On 27 June, 2019, the newest family conference on star Island began. It is called simply “Union”. As the name implies, the goal was to bring people together, to connect physically and spiritually, and to share thoughts and hopes for us as individuals, and the Star and national community.
The idea began when Joe Watts asked if there was an opportunity to begin a new family conference to answer the growing desire for people to attend a Star conference. After looking at the calendar, the opportune time seemed to be the end of June. Planning began in early autumn of 2019, with a group of Shoalers- Tricia and Tom Coleman, Kemp Harris and Bill Tibbs, Kyle Belmont, Dr. Rev. Leon Dunkley, Cheryl Anne and Carl Sturken, and Stephanie Sersich.
The idea was two fold- to form a new family conference celebrating honored and new traditions that are Star Island, and to deliberately look at our roles in twenty first century America eand what we could do individually and collectively to more towards the ideal of a “more perfect union”. We looked to several inspirations; President Obama’s 2008 address treating divisiveness in America, the Star Island Beloved Community initiative, and the phrase “…to create on Star Island an environment that frees all who come to renew spiritually, explore matters of consequence, and gain knowledge about the world as it might ideally be” from the SIC Vision Statement.
The perfect approach to this was to feature Kemp Harris as speaker. A long time Shoaler and musician, teacher, and storyteller, Kemp has the master touch of bringing people together and drawing them out. Approaching this with his professional music and storytelling background, he is able to invite, inform, and inspire people to both relax and step out. Kemp’s program was a week of sharing personal narratives, both his own and the rest of us, examining “what if…” moments in our life, group music, and a powerful and honest discussion by Christian Douglass. Christian is a speaker at The Racial Equity Institute, and presented a compelling and moving examination on the roots of systemic racial prejudice in our society, and the underlying roots and tensions inherent in modern America that cross racial and economic lines. Although challenging, the week was also centered on reaffirmation of hope and the potential for personal action and healing.
Complementing the theme were the usual Star diversions of yoga, exercise classes, Island Naturalist activities, tours, and co-sharing of lectures with IRAS. Star union also birthed some new traditions. The first night was “Burning Star”, a group construction of a wooden star that people attached notes, ribbons, drawings, or other totemic objects to. The star was then brought to the rocks, and put on a Solstice bonfire accompanied by songs and marshmallows.
Shoaler and conservation expert Bill Gimpel conducted a multi-day workshop on rugose cuttings, so Union conferees could bring home and grow Star Island roses in their own gardens. There was a “welcome back Oscar” session where we signed various parts of the newly restored windvane (Oscar) for reinstallation on the Chapel.
Social Hour was a highlight. We had a group of caterers, beverage servers, and musicians that wove a tapestry of joy each evening. The early summer light and breezes in Marshman created the perfect setting for joy and celebration. This was followed later by Lobby concerts and late night sessions in Marshman.
One evening we held Family Dinner, a festive fete at a long table in Newton that recognized the wise elders and youngest members of our gathering. This was culminated with a special dessert- “Ile des Etoiles”- a Star Island shaped pudding in a sea of berry coulis. At the end of the week, all signed a miniature wooden plaque of Oscar the Cod, to be brought back each year as a memento of 2019. Each Shoaler also took away a commemorative coin with the Union motto- “One Star, One Love”.
The week was magical, peaceful, and rejuvenating- a celebration of Star at its best. We anticipate continuing our themes and traditions in 2021, and invite you to join us!
“One Star-One Love”