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<p class=MsoNormal style='mso-margin-top-alt:0in;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:
12.0pt;margin-left:.5in'><span style='color:#1F497D'>An Epistle from a Friends
Gathering in the Pacific Northwest: <o:p></o:p></span></p>

<p class=MsoNormal style='margin-left:.5in'>To our Quaker family,<br>
<br>
Surrounded by the waters and wildlife of Hood Canal and the snowy peaks of the
Olympic Mountains, sixty women gathered in Seabeck, Washington from June 16-20,
2010 for the eighth Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference. Begun
fifteen years ago to promote dialogue and build relationships among different
Quaker traditions, this conference continues to be deeply Spirit led and
enriches the lives of women who attend.<br>
<br>
Though we represent different backgrounds and branches of Quakerism, the lines
between these seemed very thin and blurred. No one avoided talking about her
home meeting or church, but our membership didn’t have as much weight as our
personal experiences shared in love. Even as we attempted to be open and
accepting, at times we misstepped and unintentionally hurt each other. Many of
us felt broken open and left this conference changed.<br>
<br>
Through reflection papers we wrote, plenary sessions, home groups and
discussion, we each connected personally with the theme, “Walk With Me:
Mentors, Elders, and Friends.” Each plenary brought us back again and again to
the awareness of the need for support and mentorship in our lives. We
identified places in which we are being accompanied and are accompanying others
and places where we feel the absence of that loving presence. Many of us made
commitments to seek those relationships in our meetings, churches and beyond.<br>
<br>
Despite colds, more serious illnesses and concerns for the health of loved
ones, we drew strength, support, and encouragement from one another. Many think
of the Women’s Conference as a reunion and newcomers found they were welcomed
into the family with open arms.<br>
<br>
In keeping with the testimony of community, we opened ourselves to another
group, Interplay, also staying at the conference center. We described the kind
of work that we each came to do, invited them to join us in worship, and
likewise were invited to experience their ministry and we shared grace together
before meals. <br>
<br>
We celebrated the gifts of many through plenaries, workshops, singing and
readings by several published authors. During one plenary session, several young
adults shared personal experiences of their ministries in relation to the theme
of the conference. We were thrilled to hear stories of women being supported
and held sacredly in their ministry. However, we were deeply saddened to learn
that some are not empowered or recognized in their ministries. We were thus
reminded of the reality of sexism in the Society of Friends. Encircling the
young adult women, we joined together in heartfelt prayer and were moved by its
healing and supportive power. This experience deepened our worship and
fellowship together. We challenged ourselves to be aware of internalized
sexism, as well as the sexism in our churches and meetings, and to work toward
true equality.<br>
<br>
During business meeting on Saturday, we reaffirmed the work of this body of
women and our leading to continue meeting together as an intra-faith group. We
look forward to the next opportunity to join in fellowship. <o:p></o:p></p>

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<o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:11.0pt;font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif";
color:#1F497D'><o:p> </o:p></span></p>

<p class=MsoNormal style='margin-bottom:12.0pt'><span style='font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif";color:#1F497D'>PS:  
   </span>More information about the Conference is available at <a
href="http://pnwquakerwomen.org/wordpress/">http://pnwquakerwomen.org/wordpress/</a>. <o:p></o:p></p>

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