The Gathering Changed My Life.

When I attended my first Gathering in 2002, my life was in the midst of rapid change. All the activities I had based my identity on were shifting – I was facing the empty nest (the youngest of my three children would go to a distant college in the fall), my husband had retired, I no longer had a job outside the home (no daily professional work), even my 13 years as a Girl Scout leader were ending with all the girls graduating from high school. I was stressed and somewhat frightened, not knowing how my life would unfold.
I had been attending Quaker meeting for about a year when the Gathering Advance Program arrived in my mailbox. I had not heard of the Gathering before. I clearly remember the moment of standing in my kitchen, paging through the variety of offerings, and thinking – “what a gift! maybe going to this event will help me find a path forward.”

In that Gathering, layers of self-image and self-protection began to fall away, revealing a more authentic “me” to myself. My husband and I took the Couples Enrichment workshop and found deeper ways to express and sustain our love for one another. I shared some of my most private fears in that workshop and I marveled at the safety I felt there. Worshipping multiple times each day, in community or by myself, opened up my heart afresh to the movement of the spirit. I talked, sang, ate, and even danced with other seekers from all over North America, finding that, in essence, their spiritual journeys were not so very different from my own. I went home lifted up by the transformation that had taken root in me. My growth in the spirit altered my worldview, allowing me to let love flow through me in new ways.

I am grateful to the Gathering for the opportunities that the experiences there provide for me. Each year that I attend, the Gathering enriches my life in new ways, shifting my path, some years dramatically and others just slightly, to a closer walk with the spirit.

Michelle Bellows

New Friends and Old

In 2000 I attended my first FGC Gathering in Rochester, NY. My daughter had been campaigning to go, and it was the last year she could be in the High School Program (which got rave reviews from her PYM friends), AND I had grown up in the Rochester Friends Meeting. I took a workshop on spiritual growth where we had prayer partners and shared deeply with each other. I felt so nurtured that I was able to take a big step in my personal life. We planned to go back the following year.

I’ve attended nearly every Gathering since, returning home spiritually nurtured, and strengthened with new resources and new friends. My workshops have varied from dance and art to spiritual practices to couple enrichment and more. There are always awesome evening plenary speakers. There is usually an intergenerational concert or event one evening – last year it was a dance party outdoors with a wonderful DJ! And there is excellent programing for children, youth and young adults. Children have programming in the mornings and evenings. Afternoons have opportunities to browse in the bookstore, hear other speakers, sing, play during intergenerational activities, and explore other interest groups – or simply take a nap.

I love going and meeting up with new and old f(F)riends from all across North America, learning new things, being spiritually nurtured and having fun. The six degrees of connection often end up being one or two, as I sit down with a new person and discover that we have someone in common.

Lynne Piersol
Swarthmore Friends Meeting

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