Wow. 72 hours. It has been 72 hours since we received the news of our dismissal from our yearly meeting. The facebook notifications have been endless. Young people here in the northwest are angry, frustrated, confused, hurt, and devastated. They are talking on facebook, and in person around fires, in homes, and in coffee shops. Appeals are being crafted. I have received e-mails from Boston, California, North Carolina, and the UK. Read the comment section from my last blog, and see how many Friends throughout the world are talking, grieving, and praying over what has taken place over the last 72 hours. I am so grateful for all of the work that is being done, for the outpouring of support and love. Thank you.
One thing that I have been asked over the last 72 hours is, "how is West Hills doing?" That is such a hard question to answer. There are folks in our meeting who are tired. They have been pulled through a three year long process that ultimately resulted in our dismissal. The news for them actually feels like a sigh of relief. It is over. Thank God.
Others are coping with a loss of a community in which they've been a part for thirty, forty, fifty years. When relationships end like this it hurts. It hurts even more when you've been together for so long. Can you imagine the pain?
Others have been re-traumatized. Having found refuge at West Hills Friends from other religious traditions that have rejected them because of their sexuality or gender identity, it hurts to know that an institution has said "no" to them, AGAIN. All of those same feelings of rejection have returned. Can you imagine the hurt?
These are some of the feelings, but there are so many more.
So what did the weekend at WHF look like in the aftermath of this decision?
It looked like this on Saturday...
as we celebrated the love of two of our beloved members Derek and Ruba. Man, did we have a party or what? I've never seen so much pie in my life. When Mike invited them to kiss the crowd went WILD. Seriously, it was INCREDIBLE.
On Sunday morning it looked like this...
as we gathered for our first meeting for worship since the news came out. I had the privilege of greeting so many folks as they walked into the door. We did a lot of hugging. We said, "I love you" a lot. Our gathering space was packed, hardly a seat available. We sang a couple songs together. I sensed some real energy behind those voices. Our precious Jim reimagined "Amazing Grace" through the lens of e.e. cummings. We sat in silence to hold the decision of the yearly meeting in our hearts. Our beloved K.D. took to the pulpit and delivered another one of her hilarious stories from Wink, Texas. If you want, you can listen to it here: Click here to listen!
We heard from friends during our joys/concerns about their hurt around the yearly meeting decision. We took a moment to thank Tom Stave, the clerk of NWYM who stepped down from that role before annual sessions for health reasons. Tom did some great work for NWYM during some difficult times.
Meeting for worship went late. As the children's program coordinator I was growing nervous about our children's patience! Near the end of our meeting for worship I went outside to gather them. We huddled directly behind the meetinghouse to wait for their parents to pick them up. The windows in our nursery face towards where the K-5 children were gathered. At one point one of the children noticed her little brother in the window of the nursery. She started calling out to him. Soon all of the babies and toddlers in the nursery gathered at the window to find seventeen children excitedly cheering for them. It was as if the nursery children were royalty, being praised and heralded by a crowd of excited onlookers. It was an incredible moment. Here is a photo:
Later on Sunday I hosted the young adults of WHF at our home. I cooked a lot of food. We ate and talked some about what had happened with the yearly meeting. Folks were able to ask questions, and to vent. Mostly though we laughed. At one point the clouds opened up and we had to relocate our chairs (and firepit) under the cover of a gigantic pine tree in our backyard. Here is a photo...
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that we at West Hills Friends did what we do best. We loved each other in the ways we know how. We affirmed the marriage of two of our own, and we had a party. We gathered in our normal spot on Sunday, we sang, cried, and laughed together. Our children played. We ate. We gathered.
That is what happened next.