Expectant Waiting


“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46: 10)worship

In Barclay’s Apology in Modern English the eleventh proposition concerns worship and is entitled Expectant Waiting.  It is aptly named in that unprogrammed worship is all about “waiting upon the Lord.”  When I consider what this means it has often occurred to me that “waiting” has at least two definitions.  One type of waiting in the sense of being patient, listening to the Inward Guide in this case.  The other type of waiting is an active verb, concerned with giving service to God and other people.  It seems to me that both are essential to the Quaker experience of worship.  We are Called upon to both quietly listen for God’s voice and to go forth in the world and live the kingdom of God.

Since moving to the islands one of the biggest adjustments for me has been getting used to how things are done on the Big Island with regards to Meeting.  I won’t belabor a point already made in other postings, but it has never been satisfactory for me to settle for dysfunction when I know we could be doing so much better.  In trying to explain to new people or visitors how Friends operate here I usually say, “It’s complicated.” and leave it at that.  One has to live here and participate in the process, such as it is, to truly understand.  Herein is perhaps a third sense of the term “expectant waiting.”  Expectations, in my experience, turn out to be a mixed blessing.  When I expect to be filled by the Spirit I am frequently humbled and blessed.  When I approach a situation with unrealistic expectations however I’m frequently disappointed.

So the question becomes how can I let go of expectations about others while still upholding a standard?  This is where letting go and letting God comes in.  I suspect we all secretly want to tell God how to run things.  I’m certainly guilty of this, but S/He seldom listens to my advice.  When I can let go of whatever expectation is preventing a connection with the Divine though I often transcend the disappointment and even (on my best of days anyway) come to acceptance.

Recently I have come to the realization that I can’t change Friends on the island or their casual view of Good Order.  I have to turn that over to God and stop engaging in unproductive struggles.  The result of this surrender has been an Opening I have prayed for long and hard.  For some time now I have hoped that regular worship would once again resume on this side of the Big Island, but there appeared to be no way forward.  One evening it came to me that there is a way forward for Friends.  I mentioned in my last posting that a three part proposal might help us.    That being to form an independent Worship Group, to advertise when finances allow, and to rent an indoor facility.  By independent Worship Group I do not see us being under the care of Big Island Monthly Meeting (or even Honolulu Meeting) for now at least.  This allows us to move forward without having to seek permission.  To advertise might be very low key at this point but it about being willing to share our Light with others.  An indoor rented facility is essential for this side of the island because of all the rain we get.  A rental space is less of an imposition on a host.  Also, visitors are generally more willing to attend in a public space, as opposed to a home.

I am pleased to report that this Leading seems to be testing as true.  Three months ago my partner and I invited Friends from this side of the island to our home to join us in worship (and a potluck of course) to discern whether or not we could form a Worship Group.  The response was more than I could have hoped for.  About ten Friends showed up and they are eager to make this happen.  We met once more after that at our home in Keaau and discussed possibilities for a rental space in the area.  One of those places has welcomed us with open arms and it seems to be working out well for all concerned.  We held our first worship session there on the August 28 and have reserved the space for the next four months.

We decided to start off cautiously (as Friends tend to do) by meeting once a month on the 4th Sunday for a few months and later consider how we might meet more frequently.  Once a month may not seem like much to Friends on the mainland, but here is it definite progress.  The rent is very affordable (only $10 per hour).  Friends have also been very generous with their donations, allowing us to reserve the space well in advance.  Our rent supports the Neighborhood Place of Puna (also known locally as the Girl Scout Building).  They are a community service organization dedicated to helping abused children and their families.

No name is perfect, but at least for now we have decided to refer to ourselves as the Keaau Friends (Quaker) Worship Group.  The title allows us to be connected to the community of Keaau where we rent space and lends support to the organization which has invited us to share their space on Sundays.  If our name seems inadequate to some, I remind Friends that over the centuries there have been a wide variety of names used by Quaker Meetings.  Most names are descriptive of the area where they reside and some are even amusing.  In the over the forty years I have been a Friend I have been a member of two meetings in California whose names are  connected to fruit production; those Meetings being Orange Grove Meeting in Pasadena and Apple Seed Meeting in Sebastopol.  When the Orange Grove Meetinghouse was built in about 1905 the Meeting was surrounded by orange groves.  Apple Seed Meeting is still found in apple growing country and their name is also a tribute to the Seed of God found in everyone.

As we wait expectantly on where God is Leading us, please hold us in prayer.  Friends and visitors are welcome to join in worship with us on the 4th First Day at 10:00 AM, with a potluck lunch to follow.  We welcome visitors.  Contact me for directions.


A Need for Silent Worship

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

On this day I stand with thousands of Americans in prayer for those whose lives were so brutally taken in Orlando, Florida.  It has never been more obvious that sensible gun restrictions are called for and that better attention to mental health and curtailing political extremism is needed.  The fact that most of those slain were LGBT people comes as no surprise to me, but being a hate crime makes it all the more insidious.  I can chose to respond in anger, and there is plenty of that, or with reason and compassion. For now I feel drawn to inward silence, to try to remember that God speaks most clearly for me through the still small voice within.  There is much work to be done in the world to help others respond to that of God within themselves and their neighbor.

This morning I attended a worship session at the local Metropolitan Community Church, where I am now a member.  The pastor was visibly shaken by the news and noted that experiencing terrorism is nothing new to LGBT people.  MCC has known over 20 acts of violence and desecration in its short history.  Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender people continue to be harassed, beaten, and killed.  This speaks to our resiliency perhaps that we continue to move forward.  Much progress has been made but there is still much work to be done.

During communion our pastor framed his invitation to the Eucharist in the context of remembering those who died in Orlando, connecting with many other churches around the country this morning doing the same.  I found myself partaking in the outward ritual, despite my Quaker understanding of silent communion, out of respect for those who have died or have suffered from gun-related violence.

Had there been a Quaker Meeting to go to I might well have gone there to rest the anguish of my mind.  For a variety of reasons Friends Meeting on the east side of the Big Island barely functions.  In a recent gathering at my home I got the clear sense that there is a desire to meet for unprogrammed worship more often than once every few months.  I’ve been giving this much thought and here is what I envision.

I would like to suggest that the time has come to gather in unprogramed worship at least once a month as an independent Worship Group.  Being independent would help us to avoid being drawn into the rancor and dysfunction of times past.  We should make every effort to remain in fellowship with other Friends on the island, but still speak our truth.  Furthermore such a gathering should be publically advertised to the extent that finances will allow.  This would let those who may be looking for such a spiritual home know that we exist.  Let’s stop hiding our Light under a basket.  Lastly such a Worship Group should be in a public location.  Given that there is often rain on this side of the island the public gathering place should be indoors.  That most likely means renting a facility because it is an imposition to hold worship service on a regular basis in people’s homes.  Also, in my experience, newcomers tend to prefer public accommodations.

So, to get things started and to season this concern I propose that Friends on the east side of the island (and others who may be interested) come together at 10:00 AM on Sunday, July 3, 2016 at our home in Keaau for silent worship.  Call or email if you need directions.  I have at least one place available to us for inexpensive rent.  That location and other possibilities can be discussed after worship during a potluck lunch.  Come share your vision and let’s see what happens.

Tragedy is part of life, but we can find sustenance in God’s presence.  While that can be done alone, it is far more nourishing to do it in community.  As we pray for those who died or suffered in Orlando, Florida, let us also pray for Friends on the Big Island that we can find a way forward that serves the needs of all.

Your Friend in Christ, Rick Troth

Confessions of a Quaker Heretic

“And oh! How sweet and pleasant it is to the truly spiritual eye, to see several sort of believers, several forms of Christians in the school of Christ, every one learning their own lesson, performing their own peculiar service, and knowing, owning, and loving one another in their several places and different performances to their Master, to whom they are to give an account, and not to quarrel with one another about their different practices!” Isaac Pennington, 1659


For just over a year now I have been a member of another denomination while still maintaining my membership in the Religious Society of Friends. Our Faith and Practice discourages sentimentality concerning membership in Meetings we are no longer able to partake in and the holding of duel membership. I am in full agreement with this functional approach. Nevertheless I find myself in the circumstance of not having a functional Friends Meeting nearby. As I mentioned in a prior post Big Island Monthly Meeting, for a variety of reasons, simply doesn’t function on this side of the island. I wish that were not the case but it would be less than truthful to claim otherwise.

Life would be simpler I suppose if I could do as Jesus advised (in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and wipe the dust from my feet and move on. The finality of such a judgment seems too harsh though. I prefer to remain on the sidelines as loyal opposition, reminding people of the potential we still can obtain. Is it that no one is beyond redemption or that I simply am not ready to once and for all leave Friends? I am uncertain.

So why did I join another church? It wasn’t primarily for the worship. I still find “the silent assemblies of God’s people,” as Robert Barclay put it, the most pure in practice. It was the sense of community I found there that drew me to my new church home. I think no one can survive long spiritually in a Meeting or Church without being part of a strong community. I remember several years ago when I served on the Pacific Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice Revision Committee the struggle we had trying to put into words what was obvious to us, that the Testimony on Community is at the center of our faith, even though it is the hardest Testimony to articulate.

When I worship with the church community there is hardly a moment of silence during the entire service, yet the music on occasions speaks to that still small voice within. Likewise the sermons are often very inspiring. The pastor, who I’m convinced often acts as a covert Quaker, is skilled at speaking to the principals of his faith in a heartfelt manner that is as moving as any vocal ministry I’ve heard in Quaker Meeting. During communion we are advised that is it quite acceptable to remain seated in silence, partaking in the “common union” with others, which I do. No one forces me to partake in anything I’m not comfortable with. The time of community prayer is different than the language I’m used to in Meeting, but when you listen to the desires of the heart it isn’t really different than our asking to hold someone in the Light.

I find my new congregation very receptive to Quaker beliefs and even some practice. I’ve been asked on at least two occasions to conduct the worship service when the pastor has been out of town. When I have led the group in worship I include moments of silent waiting and it has been well received. If I occasionally refer to the programmed worship as Meeting for Worship, ask that someone be held in the Light, or call the building a Meetinghouse there is appreciative understanding. Recently I was elected to serve on the Board of Directors for the church in a secretarial capacity taking minutes and keeping track of records. They refer to this position as Clerk, a little different than how Friends use the term but still part of their vocabulary. In the taking of minutes I find myself using terms like “Unity” and “approved” with no objection noted. We all desire to do God’s will even if the structure of how things are done is different than what I’m used to.

We are in the process of building a new church building which is ambitious for a congregation of only about thirty members. I find myself being more generous than I have been in years about sharing financial resources. I sincerely hope that Friends on the Big Island will find a similar determination to build a permanent home someday.

Language and practice may differ slightly but the same Spirit is being served. The problems of our world, such as injustice and continuous warfare, are too big for any one faith tradition to address. Our very planet is crying out for mercy and we are called to be God’s hands. I ask for your continuing prayers as I continue to discern how best to move forward. Whether I remain a member of the Religious Society of Friends or not Quakers are my tribe and I will always hold dear the faith and practice of Friends.

James Naylor

A Call for Greater Presence of Friends on the Big Island

GF Be patterns

“From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered.” – George Fox’s Journal, Chapter VI

It has been several months since I’ve posted on this blog, but with the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and surrounding events I have come once again to reflect on the state of Friends here on the Big Island. Where is the prophetic voice of God’s people in these troubling times?

In George Fox’s vision on Pendle Hill he saw “a great people to be gathered.” We have a rich history as a voice for reconciliation and compassion in the world. The contribution of Quaker theology has also profoundly affected the Church, showing the value of seeking the Divine without intermediaries in our silent assemblies. The message of George Fox, amid the current rhetoric of ISIS, anti-refugee rants, and Islamophobia, is as needed today as it ever has been.

I have no doubt that Friends around the world are speaking up for peace when others around us are beginning the steady drum beat of war. Even here, on this wonderful island, I’m sure Friends are doing what they can to “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34: 14) Nevertheless, to my knowledge there is still no regular Meeting for Worship open and advertised to the public on the east side of the island at least. Even on the Kona side the gathering is only by word of mouth. Should we not in these times be proclaiming our message at every opportunity? I believe we are called to display of measure of Light, not to hide it under a basket. I’m willing to be accused of being a little evangelical in this pursuit. The notion that Friends don’t proselytize is utterly untrue. We have to be sensitive to the path of others and not judge them but we are free to share what insights we have.

