FGC Gathering program is up, whew…

Thank you to every­one who refrained from com­ment­ing after 9pm last night. I final­ly slogged through the work of putting the FGC Gath­er­ing pro­gram online in my role as FGC web­mas­ter. Whoo-whee! For those who don’t know, the Gath­er­ing is a week-long con­fer­ence held at dif­fer­ent loca­tions each sum­mer: this year’s takes place Sev­en­th Mon­th 2 – 9 in Blacks­burg, Vir­ginia.

Now I guess it’s time to think about work­shops. Zach Moon and I are offer­ing up one called “Strangers to the Covenant” but then you know that already. Liz Oppen­heimer aka the The Good Raised Up is lead­ing one called “Quak­er Iden­ti­ty: Yearn­ing, Form­ing, Deep­en­ing” that I sus­pect will be informed by her “own expe­ri­ence of step­ping into a Quak­er iden­ti­ty”. There’s also an excit­ing his­to­ry work­shop being led by Bet­sy Caz­den, “Dilem­mas from Our Quak­er Past” (I have to admit when I saw the list­ing I won­dered if I should call Zach up and assure him he’d be fine doing the Strangers work­shop on his own so I could take Betsy’s). Oth­er men­tions: my wife Julie real­ly liked the Lynn Fitz-Hugh work­shop she took a few years ago.

As always there are work­shops whose lead­ers I know to be more solid and ground­ed than the work­shop they’re propos­ing; con­verse­ly, there are work­shops that sound more inter­est­ing than I know their lead­er to be. Like always there are plen­ty whose appeal and/or rel­e­vance to Quak­erism I just don’t com­pre­hend at all, but that’s the Gath­er­ing.

Any rec­om­men­da­tions from the peanut gallery? I should say that I’d like to refrain from ridi­cul­ing all of the work­shops that beg to be made fun of. It feels as if this would edge too close to detrac­tion. We will only get to King­dom by mod­el­ing Chris­tian char­i­ty and wear­ing our love on our sleeves.

  • I should say that I’d like to refrain from ridi­cul­ing all of the work­shops that beg to be made fun of. It feels as if this would edge too close to detrac­tion. We will only get to King­dom by mod­el­ing Chris­tian char­i­ty and wear­ing our love on our sleeves.
    I admit, as your dopple­ganger, that I was tempt­ed at doing the very same thing. I even hint­ed to doing such in one of my recent posts. Your com­ment suit­ably rein­forced my hes­i­ta­tion for doing so based on sim­i­lar rea­sons.
    Hav­ing not­ed that, here are the work­shops that strike my ini­tial fan­cy (if I were to attend, that is, but I am still in doubt regard­ing):
    13. The Blessed Wor­ship Com­mu­ni­ty
    16. Dilem­mas from Our Quak­er Past
    18. Elias Hicks, Quak­er Con­ser­v­a­tive
    22. Fem­i­nine God in the Hebrew Prophets
    25. The Gospel of John
    26. Le Chambon’s Non­vi­o­lent Resistence & its chal­lenge to Friends Today
    35. The Pow­er of Ear­ly Quak­erism
    36. Quak­er Iden­ti­ty: Yearn­ing, Form­ing, Deep­en­ing
    38. Quak­ers and the His­tor­i­cal Jesus
    40. Rufus Jones & Mod­ern Quak­erism
    43. Walk­ing with Gand­hi
    61. Spirit-led Elder­ing as Essen­tial
    Hmm, that’s all for now.
    By the way, the site looks great!

  • Robin Mohr

    At first I want­ed to put in a plug for the work­shop lead­ers that are com­ing from San Fran­cis­co and Paci­fic Year­ly Meet­ing. But it turns out there are a lot more than I could com­ment on.
    I won’t be at the Gath­er­ing this year. Can’t afford the time off of work and the four plane tick­ets for FGC and PYM this sum­mer, but I have put it on our fam­i­ly cal­en­dar to be in Wash­ing­ton next sum­mer.
    But if I were going, I would want to take the work­shop on Clerk­ing. I’ve heard it was good in past years. How do peo­ple actu­al­ly lis­ten for the lead­ings of the Spir­it in oth­ers? On the spot and in real time? How do I get past my own opin­ion to what is Truth?
    Is it detrac­tion to say that I think some of the advance read­ing lists are overkill?

