Community Blog: Living the Testimonies


Religion and Community (2.27.18)

by Jim Miller

A religion is sparked by a moment of insight. A cross. A miracle. A healing. The realization that “this is of God.”

They gather together, build an altar and sacrifice an offering to God to mark the time and place of the sighting. They chant and dance themselves into a trance. Some have visions; they “see God.”

The visionary shares his or her vision of what God is like or has said to them. The visionary becomes the enlightened One. The others did not dance, but “believe” the dancer. They bring him gifts and he teaches them. His successors continue to teach his words, but they do not dance.

After a few generations the words are declared “Holy.” No one does the dance, but the words are revered.

What happens to the hearers of hearers? Since they lack first-hand knowledge, they accept another’s experience, now just words. The words are followed without thinking. “Do they still apply? Do they fit current realities? Are they still real?” It’s difficult to say, for no one dances.

The Dancer now old and unable to dance, longs for the ability to dance again and find God, again. He looks at the followers. Tears come as he drops his head and cries aloud, “They do not understand! They need to do their own dance.”

Every dance, like every dancer, is different. We all have a different rhythm. We were all given a new song and each adds to the others. There is no One Dance for all, but a dance for ALL. We are like instruments in an orchestra. When all play they make music more beautiful then any one playing alone. Like parts of a body, we are all part of the Whole.

Peace (6.22.17)

heather's tattooby Heather Tricola

Peace.  I am on a quest for peace. I am striving for peace (yes, I realize how that sounds). I even got the tattoo.  But I am not always sure what peace looks like or feels like.

This year, I spent a lot of time avoiding conflict, trying to stop conflict in its tracks, or hibernating alone.  I found myself saying things like, “I can’t handle this, I’m done talking about it.”  When I felt my emotions rising, I wanted to make them stop.  I desperately wanted to find my peace, my calm.  In avoidance, though, I usually found frustration and despair lurking in my disconnection.

So instead, I have decided it’s worth it.  It’s worth it to engage, to entangle my emotions with those around me, to hold hands and move through life together.  Sometimes that will make me weaker, less stable.  Yet I know I am ultimately strong and resilient.  And I can handle the messy work of relationship.  

As our country and the world seems to boil in turmoil and conflict, I have two resolutions:  ask lots of questions, and listen well.  People long to be heard, to be known. Maybe then we can get to the heart of our conflicts, to understand the feelings and needs behind them, to find solutions together.

Equality as Friends  (5.17.17)

by Marilyn Miller

Shared equality

Friends joining hands in welcome

We are one together

Stewardship: Care for our Gifts  (5.17.17)

by Marilyn Miller

Please care for our gifts

Join as one to sing of peace

Open hands to others

Community (4.10.17)

by Norma Silliman

“Community reminds us that we need each other. We need care, collaboration, and the guidance of others. Group discernment is essential. There is power in gathering together. Dialogue is crucial. Our loving and just action is even more powerful when we collaborate. We all have unique gifts and perspectives that enrich the entire congregation and world.”  This is the summary of our testimony on Community.

The Community aspect of my Quaker faith and experience has been very central to what keeps me engaged as a Quaker and as a Christ follower. Being able to worship together with people who have a commitment to listen for the voice and spirit of God and to witness God’s Light at work in our midst has kept me coming back.

Worshipping together—singing, praying, wrestling with spiritual issues, and sitting in silence together—brings a unity beyond agreement on common actions or what doctrine we espouse. Regular worship with others in our meeting creates a special bond and provides an underlying commitment to love people, remember them in prayer, and get together with them. It compels us to collaborate to build a community of love, justice, peace, earth care, creativity and joy that ripples out into our world.

My sense of community extends beyond Camas Friends. I enjoy participating in local interfaith projects—like St. Anne’s Car Camping program and the interfaith prayer services that are held occasionally. I regularly attend Convergent Friends gatherings for worship and other cross-yearly meeting activities with Quakers. Every other year I attend the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference, a deep, joyful, restorative retreat of Quaker women to worship and reflect together on aspects of our shared Quaker faith and experience.

I am currently devoting significant time and spiritual energy on the work being done to discern how Northwest Friends are being lead into the “New Thing” that has resulted from Camas Friends’ (and three other meetings’) commitment to be inclusive and welcoming to all people. The folks who are being drawn to this are amazing people. The opportunity to be involved in this is very energizing for me. I have a real sense of community with these Friends.

My anchoring at Camas Friends gives me the foundation and local community from which to participate at other levels; my participation at the other levels contributes to my ability to better serve at Camas Friends. Quaker community grounds me.

