Saturday, February 24, 2007

Crossing the Line: Meeting of generations in the Religious Society of Friends

Too often in our society I’ve discovered generations, build up walls against each other. Often it is too easy to fall into a pattern of assuming that one generation will not care or be interested in what the other generation values and visa versa. The Religious Society of Friends can and does fall pray to this lack of communication among the generations all too often. It seems to easy for the older generation of Friends to assume that younger generations have no interest in ministry, or sitting on committees or even going to business meeting. Like wise it is all too easy for the younger generation to take the easy out and not to step up to bat, not offer their gifts and services. All too often we choose to take a back seat and a passive role in the workings of Friends. But I feel this is changing slowly but surely. The Young Adult Friends Conference in New Jersey confirmed my belief that things between the generations are starting to change. I have to admit when I went to the conference I expected or hoped to encounter a lot of frustration among young adult Friends about the state of the Religious Society of Friends and their own lack of activeness. I also expected, but did not hope to encounter a lot of negative energy directed at older members of the community. First for allowing the Religious Society to move in ways Young Adult Friends were disagreeing with, to become less radically active in witness, less spiritually centered, less religiously minded, less bound to tradition, less involved with theology and Quaker history. I expected to encounter hostility towards the older generation for also failing to include the younger members of their Meeting or Yearly Meeting in the decision making process and work of the Meeting. However I was surprised, the attenders of the conference were mad at themselves more then anyone. More then blaming the older generation for not letting them get involved most YAFs were blaming themselves for not demanding to be included, not offering their services, and not taking a firmer stand to follow up on their callings. Not once, that I can remember, was a negative word said about the older members of the community in particular.
I, myself know that the things I find wrong with the Religious Society of Friends are not just the older generations fault but all of ours. After all we are all Friends, we do all contribute to the negative just as we all contribute to the positive, just as we all can and should work to move The Religious Society of Friends toward a better more Spirit-filled place. While sitting in Meeting on Sunday morning at the YAFs Conference I received a strong calling, to start putting together an inter-generational workshop in my Yearly Meeting about the writings and ministries of early Friends to help us better understand our own calls to ministry. I want the workshop to first bring together generations of Friends. Second get the idea of ministry as being something all generations of Friends have in common out there. Finally I want it to bring multiple perspectives of how to make ourselves stronger through re-understanding the examples of early Friends. The last objective is one I feel is extremely important for the Religious Society of Friends to do, but I also feel it is work that must be done by all generations not just by the younger or the older generations of Friends. The time is coming when we as Friends will be called to redefine the meaning of Quakerism and I truly believe that this is work which can only been done by all generations of Friends. The call is coming even louder then before and we must learn, to work, grow, and worship together.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that for change to occur within Quakerism it needs to not be so much about petty politics and more about an actual conversation that takes into account the place people come from, and where they are going to, realizing that all of our journies are personal and I think that there needs to be a more welcoming space for those journies rather than just lip service to it.
Person to person I find great kindness, but organizationally I find great political heatedness as if the consequences of our decisions are so grave and the opposition is so immoral, dispite the fact that two people of differing expressions of the Light can co-exist within Quakerism.

It's sad to see the same redstate\bluestate BS in the outside world existing in Quaker culture. I used to think we were bigger than that. Maybe the new generation is just disillusioned.

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna said...

Thank you for your comment Friend,
I am a little confused by where this post is coming from. What about my post "Crossing the Line" caused you to feel the need to respond in this particular way? I would also like to hear more about what exactly is troubling you, and where your experience of such devisions lies. I too am saddened by the devisions within Quakerism, but am even more angered and saddened when Friends choose to ignore or hide differences in the name of a false sense of unity. The proses of healing, is and will be painful and involve conflicts between Friends, but I do believe will be stronger and closer to God in the end.

Peace and Joy,
Anna.

julie said...

Hm. I thought about similar issues a lot while doing youth ministry in a Pentecostal congregation. I'll admit a lack of familiarity with how this works in either programmed or unprogrammed Friends' meetings, but many congregations segregate portions of the congregational life according to age- particularly concerning Christian education. It seems appropriate, to some extent; teenagers, young married couples, middle age folks and so forth have need of a cohort that can relate to the specific aspects of that space within the spiritual journey. Segregation by age can provide for meaningful celebration of the coming of age, too, whether that moving from adolescence to adulthood, from young adulthood into family life (or otherwise, if one doesn't choose to start a family), from work into retirement, or what have you.

At the same time, though, there's so much potential within congregations for cross-generational learning and sharing that we miss when we put the middle schoolers in one room and the elderly in another. I think particularly of the lack of mentoring relationships within many congregations, since those sorts of relationships so often get their start when two people of disparate ages are engaged in a project together or even just start chatting over donuts and hot chocolate after worship. It's difficult to balance our real need for age-specific support and nuture with our equally real need for spiritually oriented relationships with people of all ages and levels of maturity.

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