2012 Annual Sessions – Young Adult Friends Epistle

Annual Sessions, Epistle, Young Adult Friends

To Friends Everywhere:

At Sessions this year, Young Adult Friends embraced the challenges of our unique Philadelphia setting by exercising our flexibility and love for one another. YAFs were immersed in all aspects of Annual Sessions – from business sessions, to leading youth programs, to facilitating Holy Experiments, to doing the behind-the-scenes work to make Sessions happen.  We met for at least one meal a day at locations throughout the City and connected after evening plenaries to co-create time for us to be in spiritual community. For our dinner on Friday, we joyfully broadened our community by inviting in Young Friends transitioning into young adulthood and plenary speaker Harvey Gillman.

We seek to be with one another, and we are empowered by the depth of Spirit present among us during our fellowship.  One Friend shared, “in the Young Adult Friend community, I can truly express my faith with the words and practice that speak to me, knowing that Friends, regardless of how they express their faith, will hold me and my practice in the Light.  With Young Adult Friends, I can be who I am as a Quaker.” We seek to be truly present with one another in a way that invites dialogue and discernment that deepens our faith and practice.  We seek to be able to step out of our levels of comfort to aid the growth of journeying Friends.

In January, 2012, Young Adult Friends held our winter retreat at Swarthmore Friends Meeting, centering on the theme of Sexuality and the Spirit. The weekend provided us with an opportunity to engage with each other on the deep connections, and questions on our experiences as spiritual and sexual beings.  In March, we helped organize the annual William Penn Lecture at Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia, where we gathered with the wider PYM community. Speaker Signe Wilkinson’s message on the importance of dynamic outreach was a passionate offering to the Yearly Meeting and was inspirational for many Friends present.  In May, our Spring Retreat was held at Newtown Friends Meeting on the theme “Does Thee Quake?” We gathered to share our experiences of the Divine in our individual and corporate lives and learn about Quaker practices that can support us in listening to God and living our spiritual lives more fully.

Following last year’s Annual Sessions and loss of the Young Adult Friends Coordinator, the Young Adult Friends Working Group took up the challenge and opportunity for focusing our work on where the spiritual needs of young adults and our abilities meet.  We held visioning sessions open to all YAFs, had worshipful weekend-long planning meetings, created a detailed volunteer structure, and wrote grant proposals to help fund our work.  (We received funding for a term-limited 7-hour per week staff person focused on YAF communications.)  In living out our vision over the past six months, we have learned that young adults are indeed often transient, are pulled in many directions, and that in many cases, even a one year committee term can be a stretch to fully fulfill.  We are now in the midst of trying a new way forward, asking Friends to contribute short-term help in the areas where they feel most led.

This spring, the YAF Working Group drafted a mission statement, using input from the visioning sessions & feedback from the young adults gathered at our spring retreat.  Out of our visioning process, one new area of potential work was to help monthly meetings in welcoming and engaging younger people, including young adults, teens, children, and young parents. We see that there is need and interest in building connections across generations in our Quaker community.  We lack the resources to do this work on our own, nor does it make sense to work in isolation. We invite the whole yearly meeting into this work with us.  What if there were multigenerational groups of Friends travelling to meetings and leading workshops?  How might this help us live into our full potential as a gathered people?

With Love & Light,

The Young Adult Friends at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting

July 29, 2012

(You can contact us at YoungAdultFriends@pym.org!)