2019–2020: The Gospel According To John Woolman
(Epistle from the 43rd Western Young Friends New Year’s Gathering to the Corinthians)
1 In the beginning was the Quake, and the Quake was with God, and the Quake was Goddess.
2 The same was in the beginning with God(dess).
3 All things were made by him/her/them; and without them/her/him was not any thing made that was.
4 In her/them/him was life; and the life was the light of men/women/individuals who do not identify with the binary.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6 There was a man sent from the incomprehensible, unlabeled, ungendered, non-anthropomorphic Divine, whose name was John Woolman.
7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all people through him might believe.
8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every person that cometh into the world.
10 He saith unto the yaff disciples who dwell upon the western coast of this new land, Come and see. They came and saw where he abideth, and abode with him that week: for it was the 361st day of the final year of this decade of our Lord/Lady/Divine Ruler.
11 By iron horse did they arrive from the far corners of the land, and some came with many, and some came with few, and some came by incomprehensible aluminum bird and the Way opened before them.
12 On the first day they arrived to the Valley of Grass, and the disciple Kiernan of the Land of the Holy Cross spake unto them, “Hey everyone, if we could all quiet down, it’s time for some icebreaker games!” And there was much murmuring about them. Nonetheless, the ice was broken, and the disciples played and were merry.
13 And lo, though many a devil did over-chlorinate the well, the disciples drank from the holy emergency font and were nourished. And at the midnight hour, the tired wayfaring disciples did retire unto their square wooden tents to rest in the grace of the Universe and the great vibrations.
14 And on the second day, fog did enshroud the land. Though weary, the disciples gathered within the house of the Quake, and they did listen to the Quake, and they did quake a joyful noise, and the families of the land Quaked alongside.
15 And one disciple spake unto his companions, “A plague of hunger has befallen me for a plague of wickedness threatens this land and all God’s critters thereupon. Gather ye faithful and heed my prophecy.”
16 And some sang low and some sang higher and the faithful gathered unto the house of the Quake, where there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, though the spirit of John Woolman smiled upon them.
17 And though hunger did vex one disciple, the others broke bread, and glorious glorious food graced their plates, and the vegetables, and the minerals, and the absence of animals, and they thanked the Quake as one.
18 Now the time was upon them for the meeting of business and much business was done.
19 No, really, a lot of business was done.
20 Wearied by the sweat of their brow, again they did feast, and Kiernan spake unto them, “Hey y’all, anyone wanna play Catan?” and many board games were played and the spirit of friendly competition dwelt among them.
21 And on the third day, the Light of the Quake did fill the land, and so the people went forth into the wilderness, warmed by the very beard of John Woolman, and the vitamin D was bountiful. And full of bounty.
22 And though the hunger had spread among many disciples, bonds were born between them and their spirits flourished and quaked.
23 And thus it was time to hurl the plastic discus across the green pasture and there was much wheezing among them and the famished did witness in silence.
24 Now that their strength was gathered and their numbers were many, they went forth to battle the ancient scourge of cis-hetero-patriarchy through meaningful discussion and silent discernment. Though the men did gird their loins and repented openly, the beast was wounded but not killed, for in their penitence they did take up much space.
25 And again they did feast, and again Kiernan spake unto them, “Hey y’all, anyone wanna play the bird game?” and many more board games were played.
26 Now the time of the medium-sized fire had come upon them. And so they gathered their bananas and vegan marshmallows and chocolate chips and butter and almond butter and cinnamon and whipped cream and alternative yogurt whipped cream and brown sugar and aluminium for the time of the banana boats had arrived. Many riddles did they suffer and many dad jokes did they inflict and the spirit of John Woolman did grimace. For their jokes were awful. No, truly awful.
27 The fourth day dawned and the end of the decade was nigh. The wandering disciples did journey fourth to witness the Creator’s feathered beasts, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the one child who witnesseth not. Nonetheless, the spirit of John Woolman quaked in the feathers and the Light.
28 And when they assembled together in the hall of dining, brother/sister/sibling helped brother/sister/sibling with the many duties of the day. Food was prepared, dishes were washed, the floor was swept though never scrubbed, and the wailing children were watched though their wailing never ceased. More food was eaten. More games were played. And Kiernan saith, Ohhhh yeeaaah, and all were merry.
28 In the spirit of love that had come over them, the men did pick up their space and take it outside. And on their newly-moved table, again they did battle the demon of cis-hetero-patriarchy. Loins were ungirded. Feelings were felt. Much masculinity was deconstructed and yet another Quaker committee was formed.
28 And again with the board games. You understand.
29 Now the time was upon them for another meeting of business and little business was done.
29 No, really, almost none. Everyone were too stoked for the talent show.
29 And so the talents were practiced, and so the definition of talent was redefined (loosened) and so a frenzy of senseless enthusiasm spread through the land.
30 The time for the talent show was nigh. So the disciples gathered, and they were talented. Talented indeed.
31 (Think singing, dancing, rainbow children, poetry, ferris wheels, story-telling, a family of human show poodles trained on blueberries, and a two-year-old soloing on the drums.)
32 And at last the sun set. And at last the decade ended. The disciples gathered in the house of stone for a great reflection and poured themselves into a puddle of cuddles. Thus, the Quake was made flesh and dwelt among them.
32 And letters were scribed, and visions were painted, and demons were cast out into the flames.
32 And a new decade was birthed and the disciples cuddled on and John Woolman bared record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode among them all.
33 For the culture of the Quake had risen within them. A healthy living culture to leaven the great sourdough of life. And it is ours to spread. Ours to tend. Ours to take out into the world and share with all those who suffer the famines and scourges of the day.
