Deepening the intervisitation of Gathering

The pro­gram for this year’s FGC Gath­er­ing of Friends went online at mid­night yes­ter­day – I stayed up late to flip the switch­es to make it live right as Third Month start­ed – right on sched­ule. By 12:10am EST four vis­i­tors had already come to the site! There’s a lot of inter­est in the Gath­er­ing, the first one on the West Coast. 

Stu­dents of late-20th Cen­tu­ry Quak­er his­to­ry can see the pro­gres­sion of Friends Gen­er­al Con­fer­ence from a very Philadelphia-centric, provin­cial body that had its annu­al gath­er­ing at a South Jer­sey beach town to one that real­ly does try to serve Friends across the coun­try. There’s loss­es in the changes (alum­ni of the Cape May Gath­er­ings all speak of them with misty eyes) but over­all it’s been a need­ed shift in focus. In recent years, a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of Gath­er­ing work­shop lead­ers have come from the “inde­pen­dent” unaf­fil­i­at­ed year­ly meet­ings of the West. It’s nice.

Joe G has been send­ing me emails about his selec­tion process (it’s almost real-time as he weighs each one!). It’s help­ful as it saves me the trou­ble of sort­ing through them. It’s usu­al­ly tough to find a work­shop I want to take. A lot of Friends I real­ly respect have told me they’ve stopped going to the Gath­er­ing after awhile because it just doesn’t feed them.

It’s a shame when these Friends stop com­ing. The Gath­er­ing is one of the most excit­ing annu­al coming-together of Quak­ers in North Amer­i­ca. It’s very impor­tant for new and/or iso­lat­ed Friends and it helps pull all its atten­ders into a wider Fel­low­ship. Inter­vis­i­ta­tion has always been one of the most impor­tant tools for knit­ting togeth­er Friends and the Gath­er­ing has been fill­ing much of that need for lib­er­al Friends for the last hun­dred years.

I’ve been hav­ing this sense that Gath­er­ing needs some­thing more. I don’t know what that some­thing is, only that I long to con­nect more with oth­er Friends. My best con­ver­sa­tions have invari­ably tak­en place when I stopped to talk with some­one while run­ning across cam­pus late to some event. These Oppor­tu­ni­ties have been pre­cious but they’re always so fran­tic. The Trav­el­ing Min­istries Pro­gram often has a won­der­ful evening inter­est group but by the time we’ve gone around shar­ing our names, sto­ries and con­di­tions, it’s time to break. I’m not look­ing for a new pro­gram (don’t wor­ry Liz P!, wait it’s not you who has to wor­ry!), just a way to have more con­ver­sa­tions with the Quak­erQuak­er Con­ver­gent Friends – which in this con­text I think boils down to those with some­thing of a call to min­istry and an inter­est in Quak­er vision & renew­al. Let’s all find a way of con­nect­ing more this year, yes?
_For those inter­est­ed I’ve signed up for these work­shops: “Blessed Com­mu­ni­ty in James’ Epistle”: (led by “Max Hansen”: of “Berke­ley Friends Church”:, “Deep­en­ing the Silence, Invit­ing Vital Ministry”: (20), and “Find­ing Our­selves in the Bible”: (22)._
h4. Relat­ed Entries Elsewhere:
* “Robin”:
* “LizOpp”:

  • Ah, the Gathering.
    It’s true that the Gath­er­ing cer­tain­ly brought me to a new under­stand­ing of Quak­erism… despite the fact that the work­shop I took was about rela­tion­ships between men and women, hav­ing noth­ing to do with Quak­er prac­tice, the­ol­o­gy, or history.
    Is putting any ol’ top­ic into a Quak­er set­ting “enough”? Is it alright that Friends “gain entry” into a new under­stand­ing of their faith through a week­long “hot­house” of liv­ing, wor­ship­ing, eat­ing, danc­ing, learn­ing, and singing with 1,200+ Friends from across Cana­da and the U.S.?
    As I change, I want the Gath­er­ing to change with me, so I can still feel like it is “new.” Oh, if only the Gath­er­ing were All About Me, my prob­lems would be solved. smile
    The fact is, the new­ness has worn off for me, and it is hard­er to find a work­shop that is a good fit for me, with­out per­son­al­ly know­ing the dozens of pre­sen­ters ahead of time.
    The oppor­tu­ni­ties for Spir­it to lead me to unex­pect­ed groups, places, expe­ri­ences, and indi­vid­u­als is prob­a­bly what keeps pulling me back. That and 4:30 wor­ship each day, and some of the singing, and some of the ple­nar­ies, and…
    I will say that one of the most eye-opening web­pages I found on FGC’s web­site about the his­to­ry of the Gath­er­ing is the one that has a col­lec­tion of posters from Gath­er­ings past.
    Well, I’ll leave this com­ment short, and per­haps post more of my thoughts on The Good Raised Up.
    Liz, The Good Raised Up

