The Journey of Fall Gathering

All Around the Moebius Strip: The Journey of Fall Gathering 2013
by Nancy E. James
Starting with Moebius Strips
A three‐dimensional object with only one side and one edge — Impossible? No, it’s called a Moebius Strip, and you can make one yourself—as Walter Mead taught us in the opening session of Fall Gathering on Friday evening, September 20! Take a strip of paper and attach the two ends—but before you do, give the strip a half twist. Instead of a paper circle with an inside and an outside, you will have a continuous (though lopsided‐looking) loop.
Start anywhere and draw a line down the center of the strip, without lifting your pencil. Your line will meet itself—proving, “there’s only one side”!
Before we practiced making these paradoxical objects, we viewed part of the DVD “Circles of Trust®: The Work of Parker Palmer,” in which Palmer uses a Moebius Strip to demonstrate a pervasive problem in our modern times. Our lives, he said, are often like an ordinary circular paper loop. We show one “self” to the world, while our true self is like the hidden “inside” of the circle. But if we can join inner and outer, our selves will be all one piece, like the Moebius Strip.
Circles of Trust
Palmer’s book A Hidden Wholeness: the Journey toward an Undivided
Life was the inspiration for this year’s Fall Gathering theme, “Journey toward Wholeness.” On Saturday Valerie Brown, a trained facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal® founded by Palmer, led four sessions for adult attenders. “We already have what we need to be who we are,” she said; and each session offered a different way for us to explore what we “have” through listening and sharing in small “circles of trust.”
“Intention” was the key word in the first morning session. We were to bring into the conference room personal objects that symbolized our “intention for this retreat.” (In her pre‐retreat memos, Val had suggested that each person bring such an object to the Gathering.) After small‐group “show and tell” with these objects, we were invited to write our intentions on post‐it notes and attach them to a large paper banner inscribed with the word “Intention.”
After a break, the phrase for the next session was “Stepping Stone.” We were allowed a period of “alone time” in which to reflect (and write if we wished) on an important period in our lives, then share these reflections with a small group that was different from the previous one. In the afternoon session, the word was “Watershed”; we gathered in newly‐organized small groups to share “a story of a time in your life when you met a challenge or took a risk.”
In Val’s final session, on Saturday evening, our mode of sharing changed to “walk and talk” with just one other individual, someone we did not know well. The query was “What is your growing edge?” suggested by a passage from Meditations of the Heart by Howard Thurman. After fifteen minutes for personal reflection, we paired up (we could stroll indoors or outdoors—or find a place to sit down!), then re‐gathered in the conference room for voluntary sharing with the large group.
Meanwhile, Young Friends . . .
Children and teens (an unusually small number this year) participated in their own Gathering under the leadership of Jennifer Hurd, Michael Jacques, and Eric Laurenson. The kids had fun on the Friday night hayride around the Camp Crestfield grounds. On Saturday morning, those eight years and older were led in simulation games on the theme “Discipleship.” When Saturday turned rainy, the afternoon recreational activity had to be rescheduled to the Climbing Wall in the Recreation Center. In the evening, while Valerie Brown met with the adults for the last time, Young Friends enjoyed a sing‐along in the dining hall. (By the way, the older kids loved staying in the cottages, new at Crestfield this year.)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
The generations came together for the rest of Saturday evening, which featured the popular Talent Show, emceed by Peter Webb, and folk dancing, led by Barry Beal, Rosemary Coffey, and Jo Schlesinger.
On Sunday morning, while Young Friends held their own Meeting for Worship and closing program in the Rec Center, the conference room in Scott Lodge was the setting for adult Meeting for Worship followed by worship sharing on the conference theme.
Ian Samways led us in considering the queries “What did you get out of the weekend? Have you thought about a next step in your own ‘Journey toward Wholeness’?” We were to think back on the Palmer video, the meaning of the Moebius Strip, and the steps through which Valerie Brown had led us: “intention” objects, stepping stones, watershed moments, and growing edge.
One Friend had learned that “We are stronger as a community than we are as individuals.” Another remarked, “I came to what was supposed to be a retreat, and wound up in a gathering!” Several expressed a wish for more such opportunities within our Meeting throughout the year.
Looking Ahead . . .
Just as a line drawn along the center of a Moebius Strip comes back to where it started, Fall Gathering will come again, in September 2014! And we invite the input of Pittsburgh Friends for the route next year’s journey will take. On Sunday, December 8, members of the Fall Gathering Committee will be available during Hospitality to hear suggestions for a 2014 theme, facilitator, activities—and any other thoughts Friends would like to share with us, including how Fall Gathering might be improved. Look and listen for forthcoming announcements about this opportunity!

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