It’s now five days since I arrived at Bryant University for the New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) of Friends (Quakers) and a quiet day at that after a wonderfully raucous evening, a pause before a VERY raucous evening tomorrow when we have the annual “Talent” Show and then the Young Friends dance which goes until 2:00. Yes, we hold a Quaker Rave of sorts.
Oh, you will see some wild Quaker behavior going on this week. Friends carrying around their own mugs, cups and cutlery, so they don’t have to use the paper and plastic of the cafeteria or even the glassware that requires lots of energy to wash (which in my opinion is far more sterile than walking around with wiped off plates and forks with bacteria forming bits in your back pack.)
You also have Friends acting wild with the outrageous Winkum (called Wink or even Bloody Winkum elsewhere) that somehow turns out to be both extremely loving and violent at the same time. Read a description at Street Corner Society blog.
I imagine if most people from conservative Baptist to liberal Catholic walked in on our Contra dancing last night they would have witnessed serious Quaker wildness. Our “Contra” is more of a hybrid of folk and square dancing where one “do see do’s” one’s partner with lots of whooping and hollering (well I whoop and holler a lot).
Many Friends partner in the most unexpected ways. You have very old with very young and loads of gender switching with male identified dancers strutting their stuff as the “female partner, (I pranced around letting everyone know, “I’m a lady!’) and female identified folks taking on male parts. Then we had boys partnered with boys and girls with girls, dancing together, not necessarily because they were orientated that way but simply because they wanted to and they could. Friend dancing with Friend. Two six foot something gendernormative male teens, as far as I know straight-identified, skipped around and twirled each other as a woman with a microphone barked out the moves we were supposed to make. I even waltzed with fellow RP (adult resource person for the teen program) Nathan at one point.
To us this is not wild behavior. This is fun. This is a celebration of our diversity and our openness and a playful way to create safe space for all kinds of healthy relationships. And for workers of the youth programs it is an excellent way to burn off excess youthful energy among our charges.
I guess if was Quakers we were truly to have “Gone Wild” it would mean that we decided to vote on a measure without any sort of discussion instead of our traditional route of seeking consensus was we listen deeply to each other. That would be wild and awful. As I sat in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, a sometime painfully slow but often utterly graceful and gorgeous experience, I felt grateful to be part of this peculiar people.