Friends General Conference will hold its annual Gathering of Friends on campus July 3-10.
More than 1,600 Quakers from across North America are expected to attend the weeklong event, which will explore the theme "Simple Lives, Radiant Faith" through workshops, evening presentations, worship opportunities, Bible study, interest groups, and children’s programs.
“The Gathering was held at UMass in 1994,” said Liz Perch, conference coordinator. “We are very excited to return here.”
At the family conference, adults and high school students will explore workshop topics such as racism, conscientious objection, dancing, activism, quilting, and the Bible. In the Junior Gathering, nearly 200 children will explore the theme of simplicity and faith primarily through being part of a strong loving community. They will also participate in worship, field trips, music, art, games, and many other activities.
Several evening presentations in the Fine Arts Center are free and open to the public, space permitting. The talks are as follows:
Kevin Bales, an international expert on contemporary slavery issues, will suggest strategies to combat slavery as part of the global economy on Monday, July 5 at 7 p.m. Bales is a member of Oxford Monthly Meeting in Mississippi.
On Thursday, July 8 at 7 p.m, Renita Weems, author of "What Matters Most: Ten Lessons in Living Passionately from the Song Of Solomon," will speak on faithfulness.
Lester Brown, founder of World Watch Institute and now director of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., will speak Friday, July 9 about signs of hope in the ecological crisis. Copies of his latest book, "Plan B: Rescuing a Planet under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble" will be distributed to those in attendance.
During the conference, Friends will have opportunities to visit points of interest, including Hancock Shaker Village, Historic Deerfield and the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst.
The Lemonade Gallery will display visual arts by participants in the Student Union Art Gallery. A Gathering store in the Student Union Ballroom will sell crafts as well as books of interest to participants. Afternoon and late evening film programs, daily music activities, and regular dances are also scheduled.
Members of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers, believe that faith is based on the direct experience of God. Friends General Conference is a Quaker organization in the unprogrammed tradition of the Religious Society of Friends which primarily serves affiliated yearly and monthly meetings and their members. In addition to the annual Gathering, FGC has programs for religious education, outreach, traveling ministries, and publishing.