Thank you for your willingness to try something new. You probably felt like we all felt when it was introduced the first night at Sierra-Cascades Annual Meeting. So you have already experienced some of what happened there, except for one important difference – we had less than 20 people singing, and there it was over 150 people singing. By now you have guessed that this is my report from the Sierra-Cascades Annual Meeting and the Q’s referred to above are Quakers. [I’ve given you some notes on the white insert, if you want to follow along on it.]
Our times of worship were facilitated by Matt Boswell, pastor of Camas Friends, and focused on queries to use in our daily attempts to follow the leading of the Spirit. He began with a rubric given to him by a former teacher: Pay attention / Responsibility / Competence
Queries (Questions Quakers use for personal self-examination before God.)
To whom do I need to pay attention? An example from the life of Jesus is the story of Blind Bartimaeus from Mark 10. Jesus was passing by with a large crowd and Bartimaeus called started shouting “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd ordered him to be quiet but he kept calling even more loudly. And Jesus stopped. Jesus paid attention to the needs of those around him, and he healed the blind man.
To whom do WE need to pay attention? Same question but now directed to us as a group, as a Meeting, as a Yearly Meeting.
Who is my responsibility? Here we recalled one of the most disturbing stories about Jesus in Matthew 15, when a Canaanite woman called to Jesus in the same way “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me. Heal my daughter who tormented by a demon. And he did NOT answer her. The disciples tried to send her away; then Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”. When she asked again, he said, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Most of us would have left if we had been called dogs, but the woman said, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” It was suggested that this was the occasion when Jesus began to widen his view of who was his responsibility. Not just the house of Israel, but foreigners also. And he healed the daughter. Sort of reminds us of the vision sent to Peter to convince him that the Gospel was to be preached not only to Jews, but also to Gentiles. When he refused to eat animals he thought were unclean, God said “What God has made clean, do not call unclean.”
Who is OUR responsibility? Again, now directed to us as a Meeting or a Yearly Meeting.
What do I need to learn to more faithfully and effectively care for others? A scripture to help us on this is in the Sermon on the Mount, in the passage about judging others. Jesus says “How can a blind person guide a blind person? How can you say to your neighbor, “Friend let me take out the speck in your eye: when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” Some more modern examples: in retirement homes, the caregivers have special training, so that they don’t let anyone fall down or injure themselves. I had a couple near-disasters when caring for my husband and I could easily have hurt him (and maybe did sometimes) because I was not appropriately trained. I remember when Stone Soup decided to restrict developmentally disabled teens from their meetings, because we had no one trained to deal with their mental difficulties. This might be particularly important when tempted to give advice in situations we are unfamiliar with, especially when not asked. “Maybe you should talk to a doctor – or a counsellor — about this, because I don’t want to give you advice that could hurt you rather than help you.” I remember a course on Christian caregiving that was given at our Meeting and some of us took it. Others of us have had training dealing with certain types of mental illness. Maybe, if I am concerned about homelessness, I should look to those who have researched the problem and tried various solutions, before thinking I knew the answers.
What do WE need to do to more faithfully and effectively care for others? We have been blessed with housing a food bank in our church, and it has been a trial-and-error process of learning to adjust our expectations (on both sides!) regarding what we can reasonable expect from each other in this situation. What other areas of service might we as a group need to be trained to do well?
The special guest speaker for Sunday morning worship was Benigno Sanchez-Eppler. A native of Cuba, he currently teaches at Amherst College in Massachusetts. He had just t finished up his four-year term as Clerk for Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), Section of the Americas. He has just finished translating Barclay’s Apology into modern English and Spanish, in collaboration with another New England Friend, Susan Furry.
Benigno spoke to the condition of the meeting, the condition of bravely facing the work of healing. He reminded us of the ways we can draw on our own experiences of wounding to better carry the healing light to others among us. He shared the image of quilts he had seen made from scraps and rejects, to show how beauty can come from a place of feeling or being cast-off. We are indeed experiencing the pains of our birth. At times, we feel fear and pain when we long for hope and joy. We are like a collection of tattered remnants, and we cannot imagine how we could be made into a beautiful whole. Some worry that essential pieces will be thrown out, and beloved individuals fear they won’t fit our new shape knowing personally the deep pain of exclusion. We sometimes fear the loss of connections to our past traditions that have given life. Benigno reminded us that our crisis is not over, because crises are a part of life that will continue into our future. Yet as we choose to trust in the master quilter, we find hope. We are indeed being made into a beautiful whole. Our rough edges are being knit together and nothing is wasted.
