WHYM

News from Western Half Yearly Meeting

Here’s a message describing how things went during the latest gathering for Western Quakers.

Epistle from Spring Western Half Yearly Meeting, May 21-23, 2021

To Friends everywhere,

Greetings from Western Half-Yearly Meeting! We met online again this spring due to the on-going pandemic. We were glad to see Friends from all the meetings in Western Canada, including folks who joined with us for the first time. Our thanks to those that made it possible for us to gather in this virtual way.

In our Friday evening intergenerational welcome activity we enjoyed playing virtual Big Wind Blows by turning on and off our cameras. We broke into small groups in which we were challenged to find three things we had in common, all within only five minutes. 

In Worship Sharing groups, Friends noted how different fellowship feels online – however, these groups helped nurture the spirit of WHYM by connecting new and old Friends in a deep way. 

Business Meeting consisted of a shorter agenda and lively participation from Friends across our region, and we welcomed with joy the news of babies born into our community. 

Special Interest Groups included learning opportunities for Friends on various subjects including: “Project Plowshares – Beating Swords,” “Caring for our own dead at home,” “Small modular nuclear reactors,” and “Creating a virtual play and acting!”

In Memorial Meeting we shared our memories of Friends that have died in the past year. It was a time to give thanks for the grace of God as witnessed in the lives of these Friends.  

On Saturday night Jennifer Preston from the Canadian Friends Service Committee presented on the subject of reconciliation, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and what it means for Friends considering reparations. Through this Friends learned about the CFSC Reconciliation Fund to support community-based efforts of Indigenous people in Canada who are working on cultural and language revitalization. Queries prompted Friends to consider their engagement with reconciliation and that “reconciliation is not a spectator sport.” 

Meeting for Worship was silent except for bird song and a highlight was the joyful presence of a very Young Friend cuddling, crawling and smiling in delight.

Family night is always a time of intergenerational joy and togetherness, and even in the online format gleanings were collected and shared for everyone’s enjoyment!

We are grateful for the ability to gather online, however we are hopeful for the safe return of our in-person gatherings and the new possibilities for remote attendance. We look forward to hugs, balancing, holding babies and hands.

As prepared by the Epistle Committee and shared at Family Night, Sunday May 23, 2021

Epistle from Western Half-Yearly Meeting, Spring 2020

Many Quakers in Western Canada normally come to Sorrento, BC, in May for an intergenerational gathering – Western Half-Yearly Meeting. This year the gathering happened on-line – a first for Canadian Friends.

Here is a message from the Friends who attended.

Epistle from Spring Western Half-Yearly Meeting, 2020

As prepared by the Epistle Committee (not formally approved due to online gathering format)

For the first time in the history of Western Half-Yearly Meeting, this Spring we gathered electronically, rather than in person in Sorrento, BC, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a unique experience and we thank the Clerk, Continuing Meeting of Ministry and Council and all Friends who stepped forward to make this meeting possible. At the same time, we grieved the fact that we weren’t able to make the pilgrimage to Sorrento Centre to gather together in person.

Dozens of Friends gathered in a series of Zoom meetings and break-out sessions. While there were many familiar faces, we were also blessed by some Friends who had not attended WHYM in many years or who were attending for the first time, who probably would not have been able to join us in person. Other Friends who had less access to, or were less comfortable with, the technology may have felt excluded.

The Gathering began on Friday evening with an intergenerational activity in which small groups recalled our best memories of past gatherings and discussed our hopes for WHYM gathering. This was followed by an on-line “family night” in which Friends shared videos and performances showcasing their talents.

Many Friends gathered on Saturday and Sunday morning in worship sharing. An abbreviated Meeting for Worship for Business on Saturday was followed by a memorial meeting to remember Friends who had passed during the year.

Special Interest Groups on Saturday and Sunday allowed Friends to explore how to make CYM more sustainable, how to meet from a distance when Friends have different levels of access to and comfort with technology, how to discuss climate change and the appropriate ways to define anti-semitism.

Saturday ended with an open meeting of Meeting of Ministry and Council, followed by an evening session with staff from the Canadian Friends Service Committee.

