Gregg Heathcote, New South Wales Regional Meeting

Having been able to attend the first three days of Yearly Meeting 2018 was for me a wonderful opportunity. Though I’ve been attending Hunter Valley Meeting for around ten years this was the first time I’d been able to make it along to a Yearly Meeting.

Avondale College was the excellent YM2018 venue. In spite of the fact that nearby Newcastle has been my lifelong home town I’d never before visited Avondale College, so it was also a welcome opportunity to explore such an attractive local campus.

An immediate benefit of meeting with Friends from all over the country, and beyond, is the enriching fellowship it affords. Convivial encounters with fellow Quakers from all points of the compass resulted in the sharing of so many individual and collective stories. It’s inspiring to hear of these many and varied journeys which individual Friends, and meetings of Friends are embarked upon.

The various concerns of Australian Quakers were given due consideration in the Preparatory Sessions which examined Earthcare, Peace Reports, the activities of QSA etc. etc.. The airing of these worthy matters gave a fine sense of the grand venture that is contemporary Quakerism. However the spirited communion of Friends naturally touches upon more than just the thoughtful exchange of words. I had never before joined in Meetings for Worship so abundantly attended. Being gathered in silence with so many Friends was a thrill.

Intermittently during my life I have found myself drawn into the spirited exercise of composing poetry. In poetry words can truly reach beyond words. A conjunction with the silent sublime may then be attained. Consequently I found myself irresistibly attracted to a particular Winter School elective offered at YM2018, a workshop elective exploring the “turning points” which poetry brings about within individual lives, and within the arc of human cultures.

Poetry can be a great vehicle for the mystical. Consonant with this was the subject of the 2018 James Backhouse Lecture, delivered on the third day of Yearly Meeting. The Lecture was titled “An Encounter between Quaker Mysticism and Taoism in Everyday Life”. It was presented by Cho-Nyon Kim, a Korean Friend and a professor of Sociology. Professor Kim further shared with his audience the place of pluralism within the Korean religious landscape, and the part which mysticism of one ilk or another can play in support of pluralism and deeper unity.

All in all I am heartily grateful for the blessing which YM2018 turned out to be.

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