"An adequate life . . . might be described as a life which has grasped intuitively the nature of all things, and has seen and refocused itself to this whole. An inadequate life is one that lacks this adjustment to the whole nature of things—hence its twisted perspective, its partiality, its confusion."
Douglas V. Steere, describing the life of Thomas R. Kelly, in A Testament of Devotion.
We are 77 women who have come together from North Pacific Yearly Meeting, Northwest Yearly Meeting, Freedom Friends Church, and meetings further afield. Our theme this year was “Wilt Thou Go on My Journey?” To prepare for the conference, each woman wrote a short reflection paper on the conference theme and quotes from Luke 9:2-4, Isaiah 6:9, and from two women who traveled in the Quaker ministry: Nancy Hawkins and Caroline Stephen. We read each other’s papers and discussed them within our home groups: small groups of women who met throughout the conference to share with each other their stories with confidentiality, great trust, and vulnerability.
We met to worship together in unprogrammed worship, plenary sessions, workshops, community activities, worship for business, and semi-programmed worship. Each day we explored a different aspect or topic related to spiritual journeys: Welcoming, Clearness of Calling, Doubt and Fear on the Journey, Deepening Faith, and Journeying Together.
Through workshops, including workshops on writing, songs, movement, and prayer, we explored ways to reflect on, express, and share our journeys with each other, moving past our fears about being judged based on our differences. We felt great trust in this group and were able to shed our reluctance to expose our fears and joys to each other. We celebrated what we found in common and explored what was new to us.
We used forms of worship that were new to most of us from both programmed and unprogrammed meetings, including chanting and worshipful movement. We found these forms to be powerful ways to move into worship together. Spirit-led, spontaneous acapella singing enriched our worship and community.
During a powerful gathered meeting, we supported those who were trembling, weeping, and quaking and encouraged them to speak. We talked with each other about our roots as Quakers and about how our traditions have splintered so that none of us has a complete experience. We heard from the Lord a call to help bring those pieces back together that can help us create a new mosaic that honors the many facets of our different traditions.
We committed to organize this conference again in two years’ time and to invite more women from the evangelical traditions.
We asked ourselves what we would bring with us from this conference. We were invited to take the things we had heard and experienced and allow them to change us and through us, change our communities and to bridge the divides between different yearly meetings.
Regards, All of us gathered at the 2014 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference.