Have I mentioned I can be a tad on the obsessive side?
I’m still reading old minutes and history stuff from NFC’s beginnings. I’m realizing that some of what I shared three years ago (and posted last Thursday) is a little inaccurate, or at least not completely dead on. (For instance, William Hobson wasn’t a feeble old guy when he came here, but quite able to farm and clear land.)
But I’m discovering, I think, the roots of why Northwest Yearly Meeting is…unique. We’ve been strongly evangelical, but also very Quaker in our expression. Robin coined “Convergent” Friends, the movement of God that is drawing Friends of many stripes together. In the early 1890’s, Chehalem Monthly Meeting (aka Newberg Friends) had two strong, exemplary leaders at the poles of what we now see “converging”. William Hobson, the man with the vision that started Newberg Friends and Northwest Yearly Meeting, was a Conservative Friend, deeply committed to plain speech and dress, unprogrammed Quaker meetings for worship, and proper Friends order. Yet he was open and longing for God’s power to move in evangelistic zeal.
Historic conflicts among Friends boiled down in essence to two men at NFC: Hobson and John Henry Douglas. Douglas was a man unbelievably touched with the Holy Spirit’s power. But he was more “Revivalist-Methodist” than Quaker, the man most responsible for bringing the pastoral system into practice in Iowa Yearly Meeting. Out here on the west coast, Douglas held revival meetings that literally shook this little frontier town of Newberg to the core. Hundredsâ€“I am not exaggerating, literally hundredsâ€“of people began a relationship with Jesus here over a hundred years ago because of Douglas’ preaching.
Hobson didn’t like the practices of revivalism or paid pastors…but he warmly embraced the evangelism and changed lives that were happening as a result of them. He opposed Douglas’ suggestions for change, but went along with the sense of the meeting when it was obvious the meeting was with Douglas. His open heart is moving to me, and I think that though one would say Douglas “won” the award of most influential person on the practice of Newberg Friends, Hobson’s refusal to sulk and become bitter are probably the reason the roots of traditional Quaker practice lay buried in our Yearly Meeting’s soil for decades, and still bear fruit today.
I find several things fascinating: the reformer-revivalists in later decades do not appear to have shown the same tolerance and openness that Hobson demonstrated. Under their leadership, the church seems to have stultified and stagnated in the 1920’s and 30’s, concerned more with form and outside appearances than God’s movement. The ones who so quickly and completely swept away the “old” Quaker ways became the “old revival ritualists” themselves…in my humble opinion.
I also wonder…am I more Hobson, or Douglas?