Sunday, July 17, 2005

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

After sleeping for 3 1/2 hours Wednesday night/Thursday morning, I arose around 8:00am and stumbled off to breakfast. [Even after such a Meeting for Business, we young Friends are still required to go to workshops.]

I made it to my workshop on time, and managed to stay conscious and somewhat focused during opening worship. In fact, it was during the opening worship of my workshop that I began to realize just how emotionally raw I was feeling. How I was feeling was almost comparable to an open wound, though I don't quite know how to complete the analogy.

Every morning during workshop we would have a 'check-in', allowing participants to speak briefly about how they were feeling. I used this opportunity to explain that the night before the HS program's Meeting for Business had been very emotionally and spiritually intense and had lasted until 4am, and that I had also been in emotionally and spiritually intense meetings immediately prior to this Meeting for Business. I think I just asked for understanding that I may be a little out of it. Amazingly, I actually participated a little during workshop that morning and didn't doze off - a testament to my strength that day.

After workshop, very aware of my rawness, I sought out f/Friends during lunch (which is actually something I did during every meal anyway, but I was in particular need of hugs, as were many others, I suspect). Shortly after arriving at the cafeteria, I heard about what had happened in London. I was rather upset by that, and my rawness was perhaps not the best state to be in for such news. I was having trouble enough dealing with and processing the night before, but then to hear of such a destructive and hateful act, right after having such a deep, powerful, painful bonding experience - I took a deep breath and tried to take it in keep myself under control for lunch.

It also happened to be pouring rain during lunch - our carefully rescheduled out trip was canceled. On Monday when we were attempting to resolve the scheduling conflict, it was clear that the trip should NOT be canceled, and that a great many participants would be upset by this. Today, though, there was more relief than upset feelings. No one had slept much, and few had energy to swim and have fun at a park. Regardless of the energy I put into the planning that went into the rescheduling, I, too, was very relieved to not go on the out trip.

At 1:30 I went to the HS sponsored Meeting for Worship (open to any and all of the Gathering). I'd already been planning to attend this Meeting for Worship anway, but during lunch I realized that I really needed to. I needed it as a comfort and a release. I did indeed arrive feeling as raw as before. It wasn't long before I began to release a little from the night before and the morning. It sounds odd when I say it, but even with my rawness, I felt a little emotionally constipated. I needed to begin to process and to release, but it did not come easily.

As I sat among nuturing fFriends, holding hands, hugging (we shifted around a little throughout the worship, as necessary), I reflected and replayed some of the events of the night, and thought some of the London bombings, and I finally let some tears flow; it felt a little relieving. My heart was pounding with the emotional and spiritual intensity of it, and by the end I was shaking - a decent portion of worship for me was also spent trying to determine whether I had a leading to speak, but in the end, it seems that I did not (and that's ok). There were a great many hugs afterwards, including a large group hug or two. Many in the room were from the high school program or from AYF (Adult Young Friends) and had been there the night before, or heard about it and understood a little of what the HS program went through, which was a comfort to me as I went through this release - though, this is not to say that the presence of adult Friends was not unwelcome or appreciated; this was not solely a HS MfW! While still a little raw, I felt much better after that Meeting for Worship. (I'm not sure if I just articulated myself about what I was going through as clearly here as I did about the other days, so if it really doesn't make sense, I can attempt to clarify. Sometimes articulating strong emotions is a most difficult task.)

Shortly after this HS sponsored Meeting for Worship, I returned to the dorm and we had our HS program group picture (this traditionally occurs during the out trip). Then there were support groups, as usual. During support group we had to discern which member of the group would participate on the Nominating Committee. --

[The process for discerning next year's clerks this year was as follows: Nominations for clerk would be spoken during a worshipful period during support groups on Wednesday. Nurture Committee reps would ask those who were nominated from their support group whether they accepted their nominations before the Thursday Nurture Committee meeting. A member from each support group - discerned on Thursday - would serve on Nominating Committee - the committee actually doing the discernment. Any two of the current clerks would clerk this committee. Nominating Committee would then begin meeting on Thursday and continue on Friday until the clerks for next years FGC Gathering HS program had been clearly discerned.]

-- It was clear that everyone had very low energy. In fact, during the group picture I would lean my head on a fFriend infront of me while they were setting up and close my eyes. Luckily, I was arm-in-arm with those next to me, which helped me remain standing. (Looking at this picture, now that I have a copy of it, I do look like a zombie.) The fact that everyone had low energy, coupled with the known tendency for Nominating Committee to take many hours and be really intense and exhausting led to no one in my group really feeling like it was something they wanted to or should do. During support groups that day, I was lying down on the floor, my head on someone's stomach, with my eyes closed. Given my exhaustion, I should have been out like a light. Somehow, though, I was still conscious and functioning - I even managed to moderate (/facilitate/guide/clerk) the discernment process of my support group! Once again, my strength surpassed what I felt was possible, and I pushed through without a nap - planned or otherwise.