  • The work­shops that I would be con­sid­er­ing, if I myself weren’t slat­ed to offer one (#36 in Joe G’s list), would be
    13. The Blessed Wor­ship Com­mu­ni­ty
    22. Fem­i­nine God in the Hebrew Prophets
    35. The Pow­er of Ear­ly Quak­erism
    61. Spirit-led Elder­ing as Essen­tial.
    Some that appear on Joe’s list do not appeal to me because of the pre­sen­ter. Oth­ers do not appeal to me because of the mate­ri­al.
    Peo­ple spoke pret­ty high­ly of Tony Prete (#22) when he gave a ple­nary address at a recent Gath­er­ing; I’ve been some­what tak­en by Deb­o­rah Haines’ per­spec­tive on Friends (#35), though her work­shop might be more his­to­ry than I can bear in a week, and I don’t know Deb­o­rah H. as a pre­sen­ter. And some­one I know was in Margery Larrabee’s work­shop on Elder­ing (#61) and liked it, so I’d be curi­ous to be a fly on the wall. I’m also glad for Julie’s ear­lier praise for The Blessed Wor­ship Com­mu­ni­ty (#13).
    But I know that a suc­cess­ful, engag­ing work­shop often depends on the par­tic­i­pants as well as the work­shop lead­er…
    As for the Clerk­ing work­shop, I attend­ed Art’s work­shop last year. I have mixed feel­ings about it: He does have a wealth of infor­ma­tion at his fin­ger­tips, as evi­denced by the inch-thick pack­et that we each pur­chased from him (required). Art rais­es impor­tant ques­tions that helped ground me in why Friends do things the way we do, and his pas­sion and joy for Quak­erism are con­ta­gious – rea­sons enough to sign up for the work­shop.
    But I per­son­al­ly hoped for oppor­tu­ni­ties to prac­tice clerk­ing with­in the work­shop, and there was no room for that. At times I felt Art put his pack­et of papers ahead of the expe­ri­en­tial prac­tice of the par­tic­i­pants – but then again, I’m more of an expe­ri­en­tial learn­er and pre­sen­ter.
    (I hope I don’t eat the­se words in the course of guid­ing Friends through #36 this sum­mer!)
    Bless­ings,
    Liz

  • Robin Mohr

    Is there a Gath­er­ing com­mit­tee that screens work­shop ideas or is it pret­ty much any­one who wants to lead a work­shop can do it? Are there cri­te­ria for who can lead one? My sense is that the guide­li­nes for con­tent are pret­ty open, are there any rules?
    Peace,
    Robin

