Youth Ministry, Yearly Meeting Style

One has to applaud the sheer hon­esty of the group of lead­ing Quak­ers who have recent­ly pro­posed turn­ing the grounds of Philadelphia’s his­toric Arch Street Meet­ing­house into a retire­ment home. It makes per­fect sense. Arch Street is the host for our annu­al ses­sions, where the aver­age age is sure­ly over 70. Why not insti­tu­tion­al­ize the year­ly meet­ing reality?

The Arch Street Meet­ing­house grounds are also a ceme­tery. In about ten years time we can raze the meet­ing­house for more head­stones and in about twen­ty years time we can have a big par­ty where we cash out the year­ly meet­ing funds and just burn them in a big bon­fire (there’s a fire sta­tion across the street), for­mal­ly lay­ing down Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing. The fif­teen of us who are left can go attach our­selves to some oth­er year­ly meeting.

This year’s annu­al ses­sions con­tin­ue their tra­di­tion of self-parody: the fea­tured speak­ers are the umpteenth gray-hair pro­fes­sion­al Quak­er talk­ing about the peace tes­ti­mo­ny and a psy­chol­o­gist who appears on NPR. It’s safe to assume nei­ther will stray beyond the mildest com­mu­ni­ties of faith talk to men­tion God, gospel order or nam­ing of gifts, and that nei­ther will ask why there’s almost no one under forty involved in the year­ly meet­ing. The last time I went to a nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee work­shop at annu­al ses­sions, mem­bers open­ly explained to me why Friends under forty couldn’t serve on com­mit­tees. Lat­er dur­ing that ses­sion we learned the aver­age new atten­der was in their thir­ties yet the year­ly meet­ing clerk didn’t think it was appro­pri­ate than any Friend under fifty com­ment on that (about 40 old­er Friends were rec­og­nized to share their thoughts, natch).

The gen­er­a­tional freefall is com­ing to the year­ly meet­ing. Arch Street Meet­ing is smack in the mid­dle of one of the pre­mier hip young neigh­bor­hoods of Philadel­phia yet they’ve been resis­tant to doing any seri­ous out­reach or adult reli­gious ed (I could tell sto­ries: don’t get me start­ed). This week­end I learned that the oth­er down­town meet­ing, Cen­tral Philadel­phia, con­tin­ues its prac­tice – almost pol­i­cy – of not sup­port­ing emerg­ing min­istry in long-time young atten­ders (I could real­ly tell sto­ries). I wouldn’t be sur­prised if Philadel­phia has the low­est per-capita year­ly meet­ing attendance.

So why not just admit that the year­ly meet­ing is irrel­e­vant to younger Friends? Why not turn our meet­ing­hous­es into retire­ment homes?

PS: How I wish I weren’t so cyn­i­cal about the year­ly meet­ing. I don’t want to feel like it’s a state of all-out gen­er­a­tional war­fare. I’ve tried, real­ly I have. I’m even will­ing to try again. But no where have I found a space to have these dis­cus­sions, at year­ly meet­ing or any­where else. Oth­er Phi­la. YM Friends con­cerned with these issues are wel­come to email me – maybe we can fig­ure out some forum for this either inside or out­side of the offi­cial structures. 
PPS: There are a lot of won­der­ful Friends involved with the year­ly meet­ing. They have good ideas and sin­cere­ly try to make it a more wel­com­ing place. The best part of the year­ly meet­ing ses­sions I’ve attend­ed have been the unex­pect­ed con­ver­sa­tions. It’s the insti­tu­tion I am frus­trat­ed with: the sense that it’s big­ger and dumb­er than all of us.
PPPS: What if I took my own words to heart and con­sid­ered a PhYM renew­al as part of the fifty-year plan? If I just stopped com­plain­ing and just attend­ed patient­ly and faith­ful­ly year after year for those “teach­able moments” that might inch it forward?

