Sunday, July 31, 2005

Epistle from FGC Gathering High School Program

I was just going to add this to the bottom of the relevant Gathering post (from my series), but felt that it could stand for itself, even without the details prior to it. It's such an important document. So, I'm posting it here, as well as adding it to the bottom of the relevant Gathering post. Hold it in your hearts, dear Friends.

Epistle from the High School Program
July 7, 2005

It was brought to the attention of the High Schol Program duing the course of the Wednesday night Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business that members of the community have used alcohol and marijuana during the course of the gathering. The clerks introduced a chance for worship, stating that they themselves were struggling with the issue. From this worship, a wide array of emotions arose, including anger, confusion, and grief. Many felt sadness and pain knowing that trust could be lost not only between members of the comunity, but also between the program and the larger gathering. However it was clear that the community felt that those involved are surrounded by love and acceptance. Many members shared stories of substance abuse and addiction in their lives. It was affirmed by many that drugs and alcohol are simply not needed in such a warm and loving environment, yet it was understood that isolation and pain can be channeled through these substances.

The community struggled to determine how to move forward following the period of worship, and wrestled to develop the appropriate consequences for thses circumstances. One defining sentiment was that it is absolutely not an option to remove any members from the community, and that such actions would only tear us more deeply. To prevent any similar situation from occuring in years to come, many felt that each year the community should reexamine the emotional gravity of the drug guideline experienced during the night through a written statement or discussion at orientation each year. We will also make an effort to ensure that this experience will become part of the oral history of theHigh School gathering.

The entire program as a whole recognizes the break in trust that this event could create with the greater gathering, yet we hope that through our emotions, and the love we have expressed for each other, it is understood that this event will reverberate throughout our program for years to come. Througout the evening as well as early morning, the importance and strength of our community guided the spiritual leadings that allowed for such forgiveness and compassion for all of our members. Healing the tear in the community created by these actions will only develop through love and understanding.

We offer our experience to the wider gathering as testament of our strength and with a hope that trust can be maintained.

Friends, hold this epistle in your hearts, as it was an intense experience to go through. Reading this epistle myself, I hope that our experience is never forgotten and left behind as an echo of things past. This is something, as it says in the Epistle, that will "reverberate throughout our program for years to come"; I hope it doesn't fade too much, as reverberations tend to do.

Love and Light,

Thursday, July 28, 2005

"Where is the Spirit in this?" - a rough draft

The other day as I was pulling samples of RNA (in tiny tubes) out of a very cold freezer (-80 degrees C) - a rather repetative task involving opening the freezer, pulling out a number of specific boxes, looking at list of tube locations, pulling out appropriate tubes from appropriate locations in appropriate boxes, returning the boxes, pulling out another set of boxes, ect. until 50-100 tubes have been collected (depending on what's needed) - I thought to myself rather seriously, "Where is the Spirit in this?" At first glance, it was a pretty secular activity. However, I believe that the spiritual and the secular are not seperate, that we need to integrate our supposedly seperate concepts of what is secular and what is spiritual. In my experience of the Spirit (or the Light or God or whatever one calls it/him/her), there is no place or situation where it is not present, where there is no Light. Thus, while I was performing a seemingly lifeless and repetative task, I came to the thought that despite outward appearences, the Spirit must be present in some manner.

There are many times in our supposedly secular lives when the presence of the Spirit is quite obvious when one stops to think about it for a moment. When one is outside with nature, or among loved ones, or perhaps even reading a good novel over a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon, it is often not difficult to recognize the Light in the experience. The challenge with which I presented myself was to find the Spirit in this not-so-obviously-spiritual situation.

A day or two later, as I was doing yet another tedious, repetative, lengthy task with 98 tubes that I had previously pulled from the above-mentioned freezer - this time I was transfering 8 microliters of solution from each tube to a well-plate - I again pondered the same question, "Where could the Spirit possibly be in this experience?" In examining this question, I took a giant step backwards to look at a slightly larger picture. Perhaps the Spirit was present through why I was doing such a tedious task. Repetative and boring as my task was, it was science. Science research is one of my passions - a quick inventory of my backpack would reveal a few Quaker books, often a few science magazines, and currently also a chemistry textbook and spiral notebook for chemistry notes - and this is between school years! These books and magazines I carry around because I am passionate about these subjects, and dedicated to learning and pursuing them. The root of why I was doing this repetative task was this passion for scientific research, and a dedication to science with all of its many postive and negative aspects. There is Spirit in passion and dedication.

As I recognized the Spirit mentally, I began to recognize its presence in my "secular" activity on a deeper level. With that realization I became a more grounded in my daily activities - this experience is applicable to so many other situations.

I am learning how to experience the Spirit in the situations of my every day life that don't seem so obviously spiritual. My conscious and emotional experience of the Spirit is becoming more and more continuous and thorough as I recognize Light pervading my life in all of its seemingly spiritually trivial events. I'm learning how to ask, "Where is the Spirit in this?" without sarcasm or pessimism, but honestly and openly, even for the most menial of activities.

I have a feeling I will have more to express on this topic soon; this is just what's been on my mind very recently. It is an ever-developing train of focus.

Love and Light,

Monday, July 25, 2005


Out of curiousity, I'm wondering how many people actually read this blog of mine! If you've read my blog at all - whether I'm aware that you have or not, give a wave hello as a comment to this post. It doesn't matter if you know me at all or have a blog of your own or any of that. I'm just curious.

(You don't absolutely have to, but it would be nice. :) )

Love and Light,

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Gathering follow-up.

Before I move on to other things, I need to post about the day or two following my return from Gathering. That's what this post is.

Note: I've made three edits to previous posts of my Gathering series. I added a photo of the Nominating Committee, a copy of the letter sent out to all High School Program participants, parents, and sponsors, and two images from the Eyes Wide Open exhibit.

