It’s Sunday July 6th and I’ve just returned from the FGC Gathering. As usual my family and I had a fabulous time.
If you are unfamiliar, this is the annual event that pulls out all of the stops to provide a week of immersion in all things Quaker with something for everyone. Workshops and study, great teen and children’s programs (kids absolutely LOVE going to the Gathering), plenary speeches and family entertainment, dozens of opportunities for quiet worship and reflection and lots of possibilities for physical activities, field trips, singing, art, dancing, and endless socializing all are present for the 1,400 or so Quakers and seekers in attendance, primarily from the US and Canada, but spiced with visitors from literally all over the world.
But it’s hard to be everything to all, and FGC is keenly aware of this. Many Quakers are introverts and too much stimulation feels overwhelming. Consequently, there is special attention to provision of quiet times, and every activity is optional. One can pick and choose how much to be involved. So, from one perspective, the Gathering is filled with the paradox of competing needs and offerings.
There was a major demonstration this year involving over 200 Friends who went from the Gathering to nearby Pittsburgh to publicly protest the involvement of the PNC Bank in “mountain top removal” techniques of coal extraction and at the same time there were continual reminders that the theme of the week was the Woolman quote “Let love be the first motion.” The juxtaposition of these two ideas is, of course, not an oxymoron for Quakers as we have long tied love and the basis of our faith to actions in the world.
This year there were perhaps 35 or so adults and 15 children attending the Gathering from PFF meetings and I am sure that we all got something different from our experience. And that’s the point. As in life, one can always find fault with things that seem contradictory or are not just the way we would have ideally liked, but it remains a fundamental task to select out what feeds us and then to work to make the world a better place.
The 2015 version of the Gathering will be held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee beginning on July 5th. Put it on your calendar now. You’ll be glad you did!