I have been really thinking about what I take away from the YMG. I wanted to state nice and clearly what I found useful, what I didn’t and what I need to do with it.
Firstly, let’s get the negatives out of the way.
- I didn’t do all I wanted to do, partly due to tiredness, partly because of health issues. I felt that I was letting my Meeting down by not being able to report on everything.
- I found being so far out of the campus a problem, and there were problems with the accommodation itself.
- I felt lonely – or more properly I was expecting to feel more lonely as the week went on. I was aware that most people would be as busy as I was and I did not see that they would have time or the inclinations to spend time with me.
- I was very worried about what I would do about money.
- I did not have the internet access that I expected.
- At the start of the week the home group sessions were not very good (though they improved with time).
What I found useful or fun
- I reaffirmed my faith
- I reaffirmed my belief in Quaker business methods
- I saw Quakers take a brave and right decision, and saw how lovingly we treated those who were not with us
- I felt the Spirit move us several times
- I spent some very enjoyable time on a narrow-boat with new friends
- I enjoyed the company of Friends old and new
- I found about about Friends from all over the World
- I found out what Friends House does in our name
- I learnt some very interesting facts, heard about new ideas and found a couple of techniques.
- I saw a brilliant film (The age of stupid)
- I enjoyed a concert produced by Friends
- I learnt a few new songs
- If I go with the flow (as we eventually did in our Home group) things usually work out
What I will take from the Gathering
- Firstly I think that I must be more disciplined about my silent times.
- I think I should have more confidence in my ‘belonging’. I am no longer a ‘newbie’ in Friends. I have sufficient knowledge and experience to start seeing myself as a ‘proper’ Quaker. I should be more open, perhaps, about my leadings, as it says in one of the A&Qs that has never held much significance to me:
Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life.
- I need to fill in my yellow form and stop waiting for someone to suggest what I might be good at. I have something to offer, and I know what I am interested in.
- I need to ask for help when I need it.
- I need to get over my negativity around the Bible – I heard some things at YMG which inspired me. I don’t need to accept all of it, but to take what inspires.
- I need to get back on my diet – I am not sure if some of the joint pain might be because I changed my diet to an unhealthy one. I certainly feel more awake and better physically since I got some fruit, vegetables and fish inside me! I haven’t dared to weigh myself since I got home, but I need to do so.
- I was blessed to be part of YMG and I now need to share that blessing with my Local and Area Meeting. I need to be inspiring!
I haven’t blogged about Friday yet, because my PC threw a wobbly on the last night as I tried to log in. When I rebooted I found that the settings for York Uni’s network had been corrupted. Somehow though I was initially annoyed, I was able to cope with it as a very minor distraction, and just got on with my packing and got ready to leave.
(I have removed the photo that was posted in this space).
What I would have said was this:
Friday started with no breakfast crowd, and I wanted company so I decided to go to the Galleria restaurant, which I had discovered did teas for cash so decided to see if it was open. there I would surely find Friends to chat with. It was open, but not for the likes of me, it seemed – only those on half board were served there. I found a cafe that did breakfasts, but ate alone.
I found my way back to central hall with plenty of time to take my place in the meeting to hear the draft minute of yesterday’s discussion on Committed Relationships. I found myself in tears at the end, when the fervent ‘I hope so’s ended the discussion and we moved on to the other subject – climate change. We did not have any where near enough time, but at least a start has been made.
I spent much of my lunchtime collecting additions to the Quaker Chain, though I was a little poorly – my fault entirely, I had taken painkillers for my back which caused me to feel very dizzy and a little nauseous. The chain was growing and I was delighted to see this. Because I was feeling a little rough I took a break and then joined the afternoon and concluding YM in session. We had reports (minutes?) from each group of Young Friends – including the ‘Wild Strawberries’, ‘Fidgetty Frogs’ and the ‘Fibre Optics’. It was wonderful, though a Friend complained later in home group about the children storming the stage, I did not see a problem with it.
When it came to any other business, I felt nostalgic for the start of the YMG. Strange how I was ready to leave at one point and then all my worries melted away. I miss my partner so much, but I could have gone on for another few days (if only he had been there).
The final home group was wonderful too. I had not felt that home group had gone well when we started it. We did as suggested and started with icebrekers and exercises to introduce Friends to each other, and one Friend complained bitterly about this – she was tired, she said, and just wanted to sit down and chat.the next day did not fare much better, she complained that there had already been response groups and she did not want directed chat. I felt that my co-facilitator and I were under fire for doing what we had been advised to do, and what we felt was appropriate. On Thursday and Friday we just left it to the group and it went fairly well. At the end of the week, at the last session, it felt that we were indeed a home group, and we hugged and felt good together.
Then supper – my sandwich I had made and a gentle stroll around, chatting with people, until I bumped into Peter. We went for an indepth discussion about the Forum, and I feel really happy about this. I have ‘TASKS’ to do.
