The first Meeting for Quaker Worship and Fellowship at what is now known as South Mountain Friends Fellowship was on New Years Day, 2005. (January 1, 2005). The year 2009 through 2010 marks the 5th consecutive year that a Meeting for Quaker Worship has been made possible with the commitment and spiritual guidance of Patapsco Friends Meeting (Care and Ministry Committee). On February 19, 2011, our 6th annual celebration was held at the prison. Sustaining what has become an annual event, Friends from Patapsco Meeting, and Deer Creek Meeting traveled to Hagerstown to meet with those Friends and attenders of SMFF who are incarcerated at the prison. With an opening round of welcoming remarks and introductions a period of silent worship followed. A group discussion on Quaker beliefs and practice gave way to individual reflections. Light refreshments were available prior to a chorus of singing and rejoicing until the alloted time set by the prison officials brought the celebration to a close.
During this past year (2009 – 2010), a number of Quaker traditions, activities and interests are noteworthy. A revised Draft of the Faith and Practice manual was published and South Mountain Friends Fellowship engaged in the review of the 2010 Draft edition. As with the previous draft, SMFF gave particular attention to the Quaker Testimonies and Advises, generating additional reviews in the subsequent weekly meetings.
Midway through the preceding year a number of Friends and Attenders from South Mountain Friends Fellowship submitted personal essays of their spiritual journeys to Patapsco Friends Meeting for publication in the Quaker Heron (July 2010).
Friends and Attenders imprisoned at the Maryland Correctional Institution of Hagerstown discussed among themselves the possibility of forming an official Meeting at MCIH. After additional discussion in Quaker fashion it was agreed upon that it was not advisable to proceed with that particular leading. Correspondence was written and delivered to Patapsco Meeting informing the Care & Ministry Committee that South Mountain Friends Fellowship would rather stay under the spiritual guidance of Patapsco Friends Meeting. Soon afterward the 2010 Draft of the Faith and Practice was available to the group. The proposed Draft of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends now contains relevant information pertaining to a much more logical transition from a Friends Worship group, to a Preparative group, and then on to a New Monthly Meeting. These newly included Advises, as clarified, have certainly proven to be both informative and beneficial to those Friends and Attenders at South Mountain Friends Fellowship as we continue to learn more about Quaker traditions.
During this past year Patapsco Friends and those at South Mountain Friends Fellowship have also developed a Pen-Pal writing program that has enabled a number of participants to correspond in a manner that might not have been available otherwise.
And so with the conclusion of another year and as South Mountain Friends Fellowship enters into our sixth year of existence, we find ourselves being very appreciative of the support given by the gracious Friends from the Patapsco Meeting in Ellicott City, MD. South Mountain Friends Fellowship continues as a spirit filled atmosphere of peace and tranquility, even in this Maryland State Prison environment where few expected to experience the Inner Light and Spirit as Quakers do. The following excerpt can easily identify the spiritual journey and learning process that this past year has given to many of us:
The belief that there is “that of God in each person” is the foundation of the Quaker approach to education. Education cultivates the fullness of the human spirit through both openness and discipline. We are open to knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that comes from history, from our own life experience of God, and from the works and lives of others. We recognize all of life as an educational enterprise, that we are all teachers, as well as learners.
Northern Yearly Meeting (date unknown)
2010 Draft copy Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. P.42.
On Behalf of South Mountain Friends Fellowship,
Clerk, Pro tempore