  • The last time I went to a nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee work­shop at annu­al ses­sions, mem­bers open­ly explained to me why Friends under forty couldn’t serve on com­mit­tees. Lat­er dur­ing that ses­sion we learned the aver­age new atten­der was in their thir­ties yet the year­ly meet­ing clerk didn’t think it was appro­pri­ate than any Friend under fifty com­ment on that (about 40 old­er Friends were rec­og­nized to share their thoughts, natch).
    I find this shock­ing. Tru­ly! Despite my whin­ing about my local Meet­ing, they at least have made some sol­id attempts at includ­ing younger adults (and suc­cess­ful­ly, too — our present clerk is under 40 — some­body stop us!).
    The aver­age age of a mem­ber of PhYM is 70??? Noth­ing against any­one being 70 (at one time both of my par­ents were that age and I hope to reach that age one day, rel­a­tive­ly in good health I hope, myself! :)), but that is a pret­ty old age for an average.
    Is this atti­tude preva­lent across most Friends over 40 in PhYM? I mean, lots of folks, who are now in their 50 to ear­ly 60’s, worked very hard to have their voic­es and per­spec­tives heard and known when they were younger. Do you find that these folks have some under­stand­ing of younger adult Friends’ concerns?
    Great to see so many posts. Much more engag­ing than my lat­est post of a pic­ture of Pres­i­dent Bush get­ting hit up the side of the head by Jesus. Seriously!

  • Robin Mohr

    Oh dear God, hold Mar­tin and Friends very close­ly. Help them to see your way open­ing. Help us all to find a way to walk togeth­er in your path. Amen.
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    (I’m not sure how to indi­cate hold­ing a peri­od of silent wor­ship online.)
    Per­haps we on the oth­er side of the con­ti­nent can sim­ply pray for you. Or you could move to San Francisco???
    Peace,
    Robin

  • I wish you weren’t so cyn­i­cal, too. I’m sor­ry each time I read of your dif­fi­cul­ties, Mar­tin. I share your con­cerns about the nar­row age range of most of those in Quak­er lead­er­ship and won­der about the rea­sons. I agree that often there is explic­it ageism as well as implic­it indif­fer­ence or lack of imag­i­na­tion. On the oth­er hand, I’m also often mys­ti­fied as to why our expe­ri­ences have been so different.
    I came to Friends when I was 26 (in 1986). I was sin­gle and not par­tic­u­lar­ly con­sumed with mak­ing any par­tic­u­lar kind of life or career; I was ulti­mate­ly avail­able. I joined meet­ing (Cen­tral Philadel­phia) with­in months of first attend­ing, I was so cer­tain I belonged. I took advan­tage of every oppor­tu­ni­ty for involve­ment and ser­vice. I worked for Friends for the bet­ter part of the next 15 years.
    And I found many oppor­tu­ni­ties. I was often giv­en oppor­tu­ni­ties specif­i­cal­ly because of my age. Some­times I had to press for what I believed was right for me. (I refused appoint­ment to Peace and Social Con­cerns Com­mit­tee; I think I was approached because I was an out gay man. I told them I had come to Friends not out of social con­cerns but out of spir­i­tu­al ones. I wasn’t imme­di­ate­ly appoint­ed to Over­seers, as it was then called, but I was the next year. I also served on Wor­ship and Min­istry, which I clerked while in my ear­ly 30s.)
    Chance put some oppor­tu­ni­ties in my way. I trans­fered my mem­ber­ship for a time to the meet­ing in Cam­den, New Jer­sey, which had a tiny res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion. I spoke up about some­thing at busi­ness meet­ing and wound up appoint­ed to Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Meet­ing (now Inter­im Meet­ing), which was unlike­ly to have hap­pened at CPMM. I left work ear­ly once a month in order to go. By the time I left Inter­im Meet­ing some ten years lat­er, it began its meet­ings after din­ner, although still on a week­night. The range of age and eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion of the mem­bers had rad­i­cal­ly changed. I was clerk of Inter­im Meet­ing at 38, hav­ing already served as record­ing clerk, as well as hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly served as one of the record­ing clerks of year­ly meeting.
    At Cen­tral Philadel­phia my min­istry was sound­ly sup­port­ed. I was young, and I was rel­a­tive­ly new to the meet­ing. But I was a mem­ber, not an atten­der. My expe­ri­ence of CPMM was that mem­ber­ship was con­sid­ered to make a deci­sive dif­fer­ence. (CPMM is one of the few meet­ings I know that has gone through an in-depth process to fig­ure out just what mem­ber­ship does mean.)
    I don’t want to go on about what I’ve done. I don’t think of myself as an unusu­al per­son. But it wasn’t much of a strug­gle for me to be use­ful­ly involved with Friends even at a lead­er­ship lev­el, although I did have to give up some things and make some sac­ri­fices. I had the lib­er­ty of job flex­i­bil­i­ty and no children.
    I began think­ing and teach­ing about elder­ing in my ear­ly 30s and con­stant­ly had to tell peo­ple elder­ing wasn’t about age (how many fool­ish old peo­ple do you know?). But on the oth­er hand, I do have to admit that my min­istry sit­u­ates me among a rel­a­tive­ly small group of Friends. Per­haps I shouldn’t try to draw any con­clu­sions from my expe­ri­ence. I wish I could fig­ure out if there’s any­thing about my expe­ri­ence that could help oth­ers feel more at home or more effec­tive. I’m ever mind­ful of the fact that I am NOT young, even if I am among the youngest in a group.
    All through this life, there have been some things that may be clues: I enjoy get­ting to know and work­ing with peo­ple of all ages; I’m will­ing to sub­mit to com­mu­ni­ty dis­cern­ment and needs; I’m accus­tomed to work­ing with­in the sta­tus quo even while chang­ing it; I’m pas­sion­ate­ly com­mit­ted to learn­ing from and build­ing upon the past; I’m a good politi­cian; I con­scious­ly try to be patient; I’m gen­er­al­ly cheerful.
    If year­ly meet­ing is in ses­sion, then the star mag­no­lias in the court­yard must be in bloom and per­haps there are even bulbs bloom­ing in the lawns. Here in Boston it’s notable just to see snow­drops in bloom.

