For the past three years we have taken the opportunity on the week of Yearly Meeting to reflect back on the year and consider the ways God has moved within and among us. We write it in the form of an epistle to our Quaker family everywhere and post it on our website as a way of letting others know how we have responded to God over the last year, but we also do this because it provides reminders along the way, and offers guidance for our future together. As the saying goes, “you can’t know where you are going unless you know where you have been.” So we take this time to reflect on those places where we have found God moving faithfully yesterday, because we know that it is very likely that God will prove trustworthy in those same ways tomorrow.
Dear Friends Everywhere,
The earliest Quaker query sent to all meetings are England to consider was: How Does Truth Prosper Among You? And this question stands before all of us today, as it has in our three-hundred and fifty year history. It is a provocative reminder that we are a community pursuing both the truth of God as we have found it revealed in Jesus Christ, as well as truthful ways of living and expressing that faith we have found. Truth has indeed prospered among Camas Friends since our last writing and we have individually and corporately pursued Divine truth as best as we are able.
In this past year we have had to rely on God’s forgiveness and mercy, as we have experienced difficult and sometimes broken relationships. We have had to rely on the generosity and love of God and our community as we have experienced deep loss, struggled to make ends meet, found ourselves needing others more than is often comfortable to admit. We have had to rely on the grace of God as we have found ourselves falling short of the goodness and justice we say we profess in the world. And yet, even these are themselves deep truths about who we are in Christ together.
One big piece of news is that we have called Wess Daniels to serve as our pastor (or released minister) for another three years. Our meeting has grown and changed a lot since the Daniels arrived three years ago and we look forward to how we will continue to grow in the coming years.
On another celebratory note, this year we celebrate 75 years of Camas Friends being a faithful community of Quakers in East Clark County. We are planning a big hootenanny (Wess’ words) for this fall and hope that those of you reading this who are near enough to come will take this as an invitation to join us for our birthday party. It is impossible to remember or even thank all of those who have made Camas Friends what it is today in this short space, but we are a community whose roots go deep in God’s Spirit and because so we truly are a participatory community where so many have contributed to the ongoing well-being of this Quaker meeting. No lone individual could have built or sustained this.
Each meeting for worship opens with these words: “We want to welcome you to Camas Friends Church. We are a Christ-centered Quaker community that seeks to live out faith by loving God and loving our neighbors.” We strive as a Quaker meeting to be a people who love God and love our neighbors, here are some of the ways we have tried to practice this over the last year.
As with any Christian community, one of the many ways we participate in worship to God is by what we do on Sunday morning. We have spent much time in song, prayer, listening and silence, opening our hearts to God. We have enjoyed the music of visiting Friends such as Seth Martin and the Menders, Nate Macy, and Bill Jolliff, who have shared their gift and love of song with us. Bill Jolliff’s visit was a highlight for us as he walked us through the testimony of simplicity with Banjo in hand. He challenged us to consider a “simplicity tax” which is based on the Quaker conviction that, as he said,
“the less we use, the more we have to give. Living simply allows us to help people whose needs are greater than our own.”
We were challenged to practice simplicity because it helps us put into practice our mission to “love our neighbors.”
Another aspect of our worship that continues to be fruitful is our listening in silence. Camas Friends tries to create both a sacred and safe space where people feel free to stand and share as they feel led in open worship. Many have been led to do so, and we are all constantly learning how to listen and respond to God’s leadings better.
We also enjoy learning together as we meditate on Scripture. We have reflected on themes as diverse as “What is salvation?” during lent, the Quaker testimonies during peace month, the book of 1 John, and this summer we are looking at Jesus’ parables. One of Wess’ favorite memories was working through the book of Exodus with Brad Tricola as we focused on themes of liberation and justice. Brad enjoyed tricking Wess into an impromptu rap session on the themes related to Exodus during the final discussion on the subject. We have also been blessed by so many other people who have shared with us on Sunday mornings. Last year not only did we hear from our pastor, but Zachary Moon, Becky Ankeny, Stan Thornburg, Bill Jolliff, Seth Martin and Peggy Parsons also brought messages to Camas. A number of those within our own meeting also contributed to our learning and reflection on Scripture and spirituality: Brad and Heather Tricola, Jean Goecks, Jason Twyman, Sheri Hendrix and Pat Wallace were among those who shared.