34 And so we say to you Friends, take this bread. Eat of it. It is the bread of love, and the bread of life, and though it is not gluten free, through it the world shall hunger no more. For the glutenous flour of the spirit clogs not the organs of non-binary individuals/men/women.
35 And may the whole world taste and know of its deliciousness.
36 And may it be so.
2018 – 2019 Epistle
On the banks of Myrtle Creek,
young Friends gathered to
cross the threshold of a new year
in peace, joy, silence
In this season of family,
we made room for one more,
a family connected by choice and by spirit.
What else would you call
this collection, this crew,
these generations linked through the webs of time,
passing, each to the next,
the wisdom of age
and the joy of youth?
How else can we hold space for raw truths
tensions yet unresolved?
It is amazing
how deep we can get
with just a few days
Together we are learning,
together we are growing,
together we tend the wounds that wouldn't otherwise be showing.
We have met.
We have met for sharing
the openness deep in our souls.
We have met
for drama, performance, song, and jazz.
We have met for childcare
and hikes, and food made with love.
We have met at the game board,
the safety meeting, the visioning session
for community land projects.
We have met. Snuggled and puddled round a
fire that burns what we no longer need, our
screens long forgotten, bursting forth into
song, hugging, the early hours of 2019,
we have met, spirit floating like the
stream as it burbles by.
And we shall meet again.
The lyrics to the song "Young Friend" from the talent show can be found here.
2017 – 2018 Epistle
"Many times I have found my way home in the dark because my feet felt the road when my eyes could not see it. There is something in us deeper than hands or feet, that finds the way to the Central Reality. And when we arrive, we know it." -Rufus Jones-
At the close of December 2017, about 50 F/friends returned to Sierra Friends Center in Northern California after a 10 year absence from the site. The unseasonably warm weather inspired us to eat, hike, and sit in worship outside. Gaiety, screeches and laughter of 9 children and 1 in utero filled the space. The beauty of the site encouraged many walks through the woods, including night-time adventures searching for the infamous Crystal Tree.
Amongst the trees and queries, we found ourselves exploring just how far Spirit dwells within. Nuturing Committee brought forth worship sharing queries prompting reflection on whether we have loved enough, which branches of our lives we want to grow or prune in the next year, and how we cultivate hope.
In the words of Aine, aged 6,
"The wind is blooing
the wayu uro ruling
and wee uro saf."
"The wind is blowing
the waves are rolling
and we are safe."
Despite losing both the site and food coordinators, and a number of other Friends to the "plague of 2017," we perservered. Friends came together to support those who weren't feeling well, and to fill in where needed.
We found light through the construction of tin can lamps, roaring fires in the hearth, and the warm inner light of each other. We send this light to those of our community who weren't able to join us this year in person. The gathering was brought to life through impromptu jam sessions which fostered both joy and connection. Friends brought many instruments to share, including ukeleles, guitars, mandolins, and drums, but some of our best musical moments were done acappella style next to the fire.
We spent a good deal of time playing rounds of Dominion and Bang, solving puzzles, and creating giant balloon hats that graced the heads of all the children and some of the adults. We welcomed the New Year in worship after writing letters to our future selves. We offered our burdens and aspirations to the fire and broke the silence with love songs and shortbread. 2018 officially began as the "Year of the Sweetie."
2016 – 2017 Epistle
The 42nd Western Young Friends New Year's Gathering met at Camp Myrtlewood in Oregon. We shared 5 days together in the beautiful Oregon woods. We hold a space open where all are welcome. We were a smaller gathering than some years, fluctuating numbers of 19 to 32 adults and 6 kids. The kids are becoming an important part of our community. 5 month old twins and another 5 month old joined us for their first gathering. Three other kids ages 3 to 5 filled out our community.
The food delighted our palettes, filled our bellies, sustained our bodies and nourished our souls in the making of it. Thanks again to all the effort before this week put in by our food coordinators and the tireless work they did in the kitchen. Cooking and cleaning together brings us closer together.
The week was filled with
Butterflies and breakfast puzzles
Shrieking kids, running and playing hard
Our music fills the air
Long wisps of 40 yr old lichen made into crowns
Sunshine and hail, warm winter blankets
Mushrooms on the hike were cause for wonder
The kids screamed at deforestation and chainsaws as they walked the woods
Learning about nature and edible plants in the forest
Vista point view: "its like extreme make over, stumble up this steep trail and then this view! Wow!"
We struggle with the future of Gathering. We don't know where we will meet next year, but hold strong to the knowing there will be a gathering. Committee meetings where we discussed the institutional memory, the website, our history, and how to move forward. What is our purpose? What is the value of this gathering? Why do some of us keep coming year after year? Why do some of us come and then stop coming?
Wresting with concern for the current political climate challenged us. We approved a traveling minute for us to bring this concern to our greater Quaker community. We have a deep desire for action. We call on our greater Quaker community to respond to the urgency we feel around the need for work in proactive, creative, and direct ways for peace, protecting earth and human rights. We wish to develop strategies for action. Because coming to Unity takes time, let us start now. How can we prepare for the days ahead? George Fox asked, "what canst thou say?" We ask, "What can we do?"
Again we brought in the new year in gathered worship. Around a fire in a room filled with friends and the joyful noise of babies, we wrote letters to ourselves. Some of us read letters we wrote to ourselves in past years, some 5 years past. Then we settled into deeper worship as some of us wrote on paper and then tossed in to the fire the things to be left behind as we move into the new year.
We Young Friends sponsor this gathering and hold this space open for people of all ages to join us. Friends, age out of this space only if you want to, this community is young at heart. We are all of the same energy and Spirit. To Friends everywhere, we welcome all of you to join us to bring in the next new year.
2015 – 2016 Epistle
You can’t always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes, you might just find—
You get what you need.
