Dear Friends: I decided to attend Western Young Friends New Year’s Gathering from December 28, 2012 to January 2, 2013 after attending Pacific Yearly Meeting Annual Session in the summer of 2012, not wanting to wait one full year before I saw all my friends again. I feel a stronger connection with the greater community of the Religious Society of Friends than I do with Honolulu Friends Meeting alone.
The Western Young Friends New Year’s Gathering alternates locations between northern California and southern Oregon each year. This time we returned to Camp Myrtlewood, located in Myrtle Point, Oregon, the same site where the first Gathering was held in the 1970s. Hosted and organized by mostly Young Adult Friends from Pacific Yearly Meeting and North Pacific Yearly Meeting, the New Year’s Gathering is a multigenerational event open to all ages.
I flew into San Francisco on December 26 and traveled to the home of Rolene Walker, whom I met at a previous PYM Annual Session, where I stayed for one night. The day after I met up and stayed at the home of a Young Adult Friend, who was also the lead Coordinator for the Gathering that year, and his sister, both of whom I also had met at a previous PYM Annual Session. The next morning we headed out to pick up a rental van, where we met up with three other Young Adult Friends, all of whom I met at a previous mainland Quaker event. We arrived at Myrtlewood the evening of December 28. It was the first Gathering I ever attended where the food arrived late, so Friends were advised to have meals before arriving.
During New Year’s Gathering, we did hiking, running, card games, and board games. We also held interest groups on acroyoga, young adult friends in the Quaker community, and outdoor chanting. We had worship sharing, discussing, and walking groups. On Sunday December 30, I lead a Meeting for Worship for the first time ever in my life, which was preceded by fifteen minutes of singing. We had a talent night where many Friends performed.
Throughout the Gathering we acted as a community, we cooked, cleaned, and had meals together. We had two children present, a one-year-old and a three-year-old. There were a lot of times where folks just socialized and sang songs together. Around thirty Friends attended, at least two of whom were older Friends, half of whom were familiar faces, the other half of whom, mostly from Oregon, I had never met before.
We discussed the upcoming 40th Anniversary of the Gathering and formed a committee to help plan it, hoping to bring back many who participated in Gatherings in previous years. During the actual New Year’s Eve we sat together in silence from 11 PM until about 1 AM.
On the final day of the Gathering, I rode back to San Francisco with a two-vehicle caravan, traveling with four other Young Adult Friends.
This was my second New Year’s Gathering as an official Member of Honolulu Friends Meeting and the Religious Society of Friends, and the fourth I have attended altogether. I came in knowing a few people. It was nice to see a married couple, now with a new baby daughter, I hadn’t seen in two years. I’ve become pretty good friends with both, along with several others I’ve kept in touch with over the years, in between mainland Quaker events.
Even though I only see these people at most twice a year, I felt the years truly do add up. With the heightened sense of community I felt, I participated more. I will serve as Clerk and assist with publicity for the upcoming New Year’s Gathering. Lacking the need for financial assistance for the first time ever this year, I hope to add to the small but stable Hawaii contingent in upcoming years.