The Fellowship of Friends

Last night I was reminded of the importance of Fellowship in Faith, Love, and Spirit.  My meeting hosts a “Seekers” group every month, a group I have been blessed to be a part of for the past year.  A topic is chosen each month and selected readings are emailed to all who might attend, as well as those who have indicated that although they cannot attend, they would like to participate through the readings each month.  We join together in Worship, Sharing, Confession, Faith, Love, and Laughter.  Our gatherings always serve as a reminder of how God’s Presence grows stronger with every soul that joins our circle, whether they be strong in Faith that night or not, for even in those times when we feel distant from God, God is never distant from us, and The Spirit within can be felt by those around us even when we ourselves are unaware of its presence.

Our discussion last night centered around patience and happenstance.  We shared our struggles and our difficulties in the practice of patience and being present.  Amazingly, the more we discussed our failures and the more we shared with one another our moments of weakness, the more the presence of God seemed to illuminate the space in which we sat and the stronger The Spirit became amongst us.  A warm sense of comfort began to come over me and I felt held, safe, and trusting.  I wonder, without the honest and Faithful Fellowship of Friends, would any of this be possible?  And, if it were possible, how much more difficult and trying would it be to achieve on one’s own?  I am so very thankful for this circle of Friends.  I consider its existence and place in my life to be both a blessing and a miracle.

When we share openly and honestly with one another in Faith, we enter into what I feel is a living embodiment of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  Jesus broke bread and asked his disciples to share it amongst themselves in remembrance of Him.  In regard to Fellowship, it is our words, our stories, our struggles, our confessions, our loss, our love, and our light that are the pieces of bread we share with each other.  Even our very presence and Faithful listening become forms of sharing.  The eye contact we make with another from across a room can be just as powerful as the thoughts and feelings we share.

Living a life of Faith can be the loneliest of endeavors.  At times, it can feel like the weight of the whole world is on our shoulders.  We ask ourselves, “If God is real, and He lies within, then why do I feel so alone?”  I’ve asked myself this question on many occasions.  I’m not totally sure of the answer.  However, the most basic conclusion I can come to, is that the Children of God were never meant to walk alone.  From the very beginning, human beings were social creatures.  It is written in our genetic code to work together, to interact with each other, and to live together.  Even more, we are meant to love together, to hurt together, to struggle together, and to have Faith together.

Fellowship amongst ourselves is so very important to our Spiritual, emotional, and psychological well-being.  I am blessed to be a part of such a loving Faith community, and more specifically, to be a part of an even smaller circle of Seekers, who share so openly and honestly with me in Faith, love, and understanding.

By Eric Palmieri, Westport Friends Meeting

From The Fellowship of Friends. Reposted with permission from The Daily Quaker, by Eric John

Dear Friends,

We were a wonderful group of 12 at our Seekers Group meeting this evening. Thank you to all who were present in heart and spirit as well as to those physically present!  Below is a summary.

With love and thanks,
Gretchen
_______________________

Our Seekers Group conversation on December 1, 2014, centered on many aspects of Patience. 

We agreed that being able to be present in the moment lessens our impatience, as our mind is taken off of what we wish to control and put simply on what is now.

It does seem that a degree of patience often comes with age.  Many Friends talked about how they have learned to let go and let God more than when they were younger.  A couple of attenders spoke about the sheer joy of leaving space in their days to truly follow the impromptu leadings of the Spirit.

Holding onto our true self instead of letting anger or ego take over in stressful or potentially dangerous situations is particularly difficult.  It would be easier if we could be guaranteed that all would be well in the end – and if “well” was what we defined it to be.  A bread baker can be cheerful and patient with dough that takes 3 days if they know the process and trust the outcome to be a warm loaf from the oven.

We considered whether thinking about very trying times in life as opportunities to practice being patient helped us be more present and less combative through such journeys.