Greetings from the 2015-2016 Western Young Friends New Year’s Gathering.
This year the Gathering met at Daybreak Camp in Felton, California, just north of Santa Cruz. Over the course of six days, fifty-five friends met and experienced the joys and struggles of community life. We carried expectations and longings with us. Not all could be met, for we are imperfect people, but the Spirit and the support of friends gave us nourishment as we entered the new year.
Daybreak Camp is close to town and a quick drive to the Bay Area. The accessibility of the site made it easier on us in some ways, but proved challenging in others. Many friends joined us late or for just a day or two. Some found this flexibility helpful—for others, it was fragmenting. Because of our location, we were able to join Ben Lomond Quaker Center for an evening presentation on early Friends’ community. Rather than being isolated in the woods or the mountains, we could be in town within minutes. “I’m going out. Do you need anything?” we asked each other—and the question, rephrased and aimed deeper, became an emblem of our challenges.
While many of us came seeking a sanctuary, our week together was real life: not a perfect world apart, but a place to listen and to struggle. We heard the traffic of our minds along with that of the highway. Some of us were ill with fever or sore throat and relied on friends for care. Gathering couldn’t erase all the burdens on our hearts, but it eased them—through the joy of a long-awaited embrace, through the curiosity of our children, through tears of grief in the arms of a steady presence, and sometimes simply through the peace of exhausted acceptance. We gathered for daily worship and for Bible study. We hiked to historic sites and old-growth redwood. We laughed under winter sunshine and clear skies. We chopped vegetables and stirred soups. There were fiddles and drums, board games and cuddling, sand dragons and surf chasing, and blue glittered noses.
And—one way or another, because of our struggles or despite them—we found ourselves again: in the firelight of the gathered meeting, among friends, letting go of the old year and entering the new.
“Do you need anything?” Have faith. Quietly, in the nooks and crannies, in unexpected ways, the Spirit is working.
2014 – 2015 Epistle
Greetings from the Western Young Friends 2014-2015 New Year's Gathering. We, seventy plus adults and children, have gathered in the Oregon woods at Camp Myrtlewood to peel back our old limitations and stretch toward new ways of being.
At this, the fortieth year of the Gathering, we have struggled with what it means to be he, she, and ze. How does the Spirit shine its Light so we can see beyond labels? Through deep listening, we reach for our true nature, forgiving ourselves for the messy space in between.
We feel a gentle intensity. We seek without urgency. We feel the tension between the movement of the Spirit and the numbers on the clock. Moved by music and invigorated by hikes, we connect to this land of rain and trees and moss and mushrooms. We are reaching toward a deep understanding of ourselves and each other that leads to Love.
The days are dark but our hearts fill with Light. We kindle our individual sparks so we can ignite the world. As Friend Julian said, "We can be carried when we are tired, and by carrying each other, we each can rest."
Yours in love and peace,
Western Young Friends New Year’s Gathering
2013 – 2014 Epistle
Two thousand thirteen: the year it took place
The CGC* became our new space.
Clogging and fiddles, played by the fire,
An audience watching, feeling inspired;
Others were singing, joking and playing
And then at the bonfire we took to star(gays)ing.
Making new friends as we walk through the trees,
Sharing our stories, a welcome reprieve.
Chop chop chop chop chop
Meals are our most structured time.
I am seeking the glory of the light, said Fox.
Can you see flowers in the dark?
Go to the window and see what you see
Can you see flowers for you and for me?
Enjoy the abundance around and inside you.
Oh, beloved, awaken within me
Let the Super Duper Dragon of my devotion
Burn away all the fears that would delay me
From serving thy light
And my most joyful special purpose:
May I see thy face in all faces.
“When are you most receptive to your inner light?” came the query.
While playing with cars on the carpet; in snow?
(oh, the places they go)
Never so happy to win Rock Paper Scissors!
My fuzzy inner child
is waking up and opening eyes,
once again becoming mild,
supple and receptive,
to Great Spirit's touch.
A silent, seeking mind heals the sore body much.
Call for talent show acts, sign-up sheet posted
Numbered blanks for 14 names
#13 replaced by 42. Will it be the great answer?
Pair of readings related by the Light.
Perhaps more a question, the answer found within.
I've been so hungry for this.
"Marinate in the vastness . . ."
Love with calm and simple devotion.
Approach the places that scare you.
DIBBLE DIBBLE DOPP DOPP
Shame and fear
as we contemplate: together, alone.
Following our Light,
Meditating on the Now,
The bright pure pulse of peace.
In our old leather britches and our shaggy shaggy locks
Crinkling paper, scratching pens, crackling fire,
the welcome hysteria of deep sharing, joyful shouting,
puddled sleeping bags, singing, whispering, crying,
forgetting the words. opening old wounds?
I am walking in the glory of the Light, said Fox!
I see it each time I look at a Friend:
Old Friends, new Friends, little Friends, true friends.
Peaceful and strong are our hands and our hearts,
You are a gift and were from the start.
Delicate snowflakes crafted with care,
The sames true of you Friends - we love you, take care.
Do you feel led to work in the nursery?
Perhaps next year, at our 40th Anniversary!!!
*Community of the Great Commision, Foresthill, CA. Peak attendance was over 40 Friends!
2012 – 2013 Epistle
Recording Clerk's note: As an alternative to standard epistle-writing, the 2012-2013 Epistle Committee wrote a "Mad Libs" version of the epistle, with the blanks to be filled in by the community. This was done, to hilarious effect, at the Gathering's Talent Night. However, there was no time to prepare a serious version, and this left the Gathering without a formal epistle. A Friend proposed that the baseline, incomplete epistle be accepted as is, and that the Recording Clerk prepare a full version, noting the two appropriately.
