NPYM CURRENTS

NORTH PACIFIC YEARLY MEETING

QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER

NOVEMBER 2021

   

CONTENTS

NPYM Annual Session- past and future 

Friends of All Ages - Mim Coleman (Tacoma)

Coordinating Committee Report - Celia Castle (South Seattle)

North Pacific Yearly Meeting Networking- John Gotz (Pullman-Moscow) and Susan Cozzens (Eastside)

Outreach & Visitation- Travelling Friend Cat Finney

Returning to the Body: Is Hybrid Worship Corporate Worship – Anna Fritz (Multnomah)

Turning – Shannon Perry (Multnomah)

I Cannot Be Fully Human, Alone - Susan Schaller (Corvallis)

Peace, Social and Environmental Concerns

Calendar of Upcoming Events

                               https://www.scymfriends.org/annual-conference

NPYM Annual Session – Past and Future

Please respond to this survey to assist us in planning Annual Session 2022

Survey link

North Pacific Yearly Meeting: Summary of State of the Meeting Reports:

July 2021

Friends throughout North Pacific Yearly Meeting have faced the past year with courage, resiliency, humor and creativity. The Coronavirus Pandemic has challenged everyone, and Quakers have reached deep into the reservoirs of Love to affirm community, respond to injustice, educate themselves, help others and remain faithful to our deepest convictions.

Bridge City Meeting begins its report: “And then came Covid and Zoom Zoom Zoom!” Exploring the blessings and inadequacies of meeting by Zoom has occupied most Meetings and Worship Groups. Everyone reports that they miss meeting in person, hugs, potlucks and singing, but are delighted to welcome Friends from all over the country and all over the world through the online format. Zoom has been difficult for some elders, children, those without adequate technology, and Friends not inspired by online worship. These Friends are missed!

On the other hand, business meetings and committee work is often more convenient and available on Zoom, and many Meetings are exploring ways to have hybrid meetings, both online and in person. Multnomah Meeting admits that “Zoom isn’t warm and cuddly.” But Quakers have again shown their adaptability and resourcefulness, and the life of our communities have continued.

Friends in every region have become increasingly engaged in uprooting racism. Many Meetings formed reading groups (favorite book choices: How to Be An Anti-Racist, So You Want to Talk About Race, White Fragility, and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?). In response to George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter movement, Friends joined in marches, rallies and protests. We have devoted group discussions and retreats to the topic of historic systemic racism and emerging racial equity.

Regarding our collective response to the historic appropriation of land and the removal of indigenous people, Quakers are making or considering statements of acknowledgement, and some are considering appropriate forms of reparation to Native people today.

Here is Missoula Meeting’s statement: “The Missoula Friends Meetinghouse is located on land cared for and held sacred by the Salish and Kalispel tribes for more than 12,000 years. We acknowledge the theft of tribal lands by the U.S. government and colonists. We recognize the consequent disruption of tribal culture, spiritual practices and life-sustaining natural resources, and the devastating effects of forced assimilation into European culture, with resultant loss of tribal languages and practices. We honor and support the resilience and determination of the tribes in meeting ongoing challenges and revitalizing their culture, spiritual practices and languages.”

Eastside Meeting made this statement: “Eastside Friends Meetinghouse stands on unceded ancestral land of the Sammamish People, who were closely related to the First People of Seattle, the Duwamish. Descendants of the Sammamish today are members of the Suquamish, Snoqualmie and Tulalip tribes. We honor these Native communities and their Elders. We appreciate that they have been here since time immemorial and are still here, continuing to bring light to their ancient heritage.

We also recognize that American settlers forcibly removed the Sammamish from this land following the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855. The diseases, greed and violence of settlers decimated Sammamish communities, along with many other local indigenous communities. This acknowledgement is part of our Meeting’s recognition of our own history and responsibility, and through ongoing education.”

North Pacific Friends have also reached out to immigrants, helping families with basic needs, housing, literacy and language help, agency resources, financial help and friendship.  Bozeman Worship Group joined a local program called Bienvenidos that serves 30 Central American immigrant families. Mountain View Worship Group has helped one family of six this year with financial and emotional support, legal advocacy and housing.

Friends are continuing their commitment to LGBTQ rights. Eugene Meeting is remodeling their “water closets,” replacing the “Men’s Room” and the “Women’s Room” with individual ungendered facilities. An outpouring of compassionate action has reached into the homeless camps and shelters, to hungry and unhoused people huddling under tarps, bridges and doorways in everyone’s community. Quakers have baked bread, made sack lunches, distributed coats, blankets, tarps and tents, and offered hope and friendly outreach to unhoused  neighbors.  