  • Dear Mar­tin, I’m com­ing, I’m com­ing. Well, WE’re com­ing. It’s still quite a haul for the four of us, even if it does seem close between Cal­i­for­nia and Wash­ing­ton to you New Jersey-centric folks. And I haven’t made up my mind yet on what work­shop to take.
    But this busi­ness of folks who stop com­ing because it doesn’t feed them: this is what push­es my but­tons at the meet­ing for wor­ship lev­el, and on up. The answer is not to stop com­ing but to come deep­er, hard­er, (I have to change metaphors, this will sound obscene.) But to demand more work, not less, this is the answer for me.
    How­ev­er, at our lat­est quar­ter­ly meet­ing, the best con­ver­sa­tion was one Chris and I had on the side­walk. What is the right bal­ance between the care­ful­ly orga­nized and facility-ated pro­gram and just hop­ing that way will open for the right con­nec­tions to be made? Good ques­tion. I’ve nev­er been to FGC before, so I don’t know how quite how over­packed the sched­ule is, or how wiped out my chil­dren (and I) will be by 7:00 p.m. but I’m hop­ing that you more expe­ri­enced folks will pull some­thing togeth­er and that I’ll make it there. Liz and Joe were just com­ment­ing today on how to orga­nize an inter­est group. I do believe some­thing good will come of all of this.

  • Hi Liz, Hi Robin,
    I start­ed a list of caveats on the post but didn’t include them. First and fore­most is that I’m a Gath­er­ing old-timer by now; a cer­tain jad­ed­ness is per­haps inevitable as the cam­pus­es all blur togeth­er in one’s mem­o­ry. I’ve also been a staff­per­son for all but my first Gath­er­ing, which means I can nev­er ful­ly par­tic­i­pate as an attender.
    I’m not look­ing to drop out, I just long to find/help cre­ate more oppor­tu­ni­ties for Oppor­tu­ni­ties – for shar­ing expe­ri­ences of divine vis­i­ta­tion and insights on min­istry and service.

  • Wait a minute, you mean I can sign up for more than one work­shop? I will have to go back and read the pro­gram descrip­tion more carefully!

  • Hey Mar­tin
    Thanks so much for the updates.
    How do we pro­pose a Spe­cial Inter­est Group meeting?
    Ore­gon Friends are eager to meet you folks… (and speak­ing per­son­al­ly, this will be my first FGC gathering)

  • Melyn­da Huskey

    Boy, I’m real­ly torn … Gath­er­ing will cer­tain­ly nev­er be this close again, and there are peo­ple I’d love to see face to face with whom I have occa­sion­al­ly exchanged emails, and some part of me knows that get­ting togeth­er with the Quak­erQuak­er peo­ple would be a tremen­dous and prob­a­bly nec­es­sary experience.
    But there’s that oth­er part of me – the part that hates crowds of peo­ple, and the enforced jol­li­ty of con­fer­ences, and being right up on top of the stuff that dri­ves me crazy about my beloved denom­i­na­tion – and is par­tic­u­lar­ly painful right now, as we work through a hor­ri­ble gen­er­a­tional con­flict which may split our Tiny Lit­tle Month­ly Meet­ing into Even Tinier Month­ly Meet­ing and Almost Infin­i­tes­i­mal Wor­ship Group.
    Yeah, I’ll be pray­ing about this.