North Seattle faces third affiliation
With its first meeting in 1905 in a tent on an empty lot, North Seattle Friends has been in existence now for over 100 years. That’s a lot of history.
“From our beginning as Friends Memorial Church in 1905 to 1948 the church was part of Indiana Yearly Meeting,” Pastor Lorraine Watson wrote in an email. “In 1948 Friends Memorial was accepted into Oregon Yearly Meeting (renamed to NWYM in 1974). In 2004 Friends Memorial changed its name to North Seattle Friends Church. Sometime soon we will exit Northwest Yearly Meeting for our third affiliation.”
Watson emphasized that in spite of that history, members of the Quaker church aren’t stuck in the past: “Our current meeting is very much alive with the sense that God is present among us today. We are … committed to listening deeply to God in community, following the leadings that come and freeing each other to live into the ministries that arise in our midst.”
In spite of its size and location, North Seattle Friends is “not a neighborhood church,” Watson said, “but a place [to which] people come from all over the area looking for a Christ-centered Quaker presence. We invite all people to join us, recognizing that those who stay are those who have a similar thirst for knowing God.”
“We gather in meeting each week with our primary purpose being to listen together to God who is present in our midst and speaking to us. Whatever else happens is of no consequence if we do not listen together and allow God to speak to us. Generally, we also include music, God stories, and a message, but not always. We are very aware that we all bring something to this gathering and that it is not up to the upfront leaders to create the experience for us. We bear witness to how God works in our midst.”
Watson said that weekly worship gatherings serve as touch-points for community: “We have a strong sense that we accompany each other as we go through the week, so we often announce where the community is going the next week. We also love blessing each other, whether it be going out in ministry or submitting to surgery. But no matter what else we do, we always have a time of silence so that we can listen deeply to God and in that time, we invite people to share their leadings out of the silence.”
In light of the yearly meeting restructure, Watson said, “We grieved the news that NWYM is unable to hold the diversity that has long been present in this yearly meeting. It was our sense that we would do our best work if we stayed together.”
North Seattle decided in April to leave Northwest Yearly Meeting and to help build a new organization: “We hold hope that this will be a Quaker organization that can truly live into what it means to be Christ-centered Quakers in the Northwest…. Once there is definition to the process, we will discern whether we are to join this group, although I think there is little question but what we will become members.”
“I really yearn for a strongly Quaker and Christ-centered yearly meeting in the Pacific Northwest,” Watson continued. “It has felt to me for many years like there has been a tug and pull in NWYM between various parts of the YM. Quaker vs. Evangelical, social concerns vs. evangelism and the struggle around joining FWCC are the areas that I’ve been most aware of. I believe this struggle goes way back to 1925 when Oregon Yearly Meeting (now NWYM) left Five Years Meeting (now FUM) and probably before that…. With the restructuring, I yearn for us to move forward in freedom as both Quaker and Christ-centered.”
Plans for parallel summer session placed on hold
One possibility for monthly meetings leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting might be some kind of combination with the Western Association of the Religious Society of Friends. The three WARSF meetings – all in California – have expressed interest, according to Brian Young (Berkeley), but there are also reasons for caution.
Young said the physical distances may be daunting, “especially for the folks from southern California. That will have to be determined as we get further into this process, and visitation will probably give us the best indication.”
In a 45-minute conversation at the Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas meeting in Stony Point, NY, this last month, Julie Peyton (West Hills) and Young discussed the possibility of representation from WARSF at annual sessions this summer.
Peyton had originally been given a green light from NWYM Presiding Clerk Brad Holton and Superintendent Retha McCutchen “to pursue a parallel program, one geared towards those leaving the yearly meeting. My intent was to share dorms, cafeteria, and worship but have some programming … that would help ground this new thing.” But Peyton reported that in a meeting last Tuesday, McCutchen shared with Peyton her concern that this not be “a divisive situation, where Friends see some workshops geared toward one group or the other,” effectively putting plans for a parallel program on hold this summer.
Young said he intends “to draft a report to WARSF’s Board of Oversight on [the] dialogue thus far in the next week or so, and I will be sure to mention the annual session dates” as an option for visitation.
No matter what happens, the priority for WARSF meetings, according to Young, “is to provide connections with Friends United Meeting and other Friends organizations – American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and FWCC. I believe that I can speak for most WARSF Friends in saying that we would want any organization that we might join, or any meetings that might want to join with us, to actively support those same connections.”
The next meeting for churches leaving NWYM, as well as anyone interested in the process, will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Eugene Friends Church, 3495 W 18th Ave, Eugene, OR 97402.
Convening clerk seeks dialogue about value of wider association
A small group of Friends meetings in California is interested in joining with Quakers in the Northwest. The convening clerk for the Western Association of the Religious Society of Friends (WARSF) sent an email last week that has since been shared among members at Eugene, North Valley and West Hills.
“We would like to open and sustain a dialogue with the meetings that are being separated from Northwest Yearly Meeting,” wrote Brian Young, pastor at Berkeley Friends, “to discern what value there might be in a wider association.”
Young wrote in a follow-up email that the association doesn’t have “a clear sense other than to say, ‘We believe we have a great deal in common and would like to explore whether that is true with you.’” WARSF may send a representative to future meetings of churches leaving NWYM, as “face-to-face interactions would be helpful in deepening the dialogue and building trust.”
The California association includes three monthly meetings – Whittier First Friends, Berkeley Friends and Bakersfield Quaker Meeting.
“We meet annually, alternating between Berkeley and Whittier,” Young wrote. “A significant part of WARSF’s purpose is to serve as a connecting body between our local meetings and Friends United Meeting, as well as the American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Friends World Committee for Consultation.”
Young offered a brief history of WARSF: “In 1993 Southwest Yearly Meeting announced its intention to leave Friends United Meeting (FUM) because of disagreements over theology and mission. When that separation was formalized in 1996, Whittier First Friends withdrew from Southwest and formed WARSF in order to retain the connection with FUM. Bakersfield joined WARSF after a year or two. Berkeley remained with Southwest for another five years, but departed in 2001, primarily because of concerns over changes to Faith and Practice.”
Young noted that WARSF was formed by meetings “choosing to leave the yearly meeting rather than by expulsions, and the underlying reasons had to do with, first, a desire to retain connections with FUM and other Friends organizations, and second, differences in how Christian Quaker faith should be expressed, rather than disagreements over whether and how to welcome sexual minorities. Nonetheless, today both Whittier and Berkeley welcome and include GLBT people.”
Young can be reached through the contact form linked here.