March 2, 2006

Posters, themes, and history
of FGC's annual Gathering

Over at the Quaker Ranter, Martin writes about, and I comment on, the opportunity for intervisitation at FGC's Gathering.

Within my comment to that post, I reference a page on FGC's website that has a collection of posters from 30 or so of the 40+ years of when the Gathering was held annually. The themes over the years (1970-2001) are like genetic traces of the heritage and Quaker family from which we come:

1970 - not a theme, but a quotation is lifted up: "You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?"

1980 - "Here Am I! Send Me."

1990 - "A Time to Mend"

2000 - "Deep Roots: New Growth"

2005 - "Weaving the Blessed Tapestry"

2006 - "Swimming in Living Waters"

Some of these themes over the decades are nice, but only a few are distinctively Quaker. And though it's likely I'll be on the 2007 Gathering Committee for River Falls, it's unlikely that I will be called to labor with and bend an entire committee to the idea of selecting a distinctively Quaker theme. (I pray I am not so called. Oy, the pain I and the committee would have to endure!)

But the other jewel that is hidden in this part of FGC's website is the history of the Gathering, how it moved from being a group of separate conferences, sometimes held concurrently (leading to the formation of Friends General Conference), to biannual conferences held at the same site every two years for decades, to its current form of annual Gatherings.

Yum! Every now and then, I want to call on Friends to donate their posters from the missing years for this collection and seek to have the collection (and the webpage) updated... (A task for a certain blogger who works at FGC, perhaps?)

And every now and then I get the nudge to look through these lists and images, and I begin to understand how it is that liberal Friends are where we are today in the Quaker continuum.


UPDATE, 30 Third Month 2006: In the comments is now a list of all the Gathering themes and locations between 1975-2005, in case anyone is interested.


David Carl said...


I left the Unitarians, where I first encountered "Weaving the Blessed Tapestry," for the Quakers, only to find that my first FGC conference was so themed. "Yipes" I thought, "there's no escape!"


Paul L said...

I don't know why, but the poster for the 2002 Gathering in Normal wasn't included in the archive.

That Gathering's theme was "To be gathered still." This was, of course, a direct reference to the Gathering being held within weeks of the 350th anniversary (1652) of George Fox's sermon on Pendle Hill on which he said he saw "a great people to be gathered."

This was the only Gathering where I participated in the theme selection process; I was skeptical when I entered it, for many of the same reasons mentioned in your post, and I was disappointed at the resistance to using the originally suggested theme of "A Great People to be Gathered". Too parochial. Not contemporary enough. Too braggy (we aren't greater than anyone else [missing the point that "great" meant "large", not "better"]). Etc.

But, as we worked on it, I was surprised at how beautifully the Spirit led to a third way that said as much, and more, as the original, and that it emerged as a genuine sense of the meeting.

(This meeting took place in 5th Month 2001, before the 9-11-01 attacks on the US; I suspect a different theme would have emerged if the timing had been different.)

Liz Opp said...

Dave Carl - Yes, God does seem to have a sense of humor at times like that...

Paul L - As I think I mention, the collection of posters is one Friend's own personal collection. It looks like that Friend stopped collecting posters, or at least stopped putting them online, as the years went by.

I had thought about digging around to find out the themes since 2001, but oy! that's not how I wanted to spend my time! If I recall right, I believe the online collection also has a few gaps here and there...

Can we piece these more recent Gathering themes together ourselves...?

2002 - Normal, IL: "To be gathered still"
2003 - Johnstown, PA: "Coming to peace"
2004 - Amherst, MA: ???
2005 - Blacksburg, VA: "Weaving the blessed tapestry"
2006 - Puget Sound, WA: "Swimming in living waters"


Liz Opp said...

Late in Third Month 2006, I received an email from an FGC staff person that included all the locations and themes for the Gathering since 1975. Here they are:

1975 (Berea, KY) Spirit into Life
1976 (Ithaca, NY) Discovering Quakers ways of Life
1978 (Ithaca, NY) The Future: What Does the Lord Require
1979 (Earlham, IN) Nurturing the Seed
1980 (Ithaca, NY) Here Am I! Send Me.
1982 (Slippery Rock, PA) Living our Faith Together
1983 (Slippery Rock, PA) Is the Way Open? Let the Spirit Move
1984 (Canton, NY) The Future is NOW
1985 (Slippery Rock, PA) Community: Unity with Diversity
1986 (Carleton, MN) Many Roads One Journey
1987 (Oberlin, OH) To Listen To Minister To Witness
1988 (Boone, NC) Nurturing the Tree of Life: Cultivating Justice, Healing, and Peace
1989 (Canton, NY) Currents of Faith, Wings of Vision
1990 (Carelton, MN) A Time to Mend
1991 (Boone, NC) Growing in Radical Faith
1992 (Canton, NY) Live Love
1993 (Stillwater, OK) Riding the Wings of Spirit
1994 (Amherst, MA) Living the Spirit: Listening, Acting
1995 (Kalamazoo, MI) Gathering the Light
1996 (Hamilton, ON) Journeys in Truth
1997 (Harrisonburg, PA) Be Open Be Transformed Be Faithful
1998 (River Falls, WI) Strength to Lead, Faith to Follow
1999 (Kalamazoo, MI) on Holy Ground, in Holy Times
2000 (Rochester, NY) Deep Roots: New Growth
2001 (Blacksburg, VA) Stillness: Surrounding, Sustaining, Strengthening
2002 (Normal, IL) To Be Gathered Still
2003 (Johnstown, PA) Coming to Peace
2004 (Amherst, MA) Simple Lives Radiant Faith
2005 (Blacksburg, VA) Weaving the Blessed Tapestry

Thanks to LP for sending me this list!


Liz Opp said...

A correction and an update to the list in the previous comment:

1997 should read "Harrisonburg, VA" (Virginia, not Pennsylvania).

2006 (Tacoma, WA) Swimming in Living Waters
2007 (River Falls, WI) ...But who is my neighbor?
2008 (Johnstown, PA)