Progress is Certain – Reflections from YAF Spring Retreat 2011

Young Adult Friends

Following the January 2011 Young Adult Friends retreat Zachary Dutton wrote a provocative blog entry wondering about the future direction of the YAF community – saying “it could go either way…” Here Zachary reflects on the May 27-29th 2011 PYM YAF retreat – stating:

“Our progress is certain”

I stand before you, so still. As one would, in the face of fierce landscapes or the sweaty satchel of a lover’s embrace, I feel safe and one. I am in awe, in your sublime and in your beauty. Dear God, you cradle me as a child, as a creature disposed to brokenness, and all I can be now is still.

This is the message I burned to give, and which I did not give for unclear reasons. And yet, in the last few minutes of worship at the recent Spring 2011 gathering of Young Adult Friends, I think that I am glad I did not stand. For another Young Adult Friend stood to speak: to the profound manner in which Quakers create the sacred out of the profane and transcendence from the mundane. “We have sex, and we drink, and we party, and we laugh with beautiful raucous appreciation!” We embrace tragedy just the same. These are not his words exactly, but they are my own reminiscence. God is an ever-present mystery, unraveled not from rational stances but from within a house of uncertainty. We search, that is, for the divine in all things, whilst forsaking cautiously and embracing slowly.

Imagine! Imagine a world without the detrimental effects of social class—without social class altogether. George Lakey challenged us with these admonishments. To what do we cling for the sake of ease rather than for the sake of mystery?

Imagine, more, a robust community not merely of Young Adult Friends! Imagine a community of all people that embraces the movements of Spirit in all its possible forms! Imagine a communal operation that is intimate, safe, beloved and beautiful (and messy too)!

Budget shortfalls, the positions we fill, money, and the manner in which we negotiate power in our Yearly Meeting is simply less important, than the message emanating from within the Young Adult Friends movement. Young Adult Friends Program Coordinator, Sadie Forsythe quoted me, to me:

I yearn for deeply held, deeply felt, deeply important community. The PYM Young Adult Friends are at a point now where “it could go either way.” We could remain mostly disconnected, or we could settle into a well-rounded, rooted rhythm of connection that carries through from one gathering to the next. So I maintain a cautious optimism. The Winter 2011 gathering seemed to indicate that we are headed to the latter. I am anxious to see what happens next. [From Zachary’s previous blog entry on the January 2011 YAF retreat.]

Our progress is certain, and I am confident that community will burgeon further no matter the outcome of the recent budgetary conflicts in PYM. What has “happened next” is beautiful. More than this, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting could become a place to which we go to see and to be seen; a place where we can speak with passion without having our words catch in our throats. Let’s constitute PYM in terms of nothing more than a circle of open hands that receives us, where eyes light up as we enter, where voices celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power: a circle of healing, of friends, of God, of freedom (Starhawk 1997:92-96). Notably, the Young Friends community has been this way for some time, and the Young Adult Friends community is reconstituting it. Who will be next? There are things to learn from YAFs this day.

Starhawk. 1997. Dreaming the Dark : Magic, Sex, and Politics. 15th ed. Beacon Press.

Read more on Zachary Dutton’s personal blog “thismomentshines”.