When I went to bed Saturday night after returning from Gathering, I had in my mind two needs to balance: Meeting for Worship in the morning, and Sleep. I decided that my first priority was my physical health, which in this case meant I needed to put sleep first. I went to bed between 8 and 9 pm Saturday night (VERY early for me) with the decision that if I woke up of my own accord (no alarm or parental wake-up call) in time to make it to Meeting, I would go.

Sunday morning I woke up and was ready to get out of bed at 9:50am. Meeting here begins at 10am. Luckily for me, my Mom's house (where I returned to after Gathering before going back to my apt.) is about a 3 minute drive from the meetinghouse. The moment I looked at my watch I knew I was going to Meeting, and was very glad for this. In my Post-Gathering Self Check-in post, I had posed a number of questions to which I needed to begin searching for answers, such as, 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 settled in to worship, I began reflecting upon my experiences from Gathering. My heart began to pound once again. I felt similarly to how I'd felt during the final HS Meeting for Worship - not necessarily in the community sense, but in the sense that I felt very strongly. I began to question whether or not I had a leading to speak, but with extra patience, as my experience in the final HS Meeting for Worship had felt a little off. This particular Meeting for Worship felt quite gathered - moreso than any other I remember experiencing here, and Friends began to speak messages. Some centered around the recent London bombings - I don't remember so clearly the details of these messages, but I remember hearing concerns about hatred and division, and other things that seemed to fit in with that, generally (details are very foggy for me now; it's been two weeks). With each message given, my heart raced faster for a few moments and I searched more deeply to see if I had a message. Gathering was very clearly and strongly in my heart.

Finally, one Friend rose and began a message - in the instant he began to speak I knew, knew, I needed to speak, and I had an idea about what, but no particular words planned. Usually when I'm commenting about something in a group, especially a large one, I have something rather clearly planned out. I was very aware that a planned out message in my mind was probably not a true, spirit-led message. This message of mine took little thought. When I rose to speak I was shaking (quaking), and words about the high school community at Gathering poured from me. I spoke of how we encountered a major issue, possibly a very divisive issue, and rather than becoming divided, we bonded over it and became a more close community. This felt like a true message, and I sat down, very aware that this was the first time I ever felt strongly led to speak in any Meeting for Worship of a monthly meeting.

After I sat down again, there were a few more minutes of Worship, and then it was closed. I looked at my watch and realized that it was 11:05 - I had spoken right at the end of the meeting; it had gone by so quickly! The intensity of this particular Meeting for Worship was a wonderful welcome home, and made me feel much less alone. Many Friends came to me during fellowship and thanked me for my message, some mentioning how powerful it was. This was certainly a new experience for me.

Gathering has affected me deeply - it has affected me increasingly so every year. It will remain with me for a long time as I hold these experiences close to my heart and remember them with all the joy and pain and love that was there, and is here, always.

Love and Light,

Thursday, July 21, 2005


For those just finding my blog or reading it for the first time in two or three weeks, if you're interested in reading about my Gathering experiences in detail, I urge you to start at the beginning. Since it's taken me more than 10 posts, the first post is not listed under the 'Previous Posts' list in the sidebar of my blog, so you can click below to go to the first post of the series.

Link to Post # 1: Preface; FGC Gathering 2005: The Experience of a clerking young Friend

Thank you, Friends

Love and Light,

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,

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

FGC Gathering 2005: The Experience of a clerking young Friend - FRIDAY, Eyes Wide Open

Ahh, and finally, Friends, we have come to Friday, the final full day of Gathering - and a full day it was!

After workshop I actually had until 3:30 to do what I wanted! After spending over an hour at lunch, talking to many fFriends (I tended to eat at one table with the Friends there, then move on to a different table to converse with other Friends, then get up and find more.. etc.), I went with a friend off to see the Eyes Wide Open exhibit that was set up on campus for Gathering (and anyone else, too, really) (see

Eyes Wide Open is an exhibit of thousands of soldiers' boots, equal to the number of US casualties from the Iraq War, and then also civilian shoes, representing thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties. Many families have sent letters and articles and other things from or regarding their family member who was killed - these are displayed along with the boots representing that soldier. Every pair of boots has a tag including the name, home state, and age of the soldier they represent, and the boots are arranged by state.

I went to see this exhibit very aware of my exhaustion (and that I should have probably been taking a nap instead), but also very aware that this would be my only opportunity to see it.

As I walked into the very large room where the exhibit was set up and saw the thousands of boots lined up, I tried to let it sink in. Mentally, I felt numb. "Every single one of these boots represents a unique, loving individual, who had a loving family, and who was lost prematurely in prolonged actions of hate and misunderstanding," I thought to myself, in an effort to convey to myself the gravity of what I was looking at. I continued thinking like this as I walked by the civilian shoes and pictures of Iraqi people - both civilian and military. My body began to wear down, but mentally, my natural defense mechanism of non-reaction seemed to be prevailing, which did not feel right to me. This was a week of opening and deep feeling! I was not happy with this numbness.

At some point I thought of my step-brother. He has a wife doing a residency in OB/GYN and a 5 year old son. My step-brother went to Iraq a year ago (edit: he's in the Marine Reserves), and on the morning of New Year's Day this year, was wounded and lost his right arm, just below the elbow. I tend to view it more as if we got to keep the rest of him, rather than a loss of his arm. I tried to imagine what it would be like if one of these boots represented my step-brother. I couldn't.

I sat down in the middle of the exhibit and leaned against a square column (part of the structure of the building) and just sat in silent worship (with attention to the exhibit and what it meant). While my mind was failing at evoking a reaction mentally, I began to feel some physiological effects of strong emotion. I could feel my grief and despair through my body and in my bones, rather than a mentally. Had I stayed long enough, I'd be surprised if I didn't begin shaking a little, yet my mind was still elsewhere. My mind so often feels desensitized, but my emotions clearly were (and are) not. It was a strange and uncomfortable detachment of my mind and emotions. I don't quite know how to explain it.

After a time, I left. For a portion of the walk back to the dorm I was walking with fFriends, but we didn't really talk about the exhibit. I was exhausted (as per usual for this year's Gathering), but it was time to head off to support groups.