The Problem with Palm Oil (4.3.17)

by Ron Myers

America is swimming in oil. We are less buoyant in oil. Oil is much more viscous than water. Therefore the chances of exhaustion and drowning are much greater when swimming in oil. Yes, this oil is in Texas and Oklahoma; but, more importantly, it is in almost everything you eat and in many of our nonfood products.

You may not have noticed but it also has blood in it.

I believe the evidence shows that palm oil is an unhealthy oil as it raises LDL or “bad cholesterol.” Almost all palm oil is produced by clearing tropical rain forest. That tropical rain forest is the habitat for many endangered species including orangutans, rhinos, elephants, tigers, and thousands of other animals and plants that, when gone, will impoverish this world and endanger human survival.

When the forest is destroyed, vast amounts of carbon stored in peat bogs are released into the atmosphere along with the carbon from burning the trees. The logging is almost always done in a manner that destroys the soil and results in flooding, silting in of rivers, and the destruction of the river ecosystem. The livelihoods of thousands of people are ruined.

Palm oil is being pushed aggressively by the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia because they see it as a way to money and jobs for their countries. It is promoted as a less expensive way to produce foods that have saturated oil without trans fats. Saturated oils are more shelf-stable since they don’t go rancid easily.

There is a better way. The oils available here in the US can be hydrogenated by passing it through a bed of tiny beads coated with an enzyme that adds hydrogen without creating any trans fats.

It is now nearly impossible to find products that do not use palm oil. Sometimes our stewardship of God’s world is difficult. As a matter of integrity I do not want to give my money to corporations or countries that are so corrupt and cynical about the way they profit from the destruction and misery of our world.

Here are some links to web sites that have more information:

Peace Means We All Have a Voice (3.28.17)

by Kendra Purcell

For me, the peace testimony is one of the more challenging Quaker tenets. I easily arrived at and maintain my conviction of pacifism. Not taking another’s life makes sense to my heart and my head. But I believe peace is more than not killing.

Peace is not pursuing my own agenda above consideration of others. Peace is listening. In my home, there are many moments God uses to remind me that I still need growth. Just the other day, I caught myself yelling, “Kids, stop screaming at each other!” As if my volume is justified but the kids’ is not. It’s highly likely their volume is innocent and mine just wants my way—my quieter yet more selfish way.

I think American culture pushes a kind of passive idea of peace. That peace is somehow a little detached, a little weird and out of the norm. When I consider how I want to create peace in my relationships, it’s a very active pursuit. Peace in the family means we all have a voice and room to share our thoughts. My kids are young so I’m still leading them, but I don’t want my authority to dominate. I don’t want to resort to verbal violence and crush their spirits. Peace with my husband is not simply not arguing, but creating an environment that encourages harmony. It’s taking the time to make sure we each feel loved and valued, not being quiet just to not “ruffle feathers”. We can have the hard conversations because we feel safe in each other’s love.

It’s a challenge to prioritize peace in relationships because it is always easy to be selfish. Peace is making my inner self more focused on others, their needs and their space to express themselves.

A Haiku  (3.27.17)

by Marilyn Miller

Unity transcends

Gather in Community

Embrace Diversity

haiku for you, m

A Haiku  (3.19.17)

by Marilyn Miller

Integrity simply

Take action my friend in faith

True and clear 

haiku for you, m

On the “New Thing” and Possibilities (3.15.17)

by Helen May

For the last several months or so, I have been feeling called to deepen my connections with the broader community of Quakers in our area.  Until recently, I thought that meant that I should start to become more involved with the Northwest Yearly Meeting.  But then “The Decision” was made and I realized that was not going to be an option for me.

So I have instead been becoming involved with meetings regarding this “New Thing” which we are embarking on.  I have met or re-met many wonderful Friends in the last several weeks and I look forward to getting to know them more in the coming weeks and months and years as we all listen to the still small voice and try to discern God’s will for us as individuals, as congregations, and as a group of meetings.

I’m very excited about the possibilities that are opening up for our meeting as we journey on this new path. I would urge us all to keep an open mind about being in community with other meetings and not withdrawing into ourselves in order to protect ourselves from future hurts or rejections. Also, I hope we don’t jump into a new community just so we don’t feel alone. I do hope we can look to the future with a new community of meetings who share a similar desire for all things Quaker, living in love with all of our neighbors, and helping each other along the path of life.

I look forward to our discussions as a meeting about where we hope to go and what we hope to accomplish.


