A Sanctuary Where Transformation Can Happen
by Regina St. Clare
It was a summer lush with 47 different interest groups, ranging from drill-down techie teach-ins, personal development pickin's, and deep-down serious Quaker themes. There was something for every adult; the kids were in Zoom burnout.
I attended about 15 interest groups, followed by a weeklong ride on the annual Summer Sessions train. Our annual meeting ran well and on track, with a sincere intention by the participating body of Friends to rise to the occasion and do its work. And it did. The week was a beautiful mix of mystical themes and action items—all with the spirit of John Woolman well intact. Racism and American Indian rights remain high on the agenda, even 400 years later.
Was Summer Sessions a sanctuary for transformation—a place set aside for a change from one thing to another? Like Jerry Reisig portrayed in the first day of Bible study, perhaps it could be a liminal space where transformation happens. Imagine two single people, walking down the wedding aisle, accompanied by music. At the end of the aisle they join in a ceremony with an official to exchange vows, rings, and kisses and receive official blessings and confirmations. Then, the two will become quite different—spouse, parent, and lineage carrier. Was our Friends' summer sanctuary a place where we could change our form or our habits, and become someone better than when we arrived?
Did I/we provide the sanctity needed to make the needed change true, real and sustainable? Was my change from the inside out… the outside in… all-enveloping? Yes, no, and maybe.
Only once before, 40+ yrs ago, did I attend the NYYM Summer gatherings. Now at 86, being almost 16 years in the Shrewsbury (NJ) Meeting and 16 months in the Zoomsbury COVID clan, I knew only two people at Summer Sessions who I’d met at an ARCH Zoom in April.
I was delighted to begin my interest groups with Cai Quirk singing and chanting, which was designed to seem like we were in a vibrant choral group, while singing our hearts out on mute. At other interest groups I advanced my Zoom skills, listened deeply and patiently to worship sharing and workshops, and experienced affinities with the one and the many. I often felt both eldered and accompanied, in the most positive ways—so much to learn, so many to love, so much to clean and clear—a kind of spiritual decluttering.
Two key sanctifiers of our liminal space were the gifts and disciplines essential for transformation. Each of us has God-given gifts. It takes transformation for them to be awakened, used, and developed. In her plenary, Emily Provance gave us a needed gift of sanctity. Please watch the video of her talk online (search for "NYYM Videos" at Youtube.com.) During business meetings, Elaine Learnard, as NYYM clerk, made me feel as though I was in the Supreme Court of Justice, on Heaven's side.
My week ended in a breakout room with Steve Mohlke. It felt like I was out in the back yard with Mr. Rogers in his garden of magic and delight.
The Zoom experience is likely to be with us forever, even though face to face is so special. If it weren’t for Zoom, we could not have done all of this. Because Zoom enables us to accomplish so much, with more to come, may we be willing to embrace all that it can do, and use it to accomplish the greater tasks we face, which we could not do without Zoom and Friends.
Thanks to Fred Dettmer and the Tech Team.