I believe the world, amid all this chaos, needs to hear Quaker voices. Won’t you join me in being a voice of reason in these times of fear?


On another note, I’m still questioning my role with Friends on the Big Island. It has been months since I have worshiped with any of you, mostly due to lack of opportunity on this side of the island. As some of you know I now hold duel membership in another religious society, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC). My husband and I have been able to find much comfort in a local UFMCC congregation. Nevertheless, I still crave silent waiting worship. I will always be a Friend on some level, but I’m not sure how much longer I will maintain membership in the Society of Friends.

I’m also not sure how much longer it is appropriate to keep Big Island Quaker Blog going. I await Guidance in that regard. This has been an experiment and your response to the blog has been greater than I ever expected. When I first set up this website I thought I would be lucky to get 500 hits. It is now nearly 2,000 hits, many from Friends new to or traveling to the Big Island. So this has been my contribution to sharing the Light, for better or worse. Lately I’ve been on Facebook frequently and have been able to reconnect with family members I had long since lost track of. When I can I share my Quaker values, sometimes even linking to Quaker articles or videos. By the way, I hope you have been watching the QuakerSpeak weekly videos from Friends General Conference. Before I close this blog down, if I decide to do that, I’d like to extend the experiment to include the ability to link to Facebook. Let’s see where this goes over the next few months.

Let me know your thoughts. As always, go with God.

Your Friend in Christ, Rick Troth

A Tale of Two Meetings

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

In Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Tale of Two Cities” he explores the duality of life in both London and Paris mostly told from the viewpoint of the under-class during the French Revolution. The opening line has been on my mind of late in that Quaker life on the Big Island is both full of promise and at times a dismal failure. In our case the two cities are Kailua-Kona and Hilo, both on different sides of the island and both with very different experiences of Meeting. This essay is far from a perfect analogy but I think the topic is worth looking at.

In the novel the death of Sydney Carton is dealt with as heroic metaphor, likened to Christ in his suffering on the cross. It would be self-serving to see either myself or others who have offered Friendly critique as heroic, but we do call Friends to embrace Good Order. If that is revolutionary, so be it.   I am far from perfect Friends, but I feel called to hold up a mirror and ask if this is truly our best selves within the Quaker context. Are we actively building the Blessed Community or are we living nostalgically in our rich past?

Geography (as beautiful as it is) works against us on this island just as it did between London and Paris in Dickens’ day. The span isn’t across an ocean but most Friends (and I include myself in this) are either unable or unwilling to drive two hours over the mountain pass. Years ago a system of rotating worship around the island was put into place. Perhaps it worked well for several years but now seems to happen mostly in name only. On the west side of the island Friends are able to gather in worship twice a month in North and South Kona. On the east side we meet only once a month and even then it is erratic. Waimea is no longer an option so that leaves Hilo which in the best of times is dependent upon decent weather. In the worst of times we are left with no place to gather or no one aside from Tom and I shows up. The two of us have taken up some of the slack on some of the 5th Sundays but that isn’t a permanent arrangement.

In the novel London is painted as the peaceful haven of civilization while Paris is in ferment. Always lurking in the background however in an undercurrent of discontent in London. As goes Paris so too might London fall into chaos. Here the analogy is weak but it doesn’t seem too far a stretch to see Meeting life Hilo as being in greater disarray than in Kona. Could Meeting in Kona fall into equal disrepair? I certainly hope not but situations could change.

Geography isn’t the only thing separating the two sides of the island. There have been some major personality clashes that have most heavily affected Friends on the east side. I need not get specific or personal here. Any Friend living on the Big Island for very long is well aware of what I am saying. This raises the question if there are other Friends willing to come forth and serve? As Friends we do not depose those who serve us. Rather we thank them for their service and periodically seek to find the best placement of skill with need. Rotation of responsibilities is healthy for a Meeting. No one should be burdened with leadership in perpetuity. This serves no one well in the end. To infuse new blood however requires some degree of process. Appointing an ad hoc Nominating Committee to look at not only replacements for Friends in long-term service but also new positions that might serve us well in the future might be in order at our next scheduled Business Meeting on August 2.

