Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

Leadings in Motion

Workshop Number: 
Tricia Milford
Who may register?: 
Open to All (adult & high school)
Experiential Activities: 
full-time attenders only

John Woolman’s journal from 1761-62 speaks to the need to be open and loving towards others with differing perspectives.  Through discussion of the journal and building mobiles, Friends will explore how our minds, hearts and spirits may respond to similar challenges we face today.

Workshop Description

The theme for this year’s gathering is adapted from a passage in Woolman’s journal, which speaks to the need for love to be the first motion in our relationship with others who have varying points of view.  (Many of which we know to be wrong! LOL) Through discussion of this particular passage from his journal and by building mobiles, Friends will explore how our minds, hearts and spirits may respond to similar challenges we face today.

This workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to experience how artistic expression connects us to the spirit and to each other allowing us to reach new understandings that might not be found in silent worship or sharing. Mobiles are a sculptural form where the elements are in constant motion and they provide a fluid, visible, tangible depiction of how other’s points of view are never the same as our own, and our own can change from moment to moment.

In his journal of 1761 and 1762, John Woolman describes his responses to issues of his day including the question of owning slaves and also the treatment and interaction with the Native Americans in Pennsylvania. Love, as first motion for him in all his dealings, led to a characteristic sympathy for the perspective of those with whom he came in contact. Although we are not faced with the same issues, in both public and personal issues we come face to face with people in our communities with different attitudes and beliefs.

On day one of the workshop, we will discuss Woolman’s text and reflect on how his writings can guide us as we face challenges in the 21st century. On days two, three, and four participants will follow the creative urgings of the spirit and express their responses to the text and their current concerns by creating mobiles.   When creating mobiles participants will have to actively consider different points of view in concrete ways.  Thus, gaining insight into how the spirit is guiding each of us to be more loving and open to others with differing points of view.  On the final day of the workshop we will reflect and share how our interaction with the text and with the creative process has informed our spiritual journeys.

Prior to the Gathering, participants are asked to read The Journal of John Woolman 1761--1762 in which he recounts his visits to Pennsylvania including his considerations on keeping slaves, his recounting of an interaction with his wife, and his visit with the Native Americans on the Susquehanna River.  It can be accessed at this website:

Participants are encouraged to bring found objects and other materials that they may wish to use in constructing mobiles and to share with other participants.  Materials will be provided for participants to explore in their creation of mobiles.

Leader Experience

In 2013 I led my first workshop at Gathering--Illuminated Inner Light: Art outside the lines.  We had great fun! The feedback of participants indicated that they liked the way in which I was able to draw out their creativity and direct and guide their artistic expression.  When I reflected on the workshop I felt that it would have been enhanced with a more focused spiritual dimension and more discussion about the spiritual experience of creating art.  For this reason, I have chosen the Woolman text as the "jumping off" point for this year’s workshop and allocated more time for a conversation about the connection between the art created and the text.