During the weekend of January 13th-15th, young adult Friends gathered online and in person for the 2023 winter retreat themed Love Thy Neighbor. In connection to the 2023 PYM theme “living with neighbors, growing into beloved community,” the theme of this retreat is a continuation of the call for us to come together in the joyful work of reweaving our connections after three years of the pandemic.
Prior to the COVID 19 pandemic, retreats were usually held at a meetinghouse and typically began on Friday night with dinner and ran until the rise of meeting on Sunday morning. However, with new COVID policies and protocols in place, retreats have looked different as we learn how to build bridges between the accessibility of online gatherings and the intimacy of being together in person. The 2023 winter retreat took the shape of this new model. Participants gathered on Friday night with a virtual welcoming program.
On Saturday, YAFs gathered in Arch Street for a day-long program. Staff member Kimani Keaton led an ice breaker called Penny for Your Thoughts. Each YAF is provided with a penny that is no more than twenty years old and asked to think back to the date on their coin and share something significant or interesting that happened to them that year. Laughs filled the room as stories were shared of graduations, first moves to Philadelphia, travels, and new hobbies. After, YAF pastoral care co-clerk Tucker and her husband Sameer facilitated an interactive program on the retreat theme, using case studies of conscientious objection and early prison reform, queries, think-pair-shares, and discussions about different religious perspectives on community, integrity, and love as a basis in ministry. It was the perfect grounding activity for the next program.
The Young Adult Friends community invited Kerry Roeder, Executive Director of Historic Fair Hill, and .O .O, a member of Philly Thrive, to join a panel featuring Naomi Madaras, a chaplain in Bethlehem, PA, and Afroza Hossain, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Coordinator at PYM and original member and co-founder of Green Street Reparations Committee. Pastoral care co-clerk Liadh Reilly moderated the hour-long panel and raised queries such as Who are our neighbors? What is required of us to participate in beloved community? Where do we put this into practice? Conventional understanding of neighbors as adjacent, nearest, and closest were challenged in this panel as participants were encouraged expand and think across distance and species to include everyone and everything, even cockroaches.
Panelists discussed the need to invest in ourselves for healing and repair to allow for the potential of our relationships across lines to grow because despite what the culture of oppressive systems tells us, we are intimately woven and intertwined and so no one is disposable. To build community with our neighbors is to give grace and trust and refuse to see each other, or this work, as a task but instead as honoring our interconnectedness. Asking the question “where are the tears coming from?” and applying compassionate curiosity instead of spiritual diagnosis to cover the pain in others and in our community, which so many do when rushing to explain the wounds of white supremacy, is part of our work to participate and build beloved community.
With bellies full of pizza lunch, participants carpooled to Germantown, PA for the afternoon program of the retreat. Young Adult co-clerk Sarah Ennis facilitated the service-learning opportunity at Crayons to Cradles, a nonprofit organization providing children from 0-12 with essential items needed to thrive at school, at home, and at play. Upon arriving at the Giving Factory in Germantown, YAFs joined other groups and families for a quick training and then were shown to their workstations. For the next two hours, YAFs sorted children’s clothing according to gender and size, while sharing news of our lives, exchanging book recommendations, and debriefing the morning workshop and panel.
YAFs returned to Arch St for the evening portion of the retreat, included Meeting for Business and a potluck dinner with attention to celebration. The agenda for Meeting for Business featured a review of the community expectations, heard reports from committees, heard news and announcements for upcoming YAF events, and shared concerns for the current retreat model. To cap off the day, YAFs gathered in fellowship to enjoy a potluck dinner in the East Room of Arch Street Meetinghouse. Homemade gluten free cupcakes were made by Pastoral Care co-clerk Liad in the spirit of celebration for co-clerk Naomi Madaras, who is on the journey of becoming a board-certified chaplain.
The fun didn’t stop that day and we were invited to worship with Arch St on Sunday morning, as is tradition for our retreats. If you are interested in attending a future event or retreat, you can subscribe to the YAF newsletter for more information or you may choose to follow Young Adult Friends community on Instagram or Facebook for updates.
Our next retreat will be overnight at Haverford Meeting from May 5th-7th. The theme for the spring retreat is “vocation” and will feature a workshop led by Greg Woods, co-creator of the Vocational Discernment Curriculum. More information will come soon!