Saturday, July 09, 2005

Post-Gathering Self Check-in

I feel Overwhelmed. The withdrawal is hitting full force right now.

This was by far the most emotionally and spiritually intense week of my entire life, and I have absolutely no idea how to process that and debrief myself. Checking my email just now and opening my roommate information from Wellesley were two things I should have perhaps waited to do. (I forgot to check the mail for the water bill before leaving for Gathering and thus it is late, I have a clearness committee for full membership possibly on Tuesday, and it looks like I'll be living in a triple this coming year, and I have no idea how I feel about that.)

Earlier today, when saying my goodbyes, I did not really give myself the release of crying. I was far too exhausted and wanted to leave on a joyous note, and now I'm just beginning to let it flow. I wish I knew a way to express the emotions and the spirit I've felt all week. I've grown and learned so much.

I'm considering outlining my experiences in detail in a multiple part series of posts. Highlights of intensity from the week, soon to be posted in more detail:
-A scheduling conflict involving deep emotions and a big change
-A joyous and moving Witness
-Two Meetings for Worship with Concern for Business, each of VERY different nature, but both incredible and amazing in their own way; there is SO much love..
-Clerking: firstly (with 5 other co's and the alternate), the Highschool gathering; secondly (with one co), the HS nurture committee; thirdly (with a different co), the nominating committee for the discernment of next year's HS clerks; fourthly, informally, my support group.
-Eyes Wide Open
-A squeeze of Youth Ministries
-Workshop: Ways to Love Your Enemies
-A growing, deepening sense of strength and faith, and energy to keep going through the intensity and little sleep emerging through me from the depths of the community

As I sit here and try to begin to process the events and emotions of the week, I begin to feel so very alone again. I thought about this at points during the week - there I was among so many beautiful, dedicated, spiritual, centered, and wonderfully amazing young Friends, who are so passionate about the very things I am; how do I return to living in my secular life among secularly thinking people? How do I keep my fire going when there is no one around for miles who can begin to understand? How do I return to my monthly meeting and sit in worship without that intensely deep sense of community and love that all of us young Friends experienced together this past week? As I ask these questions, I know that there are things I can do; I just need to express my joyous grief.

Words cannot do justice to this experience, but I will do my best. I need to express this in a very deep way.

I feel the need to begin the process of writing, in detail, about my experiences. Another post is coming very soon.

Love and Light,


Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Hi Claire,
I feel lucky I got to see you a few times at Gathering, despite the craziness!

I am feeling nervous about the busy-ness of Gathering culture. How can one sit in the stillness of God while running all around to committee meetings, business meetings, workshops. My big take on things is that Quakerism doesn't need more committees or more programs. We need to ditch all that stuff to settle once again with the riskiness of expectant waitingness.

What is God calling us to do, as a people, as Friends? Just few percent of unprogrammed Friends make it to Gathering (not to mention the missing great people to be gathered) and we spend all this time and money coming together just to talk about ourselves for the week?

I totally know about that post-Gathering feeling you speak about. But somehow I've stopped feeling it now. I can't help but see the Gathering "community" as too self-centered. What if Gathering was a movement training ground to charge and train us to take this Quaker thing out into the world. What if business meetings weren't about ourselves but about the great people to be gathered? What would happen to Quakerism if we stopped filling our time and started working on God's time?

As you can see, I'm processing too. Sorry to fill up your comments. I guess I should start posting myself!
Your Friend,

10/7/05 10:39 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

Martin - I too am glad I got to see you! Regarding the busy-ness of Gathering, I must share that I feel differently.

How can one sit in the stillness of God while running all around to committee meetings, business meetings, workshops?

Some of the meetings and things I was running around doing all week were so spiritual and spirit led. I have yet to post about the HS Program's Meeting for Worship with Concern for Business, but it was so central to my experience this week. Yes it was a meeting, but it was so emotionally and spiritually intense. I found myself incredibly focused and centered and stable through the 7 hours of intensity as (among other agenda items) three serious, intense concerns were addressed by the community. Of things I've learned and experienced recently, I've found that the stillness of God is not necessarily free of turmoil, emotion, and intensity.

Another example I need to share is my experience clerking the Nominating Committee of the HS program, the committee whose responsibility it was to discern the clerks for next year's HS program. In the intensity of this meeting, we all found great unity, faith, spiritual leading, and joy.

In these experiences I've had, through all the intensity and emotions and exhaustion, I heard God more clearly than I can ever remember.

I take these experiences, with newly discovered love and strength, back to my life and those around me.

I'm not saying you are wrong or trying to correct (as I'm sure you know), I'm just relating that I had an entirely different experience of Gathering and its meaning in my and others' lives.

Love and Light,

10/7/05 2:02 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Woo-hoo, and yay for the Spirit so alive among us!

Maybe I fall in-between these above comments. The busyness of the Gathering sometimes can crowd my awareness to the point of missing Opportunities to pursue, and be attentive to, the movement of the Spirit, but this Gathering was notably different for me:

I had to cope with having tendonitis in my ankle.

The tendonitis slowed me down significantly so that I ended up choosing not to go to several plenaries; not to go to several MfW hosted by Friends for LGBTQ Concerns; and not to go to events that began after 9:00 pm.

