23 June 2022

Yearly Meeting in Canby, Oregon, USA

Yearly Meeting 2022 sessions, some at Canby Grove and some online.

View from the Philippines (via Zoom).
Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends gathered for our annual sessions last weekend (Friday-Sunday) at Canby, Oregon, and online. Judy and I were among those who were able to participate in person for the first time since 2019; we were also aware of the audiovisual booth where our amazing volunteers worked through all sorts of technical challenges to make this wonderful event available online as well.

Judy and I are presently in California, so that I can participate in a Parkinson's research study (a blind study, so I have no idea whether I'm seen as a potential patient or in a control group). We are also using this chance to visit Friends of Berkeley Friends Church, and I have almost no time left for writing this blog post, so I'll be brief tonight. I just wanted to give you a few personal highlights from our Sierra-Cascades weekend.

Maybe the best overall summary of our sessions can be found in our Epistle. You will find evidence in this document of the hope and energy of our sessions. You will also see that we did not avoid reality: after many months of COVID-enforced cautions and separations, as well as other factors, our numbers are diminished and several of our committees are below-strength or in hibernation. On the other hand, one of those quiescent committees has rallied with new determination: the Faith and Practice Committee plans to meet regularly and to ask each of us to write our own stories, if we are willing, about our experiences of God.

A committee I serve on myself, the Nurture of Ministry Committee, asked for agenda time to make a presentation on the state of our Yearly Meeting. In other yearly meetings, our committee might be called the committee for the recording of ministers, helping to encourage the emergence of ministers, helping them and their congregations gain clarity on recognizing their gifts of public ministry, and making recommendations to record those gifts. We want to work on nurturing all ministry among our Friends community, including those Friends who are direct members of SCYMF (not members by virtue of membership in one of our constituent churches).

Our committee's plenary presentation was entitled, "The Ministry of Nurturing a New Yearly Meeting." It's been clear to us over these past couple of years that, while our Yearly Meeting's lists of events, concerns, affiliations, and so on have been impressive, we have in reality running on near-empty. As our committee member Ruthie Tippin said, we have an impressive skeleton with an impressive coat of many colors, but there is not enough flesh on our bones, and we need to experience God writing on our hearts. Faith Marsalli spoke also. She recalls,

I [Faith] encouraged folks to share with each other their ideas during the weekend.

  • Why do we organize ourselves and gather as a yearly meeting? (Why do we do what we do? Does it have value?)
  • How do you want to be nurtured?
  • How do you want our yearly meeting to be nurtured?
  • How do you feel led to contribute to the nurture of the yearly meeting?

Anna Baker spoke directly about "the challenge Covid has been to our meetings. I spoke of how many meetings lost attenders.... We need to give our meetings grace and healing to build up again."

I [Johan] mentioned that one of the early queries that the earliest yearly meetings asked their constituent meetings was, "How does Truth prosper among you?" Where are we thriving, and where are we suffering, and how are we helping meet each other's needs? Our Yearly Meeting has a number of churches that are not thriving for one reason or another, and too often we scramble to improvise responses, and simply don't respond adequately. As examples of possible ways we might improve our capacity to nurture our new Yearly Meeting:

  • Release a Friend to be a pastor at large for a season--not a superintendent to run our administrative affairs, but someone who helps us organize to help Truth prosper among our churches in difficulties, and circulates among us, along with all others called or gifted for the ministry of intervisitation.
  • Have all our elders (or equivalents) of all our churches meet together once a year, as our pastors already do. Having a Yearly Meeting of Elders, or of Ministry and Counsel, is an established practice among some other yearly meetings; why not see if we can pool our experiences and pray together, and overcome some of the isolation we have already diagnosed among our churches?
These two ideas are not necessarily solutions, but maybe they will provoke other ideas that are worth considering in our ministry of nurture of our young Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends. Tell us your leadings.

That's it for this evening. I hope to be back next week with my more usual format.

Taj Mahal is scheduled for this coming July 4 weekend at the Waterfront Blues Festival. Judy and I first heard him at a free concert in Boston's Government Center in the late 1970's. It's about time to hear him live once again....


Kevin Camp said...

Yearly Meeting gatherings do often come across a brain trust that exists for a time a few days a year--and then are gauzy, vague things most of the time in our monthly meetings. I'm glad to see concrete goals. Spirit does indeed seem to be moving within you.

Kevin Camp said...

That first comment was from me. I posted it wrongly the first time.

Deborah S said...

Grateful for this new yearly meeting and the nurturing thereof! I am also part of a new YM and it is both challenging and hopeful!

Johan Maurer said...

Kevin and Deborah! Thank you for your words.