William Penn Lecture is now the Seeking Faithfulness Series!

Addressing Racism, Continuing Sessions, Young Adult Friends

Since 2011, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends community has had an event under our care – the William Penn Lecture. This has been an evening in late March when the adult & teen yearly meeting community has been invited to come to Arch Street Meeting House to hear a speaker, usually on a topic connected to witness, social justice, or living our faith in the world. It is a revival of an event that ran from 1916 to 1966, organized by young adult Friends.

In the spring of 2016, a few different concerns about the event emerged, and in the summer of 2016, Young Adult Friends underwent a discernment process of how to continue our care and shaping of this event. One concern was the Young Adult Friends clerks received a request from the clerks of the Undoing Racism group to change the name of the lecture, as William Penn held slaves and having one of our major events named after him is counter to PYM’s current work on dismantling racism. They reported to us that a young adult Friend of color declined to serve on a panel at one of the events because of the name. Additionally, while we experimented with the structure a bit in 2016, the Lecture Planning Committee had talked about changing the format from a straight lecture to something else most years that we’ve hosted the event. Last year marked the first 100 years of the William Penn Lecture, and this cusp seemed perfect to reimagine YAFs’ offering to the wider body of PYM in the context of this millennium, rather than necessarily sticking to a vision that was written 100 years ago. (Embracing continuing revelation!)

Our Process

In the summer of 2016 an ad-hoc visioning group of Young Adult Friends met, came to unity about changing the name of the lecture and updating the charge so that it would better speak to and reflect the hopes of YAFs in this century. The ad-hoc visioning group included past clerks of the Lecture Planning Committee, the clerk of the YAF community, the YAF Coordinator, and several other interested YAFs. A draft of a charge for the event was brought to the wider PYM YAF community at PYM’s Annual Sessions in July, 2016. The YAF community approved continuing to host the event and changing the name, and the ad-hoc group got lots of ideas from this wider group of YAFs. In late August, the ad-hoc visioning group met again, finalized a charge, and came to unity on a name. After running the name by the clerks of the Undoing Racism Group to make sure the change addressed the concern they had brought us, the YAF community approved the new name at our Fall Retreat in October, 2016.


Presenting, with a new title and charge:
The Seeking Faithfulness Series

Charge: The Seeking Faithfulness series is an annual event hosted by the Young Adult Friends of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for the benefit of the whole yearly meeting community.  Young Adult Friends invite a Friend to challenge us all to explore new ways to practice our Quaker faith.  The Seeking Faithfulness series seeks to nourish our spiritual lives and call us to faithful witness in our communities and throughout the world.

The Seeking Faithfulness series was established by young adult Friends as the William Penn Lecture Series in 1916, which historically invited a lecturer to engage with high-school aged Friends and above. The Young Adult Friends community invites a planning committee to consider the format and style of the Seeking Faithfulness series including age and other qualities of the intended audience as it envisions the event anew each year.


We hope you’ll join us this year as YAFs present the first incarnation of the Seeking Faithfulness Series, with the music duo City Love! It will be Saturday March 25th at Arch Street Meeting House at 7PM – the evening of Spring Continuing Sessions!

– Elizabeth Piersol Schmidt, Young Adult Friends Coordinator