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:
- Where do we, programmed and unprogrammed, see ourselves in each other.
- “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.