The accepted version is as follows:
To [synonyn for Quakers] everywhere:
We gathered in [word ending in -ship] at Camp Myrtlewood, our traditional location in Oregon, for five days of [verb], [verb], and [silly verb]. We were joined by many new attenders this year, including [their names or locations]. Our ages ranged from [Aine Wolfstrom's age] to [Joe Snyder's age]. Much of our time was occupied with [kitchen activity], or [game], or [baby-related activity]. The weather was [adjective], which was [adjective] unexpected. We braved the [adjective] nights with [exothermic action or reaction] and [musical instruments].
On a more [adjective] note, we turned our thoughts to [significant Quaker concept]. We [Quaker jargon verb] each other in [jargon] with an abiding sense of [jargon]. [Buzzword] abounded.
In preparation for our upcoming 40th Anniversary celebration, Friends [verb ending -ed] in silence, listening for leadings to [verb]. We were particularly interested in creating a [noun] for [collective noun] who were in attendance many years ago, and gathering the many [noun] who have [verb ending -ed] to the four [plural noun] of the earth.
Some Friends [verb ending -ed] interest groups, such as chanting, trade equity, and acrobatic [noun]. Many talented [noun] brought cellos, guitars, mandolins, drums, and pianos. We played songs such as House of the Rising [noun], [noun] from Montgomery, Circle [noun], and many more of our favorites from Rise Up [verb ending -ing].
We were blessed by many meals from our [noun] in the kitchen; now-traditional meals such as [food] delighted us yet again.
This epistle was written in [adjective] fashion, with the whole [collective noun] participating in [better way of saying "Mad Libs"]. With that essential [synonym for work] completed, we began the [adjective] [synonym for journeys] to our [adjective] homes, bearing with us the [jargon] of [synonym for compassion] out into the world.
[Stereotypical Quaker salutation],
The Western New Year's Gathering of Young Friends.
The Recording Clerk's version is as follows:
To Friends everywhere:
We gathered in fellowship at Camp Myrtlewood, our traditional location in Oregon, for five days of relaxing, eating, and cuddling. We were joined by many new attenders this year, including two youth from Canada. Our ages ranged from one to sixty-four. Much of our time was occupied with frying onions, or playing "Taboo," or entertaining the baby. The weather was largely clear, which was rather unexpected. We braved the cold nights with fires and guitars.
On a more contemplative note, we turned our thoughts to the testimony of integrity. We held each other in the Light with an abiding sense of community. Joy abounded.
In preparation for our upcoming 40th Anniversary celebration, Friends considered in silence, listening for leadings to take on necessary duties. We were particularly interested in creating a celebration for old F(f)riends who were in attendance many years ago, and gathering the many past attenders who have scattered to the four corners of the earth.
Some Friends formed interest groups, such as chanting, trade equity, and acrobatic yoga. Many talented musicians brought cellos, guitars, mandolins, drums, and pianos. We played songs such as "House of the Rising Sun," "Angel from Montgomery," "Circle Game," and many more of our favorites from Rise Up Singing.
We were blessed by many meals from our heroes in the kitchen; now-traditional meals such as miso soup delighted us yet again.
This epistle was written in collaborative fashion, with the whole community participating in filling in the epistle's blanks. With that essential duty completed, we began the long travels to our distant homes, bearing with us the sense of love out into the world.
Yours in the Light,
The Western New Year's Gathering of Young Friends.
2011 – 2012 Epistle
Upon arrival, there is a sense of relief from within to join with familiar faces and loving arms… a warm community. From December 28th to January 2nd, twenty-one Friends joined at Cazadero Music camp for the New Years Gathering.
Joy was had through delicious food, with and without gluten, that we all helped prepare and clean up (some more than others… thank you food coordinators). We played a-maze-ing games, including Frisbee, foosball, basketball, ping-pong, board games, card games, and trains (compliments of a very young Friend). Interest groups included a story of a Friend’s journey through the Middle East, and alternative forms of worship.
Light flowed through singing worship. Spirit was felt.
New Year’s Day was greeted by a fire in the laundry room. Luckily no one was hurt and we all came together to contain the fire and assist the fire department.
We had fewer Friends than recent previous gatherings. This brought about more intimate groups and sharing that might not have occurred otherwise. There is a concern of Friends’ engagement within the New Year’s Gathering and the larger Quaker community. There was discussion of inviting others outside of PYM and NPYM, as well as creating a more cohesive group of young Friends throughout North America.
There is also a concern of how to bring this love, light, and community with us in our everyday. This place is a beautiful refuge where we feel free and led to spread our light, but how do we carry this once we leave these grounds? How can we lean on each other when our cabins are much father apart? How do we bring the intention of light into our everyday?
When one shines a light,
Others can follow.
When two come together,
The light becomes brighter.
When we sit,
Amongst the silent redwoods—
The ultimate Quakers,
Reflecting, rejuvenating, and listening
We hear more clearly
Together we join hands and sing our Spirit’s song
Healing the entire world
Peace be within me
Shining my light on the gathering,
Love and Light,
Western Young Friends New Year’s Gathering
2010 – 2011 Epistle
Essay Topic of the Day: What did you do for your winter vacation?
Use both sides of paper if necessary.
It’s funny you should ask. In some ways, all I did was a whole lot of nothing. I mean, I went to New Year’s Gathering, but we didn’t do much there. It wasn’t a service week. We didn’t get mired in business meeting, either—not many decisions to be made. We didn’t have a schedule for the first day and the power went out, too. Sometimes it was even hard to get food on the table on time, though our food coordinators did great. We slept a lot; singing, dancing, games, snuggling…
All we really did was some worship sharing and New Year’s Eve worship… those were pretty powerful, though. People spoke of their struggles and joys, their pain and their gratitude, the beauty and difficulty of “living in the fire.” We felt so close New Year’s Eve, the comfort and welcome of our community of soul, that we trusted each other with our laughter and tears.
