“To follow the principles in Faith and Practice, making all who wish to join with us feel welcome.” These words were recorded July 1972 in the first minutes that still remain of an untitled worship group meeting in the Clifton area of Cincinnati. How did Eastern Hills Friends Meeting come into existence when Cincinnati was already home to the silent Community Friends Meeting and the pastoral Cincinnati Monthly Meeting?
In the early 1970’s the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam was as controversial to Cincinnati Monthly Meeting as it was to the rest of the country. Pastor Richard Faux was sensitive to Black issues and supportive of the Quaker peace testimony. This was discomforting to some Meeting members. The chaotic sessions discussing the termination of Pastor Faux’s employment ended with a breach, his resignation and the loss of four other Cincinnati Monthly Meeting families.
As a previous part of Cincinnati Meeting’s outreach, Kay and Dick Faux were already involved in an afternoon worship group for University of Cincinnati students. In June the five families joined the students on campus and the silent Meetings for Worship, switching to Sunday mornings in the University YMCA on Calhoun Street. By the end of the summer, the worship group had moved to the Wesley Foundation house across Clifton Avenue from the University. Another national issue, marijuana drug use, became an impetus for the Richard and Lyn Day to leave Community Friends Meeting in late 1973. The Days felt Community was not supportive of their desire to help keep their teenaged children drug free.
Our beginnings arose from families who were wounded by the failure of their home meetings to deal effectively with divisive issues. This is not to say that Eastern Hills Meeting has been free of conflict or potential for conflict. There has been, for example, conflict over the words Friends use in vocal ministry, same sex marriages, whether to purchase our own building, fundraising and the diverting of resources into property. We have suffered the tragic loss of valued members due to hurt feelings or misunderstandings. Our minutes reflect repeated themes like our failure to keep an active Peace and Social Concerns Committee and the continuous scramble to find First Day School teachers. Also recorded in the minutes are the questions about the time and resources dedicated to a meetinghouse that usually stands empty. Missing from those notes is the pride of ownership, the freedom of dedicated classroom space and on-site teacher resources, the secure knowledge that we can care for our own spiritual home and the ability to host Quarterly Meetings and other larger groups. Getting to this place has made us a stronger Meeting, solidly settled. In many ways we record the interruptions to the normalcy of a strong, core group of Friends who share a great love for each other and a strong desire to assemble and seek the guidance of God for our lives. The Meeting has matured into a gathering of hearts open to love. With empathy, humility, and faith in the spirit, we believe Eastern Hills has grown in our ability to listen and to forgive.
This hybrid of founding families has led us to occupy, we believe, a theological middle ground between other meetings; not as liberal as some nor as conservative as others. In 1990 we changed our name from Clifton Friends Meeting to Eastern Hills Friends Meeting, as we purchased a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Anderson Township. So now we also occupy a slightly different geographic area, attracting new attenders mostly from Cincinnati’s eastern suburbs. We are a small Meeting, trying to be doing some social good in our community. We are, however, a vital part in the lives of those of us who regularly attend Meeting for Worship.
The description of past and present Eastern Hills Friends Meeting is more than any written summary. It is more than the total of all of the individual and family stories. It is the sum of so many varied and necessary gifts from so many members and attenders. Some with gifts of the Spirit have helped us grow wider in love and deeper in our religious search. Others with gifts of organization plowed the ground and prepared the soil in which the spiritual gifts could take root. We have been thoughtful and deliberate. Ministry and Counsel and the Nominating Committee take their mandates seriously. Some of us have creatively enhanced the quality of our worship by adding music, queries, testifying and altering our Sunday morning rituals. A few have carried most of the load of tending to our physical building and gardens, freeing the rest to work as officers and committee volunteers. Some have been leaders for pushing us into social action. Others sacrifice their own time in Meeting for Worship to provide religious education to the children. Most have been responsible and engaged, completing the tasks that each has taken on. We have been clerks, officers and committee members of Ohio Valley and Wilmington Yearly Meetings. We have given much to those yearly meetings and have reaped riches because of our contact with the wider world of Friends. A few have gone on to volunteering in national and international Quaker organizations. Newer members and attenders have woven themselves into the fabric of this faith community along with active members who have been on this journey together for 20, 30, 40 and more years. Fifty years of seeking, growing and striving together has yielded a spiritual depth, a palpable love for each other, and a sense among many that we are reaching towards the higher ideals of a religious community. This is our home, our blessed community.