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2016 Annual Report
Coming from Westport Meeting after our sixth and final retreat of the year, Young Friends are coming to terms with the end of an incredible retreat season. Our community was often full of joy, as we were fortunate enough to receive bread-making visits from Gretchen Baker-Smith, wonderful lessons from Lisa (and Xander) Graustein, worship and faith-centered talks and visits from Noah Baker-Merrill, the attendance of enthusiastic and curious Friends from Philadelphia, Yearly Meeting, as well as the presence of countless new Young Friends. Our Resource Person Tom Antonik as well as some Young Friends diligently documented all of these wonderful happenings with photographs. When not engaged by our visitors, Young Friends were engaged in our retreat themes, songs, group games, cuddle puddles, and meaningful community.
This year has also been difficult at times for our community. We struggled with the loss of former Young Friend Ishmael Rosas, a dear friend to a number of people within our community. We worked together to hold each other as well as his family in the Light. With the attendance of Young Friends Ministry and Counsel dwindling by the end of the year, those present felt the strain of more work in holding the community with less people to divide it between. As experienced annually, the sorrows of seniors moving up to Young Adult Friends and the end of the retreat year left a bittersweet goodbye that we felt contrasted greatly with the joyful energy often experienced earlier in the season. The stress of the closing school year and the feeling of communal loss made for a more solemn May retreat, however the strength of our community was felt as Young Friends answered this need for support and kindness with increased vigor. The annual campfire was a time for the community to celebrate together, sing, and reflect on the fantastic F/friends met over the retreat season. We closed out the year by belting out Circle Game, Puff the Magic Dragon, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Sanctuary in Westport Meeting’s chilly backyard beneath the moon and stars.
This year Young Friends were gifted access to a fund from the Yearly Meeting, which we received by successfully applying for a grant to send a delegation to the White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia. After our November retreat centered around racism and inequality, many Young Friends felt that a retreat weekend was not enough to fulfill our desired role in dismantling systems of privilege. Accompanied by Resource Person Michelle Brimage, and Young Friends coordinator NiaDwynwen Thomas, a small group of Young Friends attended this conference and shared about their experiences and leadings regarding work in social justice at the business meeting held during the May retreat. As a community, there was a strong sense that our role in social justice work was important and something we could work better at living into. We look forward to this group’s further work with our community, in the form of workshops and activities at Yearly Meeting sessions as well as possible future retreat themes.
The work done for, during, and after the White Privilege Conference is just one of the many leadings Young Friends felt throughout the year. Due to concerns about the foreseen decreasing size of the community, some Young Friends committed themselves to outreach and spreading the word about our retreats, while others expressed their truths in the form of music and performance at our Midwinter talent show. We hope these efforts will allow our community to continue to have the large attendance we so greatly appreciate and enjoy currently. Young Friend retreats have been a joyful and worshipful space for us to think deeply about our identities, the community, and the world around us as we experience our retreat themes. Retreats have also been a space for teenagers navigating difficult times to relax and reflect surrounded by love, support, and wise Resource People. We are all thankful (as expressed repeatedly in our affirmations at the close of retreats) to the Yearly Meeting, our fantastic coordinator Nia Thomas, our lovely resource people and cooks, the various meetings that have hosted us, and to each other for entering Young Friends with the kindness, openness, and faith needed to create this community which helps to guide us and support us in our lives within and outside of Quaker community.
With Light and gratitude,
Mosie Burke and Drew Chasse, co-clerks
New England Yearly Meeting Young Friends