Quakers Gone Wild! NEYM Day Five

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.

This post has 8 Comments

  1. Johanna on August 4, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    NEYM sounds like so much more fun than PhlYM! Granted, I was too tired to even think about Contra dancing last week at our sessions… but still, overall, it seems y’all have way more fun than we do.

  2. Sheria in SA on August 4, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    First, I like your screaming headline, “quakers gone wild!” Secondly, do they serve alcohol at this gathering?

  3. Mary Ellen on August 4, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    wish I’d been there!

  4. Sheria in SA on August 5, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Me too! Wish I was there. Okay, worship aside, sounds like just being there is LOADS of fun in itself! Now am jealous!

  5. emmet on August 5, 2009 at 11:22 am

    haha. my cousins (some of whom you may have been dancing alongside this week?) have taken me to a couple of contra dances when visiting them in vermont.

    i like how contra seems to be mostly less complicated than square dancing, but more twirly…so one can get just as confused in a much more joyful way. i have a bad habit of forgetting my “gender” mid-dance, though… (i can’t decide if this is indicative of how unattached to my gender i am, or just how easily bewildered…or both?)

    + it’s always a treat to dance with cute boys in skirts. 🙂 not nearly enough of that in rural new brunswick…i missed out on my fix of gender-swappy hippy frolicking last weekend when i didn’t go to a certain festival i generally partake of this time of year…so it’s good to be reassured that similar good times were being had in more than one happy pocket of the world.

  6. p2son on August 5, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    emmet, I just returned from the Young Friend dance with a crankin’ mix of oldies, hip hop, techno, funk and ska (they still have another 75 minutes to go) and I have to say, we know how to have fun on a dance floor. No dancing ability required!

  7. p2son on August 5, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Sheria, no alcohol during our gatherings. Quakers have had a long history of “abstinence from spirits” and although individual Quaker drink, as a body when we come together we maintain the expectation that we will be alcohol-free. We can be filled with the Spirit though and when you see us dance, well you would assume we are drunk.

  8. Sheria-SA on August 6, 2009 at 9:25 am

    “We can be filled with the Spirit though and when you see us dance, well you would assume we are drunk”. Love this Peterson! It’s called getting drunk with the holy spirit… Amen!

Leave a Comment