You know, we didn’t do much except grow, but that was enough.
2009 – 2010 Epistle
To Friends Everywhere,
Since 1975, the Western Young Friends have gathered for friendship and fellowship over the New Year. This year we came together at Cazadero Performing Arts Camp in Northern California. Delighting in the rain falling through the redwoods, we were moved by the spirit of the camp to write and perform songs. Although there was no fire in the hearth, the light within and the closeness of friends kept us warm.
Friends from as far as Hawaii and Montana as well as the usual suspects and a very young Friend joined together in the lodge for worship on the occasion of the New Year. We explored spiritual conundrums and truths related to integrity and community. While we grappled with weighty business, the essence of the gathering remained buoyant and bubbly. We grew close through card games, board games and other indoor frivolity. The New Year’s full moon also brought two friendly canine visitors who held witness to our love for each other.
We look forward to continuing the tradition of sharing our lives together.
We love you whole bunches,
Western Young Friends
Our song, Happy New Year, is included as a part of this epistle. Listen to it here.
2008 – 2009 Epistle
To Friends Everywhere,
We gathered this week at Camp Myrtlewood, arriving through the pounding rain. We are thrilled to return to this beautiful site, with its tall trees, roaring river, and a newly insulated and significantly warmer gathering space. 37 Young Friends between the ages of 60 years and 15 weeks in utero gathered this year, representing regions from Seattle to Los Angeles and three yearly meetings. We welcomed new friends, reunited with old, and missed those who could not make it this year.
We leapt into the kitchen. Delicious meals were central to our week together, and cooking and cleaning were opportunities for fellowship and sing-a-longs. We quickly coalesced through ice-breakers, including competitive vegetable impersonations. This fun continued throughout the week with a dance party, lively storytelling, ping-pong playing, games and massages. Our days started late and ended in the early morning, with much of the time spent in fireside camaraderie. Through our games and laughter, the Spirit was present.
We had hard work to do together this week. Sierra Friends Center, a former gathering site, gave us the opportunity to develop a policy on drug and alcohol use at our gathering. Without this policy, we would not be invited to return to that site. We came together in worship sharing to explore our feelings and fears, and found ourselves diverging from policy creation into a discussion of personal spiritual journeys and our support of one another. We have not yet come to unity on the topic, but found that we shared common convictions of harm reduction and nurturing the safety of all who gather with us.
This culminated in a realization that our gathering is not guided by the social norms and punishments of our society, but by Spirit. We recognized that this was a new approach to an old topic and many of us were transformed by our process. We were moved to capture this transformation in a minute, feeling that the Spirit was leading us down a new path. Unfortunately, this may mean letting go of our connection with Sierra Friends Center. We all recognize that as one way closes another opens, and we look forward to creating connections with sites that share our values.
We brought in the new year in worship together. We reflected, healed, cried—but mostly we laughed. We shared what we were taking into the new year and what we were leaving behind, throwing our thoughts and hopes into the fire. Plus, there was cookie dough.
Our gathering was challenging, but we feel that the Spirit was always present. We were held by each other and by the light, and spent the week reveling in this community that brings us so much joy.
In the light,
Western Young Friends New Year’s Gathering
2007 – 2008 Epistle
To Friends Everywhere,
We arrived in the slush and snow on December 28th at Sierra Friends Center’s Arbor House in Grass Valley, California to deepen our connection with the spirit and each other.
Friends brought a variety of talents; we performed Poi, practiced Capoeira, juggled, made chocolate truffles, cooked feasts, and strummed guitars until the final embers in our fireplace burned low. We shared with one another in worship and in song, conversation, and the intimacy of sleepy friends cuddling on couches. We shared joy and wonder with a third-generation New Years Gathering baby who graced Business Meetings and Worship Sharing with an attentive (but distracting) presence.
Untouched by the chill of winter, we brought in the new year with worship, convened in a rumpled mass of cozy bodies around the fire. Casting the chains of the old year into the flames, we stoked our hearts with hopes for the new.
Western Young Friends New Years Gathering
2006 – 2007 Epistle
To Friends Everywhere,
Young Friends from up and down the west coast gathered at Camp Myrtlewood in southern Oregon, to begin our annual time of reflection on the old year and hope for the new. This year’s celebration was filled with feasting, worship and games – and was punctuated by a wicked dance party. We spent our time with guitar, singing and laughter. Our interest groups ranged from activist videos to hikes through the lush woods to a cooking demonstration featuring ten pounds of chocolate. The days schedules seemed to flow away into companionship in the inglenook and in the kitchen. Insightful worship sharing sessions prepared us for a truly gathered meeting welcoming in the new tear. The moment between 2006 and 2007 passed in cleansing warmth and worship as friends were drawn into a lasting sense of community.
We venture out of this gathering into the New Year with renewed spirits and hearts. And what do we bring with us into 2007?
Western Young Friends New Years Gathering
2004 – 2005 Epistle
To Friends everywhere,
New Year’s Gathering was frikkin’ awesome!
Twenty-three sexy young Californians gathered in Oregon, and the muddy Camp Myrtlewood. Despite the fact that the gathering was planned two days in advance, and the menu decided on the car-ride up, it was a tremendous success. Facing the organizational challenges before us, we rediscovered our commitment to the gathering. Next year will be bigger and better.
