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2015 Epistle from Junior High Yearly Meeting
From August 1st through August 6th, 2015, our group of 25 junior highers gathered at New England Yearly Meeting at Castleton University in Castleton, Vermont, USA. Our intentions were to reflect on this year’s theme, meet with old friends, and be inspired by the wider Quaker meeting in New England.
Our theme this year was “living in a covenant community”. We explored different aspects of covenant community including: trust, honesty, forgiveness, healing, inclusiveness, and heart-to-heart connection. We had a panel of Adult and Young-Adult friends speak about their experiences with the healing and support of their various communities. We also made art which was designed to hold people in the light; this was especially meaningful because our dear mentor and friend Kevin Lee had to leave early in the week due to a medical concern. We participated in an early morning drum circle. We pounded, hit, whacked, and shook different percussion instruments in order to form a pulsing, creative form of covenant community. Singing, one of our most central activities, was weaved in throughout the week. Paul Hood, who was on our panel earlier in the week, spoke of deep communication through listening to each other’s hearts. We are in great confidence that this week deepened and strengthened our community.
In addition to our experiences which highlighted the theme, we had many deep experiences in worship. Every morning, Dylan, one of our musical staffers, shared music before worship. This allowed us to settle into the space we were in and deepen our experience of the silence. For Sunday night vespers, we went outside and painted with watercolors. As the sun was setting, Dylan played his saxophone in the nearby pavilion, which spontaneously led to group singing before the close of program.
On our last night, we had our 8th grade circle; the 8th graders were in the middle and the rest of us were outside. Everyone had time to speak from the heart, despite our paper candleholders always lighting on fire. This was a very touching experience because it allowed us to send the eighth graders to Young Friends with our full sincerity and spirit.
One of the highlights was our trip to Bomoseen State Park where we swam, played games, and had a raft building and racing regatta. In this competition, we were supplied with random plastic objects, duct tape, and tarps. We then built a raft to hold one person and raced it against other teams. Building a successful raft required trust, communication, and teamwork. Recognizing that winning the competition was secondary, we were able to keep the community spirit light. After the competition was finished, we all went back to Castleton to eat some wonderful pizza.
Even though we spent most of our time within the group, we expanded our perspectives on community through visitors like Kara Price, Noah Baker-Merrill, the secretary of NEYM, and Cuban friend Kirenia Criado Perez. It was refreshing to hear outside perspectives on the value of covenant community and the connections that Quakers all over the world have.
We shared an enormous amount of deep experiences, but don’t think that we aren’t also a flamboyant, lively, and exuberant group. In our downtime, we hung out and played four-square, awkward moments, ping-pong, folded origami, and went swimming. We also had our annual, intergenerational, capture the flag game. These games helped us create closer relationships with junior highers and staff alike. Overall, our time here was fun, enlightening, and transforming.
May all of us be forever blessed with happiness and community.
Junior High Yearly Meeting NEYM Sessions 2015