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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Gathering

For those of you who don’t know, FGC Gathering is an annual week of Quaker worship, fun and learning that takes place in a different spot every summer. This year it was in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a very reasonable train ride from Philadelphia, which my son and I took, along with scores of other Quakers, while my daughter spent her first week at sleep over camp and my husband stayed home with the dog. My son and I arrived home last night after a very full week of multigenerational community. It’s hard to know where to start to blog about it—I heard so many interesting speakers and had so many experiences, so I’ll just share a few that stand out.

One highlight was the Tribe1 performance on Tuesday night. As some of you know, I taught a course on race in the United States last semester that really drained me emotionally. This concert refilled my cup and renewed my commitment to work that brings people together across the lines that divide us. It also reminded me that sometimes music and joy can help us see our oneness much more effectively than lectures or academic articles. Not sure what that means for my future teaching, but the sight of a multi-racial group of Quaker kids on the stage while adults were doing the conga in the aisle filled me with hope and renewed energy.

Another highlight was meeting several bloggers in person. A few organized a blogger dinner, and Chris M took a wonderful picture, which I have been shamelessly and unsuccessfully trying to copy for half an hour on the assumption that he would forgive me as long as I credited him. He also posted links to the blogs of people he met at Gathering, which is helpful because I’m eager to read how everyone else’s week went, especially after meeting them in person.

I also enjoyed leading an interest group on Parenting as a Spiritual Path. Carolyn Schodt from my meeting came as an elder and companion, something I had never asked for before, and I appreciated her loving presence, as well as the perspective of someone whose children are long grown. Some of the parents were in the thick of baby and toddler care, with the same questions I was asking a few years ago, like, “Is this ever going to get easier?” It was good for me to realize that, at least for me, it really has gotten easier. Still, it is always good to connect with other parents and share about our spiritual lives. I had promised the group that I would end early, since everyone had to go pick up kids from Junior Gathering, but after our closing prayer circle, people sat and talked another fifteen minutes, which I took as confirmation that parents appreciate the chance to talk about their struggles with one another. Not sure where this will go from here, but it was a good experience.

One of the most moving parts of Gathering this year for me was the story told by Amanda Kemp during the final performances of the storytelling workshop. She brought to life the famous (to Quakers) story of John Woolman's troubled conscience when, as a young white sales clerk in the seventeenth century, he was asked to write up a bill of sale for a slave. Amanda told the story from the perspective of the slave, Hannah, who prayed for young John during her own sale. Knowing that Woolman went on to become an important abolitionist made the story hopeful and inspiring, rather than depressing. Rereading my description now, I realize I can't quite convey the feeling of it, which is another reminder that art is sometimes more powerful than words.

On a personal level, it was great to see old friends and make a few new ones, including Amanda. My son had a blast as well and wants us to go again next year, which sounds good to me.

5 Comments:

Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

I got to spend some significant time with Amanda and found myself floating after each encounter. She is so awesome and her kids are great.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks for commenting, Peterson. And on the art being more powerful than words theme I should have mentioned your funny and thought provoking performance Thursday night!

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Chris Mohr said...

It was great to meet you and your son in person! We went to visit family in upstate N.Y. after the FGC Gathering, so I haven't had time to blog about it much.

Thanks for the link. You're most welcome to link to or copy the photo.

On another note, Robin & I both read your Pendle Hill Pamphlet and liked it. I hope to blog about it after we get home.

(Which will be a while. Our connecting flight from Las Vegas to SFO is delayed; I'm typing this at 11:50 pm Pacific Time, while our bodies are nominally still on Eastern...)

2:51 AM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks, Chris. And safe travels Mohr family!

7:13 AM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

It was so great to meet you, Eileen! And I'm glad that your interest group went so well. What a treat these Gatherings are, especially when bloggers--and some of our readers--get together.

I hope to see you again at other Gatherings and meet-ups, as Way opens.

Blessings,
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

10:07 AM  

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