What we’ve learned (so far) from visiting monthly meetings

Young Adult Friends

YAFs visit Haddonfield Meeting in December, 2014

YAFs visit Haddonfield Meeting in December, 2014

Wanting to build more connections with Friends throughout Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the Young Adult Friends community has been organizing YAFs to visit to monthly meetings this fall and winter.  While travelling to meetings isn’t a totally new idea in the YAF community, visiting meetings primarily to share worship and fellowship is one of our new priorities for the year, and we wanted to share how it’s been going so far and what we’ve learned!

A report from our clerk, Damian Morden-Snipper:

Intervisitation has deepened our understanding of Quakerism and nurtured a sense of community within Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.  We have visited Haddonfield Friends Meeting in New Jersey, and Reading Friends Meeting in Reading, Pennsylvania.  These two visits have spanned a significant portion of the area encompassed by PYM, yet the common threads of the Quaker spirit appeared in both meetings.  At Haddonfield, we heard messages about the unconscionable injustice of mass incarceration, and Friends’ struggles to see that of God in those who perpetuate such injustice in both big and small ways.  At Reading, we heard messages about the strength and wisdom available to those who are willing to bear the dark places of the world and the human condition.  In fellowship after the rise of worship, we shared stories with each other about our spiritual journeys, bearing witness to Friends’ testimonies in the lives we are each leading.  These visits have illuminated the good works and wise words of Quakers across PYM, providing a powerful antidote to the cynicism and pessimism our broader society cultivates.  We hope others will join us on future visits, that they may share in the attendant enrichment and joy that it offers.

Some tips for visiting (from Eric Peterson)

Young Adult Friends have organized two intervisitations this year. I participated in both, and I feel we did it really well. That said, we learned a great deal organizationally from reflecting on both experiences.

1) Go where you know… a little
I was really excited for our first trip to Haddonfield Meeting because someone I knew well went there, but I had never attended worship with her. When we meet Friends outside of our monthly meetings, tending our relationship, spiritual and otherwise, with those humans is a great reason for intervisitation. Knowing something about the destination meeting doesn’t have to mean knowing someone. One of the YAFs on our visit to Haddonfield was drawn to the architecture of the meetinghouse, for example. Having some connection, even if it’s as tenuous as having driven by once on your commute, definitely sows the seed for a good intervisitation.

2) Food!
At our working group meetings, I always advocate to visit meetings that have really good food after worship. I feel so strongly about crashing post-meeting potlucks because this is the time our Quaker community wrestles with issues as a community. At worship, we tend to experience our togetherness as stillness. In the time between waiting worship, we drag our messages out into the world and grapple with them. That’s hard, I find. It’s always best to have accompaniment along the way – and a bowl of vegan chili doesn’t hurt! So find out when the potluck is – call the clerk or ask a friend – because food is really important.

3) Plan
In both of our events, one person took the lead in bringing enthusiasm and organizing the logistics of getting to worship. Someone making calls about carpooling, directions and start times takes the guesswork out and gives intervisitation a sense of inevitability. Obviously, scrambling the night before isn’t ideal. At least several weeks in advance, one person stepping up as a leader makes a huge difference.

3) How Does the Truth Fare with Thee?
Ask about our spiritual lives. It’s a little daunting to barge into another meetinghouse and ask about someone’s spiritual life, but really, everyone wants you to ask! This is a huge reason I attend, to find out how Friends are operating in their spiritual lives.

4) Take notes on Meetinghouse Logistics
Notice and ask about logistics, too. I’ve attended at maybe a dozen different meetings, and I’m still noticing best practices for timing of entrances and exits, welcoming visitors and managing hospitality. I am convinced there are tips and tricks to Quaker worship to be found at every meeting.

5) Weather?
Check the weather before you book. Our visit to Reading Meeting included a two hour drive home in a snow storm. In the summer months, you’ll want to know if you need a jacket for outdoor worship or if it will be clear enough to take a walk after worship. Weather counts.

6) The Afterparty
Finally, it’s super important to have some time after the whole visit – after the potluck, even – to sit down and talk about how it went. After the potluck at Reading, we asked locals for a cool coffee shop and had a deep discussion. Carpooling gives everyone time to compare notes on the visit and unpack what happened.

The experience of Young Adult Friends is admittedly different from other attenders at monthly meetings. Our community is more spread out, and we make organizing visits to monthly meetings one of our priorities as a community. This may not be the case for every other group of Friends. I hope that culling this brief list will share ideas for other groups to have fun and get a better feel for us as PYM.

Want the Young Adult Friends community to visit your meeting?  Contact Elizabeth Piersol Schmidt, Young Adult Friends Coordinator at youngadultfriends@pym.org (and let us know when your potluck is!)
Or join us on our next visit, to Radnor Meeting on April 19! If you’ve visited a meeting, let us know how it went!