30 May 2024

Stepping out of the boat, part two

Sierra-Cascades founding session (2017, George
Fox University); and 2018's annual session (Canby,

In my first Stepping out of the boat post, I gave a personal account of our new Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting's early development as an independent Quaker association of churches.

Among the tasks still ahead of us (I said at the time) was the development of a book of discipline—a book that many yearly meetings call Faith and Practice. Such books often combine content that helps express the spiritual commitments and culture of the community, with content that describes organizational details and processes.

Six years later, we are still working on how we will describe our spiritual values in this book of discipline. However, several of our committees have been hard at work developing polices and practices that will eventually be collected in our book, so our overall progress is encouraging. And our experiences and mistakes as a yearly meeting—and as individual churches—are also contributing to our task, as we build our to-do list of areas we need to work on. For example, we have done a lot of work on the recognition and recording of ministers, but have not done as well as we would like in supporting our existing pastors and others who offer public ministry.

In that earlier post, I summarized the balance that we (at least in my personal view) seek in daring to describe our spiritual culture and commitments:

Step two, building our identity: Here we really had to decide whether we as a body were in fact walking toward Jesus. Some of our churches are uncomplicatedly and unaffectedly Christian, culturally indistinguishable from other evangelical Friends congregations, except for the refusal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. None of our meetings identify as non-Christian, but some have more experience providing spiritual hospitality to people who have survived encounters with authoritarian religiosity. Those churches are particularly careful not to use Christian language in ways that could come across as glib and domineering. At our Canby sessions, this issue came up in considering what to require of applicants for membership. Rather than asking applicants to use specific language about themselves, we agreed to describe who we are—a Christ-centered community—and leave it up to applicants to decide whether this kind of community was something they wanted to join.

(Related: The Quaker high-wire act. A Quaker discipline.)

After a number of false starts and after many, many conversations, here is a sneak preview of what our Faith and Practice Committee will lay before our 2024 gathering in eight days. Among our challenges to ourselves: we wanted to draw on the values we explicitly expressed in our founding years' business minutes, and we wanted to be brief and use plain English. I'd be glad to hear your comments, and to know that you'll be praying for us as we consider this latest draft:

Your Faith and Practice Committee proposes the following paragraphs as an introduction to the draft Faith and Practice we will be compiling with your help. We plan to present it (with some background information) on Friday of our annual gathering, with time scheduled for your comments on Saturday.

The Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends is a voluntary association of Quaker meetings, churches, and individuals whose worship, ministry, and service are centered in Christ, guided by Quaker testimonies and experience, and committed to the full participation of LGBTQ+ people in all aspects of the life and leadership of the Yearly Meeting. We see these three values as interrelated and mutually reinforcing.

We understand the Quaker testimonies as a call:

  • to live simply and sustainably;
  • to seek nonviolent responses to conflict, and refuse participation in war and preparation for war;
  • to speak the truth and keep our promises;
  • to make common decisions based on our community’s practice of prayer and discernment rather than majority rule or force of personality;
  • to regard each other—and all people—with a commitment to equality and equity, rejecting all false distinctions based on social, cultural, or economic status;
  • in the wider world, to support, advocate, and initiate efforts toward peace, justice, care of Creation, and relief of suffering in ways that are consistent with these testimonies;
  • in all things, to put Love first.

As we set forth these values and commitments, we acknowledge that they are to some extent aspirational, not an inventory of our successes as of today.

We also understand that we have a variety of faith languages and experiences among us. We do not require of each other, or of newcomers, any standard interpretation or test to be part of our community. We are committed to listening and learning together, building trust in God and each other through the ways that we worship, conduct business, guard each other’s reputations, and resolve conflicts tenderly.

Anyone who feels drawn to our community based on these values and testimonies, and the ways we live them, will be joyfully welcomed.

What was behind Norway's decision to recognize Palestine as an independent nation?

We keep hearing new reports of people in Russia getting arrested for what seem like almost trivial expressions of dissent. The British organization Rights in Russia has a new program to support dissenters in prison: Write to Russia. And Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen talks about the consequences of getting onto one of those punitive official lists ("foreign agents" and worse) in this episode of the radio program This American Life. "Act Two," Gessen's part begins at 32:35. Thanks to Norma Silliman for the link.

"To me, writing is listening." Friends Journal's Sharlee DiMenichi interviews Norwegian writer Jon Fosse, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2023.

A Live Coal (Isaiah 6:1-8): Ashley Wilcox's message last Sunday at the celebration of the recording of Wess Daniels as a Friends minister.

Beacon Hill Friends House in Boston, USA, is looking for a Program and Engagement Manager. If interested, look into it right away; they'd love for this new staffer to begin this summer. Much of this person's responsibilities were among the things I did when I was on the staff of Beacon Hill Friends House back in the late 1970's.

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi in the Roman Catholic calendar and some other confessions as well. This feast reminded me of the years of protests that were set off when the U.S. Navy decided to name a nuclear submarine Corpus Christi.  I mentioned those protests in this post: Worship and protest.

Here's a rerun, a video we used in class in Elektrostal. Wonder if we could do this now....

Down By the Riverside | Playing For Change | Song Around The World from Playing For Change on Vimeo.

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