[Both images credited to Peter Lyrene.]

Friends, I'm going to break up Friday's post into two posts. I am tired right now, and don't quite feel up to writing about the rest of Friday tonight. Also, I feel that this experience at the exhibit and my experience with Nominating Committee each need seperate posts, eventhough I hate to drag this out longer than it already has. Those of you who have read all of this up until now and continue to stick with it, I thank you greatly, Friends.

More soon..

Love and Light,

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,

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Brief Note:

Going to let this sit until Sunday or Monday.. and I'm also out of town until then.

Feedback is appreciated, if anyone feels so led - but no hurry.

Sunday evening or Monday I'll continue posting about Gathering and the events of the day following Meeting for Business.

Love and Light,

Thursday, July 14, 2005

FGC Gathering 2005: The Experience of a clerking young Friend - WEDNESDAY, Meeting for Worship with Concern for Business

Note: Friends, it is important to read the entry immediately prior to this one before reading this one. This one and that one were posted simultaneously. Please heed this request.

The Wednesday night FGC Gathering High school Program Meeting for Worship with Concern for Business began as it usually does. After a period of open worship for centering, visitors were introduced, and announcements were made. I think there were some smaller agenda items to attend to, but then the first major issue was introduced.

I didn't mention that this particular issue was an agenda item earlier, but it was certainly important. When we reached this point (not very far into the meeting), the clerks opened the floor to thoughts, concerns, and leadings on the topic of our openness to LGBTQ Friends, and the accepting nature of our community as the high school program. Considering the events of the week - such as the Witness to Marriage Equality - we felt it was an issue that needed to be included in the Meeting for Business to allow thoughts, feelings, concerns, and emotions to be expressed. Part of the reason we (clerks) decided to address this issue first was that we were aware that it was something the community had the potential to bond and grow together over considerably. We felt that not only was this issue important - we had planned it as an agenda item before we even knew of the drug issue - but also that the state of the community would be important when the drug issue did, indeed, arise later in the meeting.

Pertaining to the LGBTQ agenda item, many Friends became emotional. Many times, feelings of overwhelming love and acceptance in the high school community over the years was expressed. Some told of how they only began to open up to themselves and/or others about the issue while in the high school program at Gathering, and of how it changed their lives. Some even mentioned how accepting the community was of those who were different in ways other than being LGBTQ, as well. There were some comparisons to other less accepting environments, and an emphasis about just how important it was that this community was so open and loving. It was quite moving, and the community did bond over it as the topic remained open for over an hour. In the end, we came up with a minute about the openness and accepting nature of our community. I was so grateful to have been there for that process, and also grateful that I was able to remain grounded and focused enough that I was not distracted by the issue I knew to be coming up, nor by my own exhuastion.

By the time we closed the topic and were ready to move on, it was almost midnight. Since the building we were in closed at midnight, that meant it was time for us to return to the dorm, take a break for pizza (which arrives at midnight Sunday and Wednesday, regardless of whether we finished our meeting yet or not), and then meet together again in the large lounge of our dorm. By this point, all the visitors our Meeting had had, had left, as it was getting quite late. I knew that we still had a huge issue or two to come, and was as emotionally prepared as possible - I was spiritually grounded.

After moving everything, re-setting up, eating some pizza, and a number of hugs, it was time to settle in again. I was almost in disbelief at how late that it was and how we hadn't even touched the drug concern yet. I held on to faith that it would come up in good time, and that we would all perhaps at least get a little sleep that night.

The next issue we came to had to do with intervisitation hours and curfew. Currently, no intervisitation (that is, no one was allowed to hang out in a dorm room other than those who roomed there) was to occur after midnight, and we were all supposed to be in our rooms in bed by 2am. These were guidelines we had revisited on Sunday; we had changed the intervisitation guideline for a trial period - prior to Sunday, intervisitation would last until 2, and we decided to try having it end at 12 until Wednesday Meeting for Business. Despite the fact that we had visited the guideline as a community on Sunday, there had been a great number of infractions of this guideline every night that week. The counselors were beginning to feel like 'cops', which is not what they came to do - the community was supposed to hold itself accountable for its own guidelines. Again, I believe the heart of this problem rested in a lack of understanding of Quaker process, and a lack of understanding the every single guideline was alterable by us as community. None of the guidelines were there just because they 'had to be'. While we were supposedly re-addressing whether we were content with the shift in intervisitation time, we instead were raising concerns about the infractions.

Friends began to speak of trust and respect in our community.

At this point, the clerks at the table (Erik and Tamsin co-presiding, Madeline recording, and Tara supporting) found that the next agenda item, the drug concern, needed to be introduced before this one was closed - they were both concerns along similar lines. It was then about 2:00am. I was conscious, grounded, and feeling solid as a rock in my centeredness. I couldn't be shaken even if I tried to be (which I did - I'll explain in a moment). I was fully present, and feeling like a pillar of strength as I held the entire community in the Light. This state of being did not take conscious, purposeful effort, but was what I naturally fell into that night, despite my incredible exhaustion.

Erik read the preface we had previously written, and opened the concern to the community with no suggestion of what direction to go with it. We had to have a considerable amount of faith that the community would eventually come to a place where it needed to be with the issue - there was no way to resolve this but through the Spirit. I remained solid as emotion began to pour from the community. Many expressed anger and hurt - the individuals who were involved with the alcohol and drugs were present anonymously in the room, and the community was aware of this. There was love, yes, there was a lot of love, but love was angry, too. These actions had hurt the community deeply, trust was violated deeply. Trust was violated deeply. There were so many personal stories of struggles with drugs, either personally or with a family member of dear friend - Gathering was supposed to be a place free of that, safe, trusted. Everyone hurt. So many were crying. A friend of mine near me needed considerable calming down, and at points had to leave the room or get water. I remember sitting there, right next to the desk, holding hands tightly with someone, at one point hugging someone strongly, solidly, groundedly.

I need to emphasize that love and forgiveness were strongly expressed, right along with the concerns about trust and respect, and the anger and pain. The entire community, together, felt all of this.

I saw and felt others around me crying, releasing, feeling the pain. I felt the pain, and tried to allow myself to cry, but only a few times did tears come, and they didn't last long when they did. I was so steady and grounded - I'm not trying to imply that this groundedness was a bad thing; the community needed the support, and I did all that I could. (I just wished a little that I could have such a release as others were having.) Through the week, and especially at this point in time, I discovered more about how deeply rooted my strength is. I found more strength than I ever knew possible, and kept going, supporting, being.

It was difficult to find a clear sense of the community about what needed to happen. At some point the clerks directed attention to the issue of what to do about it. There was mention of the minute from last year, and how clearly ineffective it had been. We did not want this happening again. If I remember correctly, we wrote a minute about this year's experiences - and a committee met again in the next couple days to make sure the minute included some of the feelings and emotions from the Meeting for Business; it had been mentioned that perhaps the minute from last year was too formal-sounding. Also, when the minute from this year is read next year, we discerned that a Friend or two who was present this year rise and explain what happened and how it felt to be part of it, just to re-emphasize the gravity of it all to next year's community. When we had finally reached clarity, we had some closing worship for the Meeting, and finally finished. It was 4:00am.

Many Friends took some time to process a little before going to bed. I was still too grounded and centered to become emotional enough to release. I gave (and received) a great many hugs, talked a little bit to a few people, and finally, after nearly 12 hours of emotionally and spiritually intense meetings with barely more than one short break, I went to bed (and almost immediately to sleep) around 4:30am.

[For a little more clarification about the logistics of the response to drug issue, it turns out there is a wider Gathering policy about such an incident. Erik, Tara, Tamsin, and Hilary ended up meeting with a few other Gathering clerks about the issue on Friday evening - Madeline and I were clerking a Nominating Committee (which Susanna was part of not as a clerk) when this meeting happened, and thus were not present at that meeting, so my version of the details is perhaps incomplete, and perhaps flawed. From what I understood from what one of the clerks who was at this meeting told me, those involved in the drugs or alcohol (some came forward after the Meeting for Business, and some names had been given when the incident(s) was(were) originally reported earlier in the week) were to meet with a counselor about it, and a letter explaining what had happened (and including the minute written about it) was to be sent to all parents of participants. There may be a little more to it than that, but when I was told about this, I was just a little exhausted as it was the middle of the night on Friday.]

After laboring many hours to write this post and the one right before it, I am now about to go to bed rather late. This was exhausting to write, but so dearly important to express.

Friends, I thank you deeply for reading through all of this - it was even more intense being there. There is more to come - next I will share about my experiences the day after such a meeting, and then the most amazing experience clerking the Nominating Committee. The intensity has not quite ended yet.

Love and Light,

EDIT: I received the letter sent to all High School program participants, parents, and sponsors, and feel it's appropriate to copy it here at the end of this post. Here it is.

21 July 2005

TO: All Participants in the 2005 FGC High School Program
cc: all counselors, parents and sponsors of High School participants

FROM: Bruce Birchard, General Secretary
David Miller, Clerk, Long Range Conference Planning Committee

RE: Alcohol and Illegal Drugs in the High School Program

Dear Friends,

On Friday, July 8, at the end of the 2005 Gathering of Friends, we were informed that alcohol and marijuana had been used by some members of the High School community. We met Friday evening with the High School Coordinators, two of the High School counselors, and four of the High School clerks to discuss this.

This is a serious violation of both the law and the commitments that High School participants made to us and to one another in joining the High School community at the Gathering. All participatns received a letter welcoming them to the program which stated, in part:

In order to gain the most from you Gathering, it is important to prepare for the experience. Please take time to read through the guidelines and expectations (included as a separate sheet) and discuss them with your parent/guardian and/or FGC sponsor. By attending Gathering as part of the High School Program you implicitly agree to abide by these guidelines. The guidelines have been developed and approved by the High School Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business, and they represent our collective wisdom on how to construct a safe, supportive, and fun community ....

The "Guidelines of the High School Program of FGC" include the following point:

9. No illegal drugs or alcoholic beverages.
Reason: Apart from the obvious legal implications, use of mind-altering drugs undermines the purpose of the community. It can lead to disruptive behavior and reduced ability to participate in the program.

These are not simply guidelines for the High School Program. In fact, ALL Gathering participants (including High School participants) are sent a copy of the "Gathering Expectations" which speaks of forming "a community of Friends living in the discipline of the Spirit" and specifically states:

Alcohol, fireworks and sparklers are not permitted. Use or possession of illegal drugs in prohibited ...

Several members of the High School community ignored these commitments, bringing (or purchasing) alcohol and/or marijuana and using it during the week of the Gathering. In doing so, they undermined the spirit of the community and put the entire High School Program at risk.

We undrsand that these matters were discussed extensively, and with deep feelings and concerns, during the business meeting of the High School community on Wednesday night. We have been informed by the High School clerks and staff that the strong negative response of the High SChoolers was taken seriously by those known to have violated their commitments. An epistle was written and read to the 2005 Gathering Committee on Friday. We will forward a copy of that epistle to all of you when it becomes available.

Yet we also understand that this has happened in other years, and we are concerned that it could happen again. Hence this letter to all participants, parents and sponsors.

We wish to make it perfectly clear that, in the future, use or possession of alcohol or illegal drugs by any participant in the High School Program will result in the violator being separated from the program. As with violations of community expectations by any Gathering attender, any action to be taken will be discerned by the appropriate officials within the FGC/Gathering structure.

In preparing for the 2006 Gathering of Friends, we will take extra steps to communicate clearlyt with each participant abou t the seriousness of the commitmens which each individual undertakes in joining the High School community. Steps under consideration include a special statement to be signed by all participants in which each individual agrees to abide by the guidelines, special discussion in the orientation of High School counselors and staff, and special discussion in the orientation of High Schoolers and their parents or sponsors on the first evening.

We appreciate your attention to this concern and encourage you to discuss this with each other. We would welcome your comments or questions, which may be sent to our Conference Coordinator, Liz Perch: All comments and questions will b eshared with the High School Coordinators, Kri Anderson and Cari Burke, unless you specifically ask that they be held in confidence.

Having said all this, we want to voice our tremendous appreciation for the extremely dedicated, caring and exhuasting work of the High School coordinators and counselors, and for the very serious commitment by most of the High School participants to making their week-long community so very loving, caring and centered in the Spirit. This is truly an awesome community of wonderful young Friends, and we do not want it to be endangered by the actions of a few.

Edit again: Here is the Epistle from the High School Program:

Epistle from the High School Program
July 7, 2005

It was brought to the attention of the High Schol Program duing the course of the Wednesday night Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business that members of the community have used alcohol and marijuana during the course of the gathering. The clerks introduced a chance for worship, stating that they themselves were struggling with the issue. From this worship, a wide array of emotions arose, including anger, confusion, and grief. Many felt sadness and pain knowing that trust could be lost not only between members of the comunity, but also between the program and the larger gathering. However it was clear that the community felt that those involved are surrounded by love and acceptance. Many members shared stories of substance abuse and addiction in their lives. It was affirmed by many that drugs and alcohol are simply not needed in such a warm and loving environment, yet it was understood that isolation and pain can be channeled through these substances.

The community struggled to determine how to move forward following the period of worship, and wrestled to develop the appropriate consequences for thses circumstances. One defining sentiment was that it is absolutely not an option to remove any members from the community, and that such actions would only tear us more deeply. To prevent any similar situation from occuring in years to come, many felt that each year the community should reexamine the emotional gravity of the drug guideline experienced during the night through a written statement or discussion at orientation each year. We will also make an effort to ensure that this experience will become part of the oral history of theHigh School gathering.

The entire program as a whole recognizes the break in trust that this event could create with the greater gathering, yet we hope that through our emotions, and the love we have expressed for each other, it is understood that this event will reverberate througout our program for years to come. Througout the evening as well as early morning, the importance and strength of our community guided the spiritual leadings that allowed for such forgiveness and compassion for all of our members. Healing the tear in the community created by these actions will only develop through love and understanding.

We offer our experience to the wider gathering as testament of our strength and with a hope that trust can be maintained.

FGC Gathering 2005: The Experience of a clerking young Friend - WEDNESDAY, late afternoon, evening

Note: This is a very long post, but incredibly important. I suggest leaving a decent amount of time to read it, or deliberately read it in parts. The full story is very important.

..picking up where I left off from the last post..

In Nurture Committee on Wednesday afternoon, Kri brought to us a major concern. The staff (counselors) had had a very lengthy meeting about it that morning, and they ended up clear that this needed to be brought to the community - via Nurture Committee - for discernment. A participant had brought to their attention that there were some in the high school community who had done alcohol and marijuana during Gathering this year.

Let me open this issue with a description of what happened
last year. Last year, a participant had unlocked his room on the first day to find the smell of marijuana. It was not actually clear if this was from another participant (as the participant whose room it was was in a single for the week and had just arrived), or someone not involved with Gathering, previously there. Just in case, though, the community addressed it as if it were a single, unknown member of the high school community. [Last year I was a member of Nurture Committee, but not a clerk of any sort.] Kri (co-coordinator last year, too) brought the issue to Nurture Committee. We, the Nurture Committee, met on Monday for a very emotional two hours, trying to discern how to address this issue. Eventually, it was clear what needed to happen: during Wednesday night's Meeting for Business, the clerks would set aside a 40 minute period of time for the concern. During this time, there was open worship for Friends to express their feelings, concerns, and leadings on the issue - a period of time was set because action did not necessarily need to be discerned by the community, and the Meeting for Business did not necessarily need to go way into the night. If more time was needed, it would have been granted.

This 40 minute period involved an outpouring of emotion. Friends were hurt and upset. It is VERY important to emphasize what hurt the most here: our
trust and respect had been violated. The guidelines we have in place are ours. We discerned them in Meetings for Business, and we have the ability to change every single one of them as a community. A violation of a guideline was more than just a guideline violation - it was a strike to the trust on which the community holds its foundation! Such trust is vital to how deeply we connect and bond together during the week, and how we function! Naturally there was a lot of emotion involved when this issue came to being, even if there was question about whether it was actually a member of the community - in fact, the fact that we didn't know was irrelevant. Some Friends shared very personal and stories of how drugs had negatively affected their lives. Also, though, the beauty of this was that while Friends were very upset, there was an outpouring of love to whoever this individual may have been. "Whoever did this, we love you." Friends offered to be named specifically as people to talk to if anyone needed to talk about a drug problem. The community, while upset, was able to express love and an openness to help anyone who may have been the involved.

We did not want this to happen again. We wrote a minute about what had happened, to be read at this year's Gathering during the first Meeting for Business. (If I had that minute right now, I would post it. I'll try and track it down -someone out there has it.)

Indeed, this year that minute was read at the beginning of Sunday night's Meeting for Worship with Concern for Business. Unfortunately, it clearly did not have the impact we hoped it would. In fact, on Wednesday, many Friends on Nurture Committee (who had not been at Gathering the previous year) didn't really remember it, or they remembered that something about it was read, but didn't remember much else about it. As soon as I realized this, I described what had happened last year in detail. I was sure to be clear that while it was important to know what happened, I was not presenting it as the way to resolve the issue this year.

This year was a little different. This year, we were sure that members of our community had been involved. This, coupled with a large number of guideline infractions surrounding curfew and quiet hours within the dorm every night so far, reinforced in me the idea that this year's community did not have a full understanding of Quaker process and the trust and respect involved in this community, especially pertaining to the FGC Gathering High School program. In fact, some of the main concerns brought to Nurture Committee earlier in the week had to do with a multitude of minor guideline infractions. In an attempt to address this, we asked that the topic of Quaker process and Meeting for Business be brought up for discussion and questioning/answering during support groups. I made a point to be clear about this in my support group, and I think those in my group who did not understand before, had a much better understanding afterwards (this is speculation on my part). I have a strong belief that the root of almost all of our concerns during Gathering this year were due to this lack of understanding about the basis of our community on Quaker process/Meeting for Worship with Concern for business, and the incredible trust and respect we need to (and usually do) hold for each other and expect from each other.

