The SEYM Virtual Mini-Gathering proved to be a wonderful way to respond to our need for spiritual renewal and community in this time of physical distancing. 112 Friends attended the sessions; Quakers from SEYM Meetings and Worship Groups, along with Friends from New England and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings and other Quaker organizations. Many were present for almost all the sessions, while others dropped in for workshops that fit their schedule or interests.
Held over the five days slated for the Yearly Meeting Gathering, April 8-12, the ‘VMG’ offered Worship Sharing, Youth Program activities, workshops, a Young Adult ‘Internet Film Festival,’ and a Talent Show Saturday night. Sessions concluded with Meeting for Worship on Sunday afternoon. It was a lighter schedule than the in-person Gathering, allowing Friends to take ample time away from their computer screens.
Planning began for a Virtual Gathering immediately after the in-person Gathering was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kody Hersh, SEYM Youth & Young Adult Coordinator, with support from SEYM staff and the Gathering Committee, took on the work of coordinating the event. Special gratitude* and kudos are due to Friends Committee on National Legislation, who found staff and designed workshops for us in just two days (!), to fill the retreat slots that suddenly opened up when our scheduled retreat leader was called to other service as a result of the pandemic.
Stay Tuned! The Gathering Committee is looking forward to offering more online sessions on this year’s theme of Spiritual and Cultural Transformation. The committee would like to have Friends’ input for planning future virtual events; please take this quick survey>
The Virtual Mini-Gathering in pictures
Click on any photo in a series for larger image or to start a slide show
Wednesday, April 8 The Virtual Mini-Gathering appropriately opened with ‘Welcome & Zoom Basics,’ which included time for Friends to say ‘hi,’ the reading of a Land Acknowledgment, and coaching on using the Zoom technology. Over 50 Friends attended the first Retreat, Building Resilient Communities Through Transformative Action. Sarah Freeman-Woolpert, FCNL staff, led Friends in understanding the power and resilience we have in telling our own stories; and the power of storytelling in bringing people in a divided society together for social change.
Thursday: The morning began with Worship Sharing, followed by a Faith & Play workshop for Youth. In the afternoon retreat session, Finding Resilience through Advocacy and Community, led by FCNL staff Bobby Trice and Sergio Mata-Cisneros, we heard about FCNL’s Virtual Spring Lobby Weekend; and in small groups, we shared our stories and experiences of finding resilience. Bobby and Sergio shared some tools FCNL had developed to enable Friends to do advocacy from home. See ‘Learn More’ below for a links to these resources and other ways to connect.
Thursday night, Young Adults had an Internet Film Festival. Participants submitted favorite short videos for compilation into a playlist (enjoy, but make sure to read “Important Notes” first for context!). Laughing and talking together was a great way to meet new people and connect with old friends.
Friday: After morning Worship Sharing, youth co-clerk Kiran Nwakanma (Orlando) hosted an informal ‘Hangout Space’ for Youth. After lunch, Joel Cook (Treasure Coast) led a half-hour of Laughter Yoga; he talked about the benefits of laughter to the body, and led a series of exercises to get people laughing “for no reason at all– no sense of humor required.” (Joel is now offering Laughter Yoga online daily— see ‘Learn More’ below.) Later that afternoon Beverly Ward, SEYM Field Secretary for Earthcare, and John Heimburg, (Deland) led an informational workshop on Project Drawdown, a real, science-based plan to reverse global warming. The group was enthusiastic about the possibility of having a full course on the topic.
Saturday: After morning Worship Sharing, Gary Arthur (Gainesville) led Youth in a virtual edition of his much-loved Animal Yoga workshop, which he has led many times for the younger kids at SEYM Gathering. After lunch, Joel Cook offered a second session of Laughter Yoga. The afternoon Workshop, Bowels of Mercy: Earthy Spirituality for a Time of Disruption was attended by about 40 Friends. The introduction and background on ‘Earthy Spirituality,’ provided by co-facilitators Anne Jerome (Deland) and Bob Allenson (Tallahassee), spoke to the need to understand, accept and integrate the ‘earthy,’ even embarrassing, parts of ourselves to be made whole and spiritually resilient. Friends broke into small groups to share their struggles that the pandemic and social distancing has brought to light.
Certainly the most fun Friends had was at the All Ages Talent Show. Emcee Esme Dellinger presided over a set of acts that included visual arts, “sit-down” comedy, poetry and prose readings, music, and even the first-ever virtual occurrence of a beloved SEYM Gathering tradition, the Julia Geiger Memorial Chicken Dance.
Laughter Yoga Online, Weekdays at 5:40 pm
Joel Cook (Treasure Coast Worship Group) will be offering a ZOOM session of Laughter Yoga, Monday through Friday 5:40 pm to 6:00 pm. He’ll try to have the room open at about 5:30.
Meeting ID: 700 674 976
One tap mobile
+13126266799,,700674976#,,#,011053# US (Chicago)
+19294362866,,700674976#,,#,011053# US (New York)
Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 436 2866 US (New York)
+1 253 215 8782 US
+1 301 715 8592 US
Meeting ID: 700 674 976
FCNL Advocacy Tools
Here are the tools presented in the workshop Finding Resilience through Advocacy and Community. If and when the time is right, you can use these tools to transform your story into meaningful action on climate change:
Online carbon pricing LTE newspaper look up tool with talking points: Use this tool to get writing tips and talking points on carbon pricing. Then, look up local newspapers and submit your Letter to the Editor (LTE) directly to local news outlets.
Online email letter tool: Use this tool to draft a message that will be sent directly to your elected officials’ offices.
RAFT Principles: This is an article with the RAFT principles for structuring and developing your advocacy story. These are helpful guiding principles to turn your story into advocacy whether you’re writing or calling your representative, publishing a Letter to the Editor, or going on a planned virtual lobby visit.
Additional resources on carbon pricing, including fact sheets, FCNL’s carbon pricing principles, and other background pieces can be found at fcnl.org/climate.
Stay connected with FCNL during these uncertain times:
Email/newsletter sign up: https://act.fcnl.org/signup/stay-connected/
If you liked what you heard in our retreat session and want to go deeper, please reach out to Bobby Trice (firstname.lastname@example.org) about virtual advocacy training opportunities for yourself, your group, or your community (Quaker or otherwise).