State of the Meeting Reports
On March 21, at the rise of Meeting for Worship, members and attenders of Inland Valley Friends Meeting gathered for a Worship Sharing, reflecting on several queries from the Southern California Quarterly Meeting.
Many Friends responded to the query about Zoom’s impact, most quite positively. One Friend mentioned our Meeting’s resilience. Others commented on the ease of joining Zoom and on the strengthened connections with out-of-state Friends and Las Vegas Worship Group. Friends expressed gratitude and delight at how spiritual and connected our online Meetings felt. One Friend appreciated that every week was an “interspecies” Meeting, and several mentioned the value of our after-Meeting sharing. Another Friend called Meeting for Worship their hour of “refuge” and “renewal.” Some Friends believed that more of us have joined both weekly meetings and extra gatherings than would have attended face-to-face meetings.
On the other hand, we acknowledged that some Friends have stopped attending due to discomfort with the virtual world. One Friend missed potlucks. Another Friend missed after-Meeting socializing. Yet another noted that Zoom was not conducive to children.
As far as the direction of our Meeting’s energy, Friends expressed appreciation for the various rise of Meeting dialogues, which have included Quaker process, testimonies, and issues of diversity and inclusivity. One Friend remarked that although our Meeting is small, its reach is long. Several Friends expressed gratitude for our Clerk’s caring and dedication. Others mentioned the importance of attending Quarterly and Yearly Meetings—one Friend called them “life-changing.” Still others commented on the value of committee work, with one Friend sharing that such work makes them feel “part of things.”
We have been delighted by the number of new attenders over the past year. We look forward to building on the energy and expanding into a hybrid meeting, hoping to continue our reach and extend our welcome more broadly.
On March 1st, at the rise of Meeting for Worship, ten members and attenders of Inland Valley Friends Meeting (IVFM) gathered for a worship sharing time, focusing on the queries provided by Southern California Quarterly Meeting.
At the top of Friends’ comments was our November 2019 move to a new location, renting rooms from All Saints Episcopal Church. The new site provides us with a stable location, along with ample parking and signage unavailable at our previous site. It further gives us more room for a children’s program and is quieter than our previous location. Friends were appreciative of this new environment and believe it will contribute to a nurturing worship with potential for growth.
A second recurring comment from Friends was the resurgence of programming outside our regular worship hour. Over the past six months, we have had several potluck worship sharings at Friends’ homes, alternating with Quaker Dialogues at rise of Meeting. New attenders were especially appreciative of the gatherings that have helped them understand Quaker practices better and get to know other Friends more deeply.
A related comment made by several Friends, including newer attenders, was the welcoming atmosphere of our new setting and enhanced programming—in addition to the actions of individual Friends. As a group, we expressed our hope not only to continue, but also to enrich our “intentional” welcoming and outreach practices.
We note that some of these practices are facilitated by the work of the Nominating Committee to engage all members and attenders.
An unexpected side effect of our move was a review and ongoing cataloguing of over 900 publications in our library. We experienced joy and a little surprise at the many resources we have. We hope to establish a library committee to finish cataloguing and to publicize the many books and pamphlets we have rediscovered.
Friends continue to mourn the passing of one of our most active long term members. We noted that at least three of our families are dealing with cancer, and we strive to be compassionate and supportive of their struggles.
As a group, we yearn for many things. We yearn for more avenues of outreach. We yearn for more attenders, particularly from the younger end of the age distribution. And we yearn to continue dedicating ourselves to the momentum we have experienced in the last six months as we seek to walk in the Light of the Spirit.
Additionally, we are now working to meet the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
We gathered in February to consider the state of Inland Valley Friends Meeting. We appreciate the queries sent by the SCQM M&C Committee. The query on what we yearn for elicited the most responses.
We yearn for a successful First Day School. We currently serve only one delightful three year old, who will soon be leaving us. We are saddened to have lost children and teens in the last few years through family moves, college, and the desire by some to participate in larger, more vibrant youth programs.
