Dear Western Friends: We held a quarterly gathering of our new Yearly Meeting on Saturday, October 20, 2018, at Eugene Friends Church in Eugene, Oregon. One Friend accepted the task of taking photographs, and these have been showing up on our Facebook page over the past few days. The photographer caught Friends interacting, engaged with each other, laughing, smiling. . . It is a remarkable series of pictures that succeeds in capturing the joy and hope of the day.
It is impossible for me to look at those photos without an answering smile. I didn’t notice the joy and hope particularly at the time, perhaps because I had Work To Do, but the pictures make clear that something wonderful was occurring, something that brings to my mind this quote from Robert Barclay: “[When] I came into the silent assemblies of God’s people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart; and as I gave way unto it I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised up; and so I became thus knit and united unto them. . .” (An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, As the Same is Held Forth and Preached by the People Called, in Scorn, Quakers, 1850).
I’ve known that Barclay quote for years, but had not begun to understand it until recently – beginning about a year ago when, in a community discussion that included some sharp disagreements, I could feel the spirit of some speakers coming from a place of love and hope, and as I yielded to that spirit, and as I listened in that spirit, I could feel the angst and disappointment and cynicism in me draining away. Looking at these pictures, I feel the good being raised up in me again.
The day after our quarterly gathering, several of us went to worship with one of the churches that is in discernment about whether to join Sierra-Cascades. It is a small group, and they have good questions about our new yearly meeting. And they are also still feeling great pain over their loss of being part of Northwest Yearly Meeting. One of the questions they had for us was, “Why? Why should we join Sierra-Cascades?” The question definitely had a “What’s-in-it-for-us?” feel, and I understood clearly what the questioner wanted to know: Why take the risk, why put in the effort, why spend the resources?
I wish I’d had the pictures with me to show them.
There is something about “community” that is vital to the Quaker experience (which is probably true of any faith tradition). My branch of the Quaker tree often quotes Jesus, who said there is a way that people who want to follow him can prove to the world that they are truly his disciples. It isn’t by casting out demons or performing powerful miracles. No. Jesus said that the world will recognize his true disciples by the way they demonstrate love for one another. He said that we can’t merely talk about love, but we need to act it out. That is the risk we must take if we want to experience the power of joy and hope that our Quaker faith and practice offer to all of us.
PS: During a plenary session of our Quarterly meeting, Friends expressed strong approval to encourage one another to read Western Friend, and to consider subscribing and writing for it. I thought you’d like to know that.