Throughout the week we became a tight-knit group through worship sharing, trust falls, and a high-stakes game involving a paper bag and scissors. Our meals were delicious and frequently interrupted by phone calls from our new local friend DAVE! D! A! V! E! Ad hoc committees were formed — some smart, some stupid, but all necessary to the makeup of the gathering. We brought in the new year in worship filled with tears and transformations, and were surprised at the end to find that it had lasted a whopping three hours. The next day we had the opportunity to sweat out the old year in a sweat lodge led by two attenders. Then we ate in the new year in the form of egg omelets and scrambles. But none of this compares to the greatest miracle of all — all business meetings were fully attended.
All in all, this was a tight-knit and deliciously cold gathering.
In the light,
Western Young Friends 2004-5
2001 – 2002 Epistle
To Friends Everywhere,
Heaps of young and experienced Quakers gathered in Oregon at Camp Myrtlewood to bring in the new year in silent worship. A friend observed that this annual celebration was more mellow than years past, our only difficulty this year being the occasional late meal. Many members of the group have been active in responding to the crises of the world and a calm retreat was welcomed. Benji Hebner expressed the spirit of the gathering though this poem:
Walking out on the footbridge under looming Douglas Firs who press their ponderous roots into the banks Your eyes follow the moss that clings in clumps around the trunks that bloom in needles toward the tops ’til in the waiting mist, they’re lost. You hear the lapping cackle of the shiv’ring winter brook and close your eyes for though you’ve never seen this river you can almost taste it’s fragrant green before you ever look. It’s like that when the silence flows to clear the clutter; you can touch the soundless mutter melting down the groundless fear just like the breeze that sweeps the misty curtains from the trees and lets us see the moon that glows so soft and clear. And when the wind should stop and when the fog that blurs the treetops slithers down along their trunks to drape with damp the puddles and the pathways through the camp and trickles down the shingles to the dark moss covered walls and soaks through all our clothes like rain that never falls and the trees all fade to shadows in the gray, we huddle round the sopping kindling on the ground and press our breath to urge the hiss and crackle that the forest speaks in death. And in that calm and comfort called up by the flames embracing all these fragments of the past we find that warming voice at last that speaks the truth to flickering power in us all. So as you pull your coat around you watching doubtful gray surround you don’t despair to see the frigid kiss of mist upon the stream. Although your quaking comes from cold and fear that when the clouds dissolve and disappear they’ll wash away that vital, vivid green, keep close. We’ll help you hold that flame within your soul and pull together all our timid, flickering fragments to a warm and brilliant whole.
In previous years, we have alternated between gathering at Myrtlewood and Wellspring. Since Wellspring’s rates have gone up significantly we will not be able to return to that space next year. We have formed a site committee, and the caretakers of Camp Myrtlewood have invited us to hold the gathering here every year. Although we aren’t sure where it will be, we look forward to coming together again at the end of this year.
In the light,
Western Young Friends New Years Gathering
2000 – 2001 Epistle
To Friends Everywhere,
Greetings from the Western Young Friends New Years Gathering. We met at the Wellspring Renewal Center near Philo in Northern California, where clear sunny days led to nights bright with frost and stars. A total of 67 people, aged 3 weeks to 70 years, shared in our community between December 28th, 2000 and January 2nd, 2001.
At first, we did not fit together very smoothly as we tried to acknowledge and meet the sometimes conflicting needs in our community. But as the gathering progressed, we found ways to balance and honor these differences, and some of the rough edges were gently rubbed away. On New Years Eve, it seemed appropriate to drop smooth river stones into a bowl of water to represent the things we wanted to release, as well as selecting other stones representing things we wanted to bring into our lives. There were also small groups who walked, sang, and shared in their own ceremonies of release. Then we settled into meeting for worship, accompanied by the occasional coos and cries of our youngest attenders. As the children drifted off to sleep, our worship deepened, becoming a clear pool, with enough space for each of us to be heard and send our ripples out.
We were encouraged to consider the directions our lives are going, through workshops on creating a simpler lifestyle, a worship fellowship query about paths with a heart, and a “wheel of life” inventory exercise. Gingerbread at midnight, board and card games, creating batiks using flour and water, and spontaneous singing in the kitchen rounded out our sharing together. As the gathering drew to a close, we acknowledged one another with an outpouring of love and appreciation for everyone’s gifts and efforts, displayed in family night, nitty-gritty work, and the care we’ve taken of each other.
Sarah Rose House, Sara Michener, and Sarah Tyrrell
Julia Bazar and Paul Ruhlen
1997 – 1998 Epistle
To Friends everywhere:
Fires burned strong and consistently throughout the 1997-1998 Western Young Friends New Years Gathering. Somewhere in the realm of 30 souls met at Camp Myrtlewood in Southern Oregon. Fires kept us warm and allowed us to relax which the cold was kept outside. The screens put up protected us from shooting sparks, but without the screens, it was warmer. As the fires slowly dried out the damp logs and we came closer together, we realized that our individual emotional screens, too, had been brought down.
Popping sparks and babies' noises welcomed in the New Year. The smallness of our gathering made us worry that we would fall apart like cookies without flour, but as time went on, we realized that we make really good granola. We awoke to the New Year to typical Gathering rain, after a week of unusual sunniness.
Yours in Peace and Light,
Western Young Friends
1995 – 1996 Epistle
To Friends Everywhere:
Hey guys… what’s up? This is us, about thirty-something young friends or so jumpin’ around in the rain and just kickin’ back here at Camp Myrtlewood in Southwestern Oregon. This is our twenty-first Gathering, so we came of age in a way. We traveled through rough weather and snow, from far and near (Portland, L.A. to Seattle, Berkeley, with a lot of us escaping Santa Cruz and folks from Minnesota, New York and Boston) to find the camp drenched in torrential rain.