And we have continued to care for each other in creative and meaningful ways. Many Meetings report how precious and important our friends, our faith, and our values have become. Boise Valley has an annual Poetry Potluck! A few Meetings have held De-Escalation Training that opened their eyes and minds. Corvallis has a monthly Circle for Third Age Living. Salmon Bay has an “Older Friends” and a “Death and Dying” group. Montana Gathering of Friends chose “Listening to Where Words Come From” as the theme of their Winter Gathering. Many groups were inspired by traveling ministry from Friend Caroline Wildflower who brought the message of “Knitting Us Together,” and Paul Christianson who addressed climate change with: “No Arks, The Tree of Hope.” Several groups have initiated outdoor walking worship, care of their Meetinghouse grounds though the buildings have been closed, distanced outdoor visits and “drop-offs” of meals, bouquets and birthday cakes! There have been Zoom game nights, craft nights, and many deep, heartfelt telephone calls that have kept relationships strong.

Friends contributed poems to State of the Meeting Reports

From Bob Betts in Sandpoint:

Quakers in Masks

Silent worship.

Under twin pear trees we sit six feet apart in plastic chairs.

No joining of hands at rise of meeting.

No hugs and no potlucks.

But still connected in spirit.

A pandemic can only temporarily alter outward action.

The inner light still binds us together

In love and compassion.

From MaryAnn Petersen in Eugene:

We are

Humbled and encouraged

Vehicles of service

Awaiting a safe time

With productive resilience

In collaboration

Through unity

Including sacrifice

Uncertainty

Learning to de-escalate

Virtually

Facing fatigue

Tedium

Awareness with gratitude

Introspection

Constructive inner/outer work

A humbled collective.

From Judia Gallinger in Tacoma:

“The calling of the clerk

The running of the Zoom

The beckoning of the words

the service in silent worship

All culminating in the enrichment of my soul.”

The conclusion of the Multnomah Meeting’s report speaks for all of us: “While we’ve faced considerable vulnerability and stress this past year, we look to the horizon with hope. And we wish to NOT “go back to how things have been,” but to allow the experience of the pandemic and increasing sensitivity to injustices to continue working upon us to slow down, re-focus, center upon what really matters, and to let our Quaker values shine.”

Why Do I Go to Yearly Meeting?

Jana Ostrom, University Friends Meeting/NPYM Clerk

My husband and I heard about North Pacific Yearly Meeting’s (NPYM’s) Annual Session, a summer gathering of unprogrammed Friends, soon after we began attending University Friends Meeting in Seattle. We didn’t go to Annual Session (AS) the first summer, but did go the next year and have attended almost every year since. Why do we keep going back?

There are Quakers there from across Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, the area that NPYM covers. University Friends Meeting (UFM) is one of the largest Quaker meetings in NPYM, and it is fascinating to be with Quakers who live, worship, and work on concerns in places very different than Seattle.

AS usually takes place at a college, starting with dinner on a Wednesday and going through Sunday lunch. The chosen college site rotates throughout colleges in the 4-state area. I get to have conversations with Friends at mealtimes, in the halls, while waiting to get into a plenary session, as well as in the bathroom before brushing my teeth (we stay in dorms)—so many chances to be with interesting people and hear what other meetings are doing! 

NPYM Annual Session is a great place for kids. My children got to be with other Quaker children. That is so helpful, especially when there are not many other children at my own meeting. My children became friends with children whom they saw each year at AS. The connections continued as they became older and participated in Central Friends (middle school-aged Quakers) and Junior Friends (high school-aged Quakers). There is Junior Friends camp in the summer at a different time than AS and a weekend retreat for Junior Friends in the winter.

This all helped my kids make friends whom they’ve continued to have connections with now that they are adults. And they learned that there were other kids who also had Quaker parents and that they weren’t the only ones whose families might have looked at some things from a different perspective than did the families of the kids at their school. And AS is great for parents because I as a parent can participate in adult activities with Friends while my children are involved with Friends in the children’s program. And we all can learn from other parents and teachers.

I enjoy going to Annual Session because there are daily opportunities for worship, small worship-sharing groups with people from different meetings, interest groups presented by NPYM Friends, and music. The daily plenary sessions include worship, the presentation from the Friend in Residence (keynote speaker) who is usually a Friend from outside NPYM, business meetings, reports from representatives from various Quaker organizations such as AFSC, FWCC, and FCNL about their activities in the past year, and presentations from the Junior Friends and from NPYM committees such as Peace & Social Concerns.

There are Yearly Meeting activities that happen throughout the year and not just at AS. Committees meet regularly during the year to share experience and work together on issues that concern Friends in many meetings such as earthcare and immigrant rights (Peace & Social Concerns committee) and the ways meetings introduce newcomers to Quakerism and support members and attenders at challenging times (Ministry & Counsel committee).

In addition, many Friends participate in the work of the Yearly Meeting by working on the Nominating Committee, helping to produce Faith and Practice (the book that describes how Quakers in NPYM do business), or planning and working on Annual Session. They may serve as representatives from individual meetings to Coordinating Committee, where they identify and work with new concerns emerging among Friends in our Yearly Meeting and issues that are coming up in more than one meeting: another way for Friends in our region to work together.

I participate in Yearly Meeting activities because I appreciate the deepening of experience that we have when we are together, and I get more opportunities to see how other Quakers are being faithful to their leadings and what that produces. I get to find out how other meetings are responding to political issues that concern me, to learn more about what Quakers are doing across the world, and I can be present while other Friends clerk meetings. I come away tired and excited, enthusiastic about what I’ve learned and the great people I’ve spent time with. And I have ideas to bring home and share at my own meeting.         

