New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

Possibility and Promise: An Invitation to Give

Nov 21, 2017
NiaDwynwen Thomas

November 2017

Dear Friends,

I’ve been a New England Friend since I was a child.  Growing up, I worshiped with Andover (now Lawrence) Meeting.  I attended New England Yearly Meeting’s Friends Camp and youth ministries retreats.  Throughout my youth and to this day, individual Friends have nurtured my expanding understanding of my own spirituality, mentored me in new roles, and encouraged me along an unpredictable and challenging path.

Seven years ago, to my great surprise (but not to the surprise of those guiding me), I took a huge leap of faith from active participant in the Young Adult Friends program and sometimes-volunteer in various Quaker activities, to serving full-time as your Young Friends and Young Adult Friends Coordinator.  Since then, I’ve spent most of my time nurturing Quaker youth and young adults.  Looking back at my work and my journals from my first year in this role, I cannot believe the change that has taken place in me over these years.  My life has become so much richer, my heart has grown many sizes larger, and the relationships I’ve built with Friends across New England have become woven into our shared journey.

I’m writing to ask for your help so that others can join that journey.

Outside of Quaker circles, people are often surprised to find out that not only am I a Quaker (“you’re religious?”) but spend almost all my time creating Quaker spaces, deepening others’ Quaker faith, and building Quaker community.  Most people my age are not used to encountering peers who choose to be active in a faith community.

Today, the common narrative we hear is that young people don’t care about religion, that religious communities are shrinking or closing up shop, and that this shift is inevitable.  I hear from Friends who see these statistics as reason to despair or to accept that our Friends meetings will only become smaller as the years pass, that we’ll dwindle until we’re gone.

But my experience leads me to believe the exact opposite: Now is a time of enormous possibility and promise for the Quaker movement.  I see encouraging signs everywhere I go.  Studies about non-religious Millennials leave out the real story—that the yearning for meaning, connection, community, and moral guidance is more compelling and urgent than ever.  If like me you spend a lot of your time talking with people between the ages of 14 and 30, you’ve heard the profound longing for a Truth that is deeper than the uncertainty swirling around us.  You hear the hunger to experience true community—a yearning felt by all ages.

Friends have something to offer in response to this hunger.  At its best, our faith tradition is just as relevant, fulfilling, and transformative today as it was 350 years ago.  We know something about building strong communities around Love.  We’ve been given spiritual practices that open us to God’s continuing revelation and guidance.  When I engage in real conversations with people who don’t identify as Quakers about what matters most to them, I often find that the gifts I’ve received from my life with Friends are what they are seeking.

There are people across New England seeking what Friends have to offer.  But to find the many gifts of the Quaker movement, they need to know we exist and we need to be able to enlarge our tent.  This is exactly the work that our yearly meeting organization is prioritizing right now.  By strengthening our channels of communication, focusing on outreach and welcoming, adapting our youth programming to meet current needs, better articulating and sharing our message to the world, and sharing opportunities to dive deeper into our faith and public witness, we are providing more people with opportunities to experience the deep freedom and joy that is possible within faithful community.

Throughout New England, Friends are focusing on opening doorways into the richness of the Quaker movement—and people are walking through!  Just one example:  Our Young Adult Friends retreats consistently draw in large numbers of newcomers, often coming to their first Quaker event beyond their local meeting. These seekers make connections, see more of what Friends have to offer, learn about leadership opportunities, and deepen their engagement.

Current events—locally, nationally and globally—give us daily reasons to despair and worry, but every day my work with Quakers in New England gives me real reasons for hope.  I hear Friends in local and regional circles asking the courageous questions that need to be asked.  I see Friends of all ages discovering and using their gifts, and boldly stepping into leadership.  I am privileged to be part of a wide circle of Friends holding our youth in Love as they grow. 

I am expecting my first child this spring.  As I approach the threshold of parenthood, I feel deeply grateful for the community I am about to bring a new life into—yet simultaneously aware of the urgency of our shared work guiding the Quaker movement forward.  God is calling us to open our arms to our neighbors seeking divine connection and loving community, calling us to be faithful to the Truth we’ve experienced as Friends.

The Quaker movement can be a vital part of the transformation so many are seeking, but it will not thrive without the nourishing events, meaningful support and visitation, dynamic youth programs, effective organizational tools, vibrant communications, and fresh educational resources that strengthen our local meetings and make a healthy movement possible.  To do this, we need each Friend who shares this vision to prayerfully consider how we can bring all of our gifts to the table.

Together, Friends, we’re embracing the great possibility of these times.

Will you join me in making a financial gift today to support the ministries of New England Quakers?

In the Light,

NiaDwynwen Thomas (Northampton Friends Meeting)
Young Friends & Young Adult Friends Coordinator

P.S.  Maybe you haven’t had a chance to make a gift this year, but there’s still time before December 31st to help New England Friends continue our progress toward financial sustainability in support of our shared ministries.  Your generous gift in whatever amount is right for you would be a blessing. Thank you in advance!

P.P.S.  Did you know that you can also help strengthen the Quaker movement in New England through a planned gift? After providing for loved ones in your will or estate plan, you may want to consider a gift of money, securities, or real estate to your local meeting and the Yearly Meeting. There are often tax advantages, and many options to explore. Please contact Yearly Meeting Secretary Noah Merrill at 617-615-6396 or [email protected] to learn more.

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602

(508) 754-6760 - [email protected]