The Eighth State of the Church Report
The State of the Church Report
Freedom Friends Church, Salem Oregon
To Friends Everywhere:
Our Life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.
In the spring of this year we took these words by Isaac Pennington as our Shared understanding of our ministry. This understanding is both aspirational and accurate. We are attempting to live into this. There will always be room for greater depth, but, by the grace of God, it is a good description of the actual culture of our group. For this we are extremely grateful. It is our prayer that we make this our first, foremost and possibly only measure of success.
We represent 22 households. If all of us were together on the same Sunday, (a thing that has not yet happened) there would be 38 of us. 20 of those 38 are full members. We range in age from 3 months to 84 years. Our only gap is school aged children, with which we have not yet been blessed. This year is the first year that we have not added a new member, but we have several new attenders and hope for next year. We have great diversity in culture, theology, class, education, food preferences and politics.
We have large “webbed feet” meaning our footprint on the World Wide Web is significantly larger that our physical footprint. We continue to meet on 13th street in Salem, and we enjoy our rented space. We have one standing committee, and this year, one task force. We meet once a week and host one lively inclusive AA group that is almost the same size as the church. On the Web we have a very active website with 2673 page visit this year mostly not by us (freedomfriends.org). We keep track of each other on Facebook and through a Google group e-mail list. Our Forum is mostly used as an archive at this point. There are 3600 references to us on Google. We feel very attended to by the wider world.
We made a third printing of our Faith and Practice this year, and they continue to go forth. Ten of them went to Europe this spring.
Our worship is full of grace and liberty. New comers, even first time attenders, often feel free to speak. We worship through spoken gratitude, prayer, and expectant listening. We have good long stretches of deep listening, but it is a rare Sunday when no message rises out of the silence. This year we did an experiment with the 5th Sundays. Two of them were completely unprogrammed, and two of them were fully programmed including prepared preaching. Derek Lamson and sometimes with Ruba Byrd of West Hills Friends in Portland were regular musical visitors. This experiment reminded us of how much we like our regular semi-programmed style of worship, but it also was refreshing and educational, and helped us keep our worship fresh. When we attend to our monthly business, we do it straight out of the waiting worship on Sunday morning. Our business continues to be brisk, lively, peaceful, and to the point. We had a sweet but sparsely attended Good Friday Service. Many of us take up the cross every day, we are a people perhaps more in need of a resurrection theology than an atonement theology.
We take seriously the witness that all are ministers. Almost everyone speaks to the things we hold dear, in and out of meeting. Everyone has the opportunity to love, bear, forgive and pray. Many of our folks do very serious Kingdom building work in the world. We have an unusual number of public Gospel ministers for a meeting our size. Sarah Hoggatt traveled in the ministry to Europe in the spring, attending the Europe and Middle East Young Friend Conference. Ashley Wilcox did some eldering and visited Capitol Hill Friends in Washington DC. Vail Palmer spoke at Reedwood Friends and continues his work on writing on Friends and their use of the Bible. Peggy Parsons presented the 2011 Weed Lecture at Beacon Hill Friends House in Boston, and the topic was “Freedom Friends Church and the remixing of Quakerism” (published and available).
We also are learning how to rest our ministers. Alivia Biko took a sabbatical from being an officer of the Meeting in 2011, and will lay down her weekly music ministry at FFC in 2012. Peggy Parsons will be on sabbatical from Pastoral ministry in 2012. Ashley Wilcox took up presiding clerk in 2011. She has brought sensitivity and an attention to good order to the meeting and we appreciate her ministry. We do not have a deep bench for officers, and have to trade hats sometimes, but we are committed to loving those who serve by making sure that we do not burn them out. For instance, Sarah presided over the business meeting once and the pastor took minutes once - we are versatile, flexible and willing. We took a month off from business in the summer to rest everyone. We have appreciated Tim Magee and Deb Lamp for their care of the meetinghouse in 2011, others will take that up in the new year. We have been grateful to the Margaret Fell Fund and others for helping our ministers travel.
Our finances are stable. Despite hard times we are just almost making our expenses from within our own group. We continue to be grateful to the Friends of Freedom Friends who are making up the small difference. About 82% of our budget goes to pay the rent. But we do have savings, and for another year we have not needed to deplete them. We sent a donation off for relief after the Joplin Tornado last spring. God and God’s Friends are good.
Highlights of the year were our 7th Birthday in March, and our very first BABY! Evelyn Ayla Malmsten was born in October and dedicated to the Lord by her mother in meeting for worship in December. That was joyful!
In our traditional candle light Christmas Eve service, Evelyn “spoke” to us and reminded us that Christ came as a babe, and that as much as we desire to be like Him, He also wanted to be like us, in all our weakness and frailty.
We accept this and live into it as best we can.
January 8, 2011
Peggy Senger Parsons for Freedom Friends Church