We clerks had attempted to pre-emptively address this possible issue during orientation on Saturday, the day we all arrived. We stood as clerks infront of all the participants and parents and sponsors and spoke about Quaker process, our Meetings for Business, and what it means for a meeting to be Spirit led, and how incredibly important all of it is for our community each year. (We also explained and defended why our Meetings met when they did, and lasted as long as they did sometimes - but why we had to explain that is a topic for another day.)

So, on Wednesday of Gathering this year, Nurture Committee had just been handed a great issue. After explaining the events of last year, the meeting was open to leadings and concerns. This year, it was not so clear what to do. A number of concerns came up, including the whopper - What should be done? What about consequences? Do we decide that? How would we make such a decision? It was clear almost immediately that this issue needed to be brought to Meeting for Business that night. What we ended up circling around for most of the meeting was how the issue needed to be framed when it was brought up. Did we need to direct Friends thoughts or concerns to consequences? Did we need to emphasize the gravity, or was that a given? Other important things were brought up. Finally, 10 minutes until dinner ended at 7, Nurture Committee was clear enough about what needed to happen to conclude. The issue needed to be brought to Meeting for Business, and prefaced with some of the concerns that had been brought up (greater detail about which concerns exactly I cannot remember at this moment in time). Nurture Committee then broke and went off to catch dinner.

Susanna and I (co-clerks of Nurture Committee) went quickly off to dinner to grab food and return to the dorm - we still had to meet with the other clerks. I was exhausted, a little upset - but mostly very grounded and solid, as it seems I would remain for most of this process - and very aware of how much I'd done that day (and that week), and what was still to come.

While the Nurture Committee went an hour and a half late, the other clerks had met as we had previously planned to around 6 to finish discussing everything else - earlier we hadn't been aware of the drug/alcohol issue, and they weren't yet, either. While Susanna and I were still in Nurture Committee, the other clerks had finished discussing everything else and were taking a break until we got out of our meeting. Me, Susanna, Erik, Tara, Madeline, Tamsin, and Hilary met together, with Kri present for clarifications when needed, from 7 until Meeting for Worship with Concern Business began, 20 minutes late at 9:20pm.

This meeting of ours began with the other clerks updating Susanna and me about what they had previously discussed, and finishing up some discussions about other smaller issues. We then presented the concern to the other clerks (who had previously been unaware of it), and began discussing it (again). We talked about what we felt needed to happen, what we felt about the issue of consequences, how we thought it might need to be prefaced or framed when presented to the community - we touched on a number of the same issues Nurture Committee had raised. We also were aware that we couldn't impose our own feelings about the issue on the community. Finally, we had to admit that we really didn't know what to do, ourselves. To introduce the issue, we made sure it was prefaced well - I think it included emphasis on how this was a violation of trust and respect and such - we wrote the preface that Erik (co-presiding clerk of Meeting for Business with Tamsin) read to the community when the issue was later introduced to everyone (again, I can't remember the specific details - I apologize for that).

Finally we were ready for the Meeting for Business to begin (somewhere in there we clerks had switched buildings, rearranged the furniture in the room where our meeting took place, and posted the agenda on the wall). Around 9:20pm, we clerks were beginning to settle and center after a long conversation while the entire high school community and any visitors to our Meeting for Business silently filed in and found seats. With an idea of what was to come in the next few hours, I somehow found a deep grounding, a solid focus, that would remain with me through the night.

Friends reading this, please stop for a moment, take a breather, and if you need to, just sit with this for a moment. I am ending this post here (while posting the next one simultaneously, so as you read this, it's already there, ready to be read). This post alone is already incredibly long, incredibly intense, and describes a lot to take in (imagine having been there!). I will now dive into that night's Meeting for business in the next post.

[I've been working on this post for a few hours now, taking frequent breaks when necessary. I won't go to bed tonight until I have the next one written, and both of these posted. If you're reading this, I accomplished that goal.]

Love and Light,

FGC Gathering 2005: The Experience of a clerking young Friend - WEDNESDAY, during the day

Wooo.. Wednesday. Time to take a deep breath and dive back in for a bit..

After workshop I headed to the cafeteria to get lunch. Wednesday there was the option of 'simple meal' for lunch. Simple meal each year consists of beans and rice; money saved from having such a simple meal is donated for those with more need. (I actually put down the pamphlet I was handed and lost track of it somewhere, so I can't remember any more details about it than this - if anyone wants to clarify, feel free.) At 12:15, those of us on the small committee formed at the intergenerational dialogue from the day before were supposed to meet in a specific part of the cafeteria. Since there were people other than those of us attending Gathering on campus who used the cafeteria, the cafeteria staff had tried to rope off a section of the cafeteria for those eating simple meal, seperate from those having the regular lunch. (Those eating simple meal didn't swipe their meal cards, whereas everyone else did - it was a logistical thing.) This greatly complicated our meeting location, and it took us until 12:40 to actually sit down together in one place.

I had to leave this meeting early, too, since we had a HS clerk meeting at 1:15 back at the dorms - the second HS Meeting for Worship with Concern for Business at Gathering happens on Wednesday night, and we needed to start getting the agenda and such together. Knowing we would meet together again after support groups and Nurture Committee, we broke at 2:00. This left me with an hour and a half to do whatever I wanted or needed to do.

Instead of taking a break or sleeping (like I really needed to), I went promptly to a performance that Peterson Toscano ( was performing for us in the high school dorm, Queer 101. I stayed for most of the performance - it was highly entertaining and fun to watch, but then left a little early to get a couple things done.

