State of the Meeting Report, 2018

     In the conclusion of last year’s state of the meeting report, Manasquan Friends expressed anticipation “…that 2017 will challenge all Quakers to reaffirm that of God in everyone and to live as lights in the darkness to the best of our ability.”  Now that 2017 has passed, we find ourselves laboring under the weight of the negativity and divisiveness that is polarizing the nation.  Therefore, we welcomed one member’s suggestion that we consider this year’s state of the meeting discussion an opportunity to confront our shortcomings rather than an invitation to tout our accomplishments.  
For several years, prior to worship, we have offered Friends the opportunity to hold others in the Light.  This practice, which often exposes difficulties facing members of our meeting family, has deepened our worship together and has brought us closer as a community. However, in 2017, the quality of vocal ministry suffered from the heaviness that was affecting the meeting as a whole.  Meaningful witness became hesitant at a time when spiritual sustenance was most needed and when attendance was declining.  Having examined the situation in the course of discussion, Manasquan Friends resolve not to allow the political climate to deter our calling to speak God’s truth.
We were reminded to concentrate on those current issues which fly in the face of Quaker testimonies.  2017 began in a positive direction.  In April, Friends were motivated to leave their comfort zone by the social-change ministry of Lucy Duncan, Director of Friends Relations for AFSC, and Noah White, an adjunct professor at Temple University in the College of Public Health.  These Friends offered ways to work with oppressed communities as allies and partners, not as leaders or rescuers.  However, following this successful event, the Upreach Committee, which combines advancement, peace and social concerns, and intergenerational fellowship, struggled to discern an effective approach to continue addressing racism. 
The faithful involvement of two of our members with AVP-NJ constitutes another fruitful effort to promote Quaker testimonies.  Twenty workshops were completed in 2017 including fifteen in prisons.  Though AVP is not billed as a Quaker process, our volunteers find a Quaker rhythm to this program of nonviolent transformation.  The act of sitting face-to-face with a stranger for a two-minute conversation allows participants to see and to value God in each other.  So much of AVP is about opening one’s heart and about achieving radical equality with one another.  AVP represents what Quakers bring to the world.
Manasquan Meeting also has two members who have demonstrated interest in protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants.  One of these members has disseminated hundreds of leaflets on the subject of legal protection at sites where undocumented workers congregate.  He also arranged for Rita Dentino, an immigrants’rights activist, to speak at Manasquan Meeting in October, 2017.
In keeping with Quaker testimonies, Friends donated food and toiletries to clients of Family Promise, a program that provides food, shelter, and employment to families in need.
The energy of two of our most active members was consumed by arranging for and participating in renovations required by state fire regulations.  Our entrance is more inviting now.  More importantly, we are confident that the meetinghouse meets fire safety standards, a factor to consider when offering use of our facility for programs consistent with our beliefs.
In 2017, we took steps to enhance spiritual enrichment and renewal.  The Sunday morning adult class began reading A New Christianity for a New World by John Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop.  This work, which departs from the Biblical portrayal of God and Jesus, has raised many questions and has generated thoughtful discussion.
The Upreach Committee also undertook planning a program called “Finding a Way Forward in Troubled Times” to be held on four evenings in 2018.  The program will emphasize Quaker ideals and the organizations which exemplify them.  Our goal is to foster deeper appreciation of Quaker values and to embolden participants to live those values with greater devotion.
In the midst of political and social turmoil, we also must not neglect our obligation to reach out to young seekers and families and to offer opportunities to interact socially with seasoned Friends.
In the year ahead, we hope to obsess less over news headlines and to focus instead on critical issues.  Determining where to begin is the challenge.  The pervasiveness of racism in our society, the plight of undocumented immigrants, and the growing threat to increase nuclear armaments are all vital concerns.  Friends responded favorably to the prospect of involving Half Yearly Meeting in this quest. It may be possible to devote part of the next Half Yearly Meeting to a threshing session regarding God’s will for Quakers in this time of multiple crises.
Our state of the meeting discussion warned us to avoid engaging the darkness so that we may give voice to the Light.  In a world full of suffering, self-righteousness only obscures God’s response and impedes our ability to empathize with others.
Manasquan Friends acknowledge that God’s future for us begins with discernment both as individuals and as a community.  We know from Jesus’ teaching that God calls us to love everyone regardless of political inclination.  He also would have us renew our commitment to be the Light that darkness cannot overcome.


Approved, by meeting for business, held February 18, 2018.

Norma Heller, Assistant Clerk