Eyes — and Hearts — Wide Open
When nine Friends in Norman, Oklahoma, took on the challenge of sponsoring an Eyes Wide Open exhibit at Oklahoma University, it opened their eyes – to the possibility of turning their worship group into a full-fledged meeting.
“The display did not bond us,” says Jim Warram, one of the Friends. “It revealed that we were already bonded.”
John and Gail Fletcher, members of the group, had seen the exhibit several years earlier at the Gathering in Blacksburg, Virginia.
As a group, Warram says, “We were very conscious that we were not visible to people curious about Quakers or to newcomers to town.” The Fletchers suggested the Eyes Wide Open exhibit could increase their visibility, and the group agreed.
A phone call to the American Friends Service Committee revealed that the boots were in Amarillo, Texas , waiting for the next sponsor to pick them up and advance them on their journey back to Chicago.
“We were that sponsor,” Warram recalls.
The small group set up the display before dawn, manned it all day, and dismantled it after the evening candlelight ceremony. It was challenging, but everyone did something.
<“We felt we had started something,” Warram says. “Now, we had to follow through, and continuing indefinitely as a worship group did not seem adequate. For example, if we ask to meet with a University official or our congressman, do we want to state we represent a worship group – or a Meeting?”
The group, which now numbers 10, received Preparative Meeting status in 2008 from the Oklahoma City Friends Meeting and is in the process of deciding on a date for moving to Monthly Meeting status.
“Currently, we meet in the Episcopal Student Center. In the past we have met in a variety of places, such as a room in the United Ministries building or the waiting room of dentist’s office,” Warram says. “The Spirit is anywhere you seek it.”
Exhibition Report: The First Year
Since the Eyes Wide Open and Cost of War exhibits embarked on their tour around the nation in June 2007, the exhibits have been shown in 44 states. The results have been remarkable as the message of the human cost of war has expanded to an ever wider audience.