Thursday, July 21, 2005

FGC Gathering 2005: The Experience of a clerking young Friend - FRIDAY, Nominating Committee and the last night

Nominating Committee was such an incredible experience. I spoke a little bit before of our meeting on Thursday night, and about how I felt slight unease about the group. Here it will become evident what became of that.

Around 4:30 on Friday afternoon, right after support groups, we the Nominating Comittee gathered and traveled together to the room in which we were meeting in a nearby building. We were rather informal to begin, as we were making sure everyone could put a face to all of the nominees (we had done this a little the evening before, too). Once we had done our best with that and everyone had taken necessary bathroom trips, we finally really settled down to begin.

Before we began the process, though, we addressed the concern that we may either miss, or need to take a break for, the final HS program Meeting for Worship - which is always an incredibly moving experience, and lends a sense of closure even before we stay up all night. After not too long, it was clear we needed to take a break to attend, but would travel back to the HS dorm together as a small community of a committee - the group had a strong sense about remaining together. [Also, at some point we broke for dinner (pizza) and ate outside, but I can't remember where we were when this happened. I just thought I'd mention it.]

Finally we began to settle in to the process - and what a beautiful process it was! As a clerk, I made sure to re-emphasize that this was first and foremost a spirit-led process, and that the qualities we'd listed were important, but secondary to our leadings as a committee. I also articulated that eventhough it may seem like a solomn task, it was indeed a joyous process.

The process was one of lifting names out of open worship from the one list to another, with a strong sense that at ANY time, at any part of the process until we were walking out of the door with a list in hand, one could lift a name not previously lifted if one was led. No one was "ruled out" or "cut" at any point. Those in the committee shared about those names lifted as they were led. The group seemed to come together rather well, and things were going quite smoothly and well when we broke to go to the final HS Meeting for Worship. We arrived together and sat in various places around the room and settled into worship.

The entire time during worship, my heart was pounding. Pounding from the intensity of emotion and spirit I had felt all week, pounding for the love and joy, the pain and exhaustion, and all the amazing people around me. I remembered that my heart pounded in this manner during the final HS Meeting for Worship the previous Gathering in 2004, and how the moment I knew for sure for the first time that I had message to speak, the Meeting was closed. This time, I again felt the need to question whether I had a leading or not, as my heart was pounding so much. There were so many things to say, but I tried to feel whether I had a leading to say anything, and if so, what? During the meeting there were many messages about how incredible the community had been, and how some felt deeply changed by the experiences of the week. Somewhere in there, I too rose and spoke a message. Right after I sat down, my heart calmed, but I felt that I had not waited patiently enough, that perhaps I had spoken prematurely. It's not that what I said was wrong or inappropriate, it's that it felt like I thought about it too much once I stood. 'T was a lesson for me about leadings to give messages in meeting.

After the Meeting closed, there were a great many hugs given and received. Nominating Committee soon gathered together again outside to move back to the other building to continue the process. There seemed to be a sense of energy and joy about the group. Someone suggested that we run back to the building - and we all (or almost all of us) did! It was invigorating and exciting how we did this!

Once we got back to the room, we noticed that below the windows of this room outside there was a group of Friends singing! This seemed only to add to the joy we all felt. As we remained centered and focused, we seemed giddy and happy. This was, indeed, a joyous process!! My heart was warmed and the room was filled with the loving joy we all felt. When we got toward the final lifting process, as a clerk I suggested we center down a little more and remain a little more calm, as this more final stretch of the process had the potential to be more intense; however, I made sure to remind Friends of the importance of the joy in the process, and that though we may be more calm, the joy was still appropriate and a good thing.

Every step of the way there was genuine care not just for the community, but also the nominee being considered. Would both the community and the person have positive experiences were they to be clerk or not clerk? Leadings clearly concerned both, and it gave me joy-chills to hear.

Throughout the process, as a community, the committee tended to have a strong sense among it - I rarely had trouble discerning the sense, as it was usually obvious to all. (Whenever I articulated what seemed to be the obvious sense, often every single person's hands went up in agreement.) Though I was not waiting upon my own leadings but discerning the leadings of the group, by the end I didn't really feel incredibly detached (I think in some cases the clerks can feel a sense of detachment from the group they're clerking due to their different role in whatever process is taking place). There were points when a very familiar name would come up and my heart would beat a little harder, but I remained focused, as a clerk, on the sense of the committee.

In the end when we were clear we had our final list, I felt a strong sense of the Spirit among the group. The joy was still there and it was so amazing. It didn't matter that it was 2am or we all probably should've been exhausted. We had just experienced a united, joyous, spirit-led process of discerning the clerks for next year, and that gave me a sense of vigor and energy.

