Quakers acting badly

Friends don’t have a particularly good track record with regards to controversy. There’s no reason we need to pretend to be talking historically. We’ve had two major yearly meetings break up in this summer (meet Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting and North Carolina Fellowship of Friends), with at least one more “at bat” for some future long hot summer.

Controversies flare up in many places. Friend Sa’ed Atshan just broke his media silence to talk about the cancelation of his talk at Friends’ Central School in February and the subsequent walk-outs, firings, and litigations. The controversy around Avis Wanda McClinton’s disownment by Upper Dublin Meeting continues to incense large numbers of Philadelphia Friends, with fuel to the fire coming from the role that the Undoing Racism Group does or doesn’t have in the yearly meeting structure. Last year a majority of Friends of color boycotted public events at the FGC Gathering over frustration at the site selection process and the underlying issues extend to other Quaker venues.

The most-commented recent article in Friends Journal is “It Breaks My Heart” by Kate Pruitt from the online June/July issue. Many readers related to her sense of alienation and loss. Two comments that hit me the hardest were:

Not all Friends are found in Quaker Meetings. You’re better off without your meeting.

Gone now is the hope… of finding community among Quakers. To be frank, why bother? There’s plenty of brokenness right where I am.

And I get enough “Why I’m leaving Friends” manifestos in my email inbox every month that I could turn it into a regular Friends Journal column.

It seems to me that are a number of underlying issues that tie these controversies together. What do we do when a group of Friends starts acting in a manner that seems contrary to our understanding of Quaker testimonies and practices? How do we balance love and judgement when conflict arises among us? When do we break out of Quaker niceness? Maybe even more challenging, how do we maintain our integrity and accountability when controversy breaks us into camps willing to engage in exaggeration? And just what do we say when the outside public only gets half the story or thinks that one side is speaking for all Friends?

So this is a plug for submissions for December's Friends Journal.  The theme is “Conflict and Controversy" and the submission deadline is September 9. We’re not looking for blow-by-blow accounts of being mistreated, and we’re not terribly interested (this time) in manifestos about Quaker cultural norms. I'm less interested in specific issues than I am the meta of discernment: How do individuals or small groups of Friends move forward in the heat of controversy. What do we do when the easy solutions have failed? How do we decide when it's time to break out of Quaker niceness to lay down some truth—or time to kick the dust off your sandals and move along?

Carolina Friends School in Durham confronts reports of decades-old sexual abuse


A Friends School talks open­ly about past school abuse:

The alum­nus said he’s upset the prin­ci­pal [Harold Jerni­gan] has not acknowl­edged the accu­sa­tions. But he said he doesn’t regret send­ing his orig­i­nal mes­sage. ‘If you read Quak­er lit­er­a­ture, they spell ‘Truth’ in the upper­case – the impli­ca­tion of divin­i­ty,’ he said, ‘that it is a holy thing to con­tin­ue that search for truth.’

I’m glad this is get­ting out now, but I did a double-take as the accused prin­ci­ple is still alive and liv­ing a few dozen miles from me. He was a lightning-rod fig­ure as prin­ci­pal of at least two oth­er schools after Car­oli­na. I imag­ine the behav­ior con­tin­ued. Updates below:

  • An peri­od arti­cle on his tenure at a Friends Sem­i­nary, a Man­hat­tan Friends school, talked about the unrest of his two-year tenure there. It sounds like he came in and sum­mar­i­ly fired the heads of the low­er, mid­dle, and upper schools. This is the kind of thing one would do if they want­ed to cur­tail accountability.
  • A mem­oir by Quak­er edu­ca­tor Leonard Ken­wor­thy talks about this peri­od at Friends Sem­i­nary: “He moved much too rapid­ly in bring­ing about changes, ask­ing for the res­ig­na­tions of the heads of the ele­men­tary and mid­dle school, plus sev­er­al oth­er shifts, with­in a very short peri­od, even before he took over as prin­ci­pal. Over and over I urged him not to move too fast but he said there were two ways of han­dling such a sit­u­a­tion. One was to move slow­ly over a peri­od of years. The oth­er was to bring about quick changes and then to begin rapid­ly to ini­ti­ate new pro­grams and new per­son­nel. He was deter­mined to use the lat­ter approach.”
  • A 1986 New York Times pro­file of Friends Sem­i­nary had this to say of its for­mer head: “After a shake-up of the staff that led to the res­ig­na­tion or dis­missal of sev­er­al teach­ers, a teacher’s union was formed, and stu­dents went on strike. Even­tu­al­ly, the prin­ci­pal, Harold Jerni­gan, resigned and the school ”reject­ed mus­cu­lar Quak­erism and returned to its mys­ti­cal faith,” in the words of the offi­cial history.”
  • A com­menter on one news arti­cle writes: “Please also know that Harold Jernigan’s behav­ior con­tin­ued on at Atlantic City Friends School, where he was Head­mas­ter. As an Alum of ACFS, I thought that should be made clear.”
  • Car­oli­na Friends School wrote an open let­ter to the com­mu­ni­ty in June.

