Attending the Gathering from Childhood Reinforced Lifelong Connections with Friends

Susan Taylor shares a favoirte photo of her outdoors standing in an okra field. It's a symbol of how she has grown spiritually through the Gathering
Susan Taylor, FGC Central Committee Member

Susan Taylor

When I was nine, my family’s move brought us to a different unprogrammed meeting in a new state.  My newly made friend’s warm, cheerful mother invited me to go to the Cape May (New Jersey) Conference (not called the Gathering yet) with her and my friend, since my family was not able to attend. I eagerly accepted. 

What I remember is that I had a lot of fun and felt like I belonged there.  It was freeing to be able to walk through the town with my friend to where our program was and to later enjoy the beach, ocean, boardwalk, and the huge treat of staying in a family friendly hotel.  That time also helped to strengthen the bond with my friend, her family, and my new local meeting.  We returned another year, for more joy.

When I was a very shy 15 year-old, I once again attended and stayed with other teens at the Admiral Hotel. Despite feeling like an outsider, I knew I belonged. I felt myself stretching and especially enjoyed the humor and kindness of one of the adult leaders.  What stuck in my heart from that year was hearing Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. give the keynote address in the auditorium on the boardwalk, “Nonviolence and Racial Justice.” His emphasizing the importance of agape, loving as God loves, influenced me deeply. The theme that year was, “From Fear to Faith.”

The loving sense of community drew me back to the Cape May Conference in 1966, a few weeks before the birth of my daughter, and first child.

Though various conflicts with timing have prevented my regular attendance throughout the following years, it was exciting to be able to attend occasionally with my own family, with deep trust in the Jr. Gathering programs, the Spirit-led presence of the facilitators, and the engagement for our children with children and youth from many other Friends meetings.

My own self-confidence as a human being and a woman were significantly supported through my attendance at workshops in later years focused on women’s issues of claiming our voices and self-acceptance.  Other years, the jubilant singing with Friends before lunch or in a workshop were highlights.  Always there was the joy of living for a week with a much larger community Friends, meeting new friends, and connecting with old ones.  My spiritual life deepened and continues to with my participation with FGC beyond the Gathering–in gratitude for the years of spiritual nurture and guidance I have received through that community of Friends.

I’m quite excited to finally once again be able to attend, in person, the next Gathering, “Rooted in Story,” June 30- July 6 at Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania. My experience has been that attending the Gathering truly is an opportunity to experience community life rooted in Spirit as well. It one of the major gifts from FGC, which includes its many volunteers, to Friends and has been transforming for me.  I hope you will come. 

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