New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

Midwinter 2012 YAF Epistle

To all Friends everywhere:

The Young Adult Friends of New England Yearly Meeting met for our annual Midwinter retreat on First Month 5-8, 2012, at the historic New Bedford Friends Meetinghouse, built in 1824. The theme for this Midwinter was “Led to Action.” In this light, Friends focused on our actions and the leadings that undergird them.

One place our community has felt particularly led is the area of environmental stewardship. We are called to learn more about global warming, pollution, and other environmental crises. Friends seek to season ourselves and follow this concern by being patterns and examples in the world. Guided by the ministry of our Climate Working Group (YAFCWG), Friends are examining our individual and collective stewardship of world resources with clearer eyes, and we are called to work toward the promise of a healthier society and planet. This Midwinter, Jay O’Hara spoke of the prophetic power of the Spirit moving and carrying us forward. At the same time, Abe Drayton talked to us about environmentally sound living and brought a scientific eye to our conversations at meals and in group sessions.

Part of the concern that led us to create YAFCWG is our understanding that change must come from dedicated individuals. While the sustainable and green technologies that will support these changes are developing rapidly, these will not be enough: new ways of living are needed. We are learning more and more that it is in community together that we succeed. To this end, YAFCWG presented a program they called the “science fiction kingdom of God,” where we imagined how the world could look in one hundred years time, and considered how we could bring about that change. They also told us that they had found Friends willing to rent us land in Northfield, Massachusetts, so we could use it to gather people to work on skills relating to climate change adaptation (for instance, farming, construction, and energy generation).

At the same time, Friends investigated the diverse theologies present within our community. On Thursday night, we took anonymous surveys that included such questions as our name for the Divine, spiritual traditions we had previously identified with, how many times we had spoken in Meeting for Worship, and when we first had a spiritual experience. The answers to these surveys were gathered on large posters that decorated the space in which we worshiped.

On Friday night, our exploration went deeper with a “fishbowl,” an activity in which an outside circle listens silently to an inside circle as the latter answers questions on a particular topic, and then the circles are reversed. We separated into three groups: two groups of Friends who had felt a leading in their lives and one group of Friends who had not. Each group answered questions about their spiritual beliefs and experiences while other Friends listened and held the space.

On Saturday morning, five Friends shared on a panel about leadings in action. Their messages were diverse: some Friends felt like they had been led, some did not; some Friends felt that preparation and seasoning was necessary before being led, some did not; some Friends shared advices, some shared a sense of transformation that came from the leading, some just shared their experiences. Leadings included looking for love, coming out as queer, quitting a job, seeing death through to new life, chasing after a stolen iPhone, and even dogsledding. We gratefully listened to these Friends talk of their experiences, and continued the discussion of leadings in small groups and informal conversations during the next two days.

Friends spent several hours of our time together in Meeting for Business. We approved a new slate of nominations for committee service including five new clerks (a new presiding clerk, a new recording clerk, and three new committee clerks). We minuted our support of a delegation of YAF ministers to travel to Cuba and share in their campamento, a time of wilderness retreat with God and with other Friends. We also approved a revised description of our community for our organizing document, which reads:

New England Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends (YAFs) is a Quaker community of people typically aged 18 to 35, which is woven into the larger body of New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM). The YAF community serves as a place for both young adults new to the Religious Society of Friends and Young Friends who have become adults to nurture their relationships with the Yearly Meeting.

As YAFs we minister to one another through community, worship, prayer, fellowship, service, eldering, and spiritual friendships. We commit ourselves to support each other and the entire YAF community as we recognize, discern, and practice our Divine leadings and spiritual gifts, navigate transitions in our lives, and seek to become what God would have us be.

The retreat had a life outside of these more serious concerns--it was filled with our customary revelry. We played rambunctious games, sang boisterously, rambled around New Bedford’s waterfront and visitor’s center (whose signs we read with vigor and funny accents), ate delicious food prepared by the amazing Zach Alexander, engaged in a Yankee Swap, organized a sensational coffeehouse, and even attempted to read some passages from * Moby-Dick* at New Bedford’s annual 25-hour Moby-Dick Marathon.

As always, Sunday came too soon. While we shared the meetinghouse with New Bedford Meeting and transacted our final items of business (led by our new presiding clerk, Rocky Malin), we felt grateful for this time together and looked forward to our next gathering.

– The Young Adult Friends of New England Yearly Meeting

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602

(508) 754-6760 - [email protected]