Farmington-Scipio Faces Forward
by Kathy Slattery
Orchard Park Meeting
“Visioning a Future for Our Region: A Retreat for the Farmington Scipio Region,” a 24-hour retreat under the care of regional Ministry and Counsel and facilitated by Angela Hopkins, gathered October 26 and 27 in Dundee, NY.
This event followed the “Dundee model” of our regional retreats, with persons gathering on Friday from 4 p.m. on, offering overnight hospitality, and continuing on Saturday from about 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The programs are planned so participants who attend on Friday get a welcome and introduction, and participants who can only attend on Saturday won’t feel like they missed an important part of the discussion/exploration.
The beginnings of thinking in terms of visioning for the FSRM began at our Spring Gathering weekend in May 2018 with a breakout session entitled “An Introduction to Visioning.” This was an experiential happening involving everyone, seated in a big circle in the dining hall, in a rousing game of flyswatter volleyball. We plunged directly into play with minimum direction or rules. We all started as learners, as no one had tried to hit a balloon with a flyswatter before! Everyone was highly motivated to interact—in fact, the squeals of surprise and fun drew kids and others in. Rules were set aside so little kids could fully participate; the circle expanded; nobody complained about missing the rules. It was a parable of living into a joyful, raucous, inclusive Beloved Community.
The next step this fall was to bring people together to talk and to listen about each others’ hopes and aspirations and to prepare for the challenges and opportunities facing our meetings and worship groups right now and into the near future. It provided an invitation to step outside the realm of problem-solving around issues of aging and shrinking meetings to spaciousness and openness, to where Spirit is leading.
There were 14 persons who participated on Friday evening, joined by an additional 3 on Saturday. Those 17 persons were from 8 of the 13 meetings in our region (we have plans to share the visioning process with our 4 prison worship groups too). There was a lively mix of people who usually don’t have the opportunity to be together for a good block of time, from across our huge region (the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Chautauqua to Syracuse, Ithaca, and Elmira). Friends commented on the positive energy and vibrancy in this gathered community. It seems that an essential part of the culture of the FSRM is the high regard for face-to-face encounter and relationship, and the accompanying depth of worship. All valued and used this opportunity for fellowship, both making new Friends and catching up with old Friends. There was much gratitude and we felt blessed to be together.
Angela encouraged us to reflect on what gifts we saw in individuals and in our home meetings, and to write them down. Then we reflected on the gifts we saw in our wider region. Are there similarities that could connect meetings? Are these strengths we can build on? How do we create opportunities for sharing and creating forward momentum? How do we discern what is the spirit of the region? How do we discern what is our work to do?
Farmington Scipio Ministry and Counsel will be exploring these questions, and looking to what’s next. And we hope to hear the ways that these questions and others reverberate in the home meetings that the participants returned to and shared with. This is certainly an ongoing and evolving opportunity for imagination, listening, and corporate discernment.