A Guest Piece from ‘Quakerspeak’ C. Reddy.
On April 23 I flew to Oregon to serve on an editorial board for a book that QUIP is putting together of young Friends’ experiences of Quakerism. After arriving in Oregon but before I met with the editorial board for this, I served on a panel with the other young Friends on the editorial board in a QUIP meeting (as we had arrived at the end of a QUIP conference for our meeting) about how media, printed or otherwise, inspired us spiritually. As we related our experiences as young Friends (and growing up as Quakers), a number of issues surfaced rather quickly.
As young Friends move through high school and enter the [young] adult world, there is often a general lack of communication between young Friends and adults in Meetings, as if there’s some tension about it. Personally, as a young Friend in Durham Friends Meeting (NCYM(Cons.)), I’ve found that I know certain adults — ones with whom I have interacted more specifically over the years as I have grown up. Often these are parents of other young Friends in the Meeting or people who have been involved in youth group events. What’s missing is the connection to the rest of the adults in Meeting; I’ve been attending Durham Friends Meeting since I was born (with a period during middle school where I was mostly absent, but for the last few years I’ve been quite regular in attendance) and I feel like most of the meeting has no idea who I am. In addition to that, I’ve not known how to communicate my involvement and dedication in various national Quaker communities, such as being chosen as one of six co-clerks of the HS program at FGC Gathering this summer, my participation in Young Quakes, my attendance at a Pendle Hill Clerking workshop last fall, my involvement in this QUIP book, or how I have been reading many Quaker books over the last few months, all of which have been VERY integral in my spiritual development. Even Friends in Durham Friends Meeting with whom I do converse sometimes after Meeting do not know of all these things with which I am involved.
Also, when I stopped attending First Day school in January of my junior year in high school (a little over a year ago) and began attending the full hour of Worship, I spoke to two youth leaders about it briefly so they would understand, and then there was no further response. Looking back on this, I feel that the Meeting should be more involved in such a transition for all young Friends — not just those adults directly involved in the youth group/First Day school, but everyone should be more aware and attentive of the young Friends in Meeting and their involvement in Quaker communities outside of Meeting.
One thing that each of us felt is very important yet very lacking is mentorship within Meeting for Worship. There need to be adults who are not necessarily First Day school teachers, youth group leaders, or parents who are willing to have a relationship with a young Friend as someone who has had more experience with Quakerism and can nurture a young Friend’s spiritual development. A young Friend who was in Oregon with me related her experiences with a mentor she has at Earlham (she is a second-year there, currently), and how she sees him about once a week; often she even receives books to read from him.
As the only active young Friend at my school (I’m sort of the ‘token’ Quaker around), I usually do not have anyone to talk to about my spiritual findings and leadings. As I have continued to develop spiritually, I find more and more I need other Friends to talk who are familiar with my struggles.
These are issues not only within Durham Friends Meeting, but in Meetings across the country. I recognize that there are efforts to improve youth programs everywhere, but it never hurts to start locally.
As a graduating senior this year, and as an involved Friend, I would like to improve my relationship with the Meeting as a whole and make way for better relationships between members and young Friends in the future. This, however, needs to be fully a double-sided effort.