Update Decem­ber 2014. I have received emails from a for­mer stu­dent who wished to remain anony­mous at this time. I have no way to fact check this but it is con­sis­tent with the his­to­ry and I have no rea­son to think it’s inac­cu­rate. With that caveat, here are some excerpts:

As an Alum­ni of Atlantic City Friends School I am not sur­prised at all to hear about Harold Jerni­gan sex­u­al abuse in the least . Please note this abuse along with more forms of abuse went on at ACFS into the ear­ly 80’s

Sex­u­al abuse was not the only abuse. Abuse of the school sys­tem in gen­er­al includ­ing drugs , abuse of pow­er , mon­ey , teach­ing so bad­ly that curves were used to grade so curved that the high­est grade in a math class Harold Jerni­gan taught was a 42 yet all were passed . Harold Jerni­gan also would lis­ten to class­rooms and lock­er rooms with a speak­er sys­tem in his office even after he promised Teach­ers he would not . Please note if Harold Jerni­gan did not want a stu­dent to pass he would call a meet­ing with all Teach­ers to make sure cer­tain stu­dents would not pass no mat­ter what .

I was a vic­tim of his non sex­u­al abuse but still abuse all the same .

I am only telling you this so some­one puts a stop to this abuse. Back in the late 70’s ear­ly 80’s who would believe a teenag­er . To see this Final­ly come out makes me know there is Karma .

As teenagers in school we would talk amongst our­selves . No one would come for­ward because we knew Harold would hold back our Diplo­mas or not for­ward a let­ter to a college .

You must remem­ber ACFS was attend­ed by either high IQ stu­dents , rich kids that were kick out of their oth­er schools or stu­dents that want­ed to attend a pri­vate school . This made the stu­dent body Easy Prey .

Dur­ing my time at ACFS I made friends with some of the Teach­ers . These Teach­ers are some of my sources ! They knew but need­ed their job

Tempations, shared paths and religious accountability

Some­times it seems as if mod­erns are look­ing back at his­to­ry through the wrong end of the tele­scope: every­thing seems soooo far away. The effect is mag­ni­fied when we’re talk­ing about spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. The ancients come off as car­toon­ish fig­ures with a com­pli­cat­ed set of worked out philoso­phies and pro­hi­bi­tions that we have to adopt or reject whole­sale. The ide­al is to be a liv­ing branch on a long-rooted tree. But how do we intel­li­gent­ly con­verse with the past and nego­ti­ate changes?

Let’s talk Friends and music. The car­toon Quak­er in our his­tor­i­cal imag­i­na­tion glares down at us with heavy dis­ap­proval when it comes to music. They’re squares who just didn’t get it.

Get­ting past the cartoons

Thomas Clark­son, our Angli­can guide to Quak­er thought cir­ca 1700, brings more nuance to the scru­ples. “The Quak­ers do not deny that instru­men­tal music is capa­ble of excit­ing delight. They are not insen­si­ble either of its pow­er or of its charms. They throw no impu­ta­tion on its inno­cence, when viewed abstract­ly by itself.” (p. 64)

“Abstract­ly by itself”: when eval­u­at­ing a social prac­tice, Friends look at its effects in the real world. Does it lead to snares and tem­pa­tions? Quak­ers are engaged in a grand exper­i­ment in “chris­t­ian” liv­ing, keep­ing to lifestyles that give us the best chance at moral liv­ing. The warn­ings against cer­tain activ­i­ties are based on obser­va­tion borne of expe­ri­ence. The Quak­er guide­lines are wikis, notes com­piled togeth­er into a col­lec­tive mem­o­ry of which activ­i­ties pro­mote – and which ones threat­en – the lead­ing of a moral life.

