As CYM gets underway, Friends are conducting business, special interest groups, and the un-programmed activity that constitutes our annual community.
Ben Pink Dandelion of Britain Yearly Meeting began delivering his week-long Quaker study lecture series. In his entertaining, edifying style, he spoke on the history and theology of early Friends. In addition to his Quaker Study, he is spending time in worshipful discussion with Friends (young and not-so young) sharing his knowledge of Quaker faith and practice and helping us to find our truth.
On Monday evening there was a slightly unusual gathering of LGBTQ Friends and allies was held, with Friends sharing their experience and engaging in worship sharing. The event was organized at the last minute by a small group of concerned Friends who felt the need for an LGBTQ presence at CYM and collaborated to create a safe space. Though the concerns that were raised and the experiences related were difficult, and the dialogue was not without friction, the sense was overwhelmingly that this sort of presence has been lacking, and Friends hope to repeat it in the future.
Perhaps it’s a sign of changing times. Perhaps it’s CYM overcoming long held prejudices. Perhaps it’s that breakfast starts at 7am. Whatever the cause, it’s not just the Young Friends who are complaining that breakfast is too early this year.
CYM opened with meeting for worship today. In attendance were a number of Francophone Friends, so ministry was given in two languages. Whether in translation or in broken French, each thought or prayer was reiterated to include all present. After an hour of worship it became natural, and Friends expressed their joy at the novel flavour of our gathering.
In the evening was an annual fixture. The Sunderland P. Gardner Lecture was delivered, this time by our own Caroline Balderston Parry of Ottawa Monthly Meeting. Borrowing from the writings of Friends, from essayists and mystics, Caroline addressed Friends in their own words, punctuating her speech with poetry and song. In three parts she explored different aspects of her topic, “the I don’t know place” and its relevance to Quaker practice: how it is not a state to be embraced and not dreaded, its relation to prayer and how it might shape our worship, the roles that we can play for those near to us who find themselves in the “I don’t know place”. At the end of each section Friends were given a few minutes bracketed by singing bowls and music to respond to queries in listening pairs. We carry forward the incomplete responses, ours and our Friends’, the fertile ground of discussion ploughed and sown for the week ahead.
In a tree-dotted field in Kemptville, Ontario, tents are popping up in the dappled shade. Cars and vans and buses are disgorging passengers. Folks who haven’t seen each other in ages are embracing like old friends. Slowly but surely, Canadian Yearly Meeting is coming together again.
Though the scheduled programming hasn’t started in earnest, Friends are busy settling in, preparing for the week ahead, and refreshing the innumerable connections that don’t happen anywhere else. Though we might worship silently, the sound of laughter, play, and conversation can get cacophonous. The schedule claims we’re “Retreat”-ing perhaps it ought to say “Rejoicing”.
Programme Committee has been working tirelessly to make sure everything is running smoothly. Their work speaks for itself, and though the strain shows, the show keeps on rolling. At some point this afternoon a threshold was crossed and CYM went from being “about to happen” to “happening”. Our schedule this week is ambitious, but today’s energy and enthusiasm can’t help but inspire optimism.
Here’s the week’s schedule!
See changes recommended to “Organization and Procedures” under RESOURCES. Find Documents-in-Advance in BUSINESS under CYM Minutes.