Abington Friends Meeting
State-of-the-meeting Report to AQM for 2017
Friends at Abington Meeting continue to prosper as a vibrant community of seekers after Truth. This good news, which we are pleased to share with others in Abington Quarterly Meeting, is the result of the dedicate effort of our active members and attenders. These everyday prophets are committed to a vision of the beloved community that makes the life of our meeting a loving, safe and joyous place for Friends and their children to worship.
Yet our life together is not without its challenges. As Friends elsewhere have experienced, the number of Friends active in the life of the meeting has steadily declined over the past ten years and the task of maintaining our large membership, facilities and grounds can be daunting at times.
A recent survey of active members revealed that almost 80% serve the meeting in more than one capacity. This has led to a review of our meeting committee structure and whether it is appropriate given the number of Friends willing to serve. This work will continue into 2018 and probably beyond as we adapt to the changing environment of religious life in our society.
2017 was the first year that the Abington Meeting Secretary, Loretta Fox was employed full-time to serve the administrative needs of the meeting. This year Loretta’s title was changed from Meeting Secretary to Meeting Administrator to better reflect the scope of her duties, which have evolved to include managerial and organizational responsibilities. Friends at Abington feel fortunate to have such a competent and devoted administrator in Loretta and the enthusiasm and alacrity with which she performs her work is inspiring.
The decision to hire a full-time administrator in 2016 created an increase in our annual budget, which along with a grounds maintenance, created a sizeable deficit in our projected budget for 2017. The Abington Meeting Finance Committee proposed addressing this situation with a more planned and predictive approach to membership contributions.
In addition to creating an opportunity for Friends to thresh through this issue at a special called meeting, the committee initiated a process of asking members and attenders to commit to pledging their contribution at the beginning of the fiscal year. This process allowed for the meeting to receive more accurate financial reports during the year regarding our budgeted income vs expenses. And, this reporting, in turn, helped Friends at Abington to close our budget deficit significantly.
The called session on meeting finances also highlighted that currently AFM is funded by a donor model (as opposed to a membership dues model) in which 20% of our membership contributes 80% of our income. While we ask each member to contribute financially, in fact, we have Friends who are major donors (about 25 households.) These Friends contribute the bulk of the funds we used to run the meeting. This issue will continue to present a challenge to our ability to sustain ourselves into the future.
This past year, AFM also conducted a called meeting on the safety and accessibility of our meetinghouse and our facilities and grounds, to those differently abled. As a result, Friends have made a commitment to prayerfully pay attention to the experience of all our senses/abilities while at meeting and engage in personal discernment on this issue. We realize that there are Friends who no longer engage in the life of the meeting due to the limited accessibility of our spaces and grounds and others who do not approach us due to physical barriers and limitations in our facilities.
We concluded that everyone is disabled or will be at some time in their lives. But because some are more challenged than others, our testimonies (equality) and beliefs (that of God in everyone) urge us to make our buildings and grounds more accessible and welcoming. Safety and accessibility are imperative to center ourselves in Worship and to continue to pursue our vision of a peaceable and welcoming world for all of God’s children of whatever ability or age.
In 2017, Abington Friends Archives Committee began to create a digital record of historic items at the meeting in an effort to catalogue and declutter our fellowship and library spaces. This made possible the move of some of our upstairs library collection to the first floor for greater accessibility. Our Adult Education Committee continued its theme of “reaching out and reaching in” by presenting programming on over to 20 FD’s on the topic “How does Quaker history guide our walk as Friends today?”
The AFM Peace and Social Concerns Committee continued its work as part of a collaborative of local churches assisting a Congolese family in their resettlement in the US. We learned late in the year that the greater part of this family will be relocating to Kentucky. However, three young adult members have decided to stay in this area and the meeting and others will continue to support their resettlement.
The meeting also approved sponsoring another Memorial to the Lost event which the committee will coordinate. This event will publicly memorialize the names of people who have been killed by gun violence in the past two years, since the last time we did a memorial event, in Montgomery County, PA.
The P&SC in conjunction with Local Emergency Action and Response Network (L.E.A.R.N.), also sponsored two training events at the meetinghouse which invited local immigration attorneys to conduct a public discussion of immigration. This Know Your Immigration Rights training was well attended by Friends and members of the local community.
In the fall of 2017, the meeting approved undertaking a spiritual self-assessment of the Meeting to reflect on where we are as a community of Friends and to better understand the ground upon which we stand as we seek to move forward. The spiritual assessment committee consists of members from Worship & Ministry, Care of Members, and other members of the community. The first event in the self-assessment process will begin in January 2018.