Many of us were intrigued by the wisdom in one of the readings instructing us in times of difficulties to stay close to our supplies.  What are our supplies? For many of us, the Light Within is an essential one – which explains why going through a time where one feels particularly distant from God is profoundly painful.  In times of despair, we sometimes have experienced moments of grace when reassurance, a teacher, or an open door have appeared to help us through.  We are deeply grateful for the supplies we find, including each other.

Our next meeting, to which all are welcome, will be on Monday, January 5, 2015.  Our topic will be Being Present.  Suggested readings will be available soon.

Gretchen Baker-Smith, convener

http://www.westportfriendsmeeting.org/822/committees

Seekers Group Meets Next On Dec 1, 2014

Our next meeting will be Monday, December 1, 2014 at 7pm.  Our topic will be Patience and Happenstance.  Please follow the link on Patience that includes two readings that Randy found for us as well as a page of quotes that I gathered for this weekend’s JYM Retreat that actually resonate with our themes, too.

All are welcome to join us!

Gretchen Baker-Smith

Ministry & Council is sponsoring a potluck and time of fellowship on Friday, November 7, 2014 so that more Friends might be able to experience a little of the sweet sharing that happens at the Seekers Group gatherings each month.  Child care will be provided.

Everyone is asked to bring at least one canned good to donate to the local food pantry.

We will gather in the Community House at 6pm and aim to all share supper at 6:30.

After supper, children will be encouraged to settle in, in their PJ’s, with Katey Baker-Smith, who will read aloud stories from a selection of children’s books. A laptop with a movie suitable for children, and other “low-key” art-type activities will also be on hand to end the children’s part of the evening. Adults can gather over coffee, tea, and dessert to share a conversation facilitated by the Seekers Group on the topic of Simplicity.

The evening’s program will end at 8:30 PM.

Attached is a collection of quotes that might be helpful as a springboard, though one can never fully predict where the Spirit will lead the conversation! Please see quotes HERE.

The Seekers Group is a circle of people from our Meeting and the wider community who gather one evening a month for worship, conversation, and mutual spiritual nurturing.  Those in the group have found it to be a wonderful way to know one another on a deeper level and to be renewed in hope and faithfulness.  There has been a deep desire to share this joy and fellowship with more of Westport Friends.

Please contact Gretchen Baker-Smith for more information or call 508-997-0940.

http://www.westportfriendsmeeting.org/793/committees

Seekers Group Summary Oct 2014

Our Seekers Group conversation on October 27, 2014 began on the theme of Gratitude.  We were struck by the thought that gratitude requires us to be in the present moment.  It often comes when we slow down and pay attention.  Various teachings and authors have been helpful to us in learning mindfulness, from Thomas Kelley (The Eternal Now), to Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Joan Chittister.   The word happiness is connected to happenstance, or happening.  Perhaps being “happy” involves us letting go of control or widening our vision.  When unexpected circumstances arise in our day-to-day lives – i.e., missing the train – what is needed in order to remain in that place of gratitude?  Trust or faith seems important.

Being happy, in a deeply centered and peaceful sense, is not connected to material comfort, though we often mistakenly think so.

We shared some tender personal stories of pain and suffering and our journeys toward acceptance, healing, and gratitude.  Many of us struggle with the idea that God is in charge of everything – including who has to go through pain or suffering.  We found a lot of commonality in how we find Love or God helpful in times of such pain or suffering, though.  We have all experienced loss, sometimes deeply, and though we wouldn’t choose the suffering, we have felt gratitude for the lessons, closure, or openings that have come through grieving.

We are deeply grateful for people in our lives – including those in this circle.

Our next meeting will be Monday, December 1, 2014 at 7pm.  Our topic will be Patience and Happenstance.  All are welcome to join us!

Gretchen Baker-Smith

Next Seekers Group Topic is Gratitude

Our next Seekers Group is set for Monday, October 27, 2014 at 7 pm in the Community House.  Our topic is Gratitude, which arose several times during last month’s conversation on Fear.  If you missed it, here is a link to Meeting’s website where I shared a short reflection on last month’s conversation:  http://www.westportfriendsmeeting.org/follow-up-reflection-on-the-topic-of-fear/committees
I’m including a link to  a collection of quotes that I gathered a couple of years ago for a junior high retreat with the theme Having Enough. I am really looking forward to where our conversation takes us! Additional resources are available in the foyer of the Meetinghouse.
We will have to spend a bit of time considering our facilitation of the potluck sponsored by M&C on Friday, November 7, 2014 so that those of us who have been part of Seekers Group can share a bit experientially with the wider Westport family.
I hope many of you can join us this coming Monday.  Whether you’ve come once or every month, you’re always welcome!  Our conversations are always so rich.
Gretchen Baker-Smith

Follow-up Reflection on the topic of “fear.”

At our most recent Seekers Group (Sept. 29, 2014), we talked about Fear.  Some of us talked about how fear keeps us from living as fully and adventurously as we wish we would.  For many of us fear gets in the way of us being ourselves, though this lessens as we age. Fear of the unknown, of our own vulnerability, of not being in control (but then again, are we ever?), of being less than perfect, of death, and of what the Divine might ask of us if we truly listened, are experiences to which we can all relate.  We loved the idea of letting ourselves be spiritual 5 year olds, where we might live and act more spontaneously, without a lot of manipulation, rationalization, or head trips.  We are grateful to be able to laugh about very imperfect endings to our attempts to be more than we fear we are! We liked the idea of embracing imperfection – in our artwork and our home repairs, as well as in ourselves, though for some of us this was a challenging idea.  We ended agreeing that a quote from Lyman Randall about “accepting <our> fears as a natural part of living instead of trying to eliminate them by being perfectly courageous all the time” was a comforting and wise insight. Our next meeting will be Monday, October 27, 2014 at 7pm in the Community House.  Our topic will be Gratitude.  Stay tuned for suggested readings.  All are welcome to join us. –          Gretchen Baker-Smith

Next Seeker’s Group Meeting is Sept 29, 2014

Hello, All,

The next Seekers Group meeting is next Monday, September 29, 2014 at 7pm in the Community House.  Our topic is Fear, particularly in how it impedes our spiritual journey and daily life.
Reading have been set out in the foyer of the meetinghouse that might help the topic bubble up within you.
There are usually refreshments.  Always there is a lot of wonderful fellowship, tender conversation, laughter, and lovely worship.
Hope many of you can join us!
love,

Next Seekers Group Meets June 26, 2014

The next meeting of our Seekers Group will be on Thursday, June 26 at 7pm in the Community House. We decided to share (as best, and imperfectly as we can) our personal mystical experiences. The reading is the first section of chapter 3 of Marcus Borg’s book Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most (Harper One, 2014). (Thanks to Randy for finding this!) Copies are available in the foyer of the Meeting House or from Gretchen (hellogretchen@gmail.com).

At the last gathering, we began by talking about how we try to live out our faith on a day to day basis. We listened to each other try to describe what one’s faith is — and what it means to have a faith to live out. We talked a lot about self forgiveness, patience, and trying to mindfully remain centered throughout the day, whether by times of quiet, by short readings, by whispered mantras, or by just taking 3 intentional breaths before answering the phone. We are inspired in different ways, and we agreed it is most important to be open to receiving these moments however they come. We decided we are ready to share descriptions of some of our mystical moments – big or small – with each other.

Our group has become such a source of joy and fellowship for those of us who attend. We yearn for more Westport Friends to join us in these conversations, however they are able. We are willing to have Friends email one or all of us their reflections about the readings to share with the group. We feel a life and spirit amongst us that feeds us between meetings. We also share great food. At this last meeting, we had wonderful spinach balls and a variety of pastries.

We would love to have more Friends join our gatherings. All are very welcome!

Please Donate Your Used Books!

Dear Friends,

We need your help. This year we are experiencing fewer books being donated for our annul Book Fair which will be held on July 12, 2014. The link below will display a flyer with details on donating books. And, you can also help us by printing out a few copies of the flyer and passing them out to others who might consider donating books, too. Please click on the link below. Thanks!

Please Donate Books 2014

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