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1.10.2010

Freedom Friends - the State of the Church


The State of the Church
Freedom Friends Church
For the Year 2009


To Friends Everywhere:


Freedom Friends Church is Five years old!  That is old enough that we have stopped counting months. People who find our door find a community where honesty is the norm, acceptance is deep, and where people are willing to be stretched.  We are all works in progress and we know it. 


We represent 21 households with about 32 regular attenders. We took in our 20th and 21st members by convincement this year. We range in age from our early teens to our eighties with a very even age spread.  We are diverse in so many ways; we come from and live in different social classes, we do not all vote the same, we are gay and straight, bi and trans, we have various mental and physical disabilities, we have a wide range of education levels. All are welcome and all minister.


Our worship is alive. We give instruction in Quaker ways every time we worship. First time visitors often feel comfortable enough to speak. Most of us have something to say in worship with some regularity.  We give much liberty in worship; friends knit, draw, journal, write poetry, read, and still find time to be silent.  We are not all skilled at sitting still, but we work on it. When people come who are very new to our ways, we try and be patient as they learn to settle into worship, and how to share their gratitudes  and petitions and still leave plenty of room for others. We understand that others have been and are often patient with us.
We have been in our space on 13th street for three years now. We continue to struggle to make our expenses. The recession has left many of us with not much of a cushion and the church finances reflect this. About one half of our regular attenders are unemployed, underemployed, disabled, retired or students. Only about one third of our attenders have a full-time job with benefits.  And yet we have made it, and we have a very small cushion going into 2010. Our church budget is about $22,000 a year, 16 800 of that goes to rent.  We made donations of food and money to our local Food Share organization. 

We are greatly assisted by the faithful leadings of a group of people we call “The Friends of Freedom Friends” these folks live at a distance from us, or belong to other meetings or churches and yet include us in their giving because they believe in what we do.  These friends have kept us afloat this year, but more than that they make buoyant our hope, they encourage us to greater faithfulness. Our gratitude to them is deep. One such couple this year donated a beautiful quilt to the meeting to sell, another generous friend purchased it, and that money balanced the budget one month.


The great achievement of the year was the final approval and publishing of the Faith and Practice of Freedom Friends church. This 67 page document which is for sale on our website and at FGC Quakerbooks, took us four years to write. Which we understand is pretty swift for Quaker meetings. It was needful because we have no Yearly Meeting affiliation and we needed a grounding for our good order. It reflects a fairly orthodox, but generous, Christianity.  It describes a way of doing business that is working well for our meeting. We do not use it like a creed. But it is our common ground and each of us take our place on that ground where we are comfortable.  The theological diversity in our meeting is rich, and we treasure that.
We printed 250 copies of our Faith and Practice, at year’s end we have 44 left.  We hoped not to lose money making them and asked a price of $10 for them, and we made $548 dollars on the project. That was a pleasant surprise.  Copies of our book have gone off to every yearly meeting in the US and Canada, and to Europe, Africa, South America, and the South Pacific. Copies are sitting on shelves of several universities and many meeting libraries. We are thrilled by this.  It is also posted in its entirety on the web. We have received regular communications by mail and web thanking us, and sharing with us what our expression of faith has meant to others. They tell us that we have articulated something that needed to be spoken. We feel we have been faithful.


A highlight Event of the year was the worldwide FWCC gathering in Canby early in the year. We were tremendously grateful to the organizers for making us feel welcome. Freedom Friends was highlighted along with the Two Yearly Meetings. Our pastor was given a chance to speak and we had a dozen of us there one evening. We felt so grown up and real! The big kids let us play on their field. Our F and P’s sold like hotcakes that night.  British Friend and FWCC international Committee Member Roger Sturge paid us a visit and we enjoyed him.  We have hosted other Friends during the year; we especially remember the Daniels Family who spent Easter with us. Wess Daniels did a research paper on us for his doctoral degree at Fuller. He presented his paper at Guilford University and Guilford ordered a couple of F and P’s - that’s how it went this year.  Wess is now pastor at Camas Friends in Northwest Yearly Meeting and we feel we had a part in wooing his family up to the Northwest.


Many of our number have traveled this year in various ministries. Traveling minutes have been written to conferences on 21st Century Quakerism, diversity and Racism, and we sent one member to a Quaker Youth conference in Kenya.  Our pastor taught about how to be a dangerous Quaker at Pendle Hill. Two of our members are discerning calls to ministry and are under the care of Ministry and Oversight.  One of those has started a two year program with the School of the Spirit in North Carolina - this member is presently shepherding the 2010 Northwest Quaker Women’s Theological Conference to fruition. Another member is on the editorial Board of the Quaker Youth Book Project.


We care about freedom, this is expressed through our hosting a 12 step group, our presence at our community’s annual Pride picnic, our membership in the Community of Welcoming Congregations and this year we became signatories to the effort to repeal the Death Penalty in Oregon. Many of our members work in education, mental health care, governance and justice. One of our members was instrumental this year in an investigation of human trafficking.  One of our members developed a new and effective program in mental health in the State hospital.  Many of our members are artists. We consider all of this to be ministry. Our coffee is fair trade.


We have a web presence that is much bigger than our actual footprint.  Eight of us are bloggers.  Our Forum (http://www.freedomfriends.org/Forum/index.php) is not as much used as it was in the beginning; this reflects a real trend on the web. But we find it useful for meeting business, it has 35 users, and one member writes his blog there and has had 44,684 views in about 4 years. There are 77 individual threads on the forum with over a thousand views, 33 of them in the Quaker 101 section. I believe we are very googlicious, and many are viewing and using our resources.


Speaking of Google, there are 246 entries referencing Freedom Friends including many reports by visitors. On the evening that this report was written, if your googled “Friends Church” of which there are 18,000 entries, we are entry number 10.   

Our church website (freedomfriends.org) has about 300 page views per month.  Our main website now has a paypal button and some Friends have found this useful. We also now have a Facebook Page and reflecting current trends, Facebook is where most of us keep track of each other. Our Facebook group has 92 members.


We hosted quite a few visitors this year; we love it when traveling Friends stop in. We like to get a head’s up so that we can put a little time aside to be with you. Please come. Please remember us in your prayers.  When we sit on Sunday morning in the Presence we know that we sit with you. Thank you.





Comments:
Very nice!
 
I have heard about your gathering and hope to learn more. I will keep myself informed, and hopefully find new ways to interpret the ongoing ministries of Friends like all of you. Blessings in the name of Jesus, scot mill
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
The Daniels feel honored to have been included in this year's report. You did have a hand in us being up here, guilty as charged. ;)
 
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