A Haiku  (3.9.17)

by Marilyn Miller

Peace be unto you  

Let us breathe and meditate

Share as one in love

haiku for you, m

A Haiku  (3.5.17)

by Marilyn Miller


To each shared grace and focus

True simplicity

haiku for you, m

On Reformations and the Northwest Yearly Meeting  (3.2.17)

by Jim Miller

History reveals religious reforms; reformations occur about every 200 years. Martin Luther’s is the most notable. George Fox followed a similar pattern: seeking truth from established religion. Finding that the established church was not willing to listen let alone change, they set out to develop a New Way. Luther was empowered by Scripture which said that salvation was by “faith alone,” not by works or payment (“indulgences”) to the church.

After forming a “new way,” each time the new church writes its own doctrine and structure.  In time this becomes rigid and self-serving.  And a new reforming takes place.

In 1827-28, the Quakers in the United States, led by Elias Hicks, broke from the “Orthodox” meetings over the place and use of Scripture. Now we are in the throes of a “split” in our own Yearly Meeting. I will share my personal views of this another time. For now, here is what I believe has been the pattern of such divisions in the past.

Bible Literal Interpretation A Source of Truth
Doctrine Concrete Rules In process, evolving
Structure Rigid and Inflexible Flexible to needs
Role of church Self-appointed mediator Seeks relation to God
Wealth Amasses great wealth Survives on tithes
God Distant, church speaks for “Present Teacher”
Conditions Conditional Unconditional
Love Earned Freely given to all
Membership Exclusive Inclusive
God’s Word Scripture, doctrine of church “Still small voice”
Authority Church and its rules God within
Power Gives or withholds heaven Spirit, revealed Truth
Questions Not allowed, discouraged Encouraged, leads to growth
Scripture Dogma Truth, not facts

As we move ahead, we need to grieve. We need to see each “side” as committed to their “truth” and avoid name-calling or unfair labels, which create emotional responses, block our process, and unfairly blame the “other.” As we develop a new yearly meeting, I hope we do not repeat the same pitfalls—rules and regulations which prevent us from discerning. I hope that we remain in process and relationship with God and one another.

Peace and Turning the Other Cheek (3.1.17)

by Matt Boswell

I recall a frightening experience while in Lima, Peru several years ago. A man offered me a flyer for a strip club, to which I responded with a simple “no thanks,” head shake, and courteous smile. He begin to follow me down the street, angrily shouting at me. The shouting turned to threats as he caught up to me.

He got in my face and begin to tell me about all of the bad things he’d done, people he’d killed, people he was on his way to kill. True or not, he was trying to intimidate me. I maintained eye contact, asked him questions, responded with affirming therapist-like tones.

He then asked me what I was doing in Lima. I told him that I was a seminary student researching emerging trends in South American Protestant churches. His demeanor changed slightly as he began treating me like a priest, confessing some more of his “sins” but still with an air of intimidation.

Then he said the most unforgettable, shocking, vulgar thing I’ve ever heard, about what he’d do to the devil when he got to hell. I won’t repeat it here—sorry! I immediately lost it, laughing hysterically. I couldn’t help it! It was so ludicrous, and I think he knew it too, as his tough guy veneer began to crumble. He finally cracked a smile, then started laughing with me.

We talked a bit more. He offered me some drugs and I politely declined. By the time we were ready to part, we’d shaken hands in something like friendship (or at least mutuality). I left that moment not quite sure what had just happened.

I think this man’s irritation with me stemmed first from his fear that I had perceived him as just a flyer-distributor, or a shady businessman, or some other dehumanizing “type.” And maybe I had. The tone of our interaction shifted when we both saw each other as persons. Laughter helped with this—it made us real to each other, not just “types,” him the tough guy and me the insulated, pompous American visitor.

When you turn the other cheek in response to someone overpowering or oppressively confronting you, unless you do some fancy footwork or a three-quarter spin, your eyes will potentially meet the eyes of the other on your way to revealing your other vulnerable cheek. There lies the opportunity to literally see the other. To catch a glimpse of the other’s humanity.

To turn the other cheek is, among others things, to notice and empathize, even if a condemnation of the other’s harmful actions is necessary. It’s an admission that the roles could have been reversed, if each of us had experienced a few different pressures, influences, unmet needs, or any number of others forces in the course of our personal histories

Labels are convenient and natural. Try to see past oversimplifying labels. Look for light and beauty. Look for the face of Christ in the other. If possible, love what you see.

(originally published in the NWYM Peace Month’s Daily Reader)