During Nurture Committee (immediately following support groups), we gathered names of those who were nominated and accepted their nominations into a list. There may have been minor concerns here or there, but again, everyone was exhausted.

After Nurture Committee, we clerks met together briefly to figure out which two of us would clerk the Nominating Committee. Up until this day, all week (and even prior to Gathering) I had felt pretty strongly led to participate on this committee - having heard how intense and amazing it had been in past years was inspiring, but now I was feeling exhausted and like I had my fill of intensity. Though I had begun to doubt my need to be on the committee, I recognized that the other clerks were also exhausted. I don't think any of them had had any sort of strong, prior leading to participate in this particular process, except Susanna, who had decided to be on the committee, but not as a clerk. So I overcame my exhaustion and decided to do it. Madeline also found interested in doing this, so together we were to co-clerk the Nominating Committee. Once I'd agreed to do it, I mustered up a little excitement - despite my doubts about my energy, I was happy to do this. My energy level, while it was very clear that I was exhausted, did not seem to affect my ability to serve the community in ways I was needed, and I also managed to remain present to the community. I was still able to spend time with my fFriends between meetings and at meals.

At 7:30, Nominating Committee began to meet. We did not know how long this first meeting would last, but we knew we wouldn't be finished that night. After 3 1/2 hours, we had listed qualties we felt were important for a clerk, come up with a loose process by which to do this discerning, and had begun to look at the names on the list, while not narrowing down or beginning the discernment. I was sure to emphasize that though the qualities we had listed were very important and not to be ignored, this was a spirit led process, first and foremost. There was a clear sense that the committee also felt this way. So around 11pm, we communally felt ready to stop for the
night and planned to continue the next day after support groups.

At this point I was a little uneasy about the committee. The dynamics were such that great division and perhaps resentment was a possibility within the community of the committee (and I do believe every committee is a small community). Though there had been some strong feelings during our first meeting and perhaps a few rough edges here and there, things had gone alright so far. I felt that this process had to be done in a unified and joyous manner, and I had to have faith that this committee would come together on Friday and go smoothly and sincerely. I didn't let it stress me out.

After the committee meeting ended, I wandered around the dorm and enjoyed a little free-time with my fFriends, played Apples to Apples a little, gave and received many hugs, and then crashed in my bed for the night.

Coming soon: Friday - among other things, the Eyes Wide Open exhibit and Nominating Committee. One day left, and still a lot of intensity to go.

Love and Light,


Anonymous Robin M. said...

I'm sorry, this is so not what your post is about, but what is Apples to Apples?

18/7/05 1:32 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Haha, that's ok.

Apples to Apples is a really fun card game - you need a special deck for it, though. Everyone gets a hand of cards that have various nouns such as 'Europe' or 'Madonna' or 'boogers' or something random like that on them. Then each round, someone flips over a card from a deck of adjectives (such as 'smooth' or 'exciting' or 'ugly' or something) - the person doing this rotates each round. Then everyone (except the person to flip over the adjective card) puts in a card with a noun on it that best fits the adjective (or that's silliest). The person who flipped over the adjective card then picks which noun-card they think fits best with the adjective (or is the funniest, or whatever). The person whose card is chosen then gets to keep the adjective card. Technically, when the game ends, the person with the most adjective cards wins, but really, it's just fun regardless who wins.

18/7/05 4:28 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

I want to echo Claire's fun explanation of the game Apples to Apples. It's a good ice-breaker sort of game, and it's easy to change the rules to make it non-competitive (there's a rule that the slowest person to put a card down loses that privilege, but I think the more the merrier!).

I introduced this game to the high school teens in my meeting one year, and they played it on their own a while afterwards. I also was able to make up an on-the-spot version with my family one night, when we were at a restaurant and service was slow. There were paper placemats on the table, and my mom was... losing it.

I told everyone to tear up their placemats, write 3 or 4 nouns and 1 or 2 adjectives on the pieces (one per piece of paper). Then we used those slips of paper just like the real game uses 'em.

Dinner eventually came and my mom was able to enjoy the night--along with the rest of us.

ANYway, thanks for filling us in, Claire, about how things evolved and played out during the course of the week. ...I remember thinking, as the rain was pouring down from Tropical Storm Cindy, "What's gonna happen with the high school out-trip?" But I figured all would be well. Sounds like you all could use the break--and that by being faithful to the Spirit in the moment, having that afternoon off was a gift to all of you.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

18/7/05 5:43 PM  

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