In 2018 the State of our Society at Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends was healthy and thriving. We gather at our old brick Meetinghouse from towns north, south, east and west from Durham, forming a community grounded in a vital worship life that that both gives and receives strength from a range of other activities in the Meeting. We are still feeling our way, but more confidently, in our second full year of proceeding without a paid pastor.
Ministry and Counsel has accepted new responsibilities both for the worship life of the Meeting and for pastoral care of members and attenders. We love receiving messages from one another, sometimes in linked themes across weeks, and also as each individual is led. We also have been much enriched by invited message-bringers from outside the meeting. We continue to reserve 5th First Days in a month, when there is one one, for unprogrammed worship. We have been adjusting our regular schedule to accommodate expressed needs for more gathered silence during Meetings for Worship.
All of us are still not completely comfortable proceeding without a pastor, but we are finding ways to have various committees and individuals do what a pastor once did for us. An ad hoc committee appointed in 2017 led a yearlong consideration of the issues in proceeding without a pastor. We asked ourselves, what can we do to strengthen the Meeting? We came to focus on three needs to which we need to be attentive: pastoral care, outreach and coordination. Without a pastor, each of these areas is an important function with which we may struggle if we do not fresh approaches. An adult Sunday school meets regularly and we have been experimenting with prayer circles.
Our membership numbers have stayed relatively constant with a few passings and a roughly equal number of new members. Nearly every week we have visitors. We average 30 to 40 in worship each week except in the summer when, with one and another of us scattered to other Maine pleasures, numbers are a bit lower. We meet for business regularly and appreciate an excellent monthly newsletter.
Ministry Counsel has taken on responsibility for pastoral care of members. Having this as a committee responsibility rather that mostly relying on a pastor has been an important challenge. We have developed an organized approach to seeing that we are attending to all expressed needs. Some of us are still learning to see a visit from a fellow member rather than a pastor as pastoral care.
We take delight in the presence of children among us and are grateful for the creativity and care of our Youth Minister. We provide childcare every Sunday, and children’s programs on 1st and 3d Sundays. Our Christian Education Committee continues to be a source of vitality for the whole Meeting. It has developed an inter-generational approach to reaching out to families and provides spiritual nurture to youth through Godly Play and Young Friends seeking. CE also arranged a series of Game Nights for children of all ages and these will continue. Through our budget and extra efforts we arranged support for several children to attend Friends Camp.
We aim to make a difference in this world guided by the Spirit, love and our understanding of scriptures. Our Peace and Social Concerns Committee has new members and new energies for a variety of initiatives. The Kakamega Orphan Care Center, Lisbon Area Christian Outreach’s food bank, witnessing for peace at Bath Iron Works, a quilting project to address gun violence, the American Friends Service Committee and Seeds of Peace camp all received our attention and support. Towards the end of the year, P&SC arranged a thought-provoking social justice film series.
Our Trustees have been faithfully attentive to caring for our Meetinghouse, horse shed, parsonage burial grounds, and phone/internet service. Each has needed and received attention. Our Finance Committee and our Treasurer have the Meeting’s financial house in good order. We vexed ourselves with disagreements about whether and which clock to allow in the Meeting room but we appear to have found a solution. We share the Meetinghouse regularly with a 12-step Group and a Native American fellowship group.
Outreach has been a question on our minds. How can we reach out beyond ourselves to bring our message and the delights of our community to others? We have taken this on as a challenge for all of us, as we turn to a new year.
Approved at Monthly Meeting for Business, March 17, 2019, Sukie Rice, Presiding Clerk