Clark­son goes on to detail Quaker’s con­cerns about music. They’re all actu­al­ly quite valid. Here’s a sampling:

  • Peo­ple some­times learn music just so they can show off and make oth­ers look talentless. 
  • Reli­gious music can become a end to itself as peo­ple become focused on com­po­si­tion and play­ing (we’ve real­ly decon­tex­tu­al­ized: much of the music played at orches­tra halls is Mass­es; much of the music played at folk fes­ti­val is church spirituals). 
  • Music can be a big time waster, both in its learn­ing and its listening.
  • Music can take us out into the world and lead to a self-gratification and fashion.

I won’t say any of these are absolute rea­son to ban music, but as a list of neg­a­tive temp­ta­tions they still apply. The Catholic church my wife belongs to very con­scious­ly has music as a cen­ter­piece. It’s very beau­ti­ful, but I always appre­ci­ate the pastor’s reminder that the music is in ser­vice to the Mass and that no one had bet­ter clap at some per­for­mance! Like with Friends, we’re see­ing a delib­er­ate bal­anc­ing of ben­e­fits vs temp­ta­tions and a warn­ing against the snares that the choice has left open.

Con­text con­text context

In sec­tion iv, Clark­son adds time to the equa­tion. Remem­ber, the Quak­er move­ment is already 150 years old. Times have changed:

Music at [the time of ear­ly Quak­ers] was prin­ci­pal­ly in the hands of those, who made a liveli­hood of the art. Those who fol­lowed it as an accom­plish­ment, or a recre­ation, were few and those fol­lowed it with mod­er­a­tion. But since those days, its progress has been immense… Many of the mid­dle class­es, in imi­ta­tion of the high­er, have received it… It is learned now, not as a source of occa­sion­al recre­ation, but as a com­pli­cat­ed sci­ence, where per­fec­tion is insist­ed upon to make it worth of pur­suit. p.76.

Again we see Clarkson’s Quak­ers mak­ing dis­tinc­tions between types and moti­va­tions of musi­cian­ship. The labor­er who plays a gui­tar after a hard day on the field is less wor­ri­some than the obsessed ado­les­cent who spends their teen years locked in the den prac­tic­ing Stair­way to Heav­en. And when music is played at large fes­ti­vals that lead youth “into com­pa­ny” and fash­ions, it threat­ens the reli­gious soci­ety: “it has been found, that in pro­por­tion as young Quak­ers mix with the world, they gen­er­al­ly imbibe its spir­it, and weak­en them­selves as mem­bers of their own body.”

Music has changed even more rad­i­cal­ly in the suceed­ing two cen­turies. Most of the music in our lives is pre-recorded; it’s ubiq­ui­tious and often invol­un­tary (you can’t go shop­ping with­out it). Add in the drone of TV and many of us spend an insane amount of time in its semi-narcotic haze of iso­lat­ed lis­ten­er­ship. Then, what about DIY music and sin­ga­longs. Is there a dis­tinc­tion to be made between testoterone power-chord rock and twee singer-songwriter strums? Between are­nas and cof­fee­house shows? And move past music into the oth­er media of our lives. What about movies, DVS, com­put­ers, glossy mag­a­zines, talk shows. Should Friends waste their time obsess­ing over Amer­i­can Idol? Well what about Prairie Home Companion? 

Does a social prac­tice lead us out into the world in a way that makes it hard for us to keep a moral cen­ter? What if we turned off the medi­at­ed con­sumer uni­verse and engaged in more spir­i­tu­al­ly reward­ing activ­i­ties – con­tem­pla­tive read­ing, ser­vice work, vis­it­ing with oth­ers? But what if music, com­put­ers, radio, is part of the way we’re engag­ing with the world?

How to decide?

Final­ly, in Clarkson’s days Friends had an elab­o­rate series of courts that would decide about social prac­tices both in the abstract (whether they should be pub­lished as warn­ings) and the par­tic­u­lar (whether a par­tic­u­lar per­son had strayed too far and fall­en in moral dan­ger). Clark­son was writ­ing for a non-Quaker audi­ence and often trans­lat­ed Quak­erese: “courts” was his name for month­ly, quar­ter­ly and year­ly meet­ing struc­tures. I sus­pect that those ses­sions more close­ly resem­bled courts than they do the mod­ern insti­tu­tions that share their name. The court sys­tem led to its own abus­es and start­ed to break down short­ly after Clarkson’s book was pub­lished and doesn’t exist anymore.

