Western Friend logo

Seeds That Became a Yearly Meeting

Vickie Aldrich
On Seeds (November 2023)
Inward Light

The approach of Intermountain Yearly Meeting’s 50th anniversary in 2024 has me thinking back to the years before IMYM existed.

I was a teenager in the 1960s, when Friends in Colorado began looking beyond their state to connect with other Friends. I grew up in Mountain View Friends Meeting in Denver and attend through my teens. Both Mountain View and Boulder Meetings started as monthly meetings without affiliation with any yearly meeting. My parents used to joke about how, when Mountain View contacted Friends General Conference (FGC), saying that they wanted to be a Quaker meeting, the people at FGC said, “Oh, we know some Quakers in Boulder. We’ll ask them to visit you.” That visit made it official for Mountain View to become a monthly meeting. Then a couple years later, when Boulder Friends wanted to become a meeting, FGC asked Mountain View Friends to visit Boulder Friends.

A group of Mountain View and Boulder Friends would rent a camp in the Rockies, and we would all go up for a weekend.

Colorado Quakers held some statewide gatherings before the search began to find a larger group to meet with. I remember attending Quaker family camps as a child. A group of Mountain View and Boulder Friends would rent a camp in the Rockies, and we would all go up for a weekend. We hiked, played games, had campfires, and sang in the evening.

I recall the first out-of-state gathering at a ranch in southern Wyoming. We met there for one long day, sometime in July, for several years. Our parents would pile us into the car early in the morning for the long drive. We would head north and then turn west into Wyoming, crossing miles and miles of flat sagebrush-filled land. Dad would turn onto a dirt road at some point, and we would press our faces against the windows in anticipation. It was always a surprise when the road plunged downward, and we left the high plateau to end up in a lush canyon, cross a creek, and arrive at the ranch house. We all tumbled out, carrying potluck dishes and chairs. The dishes were placed on tables outside, and the chairs were arranged in a large circle in the shade. As more cars arrived, the adults greeted each other, and the kids played and visited the animals – chickens, horses, and sheep.

We would gather in the circle of chairs, children and adults, at a designated time, probably twenty or thirty of us. I remember one time best. Kenneth Boulding was there with his wonderful white hair. He stood and shared a message during worship. After he spoke, we settled back down, and I looked around at the trees and the birds and felt the cool canyon breeze. Then I watched the ground for bugs. I felt a stir among the people, my sister poked me, and I looked up. There, walking into our circle, was one of the horses. He walked into the circle of Friends, not making a sound, and looked around at us. We quietly looked back at him, no one breaking the silence. The horse turned and slowly walked out. We continued in silent worship, feeling blessed by our unique visitor.

We gathered for our meal, then some of us went to see the nuclear missile silo that had been put on the ranch despite the owners’ protests. Father and I went on this little trip. We sat in the back of a pickup truck with others, riding along dirt roads to a fenced-in area with a concrete pad, where we stopped. We were told that the missile was buried underneath that pad.

Exhausted and filled from the long day of Friendly gathering, we rode home in the evening.

A couple carloads of us went on this scouting expedition. Starting from Denver, we planned to drive across half of Colorado and all of Kansas.

Some years after that first summer gathering, Boulder and Mountain View Friends started to seek a larger group to be part of. I participated in a visit to Missouri Valley Friends Conference. The conference was held in eastern Kansas. A couple carloads of us went on this scouting expedition. Starting from Denver, we planned to drive across half of Colorado and all of Kansas. We mixed up who was traveling with whom. I rode in a car full of Quakers I did not know well. I remember I was in the backseat with Martin Cobin from Boulder. A man named Bob from Denver was driving. This trip was in the late 1960s, when I was in high school.

I remember Martin and Bob because of an incident as we drove east. The road was being worked on, and at some points, it was a regular, divided, interstate freeway with two lanes going each direction at 80 miles an hour. Then at times, it merged down into a two-lane road with traffic going both directions. The front seat Quakers, of course, were involved in a very active, loud conversation as Bob drove across flat miles of Kansas farmland. I sat in the middle of the backseat, a quiet but observant young Friend.

At some point, the road had switched from the I-70 two lanes going east to the old road with two-way traffic. Bob got into the left lane to pass someone and stayed there. In the back seat, Martin and I watched as a car headed straight toward us. I felt terrified but unable to speak, and I still remember Martin’s calm voice saying, “Bob, you may want to change lanes.” He may have even said, “Friend Bob, thee may choose to change lanes.” He did choose to change lanes, and the car zipped past us with barely a pause in the conversation. We got to the Missouri Valley Friends Conference (MVFC), which was a lovely gathering of Friends. There, I first met Leonore Goodenow, who was getting ready to retire from Scattergood School. She would soon move to Denver to become the Resident Friend at Mountain View Meeting. Colorado Friends continued to meet with MVFC for a few more years.

Then sometime around the beginning of 1970, Friends from New Mexico and Arizona invited Friends from Colorado to gather that summer with them at a place in New Mexico called Ghost Ranch. This became the first annual meeting of what participants called “Intermountain Friends Fellowship,” which met each summer for four years and included Friends from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. In 1974, Leonore Goodenow clerked the Fellowship’s business meeting, and Friends decided to become Intermountain Yearly Meeting. ~~~

Vickie Aldrich is a member of Las Cruces Friends Meeting in New Mexico (IMYM).

Intermountain Yearly Meeting Quaker history

Return to "On Seeds" issue