Friends General Conference: A spiritual well
By Tricia Sutterley
Since 2000, the Friends General Conference Gathering has increasingly become a spiritual center in my life.
I travel with my family to this “well” most summers to take in my spiritual nourishment for the year, returning to my religious home at Central Philadelphia enriched. Today I’d like to share a little about that experience with you. At the Gathering, about a thousand Quakers come together for a week at a college campus to worship, learn in workshops, listen to inspiring speakers, play in multigenerational activities, watch films, heal, dream, dance, sing, and grow.
I think for me the biggest draw has been the opportunity to feel hopeful. I feel inspired at the Gathering, whether it’s chatting with a Costa Rican Quaker over breakfast, listening to the leader of the Poor People’s campaign Rev. William Barber speak of revolution, chatting with a long time Gathering Friend at a morning yoga workshop, or exploring ways in a drop-in group to address structural racism. Quakers are trying to faithfully lead a life of love—listening to God. Many of our CPMM members join those who give me hope, taking leadership in workshops and at the plenary.
Gathering has shaped my three children’s identity of being Quaker more than anything. I remember hearing about all the young people at the High School program’s closing worship who shared, “This is the only place in my life where I can truly be myself.” They talk about how meaningful the community is. That experience is priceless.
For me the heart of the Gathering are the morning workshops. The workshop I participated in last year, “The Power of Enough" with Jackie Stillwell, shifted for me some of my chronic patterns of feeling overwhelmed. I recognized how key it is for me to take time to notice all of that for which I am grateful and how that simple act could move me from a sense of scarcity to a sense of abundance.
This spiritual journey each year has rooted my religious life in a way which I believe only strengthens my Quaker faith here at CPMM.