As a group, we had willingly given up many of the last events of the week for the HS program - on the last night after the final HS Meeting for Worship, there's the HS Program dance (with AYF invited, too, if the community feels led to give the invitation the Sunday night MfWwCfB before), and then this year we went on late enough that we missed most of the talent show, too. I think we all agreed that it was amazingly worth it, no question. It was an incredible experience.

Though it was 2am, we managed to get most of everyone (minus the few who were sleeping - the last night in the HS program is one where almost no one sleeps at all) in the lounge to make the announcement. As we were walking down the hall toward the lounge to make the announcement as a committee, we took a group picture, shown here on the right [photo credited to Peter Lyrene].

As we walked into the lounge together, and I felt a sense of nervousness. It's not that I didn't have faith in the list, but I think more that I remembered a little how I felt when the clerks were announced last year, and I also was not sure how the community would respond. Madeline (co-clerk) gave a sentence to open ("So now we're going to announce..." something like that), and then I read the names as clearly as I could. The room remained silent. Erik (co-HS program clerk, but not involved in the Nom. Comm.) suggested to everyone that the community hold the names in the light for a few moments. [We on the Nominating Committee dispersed ourselves around the room so that we weren't standing uncomfortably off to the side.]

Honestly, though I still had so much joy from the process, I felt a little awkward returning to the group. There were so many nominees and I couldn't remember all of them, and many were friends of mine whom I wanted to hug, but who I didn't want to upset if they were sad about not being named, and I didn't want to show preference to those who were named - I had countless little concerns that eventually faded as the night wore on. I did end up giving (and receiving) a great many hugs.

Throughout the night, my energy level faded quickly to the point where it was taking a considerable amount of effort to remain half-conscious. I was afraid that if I slept, I would awake very late and would not get the chance to say goodbye to many people who were dear to me - this is what made me do my best to remain conscious. I mustered up some energy around dawn to go watch the sunrise, and was met by a couple really good fFriends of mine who were in AYF this year - it was really good to see them on this last morning.

Eventually, around 7ish, I dragged myself to breakfast. However, I found that I only had enough energy to eat half of what I put on my plate, and that when I put my head down on the table I dozed for 10-15 minutes at a time. I even got up and switched tables at some point, but after dozing at the table two or three times, I knew I had to leave. When I got back to the dorm I wanted to sleep in a place where I could easily be awakened by people. In my half-awake state, I lay down right outside my dorm room on the floor and quickly dozed off. At some point I stood up and gave someone a hug, but then went right back to sleep. This dozing and occasional waking went on for about two hours (also at some point, someone gave me my pillow). Finally I stood up and found that another dear AYF fFriend of mine was nearby, so I got up and went over to give another hug. From that point on, I wandered around the dorm and gave many hugs. Around 11 I went to lunch - the last meal of Gathering, and found that many more people than I expected were still around, and that was very nice. There were some more hugs and last goodbyes (and at some point I checked out of my room), and finally, I got in the car and left with a friend.

I slept most of the way back. Got home, posted my post-Gathering check-in, and then went to sleep really early.

With that, Friends, my Gathering experience was physically over. While this is the last post officially in my Gathering series, I have one more post about my experience at my home Meeting for Worship the day after Gathering (which I actually made it to!), a sort of post-Gathering follow up post.

Thank you again, Friends, for bearing with me through this process of pouring out my experience into words. It's been exhausting and wonderful.

Love and Light,


Anonymous Andy Norris said...

Hey Claire!!!! I only read your blog about Discernment Committe and i have to admit that, as you know, I shared many of the same feelings of aprehension with the group and aside from that...very wonderful job relaying the sense of the committee's feelings and the process that was achieved!!

24/7/05 11:21 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Thanks, Andy! Good to hear from ya - I'm glad to find my experience of the committee affirmed! I remember talking to you about it, then, too. Much love.

Love and Light,

25/7/05 12:22 AM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

What a beautiful, tender account of how Nominating Committee engaged in its Spirit-led work. I wish more Friends understood the spiritual nature of this committee, which has the joyous task of naming and affirming gifts in Friends--as long as the Quaker community does not stray from its center, to "mind the Light" and not fall prey to the pulls of the larger world (looking for ANy peg--round, square, or misshapen--to fit into a square hole, e.g.).

Liz, The Good Raised Up

2/8/05 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Robin M. said...

"Right after I sat down, my heart calmed, but I felt that I had not waited patiently enough, that perhaps I had spoken prematurely."

I had this same experience recently, and it was a real learning opportunity for me. To know that it wasn't that what I said was wrong, it was just the sense that I had hurried it, for external, too-human reasons. Sink down and wait, that's what I needed to do.

And then a few weeks later, I had a leading to speak in Meeting, but it wasn't quite there, so I waited, and waited, and just before Meeting broke, a new image came to me and changed what I thought about the first idea. And I knew, in that ineffable, solid way, this was what I was supposed to wait for.

11/8/05 2:27 PM  

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