One of our field guides, who sat outside directing people to registration, asked arriving friends to share a bit about themselves. If you had been there, this is what you would have overheard:
Chris Lull from Berkley Meeting, CA told us why he came to this Annual Sessions: “I went to Abington Friends School as a kid, and Quakerism has been an incredible part of my life, particularly its Quietism, and the way it is centered in Peace and Simplicity. I have always admired the work of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, particularly the Faith and Practice so I am happy to be here with a lot of like-minded Friends”
“What I love about Quakerism, and Quakers, is that everybody’s got a different path and they’re all beautifully intertwined. It’s a great part of a community to be in.”
Jacob Hoopes, a student at George School and a member at Valley Meeting said “I’d have to say Young Friends brought me here. I’ve been a Young Friend for upwards of two years now, and as part of that I participate at Sessions.” On what’s happening in the rest of his life, Jacob is working this summer on the grounds crew at George School – “doing my part to maintain the campus.” While he has some academic work in front of him at summer’s end, right now he is enjoying his non-academic “down time” along with his Quaker time at Sessions.
Jerry Taylor, from Makefield Monthly Meeting, is here for his third Annual Sessions in a row. This year he thinks it’s especially nice because the location happens to be just ten minutes from home. “It’s nice to be back, to get the spiritual presence from the large group.” Jerry says that all the Sessions he’s been to have been “different and been great! And this year is going to be even better.”
Julian Brelsford and his family arrived, checking into their townhouse rooms. Julian is a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly meeting and works on some of PYM’s committees. While Julian settled into his room, his wife and son, Robbie, took to the pavement outside the black box theater, exploring the shaded walks bordered by oak trees, investigating mud puddles, and playing with the PYM signage.
Kim McCloskey from Foulkeways at Gwynned joined Annual Sessions to touch base with Friends, participate in the Yearly Meeting Quaker processes, and use that knowledge to enhance Quaker practices back at Foulkeways. She said “we are very keen on always improving what we do at Foulkeways with respect to being a Quaker Organization” and coming to Sessions is a part of that process.
Anne & Mike Hainsworth, from Seaville Monthly meeting, stopped to talk about what is going on in their Meeting. Seaville has three acres of land, most of it underutilized, and the Meeting has started to work on a facility master plan to extend the grave yard, designate a section for cremation burials, and add a labyrinth for members, neighbors and passersby to enjoy. They have three acres, most of it underutilized. They will be designating part of their land as a native plants zone, with wildflowers, and places to stroll.
Seaville has done some thinking about whether their space could be designated a wildlife refuge, but they also feel it is really important that visitors and passers-by be made aware that the meeting house is not just an historic site, or a garden, but is used for active and meaningful worship. Recently the County Historical Society put the Seaville meeting on their historic sites tour. They organized a well-attended event, where people learned why the meeting house looks as it does, what it means to be worshiping as a Quaker, and how that might be distinct from other churches. The plainness; the square shape with benches centered on a central core—all facing inward so worshipers could see one another—was of great interest to the visitors. Mike wasn’t sure yet where all this will lead, but he was enthusiastic about the work.