Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Thoughts

Christmas is really important to me. I enjoy the lights, the color, the special Christmas decorations that have been handed down from year to year. One of the most important ones is my nativity scene. I have to admit it’s probably not the most artistically perfect one. But it has such memories. I went to a two-room school on an island in Puget Sound. The year I was in seventh grade, the bus-driver/custodian expanded his duties to include art teacher. He took all of us kids in the “big room” (grades 4-8) down to the basement and guided us to make the manger from plywood and the people from plaster of paris molds. We varnished and painted to finish these works of art.
And Christmas for me is also about relationships. It’s for getting together with loved ones that are near me and hearing from Friends from afar. I so much love reading stories of what has happened with my friends in the past year. There’s such a sense of awe (God’s love?) in all of this.
And this year will be a year of great stories as we in the Pacific Northwest struggle with snow and ice for an extended period. Nothing has turned out the way we expected in this week before Christmas. As I write, I am essentially snow-bound with granddaughter Sophie because the snow in my apartment complex is so deep. In the meantime the traffic on the nearby freeway seems to be moving fine. But what a gift it has been, these days with Sophie.
Have a very Merry Christmas!
In Friendship,
News of Friends Meetings and Churches
Albuquerque Meeting (NM) is planning a pre-teen program for 10-13 year-old Friends. It would focus on the life of Mary Dyer through music and acting.
The “Care of Meeting” person for Bellingham Meeting (WA) closes Meeting. That person, in essence, holds the entire Meeting in the Light, guides worship through modeling and has responsibility for responding to any emergencies or disruptions that might occur.
Ministry and Oversight Committee of Berkeley Meeting (CA) asks Friends for consideration of what makes Meeting for Worship work for them. In the worship context, what makes Friends feel especially nourished, what is the individual responsibility and how can each one deepen the corporate worship and experience for all?
Friends from Citrus Heights Friends Church (CA) did an experimental reverse Trick or Treat night on Halloween. A group of volunteers gathered in front of the church on Halloween, then spread out in the community, ringing bells and delivering pre-made bags of treats. Through the experience, the organizers were reminded of the amazing grace of flexibility and power of God’s love.
Eugene Meeting (OR) will hold a Winter Retreat with the theme, “Spirit-led Finances.” Lee Bennett (University Meeting, Seattle) will provide Quaker financial historical context and lead an interest group on “Friendly money and Meeting finances.”
The children of Fort Collins Meeting (CO) hosted a holiday crafts and bake sale (with adult support) to benefit the Meeting as a whole.
The Spiritual Formation Group of Gila Meeting (NM) is urging others in the Meeting to join them. The commitment is a daily individual spiritual practice, and participation in a monthly sharing group and a monthly reading group.
Multnomah Meeting (Portland, OR) has approved an Immigration Minute which states in part: “. . . We thus believe that all persons who reside in our country should be treated with justice and equality which, at this time, too many in our state are denied. . .”
Pima Meeting (Tucson, AZ) seeks a Resident Caretaker to live in a one-bedroom apartment in the meetinghouse and interact with the Meeting’s fellowship.
Pima Meeting (Tucson, AZ) is seasoning a recommendation that a consultation group for pastoral care be formed to provide clearness, back-up, or other assistance to theMeeting’s pastoral care coordinators.
Reedwood Friends Church (Portland, OR) is celebrating the holidays with an Evening of Music and Holiday Desserts, a sing-along Messiah, an Evening with Friends Christmas Party (including old-fashioned carriage rides), and a Candlelight Christmas Eve Program.
South Seattle Preparative Meeting (WA) is beginning a process to look at the starting time of Meeting for Worship. The present time of 11:00 a.m., with the hour of worship, announcements and socializing that follow, run into naptimes for young kids.
Spokane Friends Church (WA) is sponsoring a series of workshops on Empathetic Listening. Friends will participate in exercises designed to facilitate a person’s ability to recognize and express their own feelings and accurately understand and respond to the feelings of others.
Tempe Meeting (AZ) received a report from its Finance Committee. Attention was focused on how Friends might reduce expenses and how deep such reductions should be to align with actual income expectations. Friends accepted a “no-growth” 2009 budget.
Tempe Meeting (AZ) holds a concern for how the Meeting supports intergenerational interactions. During a Family Worshipsharing, Friends proposed ideas, including, “The kids could generate queries… for themselves or for the Meeting as a whole.” “The kids would like an opportunity to find their own voice—to meet together without their parents.”
First Friends, Whittier (CA), welcomes in the New Year with an annual New Years Eve Quaker Midnight Party which begins at 6:00 p.m. and ends 9:15 p.m. Friends say they welcome in the New Year on Philadelphia time.

