
Third Haven Friends Meeting and its Worship and Ministry Committee encourage all to attend meeting for worship regularly, coming with heart and mind prepared, and to read and study PYM Faith and Practice. Our Worship and Ministry Committee attends to the meeting for worship and discusses the quality of our worship at its monthly meetings. Worship and Ministry offers regular adult religious education programs on our faith and practice. Our children leave the meeting for worship after 15 minutes. Our FDS teaches about our Faith and Practice. Members and attenders participate in worship and various education programs at PYM, Pendle Hill and in other Quaker organizations.
The monthly sharing of Spiritual journeys enriches our understanding and love of one another, and strengthens our faith community. We teach and learn about our faith, worship and Spiritual practices through various religious education programs, less frequent in the pandemic. Each month a member of the Worship and Ministry Committee reads the monthly Query from Faith and Practice during the meeting for worship. We open each monthly meeting for business considering the Query.
In 2021, George Schafer of PYM conducted Quaker Eldering workshop for members of the Pastoral Care and Worship and Ministry Committees to assist us with discerning ways in which we could better support new attenders and members in understanding Quaker Faith and Practice, specifically how Quakerism is practiced at Third Haven. The Pastoral Care Committee revised and updated our "Pathways to Membership" brochure. The Outreach Committee publicized the offering of Introduction to Quakers session with our 4th day meeting for worship.
The Meeting encourages members and attenders to attend meeting for business and serve on committees. This is especially important for newcomers to better understand the life of the Meeting. We meet monthly (except 7th and 8th months) for business, with around 20 participants, fewer that before the pandemic. Most participants are long-serving members with much committee and Meeting experience. Worship and Ministry offers education on decision making in the manner of Friends from time to time.
4. What is most needed to strengthen the communal witness of the meeting to the local community and beyond?
During the pandemic, outreach and community activities have been constrained and reduced. For example, our operation of Talbot County Detention Center library was closed, and Marilla's lunches stopped completely. However, the Testimonies and Concerns Committee (T&C) continued to be active in witness to our Testimonies in our community, and through Quaker organizations, in the wider world (eg FCNL AFSC, PEACE, NAACP and Quaker Voice). T&C advises our Meeting and individuals on financial contributions. We continued to participate in and support the Talbot Interfaith Shelter, sponsored by the Talbot Association of Clergy and Laity. Members and attenders are active in the Multi-Cultural Center. Food Link volunteers will resume in 2022. The Meeting was well represented in the Easton Christmas parade, with a peace float, a large dove, members, attenders and children.
5. Is there a query or are there queries that your meeting would like to respond to that have not been included here? Please share it/them and your response.
How is the Meeting preparing to sustain our faith community in the future?
Analyses of membership and attenders from 1993 to 2021 show resident members relatively stable, ranging from 83 (2000) to 104 (2015). For the same period resident attenders stayed around 110, though higher in 2000 and 2008. The size of the Meeting has not changed significantly in 38 years, though the population has turned over almost entirely. Only a couple of families and a few members are continuous over this period. The Meeting replaces its membership about every 25 years, with new members, mostly arriving middle-aged or older.
Our children are beloved and essential to life and vitality of the Meeting. While the size and of our FDS has ebbed and flowed over the years, at present there are 8 families and 14 children involved in FDS. In the pandemic, the FDS schedule has been reduced as families are cautious about their unvaccinated children. Many FDS activities have been outdoors, on our lovely grounds. Although our planning process for improvements in our buildings and grounds has been slowed by the pandemic, the Meeting is dedicated to better and safer facilities for FDS.
The Meeting's Scholarship Committee provides financial support to students who attend Quaker schools and any college. The gratitude of the students and families strengthens our community and reinforces our commitment to families with children in the Meeting. Often, these young people continue their engagement with the Religious Society of Friends, but few are currently involved with Third Haven Friends Meeting.
Finally, we believe that the character and meaningfulness of our meeting for worship is the key to the vitality of the life of the Meeting. Attendance at meeting for worship is down in the pandemic. Recent deaths and departures, with older Friends moving to be closer to children and grandchildren, have affected attendance too. Our Worship and Ministry Committee, members and attenders, ensure that our meeting for worship—in silence and vocal ministry—continues to be nurturing and meaningful. Newcomers always tell us that our silence and meeting for worship drew then to the Meeting, kept them coming and led to membership.