Another stroll about – in such contrast to the rushing about I did at the start of YM. I took a few more photos, and then it was time to find the ‘concert’. It was called Open Majk because it was run by Majk (pronounced Mike) – a very lovely, gentle and extrememly talented man. Ask him to sing you his Ten Constipated Men song; very funny! He was a great help to me with carrying my bag. The concert was great fun – with topical sketches, songs and instrumentals. Then came the epilogue after which I sauntered to the car via several conversations with Friends to go back and pack.
Now that the minute has been accepted I can freely write about it. The minute can be read here.
On Friday morning there was a large turnout, as to be expected. We sat quietly whilst the Clerk read out the draft minute. I was amazed at the beauty of the minute: the clerks had so clearly discerned the feeling of the Meeting. There were changes and clarifications but the minute was not changed much at all.
Those who read this blog and are not familiar with the Quaker practice may be surprised to learn that Friends do not vote on such matters – we wait until the meeting is in unity, and the clerks discern when this has happened and what the feeling of the meeting is. It is an incredible process and the most incredible thing about it is that it works. I feel blessed to be part of that process. As I said later, I have never said more fervently, “I hope so”. (to quote wikipedia: ‘during a meeting for worship for business, when the clerk asks those present if they agree with a minute, Friends will usually say “I hope so” rather than “yes”. It is meant in the sense of “I hope that this is the true guidance of the Holy Spirit” ‘)
The news was carried to the media somehow (oh, I checked that I had said nothing in my blog!) and peter Eccles was on radio 4 saying that it was ‘almost certain’ that the word marriage would be used.
So, Quakers now will witness the marriage of same sex couples, in line with our testimony to Equality. It is, as some Friends said, about time.
What a magical experience this was. After the experience of the minute and all the other things, this was in some ways the culmination of the week, a gentle taking of leave from F(f)riends old and new.
As we came out of the show organised by Majk and walked towards the bridge we could hear soft voices singing. We took our places in soft rain and joined with the singing , though we didn’t know the words. The song was a canon, a round, and it drifted across the water so that from
different parts of the lake we heard different lines. Though I didn’t know it, I was soon able to sing a couple of lines. No one sang loudly – softness seemed instinctive. The song was (I Googled it):
Building bridges between our divisions.
I reach out to you, will you reach out to me.
With all of our voices and all of our visions
Friends we can make sweet harmony
Then the balloons were set off and drifted up into the night sky and eventually burned up. It felt like the end at that point, and I suppose it was in some ways. The Meeting for leaving was different – it was very much a girding of the loins for the next piece of the work – the bringing the Spirit of the Meeting out to our own local Meetings.
I am doing this in two parts because I know that there will be more to add tomorrow.
When I heard that this issue was on the agenda, I thought I knew how I felt about it. I was fairly clear in my own mind that I felt that same sex relationships were as valid as any opposite sex ones. I was fairly sure that the key determining factor is the quality of the love between the partners. I thought Quakers had got the issue right – but the law was wrong and that we couldn’t go against it, even though we should.
The thing is that I knew how I thought, but not how the Spirit led me. I did not think that others would feel the same way, or that the Spirit would lead us as a Yearly Meeting to change.
I was wrong in thinking that Quakers had got it right – our recording of same sex commitments was not, I think we are clear now, correct or in right ordering. We have moved so far.
I am just so blown away because I am now certain that the spirit is guiding us to do something, and I am also certain that I felt the movement in the hall. Not as some great wind that blew us on a different course, but rather as an unseen tide or current might change the direction the ‘good ship Yearly Meeting’ is travelling. It was a seminal moment – a real soul shaker of a moment. Friends said that the decision had been already taken, and so it had.
A Friend from Lancaster Meeting said that she was so proud of us, of Yearly Meeting, and I can see why.
What an amazingly deep and spiritual meeting, so moving and powerful – I feel, and others clearly also feel, LED.
I am so glad that I was here to witness it, no – more than that – to be a part of it. I am so grateful.
I didn’t get to epilogue.
The phone rang just as I was about to set off and by the time I had finished the call it was too late.
As it happened, I am glad – a Friend had need of a pen, and if I hadn’t been in my room I wouldn’t have been able to help.
Sometimes things seem to be a hindrance but instead they turn out to be a blessing in disguise. My back hurts which has slowed me down – but I needed to slow down in order to get the most out of YMG. I felt that I was walking at the perfect pace with Tony and Diane, and I have had time this evening to consider my actions more than I might have done if I had been able to rush around.
Time is what I need most – time to reflect and to worship on my own.
I am forced, then, to be in my room and will get an earlier night than I planned, but oh (she yawns) I need an early night!
There is a narrow-boat called Dreamcatcher berthed at York which has come from Godalming by canal and river. Today I got to see and travel in this boat with Tony – who I met on the forum, Diane, Lesley and Sophie.
I have had, as I kept telling them, a delightful day. It is remarkable that people who have never met each other can share so much, have such a great day together and feel so comfortable with each other so soon.
One of the best things is that before we ate our meals we were able to have silence even though we were in public and I really appreciated that.
I am about to go to epilogue. What a wonderful day. I had thought that the trips day was not a good idea. I now think that i was mistaken about that one too!