The raindrops splashing and splattering revealed the puddles, some of which we had brought with us. It seemed like it had been a hard year. Tears were shed, creating depressions that we had held inside, new puddles. We see our reflections in puddles. Sometimes filling them in hides their lessons. So we let the light shine through, we love each other and we allow ourselves to be loved. Gradually over our time here, we realize we have brought gravel as well, having loads to drop and pieces of ourselves to offer as well as puddles to fill.
Our schedule is a puddle that gets filled in each day. Our Nominating Committee is a big puddle. Instead of walking around it, many of us cast our pebbles in and wait as the ripples extend. By the second day, a good bout of actual gravel work inspired us, and as the new year rolled around and the first arrived, we arose, blinking and stretching to find the rain had stopped.
Food, germs, mud, fire and water provided struggle and delight throughout the weekend. A few hardy souls were cleansed by a New Year’s leap in the stream, and others by clearing and burning brush. All of us are renewed and refreshed. We have community and creativity here and we want more of it in our lives. We want a roof over our heads, and true love for ourselves and our parents. We want our braces off!
Western Young Friends ’95–96
1994 – 1995 Epistle
~ To Friends anywhere ~
Many years ago an acorn leapt from its mother Quaker tree to create the Western Young Friends New Year's Gathering. It was nourished through its infancy with a store of Quaker tradition, then grew out on its own, rooting in the fertile soil and shade of the Quaker community. ~ This year we are still alive and strong, a gentle grove gathered together at Shenoa Camp, near Philo, California. From near and far, younger and older, experienced and new, this is our twentieth gathering. ~ Our coming together was chaotic. We felt our confusion especially in our first business meeting, an awareness heightened by a lot of chocolate. We struggled with our Quaker process and found a new willingness for that struggle. We asked ourselves and each other: “Who are we?” “Where are we going?” ~ Despite such questions, we continue to rejoice in and be inspired by one another. The love we find here is a powerful and precious thing. ~ We give thanks for the grace that blessed us like the rain that fell upon us at Shenoa. From the mystery of its arrival to its patterns as it touched us, grace made the music of our wholeness, finally sinking again into the mystery of the earth to nourish our roots as we move out into the world. ~ Like trees before the wind, we find that we have the strength and love and courage to persevere and dream of what we can become. We pray that we may have generous branches where children can swing. We feel the strong trunks that will support a cargo net to hold our play, our passion, and our community. We have found places among us where we can grow and feel the blessings of creation. ~ Western Young Friends, Philo, California, U.S.A. ~ Marka Carson and Martin Tauber, Clerks.
1992 – 1993 Epistle
To Friends Everywhere:
After a year of anxious wondering whether our Gathering would ever find a new site matching our exacting specifications, the way finally opened—across a narrow, swinging suspension bridge. The bridge, which some traversed in the rain and hail, some without flashlights, became our metaphor. The way that opens may demand acts of courage and faith, yet leads to spiritual peace, here manifested in the intentional community of Shenoa, in Philo, California.
“Shenoa” is a Native American word meaning “white bird of peace” and the community of Shenoa shares our ideals of living in sustainable harmony with the planet. We felt blessed to have found such a welcoming place, our first gathering in a new location after nine years at Camp Myrtlewood in Oregon.
Our schedule, shortened by one day to reduce expenses, was packed with interest groups and worship sharing, work projects for the camp, and long walks in the redwood grove, a thousand-year-old Meeting for Worship. Meetings for Business, bread baking, juggling, Capture the Flag, music, games and circle-dancing rounded out our week.
We celebrated the transition from 1992 to 1993 with an evening of group play, a circle ritual, and fireside Meeting for Worship. Our worship settled into a deep silence. As the fire dimmed, disembodied voices shared songs, joys, pain, gratitude, and messages of hope and love. We blended our voices in the harmonies of tolling bells to ring in the new year.
We numbered 58 souls this year and spanned three generations. Babies and children were prevalent among us. They were accepted in our midst, held in our arms, and spun on the floor. The children had a full program this year, complete with mask-making and a room of their own.
We returned to our lives across the sturdy bridge, renewed in spirit and looking forward to the way ahead.
WYF New Year’s Gathering
1991 – 1992 Epistle
Dear Friends Everywhere:
We converged on the rain-soaked forest of Camp Myrtlewood, Oregon, to renew ourselves in the warm glow of our mutual love. Our Gathering, which lasted from the evening of December 28, 1991 until the morning of January 2, 1992, celebrated its 17th year, and was attended by some sixty souls. Some of us were newly married, others newly named. In our many walks through creation we had purchased land, quit or taken jobs, left or entered school, traveled, moved, finished paying off the truck, or once again taken up drumming in a band.
As a sign of our coming of age as a Gathering, we felt confident enough to experiment with changes in some of our time-honored routines. We messed with the meal schedule and freed up our format. We extended breakfast into brunch, making dinner the only gathered meal. This switch to morning “grazing” accommodated our diverse eating and sleeping patterns. Instead of declaring a unified theme, our “bring your own theme” idea opened space for spontaneous contributions from everyone.
Our lively spontaneity expressed itself dramatically in the Gathering’s events: African drumming, guitar strumming, dinner gongs, sing-alongs, river wading, undulating, bubble popping, workshopping, jigsaw puzzling, coffee guzzling, roleplay, modeling clay, vista views, midnight blues, orange juggling, fireside snuggling, and the ever-popular microwaveable cold banana cheese.
While several felt that the relaxed format suited their needs for “lighter” New Year event, several others felt a need for a deeper group commitment to worship and spiritual growth. We met to discuss these concerns, and emerged with a renewed sense of unity in the spirit.
