Tuesday, July 12, 2005

FGC Gathering 2005: The Experience of a clerking young Friend - MONDAY

Monday morning I awoke to my alarm at 7:30 and got up (without hitting snooze, as it was across the room and I was on the top bunk). I stumbled to the shower, and managed to make it to breakfast to meet up with some friends by 8 am - a full hour before workshops began. To many people, this is basic morning routine. To me, it was fascinating. My normal morning habits involved hitting the snooze button 4 or 5 times for an hour to an hour and half before actually getting up (and I set my alarm with this in mind), then pulling clothes on, grabbing necessary stuff, and being out the door about 10 minutes after first dragging myself from the blankets. Every year at Gathering for the four years in a row I've attended, my morning habits are dramatically different. I realized this year that it's because I am much more excited for the day coming than in any other circumstance, enough that I get out of bed earlier and more quickly than usual. Anywho, even though that's not as exciting and intense as my other experiences, I just felt it was an interesting thing to note.

Workshop went smoothly and I found that I was, indeed, quite comfortable sharing among the group of adult Friends there (and also an AYFer who I knew previously also turned out to be in the workshop). I probably won't speak a whole lot about my workshop in this series of posts, though it was a very good experience. I'll mention things that really stood out to me here and there, with perhaps some sort of summary toward the end of the week, but for now I'm going to focus more on events other than workshop.

As I was eating lunch, another HS clerk found me and told me that we HS clerks had a meeting with Kri (one of the two main co-coordinators of the HS program) at 1:30 - something had come up. It turned out that there was a major scheduling conflict with the high school program's out trip (a big trip that occurs every gathering for an entire Tuesday afternoon where the entire high school community goes to a nearby park and hangs out and swims and such) directly conflicted with Tuesday's Witness for Marriage Equality.

It's important to note here, for those who are not already aware, that in the last year, Virginia passed an incredibly homophobic law. FGC Gathering planners, out of care, concern, and consideration for FLGBTQC (Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer/Questioning Concerns), originally seriously considered relocating the Gathering to a different state, but this proved to be too complicated to do with such late notice. So out of support for FLGBTQC, and as a sort of protest to the state laws in place, this Witness, which would involve speakers and performers, was planned and open to the entire Gathering community. (If anyone has better details about this, feel free to add them in a comment if you think it's important enough.)

When Kri told us that it was a scheduling issue, I don't think the gravity of the issue initially hit home for me; then we began talking about it. Kri brought this issue to us as clerks of the HS community because it was an issue pertaining to the entire community. We began brainstorming how to resolve this schedule conflict. What if we allowed those who wanted to go to the Witness to go together as a group? What if we shifted the out trip until later in the day and compromised time? Could we move the out trip to another day? We were as thorough as possible, and by the end of our meeting had a couple decent options; however, we found that we needed to bring the issue to the rest of the community to discern overall interest in attending the Witness.

Before going to our support groups (arriving late, as we had spent over 2 hours discussing the issue), we as clerks had tried to write a paragraph outlining the issue and what needed to be discussed in support groups. Then in Nurture Committee, Susannah (my co) and I would ask that everyone report the overall sense of interest from their support groups. When my own support group heard this paragraph we clerks had written, I immediately realized that we'd left out some somewhat important details. I felt an 'oh no!' moment, a moment of elevated stress. In my recent experiences with faith though, I realized that I needed to have faith in the situation and hold it in the Light. There was nothing I could do about the left out details, and after a few moments, I realized that it would probably be ok anyway. Faith allowed me to release the momentary stress to the Light.

The process ended up going incredibly smoothly, and without much trouble, we soon had a sense of the community about the issue. There was great interest in attending the Witness, and an acknowledgement of its importance, but also a strong feeling about the importance of the out trip. The out trip, in the past, had been a time where the high school community bonded a little more, being exclusively together away from the rest of Gathering. It was clear that Friends did not want the HS community divided during out trip, but also that both the out trip and the Witness were very important.

Fortunately, one of the options we came up with involved moving the out trip to Thursday, three and a half hours later than originally scheduled (3:30pm instead of 12:00pm), and a shift of support groups and Nurture Committee to the evening (as the Witness was scheduled to begin around 2, and support groups were originally supposed to begin at 3:30 with Nurture Committee meeting directly afterwards). This would allow any and all to attend the Witness without breaking up the community for the out trip. When discussing our plan with Cari (the other co-coordinator working with Kri), we found that the final detail of this plan would be the key factor in whether it would work or not: the buses. There was a fee to cancel the bus service, and each bus was expensive to re-rent on a different day - it was financially too much for the high school program if it ended up that way, so it depended upon whether or not the bus company would be willing to work with us and not charge too much. We communicated with Liz Perch about it and found that the Gathering really supported us in working so hard to allow young Friends to go to the Witness, and thought it very important that we have the opportunity, so it was possible we would have help there. Unfortunately, it was late evening on the 4th of July when we finally had the scheduling issue somewhat figured out, so it was the wrong day and too late to call the bus company. We would have to wait until the morning for the final verdict. Again, we would have to release the issue with faith that whatever happened, everything would work out alright in one way or another.

Just in case, though, we found among our options a plan B. This was less favorable and involved having the out trip at the same time, but an hour shorter, and instead of having support groups and Nurture Committee meet during the out trip, they would meet later in the evening after returning (so eventhough the trip would be an hour shorter, everyone there would actually have more free time, and no one would miss these important meetings because of the Witness). In this case, those who wanted to attend the Witness would stay behind and attend it together - the split was not favorable, but was our only remaining option if we couldn't move the buses to a different day.