In October, AFM hosted an evening lecture and book signing by Marcus Rediker the author of the recently published, “The Fearless Benjamin Lay.” The lecture which was attended by over a hundred people was Marcus’ second visit to AFM to talk about Benjamin Lay. Benjamin Lay, a 18th century abolitionist and member of AFM before being released formally from membership through disownment, continued to worship at our meeting and is buried in our grounds. In November, Friends approved the placement of a traditional Quaker grave-maker in our burial grounds acknowledging the interment of Benjamin Lay and his wife Sarah. In December, Friends approved a minute of unity with Benjamin Lay, which recognizes the true intention of his abolitionist efforts. This minute will be presented to Abington Quarter in February 2018.
This year, Abington Friends School, began a 10-year accreditation process with the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools. The process will examine all aspects of our school including: mission and philosophy, governance, and community relations. Simultaneous to this, the school will engage in a Quaker Renewal Self-Study in collaboration with the Friends Council on Education. AFS continues to be a significant Quaker witness and outreach to the community.
In conclusion, Friends at Abington Meeting through these activities strive to be a witness to the world amid the darkness of fear and violence we see around us. We do this through our faithfulness to the Light: the Quaker way as it is revealed among us, discerned and acted upon.
We understand that if we do not address our weaknesses we may fail in this faithfulness. We are confident that the Light not only shows us our life as it actually is with all of its pain and shortcomings. But, that this same Light leads us to renewal and recreation within ourselves and the world. This is an experience capable of renewing hearts and minds in ways which conform to our vision as a gathered, peaceful people.
Peace with us all,
George Schaefer, clerk
Abington Friends Meeting
January 11, 2018
On November 12, 2017, Abington Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends approved this minute into record:
Abington Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends recognizes Benjamin Lay’s dedication to equality, and his willingness to repeatedly speak his messages of Truth to a society that was in denial about the evils of slavery. We acknowledge that Benjamin Lay used radical activism in his attempts to teach his peers to recognize the equality before God of all people, regardless of race or gender. He lived his life with integrity according to his Quaker beliefs, and he called others, especially slave-owners, to accountability.
Benjamin Lay was written out of membership at Abington Monthly Meeting on the thirtieth day, eleventh month, 1737 (which by the Quaker calendar, while the Julian calendar was in use, would have been January 30, 1738), because his zealous actions were considered disruptive. It is now known that at least two of the Friends who led the discernment about writing Benjamin Lay out of membership in the Society of Friends were slave-owners and were likely targeted by Benjamin Lay’s anti-slavery activism. Benjamin Lay was disowned decades before Quakers were disowned for being slave-owners.
We now recognize the truth behind Benjamin Lay’s abolitionist efforts. Although we may not reinstate membership for someone who is deceased, we recognize Benjamin Lay as a Friend of the Truth and as being in unity with the spirit of our Abington Monthly Meeting.
A grave marker for Benjamin and Sarah Lay will be placed in our Abington Meeting graveyard during the winter of 2017-18. Although the exact location of the grave is not known, as will be indicated on the marker, we do know approximately where they were buried.
Distinguished professor and author Marcus Rediker presented two lectures at Abington Meeting, the first in February 2016 and the second in October 2017, on his book The Fearless Benjamin Lay. To view the October lecture, click here. Please note that there is a time-coded list below each video so viewers can scan the topics Rediker covered to see the order and where to find each topic in the video. Marcus Rediker has also written articles on Benjamin Lay for the New York Times and The Smithsonian Magazine. An interview with Marcus Rediker can be viewed here.
For those who may be interested in Benjamin Lay’s cave, please contact the Meeting office for some information.
In the UK, the North London Area Meeting minute, Agreed on 18 November 2017 reads as follows:
“Quakers are proud of the times in history we have been ahead of our time on progressive social issues – but preceding those moments, there have often been long periods when we have not walked the path we would later understand to be the just one. At a time when racism seems as present and ugly as ever – both globally and nationally – and the structures of white supremacy are being defended and strengthened by powerful forces in our societies, this seems a timely moment for North London Area Meeting to reflect on its involvement in the struggle for racial justice.
North London Area Meeting recognises Benjamin Lay’s dedication to equality – and his willingness to repeatedly speak his messages of Truth. We also recognise Benjamin Lay as being a Friend of the Truth – and as being in unity with the spirit of our Area Meeting. We ask our Clerking team to write to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Abington Monthly Meeting and Southern East Anglia Area Meeting (successor to Colchester & Coggeshall Monthly Meeting) to clarify that Lay is in good standing with North London Area Meeting (successor to Devonshire House Monthly Meeting).”
