DES MOINES VALLEY FRIENDS
STATE OF THE MEETING 2022
Des Moines Valley Friends has continued to meet for worship primarily via video conferencing, with a small group meeting outside the meeting house last summer and fall. Recently a small group of Friends has been meeting
During the past year Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting has continued to experience that community and spiritual connection are not place-specific. A recent visitor commented that our hybrid meeting for worship was the best hybrid meeting he had attended. While we continue to work on the challenges of being both in-person and virtual, being hybrid has allowed geographically distant Friends to participate in meeting for worship, on committees and in other leadership positions.
IYMC offering a virtual option allowed a number of DMV Friends to participate in spiritual sharing groups, Yearly Meeting and Midyear meeting. This increased spiritual development overall and also fostered a greater spiritual connection with other meetings and with IYMC as a whole. Some Friends were also able to participate in inter-meeting visitation because of other meetings having virtual options. The clerk of DMVF benefited from participation in two virtual meetings of IYMC clerks and hopes this resource will be available to future DMVF clerks.
Our meeting continues to reach out to Friends in need due to physical or mental health challenges and natural disasters, providing practical as well as spiritual support. Our meeting has also collaborated with meetings in other states and internationally to support a family affected by world conflict.
An ongoing Second Hour, Journey to Friends, has provided an opportunity for individual Friends to share their spiritual journeys with us. We continue to enjoy fun and friendship through sharing our weekly joys and concerns, our yearly Christmas caroling – hybrid this year – and a talent show. We hope to resume other opportunities to gather together including our monthly soup lunches and yearly picnic. As many of us heard at Midyear Meeting, joy can be an important part of our spiritual journeys.
We are concerned about Friends who no longer participate in our meeting due to discomfort with the virtual option, scheduling conflicts or reasons unknown to us. We hold them in the Light and will continue to reach out to them.
We remain concerned about the aging of our membership. This concern is mixed with hope as several youth, preschool to middle school age, have been participating in First Day School virtually and in person.
We are also concerned about our relationship with Friends House as DMVF and other tenants of the building continue to adjust to the departure of the American Friends Service Committee. Several members of DMVF are active on the Friends House board and we are optimistic that we will be able to continue a mutually beneficial relationship.
Addressing concerns about the shrinking of our membership, the Outreach Committee has come up with many ideas for how we can be more welcoming as a meeting. Some of these are resuming pre-COVID traditions such as having hosts to greet attenders at meeting for worship, especially people who are new to our meeting. Others are adaptations of our hybrid approach including a welcome screen with information about Friends and about our meeting. One member of the committee has taken on the task of following up with newcomers by email. Updates and improvements have been made to the DMVF website and a Google calendar that is linked to our website is in process. We look forward to sharing the message of Friends with the wider world.in-person both inside and outside of the meeting house; we continue to use video conferencing to keep us all connected.
The pandemic highlighted both strengths and concerns of the meeting. Members of the Ministry and Counsel Committee focused on care of our members and attenders and checked on Friends who were not attending via video conferencing meetings on a regular basis. Attempts were made to adjust meeting traditions to foster community while keeping everyone safe: at Thanksgiving several Friends made extra helpings of food which were delivered to solitary members; we had our traditional Christmas caroling on video conferencing complete with piano accompaniment and harp solos.
Our concept of membership expanded as we welcomed members, attenders and visitors from other parts of Iowa, other states, Spain, and Germany. We are currently exploring how best to continue our combination of in-person and virtual worship to continue to include Friends not currently living in the Des Moines area.
Members commented about a perhaps paradoxical increased intimacy while meeting virtually. There were more messages during meeting for worship and during the sharing of joys and concerns which followed meeting, people shared at greater length about what was going on in their lives.
We missed the presence of Friends who are not comfortable with attending meeting for worship virtually. We missed the presence of children in the meeting house and were grateful for the one family whose children were with them for worship via video conferencing.
Fewer people have attended business meetings, which have also occurred via video conferencing. Nonetheless, we have addressed weighty issues both in business meeting and during second hours including AFSC moving out of our attached neighbor, Friends House, our relationship to Friends House, meeting finances and our financial relationship with IYM.
Very few people have attended this year’s Advices & Queries which were moved to a midweek evening and held via video conferencing. Nonetheless the discussions have been lively and there has been a comfort level in meeting from our own homes.
Like many meetings DMVF feels challenged by the aging of our membership. Most of our children and grandchildren do not identify as Friends. An Ad Hoc Outreach Committee is planning to meet to consider ways to reach out to the community so that we can be more inclusive . Yearly Meeting could help by sharing how other meetings are addressing this issue and resources to address this issue. Several Friends have invited others to our meeting; each of us could be more mindful of individual opportunities for outreach.