So, with the possibility of plan A or plan B, we wrote a detailed letter to the high school community, to be read at midnight check in (where everyone checks in with their support group counselor). We outlined the issue with the buses, we outlined both plans and what needed to happen for each to occur, we outlined the importance of the Witness, and then reiterated in bullet points at the end what everyone needed to do. With the letter finally finished - 8 or 9 hours after we originally began meeting together about the issue early that afternoon, I released the issue to faith, and went outside with Cari to try and see fireworks.

As we were sitting watching fireworks, I felt more relaxed than I had for most of the day. We both found it fitting that we were watching fireworks after such an ordeal - it was like a celebration of the conclusion we'd come to for the evening, even if it was temporary. Putting that much time and energy into an issue in service of the community, while exhausting, to me felt wonderful, even before we knew the outcome. Somewhere in the exhaustion, I felt a deep sense of joy in being able to be a part of this issue and being able to help come to a resolution.

I went to bed exhausted, but content, with great anticipation for the outcome of the morning.

With that, Monday was over - you'll have to wait for my Tuesday post to find out how it worked out! (Those who know already, no spoilers, please!)

[I meant to have this posted last night, but very shortly before finishing, my power cord failed me in a major way, and I am now on my way to accepting that my laptop may have breathed its last breath last night (I'm getting a new one soon, anyway.) I hope to have Tuesday posted this evening - I have other things I want to post, so I'm trying to speed this process up.]

Tuesday coming soon...

Love and Light,


Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Hi Claire,
Very cool to hear how it went day-by-day. Are you going to recall it in real-time, i.e., posting every day about the next day's events? I co-clerked the AYF planning one year (fairly disasterously, but that's another story) and I know it's only a third as complicated as the high school program. From the outside it certainly seems like you guys did a fabulous job and handled your scheduling nightmare with great aplomb and professionalism (I imagine I would have been tramping up down cussing for all to hear).

I look forward to more installments. I hope you're getting some sleep. I'm still needing way too much coffee to function every morning...
Your Friend, Martin

13/7/05 10:58 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

I think I'm running a little behind on real-time postings, as today is Wednesday, this morning I just posted Monday, and I hope to post Tuesday this evening.

I almost want to go faster than one post a day, as I have SO much I want to post and am afraid I'm going to forget it all! On the other hand, I'm afraid I'll go too fast and overwhelm any readers. I'm working on the balance - we'll see how it goes.

13/7/05 1:00 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

THANK YOU for sharing the "behind the scenes" details of just how the high school program made its way to the marriage equality witness!

And I can share a bit of the "behind the scenes" work that went into the collaboration between FGC and Friends for LGBTQ Concerns (aka FLGBTQC).

First, let me clarify that the Gathering was held in Virginia NOT because FGC "seriously considered relocating the Gathering to a different state, but this proved to be too complicated to do with such late notice."

The Gathering was held in Virginia because FGC leadership, Gathering co-clerks, staff, and Central Committee clerks all attended the business and threshing sessions of FLGBTQC at the 2004 Gathering, when FLGBTQC was listening for Guidance as to whether to boycott the 2005 Gathering or not.

Bruce had made it clear—or at least, this is what I recall having heard from him at the time—that "FLGBTQC is a part of FGC, and FGC is a part of FLGBTQC. If you [LGBTQ Friends] decide not to go, we will support you and, although it will be difficult, we will look for an alternate site for the '05 Gathering."

(Bruce shared the end of this sentiment again at the witness/rally, to which Claire refers.)

There were many, MANY tears shed during the threshing sessions, and FGC folks did extremely well in just listening and helping us hold the space to understand how we were led.

Among the ideas that rose up was the one of an Opportunity to witness, and though there was still tremendous concern among Friends, especially same-sex couples who had children, it was clear we [FLGBTQC] were NOT called to boycott Virginia. So we made plans to move forward with attending and participating fully in the '05 Gathering.

Our discernment and discussion of HOW to witness, and what would make us feel SAFE in Virginia continued during the FLBTQC Midwinter Gathering, held in New Mexico. Likewise, Bruce and the Gathering co-clerks Jean-Marie & Frank, along with a few other straight allies, were there among us. And after Midwinter sessions, an ad hoc committee worked closely with Bruce, Jean-Marie, Frank, and a few others in preparing the witness "Let Love Choose," which Claire writes about here.

I realize this explanation is long, and I offer it as part of sharing the tTruth of how Spirit moved among us all—High School, FLGBTQC, the wider Gathering, and the passerby who spoke at the end of the witness' worship, testifying that what was brought to Blacksburg, Virginia was much needed...

Thanks, Claire, for inviting clarification about the event. I had attended each of the business sessions and threshing sessions in the past year, plus I had had an important conversation with the convener of the ad hoc committee a week before Gathering, so I feel like I have an understanding about how things came to pass the way they did.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

13/7/05 8:46 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Thank you, Liz! I was very unaware of how all of that happened. I'm glad you were able to shed light on my somewhat faulty, pieced together interpretation of the few explantions I heard. It's not that I wasn't paying attention when I heard about how the Witness came about - I think that either the people or person (I can't even quite remember who or when) who told me had some twisted information, or I just heard something that wasn't what was actually said.

Anways, enough attempting to justify my ignorance!

Thanks again, Liz!

13/7/05 8:56 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

And I should clarify, or at least add the disclaimer:

If you were to ask someone else who had been to these same events as I had been, no doubt you'd get a different "clarification" of just how the witness came about...

Anyway, I've just posted the newspaper article from the Roanoke Times about the marriage equality witness on The Good Raised Up, which gives yet another perspective on how things played out.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

13/7/05 11:32 PM  

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