More than one Meeting/Church:
Many Friends Churches and Meetings in the Pacific Northwest are canceling, changing, or combining Meetings for Worship and Business Meetings due to extended periods of snow and ice.

Friday, December 12, 2008

News of Friends Churches and Meetings in the West

The Willamette Falls Worship Group (West Linn, OR), under the care of Multnomah Meeting (Portland, OR), has been laid down.
First Friends, Whittier (CA) will experience a myriad of Christmas activities, including the USFW’s annual Christmas luncheon, a Friday night Christmas movie, and a special Christmas Music Meeting for Worship. The annual Christmas Dinner and auction will include time for a musical play presented by Sunday School classes. The Christmas Eve Candlelight Service begins at 9:00 p.m.
Betsy Ankeny, Interim Pastor, First Friends, Vancouver (WA) reflected on Simplicity in the Church’s Newsletter. She noted C.S. Lewis’ suggestion that giving ought to cramp your style a little. She also said that Jesus pointed out how absolutely necessary it is for us to be generous, to give everything away that comes between us and God.
Tacoma Meeting (WA) has modified its Second Hour schedule for the month of December to allow for events, such as the Special Holiday Worship and Potluck. Other Second Hours will include the opportunity to practice non-violent communication by discussing what’s on Friends’ minds. One such session will focus on what being a Quaker has meant for Friends’ lives.
San Jose Meeting (CA) reports that a recent newsletter indicated that Meeting for Business would be held every other month. At this point, this is an idea that is being seasoned.
Salem Meeting (OR) is responding to a concern regarding handicapped access to its Meeting House.
Sacramento Meeting (CA) is considering engaging in a planning process, to find unity on where the Meeting wants to be in five years. The process would involve all aspects of Meeting, its structure, activities, the Meeting as a whole and the various groups within the Meeting.
Reno Meeting (NV) is planning a clothing exchange in the First Day School for Friends to bring no longer needed clothes in good condition. Friends are encouraged to make donations and look for clothing they might like. Anything left longer than a month will be donated to a charity.
Reedwood Friends Church (Portland, OR) is celebrating the holidays with an Evening of Music and Holiday Desserts (12-7), a sing-along Messiah (12-14), an Evening with Friends Christmas Party (including old-fashioned carriage rides) (12-19), and a Candlelight Christmas Eve Program (12-24).
Pima Monthly Meeting (Tucson, AZ) is seeking a Resident Caretaker to live in a one-bedroom apartment in the meetinghouse and interact with the Meeting’s fellowship.
There will be a prayer blessing in worship at North Seattle Friends Church (WA) for quilts that Stone Soup Quilting Ministry has ready to be delivered to cancer patients at the University of Washington Hospital, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, and the Children’s Hospital.
The Next Steps Group of Newberg Friends Church (OR) has recommended the development of an alternative form of worship. Friends will meet Sunday evening, December 14, for a relaxed and informal worship which may and may not look like something that will happen in the future. The Advent theme from the morning’s worship will be the focus with conversation, pictures, movie clips to help Friends thank Christ for giving himself for all and as an example of how to give more as an act of worship.
The Lower Columbia Worship Group (Seaview, WA) has been taken under the care of Multnomah Meeting (Portland, OR).
Multnomah Meeting (Portland, OR) Friends will participate in a session on “What do I believe?” led by Marge Abbott on December 14. A soup potluck will precede the session. The session is one of an occasional series exploring the place of belief in Friends’ lives -individually and corporately.
Grass Valley Meeting (CA) holds Meeting for Worship for Business after lunch on First Day. Ministry and Oversight of the Meeting is querying Friends to find out if this is the best time for them.
Fort Collins Meeting (CO) reports its First Day School continues to thrive. The teen and pre-teen program is a place where the youth experience fun, friendships and a growing ability to give service to the world in their own way.
Eugene Friends Church (OR) has future plans that include supporting a Latino Ministry that would be held at the same time as the English speaking services to facilitate fellowship before and after services. The Young Adult Group plans to establish and operate a coffee house for the neighborhood.
Eastside Meeting (Bellevue, WA) will proceed to re-roof the south face of the Meeting House roof, whether or not the Meeting goes forward with its remodel project.
Corvallis Meeting (OR) is considering getting a white board to communicate all Meeting events. The board will be placed inside the entrance to the Meeting House.
Bridge City Meeting (Portland, OR) has laid down its weekly Sunday evening Advent gatherings. The Meeting will have a Sunday evening gathering “Coming of the Light.”
As Berkeley Meeting (CA) begins planning details for renovations of the library and the nursery, the first two areas to be renovated, Friends with particular interest in these areas are invited to become involved in the process.
Berkeley Friends Church (CA) will hold its Quaker Heritage Day on February 21, 2009. Dan Seeger, New York Yearly Meeting, will speak on: Commerce, Community and the Regulations of Universal Love; The Contemporary Relevance of John Woolman’s Witness on the Economy.
Bellingham Meeting (WA) participates in the local Interfaith Coalition’s Holiday Gifts Program. Rather than sponsoring one family, Friends were invited to donate generic gifts to be given to families in need.
At an Adult Education session at Albuquerque Meeting (NM), Friends responded to queries about the Bible: What is the Bible for you today? Infallible? Invaluable? Incredible? Intolerable? What does and will the Bible mean for our Meeting and for Quakers in years to come?

