It’s hard to not feel spiritually connected when seeing the majesty of nature. In Pisac at the Royal Inka Hotel or Tambo De Gozo (that our driver described to us as Gringolandía) it was hard not to feel like there was something wonderful, more than human, something connecting us all.
Not only was it nature, but also the very unique feeling, of being at a gathering of more than 300 people, of universal love. As a Yong Friend Ludwig Bon Quirog put it “I was overwhelmed by the sense of love I was feeling from being with so many amazing people over those days”. With each person I met over the 19th to the 27th of January I felt supported, loved and connected. These connections originated and evolved from many different sources from sharing worship, in workshops and home groups, and as the website suggested, “conversations over meals and in corridors” and late night spa pool visits.
The theme “Living the transformation: Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” spoke to me, my understanding of Quakerism, being a Quaker and my connection to the light and God. Another banner read “Connecting Friends, Crossing Cultures, Changing Lives”. At first this poster daunted me, in conjunction with Simon Lamb’s promise of us being “challenged beyond the spiritual boundaries we have created for ourselves,” he also encouraged us to “be open to be challenged and changed by the divine power of the Holy Spirit”. At this welcoming speech I suddenly felt I was behind. I immediately felt out of my depth. I wanted to stay safe in my spiritual boundaries… I did not want to explore the idea that my faith might readjust, that I had to explore deep within myself. As I discussed this with young friend Elizabeth Rolfe after the plenary it was so well articulated in her words “The inner light guides so many people on such different and unique paths (…) each path feels equally meaningful. convicting, and fulfilling for those who walk it. Personal experience is something that just can’t be argued with”.
I very much enjoyed the experience of holding hands in spoken prayer as I experienced often in home group and friends who were new to silent worship said they very much enjoyed the shared space of worship. I understood in those moments that worship, as a shared process, imparts feeling beyond words. As Ruth Homer said to English speakers when a prayer was spoken in Spanish “I won’t translate this as I would rather the words were felt”.
In the evenings there were three Young Friend meetings. The first was an icebreaker and activities session where we mingled and got to know each other and introduce friends we had made to each other. The following two were business meetings that arose spontaneously. Due to the topic in the meeting for worship for business proposing an interval of up to twelve years between FWCC World Plenaries Young Friends became a little troubled. For many of us twelve years is more than half of our life! Through these business meetings and from Charlotte Freer Gordon sharing her experiences of a Young Friends’ World Gathering and the gift it was to be part of a great people gathered on” Pendle Hill!. We established and International YF Gathering Committee and from the AWPS we had Ludwig Bon Quirog, Daniel Burton, Connor Chaffey and Rose Remmerswaal. Very good hands!
I find often in Quaker communities we focus on what unites us than divides us. I have discussed tis at length with the young friends I met at the plenary. As young friend Isabella Margarita said “And we’re lucky to have the freedom of choice (…)That is the best part, that we are allowed to have choices”. While choices have confused me at times – caused me anguish on my ongoing spiritual journey – the liberation of freedom to explore my faith is a blessing I think we need to acknowledge. As Ludwig said and I have also discovered ”new-found strength to be courageous about my faith. I am done shying away from talking about being a Quaker when people ask me… or telling people where I draw my strength from.” I am going to share my transformation!