‘We did conclude among ourselves to settle a meeting, to see one another’s faces, and open our hearts one to another in the Truth of God once a year, as formerly it used to be.’ Yearly Meeting in London, 1668
On 30 July, around 1,500 Friends and their families will make their pilgrimage to Canterbury for Yearly Meeting Gathering (YMG). We will stay for a week on the campus of the University of Kent at Canterbury, on a hillside overlooking the city. All are welcome – members, attenders, and non-Quaker family members and friends. The theme of the week-long gathering is Growing in the Spirit: changing the way we live to sustain the world we live in.
There will be abundant opportunities for worship, reflection, learning, discussion and creativity related to the theme, exploring where the Spirit is leading us, and celebration. Yearly Meeting sessions through the week will hear about work done on our behalf, explore issues such as economic justice, and consider our corporate way forward. There will be lectures on subjects ranging from environmental sustainability to Quaker work with young people. And of course YMG is a chance to meet and spend time with other Friends.
This is the second experimental event combining aspects of Yearly Meeting and Summer Gathering. In planning the week we hope we have learned from the experience of the first YMG in 2009, which participants found inspirationally successful. The sessions were fantastic and the Spirit moved. It was intense, busy and tiring, and Friends loved it just like any other yearly meeting, perhaps more.
Combining Yearly Meeting and Summer Gathering enables more Friends to experience more aspects of our life together: twelve hundred Friends in Meeting for Worship for Business finding joy in unanticipated unity; sensitive listening and support in a small group; days framed by early worship and evening epilogues. There will be dancing atthe ceilidh with fun, learning and creative activities for all tastes and all ages.
Many aspects of this YMG will follow established patterns: others will be a bit different. We have the Swarthmore Lecture, reports to Yearly Meeting and opportunities to find out about all kinds of informal Quaker groups. There will also be new and, we hope, welcome changes. Wednesday will be ‘do something different day’ with lots of options on campus instead of most people going off on coach excursions (see Ursula Fuller’s article in this issue). Agenda Committee has scheduled much more ‘as led’ time than usual and has planned for concerns arising in gathering activities early in the week to be tested and brought to a YM session later on.
The planning committee was clear from its first meeting that the gathering was about flourishing – for ourselves, our communities and Quaker Meetings, and the natural world. Friends have differing needs and some will enjoy a week of breathless activity while others need space and quiet. We are making sure both are possible. We are encouraging Friends to connect up with others coming from their Local and Area Meetings; several Meetings are sending large groups together. We have continually asked how we can make the gathering as environmentally sustainable as possible – for example, we hope to have a local supply of organic vegetable boxes available for Friends in self-catering accommodation.
The joy of our gatherings is found as much in odd moments and encounters as in organised activities. And the main ingredient is you. So please book now, because places are filling fast!
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