Friends from across our FWCC ‘section’ came together for a Triennial Gathering in Manila in April. FWCC divides the world into four sections. Three sections — Europe & the Middle East, Africa and the Americas are fairly clearly defined. Our section, the Asia West Pacific Section (AWPS) is really the rest of the world!
In practice, we are Friends from a rough triangle bounded by India, Japan and New Zealand. So we had Friends from Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines and Singapore as well as guests from the United Kingdom and the United States.
The gathering was hosted by PEFIM (Philippines Evangelical Friends International Ministries) who worked hard to ensure that we were well welcomed and comfortable.
The venue for the gathering was Bukal ng Taipan, a Catholic Conference Centre perched high on a hill and surrounded by forest gardens and overlooking the vast spread of the city of Manila. The Minutes and Epistles are on the AWPS website, www.fwccawps.org.
The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan were fresh in our minds and we also remembered the people of Christchurch and the 2009 floods in Manila as we worked through the FWCC questions regarding Global Change.
Each day followed a program of worship, business sessions, presentations and ‘home group’ discussions and sharing. We started at 6:30 a.m. with early Meeting for Worship and ended with an epilogue scheduled at 9:30 p.m. I always looked forward to the meal times, as much for the chance to interact informally with Friends from other places as for the food! We had a choice of sitting indoors or outside on a patio with an expansive view over Manila. Often a gentle breeze would somewhat temper the heat of the day.
The timetabled Worship and Epilogue sessions were led by Friends from different traditions so that on one day we might have programmed early Worship led by Friends from India and an epilogue led by unprogrammed Friends from Korea. Programmed Worship often involved singing, vocal prayers and a message or sermon (and not much quiet time) while the Unprogrammed Worship sometimes had a programmed element such as a reading. The proceedings were conducted in English but songs were sung in many languages. Those Friends with little English were helped with some informal translation.
Janet Scott (UK) and Paul Anderson (USA) were special guests, invited to give keynote addresses, drawing on the Epistle of James, the brother of Jesus. We had a session with Theresa Quintos-Delos, Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process in the Philippines, and close friend of our Friend, Tina Montiel, and an interfaith discussion with leaders of the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist communities. We saw an award-winning documentary on how disenfranchised farmers marched 1700km to win back rights to their ancestral land. A day’s outing on the Tuesday was most welcome — a bus trip into the hills, historic tour of Manila, or shopping.
AWPS Gatherings take place every three years so the next will be in 2014. If you can’t wait that long, the World Gathering of Friends will be held in Kenya in April 2012 (see http://www.saltandlight2012.org/ for details). I have recently had an email from Nancy Irving, FWCC General Secretary saying ‘please encourage others to ask themselves if they too are called to attend’.
With hats firmly on at the Asia West Pacific Section Gathering in the Philippines in April, photo above shows: Front Row: Nancy Irving, Yukiko Backes, Boon Yi Kwak, Taisoo Kim Watson, Back row: David Purnell, Topsy Evans, Jaibu Choi and David Cooper.