This past year has been one of significant change for our meeting. While the focus of that change has been our physical space, we have experienced both challenge and growth as we worked with each other to discern our path.
We had been carrying a growing concern to consider a change in meeting place that better met our needs, and had formed a committee to begin looking at this question, but our actions where catapulted forward when, due to sudden changes in their program, we lost the space we had been using at Portland French School with only two weeks notice. We were able to find temporary meeting space for the summer in Lake Oswego, and in the fall started holding a late afternoon meeting at the chapel at First United Methodist Church in downtown Portland. There is an active site committee who has begun a search for an appropriate long term space to meet the needs and programs of the meeting for the next three to five years. Examination of costs has been central to planning so far.
A significant part of this change was a simultaneous decision to try a late afternoon time for Meeting for Worship, after recognizing that this would open up spaces not available to us for a morning meeting time. While there has been a strong feeling that the space and church community were inviting and supported a worshipful experience, the time is a challenge for many. Some Friends find it difficult or impossible to attend at that time. In an attempt to accommodate these Friends, a once a month First Day morning Meeting for Worship is being held in Friends’ homes. Our new meeting time has also led to a change in time for Meeting for Worship for Business and other meetings, now scheduled before worship.
A threshing session to help us determine our next steps toward acquiring a permanent meeting site, either rental or purchased, left us with the realization that before we take any further steps we need to determine how we see ourselves. What is our mission as a meeting? What is our vision for our future? What are we being called to do? We are holding a concern to increase our social witness and outreach in order to grow as a meeting. Out of that session came a feeling that we are headed in the right direction but that we need more definition.
While eventually leading to a temporary meeting space, our process also showed us that we have some problems with our communication. At times we were not clear and this led to confusion. Differing opinions were expressed in strong terms that were hurtful to others. We were reminded that we need to be tender with one another through this difficult process. As we develop community, trust, and free communication we will find it easier to determine our next steps toward a permanent home.
One member moved out of state this year. We celebrated the life of meeting member Ed Janoe, who died April 13, 2012. We are attempting to contact members with whom we have lost touch and who no longer attend.
We held our first marriage under the care of meeting, which was a powerful and moving event for many.
We have decided not to fill positions on our Children’s Committee for the time being, for several reasons. At present we have no children regularly attending. We are also challenged by a lack of adequate resources, in people and their time and energy, to support all of our committee work, especially as we search for a new space. We do have plans for welcoming children when they do attend. We are aware of the fact that we are a largely middle-aged meeting, and hope that our efforts to be clearer about who we are will help us reach out to potential attenders of many ages.
Nearly half of Bridge City members are also engaged in service to other Friends organizations or have responsibilities within the yearly and quarterly meetings. There is some tension felt between the amount of energy we put into these committees and our own meetings needs.
Our Adult Education Committee has been active. Throughout the year we have considered the proposed revisions for NPYM’s Faith and Practice, as well as other issues being addressed by the yearly meeting and the larger Quaker world.
Several of our members and attenders have been challenged by ongoing and new health concerns this past year. We are working to meet needs as best we can while realizing our limitations as a small meeting.
We are once again holding a retreat in April at Windrose Conference Center with a focus on our values, mission, and vision for the future. We have asked Carol Joy Brendlinger, a life-long Friend, from Portland State University’s campus ministry program to be our facilitator.
Our Peace and Social Concerns Committee has helped us participate in a number of activities in the community. We have recently joined with the family shelter program at First United Methodist Church to provide the shelter meal every other month as well as contribute to their food bank.
In our Meetings for Worship we are finding a strong sense of community in seeking together, and ministry feels spirit-led. In our Meetings for Worship for Business we are seeing the benefits of preparation through committee work prior to Meeting. We are addressing issues more thoughtfully and with less conflict, and many people are taking the time to come to Meetings for Business. In all our work together, there is a strong sense of our desire to support each other in spiritual community and on our own spiritual paths, and to grow together in the Light.