Quaker Youth Pilgrimage Stops by Camas

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.