Minutes and Proposals to Season for Annual Session  2022 

Proposal for Working Groups

Earthcare Minute

A Quaker Statement on Migration

Minute Supporting the end of hate crimes targeting Asian Americans

Minute supporting amending the 13th Amendment

Monthly meetings and worship groups discuss these issues in advance, as they are able and as they are led to do so, and share their wisdom with the Friends who will bring the issue to Annual Session.

Your camp spot is reserved!

Jay Thatcher - Corvallis Friends Meeting

Join a merry band of Quakers camping on Tuesday, 7/12/2022 near Spokane.  Riverside State Park has been tested in previous years and shown to be an ideal spot for an overnight for coastal Friends on the way to Annual Session in Missoula.  

The Bowl and Pitcher group campground is comfortable for several dozen.  Bring a tent and a smile.   Please reserve a spot by dropping a line to Jay Thatcher (ajaxhatcher@yahoo.com).  First 60 Friends and their friends get the chance.

Friends of All Ages

Mim Coleman- Tacoma Friends Meeting, NPYM Youth Coordinator

Here is Pickles-a small stuffed gorilla-enjoying the

beauty of nature in Montana

In August we went to Montana Gathering Of Friends!

While we were there we all did a Nature Hunt as a way to get to know each other. It was fun! I found a rock that was over 10,000 years old. A piece of yarn that is changing into string. Some gum that could be food for an animal. A leaf I named Susan. And a piece of wood someone else had written the word “bear” on! That was beautiful to me.

A photo of Pickles, wearing a mask, sharing the five items he found on the Nature Hunt.

Here’s the Nature Hunt if you’d like to do one yourself or with Friends! (It would also make a great First Day School activity to have on “standby” for when kids show up.)

NATURE HUNT (Thank you to Nancy Cochran for the idea!)

Go find something that is: over 10,000 years old, changing, food or shelter to an animal, a leaf you can name, beautiful to you! Return to your group and share.

ASK PICKLES?

Do you have any questions for me? Pickles? I like questions. If you want to ask me questions you can email them to As_Child_Prog_Coord@NPYM.Org . (That’s not MY email. I’m not allowed to give out my email on a newsletter. But they’ll forward stuff to me, and then I’ll answer. If I know the answer. If I don’t know the answer I’ll try to find out the right answer. Unless it’s the kind of question that doesn’t have a right answer. Then I’ll say what I think or feel. Because sometimes there’s not just ONE right answer. Mim is telling me this is getting really long for the blurb under the email, and we’re running out of room. But typing that took up even MORE room. UGH. Anyway, I like questions.)

NPYM COORDINATING COMMITTEE

Celia Castle (South Seattle, Clerk NPYM Coordinating Committee)

NPYM Coordinating Committee meets three times each year. The committee includes representatives from all NPYM Meetings and Worship Groups. Its role is to encourage communication amongst Meetings and support and enrich the life of NPYM. The committee identifies and links converging and emerging issues and offers support to groups within NPYM. In addition, the committee provides support and oversight to NPYM Standing Committees.  It is not a decision-making committee unless called upon by the Executive Committee. 

Issues currently under discernment include:

Annual Session Concerns

  1. An Event planner position is urgently needed for the 2022 Annual Session (contact Rocky @ rockygarrison@gmail.com or Celia @celia.castle@gmail.com
  2. Minutes & Proposals to Season for AS 2022 listed previously.
  1. Monthly meetings and worship groups discuss these issues in advance, as they are able and as they are led to do so, and share their wisdom with the Friends who will bring the issue to Annual Session.
  1. The Friend-in-Residence has travel and attendance paid for. Should they also receive an honorarium?
  1.  Should we provide a honorarium for Interest Group Leaders who are outside of the quaker community.
  1. Annual Session 2022 in Montana. Attendance numbers needed in order to balance on-line, hybrid and in-person offerings for plenaries, worship groups, interest groups, etc.
  2. How is Annual Session relevant to many Friends, especially young and LGBTQ Friends?
  3. How will 2023 Annual Session be coordinated with Friends General Conference (July 2-8, 2023) in Monmouth, OR?  For consideration:  In the past, when AS has coincided with FGC, AS has been shortened by a day, with no Friend-In-Residence; concern that if FGC is first, people may be less likely to stay for AS.
  4. Youth Committee report – The committee continues to discern around how to proceed with background checks for volunteers at Annual session.

NPYM Governance Structure. The Peace and Social Concerns introduced a proposal for Working Groups for initial discernment. 

Privacy of NPYM Documents. John Gotts, NPYM Webkeeper, requested input on which documents should be publicly available on the NPYM website, and which should require a password for access.

Nominations were approved. There will be an updated committee grid on the NPYM website soon.

