2013 Annual Sessions – Young Adult Friends Epistle

Annual Sessions, Epistle, Young Adult Friends

To All Friends Everywhere:

Young Adult Friends of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting offered a space within which to ground our fellows in a centered presence at 2013 Annual Sessions. Each night, we welcomed some visiting, some new to us, and some who returned after an absence. We gathered to debrief our days marked by resplendent sorrow, healing, inspiration, and play.

A few challenges accompanied the journey at these Annual Sessions: conflicts in our Yearly Meeting, proactive attention to alcohol consumption in our community of Young Adult Friends, staff support for Young Adult Friends, a call to witness to love in action, and mentorship of Young Adult Friends.

Alongside the larger body, we struggled with a Transgender Youth Policy, which was suspended by the Yearly Meeting Clerk preceding the start of Annual Sessions. We also struggled with conflicts precipitated by misunderstandings between a Quarterly Meeting, its leaders, and PYM staff. In these and other struggles, we united with the call to a Faith and to a Practice that sets love as the first motion. We were called to trust in our stewards, to reach outside of our egos, and to claim our imperfections as we reached for our best selves. We confronted our fears in the face of God’s invitation to radical relationship. In certain instances, this invitation could require us momentarily, delicately to set down Quaker Process. We ask Friends to consider whether over-emphasizing Quaker Process clouds the senses and muddies our courage simply to love.

We held the question of right relationship closely on Saturday night when we conducted discernment on an alcohol policy for informal gatherings of Young Adult Friends. We affirmed that integrity, compassion, and respect are keystone elements of vital community. We ask Friends to let these be the criteria that guide the direction of our larger community, here and around the globe.

From love to love witnessed: we learned about social action in the wider community of Friends. Concerns included climate science and corresponding social action and inaction. We were inspired by the Leadings of our Bolivian and Peruvian Friends who shared joy and enthusiasm for connecting their diverse cultures with the global YAF community. They tested with us bringing the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage into their community, widening the diversity and scope of the journey.

We struggled with discernment of how to supplement and support our dedicated staff member who shoulders the needs of the YAF community. Our General Secretary noted that staff support for Young Adult Friends is inadequate, and we unite in his concern. With gratitude, we thank Friends who approach us individually to let us know that they appreciate our work. Yet its weight rests on few shoulders, and we acknowledge that we could use some help. We ask Friends to inquire how they can support our community and follow through on the resulting commitment.

Our experience of community and fellowship leads us to dismantle much of the need for most of our committees in favor of a Yearly Meeting that opens us to the movements of the Spirit. For us, a more agile committee structure means laying down those that do not align with the Yearly Meeting’s core mission: to witness to the transforming power of love and to respond to the leadings of the Spirit with joy in word and deed. We want to hold up the simplicity of our Children’s Religious Life Program and hope to share in this simplicity in the future. We were heartened that some among us asked how they might address the needs of others, focusing their gaze out from their navels. Young Adults, too, stand convicted in the witness of our children who packed boxes of food for people in need and defined another mission to carry them forward for the next two years. Jesus was once quoted as saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14). May we hold ourselves to similar standards, and call the body to do the same. If we follow our Guide faithfully, “show what we stand for and are willing to suffer for it,” as one Minister said during sessions, “the numbers will take care of themselves.”

We are excited to report that YAFs and older friends will be gathering and working together in a sub-committee of the YAF Working Group to explore and to establish a mentorship program for the enrichment of the Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly Meetings.  Through this work, we wish to emphasize the care and support of YAFs using the tools, gifts, and wisdom already in place among older Friends in our Meetings.

We are faithful in Friends to heed the call of radical relationship, action, and collaboration.

Yours in Truth,

Young Adult Friends of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting

July 28, 2013