We yearn for stability in our meeting’s physical location. While many love our current meeting site, we are likely to have to move in the near future. How do we find the right place? It has raised many concerns for our Meeting Site Committee about what we are looking for, where it could be and how we will find it. For years we have sought, unsuccessfully, to secure a permanent home through building, buying, leasing, or sharing. We are still saddened that we had to sell the property we hoped to build on, but the finances and regulations did not make that feasible. The real estate market is again out of reach of our financial capacity. We wonder if leasing or sharing is settling for less than what we dream of. We remain hopeful that growth of our building fund may provide options in the future.
We yearn for a larger Meeting community with intergenerational groups and more diversity. Can we do that by joining with other community groups? One Friend regrets that, as a Meeting, we do not take on more leadership roles in community action, although a number of our members have done so as individuals. Our Peace and Social Order Committee is investigating opportunities for uniting with others on issues of homelessness and immigration.
We seek to strengthen the spirit of vocal ministry in Meeting for worship and to nurture other gatherings. We yearn for more Quaker Dialogue and wonder if it is time to again offer Quaker 101.
These yearnings do not take away from the joys we have as a dedicated community of Friends. We welcomed two people into membership this year and have had a number of new attenders. Nominating Committee has reached out to these new members and attenders with success. Many of our Committees are a source of joy as we move our faith into action, and they nurture the community we all seek. Others have struggled to find way opening for their work, and meet only rarely or when a need arises.
Our greatest strength is the support we provide one another in times of joy, and in times of tragedy and need through words and actions. Impromptu and planned Memorial services have truly celebrated departed Friend’s lives. We feel the spirit in these situations.
Joys: Our Meeting’s children are our greatest joy, and our strongest priority. We welcome the younger ones shortly before Rise of Meeting, and the older teens attend Meeting for Worship. The number of teens has risen and they actively participate in planning their own activities.
We have welcomed two new members, and both are active in Immigration issues. Members and attenders have begun to Clerk new committees or have joined existing ones, which has made our community stronger.
The Women’s March in Riverside was attended by many F(f)riends. It was certainly a joyful occasion. Meeting for Worship continue to be gratifying and uplifting. In the current political and social situation, many feel overwhelmed. The practice of worshiping together-listening for the Spirit and sharing vocal ministry has helped alleviate our concerns and anxieties. We feel that the Religious Society of Friends is in a good position to help with the challenges facing our society today as we have in the past. As in past years, we sometimes move Worship to an outdoor site, or in members’ homes.
Leadings: Historically, our Meeting has had a leading in supporting people from Central America who have been driven from their homes by poverty or violence. More recently, we have become concerned about the plight of refugees from other parts of the world. We have restarted our Peace and Social Order Committee which is meeting on a regular basis. There are many ideas and questions to explore. Many in our community have felt led to work with other faith groups. Our nation’s troubled times have motivated these efforts. Meeting with others of different faiths has made it easier to see that of God in others. We are reminded that we have much more in common with other faiths than differences.
Challenges: a continuing concern has been finding a permanent home for our Meeting. After many attempts to get the City of Riverside to allow us to build affordable housing and a Meeting Site on our property, we have come to the realization that this will not be possible. We have sold that property, which has placed us in a better financial position to support buying an existing structure. We are concerned, however, that we may be forced to leave our current location before we have located a suitable place. Because of changes in members and attenders, our donations have decreased. This has forced to make difficult financial decisions, which we hope will be eased in the future.
Changes: One of our oldest members and a family with children have moved. However, we have had many new people attending regularly. Overall, we are trying to organize to be more effective and more inclusive.
Faith in Action: Many members are involved in many other organizations that fight for social justice. We meet with others who are affected by discrimination, seeking and finding that of God in them. We recognize that everyone in Meeting has something to offer: Commitment, respect, empathy, compassion, openness, and action, including our youth. We know it is required that we listen carefully to each other.
The IVFM M&O offered us this query to reflect on: “A building begins with a foundation and structure. As a family lives there, it becomes a home. How does our spiritual home (Meeting) serve all of us? Describe how we have filled it, what do we hope to add, and how it will last into the future.”