This morning I told myself that I was going to put behind me all the worries I had and start enjoying myself. I went down to breakfast and there were several of us, which was very pleasant. I was delighted to be able to arrange a lift into the campus, as my back was really bothering me, even though I had taken painkillers.
We joined Meeting in session and listened with interest to Meeting for Sufferings report. There were three projects which we heard about (as examples). The Friends of the Family project works with families in deprived circumstances, and the work they were fascinating, but the one that really engaged me was the one that works with asylum seekers.
Whilst in silent worship today I was suddenly aware of joy in being with so many Quakers. The thought that came into my head was that I was en-JOY-ing myself, and perhaps that was OK. Meeting is a source of joy and joy is so powerful.
Next was the forum discussion group. I had been looking forward to meeting people that I had spoken to on the forum, and I have already spoken to Kath, Peter and Tone, but had not met Alice or Jo. Both were there today and it was truly delightful to meet them and also Alice’s daughter, who played hide and seek with my chocolate bar. (a lovely child!) I think Alice was mortified, but I really had forgotten how inquisitive children are at that age.
We really need some seasoned Friends to use the forum, in order for the forum to reflect a more Quakerly viewpoint and this was one of the key points that came out at the forum discussion group.
The committed relationships session had six members relating the stories of their relationships, and I found myself appalled that we as Quakers have not challenged the fact that same-sex couples do not have the same right to enjoy a religious ceremony as part of their wedding that opposite sex pairings do.
What seems to me to be far worse is that we do not record the commitment ceremonies as weddings in our documentation. This is disgraceful. It is both dishonest and unequal – two testimonies broken at once!
I had intended to meet Jo for tea but the break did not really happen so I stayed on until the response group – and took part in that.
I think Anne would be surprised to find me so silent – I am not speaking much in the discussions, and have no intention (unless led, but I doubt I will be) to minister. I am in listening mode.
After home group I wandered back to base and started to cook. Kath said she would eat pasta and so I prepared to cook. Majk came in with some veg and we had a meal fit for Quakers with gooseberries and yoghurt for afters. Wonderful. I am so happy, not just that I am not eating alone, but that I can share time with such lovely Friends.
I made the decision to drive to the hall tonight – I didn’t think I could cope with walking. I was looking forward to the Swarthmore lecture, I was pleased to hear that Peter had been a member of Blackpool meeting – I must ask if anyone knew him. One of my housemates fell asleep – we are all tired it seem s- during the lecture, and I was finding it difficult to concentrate due to my backache, which was causing my leg to twitch alarmingly.
I have found myself sauntering along today, doing things leisurely, and getting much more out of everything, instead of rushing as I did yesterday. I wandered round the bookshop, bought a fairtrade bar of choccy to replace the one that Alice’s ‘Friendling’ found and devoured and then saw Sally from Morecambe, so went and had a hug and chat with her. I am en-JOY-ing myself, going where them Spirit leads. I am so much happier.
good night, sleep in Light.
Last night I was feeling really fed up. I was tired, a little lonely, stressed about having still not got an internet connection and worried about the amount I was spending.
This morning I felt more positive. I rang the computer service and they were sure that they could fix the problem if I took the notebook to them (up by the supermarket – a long walk with a heavy bag again). Once I got there it was sorted in no time, it was simply a matter of knowing their settings, so I am now typing this on my own notebook in my bedroom.
Then, knowing that I would be late for the start of the session, I went to find the worship tent. Set by the side of the lake it is a tranquil and lovely place, and I could have sat there all day. I will return, but not tonight. Then to business, refreshed and calm and in the right frame of mind to prayerfully take part. I arrived, as I had planned, during a break, and then took my place in the hall in time to hear the reports of Trustees and also Stewardship committees.
It was followed by the introduction to committed relationships: a thoughtful and moving talk by (oh, I need to make better notes) a father of four. I am looking forward to the rest of this subject.
This time I queued for my lunch of soup (with a mere ten minutes to eat it) – my sandwich having been squashed into in-edibility by my laptop, etc.
The next session was purely for personal interest. The geek I am could not resist a session on the new Quaker org website. It was being presented by Peter, who I have been talking to online re the forum, so I took the opportunity to grab some time with him. He gives good Hugs!
Next we had another introduction to ‘creating communities’ – given by a female speaker in front of some interesting photos of Yorkshire. I confess to getting a bit lost at one point – I think I was concentrating too much on the photos and the screen – voice recognition can be funny at times – and not listening to what was being said. I was also very tired and in the five minutes of silence at the end I very nearly nodded off.
I was naturally concerned then that I would not make it through the response group and home group, but strangely by the end of the response group I was wide awake. I found myself in a group of five with me being the person with the longest membership or attendance, and actually sharing something profound.
Home group – well, it isn’t going well, I think.
I had intended to go back but my neck and particularly my back are painful tonight – down to carrying that big bag round today, I think. The Jazz sounded interesting, after the stewardship one, but I am not up for it. I was invited for a beer, but not on painkillers, I don’t think!