Metamorphosis is the newsletter for Bellingham Friends Meeting. We meet at 1701 Ellis Street each Sunday morning. Silent worship begins at 10 am, followed by refreshments and conversation.
Advice and Query: Be aware of the spirit of God at work in the ordinary activities and experience of your daily life. Spiritual learning continues throughout life, and often in unexpected ways. There is inspiration to be found all around us, in the natural world, in the sciences and arts, in our work and friendships, in our sorrows as well as in our joys. Are you open to new light, from whatever source it may come? Do you approach new ideas with discernment? (#7 from Little Red Book)
December 01, 2013 – Potluck Sunday; nonperishable donations for the food bank
December 08, 2013 – Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business
December 10, 2013 – Book Group meets at the home of Judy/Dave Hopkinson, 7 pm.
December 19, 2013 – Spirit Group meets at the home of Larry and Joanne, 7:00 pm.
December 15, 2013 – Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy (FCWPP) presentation by Steven Aldrich
December 22, 2013 – Holiday celebration; Friends may bring poems, stories, music and potluck holiday foods to share. There will be carrolling with Don Reinke playing.
December 29, 2013 – No second hour
January 05, 2014 – Potluck Sunday; nonperishable donations for the food bank January 12, 2014 – M4W4B
January 19 or 26, 2014 – Mindfulness Practices
January 26 or 19, 2014 – Worship Discussion: Quakers Coming Together: Discernment & Unity
Pacific Northwest Quarterly Meeting’s Silent Retreat is scheduled for January 24 – January 26 of next year at Camp Huston in Gold Bar, WA. Registration deadline is January 13, 2014. Interested Friends can contact any member of M&C for registration materials.
Quakerism Left Me
by Betsy Blake (Friends Journal December 1, 2013)
I was 15 when I remember my yearly meeting first beginning to talk about splitting. It was during our annual sessions, and I was a participant of its large and vibrant high school program. We were playing games, singing, giggling about crushes, telling jokes and stories, and wrestling in the Southern red clay that banked any scraped edges. I didn’t know this time would be the beginning of the end for many, and that in the next two decades, our type of Friends – Friends United Meeting – would lose approximately 40 percent of its membership.
At yearly meeting sessions, we listened to inspired sharing from older, surprisingly understanding women and men. At 15, one is skeptical of adults and the world, but we saw authenticity here; we received guidances that would shape our hearts in all days going forward.
Our worship was alive and deep. We were moved by the silent worship times. The experience united us. Being normal, self-conscious teens, we thought when someone spoke out of the quiet, it had to be because something greater than that person had moved them. We found ourselves quivering and crying at times over how bright and real the truth was, made visible in that sacred space. Our identity was made in those spaces: God’s children – known, loved, in community, humble and open before the One.
I don’t know all that happened in the adult sessions. The disagreements stemmed from differing views on homosexuality, which had to do in part with theology, but were also a cover for political beliefs, ideas of authority, past grievances against one another, interpretation of scripture, concern for other affiliations, and being tainted by poor company.
We young Friends wrote a minute that year asking that the adults consider us too when they spoke of splitting. We knew we would be affected by a divisiveness that we did not experience and found contrary to the forgiveness and peacemaking that we were being taught. Though younger, we did sympathize. We, too, had dealt with conflicts, fights, bullying, and popularity contests. We knew enough to know that there was passion and genuine care among the adults, mixed in with something that was telling them to cut off their brothers and sisters in Christ.
I am not sure what wound up happening. Some said peace was made. Others said things were swept under the rug. We didn’t split, but we began to shrink, slowly at first. I couldn’t fully see it from my vantage point. In the high school program, and later through young adult Friends activities, I found spiritual depth, acceptance, tolerance, joyfulness, and unique tools for seeking the Divine and practicing discernment.
In the 20 years that followed that summer, there would be the birth of the Internet, Columbine and countless mass shootings, sunsets on tobacco fields, strawberry picking, the fall of the Twin Towers, dancing on shiny floors, road trips to glistening saltwater, more than a decade of war, my first serious boyfriend, the sudden death of my sister, mills sent overseas, notification that we face global extinction, climbs to mountain top vistas, mountaintop removal, sweet marzipan, dizzying wine, the fall of the middle class, and laundry.
I hadn’t known much about unprogrammed Friends before college, and I was glad to have met some before they started pulling funding out of FUM’s vital ministries. It had to do with making a point about “continuing revelation” related to homosexuality, but receiving the cuts fell somewhere on the spectrum of passive to aggressive. Having financial challenges can easily strain relationships, and we weren’t immune.
