Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: June 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Europe Picture Slide Show - Part 2

Here is the second installment!

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Europe Picture Slide Show - Part 1

I am finally to the point I can start sharing pictures with everyone.  Though I am still sorting through them, I have put the first week of the trip in a slide show for yours and my enjoyment.  The other parts will be released in the coming days.  Stay tuned...

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More Posts are Coming!

I just want to let you all know more posts are coming about my time in Europe. I've just had other writing for Barclay Press and then the church report below that both had definite due dates and needed to be finished first.  But more is coming!

Freedom Friends Church Traveling Minute Report

Freedom Friends Church
Traveling Minute Report
Europe 2011

June 4, 2011

Dear Friends,
There is a question from one of the pieces in Spirit Rising I often like to read aloud to an audience: “Why are we so quiet?” This question is similar to another question Quakers have asked for hundreds of years: “Why do we travel in ministry?” With all the planning, physical, emotional, and spiritual energy expended, and the processing afterwards, what compels us to leave home and travel to somewhere far away to speak to an audience who may or may not understand what we say? Why do we do it? For myself, there are many reasons to travel in ministry: visiting f/Friends, sharing a message, taking part in the larger community of Friends, and to expand my own viewpoint. But despite all that, I hold to the truth that God had his own purpose for me being in Europe that may or may not have included reasons of my own. I trust he led me to say what I shared, that he opened the doors to where I needed to be and there is some lasting truth or inspiration in the footsteps I left behind.

Starting off the tour by speaking at Watford Friends Meeting just outside of London and then visiting Johnston Friends Meeting to see the building and visit William Penn’s Grave, these meetings set the tone for the rest of the trip of interesting discussions, experiencing things I had only heard about, and getting to know Friends from around the world. In all, there were twelve talks in four of the six countries I visited, and they all went well. These included speaking in England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and France with time spent with Friends in Belgium and Germany. At the FWCC conference in Switzerland, there were over a hundred Friends from twenty-six countries around the world so I had the pleasure of spending time with a larger variety of Quakers than I heretofore experienced.

In Birmingham, England, at the Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP) Annual Conference, Harriet and I released Spirit Rising in the United Kingdom. Deciding on a creative approach to our presentation, we put together a “slide show” telling the story of how the book came together. As I told the story, Harriet acted it out with me occasionally jumping in when interaction was needed. With both of us enjoying being goofy and making people laugh, the “slide show” was a huge hit and made for a very memorable evening for all who were there. As became my habit when speaking about the books at meetings, we also each read a favorite piece and selected other pieces to have others read aloud so there would be a variety of voices both in words and sound.

One of my greatest lessons of the trip was learning to share and take power. At the QUIP conference, Harriet and I had to learn to let the group who had supported us as we created the book take responsibility for it. Encouraging them to do so, we then had to step back and let them, listening to them deciding on how to finish the Spanish translation and how to deliver copies to Africa, only giving input when we thought it was truly needed. The book has left our hands and working with QUIP was a rich time declaring that and urging others to take the book and make it their own. I also learned to take power. Many of the pieces in the book mention how older adults don’t give young adults the chance to take leadership. Through attending business meeting and serving on the Nominations Committee, I realized how important it is for those who want leadership to show up and volunteer. Seemingly a simple solution, it surprises me how often people don’t do it. But if a person wants to have influence on what is going on, then they need to show up when the decisions are being made. Showing up for leadership and then sharing it are, I believe, subjects we don’t talk about nearly enough.

After leaving the conference in Birmingham, I went to the North of the country to stay at Swarthmoore Hall. Walking across the fields where George Fox would stroll to think, touring and staying in the house itself, reading selections from his journal, and trying to imagine the early Quakers gathering there between trips, I developed a new respect for what George Fox went through on behalf of a message he firmly believed in. Though I firmly believe Jesus is the one we should emulate, not George Fox, it was quite fascinating to see where Margaret Fell and George Fox lived and worked. Several days later, I also explored another famous Quaker site: Pendle Hill. Climbing that outlook, I felt I finally earned my Quaker badge. Though I appreciated the historicity of the experience, I also enjoyed the climb for the sheer beauty of the view and the delight of spending the day with two beautiful Friends. And just like George Fox, once I reached the top, I was able to see the sea in the distance.

While the trip was an amazing experience, there were difficult parts about my time there as well. Since I was traveling in the ministry, I was not my own person. By that I mean I wasn’t there for myself, my time was not my own. After speaking, I would then talk with the people at meeting or be attending other parts of the conferences and since I was being hosted nearly the whole time, my hosts would want to talk with me as well. All this interaction without much downtime by myself was hard. As a speaker, you also carry the label of being in ministry; you aren’t seen as who you are at home. Combine that with having very little interaction with people from home, and I was struggling by the end to keep the stress from showing. If I could change something about the trip, it would be to have had a few Skype phone calls with mentors from home with whom I could process. Not traveling with an elder, I was on my own and it would have been helpful to have a trusted voice on the other line.

After returning home, it didn’t take long to unpack most of what I brought home with me but I have only begun to delve into processing and unpacking the experience itself. Thinking about what I learned, what I saw, and deciding on my next steps will take time. Because of how I changed and changed relationships and circumstances coinciding with the time of the trip, I am not simply coming back and readjusting to a life I left. It is coming back to a different life and like having a blank canvas before me, deciding what I want to paint upon it. As Frodo says in The Lord of the Rings, “There is no going back.” You can only move forward and while trying to process and find my feet, I am also deciding on what that forward movement will be.  But I am sure that the lessons I learned in Europe will help me find my way.

One of the pictures I kept in my mind while traveling on the trains throughout Europe, was a seed bag swinging at my side while walking in the countryside. Stopping at a field, I would throw my seed out over the furrows and then God would take me via train to the next field needing the seed I carried. I didn’t get to stay to see the seed take root. I didn’t even get to see it watered and I never will. But I know God had me throw those seeds into those particular fields for a reason and that truth spoken in love is never wasted, that God will bring those seeds to fruition in his own time. Traveling in ministry is an act of trust. I don’t get to see grow what I gave but I know the seeds will grow in their own way and though I don’t understand the why of it all, I know God does and that is enough for me. I am simply grateful to have been given the gift of throwing the seeds.

Your fellow Friend,
Sarah Katreen Hoggatt