New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

Epistle from the Young Adult Friends Spring Retreat

Jun 10, 2014

To all Friends everywhere:

The New England Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends gathered at Westport Meeting in Westport, Massachusetts, the 16th through 18th of 5th Month, 2014.
The theme of the weekend was Seize the Abundance: Reclaiming our Time.
About 35 Friends gathered on the evening of 5th Day to greet each other and introduce each other.  We engaged in business meeting for the purpose of discerning the way forward regarding retreat planning and staff support.  YAFs have been without a planning committee since winter and our co-ordinator, Nia, has been feeling the crunch. A group of volunteers at Midwinter formed a short-term Spring Retreat planning working group. Friends held this issue in the light at business meeting on Friday night.
After Business Meeting, affinity groups gathered and merry making ensued.  Many Friends stayed up late talking and sharing stories. Some people did yoga.
Friends rose for a massive breakfast prepared by Julie McClure, our cook for the weekend, and after some fellowship, moved into a morning program led by Noah Baker Merrill, on time and the holiness of the Sabbath. One metaphor was the story of a boy who could not grasp his goal of obtaining a starfish, because his hands were full of seashells.  Introducing us to this story was a video sermon about Jesus and his journey to Jerusalem, whereby Jesus, focused on his goal, stopped to attend to the most pressing situations, but did not say yes to everyone who vied for his attention. 

Considering this message, Friends settled into worship.
After worship, we were greeted by a balanced lunch. 
Ross Hennessey, assistant director of Quaker Voluntary Service, joined us from Philadelphia YM and the Philadelphia QVS house to talk about his program.
Free time and fellowship time followed, and then about 2 o’clock many people left for a nearby beach.  The beach turned out to be very windy, and may people were… underdressed. It was a gentle reminder that you cannot observe local weather conditions and apply them to all nearby locations.  We came away with a greater respect for the New England landscape. 
In the evening, Friends gathered for Meeting for Worship for Business before and after dinner. At the same time, some Friends worshiped over some queries about time use.

We approved a directional statement about a new Wholeness Working Group to work toward a more inclusive community. We approved a minute challenging our Yearly Meeting to set investment policies guaranteeing our continued divestment from fossil fuels. We approved a minute letting the YM know our excitement about possible expansion into New England of the Quaker Voluntary Service organization.

After the second Meeting for Business, some Friends stayed later to worship about how we use out time at retreats and what our work is. We discussed the challenges of making business meeting inclusive and relevant to everyone, how to follow our leadings as a group, and how to make sure the work of the community is getting done.
We did not discern a planning structure and are struggling to find a way forward, burdened with questions and frustrations, and knowing this work is to be continued.  It seems that a great amount of our struggle to name and accomplish our work as YAFs revolves around how we spend our time and what we clarify as important, keeping in mind the metaphor of starfish and shells.

-NEYM Young Adult Friends

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602

(508) 754-6760 - [email protected]