In a turbulent senior year of high school, marked by upheaval, a violent assault, and the death of my younger sister, I applied only to Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, and, for better or worse, I got in. I didn’t know much about the school other than the smell of some of the dorm rooms (stale food and sweat mixed with the chemical perfume of spray cleaners) from our yearly meeting overnights and where to find some of the sporting fields from our game days. Incredibly tender from grief and being away from home and close friends, I clung to my faith like a nursing baby – sustenance and comfort to make it through each day.
I had been accepted into a program called the Quaker Leadership Scholars Program (QLSP). I wasn’t sure what to expect but needed the scholarship and figured I couldn’t go wrong with giving priority to something that was faith-based.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Most of the students in QLSP identified as Quaker but not Christian. They said terrible things about Christians, Christianity, and even Jesus. I had faced some scrutiny before in the small towns I had lived in for being a Quaker. Other Christians were skeptical that we didn’t have a formal creed or doctrine and that we didn’t practice communion or water baptism. We leaned toward pacifism enough to make people uncomfortable and didn’t get too flustered by people who were of different, non-Christian faiths. The silent part of the service was also out of the norm, even if it was short and sometimes confused with the announcement period.
I wanted to be sensitive toward my new peers, but in the first year, I often felt attacked. I saw that my classmates were struggling with their own fights, but my open-handed offering of Jesus in those low times was often swept away or met with insult.
I began to see things differently over the course of the program. I started to realize that these non-Christians were talking about very Jesus-y things, such as looking out for workers’ rights at a hog factory hours from campus and in our own college cafeteria. There was concern for God’s creation and how overconsumption would first affect the least protected workers before it made its way up. Why wasn’t my Quaker church talking about these things?
I heard new terminology from these “Liberal” Quakers which sounded outdated yet familiar. There was a lot of mention of Light. As I listened more closely and learned more about early Friends history, I began noticing many of these unprogrammed Friends were drawing expression largely from the biblical book of John and Jesus’s teachings. Many had been taught this language without its biblical context. Why had they never learned the roots of their spirituality before? Some began to wrestle with this question. Some met Jesus again for the first time.
Years later, I was on a transatlantic flight to meet with other organizers of the 2005 World Gathering of Young Friends (a global summit of 18–35-year-old Quakers). Unable to rest on my flight, I watched a documentary about the ice age on the flickering square screen in front of my seat. The film was about the last generations to go into, and survive, the ice age. Research revealed that in these desperate times, groups of once warring tribes got together to exchange tools and survival tips and then carry what they learned back to their regions. They also agreed to intermarry, thus sustaining life.
This is it, I thought; this is what we are doing. As people are leaving the church in droves, Quaker meetings are closing, splitting, swimming in controversy, or cutting their budgets.
I learned silly things on these trips, like recipes for foodstuffs I had never considered putting together and the words to new songs (sometimes in other languages). But, I also learned new practices of conducting business and growing community; I gained a better understanding of the nature of the Divine and the development of spiritual disciplines. I practiced methods for handling conflict.
In preparation for World Gathering, I spent four years traveling amongst Friends coast to coast in the United States as well as throughout Europe, East Africa, Canada, and Central and South America. I stayed in homes and huts, and I asked Friends, “What is working in your community? Where are you finding life and where are you finding struggle?”
I heard similar perspectives, some particular to certain branches, others a general watercolor wash across the groups:
- a fascination with early Friends and the birth of Quakerism
- a longing to be part of a faith tradition, as creative and relevant as that of early Friends
- a feeling of isolation, as a result of being a young adult Quaker or Friend in a mostly aging population and/or identifying as a Quaker in the broader world
- current engagement had come largely from a foundation built to include youth activities, programs, and camps
- enjoyment of music
- a deep appreciation for silence and contemplative worship (notably mentioned by programmed Friends who wanted more of both and unprogrammed Friends who, obviously perhaps, saw the two as essential)
The events related to this World Gathering of Young Friends took a lot of time, energy, and preparation, but a community was forming, and the Spirit was moving. We sought transformation – to be shaped by one another and the Divine – in intentional settings that were quite different from the places in which we had emerged. And, it happened; we were changed. Only, this experience created more problems in some cases. We no longer fit into the places where we returned.
I was flipping through photo albums in the living room of a boyfriend’s family home when I got the call that Randy Cockerham had died. Randy had been the clerk of our Young Friends program and someone I had known since I was 12. We had gone through camps together and toured with North Carolina Yearly Meeting’s Serenity Youth Choir several summers in a row. He was just 37 years old, and his death was unexpected. I paced the hallway before sitting, teary and dizzy, on the sofa, unable to comprehend the news.
