Winter is upon us with her palette of pale earth tones and textures of bare branches, red berry studded bushes, and stubbly, sallow fields. Friends near and far gathered last month to be with family and each other, to share meals, stories, and games, and to welcome at the longest night of the year the turning of the season to one bringing back a lengthening of the daylight hours. At the same time, we remain acutely aware that many across the globe did not have the luxury of such celebrations--caught as they are in the crossfire between warring factions. We continue to hold them in the Light and participate in local peace rallies.
On December third, eleven came together either in the meethinghouse or on our Zoom. The topic during first hour was religious trauma. We recognize that many who have religious trauma may find Quaker spaces to be wonderfully free of the triggers they encounter in other religious settings, and we want to be sensitive to all as we gear up to hold Winter Quarterly 2024 in a Catholic space. Many of those present shared sentiments about Benedictines that give us reason to believe that the three days spent living alongside the monks will be an experience of love and openness. At the same time, we are strengthening our preparedness to act as allies should we witness acts of micro-aggression or othering of LGBTQIA+ Friends in a space that will be shared by non-Quaker retreat participants housed in the same guesthouse with us and sharing the same kitchen and some of the same restrooms.
Our co-clerk and main acting clerk Amanda was relieved of clerking duties in December as she does a chaplaincy residency at a local hospital's trauma ward. We are holding her and all her patients in the Light as she embarks on this calling. In her absence, David clerked our meeting for worship with attention to business while Young Friends continued practicing sewing machine skills, turning out a collection of scrunchies to be given as holiday gifts.
Although our beloved family of five who live in the shadow of Mt. Nebo could not be with us on the 17th, around fourteen humans and one dog were present in the meetinghouse or online for the intergenerational holiday program, worship, and potluck. We were so pleased to have Friends Elsa and David show up; Elsa was wearing the sweater we have been watching her knit via Zoom. Pup Roxy was quiet as all good Quaker dogs are. During First Hour, a Young Friend taught us to make beautiful 3-D paper snowflakes and our Young Friends program director led us in a fun Christmas game.
On the 24th there were many traveling or experiencing illness, so the gathering was not deemed large enough for us to continue with earlier plans to sing carols. We had decided to see how many might show up and follow where Spirit might lead. As it turns out, we were delighted by a surprise visit from longtime Friends, now residents of Rhode Island, who were in town for the holidays visiting family and friends. When this couple left us for school/work in the northeast, they were two. They returned as three! Fortunately, our Young Friends program director was prepared for any age of visitor. Congratulations on your growing family, DB and Merrill!
The meetinghouse was packed on the thirty-first. Needing to drag in more chairs is a good problem to have. On that day there were five members, one regular attender, our Young Friends program director, one regular Young Friend, our family of five who live in Dardanelle and make it in person a few times per year, two sisters from Cabot--one of whom attends school in Philadelphia and attends Arch Street Meeting there--a visitor from Little Rock, our occasional visitor who is a Conway artist and the friend she brought with her. Our YF director presented the children with their gifts of gratitude journals with prompts.
Stay tuned for the January blog post to find out what we did together on New Year's Day.