We expressed this unity in our New Year celebration, which began with a ritual of release. This ritual included contact with earth and water, smudging with sage, chanting, song, and releasing written thoughts into the fire. In incorporating elements of Native American ritual in our celebration, we demonstrated our willingness to experiment with diverse forms of worship.
We then settled around the fireplace to release 1991 and embrace 1992 in a spirit of worship. The presence of small children during our meeting for worship reminded us all of our growth into a multi-generational spiritual community.
Our diversity as a Gathering was reflected in the wide variety of workshops offered by Friends this year. an interpretive tour of Proud Mary, a diesel truck, led by her owner, deepened our understanding of the interdependence of all parts in any complete system. Viewing our Gathering as a complex spiritual and social system, we have come to respect the interdependence of all its aspects. We reaffirmed our commitment to Quaker process as a means of preserving harmony in the midst of evolution and change.
We capped off our New Year celebration with our annual Un-talent Night, sharing songs old and new, stories of knights, princes, dragons, mad veterinarians and careful cattle, and feats of astonishing balance and dexterity.
We wish you all a wonderful new year!
New Year’s Gathering 1991/92
1990 – 1991 Epistle
To Friends Anywhere:
We Western Young Friends met for our sweet 16th annual New Year’s Gathering at Camp Myrtlewood in frozen Oregon. We arrived through rain, sleet, and dark of night to be welcomed by light, warmth, old friends and new. We were also welcomed by our caretakers, John and Margaret Jones, who put in extra effort to keep the camp open despite a frozen water system.
We were immediately taken up with the collective spirit of various activities, including the longest Virginia Reel in Quaker history, music good and bad, a dissection of a giant chinook salmon found dead in the creek, baking cookies, a massive game of Truth or Dare, and the inevitable drums, dancing, backrubs and juggling.
Daily worship sharing groups held in cabins with blasting heaters helped to center us spiritually and get to know new faces. Both seriousness and silliness pervaded in these meetings, and they felt good. Various interest groups and workshops held our attentions, soothed and edified. Meetings for the healing arts, women, juggling, near-death experiences, “Adult Children of Quakers,” massage and role-playing games, stimulated our intellects and unleashed our spirits. Perhaps the most popular workshop dealt with questions of personal space and emotional boundaries. This meeting was called by our Nurture Committee in response to concerns of some members of the gathering that the open loving nature of our group sometimes causes uncomfortable feelings to surface. The women and men attending felt supported and rewarded by the experience.
Fears of a repeat freeze-out and concerns that the timing of our gathering interferes with the holiday vacation of our caretakers led to the formation of a site committee to look into a new location for our future gatherings. This relocation may occur as soon as next year.
As a gesture of appreciation to the camp, on New Year’s Eve day, we helped clear a lawn of stones, and used them to build a peace cairn as a token of our mutual desire for a peaceful resolution to the Persian Gulf crisis. A special Young Friend traveled from New York to spend a day with us and conduct a session on draft counseling. Our thoughts of peace were also shared after a group Blue Moon Howl with songs and games.
Out of the 66 of us, seven were under the age of 14. A small group of children, but a vital one. Hat-making, finger-painting, singing and a skit (“The King who Played with Puppets”) put on for the entire gathering rounded out the week for our youngest attenders.
New Year’s Eve brought us all together when the festive mood was already apparent as we sang Happy Birthday to Cedra and shared radish puns along with the birthday cake. A talent show showcased songs, stories and dancing before we met in front of the fireplace for a hopeful silent meeting until midnight, when we broke loose with a glorious cacaphony of dancing, singing, cheesecake and bell-ringing far into the morning.
We leave for home once again rejoicing and renewed, bolstered by new connections and old friendships.
WYF New Year’s Gathering
1989 – 1990 Epistle
To Friends Everywhere:
Once upon a time in a cold, wet primeval forest in Oregon…STOP. In the rambling dining hall the blazing fires warmed the hearts and hands of all those who gathered…STOP. There was food! LOTS of food! and not very many people…STOP. Juggling! Stories! Darkness! Worship-sharing at 2 p.m.!?! Ping Pong! Computer Games! Non-computer games!…STOP.
In the past the Gathering was for some a spot of light in our dark lives. Now this light has spread. We become more willing to face our darkness with the Gathering.
We still find the Gathering a place to bring spiritual inspiration, a wealth of ideas, and our efforts as individuals to reach out and connect with others. Our struggles are made easier by a strong sense of community.
An infusion of energy by new Young Friends carries all of us further along in our cycles. We see ourselves as a Gathering which can move the world, and we return the energy of the Gathering to our outside lives.
We gained strength from many circles: before meals, in worship and business. Spontaneous musical circles found creative unity. “Every one of them words rang true and glowed like burning coal.”* Rusi and Ben wrote a song in memory of our friend Caryn Daschbach. Lisa sang her love song to the Gathering, "You're My Band of Angels."
We left 1989 by giving away old stereotypes of ourselves, past pain, and our resistance to change. Receiving affirmations in a healing circle allows us to enter 1990 with the challenge and commitment of accepting change.
May the wheel turn!
Western Young Friends 1989/1990
*Bob Dylan, "Tangled Up in Blue"
1977 – 1978 Epistle
To Friends Everywhere:
We began as circles—of men and women—in which we spoke, between silences, of our joys and feelings of being men, of being women, and also of our fears and anxieties. A bond of love, trust and freely expressed closeness was born in these groups which brought a kind of unity and warmth to the whole time we spent together. Later, we each spoke our piece, circle within circle. Each one held the ring or the bracelet and spoke, all listened and savored each word, as we realized how alike we all are. It seemed to us later, upon reflection, that our words had grown out of the silence of the New Year's worship, and somehow the beauty and strength of our sharing would not end at Harlow Lodge.