This year the annual events including with worship at the beach and the Santa Rosa Plateau. With pleasure we welcomed an attender from the Las Vegas Worship group into membership. Four F(f)riends attended Friends General Conference and shared their experiences. We began another our third Quaker 101 program. We are grateful for Friends who express their faith with active participation in the work of our Meeting.
The PYM query on Harmony with Nature, read in Meeting last Sunday, opens us to the idea that our building, our space, is within the context of Nature. That of God in the natural world is opened to us. We are placed within a context of the rest of nature. If what we are planning works (which consists of working with a developer to build 35 affordable housing units and our Meeting House) a community will surround us. We plan that our Meeting House will be used as a Community center during the week. This has been a long term goal of ours. We are hoping the Meeting House will not only be a spiritual base for us, but will also be a place from which we can reach out to and be a part of the community around us.
We are awed by the realization that IVFM query above, of a home, is about to be a reality with an actual foundation, walls, and a roof. It is delightful that we will have a roof garden, which helps to ease the burden of destroying a natural place to build our meetinghouse. There is a sense of joy and excitement that the way is opening. We must be mindful that we communicate the process clearly with everyone in the Meeting so that decisions are reached with unity. It has taken a long time, but if this arrangement goes through, it will truly be a blessing. If not, we have other alternatives to pursue. The consensus among us is that we do not want the building to “own” us and we trust our Quaker process – we trust one of us would recognize this if it were to happen. Our priority must always be the continuation of our spiritual growth within the Meeting.
There is a real attachment to our current Meeting House. It will be sad to leave, and acclimate to a new building and community. At the new site, creatures will lose their homes, something we have to accept, but we will be providing housing for people who need it.
Where we put our children in this future is important. In this new setting we hope to provide a stronger foundation for them. Another Parent’s Meeting, to discuss FDS, was well attended, and from which arose many good ideas some of which we’ve been able to implement, some not. The children are friends. Our children know us and know that if they are in trouble any one of us will help.
One visiting attender is grateful to have found our Meeting. We wish all who visited us would return. Although we strive to be welcoming, this issue deserves more of our attention, such as expanding fellowship and spiritual opportunities. Welcoming new attenders is a good way to hear new views, so that we do not become stagnant or blind to the needs of the communities we wish to serve.
One Friend shared that years ago when she first learned about Quaker dialogue, she was amazed that it provided the time and the space to be heard. Sometimes what she says is a bit of a surprise to her. She thinks back to the time when the meeting was held in an office with a sign that said “Do Not Disturb. Someone mentioned that Quakers meet to BE disturbed by what is happening in the world. The dialogues are so meaningful, listening and being listened to without interruption in a place of acceptance.
We may change where we meet, but our faith will continue to speak. This has been a momentous time. Please hold us in the Light as we continue this journey.
“…in you we take refuge” Psalm 16:1
We are Quakers, the hub of a many-spoked wheel, united in our desire to help others. We strive to be a safe, supportive place of nurture, an oasis of welcoming comfort, a refuge in life’s storms. We share triumphs and burdens. We express ourselves here through our testimonies.
We are Friends: Comfortable in basic, simple surroundings, where there is no pretension and there is much welcome. We strive to be a blessing in the lives of each individual and each family.
We are Friends: Praying for patience with ourselves as well as each other. We listen to what people are saying, to respect people and their thoughts, lives, and trials—to not only acknowledge but also to value and seriously consider other people’s perspectives. We try to find solutions that unite us and to work together to seek answers. We minuted support of Senator Feinstein’s gun legislation. Three of us attended the “Speaking Truth to Quakers” event at Orange Grove Meeting and appreciated the process of finding our way when dealing with conflict. Social justice groups continue to use our space to meet, and one of our attenders now works with those struggling with immigration. We rejoice in and support these efforts.
Unity and Integrity
We are Friends: This last year our members have spent much time exploring how the building of the Meeting House could let our lives speak to the Meeting and to our community. In this process we strive for unity through integrity. At the vision sessions, all were encouraged to speak their truth. Friends were heard and their ideas not only acknowledged but seriously considered and valued. In this manner we have faith that way will open.