More than one Meeting/Church:
Meetings and Churches are finding ways to gather canned foods and dry goods for people in need and then to send the donations to appropriate agencies

PS. Personal note:
Do you remember the song that goes “If you’re happy and you know it…” Then there’s a line that says, “If you’re happy and you know it, your face will surely show it…”
Apparently, if you are happy, not only will your face show it, you’ll send that happiness to others around you. I just read an article that says studies show that you can spread happiness to those around you.
Life gets in the way sometimes, and it’s not always easy to be happy. But this article reminds me that if I keep in mind my desire to keep happy, not only will I feel happier myself, but I might be able to help others be happy. Sounds good to me.
What I do wonder about, though, is what happens when one really isn’t happy, but pretends and shows a smiley face to the world? Does that false-happiness still affect others positively?
In our rainy climate snow is unusual, even in the middle of winter. We have snow forecast for this weekend. I will be happy; I will be happy! (And if I were a kid, this wouldn’t even be a question.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

News of Friends Churches and Meetings in the West

Berkeley Friends Meeting (CA) is forwarding a minute to Pacific Yearly Meeting requesting that Pacific Yearly Meeting seek formal affiliation with Friends General Conference.
Bridge City Meeting (Portland, OR) held a threshing session to determine the senses of the Meeting to guide the Meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee. Friends expressed concern about hunger (locally and internationally), housing, Alternatives to Violence Project, homelessness, Palestine, engagement with the larger community, immigration, and companioning. The P&SC Committee will meet to establish action plans for 2009.
Flagstaff Meeting (AZ) devoted November’s Meeting for Business to guidance on Quaker process for Meeting for Business itself and for committees so they can bring spirit and well-researched minutes to Meeting for Business. All were invited to attend and learn more about Quaker process.
Gila Meeting (Silver City, NM) spent time discussing the problem of hunger. Friends agreed to have a box for donated food at Meeting for Worship. Food collected will be distributed each week.
Glendora Friends Church (CA) is inviting Friends to “The Big Party,” as a way of celebrating Advent. The Big Party began with a morning of worship and celebration, the year-end Congregational Business Meeting, and a potluck of favorite family dishes. It continues with “Holy Silence,” a Saturday retreat with the question, “Do we choose to be with God?” The month-long celebration will culminate in an all-church Celebration Feast, remembering and rejoicing over God’s provision of rescue and redemption sent through the birth of his Son.
Multnomah Meeting (Portland, OR) Friends will participate in a session on “What do I believe?” led by Marge Abbott on December 14. A soup potluck will precede the session. The session is one of an occasional series exploring the place of belief in Friends’ lives -individually and corporately.
The new Pastor to Children and Families at Newberg Friends Church (OR) is Michelle Akins.
Newberg Friends Church (OR), in its thoughts about the “Advent Conspiracy,” suggests that Christmas should be a time to love friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. The church will host a Do-It-Yourself Fair on Saturday, December 6, to help Friends make gifts.
