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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

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i: Pacific Yearly Meeting In Context

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A Brief History of the Religious Society of Friends

pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.


 emergence of pacific yearly meeting

 Friends from both the pastoral and the unprogrammed traditions were scattered in California and around the Pacific Rim by 1928. In that year, Howard and Anna Cox Brinton (a granddaughter of Joel and Hannah Bean) moved from Philadelphia to the Oakland area to serve on the faculty of Mills College. They played key roles in the next phase of Quaker growth by actively visiting among Meetings and helping to start the Pacific Coast Association of Friends (PCAF) in 1931. It met annually and included Friends from unprogrammed Meetings in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, China, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, Honolulu, Mexico City, and California. By 1940, it was holding weeklong gatherings every August, rotating its meeting place among the Pacific Northwest, the San Francisco Bay area, and Southern California.

 The Pacific Coast Association experienced growth and change in the 1940s. Conscientious objectors (COs) to World War II were scattered to locations far from their homes. The Friends Ambulance Corps of Britain offered active service to a few. By 1942, the Civilian Public Service (CPS) program gave COs of the historic Peace Churches the option of working in special camps or other institutions where the war had depleted available staff. Thus, many young Quaker men were stationed in the West Coast area. Often their wives had moved to be nearby and the family then remained in the West.When travel became possible after the war, they built a thin but strong network. Their lives of faithful service left a lasting imprint on Pacific Yearly Meeting.

 The unhappy experiences of some individual members influenced the Pacific Coast Association of Friends to shun formal relationships with other organizations. PCAF refused to exert authority over individual Friends, who could join the Association directly, without having a Monthly Meeting membership. Beginning in 1941, Howard Brinton voiced strong support for forming a new Yearly Meeting. His message gradually took effect. In 1946, University Friends Meeting in Seattle formally proposed that PCAF become Pacific Yearly Meeting (PYM). The first annual gathering of the new Yearly Meeting was held at Palo Alto in the summer of 1947 with twelve member Monthly Meetings.

 As memberships grew, and travel became an increasing problem, an amicable process led to changes in the structures of unprogrammed Meetings in the West. In 1973, Meetings in British Columbia (which had maintained dual memberships) withdrew from PYM to align with Canadian Yearly Meeting. Two new Yearly Meetings were created out of sections of the original PYM: North Pacific Yearly Meeting in 1973 and Intermountain Yearly Meeting in 1975. Although all three Yearly Meetings experienced some loss of fellowship among particular Friends, they all continue to thrive and grow and they cooperate in activities such as sponsoring Friends Bulletin and conducting the Brinton Visitor Program.

 From its varied beginnings, Pacific Yearly Meeting has come to have a distinctive character.Many members maintain close ties with their original Meetings. Most members are convinced Friends, many of whom have little experience with Meetings outside PYM. These factors, as well as a certain western spirit of independence, have resulted in PYM’s reluctance to join either Friends General Conference or Friends United Meeting.

 The character of Pacific Yearly Meeting developed in large part from the faithfulness of Friends to their concerns. From its beginning in the Pacific Coast Association of Friends, ties stretching beyond its geographical confines have been evident. Honolulu Monthly Meeting was established in 1937 under the care of Friends World Committee for Consultation. Connections with Quakers in Korea, Japan, and China (Shanghai and Hong Kong) were maintained even through the wars and gave an unusual richness and flavor to the meetings of the PCAF and later of PYM. Shanghai dropped out in 1951, though Hong Kong remained a part of PYM at that time. The Friend in the Orient Committee, created in 1962, continued to be active after China was closed to Westerners, carrying on a ministry of support and communication among Quakers around the Pacific Rim until it was laid down in 1998.

 In 2000, Pacific Yearly Meeting includes Meetings and Worship Groups in California, Hawaii, Nevada, Guatemala, and Mexico. Still, it is geographically smaller than the Pacific Coast Association of Friends or the original Pacific Yearly Meeting. Individual participation has remained constant since 1980 at about 1,500 members. In the 1990’s, the direction of outreach shifted from the Pacific Rim to Russia and Latin America.

 The ongoing support and faithfulness of individual Friends has led to the establishment of several independent non-profit corporations. Among these are the Friends Association of Services for the Elderly, Ben Lomond Quaker Center, the Pacific Friends Outreach Society and John Woolman School, the only Quaker boarding school in California. Although these are not directly under PYM authority, Friends throughout the Yearly Meeting have been involved in their support. Other projects led by individual Friends and carried forward by PYM include continuing support for the Guatemala Scholarship Loan Program for indigenous students, and links with the Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City. Friends House Moscow evolved from initial work by PYM Friends in conjunction with British Friends. Many informal bonds contribute to a lively intercourse between PYM Friends and the wider world of Quakerism.†


† For more on the early history of Friends in the Western U.S., see Friends Bulletin (May 1998 and January 1999), Quakers in California by David LeShana, The Quakers by Barbour and Frost, The Transformation of American Quakerism: Orthodox Friends, 1800-1907 by Thomas Hamm, A Certain Kind of Perfection by Margery Post Abbot, A Western Quaker Reader by Anthony Manousos (ed.), as well as archival minutes. Some Meetings have published extensive histories in booklet form