Greetings to all of our Quaker brothers and sisters and small ‘f’ friends everywhere from our Quaker meeting here in Camas WA,
The first Quaker query to ever be used (so far as we know) was “How does truth prosper among you” and this past year since our last writing we have witnessed the truth and spirit of the Living Christ move among us and prosper in many ways. This past year we have focused on being a participatory community, a church rooted in partnership with God, listening attentively and paying attention to the movements of the Spirit within and among us. This kind of participation is possible because we believe that Christ is risen and is our present teacher; this means that we believe that at the very core of who we are the community of the resurrection.
(Pictures can be viewed here.)
Our meeting is formed around the mission Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:36-40 when he teaches us that all of the law and the prophets can be summed up in “love God and love your neighbor.”One of the many ways we practice loving God is through our meetings for worship on Sunday mornings which continue to be a source of life and are deeply grounded in God’s Holy Spirit. It continues to become more and more participative, relying on the gifts and ministry that we each bring. Sundays are casual, yet worshipful, filled with a variety of people who join in both from the pulpit, as well as from the pew, to share stories of God’s sightings, worship through song, prayers of joys and concerns, discussions around the Scripture, and vocal ministry during our open worship. Our community works to create a culture where everyone feels welcome and a safe place so that even our visitors can feel at home. We also enjoy our diversity as a group of younger and older folks who like to worship together, even with the pitter-patter of footsteps from our youngest during our gathered times. We feel blessed to have so many children in our midst. Because we are a group of finders and seekers we are comfortable with people’s questions about God and the church; we recognize we all have areas to learn from each other and so we feel united in God’s Spirit and enjoy our differences.
We have also witnessed growth in a number of areas this past year. It is true that our Sunday morning gatherings have grown, comprised of both visitors, regular attenders and members alike; but even more, this past January we had a fresh influx of new folks who were nominated to various committees. This has contributed to a feeling of more energy as our work has been spread out better. This is not to mention that we had a large number of people become members this spring (9 adults and 5 children), making public their commitment to the well-being of our meeting. The feedback from our membership class was very positive and was well-attended and the Sunday when we dedicated these new members was meaningful and a lot of fun.
We have also experienced growth in our energy and anticipation of a group being led by God’s Spirit. Members and visitors alike comment that our community feels energized, warm, and open. We really do enjoy being together. Part of this comes from our confidence about who we are and who we are to be: we are the Quaker church in Camas and we feel comfortable filling this role. Growth has come by way of new sojourners who have joined us over the last year (who may or may not be members – yet). These new people have helped to give us a new sense of support and help along our way. Some of these friends are new to being a part of a Quaker community, some are seasoned Friends transplanted from both unprogrammed and programmed meetings elsewhere, some of these are Friends who have returned to us after being away, some are still in the process of finding their place. All of these new people are to us gifts for however short or long they accompany us. This June we welcomed home Heather and Brad Tricola and their three boys Braden, Zachary, and Levi Matthew (the newest addition to their family). They pastored a Friends church in Idaho and we are glad to have them back in Camas.
One of the areas we have worked on is to grow in our trust and depth as an “intentional” community. Some of the things already mentioned have moved us toward this goal. We have also continued to learn what Paul meant when he said “[When] one member suffers, all suffer together with it “(1 Cor. 12:26). In the last Year we have lost many loved ones and we have tried our best to be a supportive community through these difficult times. Most memorable as a church was the passing of our eldest member Irma Myers. Irma was 98 years old and had been a part of this church since 1950. Irma was truly one of our great cloud of witnesses this church has seen pass away over the years. There were many other loved ones we lost this year from Carolyn Myer’s mother and brother, to Leslie Cole’s sister, Lisa Hartman’s Father, Don William’s sister-in-law and April Humes’ brother-in-law, these and other close friends and family will be greatly missed. On the first Sunday of January this year we had a lovely “meeting for worship for remembering” where we remembered those who we lost in the last year.
We also did our best to offer support to others outside our community when the opportunity presented itself. We were deeply saddened by a number of local and international tragedies that took place over the last year, but one that we responded to was the burning of a Muslim Mosque in Corvallis Oregon. We were moved to send a letter of friendship and support to that faith community. During this year some of us have rallied to show strong support for freedom of religion, while others have rallied to support other important works such as caring for the poor and the earth. We all know that there are many faces of suffering in our world. We hope to be a community that practices resurrection and offers hope to those in need.
While we are a community that suffers together we are also a community that celebrates together. Paul also says that that “[When] one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.” There are many ways we do this. We have witnessed the miracles of modern medicine this past year and have thanked God for these miracles large and small. We have in our midst people who are living examples of resurrection. People who are fighters and survivors. We have witnessed God’s healing hand. A number of our people have spent prolonged periods of time in the hospital and we celebrate their lives with us. We are survivors of addictions, survivors of cancer, heart-attack survivors, survivors of abusive situations, broken relationships, trauma, and depression. We have been unemployed and found work. We continue to happily receive the gift of new children into our meeting. We are grateful for the witness of God’s love and grace in each of these individuals.
