July, 31st 2016
To Friends everywhere,
Twenty-three Young Friends gathered for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s 2016 Annual Sessions at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. This year we welcomed many new Young Friends attending their first Young Friend gathering. We welcomed them first by introducing ourselves and learning their names, monthly meetings, pronouns, and favorite ice-cream flavors. We also did partner circles where we answered questions such as something deep about yourself that others will not know. The Nurturing Committee prepared queries for us to answer during worship sharing with our small groups. Then we went to bed to prepare for the next day.
The second day we went to intergenerational worship sharing. Then we came together as Young Friends to incorporate the theme of Annual Sessions of transforming in a workshop about conformity which we held outside. Then we checked in with the entire Yearly Meeting. After a delicious lunch, we created and identified Affinity Groups. Then the Young Friends separated to go to Affinity Groups, Committees, and Adult Workshops. During dinner, the Young Friends group “Mantis Shrimp” met and discussed what it’s like to be in the LGBTQIA community. Later in the day, we came together for “All Together Time”, a multigenerational activity to connect the Young Friends community with the larger community. Then we learned about Business Meetings from Traci Hjelt Sullivan. We practiced what we learned with a long, intense Business Meeting. We focused on Sweat Lodges and their potential cultural appropriation. We also spent time on the difficult bathroom situation, which was that only the female-identified bathroom had showers and we wanted everyone of every gender-identification to feel comfortable.
Friday, our planned hike was cancelled, due to weather, resulting in a generally open day. We played many games, including a frustrating game called Four On a Couch and Running Charades. We also completed our business meeting from the previous day, and we managed to come to unity on the bathroom matter. In the evening, we joined the adults to hear a proposal from the Undoing Racism Group and witnessed a heated discussion regarding that proposal. We debriefed the issue in small groups. Finally, Young Friends finished the day with worship sharing.
On Saturday, we began our day with the usual pattern of a healthy breakfast and a spiritual worship sharing, regarding the end of Racism and White Supremacy. Later that day, we participated in a brief workshop regarding the indigenous peoples of our land. Unfortunately, that event was cut short due to a change in the scheduling. We promptly attended a continuation of the previous day’s adults’ conversation. We reviewed what it takes to become anti-racist society and assessed that we have a long way to go. Then, led by wonderful women, a stand-in was put in place to persuade the Yearly Meeting to address the Undoing Racism Group’s proposal.
Young Friends, once again, participated in “All Together Time”. Afterwards, the Young Friends listened to a beautiful, motivational, emotional and overall amazing speech from the lovely Tonya Thames-Taylor. Many Young Friends were extremely inspired by this event and they personally thanked her later. Further into the night, Young Friends got to attend Vespers and worship sharing. Even further into the night, Young Friends got to stay up until 1:00 AM as they played games, strained hair, and gave makeovers and had a lot of fun during late night.
On Sunday, we finished up our final session of business meeting discussing the approval of this Epistle. Then we went to do more work with the Undoing Racism Group’s proposal. Later, we shared our Epistle with the wider Yearly Meeting community. We separated ways to go home and waited to meet up again.
In conclusion, we would like to thank our program Coordinator, Hannah Mayer, and all the other Friendly Presences who made this gathering possible. We would also like to thank the Yearly Meeting for supporting our program. The Young Friends have learned a lot from working with the Yearly Meeting on fighting Racism and White Supremacy. We are eagerly awaiting when we can come together again, to make an impact on Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and fight racism throughout the world. We have had a wonderful time, and it’s going to be incredibly hard to wait for next year’s Annual Sessions.
Young Friends of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting