Monday, October 3, 2016

World Quaker Day 2016: Bringing Together Friends from Far and Near

World Quaker Day was celebrated by Southern California Friends for the second year in a row with exchanges between Orange Grove Meeting (Pasadena, CA) and Whittier First Friends Church (Whittier, CA), two of the oldest Meetings in California. They were both founded over one hundred years ago and are located around twenty miles apart. Orange Grove Meeting is unprogrammed and was founded by Philadelphia Hicksite Friends and Whittier First Friends Church was founded by pastoral Friends from the Midwest. Historically they have had close ties and have supported the work of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).

This year Deanna Woirhaye of Whittier First Friends Church put together a slide show of Friends from around the world addressing two basic but far-reaching questions: "What is Quakerism?" and "How do I express my Quakerism in my life?" This was shown at Whittier First Friends and will be posted online. (I met Deanna at the World Conference of Friends in Kenya and she visited Orange Grove Meeting last year on World Quaker Day.)

This year two Friends from Whittier First Friends Church, Michael and Elizabeth Elliott, visited Orange Grove Meeting and shared their experiences as pastoral Friends. They have been very active in FCNL and I’m looking forward to seeing them at Quaker Lobby Day in DC  in November.

The Elliotts took part in an adult study in which I presented a power-point explaining the history of FWCC (see below) and posed for discussion questions such as these:

How do we dialogue with people whose religious views differ from our own, especially Evangelical Friends?
What are the challenges/pitfalls?
What are the rewards?

We had a rich discussion of these questions and then gathered for a group photo.

While adults worshiped together, my wife Jill led a children's program focusing on World Quaker Day and explained that many Quakers throughout the world are Evangelical Christians who believe in the Bible and in Jesus. To help them understand the concept of Christian unity, she led an interactive exercise on passages from the Gospel of John 15:5 (“I am the vine and you are the branches”) and from Paul's letter to Galatians 5:22-23 on the "fruits of the spirit" (“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control")

The children were given branches of grape clusters our garden and as the enjoyed the taste, she asked questions (“what makes grapes grow?” “what happens if you cut a branch off from the vine?” “what do grapes taste like?” “what happens to grapes if they are cut off from the vine and left too long?”) As they were  led around the yard they had to stay connected, as we need to be connected to stay alive (and tasty). They then made their own grape vine with pipe cleaners and balloons where the children chose and wrote one of the fruits of the spirit. They enthusiastically shared this lesson with the adults at the rise of Meeting and received many smiles of appreciation.

In addition to these celebrations, Jill and I had lunch with Bob Webster, a Quaker pastor from Foothills Community Church, which is part of Friends Church Southwest and is located a couple of miles away from Orange Grove Meeting in East Pasadena. We asked him how his church was doing and learned that it is thriving and is multiracial and multi-ethnic, no small achievement and something we liberal Friends can perhaps study and learn from. 

I spoke to him about World Quaker Day and FCNL and shared with him Marge Abbott's pamphlet on FCNL and the religious basis of Quaker Lobbying since he seemed very interested. 

The intellectual high point of this luncheon for me was his discussion of the Quaker Center at Asuza Pacific, where Quaker pastors are trained. George Fox University  and APU are the only higher educational institutions on the West Coast where Quakerism is taught. Jill is teaching in the Social Work dept at APU, so I saw this is a chance for me to get to know this program better. At some point, I hope to meet the director, Kurt Walkemeyer. For a history of the APU Quaker Center, see 

The "God moment" for me occurred when I mentioned that I knew Bob Vogel, a weighty Friend from Orange Grove Meeting who was my mentor until he passed away eighteen years go.  (Bob Vogel was a CO during WWI and worked for the AFSC for many years, and there is a chapter about him in my book "Transformative Friends".) Bob Webster replied that he and Bob used to have lunch together and were friends. I was very moved since it has been my hope that I could carry on Bob Vogel’s legacy, who I think wanted me to follow in his footsteps and be an ambassador to Evangelical Friends. I am sure he would be pleased that I lunched with Bob Webster.

I feel a deep sense of gratitude that Jill and I are able to work together to bring Evangelical, pastoral and unprogrammed Friends a little closer together thanks to FWCC and World Quaker Day. What a blessing it is to help create the beloved community of Friends from both far and near.

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