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.”
Congregational meeting scheduled for sharing, listening
In an email last week the North Valley transition task force and elders called a congregational meeting for sharing and listening. The meeting, scheduled for this Sunday evening, will give people an opportunity to consider the results of a meeting-wide survey about how NVFC might respond to the yearly meeting restructure.
“This is not a business meeting, and we are not seeking a decision at this meeting,” Scot Headley emphasized in the email. “Have conversations with your family and friends in the congregation, and with others you don’t know as well Now is a time to listen to one another about what are our hopes and concerns regarding the yearly meeting transition. Keep one another in prayer and remember our friends in our local congregations, as well.”
In the report, the transition task force presented several findings of fact:
- Based on inquires made about Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI, an umbrella group for NWYM), churches may not be jointly affiliated with an EFCI YM and other YM, such as a Friends United Meeting (FUM) YM.
- Churches may not independently affiliate with FUM.
- Based on statements from the YM superintendent and presiding clerk, no appeals of the January YM administrative council decision will be heard.
- Information regarding the work of the YM transition team is not very conclusive at this point. There is general agreement from this group to seek fair and impartial means of apportioning physical assets, but as of yet, no clear guidelines or decisions have been published. NV Elder, Silas Olson, serves on this group.
- Information regarding a possible new YM that may emerge in the region is also inconclusive. There have been several listening meetings in this regard, but as of yet, no clear direction is apparent.
The survey results indicated that although the most selected option was some kind of joint affiliation with Evangelical Friends Church – North America and Friends United Meeting, a separate survey question illustrated that respondents were more willing to support joining a new yearly meeting than any other option.
Themes identified by the task force in responses to open-ended questions in the survey include the following:
- Schedule corporate discernment that incorporates meetings for worship, focused on healthy vulnerability, listening, and Quaker process
- Focus on welcoming, loving, and including our LGBTQ members and attenders
- Affirm unity in diversity as NVFC previously discerned
- Expressions of frustration and desire to appeal/reverse the YM decision to split
- Become independent now and acquire 501c3 status
- Hold fast to Quaker distinctions, history, process
- Desire that NVFC to be an example of love and trust to others
- Hope for trust/reconciliation with NWYM in the future
- Continue NVFC process/discernment/conversations around human sexuality
- Be transparent and informative during this process
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.