Traveling Among Friends

This past fall I traveled among Friends from Santa Rosa, California, driving through Oregon to islands near Seattle, Washington. It was good to meet with Western Friends, to learn about their concerns and activities, as well as to share with them about the latest initiatives in the ministry of FRIENDS JOURNAL. Friends from the West were welcoming and generous in their interest and suggestions for the magazine and its mission to serve Friends everywhere. I was delighted to speak and worship with numerous supporters along my route.

Among many excellent visits, I’d like to lift up one that was notable for me, as an Eastern Friend who has no easy access to Evangelical Friends churches. I had the opportunity to briefly visit Eugene Friends Church, part of Northwest Yearly Meeting, affiliated with Evangelical Friends International. In the past, as I’ve traveled, I’ve been pleased to visit and worship in Friends churches (all affiliated with Friends United Meeting) in several states, and was honored to be asked to deliver the Sunday message at a programmed meeting in Jamestown, North Carolina, in 2004. But I’ve never visited an EFI church, and I must confess I was curious.

When I arrived at Eugene Friends Church, I was struck by the lively weekday activity. Unlike my Friends meeting, which has a busy Friends school under its care that keeps things hopping midweek, this church is a stand-alone operation, yet appeared to be equally busy. Two separate meetings were happening at opposite ends of the large lobby; one a women’s group and the other a mixed age, mixed-gender group discussing a new ministry of the church—to offer tutoring to Eugene residents who want it (students, adults, ESL, etc.) and fi ve high-speed Internet connections freely available for residents of Eugene on Mondays. The pastor made clear to those gathered that the primary aim of this outreach effort was service.

Still curious and reluctant to disturb the groups, I decided to have a look at the facility. In the Sunday school rooms the children’s activities pinned to the wall could easily have been done in my meeting’s First-day school. The hall near the lobby was decorated with handmade posters about George Fox, John Woolman, and Margaret Fell. In the simple sanctuary, a copy of that week’s worship service revealed many church members responsible for parts of the service and a period of open worship preceding the message delivered by Pastor Clyde Parker. A notable difference from any Friends church I’ve visited was to fi nd not only a piano, but also mikes, amplifiers, and seating for other musicians in front, leading me to assume they have some very lively music! The inside cover of each hymnal had queries pasted in, and I found those queries to be similar to ours in Philadelphia.

I was impressed by a collection of canned goods for the homeless in many large cartons, and also by a separate collection of similar and other items for Mexico. When Clyde Parker took some time from his meeting to greet and speak with me, I was delighted to learn of the church’s ministry of building houses for impoverished Mexican women and donating them to their families, without a homeowner work requirement. Eugene Friends Church makes itself available to the surrounding community for a number of purposes, including hosting numerous 12-Step groups that make good use of its breakout spaces.

At Friends Journal, our Board asks us to build bridges across the branches of Quakerism. Living and working on the East Coast, such a thing is not easy to do, despite our varied readership in every yearly meeting in North America. Sitting and talking with the pastor of Eugene Friends Church, I found myself thinking how blessed we would be if, like Friends in North Carolina and the Pacific Northwest, we in Pennsylvania could experience this rich diversity of Quaker faith.