Drawing on the great richness of our Quaker tradition is at the heart of Camas Friends. This happens in a number of ways and includes the blessings of our extended Quaker community. We continue to stay connected with our friends at Multnomah and Bridge City Monthly Meetings in Portland. We joined together for a workshop put on by Kathy Hyzy (member of Multnomah) on spiritual storytelling at our meetinghouse last fall and Multnomah, Bridge City and Westhills Friends all came and worshipped with us when Noah Baker Merrill (member of Putney Monthly Meeting NEYM) visited Camas and shared a message asking the question “Where is the Life?” His ministry was inspiring and deep among us. Last August we were blessed to have Quakers from the FWCC Youth Pilgrimage come and stay with us for a couple of nights and join us for worship on Sunday. The time of playing in the Washougal River and eating together was a lot of fun, and the sharing and connecting felt meaningful for all involved especially considering the diversity of the group that visited. Another one of our highlights was a time of learning more about the Quaker tradition in a small group that studied the book: “The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction” written by British friend Ben Pink Dandelion. Ben then visited us in October and shared a moving message from the book of Jeremiah (31) about the inward covenant with God’s Holy Spirit. Our “Pink Potluck” that followed the meeting for worship that day, complete with pumpkins painted pink and Ben’s named carved into them, will go down in Camas Friends folklore.
We also remain connected and committed to the Northwest Yearly Meeting by serving on boards, inviting people from yearly meeting to visit our local meeting, and by attending the annual sessions. This past week at Yearly Meeting we had eight from Camas attend the entire week and there were 19 adults (5 kids) present on Wednesday to support the nomination process of Becky Ankeny, who was approved as our new superintendent. We have also been edified by the breadth of experience and giftings of many friends who visited us on Sunday morning in the past year (many from our YM but not all) including T. Vail Palmer Jr. (Freedom Friends Church), Carol Joy Brendlinger (West Hills), Gil George (Riversway), Colin Saxton (North Valley), and the passionate musical ministry of Seth Patrick Martin (Toledo, WA), who has been a fairly regular fixture in our worship over the last year.
We also stay connected to other Quakers through those of us who travel. A number of us enjoy visiting other Friends meetings when we’re away from home. Part of this includes giving our Pastor the freedom to travel in the ministry as he’s been led. This past year he co-clerked a Young Adult Friends consultation on intervisitation in Richmond, worked on our yearly meeting’s superintendent search committee, and led the West Hills Friends Church Retreat on John Woolman. But the most memorable trip was when we sent him to Berkeley, CA along with two companions from our meeting: Jason Twyman and Sean Hommestead. Wess was the Quaker Heritage Day speaker at Berkeley Friends Church and presented on the topic of Mission as Participation, a key Quaker theme we continue to learn about in different ways.
Finally, one of the rewarding works we’ve undertaken this year has been our growing relationship with Zachary Moon, a young adult Friend from Berkeley, CA who has a ministry to Veterans. Zachary, following a clear leading to enter into military chaplaincy, sought out support for his work and our discernment process led us to partner with him in that ministry. We have formed a care committee for Zachary consisting of Lee Foster, Norma Siliman, Joy Williams and Gina Wood. The fruits from this relationship have been mutual and enriching both to Zachary’s ministry and to the life of our community. We feel that Zachary’s ministry is an important one to support and are glad to have the opportunity to be connected to this work.
Our other area of emphasis is our connection to our surrounding community. We have done this by continuing to share our space with 12-step groups which now total about 90 meetings a month. We feel that their work is good work, and that they are, whether they ever come on Sunday morning or not, an extension of our community and the work God is doing here among us. We also just finished another week of our now annual Peace Playhouse for children. This year we focused on the topic of bullying and continued to focus on the yearly theme of respecting self, respecting others and caring for the earth. From all the pictures Marie Morasch and others took, it’s clear it wasn’t just the kids having fun this year.
Last fall we began our “Laundry Love” project as a means of providing a very simple, yet tangible need to those in Camas and Washougal: helping people have clean clothes. Laundry Love was one of the fruits of our Homeless Task Force from the year prior. Helping others with this tangible need has been life-giving for us and we cherish the friendships we’ve been developing (not to mention the BBQ in July was fun!). One other way that we continue to build a broader connection to those both inside and outside our community is through our website and social media. Our facebook page has 172 “fans,” our current website has now had more than 11,000 visits since it was first put up two years ago and our weekly podcast has more than 30 subscribers many of whom do not attend our meeting. This feels like a considerable reach for our community.
In the coming year we trust that truth will continue to prosper among us, and Jesus Christ our present teacher will continue to teach us. Thus, we hope to continue to grow in our understanding of discernment not just as individuals but as a whole community. We hope to continue to build friendships and practice forgiveness. We also plan to focus on nurturing the spiritual life of the individuals in our meeting through new opportunities for learning and spiritual practice. All in the hopes that we can each fulfill our call to ministry in the many ways in which Christ leads us, spreading out the seeds of God’s love to the world.
In the Light of Christ,
Camas Friends Church
Read and Approved in worship,
July 26, 2011