  • Dave French

    Work­shop 35 Rec­om­mend­ed
    I should say that I’d like to refrain from ridi­cul­ing all of the work­shops that beg to be made fun of. It feels as if this would edge too close to detrac­tion. We will only get to King­dom by mod­el­ing Chris­tian char­i­ty and wear­ing our love on our sleeves.
    Thank you, Mar­t­in. I appre­ci­ate your dis­ci­pline. I too am con­cerned that a cul­ture among unpro­grammed Friends has lim­i­ta­tions which endan­ger our sur­vival. I must say, how­ev­er, that your posts have pushed more than a few of my but­tons and before this I have not found a way to respond.
    I see myself as a con­vinced Friend attract­ed to the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends through its spir­i­tu­al, mys­ti­cal roots. I am a mem­ber of Madis­on Month­ly Meet­ing, a large, urban, often ground­ed :), sel­dom wel­com­ing 🙁 meet­ing in Madis­on, Wis­con­sin. I, too, long for more “authen­tic” expe­ri­ences in my com­mu­ni­ty but for now put my energies into attempt­ing to sup­port the middle- and high school-aged youth of my meet­ing.
    On the oth­er hand, it was through the meet­ings (most­ly “Lib­er­al”) that I have attend­ed that I have grown from my Christo­pho­bic past to a present eager to bet­ter under­stand the Christ that ear­ly Friends knew. From this per­spec­tive, I high­ly rec­om­mend
    Deb­o­rah Haines’ work­shop 35, The Pow­er of Ear­ly Quak­erism. Deb­o­rah is one who I see is at once pas­sion­ate about Quak­erism, and hum­ble about her place in it. As much as our Quak­er cul­ture can be exclu­sive, she works tire­less­ly to live from a place of inclu­sion. Her min­istry speaks this, and on more than one occa­sion in last year’s work­shop unset­tled some of the all-too-comfortable in the group.
    Hav­ing said that, I don’t know how wel­come I feel here. I’m an old fart (turned 50 two weeks ago and toot­ing away). As an assist­ing clerk of a FGC pro­gram com­mit­tee and for­mer co-clerk of two Junior Gath­er­ing com­mit­tees, I guess I’m part of the FGC “estab­lish­ment”, although I’ve been attend­ing about 15 years and a mem­ber a lit­tle over 10. I don’t believe I have it all fig­ured out, and that’s one of the beau­ties of my jour­ney that I see. I’ve done Quak­er com­mit­tee work for most of those 15. It was because of Deb­o­rah that I joined Cen­tral Com­mit­tee a few years ago. I now work hard­er on any com­mit­tee (Advance­ment & Out­reach) than I ever have.
    In respon­se to your ques­tion, Robin, any­one can pro­pose to lead a work­shop. There is a rather elab­o­rate process through which work­shops are accept­ed for Gath­er­ing, how­ev­er. I wish I could put my fin­gers on the present guide­li­nes, but don’t have them right now. To lead a work­shop for 2006 in Taco­ma, for exam­ple, one would do well to start prepar­ing now, with the idea of mak­ing an appli­ca­tion ear­ly this sum­mer.
    The work­shop sub­com­mit­tee of each Gath­er­ing Plan­ning Com­mit­tee works long hours, many of them in the sum­mer and fall before gath­er­ing dis­cern­ing which of the many work­shops pro­posed will be select­ed. The work­shop sub­com­mit­tee meet­ings that I’ve sat in on have seemed to be quite ground­ed.
    Any­way, I hope that this has been help­ful.
    Aard­lyQuak­ing,
    Dave

  • Liz

    There is a work­shop sub­com­mit­tee of the Gath­er­ing Com­mit­tee. The guide­li­nes for that sub­com­mit­tee state:
    Things to Con­sid­er When Review­ing Pro­pos­als
    Gen­er­al Ques­tions (used to decide on the pro­pos­al itself)
    • Do I per­son­al­ly know this per­son or this person’s work or abil­i­ties?
    • Does this “feel” like a good work­shop?
    • Does this work­shop chal­lenge us as Friends?
    • Is this a safe place to exam­ine who we are and what we are about?
    • Does this work­shop fit in with the over­all tenor of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty and good process?
    Bal­ance Issues (used by the work­shop com­mit­tee to eval­u­ate the work­shops for the Gath­er­ing as a whole)
    • Top­ics
    • Lead­er style; Lead­er out­look
    • Where the lead­er is from geo­graph­i­cal­ly?
    • Gen­der
    • Age
    There is a lot of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty in select­ing work­shos for the Gath­er­ing. The com­mit­tee is restrict­ed to a speci­fic max­i­mum num­ber of work­shops (based on the expect­ed atten­dance.) Also, all lead­ers are expect­ed to sub­mit a sup­port let­ter from some­one who knows them and has expe­ri­enced their work­shop.
    It’s more an art than a sci­ence, and some­times a (Quak­er­ly) gam­ble.

  • Julie DeMarchi Hei­land

    Hiya Robin,
    I heard that you’re in NJ right now but I’ll post this any­way just in case you want to read it lat­er when you get a chance. I’m no expert on FGC Gath­er­ing pro­ce­dure, but I can say that I was on the work­shop sub­com­mit­tee a few years ago. Boy was it a com­plete night­mare. It was an AWFUL expe­ri­ence, but cer­tain­ly one of the many that pre­cip­i­tat­ed my leav­ing Quak­erism. Liz Per­ch, the gath­er­ing coör­di­na­tor (FGC staff) had rec­om­mend­ed me and seemed to real­ly hope that I’d do it, but I did NOT want to. I end­ed up doing it as a sort of a favor to her, because she’d asked me and I felt guilty! (Some­times resis­tance is use­less!) I had a feel­ing I’d be a sort of sac­ri­fi­cial lamb and I won­dered if she sus­pect­ed as much. And I guess I was.
    Speak­ing from my expe­ri­ence, I will just say that my under­stand­ing is that the work­shop sub­com­mit­tee is mere­ly a rub­ber stamp­ing body. It has *NO REAL POWER* and those on it who raise legit­i­mate objec­tions or ques­tions as to a workshop’s con­tent are not wel­come. The only “legit­i­mate” objec­tions per­tained to:
    (1) The capac­i­ty of the lead­er. (Usu­al­ly only extreme cas­es.) In oth­er words, if the lead­er was not known to the sub­com­mit­tee or oth­ers or they’ve heard rumors as to the capa­bil­i­ty of such per­sons in the past or in oth­er con­texts. One notable ques­tion the year I was on the sub­com­mit­tee was when one or two elder­ly peo­ple sub­mit­teed pro­pos­als and indi­vid­u­als on the com­mit­tee had heard that this indi­vid­u­al was hav­ing mem­o­ry prob­lems or some­thing. Usu­al­ly any ques­tions as to the capa­bil­i­ty of a poten­tial lead­er had noth­ing what­so­ev­er to do with ques­tion­able ref­er­ences, men­tal sta­bil­i­ty, or any­thing like that. The­se con­cerns were usu­al­ly based only on rumor or lack of famil­iar­i­ty with the per­son involved. It felt sort of icky.
    (2) The oth­er objec­tion that could be “legit­i­mate­ly” raised was when there was an over­abun­dance of a type of work­shop. At the begin­ning of the sub­com­mit­tee meet­ings a list is com­piled of all the types of work­shops that are need­ed and how many of each (like dance, bicy­cling, “Quak­erism,” cou­ple enrich­ment, etc.). If only three dance/movement work­shops are seen as need­ed given the pro­ject­ed atten­dance that year and the need in past years and six are sub­mit­ted, sev­er­al will be declined.
    So the point here is that *THEOLOGICAL OBJECTIONS WERE NOT SEEN AS LEGITIMATE ONES.* I assume that this is true from year to year sim­ply because of the nature of the sub­com­mit­tee and the amount of pow­er del­e­gat­ed to it (or lack there­of). I raised objec­tions to sev­er­al work­shops based on con­tent before I gave up (real­iz­ing the above), under­stand­ing this was use­less. Also, the clerk of the sub­com­mit­tee that year real­ly, real­ly detest­ed me. Not a warm and friend­ly indi­vid­u­al.
    Also – an aside – I was sup­posed to have been clerk or co-clerk of the com­mit­tee that year, and when I showed up in Pitts­burgh and they saw how old I was, I was imme­di­ate­ly DE-clerked. The less-than-integrity-filled gath­er­ing clerks that year had the plea­sure of telling me in a very back­wards and dis­hon­est way. I con­front­ed them about the age fac­tor but they denied it vig­or­ous­ly (but not very believ­ably – boy did they squirm)! But that’s a sto­ry in its own right.