Announcements

o   Census Information will be collected by a Google form for Meetings and Worship Groups to fill out. The data submitted will then be automatically collated into a spreadsheet that records the number of attenders and number of assessments for each group. For those not familiar with Google forms, the info can also be submitted via e-mail.

o   Facilitating NPYM Networking: John Gotz and Susan Cozzens, Clerk of NPYM Peace & Social Concerns Committee, will create a “NPYM Shared Interest” form. Here is that form.

 

North Pacific Yearly Meeting Networking

John Gotts - Pullman-Moscow Friends/Susan Cozzens- Eastside Friends

We would like to facilitate North Pacific Yearly Meeting Networking -- introducing Friends with shared concerns and interests. If you would like to connect with others in NPYM who share a specific concern or interest fill this form: NPYM Networking Interests 

This is a work in progress, and we will appreciate your feedback along the way. The goal is simple: bring people with shared concerns or interests together in meaningful ways across NPYM to amplify our community capabilities. After a few weeks of collecting responses we will determine next steps and communicate those to you - if you filled the form - in an email titled "NPYM Networking".

What’s Up with the Outreach and Visitation Committee?

The Outreach and Visitation Committee (O&V) has been working hard throughout this year to recruit and select a Travelling Friend for the Knitting Us Together program.  We are excited that Cat Finney is our 2021 traveling minister.  She will be meeting with Friends in Montana this fall and winter via Zoom given the ongoing pandemic situation.

Cat has been worshipping with Friends since 1995 in the Central Oregon Worship Group.  Now that her children are young adults and she has more time, she hopes to return to nonviolent activism, informed by a spirit of listening, and a profound belief in that Light. Cat is a community college librarian and a founding member of her college’s “Children’s Literature and Equity Resource Center, which covers neurological diversity and LGBTQ identities as well as race and ethnicity.

She is a “Safe Zone” trainer at her institution helping create safer environments for everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification. She has a deep interest in neuro-diverse populations and identities.  She has experience in working for LGBTQ rights—including marriage rights—and raising children in a LGBTQ family. She has also worked with LGBTQ concerns in the context of faith communities, including conference organizing. She is the faculty advisor of my institution’s LGBTQ and Friends student group. She teaches courses in non-violence and peace-keeping training.

Cat plays fiddle and has an interest in old-time music, especially as it intersects with African American communities and history.  She loves poetry and has organized her college’s annual Poetry Month for the last six years—mainly focusing on poets of color. She is working on a collection of poetry examining faith and nature—mostly written in the context of distance running, skiing and backpacking. This past Summer Cat hiked a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Cat will be accompanied and supported by two Elders, Jan Moore and Susan Mitchell, as she travels virtually among Montana Friends.

Submitted by Outreach and Visitation Committee: Margaret Coahran, Joe Snyder, Al Hendrix, Claire Leonard, and Necia Quast

Returning to the Body: Is Hybrid Worship Corporate Worship?

Anna Fritz September 2021 - Multnomah Friends Meeting

I serve on the committee at Multnomah Monthly Meeting in Portland, Oregon, that is grappling with the question of how we will worship in this age of pandemic. After more than a year of our meetings for worship being forced online as the only safe option, we have been experimenting with outdoor in-person worship and our first experiences of coming back to worship together in our meeting house with safety precautions in place. In our Meeting’s discernment of the way forward, I keep hearing declarations that we live in a new time, that there’s no going back to how we were before and that whatever we do has to be different than it was. Quick on the heels of these statements comes the assumption that however we worship in the future, it will need to involve connecting worshipping Friends across distance using the internet.

I have been trying to keep an open heart and mind as I seek the voice of Spirit in these deliberations. I’ve tried to keep my personal prejudices and opinions out of the conversation and instead focus on hearing what our community needs in this time. But every time I ask God for guidance, every time I pray on this question of how we are being led to worship, there is an unshakable clarity in my being that says we must return to the simple power of in-person worship, unhindered by technology.

Friends have long described what we do together as corporate worship. That word, related to corporeal, comes from the Latin corporare, “to make into a body.” Embedded in the very language we use to talk about our worship is the fact that it is an embodied experience. To confuse the disembodied experience of virtual worship with embodied corporate worship is to lose touch with the fundamental substance of our practice as Friends. I am deeply grateful that when I was quarantined alone in my home during the pandemic, virtual worship allowed me to maintain a connection to my spiritual community. But if any Friend’s worship experience becomes permanently limited to virtually beaming in, we will be failing them and abandoning the most powerful tool we have for connection and guidance from the Divine. With this headlong dive into hybrid worship I see happening across the Religious Society of Friends, I see us risking profound miscommunication and disconnection—from each other and from the movement of Spirit among us. I see us risking the degradation of our quality of worship into something drained of the power and truth for which we are reaching.

Broadcasting our corporate worship over the internet both degrades the experience for the worshippers, creating a leak in the sacred container of our worship circle, and fails to actually connect those online to a true worship experience. Offering vocal ministry, attempting to be a channel for the Divine, is a tender, vulnerable, and often searingly painful thing. It requires focused and loving holding by other worshippers. To not know who one is ministering to, to have the container holding the minister be unknown and inconstant, including people in an entirely different space and potentially distracted by the activities of their various surroundings —all serve to undermine the minister’s attempt at faithful delivery of their message. How can one’s ministry possibly land as needed when people hearing it online have no access to the felt sense of the meeting, of what is happening among us that is unspoken, which is most of what’s going on? And how can a virtual worshipper possibly be expected to offer relevant ministry arising from the movement of Spirit in the corporate body of those gathered when they are not even there?

