Madeleine Ball, Tasmania Regional Meeting, AYM Representative to AWPS FWCC meeting
In late January 2015, I attended the Asia West Pacific Section meeting of FWCC at Bethany retreat centre on Cheung Chau, an island in Hong Kong. There were 26 Friends from eight countries: Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Singapore, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan.
The island environment was lovely and very suitable for the type of meeting. It was a 30 minute ferry ride from Hong Kong Island, and had no cars. A number of us particularly enjoyed early morning walks around the island in excellent company and with lovely views. The retreat staff were very friendly and helpful, and we joined them for their Wednesday morning worship on the second day.
Because there were only a small number of us, we were able to get to know one another quite well, despite a few language hitches. This was assisted by the practice of small evening group sessions (five or six people only). In my group, Devdas Shrisunder and Ronald Titus from India taught us some songs that we shared with everyone on the last evening. (Well, Patricia, Cris and I learnt the chorus and Devdas and Ronald took the rest.) Cris – an Evangelical pastor from the Philippines – played the guitar and piano for us, and we did try (but rather unsuccessfully) to learn one verse in his language. We shared grace in various languages, and the lovely young woman who prepared our meals was very patient in teaching me a few phrases in Cantonese, so I came back a little more multi-lingual! I also came back fatter. As well as the excellent meals, Karen from Singapore spoilt us by walking down the hill to the town and getting us local treats for tea every day. Wonderful woman!
The diversity of Friends’ traditions was most interesting. Different groups took turns to facilitate the morning worship and epilogue, and this was a lovely experience.
We did do some serious work. Gretchen Castle (FWCC General Secretary, World Office) led us in brainstorming, discerning and suggesting plans of what we saw for the future, and ways in which we can interact better. I think there are a lot of opportunities and different meetings might choose different forms of interaction. It is also important that Young Friends are involved and form productive links.
The gathering produced a suggested mission statement:
Answering God’s call to universal love, the Asia West Pacific Section brings Friends of varying Quaker traditions and cultures to celebrate our Quaker heritage, to care for one another and to work collectively on international concerns.
On the Sunday morning, we joined Hong Kong Meeting for their worship and quadrupled their numbers. Chairs had to be scrounged from everywhere.
An added pleasure to this meeting was that I stayed an extra day and met up with Kin and Dora Chan, (Kin came to the Hobart meeting when they
lived in Tasmania between 2008 and 2011). They very kindly took me out for a traditional Cantonese meal (I have photos of all courses), and then back to their flat in the New Territories near the border, so I could see what their life was like. It is very high housing density, but apparently pretty safe with little crime.
I returned to Australia understanding more about FWCC and the traditions of other friends. Many friends, especially those from India who have visited Australia, sent their love to anyone they know.
I hope to keep in touch with several people, and have lots of lovely memories.
I am most grateful for the encouragement and opportunity to attend the meeting, and thank the organisers for their wonderful preparation and care.