    I think it should be men­tioned that, from my per­spec­tive on the sub­com­mit­tee, lead­ers’ ref­er­ences were not checked (may­be it’s seen as too daunt­ing a task) and there were no back­ground checks done. It is my under­stand­ing that things have tight­ened up a lit­tle at FGC on this front since that time, but I nonethe­less found this lax­i­ty dis­turbing. Some of the pro­pos­als sub­mit­ted were tru­ly odd and I ques­tioned the men­tal state of the pro­posers. One such work­shop, I recall, dealt with gold­fish train­ing. Appar­ent­ly I was the only one who thought this was just a teeny bit weird. I also object­ed to the non­the­ism work­shops for what I con­sid­ered to be obvi­ous rea­sons. One oth­er man on the com­mit­tee old­er than I voiced sim­i­lar objec­tions and was heard (actu­al­ly, tolerated)more than I, but we were both basi­cal­ly ignored. Since he could not make one of the fol­low­ing meet­ings (and instead sent a let­ter along with his con­cerns) he was eas­ier to ignore and I was just belit­tled by the clerk (lit­er­al­ly) for hav­ing the nerve to object. We also both object­ed to the past life work­shop. All the­se work­shops, you will note, are in the gath­er­ing pro­gram this year being offered again. So nothing’s changed.
    The only work­shop that was ques­tion­able was the sweat lodge work­shop. The red her­ring for this one was the poten­tial­ly racist com­po­nent. But since it had been allowed for so many years in this and oth­er con­texts the prece­dent was seen as hard to fight. Of course there was also lots of stuff going on behind the sce­nes at Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, and ulti­mate­ly this was the ratio­nale for ini­tial­ly declin­ing the work­shop (ie: “they told us we should decline it so we have to”). In addi­tion there’s lots of age stuff going on around this workshop/sweatlodge stuff. Since pri­mar­i­ly young adult birthrights are involved they are lis­tened to with greater inter­est. The­o­log­i­cal objec­tions to the sweat­lodge are unheard of. In a pub­lic sense, to the best of my knowl­edge, Mar­t­in and I are the only ones who’ve actu­al­ly stood up and voiced objec­tions from a Quak­er the­o­log­i­cal point of view. It’s my per­spec­tive that the con­cern about the sweatlodge’s racist con­tent, although on some lev­el cer­tain­ly legit­i­mate, is an excuse to avoid real issues of age and the­ol­o­gy and RE prob­lems. Basi­cal­ly it’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to avoid a good hard look at lib­er­al Quak­erism today and how it’s fail­ing just about any­body under 45.
    Before I close I should also state that, at the time I served on the sub­com­mit­tee, there were NO stat­ed goals, out­li­nes or para­me­ters as to the role of the sub­com­mit­tee set for­ward by the sub­com­mit­tee itself or Cen­tral Com­mit­tee. So for those of us who had not served on the com­mit­tee in the past (most of us) it was a feel-as-you-go sort of thing. I did not know going into it that the­o­log­i­cal objec­tions were con­sid­ered inap­pro­pri­ate and we were to mere­ly screen out excess work­shops. None of this was artic­u­lat­ed.
    I guess that’s it, and that’s cer­tain­ly more than I intend­ed to say. If you have any ques­tions about my expe­ri­ences on the sub­com­mit­tee I’d be hap­py to try to answer.
    God bless,
    Julie