I hear the truth spoken by Friends on our Evolution of Worship Committee of our changed-ness as a people. But I do not see how this justifies the intrusion of the internet into our worship. I do not see how it justifies changing the very substance of what Friends have been doing together for three-hundred seventy years. In a time when most of our work and play has been forced onto screens, we are even more in need of the visceral, physical experience of corporate worship. We need an antidote to this disembodied life where eye contact is impossible and nervous systems cannot entrain. We need the holy container of in-person worship.

As I test this conviction in my own prayer and by holding it in God’s light with other Friends, my doubts arise saying “God is everywhere. God is with us all. God can communicate across all space and time. Can’t God connect people through the internet?”

But I see so much hubris in this—equating the misuse of human tools with God’s will. We fail to see that we have already strayed so dangerously far from the tools Spirit has given us to worship, to live in unity and harmony. We were given bodies that are portals to the Divine, that contain so many sophisticated ways of sensing and knowing, and we have abandoned, forgotten, or demonized all of them but the intellect. We have crowned the intellect superior and from it has sprung many brilliant inventions. But it has also spawned a complex network of systems of domination that have disconnected us from Spirit, the Living World, and each other and that are bent on utter annihilation.

This denial of the holiness of our creature selves and the tyrannical rule of the intellect is the lynchpin of empire. It is only by returning to the wisdoms of our bodies and their connection to all life that we can hear Spirit’s song of collective liberation—the leadings that, if faithfully followed, can halt climate change, dismantle racism, crumble patriarchy, and set us on a path to right relationship with creation.

It is the intellect telling us that we can craft clever ways to have everything, to be in two places at once: in our living rooms AND in meeting for worship across town or across an ocean. And the body screams “NO! I am actually alone in this room.”

My body does not trust these solutions. My body remembers what it is to feel the breath and heartbeat of other holy beings beside me, to gather all our senses, all our knowings, all our Light together and allow the great ineffable mystery to work on us and through us. This is what it is to worship, Friends. May we never forget or give up what is possible when we actually gather together.

I do not mean to say that there aren’t ways to use technological tools like the internet to support and nourish Quaker communities. There have been many happy surprises born of our necessary time online together. Some of us experience benefit from virtual worship and there have been many opportunities to connect with isolated Friends and to know better those in our own Meetings. I have met virtually many times with my own Anchor Committee that supports my music ministry, and though our time together was not nearly as rich with clear direction from Spirit as it has been in person, it helped me feel loved and supported in my discernment.

If this time has shone a light on the need to better meet the worship needs of Friends in our meetings—great! Let us seek ways to do that, by providing transportation to worship or organizing small groups to worship with Friends in their homes. Or when true isolation is necessary, creating fully virtual worship or fellowship opportunities that do not profess to be true corporate worship but an emergency lifeline to maintain connection through a difficult time.

The danger I see for us as a Society lies in the lack of acknowledgement in our Meetings that there is something we can access in corporate worship that is not possible online. If we can see and feel and know this, if we can name the fundamental importance of embodied corporate worship as the central practice of our faith, then perhaps we can use the tool of the internet with the abundance of caution, intention, and limitation that it requires.

Turning

Shannon Perry- October 2021 - Multnomah Friends Meeting

This turning of the planet holds me captive.

A creature of the light, I follow.

Persimmon leaves spin off the tree like minutes in the day.

I am seduced by the forest’s scarlet cocoon.

Sherbet drips onto the lapis lazuli river.

The pages in the book turn one by one.

Soon the year’s silhouette is etched in pewter.

I eye the wooden snowshoes with sinew straps.

I mend the frayed sock and my soul’s lament.

I call for the courage to follow the coyote’s tracks.

No bell announces winter’s solstice, muffled in down.

The planet’s stillness draws me into that ebony abyss.

Seconds sift together like snowflakes gathering time.

The day’s length is measured by melting water.

My heart reflects the light.

My heart reflects the light.

The day’s length is measured by melting water.

Seconds sift together like snowflakes gathering time.

The planet’s stillness draws me into that ebony abyss.

No bell announces winter’s solstice, muffled in down.

I call for the courage to follow the coyote’s tracks.

I mend the frayed sock and my soul’s lament.

I eye the wooden snowshoes with sinew straps.

Soon the year’s silhouette is etched in pewter.

The pages from the book turn one by one.

Sherbet drips onto the lapis lazuli river.

I am seduced by the forest’s scarlet cocoon.

Persimmon leaves  spin off the tree like minutes in the day.

A creature of the light, I follow.

This turning of the planet holds me captive.