The gifts I received as a result of slowing down included conversations and get-togethers I otherwise would not have had:

• a conversation with a Friend about the complexities (for lack of a better word) FGC has encountered with the responses to last year's cancellation of the sweat lodge;

• participating in an intergenerational dialogue that included lifting up the need for older Friends, young adult Friends, and young Friends to find ways to engage in affairs that impact the respective groups; and

• attending Meeting for Worship that was sponsored by high school Friends. I left that worship space wanting so many other tender-hearted adult Friends to clear their schedules for next year's worship...

I've not had a chance to post my own thoughts about the Gathering, but I think I'll include what I've written here when I do get around to posting, just to get me primed and ready.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

11/7/05 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Robin M. said...

There's a book I haven't read called "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry." I think there is always some emotional cleanup to do afterwards. I also know that I couldn't live at that fever-pitch of intensity all year long. I have to come home and deal with all the ordinary stuff and sometimes it's a relief. God is still with you.

I pray that your membership committee will help you to find the depth of community that is possible in what one church I know calls "Ordinary Time".

12/7/05 12:22 AM  
Anonymous Robin M. said...

I had another thought, which is that it is my understanding that the FGC Gathering is not about doing the business of the Religious Society of Friends - it is more of a conference for spiritual development. It seems to me that we ought to look for time to "settle once again with the riskiness of expectant waitingness" at our Yearly and Monthly Meetings. These are our business meetings. It would still be possible for "the Gathering [to be] a movement training ground to charge and train us to take this Quaker thing out into the world."

I also thought that FGC conferences came out of the Haverford summer schools in the early 20th century. What if the Gathering became a summer school for Quakerism - not just a select few, but a great people gathering together in the early 21st century?

Which reminds me that I had heard that next year the Gathering will be shorter so that people can travel but I didn't know it would also be by pre-arrangement smaller. If FGC is going to expand geographically, doesn't it make sense that it should expect to expand numerically? I understand the caution for this year, but if we are going to grow as a people, we need to not limit ourselves unnecessarily.

Okay, I know you didn't make this decision and I've never been but I'm planning to go next year and I could well decide that it has to be an annual event after that. For me and my children.

13/7/05 8:58 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

You said, it is my understanding that the FGC Gathering is not about doing the business of the Religious Society of Friends - it is more of a conference for spiritual development.

Yes - that's true. The only bodies that hold meetings for business during Gathering are the AYF and high school programs.

I know Gathering will be shorter next year - it saddens me; each day is SO packed and precious. I can't IMAGINE what it'll be like. However, I'm on the high school subcommittee of the Gathering Planning Committee this year (even though I'm done with high school), so I guess I'll be at least somewhat involved in that planning process. I didn't know that they were/are planning for fewer people. I think part of the reason for that is that they expect fewer people to travel from the east coast - where a great portion of usual Gathering attenders come from - and that there are just less Friends out in the West than in the East. I wish it weren't that way - I know Friends from Alaska who've made it to the last few Gatherings, and the last three in a row were very much on the East coast (Johnstown, PA; Amherst, MA; Blacksburg, Va).

I hope to make it back next year myself. It depends less on travel expenses and location, but on what it is I'll be doing next summer. If it's some sort of research internship (which is what I hope to be doing), I would need to be able to take a week off in the middle, and not every program allows that.

What if the Gathering became a summer school for Quakerism - not just a select few, but a great people gathering together in the early 21st century?

That would be incredible! What a vision! (Is it possible?)

13/7/05 11:00 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Hey everyone. Here's what I recall having learned during my time serving on FGC's Central Committee recently:

True that 2006 Gathering is scheduled to be shorter by a day. True that FGC has had a concern, in its multi-year process of finding clearness to take the Gathering to the western part of the continent, that numbers might not be as high as eastern Gatherings. True that the registration will top out at 1,200 participants rather than closer to 1,600 that have been at recent eastern Gatherings (though I personally think it will be an easy sell-out next year, given the location and the hunger of western Friends). True that FGC is concerned about the cost of the Gathering, both for singles and for families.

Also true that there are very few college campuses that (1) have conference capabilities; (2) can accommodate up to 1,500 or 2,000 people and families, along with programming spaces for everyone at all hours of the day and night, for all sizes of groups; (3) can provide meal options for carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans; (4) are LGBTQ Friendly; and (5) are within 60-90 minutes of a fairly large airport.

The list of "must-haves" for a Gathering site goes on and on (I believe it's more than 5 pages long, seriously), and it's this list, based on past experience, that eliminates MANY sites from consideration—for example Vancouver, BC).

Onto other things: The simple meal raises money for a Quaker-based organization called Right Sharing of World Resources". I like this group because even a little bit of money can go such a long way in restoring the world to a semblance of equity with our resources.

And the history of the Gathering...? Well, FGC itself was initially comprised of four separate organizations that held their annual conferences concurrently until 1900, when FGC was created out of joining all together. And FGC held its general gatherings every OTHER year for a number of decades before holding the Gathering annually.

I can't imagine waiting for 2 years before being able to see fFriends at the Gathering!

Anyway, it's unusual for me to offer so much history and so many details... But I think the roots of FGC can speak volumes to the compartmentalization of what Friends bring to and desire from Quaker meetings:

• peace and social justice concerns
• First Day School and religious education for ourselves and for children
• a place for young Friends
• a place for contemplative mysticism.

I'm all for a great people to be gathered, and the sooner, the better!

Liz, The Good Raised Up

14/7/05 11:21 PM  

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