I was a teenager in the era of gathered skirts and I learned to sew them with Mum on Saturday afternoons. To achieve the fullness of the skirt, we had to first have plenty of material. A skimpy piece of cloth would only produce a skimpy skirt, that would not twirl around your legs as you spun or danced.
The dressmaker had to start with a ‘running thread’, a thin loose thread that bordered the edge, and then with care and patience (well, that was the plan anyway) move the cloth along the thread pulling it into the centre until it bunched up. The skill was in not breaking the thread, and in settling and smoothing the gathers so that they were even and attractive, and also met the desired width for the waist.
I have been reflecting on another kind of generous gathering in this last fortnight, but a gathering that still carries a sense of the fullness and delight that was created when we gathered our skirts.
Gathering together is such a simple term but it holds such a breadth of human meaning.
For the last ten years we have been privileged to be part of a group of six friends who come together each month or so, to share a meal and our lives, in a time of prayer and reflection.
Over months and then years , our friendship has deepened and grown in the most natural and also the most profound way. We have shared hopes and disappointments, challenges and heartaches, grief and joys, questions and searchings. We have learned from each other and given to each other more than we could ever have imagined. It happened without a schedule or a plan but just through quiet pleasurable times of company – open and creative times of laughter and wonderful food.
For two years we even managed to have our gatherings by Skype, joining East Timor to Australia in our various lounge rooms. Our new challenge this year will be to find how we can connect when two of us will be living in another state. We cannot cramp our friendship by holding on to its past form, but with loose ideas of how it might evolve, we gather up its beauty, and treasure what was as we wait for what will be.
This was the opening prayer from our first gathering this year:
We come together gladly to tell of our wanderings
enriched in friendship
bound by faith
open to stirrings.
God of Wisdom, you are present in our gathering:
open us to grace and beauty, strength and hope,
and the life that fills every tiny atom of our world.