Olympia Monthly Meeting State of the Meeting Report 2019
Approved June 14, 2020
Olympia Monthly Meeting has continued to attract new attenders and members, with 40 to 50 participants at Meeting for Worship each Sunday. Our current membership is 77, with four new transfer members this year. At the same time, we have continued to strive toward unity amidst significant discord during the past year. We are persevering despite our collective and individual unease. Efforts this year have also been dedicated to increasing connections among us through monthly spiritual sharing discussions, the summer camp-out, our winter ski trip and how we might gather differently in small interest groups or learn how each of us is engaged in the world through our volunteer efforts.
Many in our meeting contribute their time and treasure. We are grateful that our meeting is financially secure and that our finance committee has worked to steward these finances with care and integrity. Our discord has caused the loss of valued bookkeeping and accounting expertise that we are struggling to replace. Nevertheless, we were able to pay off a no-interest loan of $10,000 that was timely assistance when we bought our current Meetinghouse several years ago. We continue to give to local and Quaker charities 11 percent of all unrestricted donations to the Meeting.
Over the last year, the Upkeep Committee kept our meeting house functioning in good order and has been working on a redesign of the kitchen area. That committee has explored comprehensive plans for making this space more functional, attractive, better designed and accessible. While our internal discord meant the loss of a valuable committee member, the plans are now moving forward.
OMM hosted the annual Quaker Voice legislative event and appreciates being able to share in the larger efforts of so many statewide Friends to pass environmental, economic and social justice legislation in 2019. There were many successes, including “The New Hope Act”, which reformed the process for obtaining a certificate of discharge for felony convictions and greatly expanded eligibility for vacating criminal convictions.
We are finding the underlying issues and possible solutions that have impacted our community over roughly the last two years to be complex and varied. We have struggled mightily to find our way forward in unity. There is a widespread feeling of fatigue. A Sabbath or Jubilee Year for renewal has been discussed. Some feel that our meeting has already begun to fracture, but many are working to hold together and heal the bonds we have shared for so many years.
Specifically, there has been continued difficulty surrounding how best to maintain a welcoming community for everyone when there are behaviors in meeting that create an environment of discomfort for some in meeting. In July, OMM approved, and appeared to have unity on, the principles of a Revised Supplemental Minute regarding Persons Registered as Sex Offenders, as well as the establishment of a new, standing Safety and Welcoming Committee, in order to provide a path to welcome persons registered as sex offenders and to provide safety for all. This committee will develop processes for supporting an environment of safety and welcoming in our meeting with education, training, clarity on policies, procedures and support for those involved. Meeting also approved a Minute on Community Agreements about Conflict Resolution to establish guidelines for resolving individual conflicts in Meeting. Our meeting has consulted with the local Dispute Resolution Center for professional support as we approach current and future difficult challenges.
In spite of all the time, energy, and care many have given to this work, there are some who still do not feel safe in Meeting and, conversely, the person registered as a sex offender and his spouse, who have both been worshiping as Friends for over 30 years, resigned their involvement in the Meeting because they did not feel welcome.
Toward better listening and understanding among us, Worship and Ministry has held a number of threshing sessions, community conversations, and listening groups surrounding these topics and issues over the course of the year. Over 40 people attended one of the first events that was facilitated by a volunteer from the dispute resolution center. We are learning that facilitated gatherings make it easier to speak with kindness and less blaming on all sides. Each time, there are difficult emotions, sometimes harsh words, yet also clarity, understanding and continued commitment to stay in the conversation.
Children’s Committee conducted a survey of 13 members and attenders with families whom we noticed had been absent from the Children’s Program since July 2017 and submitted a report to business meeting. We learned more about their concerns and why they left. The Children’s Committee has been working through the report. Much good work has been done to date and much work remains. Worship and Ministry also conducted a survey of 23 people who have left or reduced their participation in meeting more recently to gain a better understanding of current concerns. During this process some questioned whether we have truly looked at the issues through a spiritual lens and our “Quaker” testimonies and processes and whether we fully understand those processes. We understand that there are multiple issues, as well as intersections and overlap, the depth of which have yet to be fully explored and which affect each of us very differently.
There was significant effort to explore how we might, as a community, deepen our connections with each other through small groups such as study groups, a young adult Friends group, crafting groups, gardening groups and many others. These opportunities to gather differently were well received and many signed up to learn more about what happens next.
Many in our meeting continue individual involvement in vital concerns that impact lives of people all over the world related to our testimonies and in Quaker organizations. Toward better understanding and learning about each other and how our members and attenders are inspired to live out their testimonies, Peace and Social Justice has put together a binder of activities in which we are involved. These range from serving meals to the homeless, offering plays and community presentations on the history of social movements, working with Quaker Earth Care Witness, to providing relief to refugees along the border (Border Angels), supporting clean water and sanitation (Friendly Water for the World), and supporting transport of LGBTQ people to safety from oppressive countries(Friends Uganda Safe Transport), among many others.
The Children’s Committee’s theme this year is around Reciprocity. Reciprocity with oneself, our community and the world. The committee continues to weave the monthly query into the lessons for the children. Although there are only a handful of children attending right now, they are consistent.
Junior friends started to cook food again for business meeting each month and are raising money for their service trip with junior friends from our yearly meeting to Louisiana in 2020.
Junior Friends, AC and HJ, are active in Annual Session and Friends General Conference (FGC). They both attended the FGC Gathering at Grinnell in Iowa during the Summer and Hazel Jordan served as co-clerk for the Junior Friends at the Gathering.
The Lower Columbia Worship Group continues under the care of Olympia Monthly Meeting and we share in their joys and concerns, as well.
We are facing issues of aging, illness, and loss/death both within our immediate community and our greater Quaker community, as individuals and in our families. We grieve the loss of Glen Buschmann and of Liz Wyruchowski. Efforts are underway to explore creating a native garden in memory of Glen Buschmann. We were also saddened by the death of George Dimitroff, a long-time friend. In the midst of our grief, we find joys in our community. Many warm good wishes and songs were shared with Glen Buschmann and Janet Partlow on their 25th wedding anniversary celebration hosted by the meeting. Many members attended the wedding of member Dave Cundiff to Mary Anne Murray at the Meetinghouse. We were also thrilled to celebrate with many friends, past and present, the wedding celebration of Maya Campbell-Unsoeld to Ryan Silsbee at our meeting house in July.
We keenly feel the state of the world and strive to witness as best we may. We continue to share in the daily beauties and blessings in everyday life.