A workshop for convergent Friends at FGC Gathering

Have you ever thought about going to the Friends General Conference Summer Gathering? It’s an opportunity to live for a week surrounded by 1500 Quakers, mostly from unprogrammed meetings in North America. As a percentage of our denomination, it’s a HUGE gathering of Friends. One Friend called it a Quaker themed summer camp for grown-ups and their families.

I've only gone twice, but I have enjoyed it and learned a lot both times. You can read more of my experience if you click on the category FGC in the sidebar. Even more is available in the QuakerQuaker.org archives in the Events section, under FGC.

The Gathering is always the week of the fourth of July. This year, it will be held at the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown, PA. Arrangements are already being made for eco-friendly travel options. There will be multiple daily opportunities for worship, Bible study, singing and interesting conversations. The FGC bookstore sets up shop on campus. There are great programs for children, teens and young adults. The evening speakers haven't been announced yet but last year they included Marcus Borg, a famous scholar, and Joanna Hoyt and Kody Hersch, two inspiring young adult Friends.

The central element of the Gathering are the morning workshops. Every morning (most) of the attenders join a small group (10-30 people) for a weeklong focus on a specific topic. This year, for the first time, I submitted a proposal to lead a workshop, and it was accepted by the committee. Eventually, you’ll be able to read about it in the catalog and online. But you heard it here first.

The title is “Primitive Quakerism/Postmodern World.” If the title could have been longer, I'd have re-used the title we chose for the FWCC workshop last year: "Reclaiming the Power of Primitive Quakerism in a Postmodern World." The topic and the content of this summer's workshop arose from some of the questions that interest me, and that I've been exploring on this blog and with convergent Friends in various places. Like:
  • What are the expressions of primitive Quakerism that are emerging around us?
  • How are they different and/or the same in the post-modern world?
  • What can we learn from other religious traditions and non-traditional groups that are also examining their roots and flying into the future?
  • How do we develop the strength and power to live up to the Light we have been given?
  • Where and Who is God calling us to be?
In this workshop, we will examine our current spiritual practices, experiment with traditional and new spiritual practices, and claim our Quaker heritage as part of our future. Friends will leave this workshop with tools and companions in our mission to live up to the Light that we have been given. I think we will have fun, but then I have kind of a crazy idea of fun.

So here is my short workshop description, that will be in the catalog:
“Explore the re-emergence of primitive Quakerism in the postmodern era. Experiment with traditional and new spiritual practices to help us fearlessly live up to the Light that we have been given. Daily hour of worship, plus reading, writing, animated discussion, singing, new media, some homework. Expect inclusive and Christian language.”
The format will be more or less like this: Most days we will begin with a song. I will provide some reading material and facilitate some discussion on the daily themes. After a short break, we will have (almost) an hour of unprogrammed worship. Then we will experiment with some relevant spiritual practice(s) and close with briefly praying for each person in the group.

In FGC-speak, the workshop will consist of
40% Worship / 10% Lecture / 25% Discussion / 25% Experiential

I expect that the kind of people who would choose this workshop will already be engaged in the ongoing renewal of interest in the religious aspects of the Religious Society of Friends. I do not expect that they will know much about the emerging church movement in other denominations. That's okay. My knowledge of all of this is still growing - I expect I will learn a lot in the workshop too.

I am both excited and nervous about this whole project. Honored and freaked out that my proposal was accepted. Especially since I saw the list of other workshops that will be offered and the people who are leading them. Who would want to come to mine when they see what else they could do? I think that some humility is good for me, and I am trying to remember just to breathe. I am not in charge of everything. God will be with me and the whole workshop.

Lord, help us all.

[I have posted the outline of the workshop separately, so that Friends can read more specifics about it. I also put links about the workshop in the sidebar for future reference until the Gathering starts at the end of June.]

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Blogger Liz in the Mist said...

Looks most excellent!!

1/15/2008 6:44 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks, Liz!

1/15/2008 7:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

sounds fantastic Robin! I think you're going to have a huge turnout, be prepared!

1/16/2008 11:35 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Wess, if I end up with too many people, will you come and help me lead it????

1/16/2008 11:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hmmm, I would like to but things are a bit crazy here right now. I would love to be there and help you out. If you get too many people, then I will see what I can do!

1/16/2008 12:43 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I know, Wess.

Actually, I think that I already set a limit of 20 people in the workshop. I think my ideal would be 10, but I didn't think that FGC would let me keep it that small.

But I'm seriously feeling inadequate to the task I have set before myself. So if you get the nudge to come, just let me know.

For other Friends, you should know that Wess and I have already agreed to lead a workshop that may end up being similar to this at Ben Lomond Quaker Center in California in February 2009. Discernment is still in progress on that.

1/16/2008 1:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm not going to the FGC Gathering this year, but I highly recommend the Johnstown, PA location. The whole campus felt as if people had been holding Meetings for Worship there for decades or more. Also, the conference staff liasons from the college were very helpful.

1/16/2008 4:18 PM  
Blogger Will T said...

Your workshop sounds good. The only thing you seem to have left out are the chocolate chip cookies and the pies. :^) Don't worry about how many people show up, that will take care of itself. Just make sure that you get yourself a good elder and know that you are just facilitating the workshop to help out the Teacher. I won't be able to be there. I will be at the FUM Triennial the next week.

Will T

1/17/2008 8:41 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Ada, thanks for the recommendation. My only personal mental association with Johnstown is to remember the big flood that was the catalyst for the founding of the American Red Cross.

Will, I'm sorry we will miss you. I'm still working on the elder piece of the puzzle. We will pray for you and the Triennial as well.

1/21/2008 5:30 PM  

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