Milwaukee Monthly Meeting State of Society 2015

Milwaukee Monthly Meeting
State of Society
March 31 2014-2015

Last year we shared the loss of Bill Brown, and this year we report the loss of his beloved wife and our beloved friend Sandra Brown. JW and Faith Spear moved to Virginia, and while we rejoice in their new lives and those of others who have moved on, we are much aware of the holes these changes leave in the fabric of our community.

Milwaukee Friends Meeting is developing new ways to adapt to these changes while celebrating the spirit within our community and beyond. This is our growing edge, as evidenced by The Koenen Land Preserve Committee naming a new area “Faith’s Garden,” reflecting both Faith Spear’s role in designing this perennial bed before she left, and the faith that binds us as Friends. Bill Brown’s memory was celebrated at the Illinois Yearly Meeting annual session in June, with the reading of his memorial minute and display of photos.

We continue to explore shared responsibility as an approach to providing the human resources needed for the work of meeting. “Joint ownership” models are coming into play with important unfilled positions including Recording Clerk and conveners of Nominating and Adult Religious Education committees. We decided to make the Meeting House Use Coordinator, also vacant, a paid position beginning April, 2015.

There is a strong sense of vitality in Meeting–in those who continue to share their gifts, in those who are stepping forward for the first time, in new members and attenders, and in the growing population of children. There is always room for growth in commitment, as exemplified by one of our oldest attenders beginning the clearness process for membership.

Other areas of growth:

• Older Friends and young parents enjoy working together on children’s religious education, organizing childcare and multi-generational events. Children continue to thrive with the curriculum from Progressive, which will be finished in the middle of next year. The middle school Tween group was restarted, with an overnight at the Meetinghouse in January. Our weekly Bible study and monthly singing potlucks continue to thrive.

• An evening worship opportunity has been re-introduced, once a month on the 4th Wednesday.

• Adult Religious Education has shifted from a Noon First Day weekly program to times set by those led to offer and engage in the activities. An example is “Bread for the Journey” which meets twice a month on the first and third Thursday evenings beginning February and lasting until no one is interested in facilitating a session.

• A group of Friends began meeting monthly to share experiences of aging, and Ministry and Counsel is educating itself to better understand the needs of our older or more isolated members.

We grow in responding to revelations in our community:

• We learned that we have long misunderstood Wisconsin marriage law. With the opening of same sex marriage around the country, we considered laying down our Marriage Equality minute of 2011. Then, we had decided not to participate in any legal aspects of marriage until all adult couples could be legally married. However, we learned that Wisconsin allows applicants from “self-marrying” denominations or sects to sign the license themselves as “officiating persons.” There has not been a legal role for the Meeting in marriages: that agency lies with the couple. Our role is in testing with the couple their discernment to marry and continuing to care for their marriage beyond their wedding.

• Discussion with a former prisoner who attended our outreach worship group at Waupun Prison fueled talks about how we could welcome returning citizens among us while ensuring the safety of our children and adults. As a result we reopened examination of safety policies, with guidance from Madison Monthly Meeting who shared the work they have done.

• Developing guidelines for Clearness Committees and laboring over our response to requests for financial support from individuals in the meeting.

• Recognizing that we had not increased the hourly wages we pay employees for over a decade, we raised the minimum to $15.00 an hour.

We continued our outreach activities, including the 43rd Annual International Gift Shop. Many shared responsibility for its great success, raising $6,925 for American Friends Service Committee and $1,731 for the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Other outreach we have space merely to mention, including: Camp Woodbrooke, Peacemakers Camp, CROP Walk, Juneteenth Day table, Prison Visitation, Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, and multiple lobbying efforts for FCNL. We also reach out with community service through Loaves and Fishes to Casa Maria, Repairers of the Breach, Imani House, Gaenslen food pantry, and Habitat for Humanity.

The work of stewardship continues to be a joyful ministry for many. As Faith’s Garden symbolizes our continued tending to out(side)reach, we are also investing in the building that holds our community. Last years’ burst pipes gave us the opportunity to renovate to better serve us and our long tenant and partner, LifeWays Early Childhood Center. The work is almost completed. Another unexpected opportunity let us replace our old chairs with new ones. In this garden of Friends which we hope is perennial, we now sit, breathe, and grow together in expectant waiting and comfort.

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