State of Society Report, May 2011
Our year can be characterized by exhilaration, frustration, and leveling off of attendance losses over the last four years. Though our Meeting is smaller than it has been, and there were times when it seemed in danger of dwindling too far, we seem to have turned a corner, and way has opened for us to come together and renew our spiritual community.
We were happy to host an all day workshop on spiritual development by Paul Buckley. During this workshop, our Meeting discovered that we are very good at “out-reach” and working as Friends in many worthy causes in the wider community. However, Meeting members and attenders would like to see our Meeting more focused on “in-reach,” or tending to members and attenders’ spiritual needs and to strengthening the Meeting itself. As a result, our Nominating Committee has been working to modify and streamline the committee structure so as to facilitate this “in-reach,” and so that individual members and attenders do not feel overburdened by committee work. Our adult education program already has been focused on Quaker spirituality and values, and we had a pancake breakfast and monthly potlucks that have been strengthening our social bonds. We have been blessed by the careful assistance Joan Pine (ILYM Ministry and Advancement) has been providing us.
We took active steps to place more importance on linking, as a Meeting, with the wider Oak Park area community and to develop programs for children and youth. We have not had a new member in over four years, but this year we have seen many new visitors, some of whom are indicating their intention to continue their association with us. We also hope that we can find the way to encourage attendees to consider membership, as they are led. This may open for us as we continue our “in-reach.” We had also gone through a period in which no families with children attended Meeting, and our First Day School program had ceased. After a long discussion, we agreed to contract with a young woman to lead our First Day School. We promoted this in the community, and two children now attend regularly. We are looking forward to attracting more children, along with their parents, during the second year of this program. The presence of these children and their parents—and our First Day teacher—has had a rejuvenating effect on the Meeting as a whole, and we are graced by their presence.
This year has also been marked by losses. We had one member leave the Society and three more move away. Geoffrey Plank and Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska have relocated to England and Rosalind Larsen has moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, to be near her family. We miss them and pray for their continued spiritual development. We were saddened by the deaths of Elinor Fallert, who while not a formal member was a truly weighty Friend for over 40 years, and of George McCoy, who sojourned with us during the last years of his life.
In other news, our website is attracting visitors, and we are considering how to use other social media. Our Peace and Justice Committee continues to be active and dynamic; strong social witness can be considered a hallmark of our Meeting. We focused on ending the death penalty in Illinois, nuclear disarmament, peaceful prevention of war and the environment.
In closing, we hope that our Meeting will continue on the path towards new strength and spiritual development. May God give us strength to understand and live out our leadings, as individuals and as a Meeting, and the grace to live in the Light and to share it with others.