Young Friends Epistle
Each year at Yearly Meeting annual sessions, the Young Friends write an epistle to the wider Quaker community. The most recent Epistle can be found below.
Dear Friends around the world,
This week, August 3–8, 2019, Quakers from all across New England gathered in Castleton University in Vermont for our annual New England Yearly Meeting Sessions. High School aged Quakers, or “Young Friends” joined together in our very own set of dorms and programs in order to grow closer as a community and better share our explorations of our theme this year, inspired by Margaret Fell: Provoke one another to love.
Each Young Friend has their own unique and personal experience of Sessions, and their own things to share with the rest of the world about this week. Unfortunately, 24 epistles takes a very long time to read. Instead, we all wrote down various highlights from the week in order to make a single epistle that better represented the experiences of our community as a whole.
The first important part of any epistle is bragging about how much fun we had this week. Some of the amazing things we got to do this week include: playing games like billiards, capture the flag, and penguin tag, singing songs as a group and with the middle-schoolers in JHYM (Junior High Yearly Meeting), our trip to the local Lake Bomoseen with JHYM, spending our free time together in the dorms, reconnecting with old friends, and meeting new ones. We also loved foosball, swimming, the contra dance, getting to know people outside of the Young Friends community (especially our graduated friends in the Young Adult Friends program) and, quote, “What, I’m supposed to pick one? Fine...”. As part of our planned programming here, we enjoyed Explorations such as helping out at the bookstore or playing with the younger kids, and workshops like creative writing or creating our own designs to transfer onto shirts using silk-screening.
Every year, Sessions is a particularly meaningful time for our community. When we talked about what was meaningful in preparation to write this epistle, we wrote about getting excited for the future of our community, feelings of belonging, spending time and deeply connecting with the Young Adult Friends, practicing vulnerability (especially through affirming ourselves and each other), examining our own leadership, and affinity groups, smaller groups of Young Friends who get together to check-in with each other and learn about each other’s needs, especially in terms of support.
Young Friends Epistle 2019
What many of us found especially meaningful was the way that Young Friends began to take their places in NEYM as a whole this week. On Tuesday morning, during our visit with the Young Adult Friends, we heard a panel on the role of spirit in transition, and then Callid Keefe-Perry, a member of Ministry and Council came to speak with us about an issue that we would be participating in the discussion of during adult business meeting: NEYM’s relationship with Friends United Meeting, or FUM. We learned the details and history involved in FUM’s employee policies and the conflicts within NEYM as to how we acted upon the objections many in our community held. Together with the Young Adult Friends, we struggled with our feelings on NEYM’s policy, the policy’s history, what we believe should be done instead, and even the very methods that we as a meeting use to make decisions. On Wednesday morning, we attended “adult” business meeting (though we usually hold ours independently) and Young Friends encouraged, supported, and comforted each other as we claimed the community’s issues as our own and took a stand on behalf of our beliefs. After leaving business meeting, we and some other Young Adult Friends gathered in our program space to achieve greater clarity on the policy issues at hand and agreed for some of us to meet again after lunch. We met with guests more experienced in the workings and ministry of FUM and explored our frustration, reservations, and ideas for the future. Most importantly, however, we brought the community of Young Friends into the issues that all of NEYM grapples with.
When we come to NEYM every year, we are excited, but we never know exactly what to expect. Many of us did not expect to be thrust into the issues of the NEYM and FUM policies, but there were other surprises as well. For one thing, during our annual lake trip, it actually didn’t rain this time. Some people didn’t expect such a sense of belonging, while others were caught off-guard by how difficult it was for them to settle. We discovered new songs, the spirit in our worship, games within our affinity group, strawberry ice cream, and that we liked Young Friends a lot more than we were expecting our first year. There were obviously some disappointments. There wasn’t as much singing as some of us would want, and there wasn’t any maple soft serve in the cafeteria this year. Some of us didn’t expect our last year as Young Friends to be so hard.
In addition to the fun, the meaningful, and the unexpected, we have a few more things to share about this week. Our group being small allowed us to get very close. We knocked shoes from trees. We took part in oppression naming, found singing and deep conversations very enjoyable, learned the ways of the “flip phone”, sang Pete Seeger songs, sustained no less than five toe injuries as a group, and “stayed up too late writing last night and it was great”.
In conclusion, we’d like to leave you with this wisdom: “Everyone is so lovely” and, in all capital letters, “I AM HAVING FUN”.
NEYM Young Friends