Finding Faith, Practice, and Joy in Youth Programs at Sessions

Annual Sessions, Children, Middle School Friends, Religious Education, Young Friends

By Melinda Wenner Bradley, Youth Religious Life Coordinator

What does the intersection of intention and action look like among Friends? The programs planned for children, youth, and families at Annual Sessions, and our practices in the Quaker community of PYM Youth Programs, are among the possibilities!

However you attend Sessions — commuting or in residence, with a group of friends and family or on your own — the Youth Programs staff hope that you will leave this week with a sense of the participatory joy we feel in our work, and with an awareness that PYM youth return home with new tools, evolving questions, and renewed support for exploring faith and practice in their lives.

At our staff retreat last May, the Youth Programs team discerned and named five themes that feel vital both to guiding our planning for events, and to sharing spiritual practice tools we hope young Friends (and friends of Friends) will take into the world after participating in our programs.

As we finalized our planning for Annual Sessions, I was delighted (but not surprised) to find that what we had identified in our visioning is happening now in “real time” together in community. What’s shared here isn’t an all-inclusive list of what’s happening this week, but snapshots of where you might see our intention in action:

  • Quaker Community: Youth meeting for business is clerked by youth; at Sessions this includes discernment about writing epistles and planning for events in the year ahead.
  • Creative Spirituality: Spirit moves among us throughout Sessions, including in worship sharing groups and during our Sunday morning “worship experiment,” that gathers all youth for a final community worship.
  • Building Relationships: This is a central part of our Game Night, Talent Show, and the Family Neighborhood. Field trips to Snipes Farm and Mercer Meadows will extend community building during off campus programs, too.
  • Play and Joy: Everyone participates in this one throughout the week! We especially look forward to the Giant UNbirthday party, and our Slip and Slide play with PYM’s inflatable unicorn, Frank.
  • Stretch and Surrender: We’ll experience this in planned workshops with special guest Pushed Learning & Media, and our Artist in Residence Eric Berdis, and during all-ages worship with the body.

We hope Friends will also explore these five areas of focus at home in your local meeting communities in the coming year! They are applicable both in plans for youth programming and in how we move the intention to be a multigenerational faith community into action and practice. Interested in support for how to do this? Be in touch and let’s collaborate!

Our community of children, youth, and families this week is grounded by the amazing creativity, planning, and facilitation of the Annual Sessions Youth Team: Elizabeth Croce, Virginia DeWees, Colleen Hayes, Kimani Keaton, and Aeryn Luminkith. Stop them sometime and share a joyful, “thank you!”