I Cannot Be Fully Human, Alone

Susan Schaller -October 14, 2021 - Corvallis Friends Meeting

I Cannot Be Fully Human, Alone

Recently, my attraction to the Corvallis Friends prompted me to make Corvallis my home. The possibility of fellowship called to me. I was drawn to the creative and positive response to the pandemic, a silent walking worship under old trees in the beautiful Willamette Park next to Willamette River. In addition, the Corvallis Friends also meet on zoom, Sunday morning, and in person, Sundays and Wednesdays. I was thrilled. I have never felt comfortable setting aside only one or two hours a week, for the foundation of the spiritual life: communing - One- ing, experiencing that of God, within.

I have been studying and practicing nonviolence for a dozen years and learned what Dr. Johnny Lake told us (Quakers and the Oregon Fellowship of Reconciliation) in the first of a series of workshops looking at racism, M. Oct. 4: Before we can unlearn and relearn, we need to see what we have learned. I have also learned I cannot do that alone. I cannot see the water I have always swam in.

I need you to point out my blind spots, and warn me of the pits I am about to fall into. Fellowship is not casual or peripheral social life. Fellowship is a spiritual practice, to be practiced as often as possible. Like my American Sign Language (ASL) or even my native language, when I don’t practice - use it - I lose it. Whether physical or mental or spiritual, practice must be regular for us to keep getting stronger, sharper or more loving. I need another person to practice language skills. I need another person to remind me or motivate me to keep exercising, and I need spiritual dance partners to learn and keep my balance, keep centered, grounded.

Most, over 90 per cent, of nonviolence is what doesn’t get into the news. Gandhi called it constructive programming. Martin Luther King called it the Beloved Community. It could be called fellowship. It could be called the Friends of Truth, the original name for Quakers. The truth is we are the same blob of protoplasm. Life is life - “ Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world; the forms may change but the essence is the same.” — Rumi

I cannot commune by myself. I cannot commune with people who believe the illusion that we are all separate individuals, and must compete, hoard, own and defend territory, and consume as if eating the entire planet only makes me happy (another illusion), and affects no one else.

Daily I am flooded with messages of separateness (violence is separation). In any attempt to unify, to share, to commune (nonviolence is unity), not to be a separate individual greedy for every new toy, I almost immediately look weird, crazy or alien. Giving up my car, in a country made for and centered on cars, is the most Gandhian act I have ever committed - noncooperation with the car society. I am not against cars. I can still drive, but I do not want to be alone in a separate car, like the hundreds I see every day. We used to do something called sharing.

To get back to our roots, tied to the source (the literal translation of ‘religion’), I must move from the artificial separate I to we. There is no I without you, you without I. The great reality is that we are one. I love the Hindu story of the Source of all, the One without a second, is like a great brilliantly colored glass that shattered. Every bit of life has a shard of that divine brilliance. Communal stained glass is so much more colorful, varied and enchanting than a tiny sliver of one hue.

“All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love.” — Leo Tolstoy

Peace, light, love, life, and that of One-in-all is beyond all understanding intellectually. I only experience understanding of eternal gifts in and through love when I practice learning to love. I cannot do that by myself. Love is found between us and in our daily living.

"We share with one another the creative work of living in the world. And it is through our struggle with material reality, with nature, that we help one another create at the same time our own destiny and a new world for our descendants.” —Thomas Merton

                                                

When I could not find a room in Corvallis in July and August, I applied to be a resident at Beacon House in Boston, to experience living with others, seeking to live simply, in integrity, learning to be peacemakers, and to learn to commUne. I found a room before Beacon House could set up an interview. I am glad I am not going to Boston, although I love the idea of Beacon House living. But, it is not a home. It is needed. I am glad it exists, but I would love to grow where I am planted, here in the Pacific Northwest, right now.

If one or two or three people want to experiment with sharing the struggles of learning how to love, to unlearn our lessons of violence, and practice the creative, positive, constructive programming of nonviolence, MLK’s “the beloved community”, I’m willing and ready, right here and right now, a Pacific Northwest experiment in CommUnity, one-ing with each other, fellowship, inspired by the Beacon House and other experiments in Quaker community building.

I am not married to one idea of what that would look like. I do know that I cannot resist violence and the separation around me alone. I cannot learn to love which involves sacrificing any idea of privilege, entitlement or an ‘I’ attitude of deserving anything more than any other human. I do not want to be an individual American consumer. I do not want to consume anything mindlessly. Alone, I fail daily to resist the violent culture all around me.

I do know there is so much we could share, instead of owning and consuming separately. I do know I could practice living more simply, learn to be a peacemaker, practice nonviolent confrontation in the face of injustice, and journey further inward to face my own fears and to heal.

I do not want to eat alone, such a basic easy way to have communion. I need you. I cannot be Susan, alone. I can’t even see my own face. You can. Tell me when I need to brush off a crumb or a mosquito.

Write to me, susan.schaller@gmail.com, and share something with me, starting with your response on how we can be a we together, and resist the destructive “me-me-me” mentality we have been trained to see as “normal.”        