On Sunday morning, Meeting for Worship was the largest of the Zoom meetings, with 75 Friends joining from over 60 devices.

Through the weekend, Friends, and especially Young Friends, were able to meet in smaller groups or one-on-one using an online platform called Discord, which was new to many of us. Despite the struggles (for some) of the new software, Friends persevered and enjoyed chatting, singing in the evening and playing games.

These online meetings brought to mind Jesus’ teaching, “When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there.” While we look forward to worshipping together in person, some Friends were surprised by how strongly we experienced the Spirit among us. Many of us experienced deep, spiritual connections, despite being separated by distance and despite some technical challenges. However, others felt that the lack of personal contact was a barrier to reach the depth that we can in person.

Electronic communications, and how to navigate them as Friends, brought with it unique questions – as when one Friend asked if a typo could be a gleaning. A global Zoom outage at the start of a session that prevented Friends from hearing one another prompts a query: Can we wait expectantly in the silence when faced with technical challenges beyond our control?

The Epistle Committee itself felt the limitations of an electronic gathering, in working across time zones and with the distractions that came from not being gathered together at the retreat centre. In addition, the shortened electronic gathering schedule did not provide for a time for the formal approval of this epistle. We offer it in any case as a summary of the first gathering of its kind.

We are uncertain about when and how requirements of social distancing will ease and when it may be possible for us to meet in person again. This raises the possibility that this will not be our last electronic gathering, or that some future WHYMs will have a combination of in person and electronic aspects. While this gathering was not the same as in past years and we missed the camaraderie and intimacy of being physically together, we found that there were still important opportunities for spiritual nurture.

While we could not meet in person, we are grateful that this year’s electronic gathering has provided spiritual nurture and grounded us so that we can go out into the world and continue to do God’s work during these strange and often difficult times.

Epistle from Western Half-Yearly Meeting

Here is message from the Quakers who attended Western Half-Yearly Meeting (WHYM), a twice-yearly gathering for Quakers in Western Canada.

October 12–14, 2019
To Friends everywhere:

We were blessed with beautiful crisp, sunny weather to gather at Shekinah Retreat Centre near Waldheim, Saskatchewan. People arrived individually and in small groups Friday and Saturday. Including three children, one Young Friend, and a few visitors, we welcomed 28 people.

The strength of our Quaker gatherings is in spiritual renewal and building community for all of us, and especially for those of us who are not affiliated with a regular Monthly Meeting. For many Friends, Western Half-Yearly Meeting is the one place they can receive support for how they live their Quaker values.

During two of the Special Interest Groups we grappled with some difficult issues. One dealt with Quaker revitalization and the vital role of Young Friends in that renewal. The absence of a Monthly Meeting in Regina is sorely missed. A new role for Prairie Monthly Meeting is being explored. A second Special Interest Group explored how we as a larger society can start the important and sometimes difficult conversations about reconciliation.

The weekend was not all seriousness, however. We enjoyed many joyful and lighthearted moments doing team-building games in the woods, participating in workshops on English Country Dancing, Quaker Chanting, and Family Night, as well as laughter and fellowship.

JoLee Sasakamoose enticed us with copious amounts of art supplies throughout the weekend and encouraged deep healing with a guided meditation and grounding exercise on Saturday evening.

We were energized by the home cooked meals, especially the homemade cranberry sauce made from high-bush cranberries picked by the children and their helpers in honour of Tom Findlay’s practice.

Our Quaker process is a journey. Our gatherings provide spiritual nourishment and fellowship. This sustains us in our daily lives until the next gathering. For this we are truly blessed.

Come to Western Half-Yearly Meeting (October 11-14)

The 2019 Fall gathering of Western Half-Yearly Meeting will take place on Thanksgiving weekend (October 11-14) at Camp Shekinah north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

We invite all Friends and friends of Friends to join us in this warm, intimate gathering. Please note the registration deadline of September 18!

Practical Details

Driving directions and much more information on programming, accomodation, meals, and cost are available in the pdf information file:
Infopack on Fall Western Half Yearly Meeting (PDF) – right-click or command-click to save to your computer.

