We sat down with 19 yr. old Young Adult Friend, Alex Emmert to find out what drew him to Quakerism from his upbringing as Baptist, what he enjoyed most about Annual Sessions and what he is looking forward to seeing from Quakers in the next decade. Alex shares his personal, truthful experiences with Quakerism and insights on outreach to other young adults seeking solid spiritual grounding.
I was brought up in a Baptist church that was pretty representative of most white American contemporary churches, as I understand it.Sundays consisted of a few songs led by a band, a sermon from a pastor, some announcements, and a closing song. I was baptized in 2017, but stopped attending during the pandemic. As the pandemic let up, I found out about Quakers through the internet (mostly reading Wikipedia and watching the QuakerSpeak podcast) so, I began attending a local meeting, Wicomico River Monthly Meeting. I’ve been attending there for about 2 years now, and I love it. My only wish is that there were more youth involvement in our meeting as I am the only person there under 50. However, the area lacks Friends schools and other common ways for young people to become involved.
What drew you to Quakerism from the Baptist denomination?
The Peace Testimony of Quakerism and unprogrammed worship style both drew me in. The Peace Testimony stems from a reading of the Bible I had not previously considered, and it was eye-opening to me. I feel that unprogrammed worship allows us to discern for ourselves what the Light is saying to us more than is made possible in a traditional Baptist service.
What did you feel was missing in your previous relationship with God (or the divine light) vs when you became convinced?
I felt that I was very much experiencing what I’ve heard Friends call “form without substance”. Essentially, going through the motions with very little true spiritual connection to the Light.
What was a highlight for you during this year’s Annual Sessions?
I really enjoyed getting to see other YAFs. Unfortunately, my meeting is experiencing a drought of young people, so it was extremely refreshing to see other young faces and connect with them over the course of the weekend.
Do you think other Young Adults who are searching from something deeper would be interested in Quakerism and why?
Absolutely! There is so much wisdom and friendliness within the Quaker community. Friends are so inclusive and open-minded not just about things like race and sexuality, but also in areas relating to spiritual identity and beliefs.
How can current Quakers reach out to young adults motivating them to get involved?
This is a tough question. It can always be hard to share Quaker views with those outside of the community, but I would recommend being passive and non-pressuring as well as
focusing more on the aspects of Quaker acceptance and possibly historical activist actions by Friends. I find that many folks are somewhat religion-averse, but focusing on friendly community and social change that Friends have made in the past can help mitigate this.
In your opinion, what is the world in (particularly, your generation) in need of most?
This might sound a little unsatisfying or corny, but I think we all ultimately need a little more love for each other. Being accepting of all people and creating safe, diverse, loving communities will be a net positive that unites all of us in shared appreciation of and respect for each other.
How do you connect what is needed in the world to what Quakerism offers in practice?
Quakerism is all about love. The Peace Testimony (and all of SPICES, for that matter) makes this abundantly clear, and I think we as Friends do our best (however big or small that may be) to be loving, inviting, and hospitable to all who are in need.
How do you share your light with other young adults?
I do my best to share the Light by challenging unloving rhetoric and going out of my way to help and accept those who find themselves in uncertain situations. I’m a Scout, and I try to “do a good turn daily” to better my community; I like to think this is the Light shining through me.
Where would you like to see Quakerism in the next decade?
I would love to see Quakerism as a movement grow both in number and conviction over the next decade. Welcoming diverse groups into our communities and focusing that new found energy into both spiritual wellness and community action would be an excellent direction for Friends to head in.