I decided I wanted to jump start a new tradition at Camas Friends today so I took the initiative and ran with it. I’ve been working on a state of the meeting report with the elders for a couple months and I’ve really been wanting to present it to the meeting and it seemed like the Sunday following Yearly Meeting was the appropriate time for it. I initially got the idea of doing a state of the church/meeting report from Freedom Friends, and then in reading more about queries for my recent sermon on the subject I learned that many Quaker meetings used to do this. It seems to me to be a great practice that should be revamped if it really has fallen into general disuse.
I wrote the open letter in the third person, included the transition from previous pastor, Caryl Menkhus, and some other details to help bring the minute up to date. It really covers about two years or so, but the core part centers on the last 14 months. In the spring I met with the elders for a weekend retreat and we talked about what our values are as a meeting. I used those values as a guideline for the things I was looking for, are we doing them, how well, etc? I also tried to cover our bases, births, deaths, marriages, memberships, visitors, etc. It really was a fantastic process to work on it and then present it this morning. I think there something really lovely about reading a document that is meant to uplift the work of God in a community. And this is exactly what I tried to keep as the main focus. After reading the minute we went into open worship with the query:
How have you witnessed God’s movements in your own life and in the life of this community over the past year? (Or how has the truth prospered among you in the past year and in what ways have you witnessed it?)
Of course God’s movements can be discerned both in the celebration as well as the transition and struggle, this was all included in the minute. But helping our meetings reflect on the power of those explicit moments in which we join together in God’s work, in which we celebrate and witness the best of ourselves shine through, working in tandem with God’s Spirit, cannot be overestimated. That’s what we talked about today and it was loads of fun. There’s nothing like standing up in front of a congregation and saying (and believing it’s true of course!), “You’re the people of God, and I see God moving in you and in this community. Here is the evidence…” I thoroughly love being a part of Camas Friends Church, I feel honored to be the pastor of this meeting, growing and being challenged all the way. This is a group I want to worship with every week, I see God in these people and I see them working to see God in and around them as well.
The not just yet part.
So I would love to post the minute but since I’ve really only been the one working on it up to this point we still have some more Quaker process to go through before it gets posted. Our presiding clerk and clerk of elders both have it. Once they give comments, make edits, etc. We’ll take it to the elders and then have it approved at Business Meeting. THEN, I’ll post it on our website for the rest of the Friends’ community to share in.
But if you don’t do a state of the church/meeting report, you might consider making it a new tradition. I think it was a great and worshipful experience for us.