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Worship Group on a Hill

Published: Feb. 5, 2021


My name is Ladd Holroyd, I’m 57, and I am a 23-year-resident of San Juan Island in Washington State. I’ve worked mostly as a gardener and window washer in that time, though we all do multiple jobs in order to get by. I’m big on volunteerism and looking after my community. I joined our local Quaker worship group in 2008.

Our worship group is only five members strong, so we faced challenges aplenty even before Covid: Are we reaching out to serve, or are we too comfortable? Who will take responsibility for X, Y, and Z? How are we experiencing our faith, and feeding or not feeding our spirit?

Then Covid-19 hit. Living in a remote island community, the pandemic came on us as a slow but terrifying wave. Increased restrictions, new routines, news of deaths. Then questions of whether or not the pandemic would survive the summer. Then learning how to smile and make that known from behind a mask. All of it a territory none of us had ever walked...

Our worship group, with its tentative understanding of itself, went deep and questioned. We asked each other "What should we be doing? What can we do to support each other and be true to our faith?" And from five members, from this tiny membership, came answers.

We talked about whether or not we wanted to continue weekly meetings at all. We did.

We talked about safety, and checked in with each member, as we are an aging group. Each spoke honestly – creating an ever-moving plan as things developed. We learned to make our discussions ongoing.

We asked ourselves more deeply what we wanted, where we struggled personally in our lives, and how our meeting could respond.

Answers came from all members. We listened. And solutions came. Everyone contributed something vital.

At first, as winter came on, we agreed to meet outdoors depending on that day's weather (the Pacific Northwest is all about rain). We added the option of getting up, as a group or as individuals, to walk in silence the loop around the neighborhood in order to stay warm and comfortable in the circle, a helpful innovation.

Now here, in late December, we are further adapting. Today, we met in a member's yard on a hill. Protected by the ad hoc but decent rain gear we are always improving upon, we sat in silence outdoors with a drizzle falling, the deer circling, and three candles as a center piece.

And we worshipped.

We really do not know, can’t know, what challenges lie ahead. But what we have learned is very clear: We have these challenges, but we also have resilience. We rely on Spirit and each other. So far, so good.

We even manage to hold others in the light.