Where do we see ourselves in each other? Camas Friends Visit Multnomah Quakers

This Sunday morning Camas Friends locked the doors to our meetinghouse and took a field trip into Portland to worship with Multnomah Monthly Meeting, an unprogrammed (as in silent worship) that is a part of North Pacific Yearly Meeting. There was a pretty good group of us who drove down, and from what I could tell everyone of us not only enjoyed ourselves and felt welcome, but had meaningful experiences in  worship (and over lunch) with other Quakers. The meeting for worship was rich with many people standing and giving vocal ministry (in fact some commented after wards that it ended too soon and they wanted it to go longer), the potluck and sharing a meal together was great, and the conversation afterwards was constructive and honest. It was guided by two queries that we sent out beforehand over our respective email lists:

  1. Where do we, programmed and unprogrammed, see ourselves in each other.
  2. “How do we integrate what happens in our silent communal worship into our daily lives?  Do we seek opportunities for worship outside of communal silence?”

I loved the whole thing, but the conversation was probably my favorite part. Hearing people share about their experiences of worship this morning, and the connections they felt between our two meetings was powerful. People also shared about the experience of having Multnomah come and visit us in April. Some (from both groups) talked about feeling nervous on their way to the meeting house, and how upon arrival feeling very settled and at peace. Some shared about the work that Camas has been going through over the course of the last 10-15 years to get to a place where they once again identify with being “Quaker” and where there was not just an openness but deep desire to experience this kind of interaction with other Friends. MMM was interested in knowing how we have made this transition, and the process of how we are learning what it means for us to be a Quaker community.

One friend said that when he visited our meeting, had there not been a sign on our building saying we were Friends, he would have known we were anyways. He went on to name the ways in which he saw the family resemblance as being at the center of what we do, (I won’t lie, it made me feel really good to hear him say this). We talked about things we can learn from one another, and ways we might support each meeting. Comments were made about the future of our meetings given the trauma our (American/Global) culture is going through. And I think I can safely say that the sense of the meeting was that this work needs to continue, we need each other, and even though we’re not fully sure what that looks like, we want to explore it in our own communities and together. A number of people almost simultaneously blurted out that we should do a day retreat together and invite other meetings to join us.

It was amazing for me to be a part of this. It has been 11 years in the making on my end. I have dreamed of a day when we could worship together in this way. I have in my own life traveled and worshiped among many Quakers but have never experienced something like this where two meetings come together in this way to worship and build friendships. It was a truly powerful experience for me.

I also loved the fact that they had so many children there and invited us to bring our children and have them join them in their morning classes. Many of the kids were bouncing and skipping around during the silence, just like they do at Camas! I loved that there was a freedom to speak in that room that is not always available in unprogrammed and programmed meetings alike. The culture in that meeting house was one of participation in worship rather than restriction. I felt really inspired, and felt that this work really is worth doing.  It was apparent to me that the Spirit is behind this work.

I look forward to more interactions with this community. And I am also really thankful to be a part of a church that is actually willing to think outside the norm and act on it. How many churches do you know of that would close it’s doors on Sunday morning and go somewhere else to worship, let alone somewhere that’s very different from your own experience. This really is a special community.

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

15 thoughts on “Where do we see ourselves in each other? Camas Friends Visit Multnomah Quakers”

  1. Thanks for the good report. This brings a deep settled peace in me that I can’t really explain.

    It also PROVES that cross-YM work does not need to be single gendered to be wholesome, safe, and productive.

    1. Peggy, I agree. I think that there is definitely at least some interest around doing this work together. I see the strength of Multwood and PNWQWC, these groups have, in my opinion, really helped to create a culture up here where these things can even happen. The NW is an incredible place to be a practicing Quaker in my opinion and they are a big part of that. But I think the rest of us are hungry to help see this work move along. If I could help other Q meetings experience what we have had through this, I would do it in a heartbeat.

  2. Our worship experience with Friends at Multnomah Meeting this morning was very fulfilling to me, as well. I am grateful for their hospitality in the fullest sense of the word. God’s presence was rich as we shared in the silence and the ministry that was brought to us. I love that we have visited and worship together in each other’s Meeting Houses and found much common ground. In today’s world with so many dramatic problems, knowing we face them together with a common foundation is good. I look forward to further worship and deepening understanding of the experience of God’s Spirit.

  3. Friend Wess speaks my mind!

    The whole was much, much greater than the sum of our parts today at the Meeting.

    None can doubt that the “greater” part was the Spirit.

    I so look forward to future gatherings and discovering where our “two roads converged” lead us.

  4. Norma – thanks for being part of getting this all going. I know this is a concern you carry and it’s good to see some of the fruit of that labor. I felt that same sense of camaraderie with MMM, talking about supporting each other and needing to have this conversation about futures together.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this. It brings me joy to read of your experience!

    I’ve found myself in interesting conversations again lately, both on-line and in person, about community-building between Friends of different traditions. As my own assumptions about programmed traditions have been challenged, I’ve been finding it all the more irritating when Friends in unprogrammed traditions make sweeping statements about Friends in programmed traditions. It’s been very good for me — personally and spiritually, as well as for my ministry — to have those assumptions shaken up, and as unlikely a person as I may seem to be to help shake them up for others, I aim to keep doing so. 🙂

  6. Thank you very much for sharing this post. As a Friend who experiences Spirit primarily in earth-centered ways, and is active in a liberal, unprogrammed meeting, I’ve been delighted to discover–in many contexts now–how comfortable and powerful worship can be when shared with explicitly Christian Friends. We should keep building bridges by experiencing shared worship (and potlucks, of course!), remembering what those who went before us insisted we’d learn eventually: labels often divide, while shared worship unites.

    In Friendship,
    Weavre Cooper

  7. Blessings on you for taking on this worthwhile endeavor. I know it wasn't easy but those things worth doing seldom are. I'd be curious to hear how others in your congregation responded that did not participate. How did they react to locking the doors of the church that morning?

    1. Pat – thanks for the question. My perspective is that people were positive about it. Not everyone in the meeting joined us of course, so there may have been some not happy with it, but not that I have heard of.

      I will do some asking around and see if I can find out what others thought – why they didn't go. My guess was that it was more like a day off, than not wanting to go to Multnomah but I may be mistaken.

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