Other activities during the sessions were similar to those of other Yearly Meetings – workshops, cafeteria food (not bad, unless you were vegetarian, in which case you probably had a few too many make-your-own burritos). Much good conversation happened over mealtimes. People I didn’t know came up to me and introduced themselves and welcomed me to the sessions. I wondered how they knew I was not a member – then remembered that we were all given a list of names/addresses of attenders. Nevertheless, some folks must have been on the lookout for Friends such as myself who were there just to see what was going on and report to a Meeting back home. Whatever the reason, I was made to feel very, very welcome. Outdoor activities were somewhat curtailed because it rained on and off every day we were there. I had just finished a two-week visit with my son’s family, sleeping curled up on a loveseat, so I spent a number of hours in my room of blessedly single-occupancy room, just having some time alone with my own thoughts.
During the business sessions there were, of course, numerous reports from the usual assortment of Committees and Working Groups. I’ll mention just a few of these:
Treasurer’s Report: The Year to Date Financial Report ending April 30th showed a net increase of $10,192. The Spending Plan for 2020 projects an income of $43,000 and a Total Spending Plan of 39,000. (Copies of these are available on request.)
Nominating: — needs more members, please volunteer
People Care – A fund of $6000 was approved for people who want to travel in ministry.
Equity and Inclusion – To aid conversations around Native American reparations, they are preparing a list of resources to help Meetings have conversations around Native American reparations. They also presented a draft letter from the YM to the Snohomish tribes, on whose land the Canby Center is located. Native American lands are part of our story also, so remembering that part may be an important step in moving forward. Learning the names of the people whose lands we are now on is one small step we can take. (Copies of the draft letter are available on request; I will be taking it to the next Elders Meeting.)
So . . . that’s about all, except that the Faith and Practice Committee asked everyone there to take a survey. The Elders thought you might like to take it also! Then we could compare our results with those of Sierra Cascades YM. It is ANONYMOUS – we don’t want to know who you are, but we do want to know what we as a group think. We’ll ask those who aren’t here today to do it another time.
[Pass out surveys] Who needs a pen or pencil? I’ve asked Polina to play us some nice “filling-out-survey” music. Along with the offering, we’ll send around the box for you to put your survey in and we’ll shake it up before we take any out.
After you finish, I’ll be open for questions and then we will have a bit more time to be quiet together.
This message was given by Lois Kieffaber at Spokane Friends Church on July 7, 2019.
Other items of interest: [printed, no spoken]
Letter to Indigenous Tribes and Invitation: Apology for white settler and government theft of tribal lands.
Allocation of Funds from Northwest Yearly Meeting: From balance on June 30, 2018, $114,358. Each church is assigned a percentage based on 10-year averages of Sunday am attendances and support. Portions for independent churches are held, updated June 30, 2019, 2020,and disbursed June 30, 2021. NWYM investments in Friends Church Extension Fund will also be allocated between yearly meetings on June 30 2021.
Everence (where Colin Saxton works) is the new name of Mennonite Mutual Aid (changed because initials MMA took people to wrong internet sites. Largest socially responsible investment company (3.5 Billion in funds); it is non-profit and reinvests in community and works for environmental protection.
Sierra-Cascades discussed joining other organizations: FUM, FGC, FWCC, FCNL, AFSC. Affiliating with FWCC and FCNL were approved. ]
Since the retirement of our beloved Pastor Nick Block in March 2017, Spokane Friends has continued working to make worship a rich experience for us all by utilizing the gifts of our members and friends and by inviting outside guest speakers to bring messages to us occasionally.
We are happy to announce that this month we signed a covenant with Paul Blankenship to be our part-time interim pastor. In this capacity he will deliver two sermons each month and help in other ways to help us feel more stable and connected.
What is available under the “Pastor’s Page,” a collection of messages that have been given to us during Sunday morning worship, will now include Paul’s messages on a regular basis. On Sundays Paul is not speaking, we will continue to hear messages from our own Quaker community and the larger body of Christ beyond our Meeting .
These messages can be reached through Sermons/Messages. The five latest entries are listed under Pastor’s Page Archives, which is a sidebar on all pages.