Retreat at Chico, Calif., Friends Meeting

I can't imagine too many readers of my blog (and Facebook) page haven't already heard the news, that Robin was chosen to be Executive Secretary of Friends World Committee Section of the Americas. I'm very proud of her -- enough to agree to move to Philadelphia this summer, after the school year is over. Since I grew up in New Jersey, it will seem a bit like coming home, though it's going to be hard to leave San Francisco Meeting as well as the professional friendships & relationships I've developed here over the last 16 years.

Meanwhile, last weekend, Robin and I co-presented at a retreat for a cluster of meetings in northern California, including Davis, Grass Valley, and Chico, hosted by Chico Friends. If we hadn't agreed to this before Robin's job announcement, I don't think we would have accepted. As it was, the weekend gave us a nice time away among Friends, some of whom we knew and many of whom we didn't. (Thanks to Jim A. & Janet L. for hosting us.)

Chico is a college and agricultural town, and the Friends Meeting there is growing. It helps that they purchased a building just a few years ago, a former Church of the Brethren building. Our boys had other children to play with during the weekend, which was nice.

Here is an outline of the weekend.

Building the Quaker Community

Chico Friends Meeting Cluster retreat April 1-3, 2011

Chico Friends Meeting House, 1601 Hemlock Street, Chico, California


7 pm welcoming activities at the meeting house

[snacks, conversation, singing]


8:30 coffee, tea, rolls

9:00 worship

9:30 welcome, introductions

Icebreaker: Say your name, what religious tradition (if any) you grew up with, and what your name for the divine is now as an adult

10:00 Robin and Chris Mohr: shared thoughts and activities

A. Robin and Chris present

a. Robin describes image of the church/meeting as a spiritual “midwife” (from Wess Daniels' presentation at Quaker Heritage Day, and Robin's thoughtful blogpost afterward)

b. Some ways Quaker monthly, quarterly & yearly meetings have served as midwives for Robin & Chris

c. Some ways in which Robin & Chris have served as same to others

B. Discussion: Reaction and Q&A: Thoughts? responses? What is the potential strength and power of this image? What are the limitations of this image? [Note: One person mentioned a bad experience with a midwife, so we talked about that. We took time to discuss limits of metaphors, the concept of malpractice can arise in any human endeavor, and the applicability of other metaphors, such as shepherd or gardener.]

C. Worship Sharing: We broke into two smaller groups
2 queries proposed:

a. Who in your life has given you spiritual nurture or acted as a spiritual midwife?

b. Whom have you helped spiritually nurture or served as a spiritual midwife?

D. Closing thoughts

E. Closing worship

12:00 Simple lunch at the meetinghouse

1:00 Building the Quaker Community

[opening exercise, breakout groups, and full group discussion]

Open with a “sociometric exercise.” In this exercise, a statement is read aloud, and Friends align themselves along a continuum of agree/disagree with the statement. (There can also be a second dimension, such as “comfort/discomfort with my level of agreement/disagreement.) We did something similar at College Park's Spring Quarter on the topic of diversity. There, though, we usually aligned along dyads (theist/nontheist, Christian/universalist). Here, the goal is simply to gauge relative placement in response to one topic at a time, and to take a very short time to debrief why people clustered as they did.

· “I publicly identify as a Friend."

· “Growth and change are a good and necessary part of a Quaker meeting.”

· “I expect to be held accountable by Friends for my behavior at meeting.”

· “Membership is a vital part of defining the Quaker community.”

· etc.

The full group then discussed these topics together.

3:00 snack break

3:30 Chico Friends present:

[a series of brief presentations about new developments in our meeting, with

discussion and related experiences from others: topics include outreach, incorporation, membership, winnowing sessions, Quaker structures and levels of Quaker community.

5:00 Closing reflections and worship

5:45 Dinner at local restaurants

[groups of 4-6 will join at recommended local restaurants of choice for fellowship and a taste of the town.]


9:30-10:15 Singing

10:30-11:30 Worship

12:00-1:00 Simple lunch

optional activity:

1:30 CROP walk for world hunger [walk through local park sponsored by area interfaith council.]

Childcare provided on Saturday

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