We are Friends: Our celebrations draw us together. Christmas, the New York New Year, Easter, worship at the beach, the Santa Rosa Plateau, and this year a baby welcoming! These satisfy our needs for community, but we yearn to know more about each other’s lives, to learn more about what it means to be a Quaker, to find spiritual guidance and to find direction in our place of worship. We have been able to offer more dialogues this year. Our children are our joy. We realize we need to support our preteens as they outgrow regular First Day School. An attender encouraged us to look for ways to identify how we meet our testimonies through our budget. We are expanded child care support so parents can attend programs beyond Meeting for Worship.
We are Friends: Fulfilling a call to live outside ourselves, sharing passions for social justice, trying to better people’s lives and redress social and legal wrongs. We appreciate what others have gone through, and we strive to better serve and extend friendship to all members of the community.
We are Friends: Consciously looking at how our financial decisions reflect our testimonies in the annual budget. We seek clarity about our financial practices regarding our Meeting House project and the right use of the world’s resources.
Inland Valley Monthly Meeting is in a perpetual state of transition; we now have about a dozen children, some very young, some middle school aged. The parents, together with other members of the meeting, are engaged in an on-going process to develop our First Day School. The mix of generations in this effort is welcome.
Our meeting has settled into rental space over the past several years, however, with a generous grant from PYM and a gift of additional funds we now find ourselves owners of a 2.1 acre lot with the intent to design and build a permanent Meeting Home. We face many unknowns as we go forward; adherence to Quaker Process in Meetings for Business helps to insure that all voices can be heard.
Our Site Committee grapples with issues that seem very big to us: Do we need an architect? Can we afford to build what an architect might envision for us? Can we begin with an initial phase that will provide sufficient income for a second phase? We hope to preserve a portion of the lot for community use, with an orchard and gardens, and perhaps open space as a counterpoint to an urban setting. We believe our efforts to create a new meeting house will be important to the spiritual growth of the meeting and to the impact our meeting has on the surrounding community. Most importantly, we believe the creation of a meeting house of our own will be essential to the spiritual growth of the meeting’s children as they become young adult Quakers.
As a small Meeting, we felt that many concerns could not be addressed for lack of a critical mass. With our current, larger size, we now take on a broader range of concerns, such as immigration reform and immigrant social justice. We continue to support those in our Meeting Community who are faced with medical problems. One attender suggested that we are now a medium-sized Meeting, pushed by circumstances of land ownership toward becoming a grown-up Meeting.
One young attender experiences the anchoring of our spiritual life in our elders, giving our Meeting a firm sense of God’s presence. These elders are important to her, and to the children. Another friend remarked that the quality of waiting in worship is good in our Meeting. Even though Meeting often is completely silent, the silence fills a space that is needed to make us feel complete and gives us the strength for the work ahead. We are reminded that the core of all we do is in worship. Seeking that of God in each of us will continue to build a family that cares both about each other and about the family of the world. Life is fragile, and sometimes it seems we can do little to meet the many needs of others.
Our Quaker Light Group meets regularly. This group discusses assigned readings from Quaker and biblical sources. Those who participate often experience a deeping of the spirit. We are beginning a new Quakerism 101 class for members and attenders with the expectation that those who participate will gain new insights into Quaker history and tradition that will nourish the spirit. Many attenders already give much of their time and energy to the life of the meeting. We look forward to the transition of attenders into membership in Inland Valley Friends Meeting, and we anticipate that the Quakerism 101 class will facilitate that process.
Friends gathered after meeting for worship for a Quaker dialog on the state of our Meeting. Our first query was “What is our spiritual direction?” The second was “What are our strengths and our concerns?” The combined responses reflect that we are a Meeting in transition.
In the last two years we have grown and our demographics have changed. These changes have prompted us to focus on our identity. We realize we must achieve balance between an emphasis on spirit led activism (something we have been historically good at) and the spiritual growth of both the adults and children in our Meeting. We are ready to begin thinking about where we go from here. We are ready to listen and to seek out our priorities as we go forward.
As we chart our direction, we are exploring a number of issues, in particular if, how, and when we will purchase a meeting house. We continue to balance our inward-focused spiritual and community development with our outward-focused community engagement and our involvement in peace and social justice.
