Reno Friends recently gathered on Zoom in the sacred space of a Worship Sharing to tell each other what we all believed was most important about our Meeting. The pandemic spun us away from one another, and yet – through the efforts of many – we kept our community alive and busy by holding meetings, spiritual discussions, brown bag lunches, and even a Christmas party, all online. We learned to use Zoom, and figured out (through herculean efforts by our tech team) how to hold hybrid worship: in-person and online at the same time. We met outside for a holiday cookie-exchange, and even worshipped from the relative quiet of our shady garden on summer days.
It took a lot of work, however, and as we considered our future during the Worship Sharing, we realized that burnout among key volunteers might alter what programs Reno Friends could offer in the coming months.
It was at that moment that someone mentioned the Simplicity Testimony of Quakers. According to Pacific Yearly Meeting’s guide Faith & Practice, “Simplicity is the right ordering of our lives, placing God at the center. When we shed possessions, activities, and behavior that distract us from that center, we can focus on what is important.” I had always thought of the Simplicity Testimony as guidance for ordering my own life, but now I realized that Reno Friends could apply the same Simplicity principle to ordering our Meeting life.
Considering the Simplicity Testimony allowed us to ask “what is within our Light?” Many Reno Friends said the Spiritual Discussions are an important element, so how could we keep those discussions happening? The answer came back to us – make them simple and we’re more likely to be able to schedule one each month. Pose a few queries, get someone to facilitate, and then let everyone offer up their thoughts. When it comes to writing and posting blogs, we enjoy sharing our Quaker experience with the world, but do we need a new one every month? Perhaps we could recycle ones we wrote years ago, or post a new one every other month. And when it comes to fellowship, do we need to carry forward all the traditions? Instead of a Zoom Christmas Party, let’s hold a simple Holiday Cookie Exchange, outdoors with everyone bundled up and sipping hot chocolate. It’s festive without a lot of planning.
We have also come to see that tapping our facility with Zoom will make it easier for our far-flung and aging members to participate in meetings and events. And so we will consider moving some Reno Friends activities, perhaps our monthly Meeting for Business, online permanently so that we can accommodate everyone.
We learned a lot during the pandemic and have more tricks up our sleeves, which enables us to keep our programs interesting and accessible to as many as possible. Simplicity doesn’t always mean doing things “as we used to.” Instead, it can mean re-thinking what we can reasonably offer, spread leadership around, and keep our doors and hearts open.
I like this quote from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Faith & Practice: “Simplicity, when it removes encumbering details, makes for beauty in music, in art, and in living. It clears the springs of life and permits wholesome mirth and gladness to bubble up; it cleans the windows of life and lets joy radiate. It requires the avoidance of artificial or harmful social customs and conventions but it opens wide the door to cultivate and express to all sincere cordiality, kindness and friendliness. This sort of simplicity removes barriers and eases tensions. In its presence all can be at ease.”
By Wendy Swallow, Blog Editor, Reno Friends Meeting
The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.