Today we saw the official start of the 349th annual gathering of the New England Quakers (NEYM) with the theme Living Into Jubilee. As part of on-going worshipful discussions the organizers have encouraged all participants to consider the Biblical practice of Jubilee, letting fields go fallow for a year to give the land a rest, releasing others from their debts, taking a time of rest (at least that is how it has been presented so far although twice today I heard folks talk about setting our slaves free, perhaps it is a metaphor for something else, but no one has yet broken it down. The young people looked politely confused.)
About 65 Young Friends (high schoolers) gathered today for a Jubilee activity in which they each put down on construction paper their response to the query What are some of the debts you have carried? As soon as they began to write and draw pictures the tone in the room shifted from the general silliness from the Big Wind Blow game we had just played to a reflective silence. Then we broke up into small groups where people shared as they felt comfortable. In my group I heard deep and vulnerable sharing about things that people wanted to let go of that held them back–The need to forgive others or oneself. The desire to be free from guilt deserved or undeserved. The crippling affect of struggling over body image. The burden of living in a home where parents just divorced.
Once we completed sharing, we handed in our papers to Nathan, one of the adult RPs (resource people) who then gleefully stuffed them into a food processor with some water and ground our debts into a pulp. With this pulp we will make a new big piece of paper which we will cut up and distribute so that Friends can write down what they will take away from the gathering that will help them live into Jubilee.
In addition to this activity the Young Friends conducted a business meeting to select the members of the important Nomination Committee (or Nom Com). This is the committee that will put forward the names of Young Friends to be on the next year’s Ministry and Counsel team. I am amazed year after year how seriously they approach this task and the depth of honest conversations that emerge about the community and the members in it as they seek to discern who best to lead it.
For me personally I am taking time this week to get clarity and discernment about my possible involvement in a project later this year that I have been asked to be part of. Since I have so many opportunities to get involved with activism and education about transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay and queer issues, I know I need to be selective about the ones I take on.
For those of you who desire to keep up on the latest Quaker trends, I discovered a new twist on the classic Quaker accessory (or it may be a revival of an older long-lost style.) A Quaker will not leave the house without a personal water bottle. I mean who is going to pay a premium price for what is typically filtered tap water in a petroleum-based plastic bottle packaged by an unregulated business operating on a global scale? Buying bottled water? No, No, NO. Most of us carry a refillable water bottle.
A few years ago it seemed every Quaker I met lugged around the bulky Nalgene plastic bottle. Fears began to abound about the possibility of the plastic breaking down and leeching into the water plus the questionable use of petroleum-based bottles in a time of war over oil in the Middle East. Then I saw a move twoards the SIGG, Eco-Friendly Swiss water bottles (I’ve even seen some sold in Quaker bookstores with yearly meeting names and logos on them. But these suckers are expensive! I know, I just bought one for my partner for his birthday not to long ago. And I have found that the tops can either be easily misplaced or begin to leak (I lost two cell phones as a result of leakage).
This year I have already spied two of the cooler Quakers sporting a NEW type of water bottle–the Mason Jar! Yep sturdy, classic and well-sealed with the convenient twist on top, these puppies do the trick and carry a simple older time nostolgia about them. In the pictureto the right you will see three different water bottles I encountered today. The tall black one was, well, is one that I received in my gift bag at the Log Cabin Convertion when they asked me to speak a few years ago (although they knew I was crazy liberal.) It is, well, suggestive of something else. My friend Marvin would be appaled to carry such a loaded weapon. It does serve as an excellent source of bawdy conversation and clearly gets lots of attention when I whip it out of my bag.
Now it is very late and I have to get up VERY early if I want breakfast. (They served Quaker oats this morning 😛 )