I then trekked off accross campus to Squires where FGC Bookstore was set up, as well as the Gathering message boards. I returned to the bookstore and made a few more purchases (as if I didn't already have a decent stack of books from my Sunday trip), and then posted a message on the message board. When I initially left for Squires, I had the intention leaving time to see the Eyes Wide Open ( exhibit set up during Gathering. I had heard it was intense, and that I should go with someone and leave plenty of time for the experience. Since I was already squeezing things in to my free hour and a half, I decided against going, and instead took my time at the bookstore.

[I just had a brief interlude in writing this post - a 25 minute (or so) battle with my power cord - talk about jiggling a lot and a little bit of one-handed typing! Very soon, I will get a new laptop. This one has been on its last leg for way longer than any computer in this condition would be expected to last. I'm grateful I managed to position the power cord in a manner that it would work without me using one of my hands to hold it! Ok - back to the post now - sorry!]

At 3:30 support groups met, and then it was time for Nurture Committee. We began around 4:45 (late, as usual), and went through our usual process of hearing concerns and figuring out what to do with them - there weren't any major ones at this point (at least, none major enough that I can remember them after what happened next). When we finished our usual business, Kri, who had been waiting patiently for us to get to this point, had a very heavy issue to bring to us.

I feel the need to end this post here and continue in a seperate post. The next period of time I'm about to describe needs an entry to itself, not distracted by less-intense events that occurred prior, as described above.

Next entry VERY SOON. Bear with me, as this is rather exhausting to write.

Love and Light,

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

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

In the morning I awoke, met f/Friends at breakfast, and went patiently to my workshop. I was very patient that morning – I didn’t even really need to think about being patient; I just was. I think this speaks a little to how grounded I was during the week.

After workshop I briefly stood in front of the cafeteria to redirect any HS Friends to the dorm – everyone was supposed to go directly to the dorm right after workshops ("do not pass go, do not collect $200"). (I was asked by Cari to stand as a reminder for a few minutes, which is why I, myself, didn’t go so directly.)

At some point while I was standing there, someone mentioned to me what had happened with the buses – we were able to get them switched to Thursday. A wave of relief and happiness passed over me. All of that work and energy had come to something so positive – and it wasn’t that it wouldn’t have worked out alright if we couldn’t changed the buses, but it just felt so awesome that plan A became a reality. Because of all of our hard work, the community now did not have to be split during out trip, and everyone could go to the Witness and the out trip – this seemingly unsolvable problem (well, it felt unsolvable earlier in our discussion of what to do on Monday) had been resolved. Again, this is another example of faith - we put our faith into the situation, and things turned out very well. (And I don't mean to imply that if the buses hadn't come through that they wouldn't have turned out well - that could've been in good faith, too.)

Since we’d already requested boxed lunches from the cafeteria for Tuesday (due to the trip), we had to eat those lunches instead of going to the cafeteria. So we all hung out in a grassy area in front of the high school dorm relaxing, eating our boxed lunches, and just having fun together as a community. It seemed we had some bonding time together even without being on the out trip and that was really nice. (Come to think of it, I think those two hours were really among the few hours I spent actually relaxing during the entire Gathering.) I remember being incredibly exhausted and wanting to nap, but I never got around to it. By the time I was in the right place and position for nap in the grass, it was about time to go. I had already abandoned the idea of napping, anyway.

When it became near 2pm, those of us who wanted to go to the Witness began to gather together – we had decided to all go together. A huge crowd gathered – I think a majority of the 150 high school Friends had gathered to attend the Witness. Together, we walked across the campus to the location of the Witness. As we were walking, I ended up toward the front of the group and turned around to look again at just how many of us there were – I felt like I was on a march! There were so many of us! I was glowing with joy; we clerks were able to let this beautiful occurrence a be a real possibility! To have been involved in that process and to have served the community in such a deep way was so incredible! And there was more…

As we began crowding through a gate in a fence on the outside of the small field where the Witness was taking place, those Friends already there spontaneously applauded our arrival – I think there was a general awareness of how hard it was to get this to happen, but also, our presence as young Friends was so important to the Witness. My heart did fill with Joy – as did the hearts of many. What a fantastic experience that entire process was.

The speakers and performers were very nice, and often moving to listen to. There was a point where a woman from the local community had stopped on her way to work and stood up on the stage and spoke of how she felt so much warmth and acceptance there, unlike anything she’d experienced in her local community. I watched as a number of people stood up to give her hugs after she walked off stage. It was beautiful.

Sitting here trying to remember what I did right after the Witness until dinner, I’m drawing a huge blank. I just thought I'd articulate that - I'm impressed by how many details I'm already managing to remember, so I'll let this blank go. Moving on, then..

After dinner, support groups happened, followed by Nurture Committee. Nurture Committee began at the same time as a Youth Ministries interest group (it was something along the lines of an interest group, at least) that I really wanted to attend. [I could speak at length about Youth Ministries as it is one of the things about which I am passionate in the Quaker realm, but I don’t feel that here in this series is the place to speak about it at length.] As soon as Nurture Committee finished (and though I wanted it to end as soon as possible, I did not let this urge get in the way of my clerking – the meeting went as long as it needed to), I walked quickly to go to the Youth Ministries thing. However, I found that I had walked quickly to the building where I thought it was, right past the building I actually needed to be in. Then, once I learned what building I needed to be in, I spent a great deal of time looking around the wrong end of the building, getting incredibly frustrated. I was about to give up, when I realized that I hadn’t looked in the very other end of the building – it was there that I found the group (oh the things that patience can do..). I was so relieved to have found it, and was able to get involved a little more afterwards on a small subcommittee type thing.

Immediately after the Youth Ministries meeting was the HS sponsored all-Gathering dance. I enjoyed myself sitting on the side with f/Friends, watching crazy Friends, young and old, dance (I'm not one to dance, myself). It was a nice way to end the day – and it was a reminder that it was probably a good thing we hadn’t had out trip earlier, otherwise few in the high school program would have had the energy to dance as they did!

Anyways, I realize that the end of Tuesday was perhaps not as moving or interesting to anyone other than myself and those present, but I felt the need to talk about it anyway – just to be thorough.

