The Champlain Islands Quaker Meeting is a worship group under the care of Burlington VT meeting. This past First-day I had the blessing of worshiping with them. I had heard that their meeting was originally a summer meeting, but now they have decided to meet year round. They told me after worship that they were considering laying themselves down at one point – they are only 5-6 Friends on a Sunday. However, they were not clear to do so, and the Friends here continue to gather in worship and encouragement for their daily lives. They meet in the South Hero VT Public library, a warm and inviting small space where they move chairs into a circle amount the books and tables. For visitors, they have a full display of “What’s a Quaker” type handouts, and a clear sign planted outside on the library lawn, and another one on the door. I arrived after worship had begun, but one of their members greeted me at the door, and invited me to sit. They also gave me a wonderful brief guide to their meeting, with contact information, and ways to request childcare.
I felt a clear sense of involvement from them in the wider Quaker world. They said they often are blessed with visitors who know something of Quaker worship and ways. They recognized my name, as I will be returning to co-lead a workshop in Burlington in October on eldering. Their clerk has already been doing some reading about the Quaker tradition of eldering, and they are hoping to attend. Their relationship with the larger Burlington Meeting seems to sustain their involvement among Friends in New England.
They were delighted to learn I was traveling among Friends, and read my travel minute aloud. They asked for permission to sign it (seeing lots of other signatures). I was happy to explain how this tradition of traveling in ministry had called to me, and how my meeting would hear news of my visit.
I enjoy visiting with these smaller groups of worshiping Friends. Often, I find they are certainly involved in spiritual work and living faithful lives, and are not wrapped up in a need for their meeting to be a particular size. This group provides all information to be welcoming to seekers who might want to join – but also is maintaining a spiritual practice of weekly worship that supports their own faith journeys. Perhaps this meeting will grow and meet for many years, perhaps it will someday fade, but I am encouraged by the immediate willingness to meet in Divine presence and be open to what comes next, and what is here now. I’m hopeful that this example of smaller, attentive worship groups under the care of a larger meeting is a model that might help Quakers in more rural or remote places, or those who might need worship on other days besides Sundays and traditional “church” times.
This area in Vermont has a long history of Quaker presence. I’ll write about that next!