Peace, Social and Environmental Concerns

Abolition Word Search

University Friends Meeting's abolition exploration group created a resource document for Friends interested in learning more about police and prison abolition: UFM Abolition Resources

What would it look like to live in a world where we didn’t use violence and punishment to respond when people make mistakes or hurt others? It’s not always obvious, but if you look closely you can find some ideas below! Circle the words you see, then add your own ideas for a world where caring for one another is valued more than hurting one another.

Brief Update on HR 40 and Reparations Work

Theo Mace - Uprooting Racism Committee - South Seattle Friends Meeting

In July this year, at Annual Session, NPYM approved a minute on HR 40, a Congressional resolution to establish a Commission that would study the effects of slavery and racism on African Americans, and  recommend ways to redress the wealth disparities created as a result. The Senate has a similar bill before it. HR 40 has been voted out of the Judiciary Committee for consideration by the full House, but there has been no action on it. If HR 40 were to be enacted it would put in place a kind of truth and reconciliation process where, as a nation, we acknowledge our history with regard to African Americans and seek to atone for wrongs done.

The NPYM minute urges Quakers everywhere to press their legislators to take action on HR 40. To that end, the minute has been sent to 15 unprogrammed Yearly Meetings in the United States asking them to unite with our minute. Feedback so far has been very heartening. First of all, almost every Yearly Meeting has an active anti-racism committee. Second, many of the Yearly Meetings have been keeping track of anti-racism activities, including locally-based reparations related work, on the monthly meeting level.  One example is the work that Green Street Friends Meeting is doing, as described by Viv Hawkins of that meeting:

I can report that Green Street Friends Meeting (GSFM), part of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, is moving forward with our reparations commitments for at least the next 10 years. In this first year, we plan to host 4-6 legal clinics for Black, Germantown homeowners, in 19138 and 19144 zip codes, with the intent to help stabilize local Black families, preserve Black wealth, and mitigate displacement from gentrification. The clinics will feature pro bono legal (real estate and estate) services, notary services, and assist with fees for related legal filings, taxes, and other needs that may emerge. We are fully engaged in this work for now and will report further on it, when our Communications sub-committee feels the time is right. Additionally, some members of GSFM are working with the Philadelphia government and the local chapter of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America to advance reparations in Philadelphia.

It remains important for us to encourage a national acknowledgement of the effect of the history of oppression of African Americans, but these local efforts are also very important. Together we can create an immense groundswell of interest in this work and eventually achieve real healing of our racial divide.

If you or your monthly meeting are engaged in some form of reparations work, please let me know. I would like to create a compendium of these activities to share within NPYM so that we can all learn from each other’s work and see what others have done.

UN Climate Change News 2021 

Submitted by Donna Gerry - Corvallis Friends Meeting

Faith leaders representing the world’s major religions joined scientists at the Vatican to call on the international community to raise their ambition and step up their climate action ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in November in Glasgow.

https://unfccc.int/news/world-religious-leaders-and-scientists-make-pre-cop26-appeal

Minute of Diversity of Faith 

The Montana Gathering of Friends (MGOF) 8/14/2021

At the 2020 Winter MGOF gathering we came together with the intention of starting to bridge the divide Montana Friends have felt over the years about the beliefs we hold and the language we use to express our deepest spiritual experiences. We heard stories of those wounded by Christian churches in the past and stories of people who have felt judged for their Christian beliefs. This minute is an assertion of commitment to become more mindful of our communications about faith.

We are a community of faith within the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). We share a common history and traditional testimonies. We acknowledge that each of us brings our unique experience and perspective to MGOF. In the highest and best expression of our shared values, each of us longs to offer acceptance, honor, belonging, and love. By the same token each of us longs to be accepted, honored, and loved. Sometimes, when we fall short, members of our community feel unheard, misunderstood, and excluded especially with respect to our personal expressions of spiritual experience.

We want to live in a way that puts our values into practice. We need to examine how we hurt each other. The language we choose to use is sometimes understood as judgmental, disdainful, and dismissive.

By this minute, we commit to an ongoing process of communication, discernment, and action in hopes of broadening the embrace of our community.         

Home and Heart With Community

A Message from Joe Snyder- Multnomah Friends Meeting

Dear Friends:  Please consider reading the article below. It touched me very much. I would like to see it shared with everybody living in Portland, or in Oregon, or in the USA, so please share it in your circles if you feel so moved.  It says so much about so much.

After reading it and being so touched, who should I find at the Portland State University market selling Street Roots, but Dan Newth, the author himself, a very nice man whom I hope to see again.  Says he is doing well in his new environment, and was very pleased to know how much I liked his article. 

HOME AND HEART WITH COMMUNITY

by Dan Newth2

        Condensed from Street Roots3, September 5, 2021

Streetroots.org news 2021-09-05 home-and-heart-community

The For Sale sign appeared in front of a neighbor’s house down the street. I had been living in my tent there and had friendly chats with them.

I was concerned the price of their home would be negatively affected by my tent. Fear and disgust of homeless people are some of the strongest prejudices in our society. Being homeless, I work to address these issues through my behavior, my writing, and conversations as a Street Roots vendor.

The afternoon the For Sale sign was posted, I knocked on my neighbor's door and told them I was being aided by Veterans Affairs (VA) to find housing. I had been told I might get housing in one month. They wished me well.

