Last month, Young Adult Friends gathered at Swarthmore Friends Meeting for a retreat focused on “Living Out our Faith in the World.” Thirty-five young adults from across the Yearly Meeting came together during the first weekend in January. We had workshops, worship sharing, Meeting for Business, and cooked delicious meals together. Young Adults led workshops focusing on a variety of interconnected topics, ranging from care for self & others, to art & activism, to materialism, to alternative education, to how we live in a world in crisis. We were also blessed to be joined by a couple of (slightly) older Friends – Victoria Pearson from PYM’s Called to Action program led our evening program on Quakers & Spirit-Led Activism, and former PYM clerk Thomas Swain led a powerful workshop on discerning & using our spiritual gifts.
We tried a new experiment in our Meeting for Business session, using much of our time in break-out action groups focused on different topics. The experiment came out a desire in the YAF Working Group to involve more YAFs in the idea-ing and decision making processes that nurture our Young Adult Friends community. Since committee or working group service can be difficult for YAFs who are often transient or busy with school or beginning careers, we made sure that we used the time we had together to discern the work & direction of our ever-evolving community.
To that end, Friends joined a small action group (or “prong”) focused on one of four topics: Outreach & Inreach among YAFs, learning about & giving feedback on the PYM Long Range Planning process, program planning for future YAF retreats, and supporting the spiritual life of YAFs beyond retreats. (It was tough to pick just one!) Each prong was facilitated by a member of the Young Adult Friends Working Group.
Our Meeting for Business was a fruitful, energizing experience. During report-back time to the whole community, each group shared what they had discussed and discerned. Friends were excited about the themes the program planning prong came up with for future retreats: “Peace & Social Justice”, “What does it mean to be a Quaker Adult?”, and “Play and Renewal” (including possibly borrowing a bouncy castle.) The Long Range Planning prong came up with feedback and fresh ideas that will be shared with the PYM Long Range Planning Group.
The Inreach & Outreach prong shared ideas of how we can deepen our relationship with each other as well as YAFs who may be more isolated. There’s a desire to enhance our connection with monthly meetings, and to serve as a resource for meetings in supporting their younger people.
The prong focused on supporting the spiritual life of YAFs brought forward a proposal to initiate an intergenerational mentorship project over the coming year. Next steps are in planning stages, but there was much excitement and energy for one-on-one spiritual connection with Friends both older and younger than us.
Many young adults expressed desire for more informal events to bring us together – movie nights, potlucks, and coffee shop meet-ups. Young Adult Friends have a need for deep connection within our age cohort as well as cross-generational spiritual community.
Out of this experiment came a wealth of ideas and enthusiasm that the YAF Working Group is now shepherding. Watch for more information about future retreats, informal YAF get-togethers, and mentorship opportunities in the coming months!
If you want to learn more, or have ideas or resources to share, please e-mail Elizabeth Piersol Schmidt, Young Adult Friends Communications Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org