Reedwood Friends Church (Portland, OR) is celebrating the holidays with an Evening of Music and Holiday Desserts (12-7), a sing-along Messiah (12-14), an Evening with Friends Christmas Party (including old-fashioned carriage rides) (12-19), and a Candlelight Christmas Eve Program (12-24).
The all-school testimony focus of San Francisco Friends School (CA) is Community. Ways that the school is uniquely Quaker include Meetings for Worship, daily moments of silence and reflection, daily practices of the testimonies, and meetings for business (often to address issues that have arisen on the playground).
San Francisco Meeting (CA) is holding a threshing session on the Meeting’s right relations with its neighbors, especially those who hang out on the sidewalk. Recently Friends have started a street ministry, serving food twice a month around the corner from the Meeting House.
Santa Fe Meeting (NM) is creating an interim care sub-committee which will receive requests for support of various kinds from Meeting members and attenders and facilitate appropriate responses to practical needs; Ministry and Oversight will continue to focus on spiritual matters.
South Mountain (Ashland, OR) will hold a worship-sharing session, “Acknowledging the Meaning of Christmas,” as part of their holiday celebration.
South Mountain (Ashland, OR) has established an Outreach Task Force to consider and lead the Meeting in implementing “doable” ideas for getting out the Meeting’s message of welcome to seekers and the Meeting’s message that it has something to share.
South Seattle Preparative Meeting (WA) considered the possibility of the children staying in Meeting for Worship for the beginning rather than the end as they do currently. Friends decided the present method is best. The children bring in joy.
Elizabeth Bwayo is sojourning at Tigard Friends Community Church (OR) to recover from injuries after she and others were attacked in Kenya and her husband killed. She has written a long letter of thanks to the Church and other Friends, in which she updated Friends on the progress of her healing and indicated she hopes to return to Kenya February 2009 and work with orphans.

PS. Personal note:

I’m getting pretty good at this riding-the-bus thing. I can dash out of my apartment, get to my bus stop and be anywhere in the greater Portland area within a period of time. (Well, almost anywhere. The bus doesn’t go to my grandaughter’s house.)
The trusty backpack is ready to be grabbed with hat, umbrella, gloves, plastic bags, etc. ready to be used. It isn’t usually THAT cold out in my part of the world, but it can be mighty wet!
The bus isn’t perfect and everyone on the bus isn’t perfect either. There are a couple of routes I take that, honestly, I’m glad I’m a bit too na├»ve to know what’s going on. But the bottom line is there are people on the bus; people who have wants and needs just like all of us.
This morning I was marveling at what a service the bus provides. Within a few minutes my bus (Number 19) had gathered up a group of people that included a middle-aged woman who spoke virtually no English, an older woman using a walker, and a blind man. Then a young woman with two small children, joined the older woman who handed her the money to pay her bus fare.
I do sometimes take reading material with me on the bus, but often don’t read it. Most of the time I just “read” the people.