Days later, I wandered a cemetery courtyard with the group of Friends with whom I had grown up. It was an overcast March day with a bit of chill in the air. We formed into rotating clumps, not unlike the black soil around us, spindly with blades of yellow grass. We caught up on life: where we were living now, and whether we attended Quaker meeting any more. Most did not. Either there wasn’t a meeting in their current city or the local one was lacking in some way (no child care, no kids’ program, or the worship didn’t feel alive, relevant, or vibrant). We mourned our friend Randy as well as the loss of our faith community and parts of our identities.
It was a variation on a conversation I had been having for many years in my travels amongst Friends. By then, I had visited many communities, screening my film on Quaker diversity, speaking on panels regarding the future of Friends, sharing messages at conferences, and bringing content to workshops. Everywhere I went, I encountered Friends who had experienced “transformation” or “opening” from cross-branch dialogues only to return home feeling further isolated.
The emails, phone calls, and even written letters continue to accumulate. These Friends express a desire to live more fully into the life they have been called to live, yet they struggle with spiritual communities that are self-obsessed rather than God-obsessed, that hold too rigidly onto decayed forms, that suffer from dysfunctional patterns of conflict, and that are deteriorating from the physical death of their members.
I discovered Circle of Hope while I was doing a six-month residency at Pendle Hill Quaker Study Center just outside Philadelphia. I had heard about Circle of Hope from a few people I deeply respected, and then I began to meet Circle members at radical churchy events around the city. They were mostly young adults – articulate, intelligent, and sturdy – hailing from all parts of the country. It seemed many of them could be doing anything with their lives, but they chose to be in some of the most desolate parts of Philadelphia, to be Love in action.
People were singing, entering into silent contemplation, and everyone was invited to participate in creative, interactive learnings, all while the pastor and congregants spoke honestly. They held up the gospel while exploring climate change, ongoing war, job insecurities, student loan debt, and human suffering.
People were friendly. The values, priorities, and much of the language were familiar. They seem like Quakers, I thought, but they aren’t. Circle of Hope is a 17-year-old congregation that has become aligned with another historic peace church, the Brethren in Christ.
This can’t be real, I thought. So I kept coming back, continuing to attend services throughout my time at Pendle Hill. At the end of six months, I returned to North Carolina and began to tell others about the community I had found. Now, almost four years later, I am back in Philadelphia. I have an apartment here, and I am active in a Circle of Hope congregation.
People frequently ask me if I’ve left Quakerism. I feel that Quakerism left me and many others like me. I identify as part of a wandering generation. We have to rebuild this spirituality for ourselves and for the future.
I gave up a lot to be here. I am exploring whether Circle of Hope is interested in cross-pollinating. I hope to start a new faith community back in North Carolina, drawing from the best that Quakerism and Circle of Hope have to offer. I am immersing myself in the workings of Circle of Hope, creating relationships, growing, learning, and if I am able, teaching as well. I do believe our tradition has much to offer. We take pride in our connections to accomplishments and movements that have changed the course of history. And, I hope to prevent others from going down the paths where we may make mistakes. It’s important to admit that we’ve done that too.
I spent Saturday evening with a makeshift choir, recording one of the songs we sing in our services for an album that the congregation will be putting out later this year. In my home meeting, I am used to singing the European hymns of dead people from the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries . At Circle, local congregants and related friends from other cities have written some of our hymns – these love poems to God. The passion is fresh, understood, and shared.
On this particular night, we have just finished a potluck, vegan chili and kale salad are on my plate. I sit with my friend Becca, who has come from Northwest Yearly Meeting. Her husband stops to gently hug her from behind and quickly kisses her on the lips when she looks up. They are making Circle of Hope their home now. We are recording a song written by Seth Martin, a friend of the congregation and a graduate of George Fox University (and a “friend of Friends” as it has been said). We sing the song again and again; lyrics becoming stale . I am reminded of the time when I was a child in Arba Friends Meeting near Richmond, Indiana, and I had a clear vision of Jesus stopping in to visit our service. Wanting to maintain freshness in our repetitions, I stand up to say, “Hey! Imagine Jesus has come into the room and we are serenading him.” Everyone likes this image very much, and my idea is sweetly cheered. We sing these words:
And my hands are open, and my feet are bare, and my heart is hoping, make my life a prayer.
Feed us with your soil, as we mold and bend, freed from sin and toil, root us in again.