We find out­selves today pret­ty much with­out any struc­ture for shar­ing our expe­ri­ences (“Faith and Prac­tice” sort of does this but most copies just gath­er dust on shelves). Month­ly meet­ings don’t feel that over­sight of their mem­bers is their respon­si­bil­i­ty; many of us have seen them look the oth­er way even at fla­grant­ly egre­gious behav­ior and many Friends would be out­raged at the con­cept that their meet­ing might tell them what to do – I can hear the howls of protest now! 

And yet, and yet: I hear many peo­ple long­ing for this kind of col­lec­tive inquiry and instruc­tion. A lot of the emer­gent church talk is about build­ing account­able com­mu­ni­ties. So we have two broad set of ques­tions: what sort of prac­tices hurt and hin­der our spir­i­tu­al lives in these mod­ern times; and how do we share and per­haps cod­i­fy guide­lines for twenty-first cen­tu­ry right­eous living?

Visioning the Future of Young Adult Friends (1997)

This is a vision­ing essay I wrote in March of 1997, for Friends Insti­tute (FI), the Philadelphia-area Young Adult Friends (YAF, rough­ly 18 – 35 year olds) group I was very involved with at the time. I repost it now because many of these same issues con­tin­u­al­ly come up in Quak­er groups. See the bot­tom for the sto­ry on this essay, includ­ing the con­tro­ver­sy it kicked up.

I think the YAF/FI chal­lenges can be rough­ly divid­ed into three cat­e­gories. They are intro­duced in the next para­graph, then elab­o­rat­ed on in turn. They are:

  • *Account­abil­i­ty*. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and group process with­in YAF/FI has nev­er been very good. We can change that, revi­tal­iz­ing the role of Busi­ness Meet­ing as set­ter of the vision and forum for sub­com­mit­tee feed­back and pol­i­cy setting.
  • *Out­reach*. Who Do We Serve? YAF/FI has done no out­reach to newly-convinced Friends and the plan­ning of events has shown an insen­si­tiv­i­ty to the needs of this group.
  • *Activ­i­ties*. We’ve had a lot of con­fer­ences with mediocre pro­grams that have lit­tle spir­i­tu­al or Quak­er focus. We can set year­ly themes as a group in advance, giv­ing Steer­ing Com­mit­tee guid­ance for par­tic­u­lar programs.

ACCOUNTABILITY:

PYM/FI has not been an orga­ni­za­tion with good com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, group process or account­abil­i­ty. Busi­ness meet­ings have been thought of as a nec­es­sary and begrudged task where half the par­tic­i­pants fall asleep.

Busi­ness Meet­ings should have clear, advance agen­da. The YAF clerk should call for agen­da items by email two weeks before the meet­ing (phon­ing promi­nent mem­bers who don’t have access to email), and send out a draft agen­da the week before. Basic agen­da items should include vari­a­tion on the fol­low­ing (my facil­i­ta­tion expe­ri­ence comes from Quaker-inspired but not Quak­er process, so some of these tasks might need to be turned into Quakerese):

  • silent wor­ship;
  • agen­da review;
  • reports from all sub­com­mit­tees (treasurer’s report, steer­ing com­mit­tee report, dis­tri­b­u­tion com­mit­tee report, email/web report);
  • two sub­stan­tive issues;
  • set­ting next date;
  • eval­u­a­tion of meeting;

All reports should be writ­ten (ide­al­ly dis­trib­uted by email before­hand and with a dozen copies at the meet­ing) and should include activ­i­ty, fis­cal activ­i­ty, pol­i­cy ques­tions need­ing busi­ness meet­ing input, approval of future tasks. Every deci­sion should have spe­cif­ic peo­ple as liaisons for follow-up, and part of the next Busi­ness Meet­ing should be review­ing progress on these tasks.

OUTREACH: WHO DO WE SERVE?

I have a very large con­cern that the offi­cial YAF/FI orga­ni­za­tion does not do exten­sive out­reach and that it hasn’t always been sen­si­tive to the needs of all YAFs.

As a con­vinced Friend who first ven­tured forth to a Quak­er Meet­ing at age 20, I spent years look­ing for YAFs and not find­ing them. The only out­reach that YAF/FI does is to grad­u­at­ing Young Friends (the high school pro­gram). Our out­reach to new­ly con­vince Friends has been nonexistent.

Oth­er under­rep­re­sent­ed YAFs: the Cen­tral Phi­la. MM group, thirty-something YAFs, YAFs of col­or, les/bi/gay YAFs (our Pres­i­dent Day’s gath­er­ing con­flicts with the pop­u­lar mid-winter FLGC gath­er­ing, an unfor­tu­nate mes­sage we’re send­ing), YAFs with children.