Beyond the Monthly Meetings/Churches

The Christian Friends Conference in Northern California will meet Saturday, Dec. 6 at the Santa Cruz Friends Meetinghouse. The gathering will include Christ-centered worship, Bible reading in the manner of Conservative Friends, and fellowship over a brown-bag lunch, with possibly an afternoon speaker on Early Friends.
College Park Quarterly Meeting will gather January 17, 2009 at Palo Alto Meeting.
Evangelical Friends Church Southwest will hold its Annual Conference and Serve Day in three locations. In Southern California the Representative Session and Equipping Community Dinner will be January 23, and the Serve Day, January 24, 2009. In Arizona/Nevada the Equipping Community Dinner will be February 6 and the Serve Day, February 7, 2009. In Northern California the Equipping Community Dinner will be February 20 and the Serve Day, February 21, 2009.
The Midwinter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns will take place February 14-16, 2009 at Camp Adams near Portland, Oregon with the theme “Faith Calls for Justice on the Same Terms.”
Harbor Villa (a ministry of Twin Rocks Friends Camp and Conference Center) offers its Center for Personal Growth in Christ during the month of January. Participants come to Harbor Villa for a week-long retreat.
Each year, Intermountain Yearly Meeting sends queries to member Meetings and Worship Groups. This year’s queries relate to drug and alcohol use and spiritual storytelling and storytellers. Queries include the following: What are the beliefs and experiences of Friends in your Meeting concerning the proper place of alcohol or drug use in the home, in gatherings of Friends, or in everyday life? What benefits do Friends find from alcohol use? Could we be comfortable requesting that alcohol use be avoided at gatherings of Friends?. . . . Are there Friends whose spiritual stories you would particularly like to hear or Friends who would particularly like to learn to tell their story, including stories directed especially to children?
Intermountain Yearly Meeting Continuing Committee will meet January 9-11, 2009 in Tempe, AZ.
Montana Gathering of Friends (MGOF) will meet February 6-8, 2009.
North Pacific Yearly Meeting Steering Committee meets January 24, 2009 at the Multnomah Meeting House (Portland, OR) This will be the last NPYM Steering Committee Meeting; the Yearly Meeting will switch to a Coordinating Committee status. Steering Committee had authority to act on its own with guidance from monthly meetings; with the new yearly meeting structure, much of the decision making goes back to the yearly meeting at annual session.
The Junior Friends (high-school age) of North Pacific Yearly Meeting will hold their Ski Trip February 13-16, 2009.
Northwest Yearly Meeting’s Midwinter High School Retreat will be held January 16-19, 2009 on the Oregon Coast at Twin Rocks Friends Camp. The theme will be “Where’s the Whole Gospel,” with Steve Sherwood, George Fox University, who will teach about relationships and service within the community.
Northwest Yearly Meeting’s Mid-Year Boards will be held February 6-7, 2009.
The Pacific Northwest Quarterly Meeting Silent Retreat will be held January 30-February 1, 2009 at Camp Huston, Gold Bar, Washingon. This retreat offers an opportunity to reach more profound depths in the Silence of Quaker worship.
The Future of Pacific Yearly Meeting sub-committee is holding a face-to-face meeting in January and is looking for input from Meetings regarding individual Meeting's interaction with Pacific Yearly Meeting.
Quaker Heritage Day of Berkeley Friends Church will be February 21, 2009. Dan Seeger, New York Yearly Meeting, will speak on: Commerce, Community and the Regulations of Universal Love; The Contemporary Relevance of John Woolman’s Witness on the Economy.
Utah Friends Fellowship will meet in Logan, UT, January 17-18, 2009.
The Walk with Earth Pilgrimage, for the beauty of the earth down the watersheds of the Americas, started March 2nd at San Francisco Meeting. Led by Rolene Walker, this pilgrimage ends in Chile in 2.5 years.
Western Young Friends' New Year's Gathering will be held at Camp Myrtlewood, southern Oregon, December 28, 2008 - January 2, 2009.
Willamette Quarterly Meeting will meet for Business Meeting at the Corvallis Meeting House on February 7, 2009.