Give us eyes to see you, bring your fire and wind! In ourselves and others, only you again.
Thanks to all before us, YES to what will come, ocean’s raging chorus sings, “Thy will be done!”
Sings, “Thy will be done!”
Here’s something about a former Bellingham Friend: This article was published recently in the New Meetings Project section of the Friends General Conference
New Meetings Project Profile: Jackson Quakers — Janine Bruton and Caelin Hanna Slevin
There aren’t many Quakers in Jackson, Mississippi. In fact, when Janine Bruton moved there in 2010, she was the only one. Janine attended her first Quaker meeting at age 15, and before moving to Jackson, she had been very active in several meetings over the course of many years, including serving as clerk. She found it very difficult to not have a meeting as spiritual and community support. But, when she thought about starting a meeting, it seemed overwhelming to contemplate. She visited her old meetings and others when she traveled, and she went to FGC Gatherings and to Pendle Hill. She pieced together a spiritual community by visiting the local Unitarian Universalist fellowship and a liberal Baptist church, by meditating with Buddhists, and by learning centering prayer with Catholics and Episcopalians.
Things coalesced for her when she met New Meetings Coordinator Brent Bill at the Gathering of Southern Quakers and Caelin Hanna Slevin, an Episcopalian who had worshipped with Quakers in college. Caelin expressed a deeply sincere interest in worshipping together and offered her office for Sunday morning worship. Janine was not a proselytizer but wanted a critical mass of three or four attenders before beginning a worship group. At the opening worship at the FGC Gathering in July, a message came to her: Why wait? She and Caelin would be two who gather in His name and could hold meeting for worship whenever they chose to be together with that intention. She texted Caelin to say, “Let’s meet together next Sunday for Meeting for Worship!”
Jackson Quaker Worship Group meets for worship at 10:30 am on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. After worship, they have worship-sharing and learn together more about the Quaker way. As many as six attend. Brent Bill helped her pick out a library of foundational books for newcomers, and the worship group has two New Meetings mentors to advise and guide them as they grow.
Janine says that when you’re steeped in Quakerism like she was for so long, it’s easy to forget that there are huge swathes of the country that have never even heard of Quakers. She has found that the national network of Quakers can provide them with support and strength to offer the Quaker way in Jackson.
From Children’s Committee: Children’s Book Inventory Now Complete!!!
I’ll post a copy on the Children’s Program cabinet, and I’ll send it as an attachment to those who have been active participants. Take a look and see if any of these books belongs to you and if you know the whereabouts of any books that are out. We have a marvelous collection, most of which are appropriate for lessons. Any books may be checked out at any time for your own enjoyment (or that of your children or grandchildren, for example) as well as material for lessons.
Thank you to the many people who have contributed books of late, and thank you to those who have signed up to teach.
We always need teachers! Many of the books have one-page curriculum sheets with a synopsis and ideas for discussion and suggested activities.
Sharon Trent, Children’s Program Coordinator
Volunteer opportunities with Interfaith Coalition
Severe weather shelter training – In anticipation of the colder days and nights ahead, Interfaith Coalition is gearing up to open its two severe weather shelters. The Severe Weather Shelters provide safety, food and a warm welcome to homeless people. The shelters are staffed by volunteers from 5 PM to 8 AM. Become a Severe Weather Shelter volunteer and experience the grace of giving and also the grace of receiving the gratitude of the guests.
Join us Monday, December 16 from 6:30 – 8:00 PM for a volunteer training. Interested individuals and couples may volunteer for one of three shifts. Only female volunteers staff the women’s shelter, but women also may work at the men’s shelter during the evening and morning shifts. The trainings will be offered at the two shelter sites. Please go to the site where you are interested in volunteering. The men’s shelter is a Faith Lutheran Church, 2750 McLeod Road, and the women’s and children’s shelter is at Garden St. United Methodist Church, 1326 N. Garden St. in Bellingham. For additional information, please call Interfaith at 734-3983.
Handy volunteers needed for Our House construction – Interfaith Coalition has broken ground on the construction of the “Our House” project for homeless families. Our House is located in Ferndale and the home will provide emergency and transitional housing to three families at any one time. When Our House is completed, Interfaith Coalition will have a total of 11 residences for homeless families. After three months or longer in Interfaith homes, 90% of families find stable housing.
There will be many opportunities for individuals as well as groups to provide construction support to the building process and renovation of the current home. Opportunities include carpentry work, site clean-up, painting, installing insulation, and providing cookies and other hospitality to volunteers. Please contact Interfaith Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in volunteering.