Some of the out­reach chal­lenges for YAF/FI include:

  • Cliquish­ness. Many plugged-in YAFs know each oth­er from high school days and it can be intim­i­dat­ing to jump into such a group. There’s also a reluc­tance to review assump­tions brought down from the Young Friends (high school) program;
  • The poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion in YAF/FI keeps many dis­en­fran­chised YAFs from hav­ing a forum in which to express their con­cerns and needs. We can reach out to under-represented YAFs and ask them what a age-fellowship could pro­vide them;
  • Single-type events: the week­end gath­er­ings keep away many YAFs with respon­si­bil­i­ty. The tenor of YAF/FI events often keeps away the more mature YAFs. I doubt one type of event could sat­is­fy all types of YAFs. We should be open to sup­port the lead­er­ship of dis­en­fran­chised YAFs by pro­vid­ing them the mon­ey, resources and insti­tu­tion­al sup­port to address their com­mu­ni­ties’ need (keep­ing in mind YAF events should be open to all).

ACTIVITIES

YAF events have had their prob­lems. The­mat­i­cal­ly, they usu­al­ly have not had Quak­er themes, they have not been geared toward spir­i­tu­al growth (usu­al­ly First Day’s Meet­ing for Wor­ship is the only spir­i­tu­al com­po­nent). They have fol­lowed the pat­terns of Young Friends events (3 day gath­er­ings), even though this for­mat excludes many (most?) YAFs.

We could eas­i­ly have more of a mix of events. Some could be the tra­di­tion­al week­end events, some could be day events, like the suc­cess­ful apple-picking expe­di­tion and Swarth­more gath­er­ing a few years ago orga­nized by Friends Center-employed YAFs.

As far as I’ve known, there has nev­er been any Busi­ness Meet­ing brain­storm­ing for themes, and each event has been orga­nized in an ad hoc man­ner by a small group of peo­ple with­out feed­back from the gen­er­al YAF pop­u­la­tion. This is part­ly a result of the need for con­fer­ence orga­niz­ers to have a con­fer­ence planned long in advance.

I pro­pose that we set Year-Long Themes, a process that some groups employ to inter­est­ing effect. In the fall, there could be a Busi­ness Meet­ing to decide the next cal­en­dar year’s theme; Steer­ing Com­mit­tee could then orga­nize all of the pro­gram­mat­ic events around this top­ic. This would give large YAF input into the selec­tion process and also pro­vide an inter­est­ing uni­ty to top­ics. Each top­ic should be broad enough to allow for an inter­est­ing mix of pro­grams and each top­ic should have a spe­cif­ic Quak­er focus. One ped­a­gog­i­cal moti­va­tion behind these events should be to intro­duce and rein­force Friends’ his­to­ry and culture.

Themes that I’d love to see:

  • Spir­i­tu­al and his­tor­i­cal roots of Quak­erism. (Bec­ca Grunko, Mar­garet Hope Bacon, Peg­gy Mor­sheck might be good resource peo­ple). Events could include a look at the fiery birth of Quak­erism and an his­tor­i­cal explo­ration of Friends Insti­tute itself (found­ed in the 1880s, FI played a role in uni­fy­ing the Hicksite/Orthodox schism in PYM and pro­vid­ed key assis­tance to the ear­ly AFSC; Gen­nyfer Dav­en­port is hot on the trail of this history!).
  • Quak­ers in the world. a look at vol­un­teerism, and wit­ness and min­istry. An obvi­ous event would be to par­tic­i­pate in a week- or weekend-long PYM workcamp.
  • Neat Quak­er fig­ures (maybe even neat PYM fig­ures!). Con­fer­ences that look at the his­to­ry of folks like John Wool­man, William Penn, Lucre­tia Mott, per­haps cur­rent fig­ures like the Willoughby’s.
  • Quak­er Lifestyle and the Tes­ti­monies. Egads, we could read Faith and Prac­tice! For those of you who haven’t, it’s real­ly an inter­est­ing book. Not all events should be the­mat­ic, of course. The ear­ly Decem­ber Christ­mas gath­er­ing doesn’t need to be; nei­ther does some of the day long events (i.e., the apple-picking expe­di­tion was a fun theme in itelf!).

