Sunday, February 19, 2012

pre-conference nerves

A few weeks ago I had an email conversation with Chris who was part of my amazing Management Group when I was the adminstrator for WGYF. She has been involved with the organising of the upcoming World Conference of Friends in Kenya this April that we'll both be going to.

Aside from being extremely excited about reconnecting with so many much missed Friends from other events and parts of my life my overwhelming feeling about going to the World Conference is a sense of trepidation. I was trying to explain to Chris why I found the prospect so scary, there was a great long list of reasons from arriving at Nairobi airport alone (how glad I was to have arrived in Manila with Thomas last year when we couldn't find our lift to the Asia West Pacific Section Gathering!), to the sheer size of the gathering - about a thousand people, and I feel peopled out at times during a week of 120 at our Summer Gathering! To coping with jetlag (something I really don't do very well) to facilitating adults in a home group, rather than 3 & 4yr olds who are my more usual age group these days. From brain overload (I'll have just been to an early childhood education conference for 4 days before flying out) to balancing getting to know new people and catching up with much loved F/friends I haven't seen in years... and so the list went on.

But this weekend I was catching up on some blog reading (due to feeling decidedly lousy thanks to a Hep B vaccination on Friday) and got around to reading a backlog of posts on Rachel's blog that I've been meaning to find time for for a while. She was going to be at the World Conference which I was so delighted about as we'd become very close during the WGYF planning, but for various reasons she now isn't, since getting her email saying so she had been much on my mind. Reading her posts I started to get clarity on what the underlying fear is that I have about the World Conference that makes the others pale into insignificance, it is the fear of being called.

When I attended the FWCC Triennial in Auckland in 2004 my life changed abruptly, from that moment on I spent the next 18mths of my life living and breathing, let alone organising, the World Gathering of Young Friends depsite having decided some years previously that I'd done my bit for Young Friends thank you very much and it really was someone else's time. Not only that but that trip to Aotearoa New Zealand had other far reaching effects on my life - well I'm here aren't I! Having said I would be the most unlikely candidate for emigration I ended up moving about as far away from home as was physically possible, ending up studying for an entirely new career (not ever really having had one before, unless being a 'professional' Quaker counts!) and embarking on a totally new life.

At WGYF itself there was no room in life for any more leadings, after all 6 weeks after it happened I was off on a plane to be Resident Friend in Wellington! But this time? I don't think I want another major life upheaval right now thank you very much, but since when has 'want' had anything to do with things? I have this resigned feeling that something else is going to be asked of me and I don't know what it is or what it might involve, but as is the way with such things I know there is no point trying to run away and hide from it as it will find me regardless.

But as Tom Petty so wisely pointed out 'the waiting is the hardest part...'

gone, but not forgotten

A few weeks ago a much loved Australian YF died in a car crash, thought to be intentional. Due to facebook the word quickly spread as F/friends shared their grief, loss and pain. But also, as the days went past, the quirky stories, the photographs, the happy memories - a wonderful testimony to the memory of Juchie. Photos I had already uploaded of Australia YM in Perth 2005 were revisited and tagged with his name.

Prompted by this I started the hunt for photos from the WGYF Year Ahead Event in Glenthorne, Sept 2004 which Juchie had attended along with a few other Aussie YFs. So far I've only found a handful of them so I'll need to retrieve another box at some point. However it did spur me on to upload some other photos I'd been meaning to scan and share for some time. So I embarked on my YFCC collection.

Having attended from 1987-1992 there are a fair few photos, and so far I've scanned and uploaded 1987 and 1988. Going through them is not only a huge trip down memory lane, but a stark reminder of how many others of my generation of YFs have had their lives cut short one way or another. I can't but wonder as I post the pictures how many others in them have died that somehow I haven't heard about yet.

It is actually quite disconcerting to add up the number of friends who have lost their lives young, going right back to school days. By the time I was 18 I'd lost at least five friends to a mixture of suicide, injury and medical complications, yet I was yet to lose a grandparent and the only family deaths I'd experienced were great aunts and uncles that I'd barely known.

A couple of days ago the toddler brother of one of our kindergarten children was run over in his own driveway and killed, another tragic loss, especially for the family but also the local community. I can't help but feel for the youngsters who will no doubt long remember Kohen in the way that I remember Richard - someone who by this time I would quite probably have otherwise forgotten about had it not been for him being my first friend to die.

We don't forget them, they stay with us as William Penn puts so memorably, and as long as we remember they are never truely gone.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Being Salt & Light

I can't remember if I've said on here before or not yet (probably not given how rarely I've been blogging over the last year!) but I'll be one of 6 representatives from Aotearoa/New Zealand Yearly Meeting going to the 6th World Conference of Friends in Kenya in April this year.

Recently we had a couple of days of discussions at Mt Eden QMH in Auckland looking at the theme 'Being Salt and Light: Friends living the Kingdom of God in a broken world' (the organisors capitals not mine!) and accompanying study booklet. Of course being liberal Quakers we therefore discussed what we understood by salt, light, kingdom of god, god and a broken world! Having straightforward universally accepted truths on such matters isn't really our way... but of course for some Friends from other traditions there is a much greater shared understanding and certainty, with more 'conventional' answers and no doubt more clearly articulated too!

It was such a priviledge to have have most of a Saturday and a few hours of Sunday set aside to talk about the World Conference with Friends. One of the other reps drove 4hrs each way to be with us on the Saturday, I spent about 13hrs sitting on buses to get there and back, but it was worth every minute of it. One of the delights and challenges of international Quaker events is having time to really get to grips with each others' faiths, its similarities and differences, but if you haven't had time to spend looking at that with people from your own tradition it is extremely hard to explain it to someone from another.

We've got a seminar at the Quaker Settlement in Whanganui 24-26th Feb again based on the theme and focusing a little more on the event itself which (hopefully!) all of the reps and others will be attending to take us a step further along our shared journey, after all these events are always about and affect the lives of far more than those who actually attend.

One very exciting aspect of the World Conference for me is the opportunity to be reunited with Friends from WGYF 2005, my time with FWCC EMES and from being a part of Britain Yearly Meeting for many years. I have to keep focusing on that and try to ignore the fact that the event will be about 1000 people strong, which is dauntingly large for a country bumpkin like myself who gets peopled out at events like Summer Gathering with about 120 people present!