During the COVID-19 pandemic, we--like so many other faith groups around the world--found that we could still come together virtually. It turns out that virtual togetherness via Zoom was not, in the end, just a second-rate substitute for face-to-face gathering to be cast aside as soon as lower COVID case numbers allowed for the reopening of the meetinghouse. We discovered that Zoom was an invaluable tool for accessibility, one that allows those kept home by illness, injury, disability or a great distance of miles to participate in the life of the Meeting. At the same time, many of us yearned once again for hugs, handshakes, and hot soup. Thus as the numbers of active cases in this county began to fall, we found ourselves seasoning from month to month the decision of whether to reopen the meetinghouse.
The path back to meeting in person has not been linear. Thanks to a decision to make Zoom and a box full of peripherals a permanent part of our meeting, we have found ourselves able to respond nimbly to unexpected spikes in cases in the state as well as to very localized flareups, such as happened in October. It was not easy to make the call to cancel the 'third Sunday' potluck so soon after having scheduled that for each third Sunday.
Happily, we found many other ways to continue building community in the month of October. We continued our journey in learning Compassionate Communication under the guidance of David. Being able to communicate in a non-violent way and connect in empathy with those we meet certainly strengthens community. On the third Sunday, Aster led us in discussing chapter one of Jim Pym's book Listening to the Light: How to Bring Quaker Simplicity and Integrity into Our Lives. Aster is a devoted builder of community; he offers his zines around town and to all who pass by the literature table in the meetinghouse.
A discussion on the history of our monthly meeting led by relative newcomer Jenn on the twenty-third started the flow of a wellspring of knowledge from older generations to younger ones on the roots and founding of Little Rock Friends Meeting.
Not only does our Quaker community stretch across time from founders to newcomers and across Zoom to bridge distance and other barriers, but it is a building block within a wider Quaker community. Every three months we have the opportunity to meet up in a beautiful setting with members of the other Friends Meetings and worship groups scattered around this two-state area. The first Sunday in October found three from Little Rock Friends Meeting missing from our midst, as they had travelled to Lake Wister State Park to spend the weekend worshiping, learning, singing, dancing, and breaking bread with Friends from Green Country (Tulsa), Stillwater, Fayetteville, Norman, Oklahoma City, and beyond.
What does community mean to you?