Epistle of the
Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference
June 8-11 2000
Menucha Retreat Center, Corbett OR

 
To all Friends everywhere

June 2000

Greetings from the 2000 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference, held June 8-11, 2000 at the Menucha Retreat Center, Corbett, Oregon. The conference drew fifty women from eight yearly meetings, challenged by the theme, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46: 10) and expanded in the quote, “It is in our meeting with God that we touch the real living kernel from which we draw strength.” (Margaret S. Gibbons in correspondence with Sigrid H. Lund).

This conference is the third of a series which has grown from the work of women who met at other Quaker gatherings and found common interest across many Friends” traditions in experiential theology; sharing their stories of God at work in their lives and in the world. Women from North Pacific Yearly Meeting, Northwest Yearly Meeting, and Pacific Yearly Meeting planned this year’s conference. Conference participants prepared by writing reflection papers addressing the conference texts from the varied perspectives of our lives.

We ranged in age from mid-20s to 80s and came from many parts of North America, including Alaska, British Columbia, Ontario, the east coast, the southwest, California and the Pacific northwest. We came from large groups and small in Northwest, North Pacific, Canadian, and Intermountain Yearly Meetings, Pacific Yearly Meeting, Central Alaska Conference of Friends, New York Yearly Meeting, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

We arrived on site to the smell of fresh bread billowing from the kitchen.  We were greeted by an abundance of birds and other wildlife and roses abloom all over the grounds. We were pleased to learn that even the site’s name, Menucha, is a Hebrew word for expectant stillness while gathering force for great actions. We had no problem being still and discerning God in stunning views of the Columbia River, green lawns, huge trees and the lovely rock garden.

We gathered force from plenary gatherings addressed by several of our number. Women spoke from their personal experience of God at work in their lives, from the highs of discovery of God’s love to the “dark night of the soul,” and tilling for greater personal revelations and challenges. Messages incorporated texts from the Bible and writings of early Quaker writers as well as contemporary thinkers, always illustrating powerful personal faith journeys.

We sought spiritual intimacy by meeting 5 times over the weekend as small home groups. Here we grappled with intense sufferings, with spiritual conundrums, and with our wonder when we cannot expect to understand God but only learn more fully to trust the Divine. We shared and sought leadings about many difficult topics. As one Friend said, we also found physical, psychological and spiritual safety to share deeply from the gifts and teachings of our lives. Not only sufferings but also joy and safety nurture our spiritual growth.

Away from our daily clamor we also tugged at the theme with our minds in workshops on discernment and the tapestry of meanings in the text of the Psalm, with our bodies through chanting, dancing, birdwatching, working with clay, and spirit-led walking. We held a short Meeting for Business and Meetings for Worship of several kinds. We stayed up late into the night witnessing. and laughing together. One Friend shared a quilt she made showing the evolution of Quaker bonnets and vignettes from Quaker history.

Friends playing the piano, recorders, flute, guitar, violin, and autoharp prepared lively and imaginative music. They added a generous and hopeful spirit to worship and patiently shepherded us through rounds. Their humor was a gift to the whole community. A beloved hymn tune was first transformed, into a commercial for the assortment of books on sale in the bookstore and then later into the attached new reading of Psalm 46. For one song we even arrived by consensus at our preferred key. We found music truly brings us together.

Friends felt clear in the desire to convene another gathering. At Meeting for Business, several Friends volunteered to form a planning committee; meeting left decisions about many details to this group. As our gathering draws to a close and we look outward, we see how blessed it is for the sisters to meet. Behold, the Kingdom of God is at hand as we reach out to touch each other’s lives across our differences.

Helen Dart, Clerk

 
Psalm 46 (a song set for high voices)

God is our shelter, and our power source,
ready to help in the hard places.  

We stand fearless as the Earth falls away from our feet,
courageous in storm and earthquake.
When the oceans roar and swell, with a force that shakes mountains.
(Think about that!)  

God’s city has a river flowing through it,
Its sparkling waters keeps things merry.
The High and Holy one lives downtown,
no earthquakes happen here.
God is available at the crack of dawn.
The masses rant and rave, kings and kingdoms are shaken,
but Earth moves only for His voice.  

Yahweh, commander of angel armies is here.
The God who wrestled with Jacob is at our backs.
(Think about that!)

Come and look!  Watch the performance of Yahweh!
Who has stunned the planet,
He bans war from pole to pole,
destroys human weapons with ease.
Let go and lighten up! Relax!
Take a long loving look at me, your High God,
I am above politics, above everything!  

Yahweh, commander of angel armies is here.
The God who wrestled with Jacob is at our backs.
(Think about that!)  

from the Hebrew by Peggy Senger Parsons Spring Anno Domini 2000