In Dickens’ novel, while he sympathizes with the goals of the revolution, there is great ambivalence. Did the ends of freedom justify the means of violence? For Big Island Friends there is also ambivalence due to the rancor of the past and its present manifestations. Are we doomed to continue a circle of neglect and bitterness? I hope not. Some Friends would prefer not to talk about our problems, but in my experience denying what exist isn’t helpful to healing.   I would hope we can be both honest with each other and loving.

For me Meeting life on the Big Island has been both the spring of hope and the winter of despair. I have recently found another more stable spiritual community in which I am nurtured but I remain a Friend and continue to attend Meeting for Worship when I can. I try my best not to become embroiled in acrimony, but it has been difficult balancing truthfulness with genuine concern for others. The problems with Big Island Meeting spans decades and it would be arrogant of me to think that I alone can change the situation given the inertia that has become the norm. I now keep some emotional distance, though I will continue to call us to the idea of a Blessed Community from time to time.

Let us chose wisdom over foolishness, Light over darkness, and kindness over rancor. This Easter season let’s build the New Jerusalem, resurrected from an epoch of incredulity. Not all revolutions have to be bloody.


Reflection on Abundance and the Work of the Spirit

God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Recently Big Island Friends held an annual gathering in Volcano for all Friends on the island. The event was well attended. It was good to see Friends again that I’ve not seen in months. After worship and potluck, Friends gathered to conduct business.

To say that the Business Meeting left something to be desired would be classic Quaker understatement. Nevertheless we endeavored to do our best and some concrete matters were accomplished. We also began a discussion about concerns for the life of the Meeting, making suggestions about what might need to happen to revitalize the Meeting community. Unfortunately there was resistance in some Friends to change, which I suppose was to be expected. Change is seldom easy and our resources, being spread out across a large landmass, presents challenges.

Some of the language I heard though was unfortunate and I don’t think served us well. I heard a lot of talk about “consensus” but almost no references to building Unity. I realize to many modern Friends the term consensus is synonymous with Unity and is preferred contemporary language. I could not disagree more. Consensus is a secular process in which everyone agrees to come to agreement on any given action. It is certainly better than voting to maintain group cohesion, but not at all what Friends do in our Business Meetings. Instead we refer to seeking Unity or finding God’s will. This recognizes that our individual desires are secondary to trying to discern what God would have us do. In Unity we are allowed to have dissenting opinions as long as we are equally willing to set those aside for the betterment of the whole body. Unity does not require that everyone gets what they want. This is often not the case. Unity instead presupposes that God can open us up to greater Truth, even when we step aside and let others proceed. This is why it is essential that the Clerk not interject his or her own will at the Business Meeting. It is a hard enough job discerning the sense of the Meeting on our behalf.

We live with different realities on the east and west sides of the island. There is a rotation system that was put into place years ago but that hasn’t functioned for many people in some time. On the western half of Hawaii Friends have Meetings for Worship twice a month. On the east side there is at this point worship only once a month and that is weather dependent. No regions of the island hold unprogrammed worship weekly. This prompted one Friend from the west side when presented with the idea of regional gatherings to say that “half a loaf is better than none.” True enough, but can’t we do better? My immediate quip, being from the east side, was “I’d settle for a slice.” This wasn’t helpful on my part, but let’s look at how we tend to view opportunity.

We live in a world of finite natural resources yet we have long lived beyond our means. We are now facing the consequences of our lifestyle as Americans. It has never been more important to recognize this fact as we examine the impact of the human species on the planet and try to mitigate our ecological footprint to benefit future generations.

