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2014 YAF Midwinter Epistle
To Friends Everywhere,
We send greetings from the Young Adult Friends of New England Yearly Meeting. More than 50 of us - including 13 newcomers - met at Woolman Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Deerfield, Massachusetts, from January 2nd through 5th for a gathering responding to the theme, “Where is the Life?” This was the largest gathering of young adults in New England in 9 years. For the first time, we were blessed by the presence of several young children and their parents, allowing us to step more fully into the vision of the inclusive community for which we yearn.
Our time together brought jubilant fellowship, challenging conversations, and deepening spiritual intimacy. We showed up for each other in ways that mattered. We helped to lighten each other’s burdens. We sang angsty songs from the 90’s. We worshipped. We went sledding. We fed the wood stoves, holding back the sub-zero temperatures. And we prayed out loud.
Like the rest of New England Yearly Meeting, we are discerning how to organize ourselves in alignment with the Life we feel all around us. We are asking ourselves how this manifests in our work to plan our gatherings, and to provide pastoral care and spiritual encouragement to young adults in New England.
We are not yet clear about an organizational structure that will best support the abundance we have identified, but we know that anything we do must lead to the liberation of spiritual gifts among us. The following Minute of Exercise expresses our discernment thus far:
It is important to consider the balance of our lives, and to ask ourselves how we prioritize this community. We live in a capitalist society that demands we focus on earning money and working a certain amount of hours, and we must support each other as we practice the countercultural act that is committing time to building community without financial gain. An essential consideration is what work Friends are led to do to support the community, and the ability to say ‘yes’ when clearly led, and ‘no’ when clearly not, even with the stress of needing to fill positions on committees.
Working together, even on seemingly mundane tasks, can be an opportunity to connect with one another, and to revisit the needs and goals of the community. Doing the work of the community is a privilege, and can also elicit deep gratitude. There is, indeed, present already a great gratitude for this community and the work that is part of it.
Reflecting on our spiritual condition, we acknowledge the temptation to get lost in blame, guilt, and fear. Trusting instead to live in faith, we strive to name our condition clearly, in order to open space to allow us to live more fully. We are over-scheduled, distracted, anxious, debt-burdened, insecure and lonely in our secular lives. We hear Isaiah’s challenge: “Why do you spend your money on that which is not bread, your labor on food that does not satisfy?”
In our present condition, we step boldly and tenderly together into the unknown, recognizing that the forms that once served us may now hinder our faithfulness. We trust that Way will open.
We are tired, and we are hopeful.
In the Life,
The Young Adult Friends of New England Yearly Meeting
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my Word be that goes out from my mouth,
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
– Isaiah 55:10-11