Friends General Conference

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Providence Friends at 2015 FGC Gathering

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Two members of the Providence Meeting community, Leslie Friedman and Parker Snowe, have just returned from the Gathering of Friends sponsored by Friends General Conference (FGC). The Gathering is an annual event which brings together approximately 1,500 persons from around the world to live in community according to the Quaker Way. This year's Gathering took place from July 5-11, and was held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains south of Great Smoky Mts. National Park. Attendees participated in daily workshops, interest groups, and evening programs, which included plenary speakers and a concert by Quaker songstress Carrie Newcomer. In addition, there were programs offered by various Quaker organizations, field trips, daily movement and exercise sessions, as well as plenty of opportunities for worship in the manner of Friends. A concurrent Gathering programs took place for young Friends, high-school age Friends, and young adult Friends. Click here for more details about the Gathering. 

Parker's workshop, "Biking in the Light," featured morning bike rides through the hills and valleys surrounding the WCU campus, bookended by periods of Quaker worship. A highlight was worshipping at a native American petroglyph located on a mountain near campus. Leslie's workshop, "Abandon all Weariness," was led by noted Quaker healer John Calvi and featured massage and energy work, relaxation techniques, and personal reflections. Housing was in WCU dormitories and meals were taken at one of the university dining halls, providing rich opportunities for fellowship (Parker ran into a former roommate he hadn't seen in 30 years).

A highlight of the evening programs was a talk by Parker J. Palmer, the former director of education at Pendle Hill. Parker is a writer, speaker and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change. He is the founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, which oversees long-term retreat programs for people in the serving professions. These programs—which have now served 80,000 people—are deeply rooted in Quaker principles and practices. 

Next year's Gathering promises to provide similar opportunities to live according to the Quaker Way, and will be held on July 3-9, 2016 at the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, located about 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis. See the accompanying slide show for images of the Gathering.