Epistle of the
Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference,
June 3-6, 2904
Menucha Retreat Center, Corbett OR
To Friends everywhere
Greetings from the 2004 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference, held June 3- 6, 2004 at the Menucha Retreat Center Corbett, Oregon. We are 51 women ranging from 26 to 86 years of age from 22 monthly meetings: 7 yearly meetings and one independent monthly meeting (Freedom Friends Church). We come from churches and meetings from small to large in Canadian Yearly Meeting, North Pacific Yearly Meeting, Northwest Yearly Meeting, Alaska Friends Conference, Britain Yearly Meeting, Pacific Yearly Meeting, and Wilmington Yearly Meeting.
We centered on the theme of peace, starting With two quotes:
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.” John 14:27).
In war, truth is the first casualty. If peace is to grow, it needs the pure fresh air of truth, openness, sincerity. Peace works in the daylight, in the open air; it has nothing to hide from God or man (Marjorie Sykes, British Quaker in India).
This biennial conference is the fifth in a series which has grown from the work of women who met at other Quaker gatherings and found common interest across many Friends’ traditions. The other Quaker gatherings which inspired us included the 1992 Western Gathering of Friends anti the 1990 International Quaker Women’s Theology Conference at Woodbrooke, England. The Pacific Northwest Women’s Conferences focus on our own experiences of the Spirit as a way to address The ambiguity of words and the differing theologies that may lead us to misunderstand each other’s message. We seek to honor our true differences while giving each other unconditional love. Many of us have found that we have incorporated into our own lives lessons and insights found here In the testimony of other women. Through our community, Christ has planted seeds into our lives that bear fruit when we
This year we found great peace waiting for us as we drove under the green canopy above the Menucha entrance. Weighty discussions, deep sharing. worship, three types of Bible study, and presentations were mingled with walks among the trees, swimming, knitting, making hand-bound journals, singing, and sitting on the porch with new and old friends. We worshiped both out of the silence and through word and music.
In both the presentations and the worship sharing (home groups), we witnessed our personal movement from inner peace to how we manifest that peace in the world. Our home group queries focused us prayerfully on how we find our ways to inner peace, accepting the peace God gives us by giving our burdens to the Spirit/Lord and how that helps us work with one another. Many of us spoke in plenary session of the work the Creator has chosen us to do to bring peace into the world including parenting our own children, being supportive of a local mosque following 9/11/2001, providing pastoral care for a meeting faced with an attender convicted of sexual abuse and also working with survivors of abuse, demilitarizing the U.S., feeding the homeless, quilting for peace, and transforming an abandoned city lot into a thriving continuity garden.
The first day we examined ways we make peace within ourselves. Speakers testified of God’s unconditional love for everyone and in ways of speaking the truth. In particular we were drawn to a workshop on The Bible and Homosexuality. During the workshop we led through several passages frequently interpreted as condemning homosexuality. We were provided tools to develop understanding and to aid individual interpretation.
Peggy Parsons and Marge Abbott blessed us with the first signing of their new book Walk Worthy of Your Calling. This joint editing project on traveling in the ministry brings special joy in its witness of Fr ends from different traditions around the globe.
The second day we turned our attention to how we take our inner peace into the outside world. We heard presentations on Triennial Friends World Conference on Consultation (FWCC) in New Zealand. There was also information shared on the World Gathering of Young Friends which is to be in 2005 in England. We heard moving testimony of working in a shattered world from Friends who had been led to work in other countries, including the Philippines and Burundi.
In our Meeting for Worship and Business we found clarity that we wanted to convene another gathering. Several Friends were led to form a planning committee. Meeting trusted this committee to decide many details of the future conference, probably to be held in 2006.
As we prepare to enter again the lives we have laid aside for this time of spiritual growth, we hold each other and you in the Light.
Marge Abbott, Clerk