The North London decision was supported by a letter from Tim Gee of Peckham Meeting (close to the now defunct Deptford Meeting where Lay attended as a Young Adult Friend), outlining how the decision would be a manifestation of three 21st century Quaker principles.
“Firstly it is a timely reminder of the Advice to ‘listen for the spirit, even if it is expressed in ways unfamiliar to you’.
Secondly it is a reiteration of the insight that every person ‘has a measure of the light’ with a recognition that then as now, our interpretation of the spirit can be distorted by privilege and hierarchy
Thirdly, it builds on the statement against racism made by Meeting for Sufferings in February 2017, by showing that for a long as racism exists – whether in society or in the Society of Friends – ‘without justice there can be no peace”.
A recent BBC article explains further: Link to BBC Article about recent happenings in North London Meeting
Children’s Programming for 2017-18: The opening program for First Day School will be September 17th at 10 a.m. in the John Barnes Room. We hope all families with school-age children will attend, as teachers will be introduced during the program. At that time, registrations forms will be available, or click the link below to download a form. A registration form will be needed for each child attending First Day School or Child Care (see below). The calendar for our children’s programming is also below. If you have any questions, please contact any member of our Children’s Religious Education Committee: Tom Dwyer (acting convener), Norman Cotterell, Cherie Gerstadt, Susan Ely Greenwood, Lisa Hohenstein, Kathy Singer, Carol Moore, or Loretta Fox.
2017 Parent Letter
Faith & Practice is an essential guidebook for Quaker practice, and it is available at http://www.pym.org/faith-and-practice/. Please take some time to familiarize yourself with this important publication.
JOIN OUR WOMEN’S COMMUNITY DRUM CIRCLE – The PerSisters
Held monthly on a Tuesday evening, 7 – 8:30, at Abington Friends Meeting House.
Usually held on last Tuesday, but that sometimes changes.
If interested, you need to be on our group email list.
If you could bring a drum, shaker or any kind of percussion instrument, that’s great.
However, we always have some extra.
For questions, information, directions:
“When we come into a drum circle, we enter a sacred place as community without judgment and mistrust, but with respect and compassion to heal one another and bring into focus the possibilities of who we truly are.” Project-Resiliency.org
All women are welcome
We ask a FREE WILL donation of $10 for space and facilitator
If you would like to make a casserole, pans with recipes and instructions are available in the kitchen and in the vestibule. Casseroles may be prepared at home and dropped off in the large freezer in the meetinghouse kitchen.
Sandwich Making Program
Our Sandwich Making program and Mission Days for Middle School and High School age Friends take place once a month during the school year. Friends gather on the designated First Day (Sunday) at 11 a.m. in the Short Stable to make sandwiches, and then our young Friends may travel with adults to Face to Face in the Germantown section of Philadelphia to distribute the sandwiches to the needy guests gathered there for a midday meal.
On October 15, 2016, Abington Friends Meeting commemorated the people interred in unmarked graves in our burial ground, especially those of African descent, with a bronze plaque erected at its entrance. We gathered for a Memorial Meeting for Worship as a tribute to the long-forgotten people of African descent who are buried under our care and stewardship.
Click Here to view an interview with clerk George Schaefer in Friends Journal regarding this historic event.
Thank you to our videographer, Gordon Lewis, for capturing our event so beautifully!
Review of our Event from Montgomery News:
Preview of our Event from Philadelphia Inquirer:
Photos from the Event:
Our non-perishable food basket collections are distributed at the InterFaith Food Cupboard. This food bank usually serves 100 families a week. Each family automatically receives a pre-stocked bag with peanut butter, jelly, pasta, sauce, tuna, rice, canned fruit, corn, green beans, tea and bread. Clients also have the opportunity to make requests from a checklist of stocked items, including canned meats and vegetables, cereal, healthy snacks, condiments, soups, and hygiene products. Paper towels and toilet paper are often requested. Highly desired items are coffee, canned meats, mushrooms and collards and smaller bags of flour and sugar. As you continue to generously fill the baskets in the foyer, keep in mind that the Food Bank can only use products within a current expiration date. Our Meeting members have been very generous with weekly donations to our collection baskets for the Interfaith Food Cupboard, but staples are always needed – rice, tuna, canned vegetables and fruit, paper products, mayo, catsup, salad dressing, pork ‘n beans, and coffee. The foyer basket contains paper bags with the request lists. Please take one!