The other stuff at FGC
My week-long morning workshop was on The Blessed Community in the Epistle of James. I enjoyed the work we did in triads, some role playing, some worship sharing. One of the interesting things was comparing the translations in the King James version (KJV) and The Message version (TMV). The leader, Max Hansen, pointed out that the King James would have been the version the earliest Friends would have been most familiar with, and so it is well worth reading it to understand more of their allusions. But then frequently, he would ask me to read the same passage in the Message and we would compare. If this hadn’t become a useful pattern, I’d have stopped carrying such a hulking book around by the second day. Since Chris had his (our?) Oxford Study Bible, the “scholarly” version, I had thought it might be interesting to bring something completely different to my workshop. I have a tiny KJV that I used too, to be able to tell where the verses are, since there aren’t any verse numbers in the Message.
Probably the best part of the workshop was the worship that occurred on the final day. We started with our usual opening silence, then Max read an epistle from George Fox, then the fifth chapter of James (KJV), then I read the fifth chapter again (TMV). Max hesitated and then explained that what he really wanted to give us couldn’t be workshopped. He admitted that he feared for his evaluations if he was open. He wanted us to feel the presence of the Living Christ and if not, the emptiness that might lead into seeking out the Presence. And from there, we moved into deep worship-sharing and then we closed. This description doesn’t convey the sense of covering, of gathering I felt. You just had to be there.
Chris and I talked a little bit about the testimony of simplicity in regards to dorm sleeping & eating. Having two twin beds and the boys on the floor is not ideal sleeping conditions, but no one was cold and no one (that I heard) complained. When I was frustrated with the sheets that were too short for the bed, I remembered when I lived in Mexico and was grateful to have a mattress at all. In the college cafeteria, there were many, many options. I had to make a point of choosing healthy options and not all fried foods. But the salad and vegetables were good. In the adjacent middle school cafeteria, there were fewer options, but the fish was delicious and the produce was locally sourced and largely organic. No one went hungry. We made the trek most evenings, enjoying both the walk and the calmer environment for eating. Ironically, on the day that the college was serving just rice and beans for the official simple meal, with the savings going to Right Sharing of World Resources, the middle school was the place that Friends could have the usual plethora of options.
One of the joys of going to a Quaker gathering, for me, is visiting with other families. Eating together, doing laundry together, watching our kids play with dolls, or spinning tops or tag on the lawn together. It’s hard to have deep, coherent, spiritual conversations that are regularly punctuated with phrases thrown over your shoulder like slow down, no fists, do you need to go to the bathroom? But we try.
On Wednesday evening, our boys were playing happily on the big lawn after our picnic dinner & concert. Chris and I sat with first one group, and then another, and then another from about 5:00 until 9:00 p.m. When we finally called it a night, our boys were playing with some other kids their ages and a small group of older teens who were taking turns spinning them around and swinging them up in the air. They had met basically because the little kids had been throwing ice up in the air and at some point it had landed on the teens and they had responded congenially. The other parents agreed with us that we were so glad for the young arms and backs who were able to spin over and over and over again to the mutual delight of teens and kids.
In many ways and in many places, our kids have made friends with other Friends. In fact, about half the people who usually go to our yearly meeting went to the FGC gathering this year. For sure, we met a lot of new people. But there were enough familiar faces that it didn’t feel like swimming in a sea of strangers. One of my favorite moments was introducing two couples, one from our Meeting and one we had just met, to each other. They’d all been attending the Gathering since the early 80’s and had seen each other but never spoken to each other before.
We also connected with old and new friends. Like Liz Opp and Paul L., I enjoyed seeing Peggy Senger Parsons and meeting Alivia Biko from Freedom Friends Church. I was delighted to run into Peter Crysdale, who now lives on the East Coast, but who was a spiritual teacher to me some years ago. I also met two young women from Northwest Yearly Meeting who had been to the World Gathering of Young Friends, and Holly B. from New England Yearly Meeting who they came to hang out with. I only made it once to the afternoon worship sponsored by Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns. I would do that more often the next time.
One of the interesting points for me over the week was telling people I’m going to Newberg, Oregon on Friday. Sometimes I let it go at that, and sometimes I was quite specific that we were going to meet Friends from the evangelical Friends church there that we had gotten to know through our blogs. People were all supportive about it, if sometimes a bit surprised. Carl Magruder and I talked quite frankly about going to Newberg and Northwest Yearly Meeting, since he had been there before. He reminded me to listen more than I speak. I tried, but probably failed. I’m still writing about that experience, but it’s coming.
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