Overheard at a Quaker Gathering: NEYM Day 3

RP Nathan holding a song book

RP Nathan holding a song book

It’s my third day  (and the second official day) at New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (NEYM). This is the first FULL day of sessions with a large intergenerational worship service in the morning and Capture the Flag in the afternoon. In preparation for the morning worship the junior high Friends put on a skit highlighting the need to thoughtfully consider a message before standing up and sharing it during the sacred silence of the meeting. Though lighthearted it seemed to have a profound effect as evidenced by the lack of messages about Friend’s cats and favorite poems or a rebroadcasting of a recent National Public Radio segment that a Friend found interesting. The worship remained centered with insightful and challenging messages.

Today I decided to record in my journal things I heard around me during worship, meals, meetings, etc so that I could share these with you on the blog.  It is not exactly a “found poem” but a sampling of some of what was said so far today at gathering.

Do not sing that again!
-mother to child as child resumes singing the “Lego Song” during breakfast

Greetings Friend!

-a Quaker woman in a bonnet to me as she enters meeting for worship

I’m heading into silent meeting so I gotta get off the phone
-overheard cell phone conversation as usher points dramatically to a cell phone he’s displaying as Friends gather for worship. (Even so someone’s cell phone went off TWICE!)

Jubilee is a time for preparing, for emptying of oneself and opening to God.
-intro to the Junior Young Friends (JYM) skit

It’s very complicated and depressing. I don’t think this is the time or the place to share it.
-said with a deadpan delivery. Advice from the “Worship Fairy” when a Friend considers reading a poem in meeting for worship (part of the JYM skit)

Can’t we just stay on the floor?
– feeble and fruitless plea of high school student when told they must sit in chairs for the next 90 minutes of worship after sitting on the floor for the first hour

God is not calling me to be the judge of the message but to follow that voice I hear. Let us return to that practice.
-spontaneous message during meeting for worship

Friends, do we hold out the possibility that we we might be wrong?
-spontaneous message during meeting for worship

Friends, we’ve just had three long and deeply spiritual messages without a pause. I call us now to reflection and silence.
-spontaneous message during meeting for worship

He’s not well. He’s not well! If I was his friend, I would say, “George, are you okay?”
-keynote speaker Philip Raines remarking on Early Quaker George Fox’s sometimes outrageous behavior

It’s almost as if they lived in a different time and place that was the future.
-Philip Raines referring to the way early Quakers lived and viewed the world.

I have a problem with the theme. Jubilee never happened. Sorry, it just couldn’t work in real life. Second beef I have with Jubilee–if it’s such a good idea to free your slaves, why wait?
-Philip Raines talking about gathering theme, Living in Jubilee

It’s my sense that we are at the time of the breakdown of Capitalism. We see the consequences of our greed and oppression…Are we courageous enough to open ourselves to God’s leading so we can take our place in the reconstruction of the Peaceable Kingdom rather than get in its way?
-spontaneous message after keynote address

Are all hearts clear? (pause) Thank thee Friends.
-Elder closes the meeting for worship

My vocal chords are laminated in phlegm.
-RP Allon struggling with allergies explains why he can’t lead the high school singing

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains you never change your socks/ And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks
-lyrics from the Big Rock Candy Mountain a folk song about a hobo’s paradise

Ah, glad I I didn’t wake you. We’re doing a sweep of the dorms.
-Kim Allen, the high school program coordinator in her never ending quest for stray teens. Instead she found me blogging

What do you think you need in your life right now?
-query for high school students to consider during affinity group meeting


This post has 10 Comments

  1. quakerpoet on August 2, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    That all sounds familiar. 🙂 Thanks for passing on the wisdom!

  2. p2son on August 2, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    And why are you not hear to contribute to my list???

  3. cary on August 3, 2009 at 4:49 am

    that’s a lovely post , P. really captures the humanity of the day.

    but what i really wanted to say is,
    that tattoo in the above photo is AMAZING.
    that’s exquisite inkwork.

    thanks for sharing. 🙂

    c,xoxo <— who's wondering what it would take to bring back the bonnet. is the world ready for Quaker chic?

  4. Sheria in SA on August 3, 2009 at 4:53 am

    “It’s very complicated and depressing. I don’t think this is the time nor the place to share it.” Reading through this, I chuckled. Why would our dear quaker take depressing poetry to this rich gathering?? I think poetry that’s encouraging and poetry that brings social justice is what this beautiful gathering needs…Peterson, any quaker places in joburg that you might know? This quaker thing sounds interesting. I wana check it out!

  5. Beth on August 3, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Bless you Peterson! I missed going this week, thank you for bringing some of that peace (and wee bit of craziness) to me here in Hartford.

    Have a wonderful week!

  6. p2son on August 3, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    BETH, sorry you can’t be here with us. I will continue to blog the rest of the week. Stay tuned!

  7. p2son on August 3, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Sheria, not sure if there is a Quaker Meeting in Joburg. I know there is one in Cape Town. I really liked it. Lovely people and nice simply meeting house.

    Why would a Quaker read a complicated and depressing poem in meeting? Beats me. I prefer the silence with few messages myself.

  8. Sheria in SA on August 4, 2009 at 4:42 am

    Hmmm…come to think of it, maybe poor soul wrote the poem about his/her experiences and wanted to share his poem, his sad feelings with others at the quaker gathering? Poets are like musicians, they write about their experiences or what they believe other people go through everyday. All the same, I hope all is well with the quaker poet. About quaker places in SA, I googled it up and all that came up was Cape Town. Anyway, have fun!

  9. Debbie on August 4, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    There is a meeting in Johannesburg – I’ve been there a couple of times when traveling in South Africa.

    Quaker House, 3 Gordon Terrace, Yeoville. QH is actually right on the border with Doornfontein and right in the vicinity of Ellis Park so so there is some disruption to traffic flow when there are major sporting events scheduled for Sundays. Meeting for Worship takes place every Sunday from 09h30 until 10h30.

    Good luck!

  10. Sheria in SA on August 5, 2009 at 12:40 am

    Thanks Debbie! Will go check it out sometime!

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