As we look around Stony Run we see strength in our large number of committed, energized and spiritually diverse members and attenders. Together we find opportunities for spiritual support, challenge and growth, and ways to serve others. Each First Day we have two worship services and additional worship weekly. Our Monthly Meeting for Business is now well attended. We also offer adult forums, four age-graded First Day classes, an active Young Friends program, a welcoming nursery, and a very large number of standing committees, subcommittees and working groups. There’s no lack of times we get together!
We have noticed this year increased optimism, energy and willingness to offer vocal ministry. We continue to try to be open to and to respect all expressions of faith. This year, we find ourselves more tender with one another as our clerk has led us in increased worship during our Meetings for Business. Members find renewed spiritual energy as the process of our Meetings for Business has improved.
Yet despite these abundant gifts, we remain aware of areas for potential growth. We note the small number of primary age children attending First Day School. One positive is the continued ministry of our Little Meeting, which helps teach the fundamentals of centering and worship to young children. Making newcomers welcome remains an area for growth, and a working group continues to reach out to those new to our community. However, we recognize that each member and attender can serve as a welcoming presence. Personal invitations to lunch go a long way to breaking down barriers newcomers can feel. We worry that sometimes we may seem too remote in our interactions with those we do not yet know well.
We know we must better share and publicize the activities of our busy committees and working groups so that we all feel connected and supported, and people see ways to get involved. Already, we have three methods in place to share: a monthly newsletter, a website and information tables. We hope to find further ways to nurture the talents of our membership.
Holding joint committees and working groups with Homewood Monthly Meeting is a special joy, as are opportunities to work with other Meetings. Members and attenders gain much from participating in broader Quaker experiences; we encourage all members and attenders to seek a deeper connection with Baltimore Yearly Meeting. We are grateful that our Funds Review And Use Committee offers some financial support of these experiences. Planning the BYM Women’s retreat was an exciting opportunity for women at Stony Run this year.
We know our Meeting needs to reach out more earnestly to all the people of Baltimore. Our doors are open, but our building is located in one of the wealthiest areas of the city, poorly served by mass transit. We also suffer from far too small a presence of people of color, in a city that is majority African-American and has a very strong black middle-class. One area where we have made progress is accessibility, with measures in place to help those with diminished mobility, hearing or sight. Property committee is constantly monitors these measures.
We are currently trying to address issues of race and class in several ways. We have a very active, though small, working group on racism that sponsors reading groups, films, talks and discussions about overcoming our own barriers to openness. Our Peace and Social Order and Ministry and Counsel committees seek an over-arching project that would give large numbers of our members and attenders the chance to work side-by-side with people from other areas of our city. As a Meeting, we give scholarship money to help less economically privileged children attend Friends School of Baltimore and BYM camps. We recognize that we are broadened and our spirits enriched by these opportunities and contacts.
We seek ways to make outreach unifying and reinvigorating for our Meeting. We have almost monthly events like films, game nights and picnics where newcomers and old-timers can knit closer bonds. We publicize these events as well as our worship and committee work in hall displays visible to the hundreds of non-Friends who come through our doors each year to attend concerts, talks, Friends School meetings, and other events. We find that some of these visitors return to experience worship. We also cooperate with Friends School to orient new teachers, board members and parents to Quakerism; each year some later come to worship with us on First Day. We have had a special working group this past year devoted to improving the attractiveness our building so that the message it gives is “Welcome to a joyful, busy, worship community.”
Youth have a strong program in place, and as they get older they take increasing responsibility for planning and running their own program, with appropriate adult mentorship. We endeavor to see singles happily included in planning and participating in our many activities such as the men’s annual retreat; our Catoctin camping weekend, and the extended family events. We include elderly members by taking Meeting for Worship to those no longer able to easily get to Stony Run, and by setting up rides as needed. We try to increase a feeling of security and being cared for in face of significant health challenges and end of life issues. Even with our large size, we strive to honor and celebrate each individual’s importance.