A Convergent Travelogue
We arrived in Newberg on Friday evening. It was a relief to arrive at the Koskela home and find it very comfortable, very familiar even. It’s a bit chancy to plan to stay at someone’s house whom you’ve never met in person before, but we knew immediately we were among Friends. It even says so on their back porch.
We were able to sit outside on the front steps for a while with Gregg, his daughter Talli and their dog Jack. Then Chris and I took the boys out to the back yard to swing, and play tetherball, and just run around a bit until the sun went down. Late night freshly made chocolate chip cookies cemented the friendships all around. Ah, what joy to sleep in a comfortable bed, to play with other people’s legos, to finally be there.
We had a relaxing Saturday morning, despite a certain four-year-old’s early morning rising, highlighted by homemade whole wheat waffles with strawberries and whipped cream! We gave our host our letter of introduction from our home Meeting and a copy of Lloyd Lee Wilson’s Essays on a Quaker Vision of Gospel Order. Both of which were accepted gladly.
In the afternoon, we met as planned at Jaquith Park, a lovely city park with room to run in the sun and sit in the shade. I'm starting to think of this as a called meeting arranged by blog.
First highlight: we were right next to a group that was hosting a picnic for senior mentors and their special friends, all children with disabilities and their families, that was attended and/or organized by a number of Friends from NFC. We met Don, the clerk of the NFC Meeting for Business, and Kathy, a former clerk of their Elders. Some people had brought farm animals to pet, others had hands-on scientific water experiments, including my children’s favorite: the water bottle rocket that you step on the lever until the pressure builds up and it shoots thirty feet into the air! We are so lucky!
Second highlight: Aj, Jason and Judah Schwanz. We recognized each other half way across the park. It just had to be the right folks. Insert non-stop talking and eating for the next hour. I can hardly remember now what all we talked about, except it was good. We talked some about what is going on in our Pacific Yearly Meeting (PYM) and their NWYM. Both are reviewing and renewing their structures and purposes, and it was good to share our experiences. I think a lot more could be done on this topic. We also told them the amazing story of how the Alternatives to Violence Project is growing in the California prison system, thanks to the support and intervention of Friends. (I should blog more about that another time.) Eventually Friend Judah indicated that he was in need of a nap, so they had to go home for a bit.
Third highlight: Johan, Judy and Luke Maurer. They missed Aj and family, but we did remember to take a blogger picture with Gregg and Johan.
I feel like I already know Johan so well through his blog that it’s hard to remember the heavy duty positions he has held among Friends. One personal pleasure was hearing Judy talk with such integrity and enthusiasm about the work she does – having left my last fundraising position over an ethical dispute, it was good to be reminded that it is possible to be so excited about one’s work. We talked about Friends in Oregon – they know many more than we’ll probably ever meet. We talked about Luke’s experience at Youth Quake years ago – and being a Friend with experience in East Coast, West Coast and Midwestern Friends, programmed, unprogrammed and evangelical. We have a long way to go to be as convergent as the Maurers. A final note: Johan’s t-shirt says “The Quaker Goes Deaf.” It is from a now-defunct record store.
By four o’clock we were all melting in the Oregon heat. That’s right, the blazing Oregon sun. So we headed back to The Pool! It’s an inflatable, above ground sort of thing in the Koskela’s back yard, and half the neighborhood was in it when we got there. My boys were so happy – and me too. I love to swim, especially in 90 degree weather. And when I got out, it was funny to hear the neighbor parents discussing preschool choices and kindergarten readiness, just like folks in San Francisco. Newberg and SF – not so far apart. Several of the neighbors, maybe all of them, also go to NFC, so it’s a semi-intentional community on the edge of town. I can think of a number of Quakers, bloggers and not, who would be envious of their arrangements. Including me.
When we finally pulled our kids out of the water, we headed up to Tilikum – a retreat center just outside of town, now affiliated with George Fox University. Apparently it started as some land that a Quaker farmer donated to the Yearly Meeting. Sound familiar, PYM folks? We should learn more about what they’ve done there!
There we had take-out pizza, the official food of Convergent Friends, and homemade chocolate chip cookies, the official dessert of Convergent Friends. Says me. :) Widely available, intergenerationally acceptable, travel-friendly. And we had another couple of hours of convergent conversation and frog seeking and apple tossing with Gregg, Aj and family, Kathy, & Peggy Senger Parsons, who drove up from Salem in the Unkshn-mobile.
We talked a little about the book I’m reading, John Punshon's Reasons For Hope: The Future of the Friends Church. It was reassuring to find out that even the evangelical types agreed that the book is a slog to get through. I was afraid that it was just my outsider’s perspective that made it hard to read. I was very interested in Punshon’s description of the place of open worship among evangelical Friends. I will blog more of a book review soon.
We made sure Aj heard about the invitation extended at the FGC convergent interest group to younger women to attend the Northwest Quaker Women’s Theological Conference – the biennial confab for convergent women in NWYM, North Pacific YM and Canadian YM. Peggy’s been part of it for years. Peggy also told us about her surprise at how well received her presentation at FGC was. I wasn’t surprised. I had heard folks talking about it all week.
Here is a picture of Judah wearing Silas's magenta hat. The two of them hit it off pretty well.
I think we could have talked all night, but wiser heads prevailed. There was a lot planned for the next day and we must have rest for the weary.
P.S. Thank you to Chris, Jason and Judy for taking and sharing these photos.
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