Ruba Byrd is currently the pastor at Eugene Friends Church and is seeking to be recorded as a Friends minister by Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends.
Ruba’s childhood was spent in Houston, Texas, where she and her family were very active in their Baptist church. She remembers clearly her decision to follow Christ as a child, and she remembers wondering around age 10 if God would call her to be a missionary someday. She loved singing in the choir and teaching Bible school during several mission trips to Mexico as a teen. As a History major at Baylor University, Ruba was an active leader in the college ministry at her progressive Baptist church, helping to plan retreats and worship services that focused on creativity, peace, and justice. These experiences strengthened Ruba’s sense of calling towards ministry, and she entered seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, completing her M.Div. degree in Pastoral Care and Counseling in 1987. As part of her training, she completed a year of Clinical Pastoral Education as an assistant chaplain at a women’s prison, where she preached, led retreats, and counseled residents.
During Ruba’s time at seminary, the Southern Baptist denomination was being torn apart by controversy. By the time she graduated, the denomination had split, and Ruba moved toward nonprofit work, serving as the Director of Habitat for Humanity in Louisville, then working for several other nonprofits during the 1990s. Throughout those years, Ruba continued to use her gifts in ministry as an active lay leader in her churches in Kentucky and Texas. Besides teaching Sunday School for both adults and children, she particularly was drawn towards planning worship that incorporated the creative arts and facilitating others to deepen their relationship with God through creative expression. Her ministry also focused on peace and justice, especially as lived out in ministry to the local community.
In 1998, as Ruba prepared to move to Berkeley, California to pursue a PhD in Christian Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union, her church ordained her as an “evangelist at large in spirituality, creativity, and the arts,” recognizing that Ruba was being called by God to minister outside the context of the local church, through retreats, workshops, and groups. After two years of coursework for the doctorate, Ruba left that program, yet continued active lay ministry in her UCC church for a time, until a sense of spiritual “burnout” led her to stop attending church for several years. During that time, Ruba discovered that her core connection to God didn’t depend on her church attendance or gifts for ministry, but on her willingness, moment-by-moment, to be guided and healed by Christ’s love. She now sees this “dark night of the soul” as the way that Jesus led her to the question: “What canst thou say?” and, in time, to the Way of Friends.
In early 2010, Ruba began attending West Hills Friends Church in Portland, and almost immediately felt she had found her spiritual home. She spent time renewing the connection to Quaker history and spiritual writing that she had first found during her seminary studies, and her sense of “rightness” about committing to the Quaker path grew. She served on several committees at West Hills, regularly led music in worship, served on multiple care and clearness committees, served as a spiritual nurturer for several QVS participants, and served as an Elder from 2013 to 2016. She served on the Board of Congregational Care for NWYM and led several workshops at the yearly meeting.
In 2013, Ruba received certification as a spiritual director after a two-year training program. She began offering spiritual companionship to individuals and groups, grounded in the Quaker testimony that every person has direct access to God through the “inward light” of the presence of Christ.
Ruba and Derek Lamson were married in 2015, and in the fall of 2017, Ruba learned that Eugene Friends Church was seeking a pastor. She felt a strong “nudge” from the Spirit to enter the process of discernment with Eugene Friends, and that leading grew stronger with each step, until Ruba was called as pastor of Eugene Friends and began her tenure there July 1, 2018. Ruba’s sense of God’s leading to this specific place of ministry – and into full-time ministry as a Quaker pastor – continues to grow, as does her gratitude for how Eugene Friends has welcomed her and Derek into their family of faith. Ruba is also thrilled at the openness and commitment to mutual support that she feels whenever Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting gathers, and she looks forward to deepening the relationships we have with one another as we work together as Friends.