One last word on worship, Camas Friends has continued to find life in being a place of gathering for Quakers from both programmed and unprogrammed meetings. One way we have continued to foster these friendships is through a monthly evening Convergent Friends Worship gathering. These gatherings are often hosted here in our meeting house, and have had up to thirty-five people in attendance with Quakers from eight different meetings represented. We enjoy worshipping together through bible reading, waiting worship, and discussing queries with our extended Quaker family. We were recently blessed by the ministry of Roena Oesting from La Jolla Monthly Meeting, whose monologue on Elizabeth Gurney Fry was both challenging and moving. These convergent gatherings have given us ample opportunities to build friendships, bridges, and learn from other perspectives about Quakerism and faith.
In addition to worship on Sunday mornings, there are many ways we as a meeting are a community to one another. We strive to not just offer a friendly handshake and a smile but to truly welcome every person who finds their way to us. We are not interested in people simply feeling welcome; we want them to actually be welcomed. We have practiced hospitality in many ways, not least of which is providing help for people who move, bringing meals to those who have suffered loss or those who have new babies at home, and by having fun together outside of Sunday’s meeting for worship.
One of the ways that we put this into practice is in our Wednesday evening meetings we call “Soup and Bread.” Part of Soup and Bread is about taking time to learn together in small groups. This past year we discussed John Woolman’s Journal with the aid of Jay Miller (George Fox University) who led the group in two very informative sessions on Woolman’s historical context and spiritual influences. We also continued to delve into Quaker history studying Ben Pink Dandelion’s book “Quakers: A Very Short Introduction.” A group on Children’s spirituality was led by Debbie Hagen. We also learned different meditative practices including lectio divina, labyrinth and stations of the cross during lent, each session was led by a different person in the group interested in these topics. Jim Miller led a book discussion on Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward,” which focused on the “two halves of life.” Finally, many of us, including all of our clerks, participated in small groups on learning how to practice discernment. We broke up the groups based on Clerks leading corporate discernment, individual discernment and discernment within families. We read books, discuss, listened hard, sometimes disagreed, but we continue to grow, because we are open to learning.
Just as important to the learning aspect of Soup and Bread is the community aspect. We break bread together in the form of a common meal every week. It is during this time that we are able to move beyond the friendly handshake and into the nitty gritty of our everyday lives. This has provided a space where some of our newer members have been able to build deeper friendships with one another. Eating together enables us to break down our walls and get to know people we might not know otherwise, in ways we wouldn’t have opportunity to. It is clear that in the last year Soup and Bread has contributed to our meeting’s growing intimacy.
We also seeks to be a community that embraces all ages, diverse beliefs, different abilities, backgrounds, and lifestyles. We value the fact that we are a community of many ages, we are glad to hear the pitter-patter of our children and grandchildren, but we are also thankful for our older adult Friends who bring life experience, faithfulness and an open-mindedness to our community that grounds us. Our women’s ministry was very active this year pulling off a very successful rummage sale, hand-making many “prayer shawls” for those being held in our prayers, and they had more women attend retreat last year than they have had in recent memory.
We truly are a Christ-centered community that rests securely in the loving hands of God and trust that our unity is found not in uniformity, but in our solidarity with the Living Christ. This enables us to be an authentic community without judgement of others. Over this last year we have learned how to be a community that celebrates our differences and creates space for those who are different from us.
Hello // Goodbye
Because we are a community of all ages, we experience both gains and losses in many ways, or as we put it recently, we are a people of both hellos and goodbyes. We are happy to witness the births of and welcome the newest members of Camas Friends, Clement Winfield Miller Daniels and Isabella Lucia Twyman Thomas. These two young ones will surely add to our growing brood of young ones who keep all of us on our toes.
We have gladly welcomed a number of new people into our community, and welcomed some people who have returned from being away, including Chris Goecks who has returned home safely after serving in marines. Others, such as Henry Sessions, Julie Heidingsfelder, Jenn Frederick and Jim and Marilyn Miller are in the process of becoming members this summer. We have also experienced deep loss. We have grieved with Sally Butterfield, Sean, Darla and Emilia Hommestaad, Emily Daniels, Wally and Leslie Cole, and the Twyman family who all have lost loved ones in the last year. Lastly, this summer we have had to say goodbye to dear family and friends: Brad, Heather, Zachary, Braden, Zach and Levi Tricola who have moved to serve at Vancouver First Friends and Pat Wallace has recently moved to New Hampshire so that she could be closer to family. We are also preparing ourselves to say farewell to our beloved Joyce and Evelyn Myers. They will be moving to Friendsview in Newberg this August. It is hard to image Camas Friends without Joyce and Evelyn and their departure will be deeply felt by all of us. We trust that even as friends leave us here at Camas that God watches over them and will draw near to them in their new adventures. Our prayer is that they will find a deep sense of spiritual community wherever they may go.
Peace and Social Justice // Outreach
Becky Ankeny, our superintendent, said this year in a sermon during Yearly Meeting that Quakers have a unique brand of evangelism which is that Friends speak to “that of God within everyone, rather than that of the devil.” We take this to heart in our thinking about peace, social justice and how these bear witness to the kingdom of God among us. For us outreach is holistic and far-reaching. Some of the way we have reached out to others in this manner was our Laundry Love project which celebrated its one-year birthday last November. Laundry Love has provided us an opportunity to love our neighbors not only by helping them, but by getting to know their names and stories. There has been great support for Laundry Love in our meeting with about 15 people actively involved in volunteering to keep the project going, while the rest of the meeting helps to raise the funds so that we can continue to do this work.
Generous donations have come in from friends and strangers outside our meeting as well, with support coming from all over Clark County and as far away as Northern England. Our local newspaper took note of what we are doing and did a classy write-up on the project, and Joel Bock from NWYM came and made a swanky video on it. Probably, at least in part, because of this work we were awarded the “Hope and Action Award for Community Advocates” by the Homeless Council of Clark County and Wess had the opportunity to participate in OPB’s Thinking Out Loud, a radio program that dealt with among many other things, poverty issues in Camas.
We continue to raise our understanding and awareness of our peace testimony by participating in a variety of functions including Northwest Yearly Meeting’s “peace month.” This year’s theme was learning about all of the Quaker testimonies in the form of the acronym S.P.I.C.E. This is when Bill Jolliff visited us, and another special guest was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We listened to his final “Mountaintop” sermon on the Good Samaritan as we reflected on the testimony of equality. We also invited a local friend (Aaron Scott) to teach us more about King’s work to end poverty and invited a panel discussion on the local Occupy movement. Finally, we have continued to find ways to support and encourage Zachary Moon’s ministry as a chaplain in the Marine Corps.
Our Peace Playhouse is in its sixth year and enjoyed the biggest enrollment (37) our little summer camp has seen yet. This has been a great way to teach our youth about peace with self, others and nature, to meet people who do not attend Camas Friends, and to learn to work together as a meeting. Our outreach committee continues to promote our involvement in the peace and social justice fair in Vancouver, probably in large part be Al Hendrix likes to dress up as John Woolman. And this was the first year we helped with the Winter Hospitality Overflow housing project, which houses men, women and children who would otherwise be homeless in our community throughout the winter.
Other projects we were involved in were Discernment Institute Helen May and Jean Goecks were able to attend, and Norma Silliman helped coordinate the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference (Carolyn Myers and Marilyn Miller attended), and Wess had the opportunity to teach on reading the Bible at the Way of the Spirit retreat in January.
Finally, we continue to work to nurture our growing friendship with AA, the Montessori school and other groups that use our building. This past November we threw a holiday brunch for all of these groups to tell them how much we appreciate their presence and the work they do. We had over 80 people in attendance at the meal and we opened the floor for people to share gratitudes and stories. The testimonies shared between the groups was moving.
It is obvious that God has blessed this community in so many ways.Last year was one that overflowed with the grace and love of God. We have much to be thankful for and we hope that those of you who read this will feel that same hopefulness. God’s spirit is alive and moving among us, Jesus is truly leading his people. Our prayer is that we may continue to be faithful to our Lord’s call and that we may have the courage to lay our lives down for that call even more in the coming year.
Faithfully submitted to Christ,
Camas Friends Church
Some fun stats from the 2011-12
139 Highest Traffic on the Blog
225 Facebook Fans
31 Subscribers – Podcast
2 New Babies in the meeting
5 New Members
37 Kids at Peace Playhouse
62 Average Worship Attendance
68 Highest Month
74 x 2 Highest Attended Sunday
35 Convergent Friends Biggest Gathering
8 Meetings Represented During Convergent Friends