[bc_collapse title=”2013 Yearly Meeting Epistle” open=”n”]
Greetings to Friends worldwide from the 121st sessions of the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Churches (NWYM), held at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. We thank the many meetings and associations of Friends who sent us their greetings, and are grateful for the opportunity to hear from you all. We were grateful to welcome Jim LeShana (Barclay College), Christine Betz Hall (North Pacific YM), Madeline Schaefer (AFSC), Alicia Lucasi (Bolivia YM INELA), Jane Snyder (North Pacific YM and FWCC Section of the Americas), Phil Baisley (Earlham School of Religion), David Eley, (Ohio YM), Christine Greenland (Philadelphia YM), Robert Festa (Quaker Cove Ministries), Mary Heathman (Rocky Mountain YM), and Matt Macy (Evangelical Friends Mission). It was delightful to get to know them as we shared Ice Cream After the Manner of Friends on the first evening of our sessions, and we have appreciated the many opportunities to enjoy fellowship with our guests throughout the week.
Our theme was The Risen Christ: Our Identity and Hope. In her keynote address, our superintendent Becky Ankeny used the metaphor of the diverse cast of The Muppet Show to challenge us to appreciate our diversity as we delve into potentially troubling discussions. She reminded us that Jesus was known to be alive by showing his wounds. Through the wounds we bear as the body of Christ, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. If we could resolve to hold onto that position of humility we could have “the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Friends-relational Yearly Meeting” (sung after the manner of The Muppet Show theme song.)
Joining us as our speaker was Richard Foster, Christian theologian, author, and Friend. His written works, including Celebration of Discipline, urge Christians around the world to live up to and into the measure of the grace we have received from the Holy Spirit. In our evening sessions, Richard
● challenged us to develop the practice of grace, mercy and forgiveness with disciplines that make them our default responses
● opened to us the role of Christ in creation as the Maestro of all who saves us into a life of forgiveness, teaches us to dwell in God’s presence, leads us in the ways of truth, and journeys beside us as our friend
● and brought us into the healing heart of God, reminding us that our own hearts tend to condemn us for who we are, where we are, and what we do. God’s forgiveness undoes this self-condemnation, restores our confidence, and permits us to face ourselves rather than condemn others.
All of our evening sessions were also webcast for our Friends who were unable to attend Yearly Meeting in person and will be available to view at nwfriends.org.
From the very beginning of our sessions we felt a sense of lightness and a prayerful tenderness, which gave us the space to wait on the Holy Spirit to bind up our wounds and give us clarity through a perspective that is beyond our limited understandings. We still struggle with a sense of relational uncertainty and have a lot of listening work to do, but have confidence that Jesus Christ who is, as Becky Ankeny put it “the brains of the outfit,” will guide us as we seek His heart. Our youth brought a query on conflict and differences for our consideration at our joint business meeting, which guided our hearts on the final day of our sessions:
Recognizing human imperfection, how do I strive to follow Christ’s example in the way I love and respect others? When confronted with a conflict, how do I actively show Christ with a compassionate and grace-filled heart? How am I leaving space for change? How do I value other persons when charged with their reputations, remembering that they, too, are children of God? How do I build up the individual in the light of God?
Our discussions are drawing our youth and young adults into full participation in the business of the yearly meeting. The youth gave a particularly moving presentation Wednesday night. Their message focused on embracing our individual identities as the unique creations of God using queries, challenges, dance, and music. At the end of their presentation, they invited us to make hand prints on paper which lined the walls of the auditorium, symbolizing the unique imprint each of us has to make on the Church, the Yearly Meeting, and the World.
Gil George, Sherri Sheirbon, and Syd Wyncoop were recorded as ministers of the gospel. Their testimonies blessed and challenged us in unique ways that highlighted their talents and spiritual gifts. We look forward to their continued ministry among us.
We labored with great tenderness over a proposed modification to our statement on human sexuality, and agreed not to rush a decision, but to allow more time for seasoning. In the process we affirmed God’s call for us to love all persons. As we labor to grow into the deep unity Christ desires for us, we come back over again to the source of our identity: the present, risen Christ who has come to teach us himself. We must only silence ourselves and listen for instruction. It is our prayer that you would join us in listening well for the voice of our Teacher who will lead us all in the path of love, mercy, grace and peace.
NWYM Presiding Clerk
Epistle Sub Committee:
Gilbert George, Clerk
Download a PDF of the 2013 NWYM Epistle
[bc_collapse title=”2012 Yearly Meeting Epistle” open=”n”]
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Greetings to Friends worldwide from the 120th sessions of the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Churches (NWYM), held at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. Our theme was Let us Come Boldly. Our visitors were: Emma Condori Mamani of Holiness Friends Yearly Meeting, Bolivia; Christine Hall of Whidby Island Worship Group; Ron Marson of North Pacific Yearly Meeting; Sheila Hoyer of First Friends Greensboro, North Carolina; Jane Snyder of Bridge City Monthly Meeting NPYM; Rae Lawrence, Multnomah Monthly Meeting NPYM; and Alexandra Bosbeer, Quaker Council for European Affairs. We thank the many meetings and associations of Friends that sent greetings to us, and are grateful for each of you. Our new Superintendent, Becky Ankeny, was the speaker during our sessions. Each night she challenged and encouraged the members to look closely at prayer, starting with our elder brother Jesus’ prayer for the unity of his followers. Through an adept use of multimedia, including works of art and music, we were encouraged to pray as exiles in a foreign land, as leaders pleading for our people, as children praying for everything and anything, and finally as the broken praying for the forgiveness of ourselves and others.
There is a song that speaks of the paradoxes of following Christ. The paradox we face is found in the first verse which repeats, “We are one in the Spirit / We are one in the Lord,” followed by the entreaty “and we pray that all unity will one day be restored.” The NWYM has begun to engage in a dialogue around human sexuality that begins in a place of disagreement. We rejoice to report that our actions and words in this week have echoed the resolution proposed in the chorus of that song: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
To aid us in preparing for our meeting, the Elders provided a prayer guide for the 50 days preceding the Yearly Meeting. The attitude of prayer this guide developed has undergirded our week together and the evidences of the Spirit at work were myriad. The Spirit’s presence was highly evident in humorous moments that brought us together and taught us to look differently at ourselves. There was a skit in which some came “baldly” and eventually realized that “boldly” was the intent, and we had plenty of times in which we laughed at ourselves as we stumbled over words or statements that didn’t come out right the first time.
We heard the inspiring stories of the transformative work of God, both by Friends serving their local communities and by Friends serving abroad. We were especially excited about a new beginning for involvement with Friends in Ramallah and by how many in our meetings traveled in ministry to such diverse places as the Friends World Committee for Consultation “Salt and Light” conference in Kenya, the celebration of Peru Yearly Meeting’s 50th year, and many other locations in Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa and South America. We were blessed by the testimonies shared by Tim Henry, Mindy Burns, and Dan Burns, whom we recorded as ministers. We also affirmed the gifts shared with our Yearly Meeting by Dan Cammack as he steps into the role of Director of Evangelical Friends Mission. Happily, this will not require him to leave the area. Dan would therefore love to continue sharing his ministry with interested meetings. We honored the outgoing EFM director, Chuck Mylander, and wish him well in his retirement.
Our youth, as always, encouraged us and challenged us by examining and holding up to us the sixth query of our faith and practice: “As followers of Christ do you love and respect each other? Do patience and consideration govern your interactions; and when differences arise, do you resolve them promptly in a spirit of forgiveness and understanding? Are you careful with the reputation of others?” In leading worship on Wednesday night, the youth displayed a sense of play and exploration including the kinesthetic combination of walking paint onto canvas followed by the youth washing the paint from the feet of those who walked. Their worship queries called us to a deeper sense of who we are and how God leads us to be present to “others.”
After 120 years, NWYM continues to work on being bold as its members go into the world and share the spirit and love of Jesus Christ. We, as God’s children, are works in progress and in need of the Spirit’s guidance as we wrestle with the paradox of being unified while praying for unity. We have weathered many storms as a Yearly Meeting through the mercy and grace of God at work among us. We invite you to join us in coming boldly to the throne of grace.
Epistle Sub Committee:
Gilbert George, Clerk
[bc_collapse title=”2011 Yearly Meeting Epistle” open=”y/n”]
Ephesians 4:13 — [This will continue] until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
Greetings to Friends everywhere from the 119th session of the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Churches (NWYM). It is common knowledge among attenders of NWYM that our Yearly Meeting sessions take place during the hottest week of the summer in the Northwest. This rule held true this year; but since our summer in general has been on vacation to other parts of the country, the “hottest week” brought with it average high temperatures only in the 70’s. We like to believe that the cool weather this year is due to so many cool people getting together in one place. We hope our brothers and sisters experiencing hotter weather will find similar relief soon. The Yearly Meeting sessions were held at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon and our theme was: In Christ – One People Growing Together. We were joined by Joe and Jane Snyder, the official visitors from North Pacific Yearly Meeting, and Rae Lawrence, also from NPYM. NWYM received greetings from Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Moscow, Philippines, India, Indonesia, Uganda, Kenya, and Rocky Mountain Yearly Meetings; Kathmandu Friends and Copenhagen Monthly Meetings.
As our community works to represent the Light and Life of Christ in our daily lives, we experience prayer, transition, and the process of growing in unity. Our sessions this year were steeped in prayer and people could be seen together throughout the week in prayerful attitude seeking after God.
This year’s sessions were marked by significant transitions in staff and ministers of NWYM. We sadly bade farewell to our superintendent Colin Saxton, who is leaving at the end of 2011, and will be praying for God’s blessing on his call as the General Secretary of Friends United Meeting. Out of our gratitude for their service, the Saxtons were surprised with a quilt made of squares from our meetings. Following a careful and prayerful search process the NWYM has called Rebecca (Becky) Ankeny as our new superintendent. We look forward to Becky’s ministry among us. Kimberly Felton is stepping down as NWYM’s administrative assistant and will be replaced by Krista Maroni. Due to current economic realities, we had to release Gar Mickelson (Associate Superintendent for Local Outreach) from the Yearly Meeting staff. The loss of Gar’s ministry to the local churches will leave a void in all of our meetings. Lorraine Watson’s exemplary service will be missed as she steps down as Assistant Clerk of the NWYM in order to focus on her local ministry as pastor of North Seattle Friends Church. On Monday night we celebrated active outreach overseas, celebrated initiatives that had reached the end of their life-cycles and learned about new opportunities for outreach. Five Friends were recorded as having pastoral gifts: Hernan Diaz, Don Walters, Leslie Murray, Jim Fields and Roger Button. We would appreciate your prayers for the ministries of these Friends among us.
Amidst this time of transition we took the opportunity to deepen relationships within our diverse body. We have been learning how to recognize and identify the gifts that come with our diversities and how that recognition contributes to the process of unity. To facilitate this we laid aside business for two half-sessions to prayerfully share our experiences of how we see God at work in each other. We discussed times we have had differences of opinions and times when we have seen gathered meetings move through conflict into clarity. These encouraging sessions helped us learn from each other through our stories. During our evening sessions, our own Jan Wood skillfully led us in an exploration of what it means to be unified and mature. Jan very gently and compassionately gave us firm words of correction for allowing disagreements to get in the way of the love and respect we are called to have for each other. The NWYM’s historical parents, the Evangelicals and the Quakers, have often struggled with the same tendency. All too often, the Friends were as apt to write people out of meeting as write them in. Jan reminded us that a society marked by immaturity perpetuates destructive political and economic systems. Jan’s gentle yet insistent call to stay in the light and remain connected to God in order to mature was a reminder that we cannot hear too often. The youth of the NWYM led us in a blessed time of worship on Wednesday evening including music, readings and a participatory art project in which all were invited to place paint covered hands on a “palm” tree. The creativity evidenced in the lives and ministry of our youth are sources of joy as we contemplate the future of NWYM. On Thursday our closing banquet celebrated the golden anniversary of Friendsview Retirement Community, and the candidates who were approved for recording. Visit us online at www.nwfriends.org to view the recordings of our sessions.
Bathed in blessedly mild weather, exposed to the generous Light of God, and warmed by the care for both concerns and for each other in business, we experienced in these sessions the joys and struggles that emerge from our commitment to the process of growing into unity and maturity in Christ.
Grace, Peace and Love from the NWYM
Presiding Clerk of the NWYM