In 2011 I attended Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Annual Sessions for the first time. I’ve never been in a place where I’ve felt more comfortable, surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of people, of Friends. I walked the halls of DeSales with a bounce in my step the day I realized I was not alone, I was welcomed, where ears were lent and handshakes and warm embraces were given with no hesitation I came for a hike, I stayed for the spiritual connection I found.
My journey began on a school bus filled with Young Adult Friends and Middle School Friends, singing Beatles tunes sweetly off key. We talked, laughed, shared encouragement and hiked up what seemed like a never-ending, almost vertical path to a waterfall. There we threw off our shoes and relaxed. Some splashed about in the cool water on such a hot day, others perched atop rocks and talked of life and faith. We came together that day, various shapes, ages and interests and left fulfilled, if a bit tired and weary.
I attended the next two days of Sessions, volunteering with (Children’s Sessions) learning, laughing and playing together. I attended two workshops, one on servant leadership and another on healing the spirit. I heard stories of leaders through the centuries, stories of a Quaker’s call to lead, stories of heartache, words of compassion. I sat around a table many times during those two days sharing meals with new friends and old. I spent the night, meeting Friends my own age, a group I had been seeking for such a long time, men and women in my state of transition, with hopes and wants very true to my own.
That last day of Sessions I left with a heavy heart. I was returning to a world that was less understanding, disjointed and uncertain. I was leaving a safe and sacred place, a place I could learn and share with others just like me, with my fellow Quakers.
Attending Sessions last year opened a world previously unknown to me. I had merely attended my local Meeting, not very frequently at that. But this summer I was led to be there. It was a place I was surrounded with people like me, who thought like me, who I could learn from. I shared stories and experiences with a mother whose daughter was in her first year of college and told her of my own trials and tribulations during those years. I talked frankly about my desires for changing the world with my occupation, for seeking my higher meaning in life. I told of adventures in the Australian Outback to those who would listen. I waved to people I had met the day before but had felt I had known a lifetime.
During Sessions I had gained the sense of community. I remember feeling centered the entire time of my attendance, walking with purpose to each destination, looking forward to the day’s interactions. I found that Sessions was a fantastic way to explore my spirituality and what Quakerism means to me with the guidance of others.
I hope you will join me and hundreds of others in the PYM Community for Annual Sessions 2013: Gathering Together Our Past, Our Presence, and Our Future, July 24-28.
I am looking forward to seeing you there, to greeting you with a smile and a handshake.
Jocelyn Park is a member of Providence Monthly Meeting and the PYM Sessions Planning Group