I realize that there are small groups in the area that still consider themselves Northern Lights, but to me, my group was Northern Lights. And it is no longer.
Ten years ago, 7 people met together in an apartment in west Catonsville - a married couple, an almost-married couple, a married woman whose husband couldn't come, and two single ladies (I was one of them.) We met every Wednesday night to study the Bible and other books together. What we didn't know was that many of us would become very important friends to one another - nor that we'd still be at it 10 years later.
Since 1996, we've twice split into 3 groups because we grew so big. It's hard to have a meaningful discussion with 20 people in the room, especially when over half of them are introverts. We've changed meeting locations from house to house and we've changed leaders over the years.
The past couple of years, our group has been slowly but steadily declining in the level of satisfaction it has provided its members. The members' commitment to the group waned and the conversations became stale.
Tonight, 6 people met together in a house in Catonsville - four were members of the original seven. We met to discuss the fate of our group and came to a near consensus that it's time to fold.
I agreed with the decision and have been feeling that way for awhile so I was surprised on my drive home to feel very sad and then scared, in a way. I know that some of my friendships from the group will fade. I think that's ok and normal but it's still sad when I think back on how strong they used to be. Times change and relationships change and although I feel it's time to move on from meeting as a group every Wednesday night, it's sad to know that the "We'll still stay friends!" sentiment we tried to keep close to our hearts will not be upheld. It's hard to be separated by time and space and remain close. I found myself feeling scared because without such strong relationships forged by many hours spent together in prayer, mourning, joy, silliness and personal growth to support me, I may slip and fall. Honestly, that doesn't rationally concern me because I know they're still there and I know I will have room for new relationships, but the feeling came over me anyway.
I can't begin to express my gratitude and thanks to the people who have touched my life through Northern Lights. You've been my best friends, my companions, my supporters, my pray-ers and my entertainment. You've provided me windows into myself that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to peer through. Thank you for also opening the windows into yourselves so that I could peer through to see the real you sometimes.