This essay writ­ten Third Month 21, 1997 by Mar­tin Kelley


 

The Sto­ry of this essay (writ­ten fall of 2003)

I wrote for Friends Insti­tute, the Philadelphia-area young adult Friends group, back in March of 1997. I was very involved with the group at the time, serv­ing for­mal­ly as trea­sur­er and web­mas­ter and infor­mal­ly as the de-facto out­reach coör­di­na­tor. We had a vision­ing retreat com­ing up in a few months and I wrote this as a strengths / weak­ness­es / oppor­tu­ni­ties piece to get the ideas rolling. I thought we had some work to do around the issues of cliquish­ness, and I also thought we could become more thought­ful and spiritually-focused but I tried to find a sen­si­tive way to talk about this issues.

I got a lot of reac­tions to this essay. Some peo­ple real­ly real­ly loved it, espe­cial­ly those out­side the Philadel­phia insid­ers group: “Thanks for the insight­ful analy­sis! You real­ly did a won­der­ful job of objec­tive­ly explain­ing the frus­tra­tions that some PYM YAF’s (myself includ­ed) have with FI” and “I was so inspired by your essay ‘YAF vision for future’ that we are hop­ing bring it for­ward and cir­cu­late it here in among Aus­tralian YAF.”

But some of the insid­ers felt chal­lenged. One didn’t even like me talk­ing about cliques: “I think that as a group we have all been aware for some time of the prob­lems plagu­ing Friends Insti­tute… I don’t like the word clique because it makes me think of an exclu­sion­ary snob­bish group of peo­ple that looks down on oth­ers.” (of course this was my point).

As if to prove my analy­sis cor­rect, the insid­ers imme­di­ate­ly start­ed talk­ing amongst them­selves. With­in two weeks of email­ing this essay, both of my for­mal posi­tions in the orga­ni­za­tion were being chal­lenged. One insid­er wrote a request to the year­ly meet­ing to set up a com­pet­ing Friends Insti­tute web­site; oth­ers start­ed won­der­ing aloud whether it prop­er for an atten­der to be Friends Insti­tute trea­sur­er. No one ever ques­tioned my ded­i­ca­tion, hon­esty and good work. I was more active­ly involved in Quak­erism and my meet­ing than most of the birthright mem­bers who par­tic­i­pat­ed in FI, and I was the most con­sci­en­tious trea­sur­er and web­mas­ter the group ever had. My essay had obvi­ous­ly hit a nerve and the wag­ons were cir­cling in against the out­sider threat. Real­iz­ing just how ingrained these issues were and to what extent the insid­ers would go to pro­tect their pow­er, I even­tu­al­ly left Friends Insti­tute to focus again on my month­ly meeting’s thriv­ing twenty- and thirty-something scene.

The essay con­tin­ued to have a life of its own. The May 1997 vision­ing retreat focused on noth­ing at all and sub­se­quent busi­ness meet­ings dropped to a hand­ful of peo­ple. But the issues of the high-school focus, cliquish­ness, and unfriend­li­ness to new­com­ers came to the fore­front again a few months lat­er, after some sex­u­al assaults took place in the young adult com­mu­ni­ty. A con­fer­ence on “sex­u­al bound­aries” pro­duced an epis­tle that hit some of the same top­ics as my vision­ing essay:

We iden­ti­fied a num­ber of habits and issues in our young adult com­mu­ni­ty that tend to bring up dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions. For exam­ple, some of our sex­u­al bound­aries car­ry over from our expe­ri­ence as high-school aged Young Friends… New­com­ers become “fresh meat” for peo­ple who come to gath­er­ings look­ing to find quick con­nec­tions… Peo­ple get lost espe­cial­ly when we have larg­er gath­er­ings, and we don’t watch out for each other.

Friends Insti­tute drift­ed for a few years. By the sum­mer of 2000, a con­vince Friend became clerk and tried to revive the group. She found my essay and emailed me: “I’ve been look­ing over the FI archives and am impressed by your con­tri­bu­tion. Do you have any advice, sug­ges­tions, or time to become active again in FI?” Sad to say this attempt to revive Friends Insti­tute also had a lot of problems.

I repost this essay here in 2003 part­ly to have a ongo­ing record of my Quak­er writ­ings here on my web­site. But I sus­pect these same issues con­tin­ue in var­i­ous young adult friends groups. Per­haps some­one else can see this essay and be inspired, but a warn­ing that I’ve seen these dynam­ics in many dif­fer­ent young adult friends groups and seri­ous­ly won­der whether reform or revival is impossible.
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