NEW: “Faithful Always: Transitions and Endings for Quaker Meetings and Churches Near the End of the Life Cycle” is a downloadable and printable PDF on this topic. It contains articles, queries, case studies, and a list of additional resources. You can find it here.
If you’re looking for something that contains stories about a wide variety of stages of a meeting’s life cycle, try this themed issue of New York Yearly Meeting’s Spark.
Before either of the above publications came a series of articles here on my blog. The series is drawn from a series of conversations with Friends from various parts of the Quaker world, plus research and interviews with non-Quaker ministers with many years’ experience in end-of-congregational-life. Most of the articles also link to follow-up resources with more detail.
“The Life Cycle” points out that meetings, like living organisms, have a beginning, middle, and end. This is simply a natural fact, not something that we need to fight against. “Acceleration” talks about the ways in which Covid-19 may have influenced where meetings are within their life cycles. “Shame and Stigma” acknowledges that many of us have complicated feelings about the end of a meeting and offers some alternative ways to think about the subject.
“Thriving and Declining” has a list of ways in which Friends might get a sense of where a meeting is within its natural life cycle. “All or Nothing?” makes note of the middle ground between thriving and ending and offers several ways in which a meeting might adapt to change if it’s not yet time to close altogether.
“The Meeting Member” and “The Loving Outsider” are written for Friends that are inside, or outside, declining meetings, since the approach to opening conversations is likely to be very different for those two sets of circumstances.
The last two articles are written for situations in which Friends have completed the initial discernment phase. “Practical Steps” talks about property, finances, legal matters, and more, and “Pastoral Care” addresses the various spiritual and emotional needs that will need attention when a meeting is laid down.