FGC Gathering Workshop

This fall Zachary Moon and I put togeth­er a work­shop pro­pos­al for the 2005 Gath­er­ing, which has been approved: “Strangers to the Covenant” is the title and here’s the short descrip­tion:

This is for young Friends who want to break into the pow­er of Quak­erism: it’s the stuff you didn’t get in First Day School. We’ll con­nect with his­tor­i­cal Quak­ers whose pow­er­ful min­istry came in their teens and twen­ties and we’ll look at how Friends wove God, covenants and gospel order togeth­er to build a move­ment that rocked the world. We’ll mine Quak­er his­to­ry to reclaim the pow­er of our tra­di­tion, to explore the liv­ing pow­er of the tes­ti­monies and our wit­ness in the world.

This was very much an “as way opens” process. At the 2004 Gath­er­ing I felt sad that there weren’t more work­shops that I’d like to attend. And obvi­ous­ly I have a long-standing con­cern to sup­port younger Friends. But I wasn’t sure if I had the skills to han­dle this. One piece of dis­cern­ment was lead­ing the Quak­erism 101 class at Med­ford Meet­ing: I knew I would have most of the ses­sions under my belt by the time the work­shop sub­mis­sion dead­line came around and I hoped I’d have a feel whether I actu­al­ly like lead­ing work­shops!

The Med­ford expe­ri­ence was sur­pris­ing­ly good, even on weeks where I could have been bet­ter pre­pared. I learned a lot and gained con­fi­dence in “teach­ing” Quak­erism to Medford’s class of very weighty, expe­ri­enced Friends.

Still, the Gath­er­ing work­shop sub­mis­sion dead­line was loom­ing and I had no spe­cif­ic top­ic in mind. Julie, my wife, was get­ting a lit­tle sus­pi­cious whether the work­shop would hap­pen or not. I knew that the most impor­tant thing was attract­ing the right mix of eager, curi­ous par­tic­i­pants and that for me the top­ic was almost sec­ondary. Still: a focus and top­ic is impor­tant, yes.

The week before the dead­line, I attend­ed the FGC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee meet­ing in New Wind­sor, Mary­land, as a staff­per­son. In a lunchtime dis­cus­sion I learned that my friend Zachary Moon was also con­sid­er­ing lead­ing his first work­shop. As soon as we sat down and start­ed talk­ing it seemed like the obvi­ous thing to do. The dis­cern­ment to co-lead this took two a half sec­onds or so, but of course this quick process was built on the thought, prayer and dis­cern­ment both of us had already been giv­ing the mat­ter. I’ve found that when I’ve laid the ground­work for a deci­sion, things can often move supris­ing­ly quick­ly.

The work­shop has devel­oped dif­fer­ent­ly than I sus­pect­ed. The most sig­ni­cant piece is its age lim­i­ta­tion: it’s for high school and adult young Friends only, mean­ing it’s par­tic­i­pa­tion is lim­it­ed to 15 to 35 years olds. I’ve always been a lit­tle wor­ried about con­struct­ing youth ghet­tos but I think it will work in this case. I apol­o­gize in advance to those Quak­er Ranter read­ers who might like to take it but can’t because of age (I’m too old myself, after all!). There will be many oth­er chances to spend time at Gath­er­ing and Zachary and I are only a part of a shift that’s been hap­pen­ing at the FGC Gath­er­ing over the last few years.

  • Liz Oppen­heimer

    Woo-hoo! I’ve been wait­ing to read/hear about your work­shop. This is just ter­rif­ic, and I res­onate and affirm the truth of your process: “I’ve found that when I’ve laid the ground­work for a deci­sion, things can often move supris­ing­ly quick­ly.” Friend Arthur Larrabee often says, “The Spir­it favors the well-prepared,” and I think the expe­ri­ence you and Zachary had in meet­ing one anoth­er at the Lord’s table, so to speak, affirms this. I feel caught up in the wind of the Spir­it, and I believe there will be a new sort of buzz around cam­pus dur­ing the week of the Gath­er­ing.
    Bless­ings, Liz

  • I haven’t even real­ly thought about the FGC gath­er­ing, but now I think I should. The prospect of this work­shop makes my soul tin­gle.

  • Jef­frey Hipp

    Awe­some! If the Way opens for me to be at this year’s Gath­er­ing, I look for­ward to tak­ing part in the work­shop. It’s a bit unclear if I’ll be going to the World Gath­er­ing of Young Friends, but if I do, that and NEYM Ses­sions will be stretch­ing my vaca­tion hours rather thin.
    I’ve also been con­sid­er­ing whether an inter­est group on plain dress could con­tribute some­thing mean­ing­ful to the Gath­er­ing — whether it would draw enough peo­ple, etc.
    Mar­tin — please has­sle me to send you an e-mail about the NEYM YAF mid-winter retreat. It was a rather intense, prophet­ic and rockin’ expe­ri­ence for us. Plus, more than 50 peo­ple attend­ed!

  • …and Zachary and I are only a part of a shift that’s been hap­pen­ing at the FGC Gath­er­ing over the last few years.
    Hey, Mar­tin!
    Con­grats on the upcom­ing work­shop. No prob­lem with the age “bound­aries”: this makes sense giv­en its top­ic and pur­pose.
    I prob­a­bly won’t be going to Gath­er­ing due to oth­er com­mit­ments. How­ev­er, the state­ment that you wrote above caught my eye. What kind of changes with the FGC Gath­er­ing are your refer­ring to? Curi­ous minds want to know… 🙂

  • I just have to report: I took a peek at the work­shops being offered at this year’s Gath­er­ing and there are at least four which I would _really really_ like to take. With 70-plus work­shops, this shouldn’t be a sur­prise but there have been years I’ve strug­gled to find any­thing that real­ly grabbed me. Maybe we’ll have to start a thread for the Quak­er Ranter top-ten work­shops once the Advance Pro­gram ships…

  • James

    This is real­ly inter­est­ing. Ear­ly Friends (and cer­tain recent ones like Howard Brin­ton) talked repeat­ed­ly about the dif­fer­ences between the sub­stance and the shad­ow; and the pow­er and the form.
    It seems that many FGC meet­ings have lapsed into shad­owy ponds with dry forms but not the kind of fire pos­sessed by their Quak­er fore­bears. Which reminds me of a meet­ing I used to attend: peo­ple there place greater val­ue on var­i­ous com­mit­tee meet­ings than on reli­gious edu­ca­tion…
    Please do post updates on this work­shop. I am inter­est­ed in know­ing how it will turn out (mind you, FGC work­shops usu­al­ly reflect nar­row­ly defined par­ti­san endeav­ors, so yours could be an unpleas­ant sur­prise to some…)

  • Glad to see the enthu­si­asm – it’s so encour­ag­ing! And no fair teas­ing those of us who won’t see the Gath­er­ing Advance Pro­gram until mid- or late-March! smile
    Any­way, more than once, it has occurred to me that since I am plan­ning a work­shop for adults at the Gath­er­ing about deep­en­ing and shar­ing our Quak­erism with oth­ers, and you and Zachary are plan­ning a work­shop for young adult Friends who are eager for expe­ri­enc­ing a rich Quak­erism, maybe there can be a way for our work­shop groups to come togeth­er some­how – for wor­ship shar­ing; wor­ship; a mutu­al ses­sion; I’m not sure what. …If noth­ing else, maybe us work­shop lead­ers can meet and share ideas, check-in, etc.
    Though don’t get me wrong: I know how hard it is to put aside time for a get-together like what I’m propos­ing. And I don’t even have kids or a job to fill while at the Gath­er­ing!
    Bless­ings,
    Liz