It would be a mistake however to extent this sense of scarcity to the spiritual realm. God has promised us an abundant life and we need go no further than the Inward Christ, the Inner Light, or whatever metaphor you feel comfortable with. Thankfully life is full of opportunities for us to recognize our failings, pick ourselves up, and begin anew. It is natural to fear the unknown or untried path but I know at the heart of my being that Spirit will provide if we have a little faith. Will it be easy? Most likely not. There is a lot of inertia to overcome and a lot of fear to face along the way. Jesus promised his disciples a good life, not necessarily an easy one. I believe this is as true today as it was for our spiritual ancestors. It’s easy to glamorize the past, to revere Friends like John Woolman or George Fox. These Friends were often as not though disagreeable to others and they each faced their own demons. They became convinced (in the sense of being convicted) of their own failings. Yet they ventured forth into unknown territory and the Society of Friends benefited from their willingness to rely on Divine guidance. We can, and perhaps if we are to survive must, do the same.

Off and on for years now I have been baking homemade sourdough bread. The leavening is usually only from a natural yeast culture I have kept for years. The process is slow, but well worth the wait in terms of flavor. Only a little inoculate is needed to affect the entire dough. It seems to me that this is like what happens in worship (whether with Friends or elsewhere). With some patience and the Seed of God present wonderful things can happen. As the Bible says “a little yeast leavens the whole batch.” (Galatians 5:9) I don’t think the apostle Paul was talking about making bread. He was using a common household event to draw a parallel with what can happen when God is invited into the heart. Whether you are worshiping in silence or (as I usually do these days) attend a programmed service, God promises us “more than enough for every kind of good work.” Wonderful things can and do happen. It is my prayer for Friends that we may see the great abundance the Spirit has offered us and know that it doesn’t take much to feed us all.


Reflections on 2014: A Spiritual Journey

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized but one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. . . . The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. . . . there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

                                                                                 I Corinthians 12: 12-27


A new year is upon us, a time when people often reflect upon the year past and hope to do better in the future. As I reflect upon my life as a Friend I recognize that my spiritual path has changed over time. This is probably a good thing in that to remain the same over time is to invite stagnation. It is only when we are challenged that spiritual growth can happen. It is no secret that I have found much lacking in Quaker life on the Big Island. As much as I have tried to reframe from judgment, it is clear to me that there are systemic problems here, aside from great distances, which keeps Friends from being all that we could be. As many of you know, I have invited the Ministry & Oversight Committee of Pacific Yearly Meeting to be in a greater dialog with us, to help us to once again find our way. I have taken some flak for this, perhaps well deserved, but my motives are straight forward – the improvement of the Blessed Community. That may mean structural changes in how Friends operate on the Big Island. It certainly means going beyond blame and recommitting ourselves to the betterment of the whole community.

If one door closes we are often offered another path forward. This has certainly been the case for me. As much as I value many Friends on this island I find the lack of weekly worship, the distain of Good Order, and tolerance of self-centered and even abusive behavior a barrier to feeling part of a spiritual community. Over the last year or so I have found another church that has fulfilled much of what has been lacking for me. This places me in an uncomfortable position because I take seriously the admonition to avoid duel allegiances. This church is a small congregation, even by Quaker standards, yet it has an abundance of welcoming love and a vibrant sense of community. The differences in worship are obvious. Hymn singing and reliance upon a paid pastor to deliver the vocal ministry would have been anathema to me up until a few years ago. There is nothing that can compare to the experience of a Gathered Meeting for Worship which happens best when arising from “waiting upon the Lord” and being still. Nevertheless, I have been struck by how much this church and Quaker Meeting have in common. The weekly message, coming as it does from a skilled pastor, is often rooted in what many of us assume to be Quaker theology, with themes of peace, justice, equality, and living with reliance upon guidance of the Spirit. This is humbling, reminding me of Paul’s message about the Church being made up of many parts.

My spiritual journey this past year has been like grieving. Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1970s outlined a process that people go though in grieving, consisting of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We know now that grieving isn’t a linear process. Any given day can bring elements of all five steps and not necessarily in order. Grieving isn’t just about what happens when we lose a loved one. It can also happen with loss or change of relationships. In spite of the loss of Quaker community I’m beginning to make my peace with what is. This doesn’t mean that I won’t push for change in Meeting where needed, but I have given myself permission to find community in other parts of the Body of Christ. We ultimately seek the same goal, to follow God’s will more fully. Participation in another branch of Christianity may mean a change in membership status at some point, but I’m clear that my cultural identity at least will always be Quaker. It’s part of my very bones.

The last several months I have been working on a family genealogy – something that started off as a mild curiosity and has since become a regular quest. Somehow this all seems related to my greater spiritual journey. In researching my relatives I found out that the first several generations of the Troth family in the U.S. were Friends. In the 19th century over twenty family members were disowned from the Religious Society of Friends, mostly for associating with the wrong type of Quaker or marrying outside their faith. It seems trivial now, but was an important distinction back then. Even today it’s important to know with whom we are yoked and how this affects our spiritual life. My family search not only feeds my love of Quaker history, but has also given me access to a faith community. The struggles of my ancestors have taught me much and are often similar to my own, trying to be faithful to our rich heritage while still being open to new revelation. No matter how much we change though we are still called to be “strangers in a strange land.”

So, as we look forward to 2015, I invite Friends to enter into dialog, to learn where we can share gifts and where we have yet to grow. I hold each of you in the Light and wish everyone a very happy and fulfilling new year.

Joel and Hannah Bean and the Struggle for Unity

“And yet the assemblies in whose silent worship I felt the nearness of God, and of holy angels; the ministry in trembling accepts or in tendering power that came as messages for the Lord …”

                                                         From “Why I am a Friend” by Joel Bean (1894)

Joel Bean


Of late the history of Joel and Hannah Bean has been in my thoughts.  I wonder if there isn’t a moral here for Friends on the Big Island or at least a lesson for me.

Joel Bean (1835-1914) and his wife, Hannah Elliott Bean (1830-1909), migrated to Iowa in 1853 from Rhode Island and Pennsylvania respectively and became stalwart members of Iowa Yearly Meeting at a time when Quakers were expanding into the Midwest.    Joel Bean was even appointed as Clerk of Iowa Yearly Meeting in 1867.

There was much change afoot in American Quakerism at that time.  The Great Schism had already occurred forty years before, separating Friends into Orthodox and Hicksite camps.  Nevertheless up to this point the manner of worship (silent “waiting upon the Lord”) remained largely the same.  The early generations of Friends had passed and it was a period of Quietism, where emphasis was upon calming the soul of all distractions.  Vocal ministry was becoming rare, stultified, and a purview of mostly elderly Friends.  There was increased deference to outward appearance and obedience to the Book of Discipline, as rigidly enforced by the Overseers.  In spite of this time of severe self-reflection and increased conformity there was a vital social witness ministry in areas such as the abolition of slavery.

All was not quiet however among the young Friends in particular, who were becoming increasingly impatient with the encrusted faith of their parents and grandparents.  There was a general concern that Quakerism was dying a slow death.  Into this mix came the influence of the Second and Third Great Awakenings, especially in the Midwest.  Methodists and others were encouraging personal salvation.  This Holiness Movement struck a chord with young Friends.  It sought regeneration of faith by grace alone, stressing personal salvation and sanctification.  The Hicksite interpretation of the Bible was challenged by evangelical Quakers, most prominent being Joseph John Gurney (1788-1847).  Gurneyite orthodoxy was leading to experimentation with programmed worship and eventually to the appointment of pastors.  The Bible was the primary source of truth for these Friends, rather than the Light of Christ within.  Gurneyite beliefs and practices were eventually criticized by some Orthodox Friends, especially John Wilbur (1774-1856) and his followers.

Revivalism came to Iowa in the 1870s.  Iowa Yearly Meeting, being of the Orthodox branch, initially decided to associate themselves with Conservatives and Independents, who wanted to retain traditional unprogrammed worship.  Joel and Hannah Bean originally thought this renewal of faith was called for.  Joel Bean wrote approvingly in 1870 that “The Lord’s work is progressing in many localities and deepening in many hearts.  A true work of grace was begun, and has been carried forward.”  By the late 1870s however the Beans began to have their doubts when the inevitable signs of changes from the Holiness Movement spread throughout Meetings in the Midwest.  The Beans resisted taking sides in the growing division within their home Meeting in West Branch Iowa.  David Updegraff declared the 1880 revival of West Branch Monthly Meeting a success, yet it left the Meeting deeply divided.  This event prompted Joel Bean to write an article for The British Friend in 1881 entitled “The Issue,” defending traditional Christian universalist Quakerism.  This article was widely read among Friends and was well received among those opposed to the revivals.  The new Iowa Holiness leaders however were upset at this flagrant disregard of their new-found beliefs.