  • Oh boy, a sim­ple post say­ing I got a project done and now: look at the­se com­ments. Ay-ya-ya! So in order:
    Dave: It’s great to see you here, you’re cer­tain­ly very wel­come to vis­it, com­ment, etc. Con­grat­u­la­tions on the big 5 – 0. Much as I might like to rag on your age, I’m close enough (38 this past Firt Day) that I can dim­ly imag­ine hit­ting 50 myself some­day.
    I do say out­ra­geous things some­times but I hope it’s out of love and I try to find ways to talk about the joy of what I’ve found as I’ve delved deep­er into Quak­erism. I most often call myself a “Con­ser­v­a­tive Lib­er­al Quak­er” since if you push me too hard on any the­o­log­i­cal fine point you’ll find me a lib­er­al. That’s a great plug for Deborah’s work­shop; I sus­pect it will attract a great bunch of par­tic­i­pants.
    ***
    Liz P: thanks for the offi­cial guide­li­nes. It’s great to see them. I don’t sus­pect Robin expect­ed the Gath­er­ing coör­di­na­tor to answer her query!
    ***
    Julie: I’m a lit­tle uneasy with the com­ment, just because I specif­i­cal­ly don’t want to get into a bash­ing ses­sion (even if it’s been at least par­tial­ly earned). But your expe­ri­ence is impor­tant and see­ing that we have two cen­tral com­mit­tee mem­bers and one staff­per­son com­ment­ing already, there’s obvi­ous­ly some inter­est in this con­ver­sa­tion.
    My under­stand­ing is that for bet­ter or worse Friends Gen­er­al Con­fer­ence is the­o­log­i­cal­ly neu­tral. It’s embed­ded deep with­in the basic DNA of the orga­ni­za­tion. It’s the rock from which every­thing else starts (metaphor cho­sen specif­i­cal­ly to make Julie go “ahh!”). It’s a strength, it’s a weak­ness, it’s just some­thing that’s there. If one isn’t com­fort­able work­ing with­in that frame­work (and there are good rea­sons why some­one wouldn’t be) then it’s hard to serve in it.
    Per­son­al­ly, although I have my con­cerns, I think FGC does a good job try­ing to sort through the issues. While many of the Gath­er­ing work­shops are pret­ty flakey that’s sim­ply rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the larg­er Quak­er world. Any sort of top-down deci­sion by FGC staff or com­mit­tees won’t change that. There sim­ply is no sort of the­o­log­i­cal uni­ty point from which we might try to define what is or isn’t a Quak­er work­shop.
    The need­ed change is a cul­tur­al one and that takes time, patience and lots of prayer to get through the inevitable frus­tra­tions. The only way we’ll have a more sub­stan­tive Gath­er­ing is by hav­ing a more sub­stan­tive and self-knowledgable lib­er­al Quak­erism. That means:
    * Pub­lish­ing. See Chuck Fager’s “Beyond the Age of Amne­sia”:http://​quak​er​.org/​q​u​e​s​t​/​i​s​s​u​e​3​-​4​.​h​tml on twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry FGC his­to­ry. See Bet­sy Cazden’s awe­some “Fel­low­ships, Con­fer­ences And Asso­ci­a­tions: The Lim­its Of The Lib­er­al Quak­er Rein­ven­tion Of Meet­ing Poli­ty”:http://​www​.quaker​books​.org/​g​e​t​/11 – 99-01524 – 5
    * Sub­stan­tive work­shops. Liz Oppenheimer’s “Quak­er iden­ti­ty”:http://​www​.fgc​quak​er​.org/​g​a​t​h​e​r​i​n​g​/​w​o​r​k​s​h​o​p​s​/​w​o​r​k​3​6​.​php work­shop, Deb­o­rah Haine’s pow­er of “ear­ly Quak­erism work­shop”:http://​www​.fgc​quak​er​.org/​g​a​t​h​e​r​i​n​g​/​w​o​r​k​s​h​o​p​s​/​w​o​r​k​3​5​.​php, my work­shop with Zach Moon focus­ing on how “younger Friends can reclaim and redis­cov­er Quak­erism”:http://​www​.fgc​quak​er​.org/​g​a​t​h​e​r​i​n​g​/​w​o​r​k​s​h​o​p​s​/​w​o​r​k​4​9​.​php.
    * Web­sites, blogs, long com­men­taries on posts.
    * Vocal min­istry in meet­ing (I gave some this past First Day at Kala­ma­zoo; ughh!, how I hat­ed and resist­ed giv­ing that mes­sage).
    * Vol­ley­ball games (see “A Sim­ple Tes­ti­mony”:http://​www​.non​vi​o​lence​.org/​m​a​r​t​i​n​k​/​a​r​c​h​i​v​e​s​/​0​0​0​5​6​0​.​php): real love given with no cal­cu­la­tion of rank or pol­i­tics.
    I think many peo­ple would love to see the sub­stan­tive work­shops become more pop­u­lar. There is a move­ment of the Spir­it, there is a deep­en­ing hap­pen­ing, but it will only be made man­i­fest if we can share the joy and – yes – fill up those work­shops. So again, let’s focus on the ones we like and kind of ignore those gold­fish work­shops.

