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Youth Ministries: Gratitude and Visions
Beth Collea, our beloved Religious Education and Outreach Coordinator, is clear that it is time for her to lay down her staff role with the Yearly Meeting, and as many of you may already know she will be leaving this position at the end of September 2018. We feel so much gratitude to Beth for her long years of inventive and grounded ministry to this community—and 14 years as NEYM staff! We know that Beth’s ministry is not ending; she is simply changing the platform from which she shares her gifts. We are confident that her heart, mind, and imagination will nourish the life of Friends in New England and beyond for years to come.
Beth has provided an enormous variety and depth of support to our First Day Schools and has fostered religious education curricula, networks, and conversations that are valued well beyond our region, including her work as a founding member of the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative. Beth’s vision of religious education is capacious, recognizing the importance of the spiritual nurture that local meetings offer children and families, but knowing too that religious education is a life-long and community-wide engagement, central to the whole life of a meeting community and of the Society of Friends, not just to its First Day Schools. Truly welcoming children and families entails practices of openness and inclusivity that embrace more than differences of age, and as she has demonstrated over and over in her work, such attention energizes and enlivens the whole. The outreach and adult education aspects of Beth’s work have been as important as, and really inseparable from, her work with children and families. The integrative breadth of her vision has helped the Youth Ministries Committee to learn to think more broadly about our charge, and to build strong, supple connections between our wonderful youth retreat programs and the spiritual life and education, the support of children and families, happening in many other places and ways within and beyond monthly meetings.
In February 2018 the Youth Ministry Committee hosted a day-long gathering of a wide range of stakeholders to recognize what is precious in our youth programs, to acknowledge the barriers we face, to envision changes we might make that would help these programs serve more families, and to think about how we can create closer relations between Yearly Meeting youth programs and local meetings. This gathering strengthened our sense of the crucial web of Youth Ministries, and the importance of working in this integrative way. Rather than simply replace Beth’s position—no one could replace Beth—New England Yearly Meeting intends to use the coming year to think about what's needed to help us meet these broad integrative goals. The Youth Ministries Committee will work closely with the Yearly Meeting Secretary and many others in this discernment process. During Sessions members of the Youth Ministries Committee will host meal time opportunities for conversation: an intimate, informal time to hear your experience and ideas and to think together about how best to nurture the web of care for youth and families in our Yearly Meeting. We invite Friends to come talk with us at Sessions, or to send ideas and insights to the Youth Ministries Committee.