Joel and Hannah Bean sold their Iowa farm in 1882 and moved to San Jose, California largely to escape the diffusiveness of Iowa Quakerism.  The conflict followed them however when they were removed as recorded ministers of Iowa Yearly Meeting in 1893 and removed from membership in 1898.

The Beans went on to become the founding members of College Park Meeting in San Jose, a faithful remnant of unprogrammed worship.  Their granddaughter, Anna Cox, along with her husband Howard Brinton became founding members of the Pacific Coast Association of Friends in 1931, later to become the Pacific Yearly Meeting.

There is much more to their story, including their ministerial visits to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) in 1861-1862 and later to England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1872-1873, but that can be for another day.

So, what can be drawn from this story and why does it speak to me?  On one level I find the history fascinating.  It reflects a recent interest in my family genealogy, having recently found out that the Troths have longtime Quaker roots.  So many Quaker families are interrelated throughout the ages.

More important however is the connection I feel with Hannah and Joel Bean and their struggle to stay faithful and feel at home in a mire of controversy.  In spite of their best efforts they were drawn into dispute.  The Quakerism they had known all their lives was under attack and eventually they were forced to take sides.

Quaker life here on the Big Island often feels somewhat like what I imagine the Beans must have experienced – disorientation amid disorder.  I have tried my best to remain neutral and avoid strife, but the state of Meeting here troubles me.  I recognize the situation on Big Island is different than the changes that occurred during the mid-nineteenth century.  We are not threatened with a new alien spiritual movement, but the sorrow about disorder Big Island Friends are experiencing causes similar pain.

Shall I remove myself from the fray and not participate with Friends on the Big Island or is there another way?  I seek clarity and trust that somehow Spirit will speak.  My prayers are with all Friends on the Big Island and I hope that each of you will hold me in the Light as well.  In the meantime I remain haunted by these words of Friend Joel Bean.

“When a portion of the body, whom we may suppose steadfast in the truth of the gospel, and faithful in their testimony to it in word and life, find themselves and their message rejected, their counsel set at naught, and their meetings almost entirely changed in the manner of holding them, the question becomes a serious one – Whether their own edification and the honor of the truth as they believe it would not require a withdrawal from such a state of things and a re-organization?”

                                                                 From “The Issue” by Joel Bean (1881)

One Year and Counting

Tom and I have now lived on the Big Island one year as of March 1, 2014.  This has been an adjustment for both of us, but life has been good for us here.  A big mahalo to each of you who have helped us with the transition to island life.

I’m trying out a Friendly Forum page on this blog.  It does not have a bulletin board format however.  So it will just be a series of posts.  If you start a new thread there are a limited number of comments that can be made.  Even if this new page isn’t perfect let’s try it out for awhile and see how it goes.  How interactive it becomes is up to you Friends.

Aloha Friends


For those who haven’t met me yet my name is Rick Troth.  My husband and I moved to the Big Island of Hawaii a few months ago, after we retired in California.  I’ve been an active member of the Religious Society of Friends for over forty years and look forward to getting to know Friends on the islands better.

Welcome to my blog about Quakerism, especially as it relates to Friends on the Big Island.  I hope you find the information contained herein both useful and fun.  It is my hope that visiting or new Friends especially will find this information helpful.

This blog represents my personal experiences and opinions.  It is not an official organ of any Friends body here in Hawaii.   I am solely responsible for its content.  Whether you agree or disagree with what you read in this blog you are welcome to leave comments.  I only ask that your comments be courteous and not attack individuals or their beliefs.

I don’t expect to update this blog very often, but if you wish to follow me just click on the appropriate link.

God be with you, Rick Troth

” My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  This is my command: Love each other.”               John 15: 12-17