We moved in 2009, fully expecting to transfer our membership to a silent, unprogrammed Friends meeting in Portland. We visited both meetings and finally took a week out to visit West Hills: we knew that once we decided about our new Meeting, we’d not be likely to visit anywhere. We were very curious about WHF because of the incongruity of the only three facts we had: WHF was a part of NWYM; WHF was a member of the Community of Welcoming Congregations; and, John Calvi told us that West Hills was among the first to support QUIT, his Quaker Initiative to End Torture. How did these fit together? Who were these people?
We had never visited a programmed Quaker meeting. But that first Sunday in 2010, we found ourselves sitting among people openly sharing their life experiences, spiritual questions, and insights during First Word, Open Worship, and also in Joys and Concerns. They really knew each other! They were a lively and active group, obviously involved with each other, and trust showed in their openness. We returned. And then again. So many were involved up front that it took us four visits to figure out which person was the minister –and he wasn’t the “pastor” he was the Released Friend.
Our visiting quickly become regular attendance. This unexpected development created an internal struggle. We were Silent Friends and this was not Silent Worship. Waiting in the silence in community and speaking out of the silence had always held deep meaning for us. It was our heritage and our practice: as individuals daily during the week, and then together in community at Meeting.
And we wanted no involvement with NWYM: we’d heard about their Faith and Practice. When I actually read it, I was sick at heart to see what was there in print. Especially the statements about sexuality.
But we also were fascinated with some of the cultural differences and practices new to us. Between us we’d been members of unprogrammed Friends Meetings in the East, Mid-west, and Northwest, and also lived a year at Pendle Hill. Now we were challenged by this WHF Quaker experience. These people were so alive with spiritual hunger, seeking answers, seeking God in each other and various situations. And yet there was a paid minister and prepared messages, activities, and music every week in worship — all deeply spiritual.
We wanted to be a part of this community! We wanted to be members and join this group of seekers! I finally realized that if I was so disturbed by Faith and Practice, then I must go to YM and witness to the fact that being LGBTQ was a part of living out what God intended, not something to be condemned as sinful. WHF supported me in this work.
So we joined WHF and continue to find love, life, and joy in this community as we grow together as Friends and practice Quaker ways. The gathering of the community to celebrate our marriage and hold us in worshipful support has been deeply meaningful to us both. What a blessing it is to be a part of this community.
—Pat and Carol