Of all the days that week, I believe Tuesday was the most relaxing. Little did I know what Wednesday would bring…

Coming soon: Wednesday – this is where the intensity really picks up. In fact, the next post may bleed into Thursday a little; aside from what I would call a longish nap, there was little distinction between the two days for me.

Love and Light,

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,

Monday, July 11, 2005

FGC Gathering 2005: The Experience of a clerking young Friend - SUNDAY (First Day)

The first day of Gathering is often slightly disappointing, only because I find myself comparing it to the end of the previous Gathering. At the beginning of any FGC Gathering, the high school program is not as united and centered and one as it is by the end of the week. So when thinking of how the previous Gathering ended in a state of immense loving unity and oneness, the first day of a not-yet gathered Gathering does not seem nearly as exciting. However, I began to find the hints of oneness in this day, getting a taste of things to come later in the week. A deeper faith began to grow within me.

Sunday morning I found myself at an outdoor all-Gathering meeting for worship. I felt a bit unfocused, which worried me a little, but I didn’t dwell on it. I was happy to be among so many Friends. About half an hour after meeting for worship, the first workshop session was to occur.

I walked into my workshop, Ways to Love your Enemies (led by John Helding), to find that I was the only young Friend there. I wasn’t necessarily surprised, but it seemed to have more of an impact on me than I originally thought it would. My first reaction was sort of an “Oh no, should I switch workshops after this? Maybe I should..” Then, though, I thought about one of the issues I’m passionate about among Quakers, an issue I wrote an essay about (which will appear in the coming FGConnections and a book soon to come out) – The Importance of Friendship among Young Friends and Adults. On the other hand, I didn’t want that to be the only reason I stayed in the workshop. I needed to know that I would be comfortable sharing among this group. As the morning continued, the group of Friends in the workshop seemed to come together, and I began to feel more comfortable. By the end of the session on that morning, I felt clear that I would stay in this workshop for the week. When John (the leader) asked me, “See you in the morning?” as I was about to leave, I was able to honestly and confidently answer “Yes.” In this clarity, I believe I began to find the first bit of a great growing faith within me.

In the afternoon I visited FGC bookstore (which was set up on campus for Gathering) and got a heap of books and pamphlets (I’ll talk about which ones later), and then we meet with our support groups. I began to get to know the other 9 people in my support group (as I knew none of them from previous gatherings), and we discerned which one of us would go on to be a member of Nurture Committee (I didn’t count since I was a Nurture Committee clerk). In this process, I found that members of this support group of mine were very centered and thoughtful, even if they themselves were not necessarily aware of it. I was very excited about this.

The first Nurture Committee met directly after support groups. This was the first time I clerked a group as large as 17, and though I was co-clerking with Susannah (and thus not alone), and had served on Nurture Committee the year before, I was still a little bit unsure of myself. This in mind, I didn’t over-prepare; I just went in keeping in mind the basics of clerking, and let it go naturally. The young Friends on this committee seemed to also be very centered and committed, which was most incredible. I found yet more faith (look – more faith! It’s growing..), and my excitement became even more grounded.

Eventually, I met with my fellow HS program clerks to prepare for the first Meeting for Worship with Concern for Business, which was to happen that night. Having never been in the clerking position before, I was more excited about this particular Meeting for Business than previous ones. After we met as clerks, I spent the hour before it was to begin running around campus with the alternate HS clerk, Hilary, (who is fully involved in clerk meetings and such during the week, while not having an official clerking role) posting messages, finding a person or two, and then setting up the room for the meeting.

Despite quite an agenda, the first Meeting for Business went very smoothly; it was wonderful. I found great faith (and it grows..) in the high school community for the week – there were so many people who seemed centered on the issues and who were participating. It was really wonderful.

It looks like this series of posts I’m writing about my experiences may be a day by day type of thing. However, I hope to have future posts a little less play-by-play as this one seems to be. The intensity picked up on Monday, I promise. This may be a lot of reading, but I do hope Friends find it worth the time. I have so much to express! If anything, this will be a good record of the 2005 Gathering for me to look back upon in the weeks and months (and possibly years) to come.

Monday coming soon..

Love and Light,


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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Preface; FGC Gathering 2005: The Experience of a clerking young Friend

As I sat in the car on the way to FGC Gathering, watching the landscape change and keeping an eye out for groups of cows, I was in a state of utter disbelief that I was on my way to Gathering. Gathering! That one week of the year that I spend the rest of the year looking forward to, and here I was on my way to it! Not only that, but I was to be one of the 6 clerks who guide the high school community through the week. It was a disbelief in the sense that I was calmly sitting there looking forward to arriving while not dying with anticipation. I knew I would be busy, and I knew that the past three Gatherings were incredible, each one better for me than the last, but I had little notion of what this Gathering would bring. This year, as one of the clerks of the high school program, a week that would be easily considered intense by high school participants was to be even more so for me, if that sort of thing can even be compared.

[As part of this preface to my posts about my experience in the FGC Gathering High School Program, I need for Friends reading my posts to understand the basics of how the High School Program at FGC Gathering works. All of the guidelines of the program are ours, determined through hours of our own Meetings for Worship with Concern for Business. The counselors are there for guidance, not enforcement. During the week we all meet together for an hour a day in support groups of about ten or so high school participants and one counselor (these are analogous to groups often called family groups in other programs). Each support group sends one member to the Nurture Committee. Any concerns during the week, serious or small, are brought to Nurture Committee (which meets right after support groups each day), where discernment about how to address them takes place.

There are six HS program clerks (and one alternate) each year; these clerks are young Friends from the program, not adults. There are two co-presiding clerks, a recording clerk, and a support clerk of the Meeting for Business, and also two co-clerks of the Nurture Committee. Together, though, all of these clerks are clerks of the high school gathering during the entire week, a responsibility not limited to when meetings are occurring.]

I'm not sure how these posts of my experience will end up being, but I have faith that I will post in a manner that will convey what needs to be conveyed.

More coming soon…

Love and Light,

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