Saturday, February 17, 2007

Reporting Live from Young Adult Friends Gathering

I pace back and forth across the balcony of the Burlington New Jersey Friends meetinghouse, one of the most beautiful meetinghouses I have ever been in, but right now I barely notice. I am so over whelmed with what has been going own, the conversations I have been hearing, and the changes taking place within me. This is the first full day of the first ever Young Adult Friends (YAF) Gathering, right before lunch. We, gathered here, have just finished responding to the questions: what direction do we think the Religious Society of Friends needs to go in? And what do we thing young adult friends can contribute to the Religious Society of Friends? The answers and emotions in response to those questions had been intense and varied. Yet as I stand before one of the windows high up in the balcony of the meetinghouse what goes through my head is that everyone has, had the same concerns I have. Thinking about this I realized it’s not true. No one had expressed the exact same needs and desires I had, what had been there in each and every one of us was our deep, almost palpable intensity and need that we took to Quakerism. Everyone who spoke and many others who didn’t, expressed the same sentiment; they loved Quakerism, loved the religion, loved the people, loved the work, loved being Friends, yet each and everyone of us where expressing a feeling of unfulfillment. Ever single one of us where saying, “we know that Quakerism can be, should be, more then what we are experiencing now, and we want, need, demand, and work for Quakerism to grow. We where all asking Quakerism, both in our own meeting and in general, to become more meaningful, more spiritual, more active, more radical, more intense. There was anger and frustration in some of the massages and concerns raised, but not as much as I had expect, for the most part the young adult Friends there where saying “yes there are problems, things need to change, we are no longer contented with the way things are, but we see the problems, we acknowledge the problems, and now we are ready to act to change them”. There was no blaming, no finger pointing, and most surprisingly no feeling of helplessness.
I realize now as I write this, it has been one of the most hope-filled experiences I have ever had with Friends. There was no sense that because we where all Quaker we should not have been criticizing Quakerism, no unfounded or false sense of Quaker solidarity, no brushing differences of goals and opinions under the rug, as one young Friend said as he rose to speak “I agree with a lot of what you said but some of what I have to say contradicts it too”, we each spoke truly, however critically, of Quakerism, of our own Meetings, of the Religious Society of Friends as a whole, of our selves. Yet there was hope, lots of it. There was no sense that the changes we where saying needed to happen wouldn’t happen, no sense that the cause was hopeless, no sense that their was nothing that we could do. Every Friend there was, I felt, filled with the Spirit and ready, willing and able to become the next generation of the writers, ministers, elders, and leaders of the Religious Society of Friends. The things I will take away at the end of YAF Gathering will be that there will be change within the Religious Society of Friends, intense, long lasting change, and that we will only grow stronger for it The next generation of Friends are alive and hungry for what God has to offer us, and the Spirit does move among us.

14 comments:

Jonathan said...
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J. Bogaty said...
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Robin M. said...

Thanks for your report. I'm very interested to hear more as you go through and after this. I think it is also important to know that this feeling that there ought to be more runs in the veins of many, many people. This is part of the hope that I feel about the Religious Society of Friends.

I am personally looking forward to a workshop for young adult Friends in California in April, at Ben Lomond Quaker Center with Betsy Blake about how to hear what God is telling us, and to explore how that relates to George Fox's revelation that Christ Jesus speaks to each of us.

Lovin' Life Liz said...

Thank you for sharing your reflections of the ongoings at the gathering, I enjoyed reading them! I hopefully will post in the next few days about the event. I need to process...and I need sleep!! :)

Micah Bales said...

Thank you for being "first on the scene" in reporting on this very important and powerful gathering. I've just published an entry about my own experience of the gathering at: http://lambswar.blogspot.com

I hope it can be of some use in trying to illuminate what it is that happened amongst us this weekend.

We YAFS in Richmond really need to get together more often!

Micah Bales
http://lambswar.blogspot.com

Liz Opp said...

I agree with Robin, that among the current generation of Friends, there are those of us who "are alive and hungry for what God has to offer us, and the Spirit does move among us."

The question I have is, how do we bridge the generational divide and begin to encourage one another to draw from the deep well that is Quakerism, rather than seek answers from other traditions and then profess how great Quakerism is that Friends are so "easy" with drawing from traditions other than our own?!

I would say it is because so many Friends do not understand our rich and deep tradition that (1) we feel unfulfilled by our meetings; and (2) we seek elsewhere for that fulfillment. But we need to connect with Friends who have discovered that depth and richness of our faith and practice if we are to experience it ourselves...

Glad the YAF gathering was such an inspirational time for you!

Blessings,
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Anna said...

Thanks everyone for their response. I plan on writing another post about the conference but, I have a bad cold right now and I'm freaking out slightly over mid-terms.
Liz Opp, I agree completely with you, and would love to see all genderations of Friends working together. I am really encouraging eldering to help with this. I myself am looking for someone to elder me in my ministry. And I myself plan on trying to orginize and inter-generational workshop about ministry for my yearly meeting (NY).

Benjamin said...

one young Friend said as he rose to speak “I agree with a lot of what you said but some of what I have to say contradicts it too”

Ha ha, that was totally me. :-)

Liz Opp said...

Anna, if you are looking for eldership to support you in the ministry, have you requested a clearness committee/support committee from the meeting? Or are you waiting for the "right person at the right time," which may also be a fruitful exercise?

As for the lack of intergenerational activity within our meetings, if more of us got out of our comfort zone and conversed with folks after MfW and at annual sessions who aren't our age, maybe we'd start healing the generation gap and (re-)discover the fullness of our community.

Blessings,
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

AWill said...

Liz, I suspect that Anna, since she is from NYYM but going to school in Indiana is in that difficult situation that many YAF are in. They are not very connected anymore to the home meeting where they have membership, but not really part of the meeting near school. In this situation where do you go for clearness? How do you find an elder? It's a hard place.

I live in a college town. We don't do nearly enough to support YAF, I think. They are always seen as visitors. Their membership is elsewhere. They aren't really part of our community. This needs to change. We also need to do a better job of staying connected with our young Friends as they move away. This time of life is full of so many transitions and growth, but too often it's just when our young Friends have been left to go it alone.

That's why gatherings such as the YAF in NJ are so vital. We need to see our YAF, hear them, and support them. This reminds us of our responsibilities.

AW

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