I met with Dr. Ramone, who verified my previous diagnoses (CPTSD, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Hep. C), set up blood tests, a liver scan, a social worker, housing and mental health appointments.

I am amazed Ramone gave this much care to a homeless veteran. In childhood, my CPTSD, dyslexia and social isolation were never acknowledged so I was grateful to be heard.

Two weeks after this, I was in touch with a Grant & Per Diem (GPD) specialist to find stable, permanent housing. GPD is a transitional program that partners with community agencies to provide services to homeless veterans.

I was in a state of shock. Filling out forms with social service agencies generated an intense fear of the future. The release of information means people I never met getting my personal information and using it against me. Questions on the form often seemed ambiguous.

Bad things happen when I apply for help. In the past going through a social service agency meant being sold hope of housing, followed by reams of paperwork, caseworker meetings, classes, and recovery meetings. There was no time left to earn money. Meals were missed because free meals at missions took time waiting in line. The end result was always a caseworker shrugging their shoulders as I was asked to leave a shelter, my time having expired, and returning to the street. That’s the homeless shuffle: lines, hoops, and hope turned into despair.

When I showed up for the appointment, I was introduced to Lani, who is now my case worker. It seemed like hours followed filling out forms, being guided with Lani through the bureaucratic maze of never-ending forms. Two things I’ve learned to do through my experience with AA are follow directions and do the next right thing. These two ideas helped me survive the housing application process.

My brain was numb and exhausted from working past its limit. I signed where I was directed and assured myself it was the right thing to do. This is the form-filled highway to housing.

I felt privileged, protected, overwhelmed, and mentally exhausted. Finally we were done. I was just relieved. Lani said she would call me in half an hour to give me an update.

I was at New Seasons when the phone call came. They wanted me to sign lease paperwork the next morning. A specter of thought that I should be happy left me with a question mark of a mind. It seemed like the VA had moved heaven and earth to get me into housing, though temporary and contingent on jumping through hoops I feared I lacked the mental stamina to do. I already felt like I was running on empty.

Late in the afternoon of August 17 I knocked on the door of the neighbor with the house for sale. I told them the good  news that I would be leasing a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) with the VA paying my rent, so this would be my last night sleeping in the tent next door. They wished me well again. I was happy to not be a burden on their home sale.

I was still too high strung. After sleeping for three hours I woke and failed to get back to sleep. I got up at 2:00 am and started packing and cleaning up. Outside, my camp looked orderly, but inside it was a rat’s nest of half-finished projects, parts of projects rejected and set aside, stuff spilled, packaging from food, and many water bottles. Hoarding and poor organizing runs in my family. At 11:00am the next day I arrived at Central City Concern to sign the lease paperwork. There was a lot of it. Rules and reasons I might be evicted went in one ear and out the other. My brain was not capable of retaining this information. I couldn’t make sense of a lot of it.

I was cleared to get my room keys. They came with a fob. This is the first time I ever had a key fob, and it felt special. They had to explain to me how it worked. I am a proud old curmudgeon who loves to say I don’t understand how new technology works.

I called my mom. She had offered to help me move, so we loaded up her SUV and drove my things to my new room. She bought several kitchen items and food. The room has a full-size fridge where I have items for my paleo diet to ward off diabetes.

My room has a great view of the west hills between buildings with the Fifth Avenue food carts below and the trees shading them. It is larger than most, about 160 square feet. A microwave, two-burner stove, and sink make up the kitchen. The bathroom is shared so I better wear thongs on my feet so as not to share fungus with community members. My floor is all veterans with shared experience and innate trust, which creates the mellowest floor in the building.

Downtown there is a bar always playing ‘THUMP THUMP THUMP’ bass music until about 3am. I heard a scream, "NOBODY CARES IF I DIE…."  Someone’s mind had slipped beyond the breaking point, and I knew it could have been me. My emotions were bittersweet.

Here I was, my first night inside, lucky because I had received aid in the confusing housing process. The part of my community that slept outside still suffered because there is only so much affordable housing and a much greater need.

I had traded my homeless privilege – the shared commiseration and camaraderie of people experiencing poverty – for housing. Once a homeless person gains housing, they can develop a tendency to isolate, created by the invisible veil that slips between them and friends still homeless. They have access to a bed, shower, laundry, and the security of a locking door. Their friends are still seeking the physical security of shelter and the psychological safety from society’s condemnation.

The blanket of homeless stereotypes is woven with fear on a loom of hatred with threads spun from the worst acts committed by those shredded by the stress of being stranded outside.

___________________________________________________________

2 Dan Newth is a member of Street Roots' MoJo program, vendors interested in journaling life on the streets and writing about issues important to the community.

3 Street Roots is a Portland-based homeless advocacy group and weekly alternative newspaper established in 1998. The newspaper is sold by and for the homeless.

                                         

Thank you Friends!

We've really enjoyed the submissions we received for this newsletter--please keep them coming to newseditor@npym.org

The next issue will come out on February 1, 2022, and the deadline for submissions is January 15, 2022.