Dear Friends: So there I was in the fellowship hall of the Rose Drive Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Orange County, California. My role was that of the official observer from Pacific Yearly Meeting. This was my fifth year attending the annual conference of the Evangelical Friends Church Southwest and I saw some encouraging changes. When I attended my first session in 2006, these fellow Quakers struck me as more evangelical than Friends. This time (January, 2015), I felt that I was among Friends. That feeling began with hearing some Quakerly statements about the need to be diligent about listening to God’s voice, and “Jesus is Right Here, Right Now!”
Their business meeting was definitely a meeting for worship for the purpose of doing business. The event was surrounded by prayer. The presiding clerk began with reading from their Faith and Practice about business meeting. It was very similar to the statement in PYM ‘s Faith and Practice.
We can learn from some of their ideas. For example, rather than assessing the member churches to support their yearly meeting, they ask for a free-will offering. The yearly meeting sets a goal – right now it’s 5.5% of each church’s budget. Then each congregation prayerfully considers the amount they will give. As their superintendent, Stan Leach said, an assessment is more like a tax and less like a spiritual exercise.
Don’t get me wrong. The Friends I met there are definitely Evangelical Christians. They are theologically and socially conservative. But I can’t stop thinking about another Quakerly statement I heard there: “The trajectory of God pushes us toward unity.”
– Emelyn Buskirk is a member of Live Oak Friends Meeting in Salinas, CA (PYM).