  • So many com­ments, so lit­tle time. smile
    First, for the record, Liz P and I are two dif­fer­ent peo­ple. Liz P (FGC staff per­son) made the com­ment about the guide­li­nes that are used by the work­shop sub­com­mit­tee. I can see I’m going to have to return to sign­ing my com­ments as “Liz Opp” again.
    Sec­ond, I’m not sure where I stand with the implied ques­tion, “How Quak­er should FGC’s Gath­er­ing work­shops real­ly be?”
    At my first Gath­er­ing (Kala­ma­zoo 1995), I was not ready for a Quak­er work­shop. I wasn’t even ready to be in wor­ship on a dai­ly basis, such as with Friends for LGBTQ Con­cerns. It was a huge stretch just for me to be at the Gath­er­ing. …Much of my free time in the after­noon was spent play­ing vol­ley­ball and feel­ing joy in the spir­it of fel­low­ship in doing so. But I came home from that Gath­er­ing exhil­i­rat­ed and swept off my feet by the pow­er of Love and Joy that I expe­ri­enced nonethe­less, and I took a huge step in my Quak­er devel­op­ment:
    I hadn’t real­ized that Quak­ers from around the coun­try, let alone the con­ti­nent and the world, knew and expe­ri­enced the pow­er of the Spir­it through unpro­grammed wor­ship and Spirit-based fel­low­ship as I had. I had found a larg­er con­text than just my month­ly meet­ing which sup­port­ed and affirmed the faith tra­di­tion I was explor­ing.
    So my ear­ly expe­ri­ence at the Gath­er­ing con­firms for me that, just as “FGC is more than the Gath­er­ing,” the Gath­er­ing is more than just its work­shops.
    And there also was my stint as a work­shop lead­er for a num­ber of years, pro­vid­ing the very pop­u­lar work­shop, “Bring­ing Our Shad­ow into the Light.” I was too young in my Quak­erism to be able to lift up con­cepts like “answer­ing that of God in one anoth­er” or “allow­ing God to speak direct­ly to us about our con­di­tion.” But there were longer peri­ods of wor­ship and wor­ship shar­ing for Friends dur­ing the time togeth­er, and I believe par­tic­i­pants brought their own Quak­erism to the table, con­se­quent­ly help­ing the work­shop stay con­nect­ed to some form of our faith and prac­tice. And in the years since then, Friends from that work­shop still approach me and tell me how their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Quak­er com­mu­ni­ty has been affect­ed as a result of that expe­ri­ence. In ret­ro­spect, I have asked myself, Where was the Quak­erism in that work­shop? Yet clear­ly, there were fruits…
    And now of course, here I am today, in a dif­fer­ent place in my Quak­er jour­ney, yet nowhere near the end of it. I have doubt­ed if I have the right to share ideas about Quak­er iden­ti­ty, but I am trust­ing the lead­ing I expe­ri­enced and the dis­cern­ment of oth­ers as I’ve explored and pre­pared.
    I think there are many doors through which we pass as we grow as Quak­ers. A closed door for one Friend may lead to a secret pas­sage for anoth­er.
    We need to be care­ful in select­ing our gate­keep­ers, and we need to be care­ful of how many locks to put on the doors. And our “gate­keep­ers,” such clerks of Gath­er­ing work­shop sub­com­mit­tees and oth­er (sub)committees, need to have train­ing, elder­ship, and sup­port if they are to be effec­tive, prin­ci­pled, and Spirit-led.
    The last point I’ll make for now is that it’s a dif­fi­cult and slip­pery slope to nav­i­gate, once FGC con­sid­ers, and the Gath­er­ing offers, work­shops that draw heav­i­ly on a faith tra­di­tion out­side of Quak­erism, or if the bal­ance of work­shops at Gath­er­ing leans too far to non-Quaker relat­ed top­ics, per­haps.
    Over­all, though, from where I sit, the Gath­er­ing seems to fill a niche in the larg­er Quak­er gestalt of con­tem­po­rary lib­er­al Friends, and I’m glad it is what it is for now.
    Bless­ings,
    Liz Opp