Meanwhile, here are a few info highlights:

  • The usual items will all be included in the Half-Yearly Meeting schedule – worship-sharing groups, special interest groups, Meetings for Worship including business Meetings, and the phenomenal Family Night sharing of talents and fun). At Shekinah, we also have the opportunity to ride the Flying Fox zipline one afternoon – fun for all ages!
  • The theme for the Saturday evening gathering and the weekend are still being discerned. More information will be provided as this is finalized.
  • The site opens at 4 p.m. on Friday, and Friends usually try to arrive on Friday late afternoon or evening (and late into the night), with activities all day Saturday and Sunday, and depart after a short closing Meeting for Worship on Thanksgiving Monday.
  • Accommodations are bunk-room style (with various numbers of occupants per room) in a lodge, or alternatively there are camp sites for tents. Pillows, linens, sleeping bags/blankets, and towels are not provided; bring your own, or ask someone local to bring some for you.
  • The meals do not include snacks or a Friday evening meal; participants who can do so easily are asked to bring snacks to share, and those who are able are asked to help with a pot-luck meal for Friday evening.

Again, for more details, look at the Infopack on Fall Western Half Yearly Meeting. Feel free to contact registrar Elizabeth Curry (whymregistrar@gmail.com) with any questions.

Cost & Registration

The dining hall at ShekinahSite/accommodation fees are $300/adult for the entire weekend; this covers all meals. (Most dietary needs can be accommodated if advance notification is given).

Fees are collected on-site, but please fill out the registration form and send it to Registrar Elizabeth Curry at whymregistrar@gmail.com as soon as you can, or by the deadline of September 18 at the latest. This enables us to plan appropriately and to provide the site with the advance notice they require.

Registration Forms:
Fall 2019 WHYM Registration Form (EXCEL) – Use this to register purely electronically. Filling in each category should auto-populate the costs.
Fall 2019 WHYM Registration Form (PDF for printing) – If needed, print and fill out this version. You may need to right-click (Microsoft) or command-click (Mac) to save these files to your computer first.

Please send your completed registration form to Registrar Elizabeth Curry at whymregistrar@gmail.com.

We hope that you will join us at Camp Shekinah for Thanksgiving 2019!

Reflections from WHYM

A view of the Timber Lodge at Shekinah Retreat Centre. Photo Credit: David Cheatley.

A view of the Timber Lodge at Shekinah Retreat Centre. Photo Credit: David Cheatley.

On Thanksgiving weekend, a group of about forty Friends gathered at Shekinah, near Saskatoon.

In addition to Friends from Western Canada, we were excited to welcome a visiting Evangelical Quaker pastor from Burundi. She is the Coordinator of the Friends Women’s Association (FWA) in Burundi, and she spoke on Saturday evening about the country’s recent history and the work of the FWA.*

On Friday, as people arrived, we gathered downstairs and ate the delicious food generously supplied by members of Saskatoon and Prairie Monthly Meetings. We enjoyed an activity in which we paired up and drew our partners without looking at the paper – a challenging but ultimately amusing task! We then learned interesting facts about our partners and wrote them side by side with the portraits.

At Saturday’s Meeting for Worship for Business, we heard the joyful news that two Friends had become engaged that morning.

Saturday was a beautiful warm day, perfect for the popular Flying Fox zip line. Friends young and old put on helmets, hooked up their harnesses, and flew across the small valley and back. More cautious Friends watched and cheered.

Later on Saturday afternoon, we were able to choose between two Special Interest Groups: Quakers in a re-tribalized world; or the feasibility of continuing to meet at Shekinah.

Saturday evening was clear, providing an amazing view of the stars that can only be found in the country. Coyotes yipped as we gathered to watch a white aurora borealis veil the northern sky.

On Sunday afternoon, our guest from Burundi offered a SIG that expanded on her Saturday evening talk.

Family Night took place Sunday evening in the building’s cozy chapel. The acts included poetry, storytelling, music, and an adorable animal skit from our youngest Friends.

Monday morning, after a short Meeting for Worship, we sang a familiar old song that concludes many such gatherings, and then the new-to-us song we learned from our guest from Burundi during Family Night.

 

In Friendship,

Mark Stanley.

 

 

*Her name has been omitted for privacy purposes.