We are a Meeting of friends pursuing a variety of spiritual directions that include being a family for one another. We are grateful for this love and support. Good hearts and minds in this meeting keep us going in the right direction. Our growing strength can be seen in our ability to attract young families. Families with small kids feel welcomed. However, the turn inward to care for the children needs to be balanced with outreach to the community. We have maintained a Light Group that attracts loyal participants. We have begun a Quaker 101 class that all attending are finding informative.
Our Meeting Site Committee is working on a permanent site, and we are saving funds toward a down payment for a facility. A larger and permanent space is necessary for our stability. It is essential to involve everyone in the discussion of our concerns as a way of determining where we want to go. We are concerned about the cost of a permanent space. Our strength resides with our members and attenders and always will, rather than in a facility. We want to make sure that if we own a meeting house that it does not end up owning us. We want to balance between what we would spend on a meeting place vs. what we spend on outreach and activism. Our strength is our caring and our honesty. The work involved in planning for a permanent site is appreciated. Two of us went to the Ben Lomand retreat on finances to help us find our way. We may be more prepared than we realize, and when the time comes we will do what is best for us all.
Newcomers have noticed the strength in our Meeting that comes from the happiness of individuals and how well the Meeting has responded to new people. The Meeting has been a real blessing for some newcomers, easing their transition to Riverside. As we grow, the definition of what we need has been a moving target. We don’t think we are there yet, but it will come.
Friends gathered following meeting for worship for a Quaker dialogue on the state of the meeting. This dialogue was facilitated by the question: “Where have you seen love manifest in the life of the meeting?” Our responses are woven into the following narrative:
We started the year pretty much as an older meeting, with our traditional concerns. Now, with the new attenders, both with and without children, we see a shift to a new community – we are changing, our worship is changing, a larger meeting is different; 30 vs. 15 is very different. We will need to adjust to this increase; there will be an evolution of the meeting. Our meeting is at a point of tremendous opportunity. For many years, we have wanted more young children in the meeting. We have waited with great expectations. Now that this wish has been realized, the
revelation is that kids come with parents, and the parents are also a great blessing.
The children know when they are just tolerated and when they are appreciated. There is a great outpouring of love from adults to the children and from them to us. They are feeling that they can go to
members of the meeting – they feel free to make contact. This is a unique thing. This is the way in which the meeting has reached out to the children. The opportunity has come with the potential, the
experience and the love to match. Our entry for the Quarterly directory this year will go to three pages. Sharing Quakerism and what it means with new attenders and their children has added a new dimension. It is incredible how well the new members fit in. They came looking for something and they seem to have found it. They are taking on leadership roles. Our expansion of the children’s program required that we rent an extra room. For the first time we have a working curriculum for the
children. It fills us with joy to see both the children and their parents. We are busting out like cornucopia – like fruit spilling out, with love and joy.
A newcomer remarked that it was very reassuring to find the meeting. In the past his family has been split by the need for action on work for peace and justice vs. the need for quiet contemplative-spiritual worship. They find both needs are fulfilled here. He hopes that Inland Valley Friends would be the right fit are being met. They feel very grateful for what they have found in this meeting
The loss of an attender was a great blow. The struggle with his death and the long illness was very difficult. Our Quaker community found the strength to be there for his family. There was a great outpouring of love. We are grateful for these positive responses in the face of hardship. We felt a great outpouring of love from the meeting to the family.
Another remarked that meeting has been such a home and refuge, such a place of love. “I know I will obtain the love and help I need without asking.” Suddenly the appearance of new families with children has given us new eyes to see – It is not just the new rhythms, but also a new freshness –
we are in a new spring, not the autumn of our existence. The meeting has turned inward toward meeting the needs of its members, whereas it used to be more outward – looking to meet the needs of the outside world. Our ongoing effort to speak to the spirit has seemed to be successful.
Newcomers are seeking this experience, and we are finding the means to facilitate this seeking. We had a double baby welcoming under the care of the meeting and we also expressed our support for a gay member’s marriage. Our metaphor of the meeting as a pond is changing. It now feels as if we are on the shores of a pretty good sized lake!