Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dayton, Virginia

Tuesday evening found us at Valley Friends Meeting, part of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, in Dayton, VA, a few miles south of Harrisonburg. The event was jointly hosted by Rockingham Friends (Ohio YM) and Valley Friends. The meetinghouse is a former Presbyterian church, and comes with a nice kitchen, good classroom spaces, excellent acoustics and some historic stained glass windows.

Participants traveled from as far as Staunton and Charlottesville, but most were from the local area, including a couple of people who had discovered that they might be Friends after taking an online quiz on We had a lively discussion and only drew things to a close because it was past 9:00 pm and most of us had to be up early the following morning. With thanks to Rockingham and Valley Friends for hospitality in many ways.

The pictures show Felicity unloading the car in the dusk, and Tom Hill, one of two Friends who drove over from Charlottesville to be with us.

Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg

Then it was back to Salt and Light. Sue Williams had arranged for Felicity to speak at a “brown bag lunch” at Eastern Mennonite University. It was actually a bring-your-tray-of-excellent-cafeteria-food-into-the-committee-room-lunch. Not a brown bag to be seen. As we all munched, Felicity spoke about the support that Mennonites had given Irish Friends during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, in exploring paths towards reconciliation.

Those attending were mostly Mennonites connected with the University, but Dona Boyce Manoukian, former FWCC representative from Baltimore Yearly Meeting, drove over to Harrisonburg for the event. Later that day, a number of us, including Faye Chapman and Dona, had afternoon tea at Mrs Hardesty’s tea room ‘quality cuisine in a traditional tearoom setting.’ It’s all about balance: attend many meetings and events, but have good fellowship along the way. The picture shows Dona and Felicity at EMU.

In the Shenandoah Valley

One of the great things about getting on the road and visiting Friends meetings is catching up with F/friends. Tuesday was busy, with two Salt and Light events, but we also found time for fellowship and exploration. While Felicity stayed with Sue Williams of Ireland Yearly Meeting, who now works at Eastern Mennonite University, I stayed with Jack and Susan Smith.

They took me to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction, a wholesale market that, twice-weekly, serves the predominantly Mennonite farming community in the area. Buyers come from a wide area, and schools, colleges and hospitals, as well as restaurants, are benefiting from being able to buy fresh food directly from the growers. Tractors with trailers loaded with boxes of produce, from pumpkins to peppers to potatoes, and a whole lot of other things, pulled up near the auctioneer. There were some very experienced buyers and agents who seemed to bid by merely twitching. I was careful to avoid brushing my hair out of my eyes in case I found I had bought some bushels of vegetables by mistake. What a great experience and thanks to my friends for suggesting the visit.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Salt and Light in Tennessee

My last Salt and Light posting was written while I was flying over the Alps, returning from Kenya, where I had been helping to plan the 2012 World Conference of Friends. Since only 1,000 people will be able to go to Kenya, it’s important to bring some of the spirit to local meetings and churches.

The first of these local events took place last weekend in the shade of deciduous trees in Tennessee, in a meetinghouse lined from ceiling to floor by windows. When the windows were open we could hear birds and the noise of huge acorns falling; we were truly in those woods.

Participants, hosted by West Knoxville Friends, came from eight yearly meetings: six in the USA and also from Ireland and Jamaica. Felicity McCartney, Ireland YM, and Sheila Hoyer, North Carolina YM (FUM), spoke of doing peace and reconciliation work in Northern Ireland and encouraged participants to consider ways to address conflict in their own lives and in the experience of their communities.

As with all FWCC events, we combined the worship styles of different traditions, singing hymns and having vocal prayer as well as waiting worship. We heard reports from all the yearly meetings, and were particularly interested to hear that Jamaica YM had used the text of being Salt and Light as the theme for its recent annual sessions. I am hoping that Jamaican Friends will host a local event next year.

Most of us were able to stay to be able to worship with West Knoxville Friends and we shared some of flavor of the weekend with them over potluck lunch. With thanks to all those Tennessee Friends who volunteered time and a host of skills to launch this program (we are looking forward to sixteen local events in just six weeks) I am now moving through the changing tree colors to our next stop: Harrisonburg, Virginia.