  • Robin Mohr

    Well, I didn’t know that the actu­al coör­di­na­tor would answer my ques­tion, but I’m glad to have clear infor­ma­tion. I won­der about the high lev­el of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty of choos­ing work­shop lead­ers and top­ics, but I know I don’t have a bet­ter sug­ges­tion of how to do it.
    For the last few years, I have found it use­ful just to read the descrip­tions of the work­shops that are offered: a ques­tion is posed each time, a small bit of spir­i­tu­al nudg­ing comes through, as I take a min­ute or much longer to con­sid­er would I want to take this one? And some­times, even though the answer for me is no, I am able to clar­i­fy my think­ing a lit­tle bit more about what is Quak­erism, what calls to me in my spir­i­tu­al jour­ney, what have I not con­sid­ered pre­vi­ous­ly.
    With­out the work­shop descrip­tions, I wouldn’t have thought about the­is­tic vs. non-theistic Quak­ers, even though I know one of the lead­ers of a non-theist work­shop – I wouldn’t have known that about her. Won­der­ing about Meet­ing for Bicy­cling helps me to remem­ber to (try to) pray with­out ceas­ing. Elias Hicks: Quak­er Con­ser­v­a­tive helps me to think about the vagaries of Quak­er his­to­ry and the mud­dle we are in today.
    A cou­ple of lead­ers I know have had to pull their thoughts togeth­er much more thor­ough­ly and explic­it­ly because they had signed up to lead a work­shop on one of their favorite top­ics. It’s been good for them, at the very least.
    I agree with Martin’s line, “While many of the Gath­er­ing work­shops are pret­ty flakey that’s sim­ply rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the larg­er Quak­er world,” and his list of things that will be required to move Quak­erism into a new cen­tu­ry of renewed faith and prac­tice. I’d like to reframe and re-emphasize one: TEACHING. Whether it is lead­ing FGC work­shops on the sub­stan­tive top­ics that inspire us or telling Bible sto­ries to preschool­ers or study­ing the life of Samuel Bow­nas, etc. with high school­ers or lean­ing into the teach­able moments in com­mit­tee meet­ings. We all have to do a bet­ter job of pass­ing on the pow­er of our faith in the flesh and blood, imper­fect Meet­ings that we have.
    (The prob­lem with writ­ing this online or even speak­ing about it in groups is that the peo­ple who have done the most already often feel most acute­ly that they haven’t done enough. Please con­sid­er, if you feel offend­ed, that if the shoe doesn’t fit, you don’t have to wear it.:)
    Re: posting/blogging online: My grow­ing sense is that in many Meet­ings, there are a few peo­ple, and more and more, who share this sense of want­i­ng deep­er, more authen­tic Quak­er expe­ri­ence of God in com­mu­ni­ty. The­se inter­net con­nec­tions are one way of nur­tur­ing the­se infant min­is­ters and elders – of help­ing one know that one is not alone, even when it looks that way to the naked eye – when one feels that way among the peo­ple one can actu­al­ly see. To dare to ask ques­tions and share our own prac­tice, to be “at once pas­sion­ate about Quak­erism, and hum­ble about [our] place in it” – I love that line too. But how much more pow­er­ful then to take the time to vis­it one anoth­er. To go to Meet­ing in oth­er towns and seek out the lone­ly hearts, yearn­ing for God in com­mu­ni­ty, espe­cial­ly when we know some of their names. [Mar­t­in, you may want to delete this part if it is a risk to say this online, but my fam­i­ly was recent­ly in New Jer­sey for non-Quaker rea­sons, and had the love­ly expe­ri­ence of meet­ing him and his fam­i­ly. It is impor­tant to me to go beyond online com­mu­ni­ca­tion when God leads us close enough to make it pos­si­ble.] The next step for me will be to take our young peo­ple to meet oth­er young Friends in their too-small local groups.
    Vocal min­istry in a new place is dif­fi­cult for me, but some­times feels unavoid­able. I nev­er know how what I have heard and passed on will be heard by those I don’t know and who don’t know me. May­be this is one rea­son why Friends used to require clear­ness from their Meet­ing and trav­el­ing min­utes before trav­el­ing in the min­istry. But my most recent expe­ri­ence (last mon­th in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia) was very pos­i­tive – I had this very expe­ri­ence of being able to con­nect with some of the oth­er Friends who were exper­i­ment­ing with deep­er Quak­erism in an oth­er­wise very social­ly active/theogically diverse Meet­ing.