Every summer, more than 1,200 Quakers gather to share a week of worship, music, activism, and blessed community. This year, the Gathering of Friends took place June 29 to July 5 at CALU in California, PA. There were about 1,240 in attendance; the oldest was 98 years old and the youngest was only a few weeks old, and participants came from 23 yearly meetings or associations of Quakers or other faith groups.
Friends shared with us that the theme of the Gathering, Let Love Be the First Motion, touched a cord with many. Friends seemed to be more aware and engaged with social justice activism both within our commnities and in the wider world. Friends' growing attention to contemporary social issues like mountaintop removal, mass incarceration, and challenging oppression in our communities manifested throughout the week. Three plenary speakers talked about the intersection of their spiritual lives and social justice witness. Earth Quaker Action Team organized a demonstration at the local PNC Bank against funding for mountaintop removal, sending buses of participants from Gathering. Friends were asked to be better welcoming of transgendered individuals. Within the Gathering, several affinity groups grappled with the recognition that we need to concentrate on issues of class and race, approaching this work in an intentional and Spirit-led manner.
Tony Vacca, an African-trained percussionist, wove his ministry through the age groups over multiple days and gave a concert on Wednesday withSekou Sylla and Abdou Sarr. (The concert and evening plenaries were livestreamed, though not always successfully, and can be watched here.) American Friends Service Committee had a substantial presence at the Gathering, including five workshops and a track of afternoon events titled Acting in Faith. Friends Journal brought JJ Tiziou of Everyone is Photogenic to photograph many Gathering attenders at their Photo Booth; you can see those photogenic Quakers here.
Through daily opportunities for Bible study, worship, workshops, movement and music, healing, field trips, interest groups, and thought-provoking movies and speakers, in five short days 1200 Quakers built community across borders and strengthened our faith and commitment to the Quaker testimonies as we lived out our challenge to Let Love Be the First Motion.