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