This past weekend 29 youth and 3 adult leaders who have been traveling on a month long spiritual pilgrimage through the Pacific Northwest took a (planned) detour through Camas Washington and spent a few days with those of us at Camas Friends. They all slept and ate in our meeting house, and joined us for worship on Sunday morning. There was only one programmed friend in the bunch and he is from Northwest Yearly Meeting. The rest were unprogrammed and mostly from the US and from around the UK and Europe. There was one “token” Canadian as they called him. For most of the friends on this trip their worshipping with us on Sunday was the first time they’ve been to a programmed Friends meeting and I could tell it was a stretch for many as well. But they were gracious, curious, and took it all in. After worship we had planned a BBQ potluck complete with four grills and tons of food. People in our meeting stayed and ate and struck up conversations with these young people and it was really great to see how many of the pilgrims mixed in with our people who they didn’t know while they ate.
One of my favorite conversation was with a couple of pilgrims who came up to me while I was flipping burgers and said, “We’d like to do a programmed worship service during our trip, but we don’t know how to do one. Can you show us?” I scratched my head a little and said, “Well, I guess I never really thought about it before, but sure!” We had a great time coming up with some ideas for them.
Then we split up and some went for a hike in LaCamas Park while others of us went swimming at the Sandy Swimming Hole. While the water was only 69 degrees and a little to chilly for my own taste it seemed like the pilgrims enjoyed being out in the natural and beautiful surroundings.
Finally, one of the highlights from the weekend was when all the pilgrims went to different people’s homes for showers, dinner and dessert. I think we had about 8-10 houses that hosted people and besides being glad to get a shower and a home cooked meal, I think they genuinely enjoyed being able to relaxed in a home for awhile after such a long journey. We had some really meaningful conversations as well, some about differences between programmed and unprogrammed Quakers, and some about other things going on in their lives. I know by the end of the day I should have been exhausted but I was exhilarated and really enjoyed our time with them all.
Last night a few of us were talking and the sense really was that this was a great and worthwhile activity and we really want to do things like this again in the future. I am really proud of our meeting because it is open to doing “convergent” activities like this even though it may stretch us at times (or maybe because of it). And quite frankly, this was just a lot of fun. I don’t know a lot of programmed meetings who are willing to open their doors like this and so I feel really fortunate to be apart of a community who is. And I see the fruits of this kind of work among our community as well. I also feel fortunate that there were a number of Northwest Yearly Meeting churches that interacted with this group in a variety of ways over the course of the last month. I hope these youth had a good experience with us and that they were able to see and witness the movements of the Light of Christ among us while they were here.
I also hope to see a change in the non-participation of programmed friends in activities like this. I don’t know why there is such low involvement? I don’t know if word is just harder to get out among certain groups and yearly meetings or if there are bigger more theological issues at stake but whatever the case may be this is something that really does need to change.
10 responses to “Quaker Youth Pilgrimage Stops by Camas”
We enjoyed the hour-and-a-half visit to Freedom Friends, last week, by that delightful group of young Friends!
I suspect that one of the aspects of "programmed" Friends not participating in or welcoming such exploration is the emphasis on having "found the truth" and anyone not agreeing with them is suspect. Although "Liberal" Friends may be "open" to "too many" "beliefs, etc. they are open to further openings.
I’m a bit surprised that Wess is nonplussed about this “non-participation.”
He already addressed it in his piece in the book, “Spirit Rising,” when he wrote of the biggest questions asked of convergent Friends, which are (this is a quote):
Question #3, about whether evangelicals should be unequally yoked with others who have different beliefs, is key. The phrase is an allusion to Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14, Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers . . . .
Its worth filling in the rest of that verse, to get the full flavor of what is involved: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
Or as the Worldwide English Version of the Bible renders it, more bluntly: How can Christ agree with Belial, the devil? How can a person who believes work with a person who does not believe?
That clarifies the matter usefully, especially relating to Question #2, “Why would we want to dialogue with them? Weve got no interest in that form of Quakerism, their beliefs and practices.”
Why?? It’s a good question, when, to speak plainly about the implications, in venturing out among liberal or mixed groups of Friends, programmed/evangelicals are not just fooling around; they’re consorting with the devil.
Thus to be among them, even open to being unequally yoked, (i.e., consorting with Satan) by dealing with liberal Friends, becomes more than a personal or even an institutional matter: it raises a theological challenge to the firm evangelicals.
Some of their central doctrines are undermined by such ventures, and if the contacts continue, they will be changed by them. (I would say they would be overthrown; but we shall see about that.)
Meantime, such non-participation as is shown by the one pastoral vs 28 non-pastoral Young Friends in the Pilgrimage, as well as the limited contacts in the Northwest, seems to me likely to continue. And that should be no surprise.
Chuck, I think you probably picked up on my question as being more a rhetorical head scratch rather than really not knowing. I am fully aware of why many don’t consort, from both sides. Because, as you noticed from the post this was the first time that 28 unprogrammed friends interacted with programmed friends. So it cuts both ways. My feeling is more disappointment than anything when I know that both groups genuinely had meaningful times together this past weekend. But I am also thankful that at least in the Northwest Yearly meeting there is a lot of Friends who don’t fit into the stereotype laid upon Evangelical/Programmed Quakers, which does help explain (IMO) why if there was a programmed Friend in the group they came from NWYM.
Sorry, Friends, the three questions cited by Wess somehow didn’t come through with the rest of my comment. Here they are, as stated by Wess in “Spirit Rising”:
“1.Are you telling me we need to subscribe to a lowest-common-denominator faith so that we can get along with Friends of other branches?
2. Why would we want to dialogue with them? Weve got no interest in that form of Quakerism, their beliefs and practices.
3. Should we be unequally yoked with people who dont believe what we believe?”
There are more reflections on these questions and some related context at this blog entry:
You are beginning to sound so cranky on this issue that is getting sadly easy to ignore you.
Please crank it down. I’m serious.
[…] Epistle from the trip on his blog. Here’s one section that particularly stands out to me, especially after my recent post on the subject. As a gathered youth, we are empowered to speak of one final, lasting concern. Throughout the […]
[…] have written about some of the experience over on my blog gathering in light. And Micah Bales, one of the Pilgrimage leaders, posted their epistle on his blog. You can find […]
Hey, I recognize at least two of these young women, not counting the Daniels family members. I’m glad to know they were there. Like many things, if it was a good experience for those involved, then perhaps it is enough. There are plenty of non-theological reasons why people do not participate. And little by little, we can pray and act for things to change.
I imagine that mostly unprogrammed Friends participated in this
pilgrimage is because the participants came from the northesatern United States and Britain and Europe, and there
are very few programmmed Friends in those areas.
All three of the comments used to denigrate cross-branch
work that Chuck Fager cites may frequently be heard among
unprogrammed Friends as well. The third commment, on both
sides, however, usually comes out as “they are not REAL
Friends at all; they could endanger our faith.” As someone
who grew up among unprogrammed but united Friends meetings—
yes, a lot of meetings like this existed in the 1950’s and
some still do—I think that these uncharitable comments
on both sides are not only self-righteous but false. Every
type of U.S. Quakerism has something of value to offer, and
every type has lost its way in important respects.