Men's Gathering Feb. 9-11 fosters camaraderie, understanding

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The Rhode Island Men’s Gathering will hold its 26th Annual gathering February 9-11 at Camp Aldersgate.

February's weather will be unpredictable, but that won’t keep a group of about 30 men from gathering at Camp Aldersgate in North Scituate for a few days of warm camaraderie, conversation and relationship-building.

Rhode Island Men's Gathering, now in its 26th year, was established in 1991 to meet a growing need in men to challenge conventional norms regarding men’s social and cultural roles. Many associate the men’s movement with the work of poet, author and activist Robert Bly who talked about how men had gotten lost with the development of the women’s movement in the 1960s.

“The worst thing I can imagine is a bunch of guys sitting around in a bar talking about sports or women as objects,” says Paul Hodosh of Cranston, a member of the Operating Committee of the RIMG. “We need more than that from our male friendships.” RIMG provides the chance to talk about stuff like handling frustration in the workplace, being emotionally accountable in relationships, addressing sexual harassment, and what might be waiting after life ends.

Men attending the 26th Gathering will have that opportunity. The chemical-free program gets started Friday night, February 9, with a vegetarian potluck supper and a fireside “opening circle” for introductions and the brief sharing of personal issues that people hope to discuss more deeply over the weekend.

Volunteers will lead workshops over the next day and a half. Topics often arise spontaneously such as from a man who came to the retreat needing to air his sadness at having recently lost his parents and ended up leading a workshop the next day on grief. Says another attendee, “Men come needing to talk about their relationships with their partners, work issues, health problems – any kind of life transition.” 

The opening circle helps determine the flow of the next day’s workshops and other activities, with some structured groups convening to discuss specific themes, such as spiritual expression, sexuality, financial pressures or the loss of a loved one. There is also plenty of time for ad-lib activities such as drumming, cooking, playing music or fire-building.

Safety and confidentiality are the keywords at RIMG. This allows open discussion of topics like healthy parenting, men's prostate health, childhood traumas and male stereotyping. It also allows for fun. The food is good. There is a talent/no-talent show on Saturday evening, a Dead Poets Society, drumming and board games and cards.

Men need alternatives to the pervasive messages from the media and from peers about men being aggressive, hiding their emotions and not being considerate of others.

Steven McCloy of Providence said, “We seek a broader understanding of what friendship is and the intimacy of being able to share our thoughts and feelings. The payoff is deeper connection with the important people in our lives when we leave the Gathering. I keep that going through a monthly meeting of a men's group at my church. That group has been meeting continuously for 23 years.”

The cost of the weekend is $175 and includes lodging and meals.

For more information visit rhodeislandmensgathering.org or send email to rhodeislandmensgathering@gmail.com.

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