  • *Hi Joe:* No, the year­ly meet­ing isn’t all so ancient. It’s just that so many of the peo­ple fill­ing com­mit­tees (and being called on by past year­ly meet­ing clerks) are old­er, both at the year­ly and quar­ter­ly meet­ing levels.
    To be fair, I unde­stand that a thirty-something Friend is being named to an impor­tant post this year but the scut­tle­butt is that he was asked in some degree of despa­ra­tion only after a first round of nom­i­nees all reject­ed the offer. It’s good that a younger per­son will be in there – very good. And as the cur­rent lead­er­ship of the year­ly meet­ing burns out or ages out we’ll see more of this. But this kind of jerky, desparate gen­er­a­tional trans­fer isn’t healthy. I think we’re still deal­ing with fall­out from when some­thing sim­i­lar hap­pened in the ear­ly 1970s, when lots of major Quak­er posi­tions were sud­den­ly filled with inex­pe­ri­enced very young Friends.
    ***
    *Hi Ken­neth:* I’ve always won­dered at the dif­fer­ences between us. I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I’ve watched you over the years and seen you a bit as a role-model. I was very hap­py to see you every week at Cen­tral Philadelphia.
    But yet you’ve found an accep­tance I haven’t. Or maybe not. I do need to get off my horse about being an out­sider. I’ve worked for two Quak­er orga­ni­za­tions, I’ve co-clerked a meet­ing, I have served on Inter­im Meet­ing. What­ev­er gifts I have are being rec­og­nized more. In the past year I actu­al­ly was approached by very wel­com­ing Friends on PhYM’s nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee to serve the year­ly meet­ing (child­care con­flicts got in the way). So part of it is just our dif­fer­ent out­looks: you’re more glass half-full, I’m more glass half-empty.
    I nev­er felt the sense of belong­ing to Cen­tral Philadel­phia that you described hav­ing so imme­di­ate­ly. How did that ini­tial sense of belong­ing hap­pen? I’ve always won­dered what would have hap­pened if some­one had noticed me, befriend­ed me and men­tored me into the Meet­ing. What if some­one had real­ized I was reg­u­lar­ly attend­ing wor­ship and had offered to go to busi­ness meet­ing with me? Or tak­en an inter­est in my atten­dance and start­ed ask­ing me ques­tions or invit­ing me to lunch once in awhile that would have made a big dif­fer­ence? Did you have some­one like that? How did it hap­pen? How did you feel so com­fort­able and ready to join with­in a few months?
    I con­sid­ered apply­ing for mem­ber­ship for years. I tried test­ing this lead­ing by get­ting involved in var­i­ous Quak­er cir­cles but had bad expe­ri­ences. There too is anoth­er ‘what if.’
    Yes, you are more patient and cheer­ful and trust­ing of Quak­er insti­tu­tions than I am. That helps. I’m more of a pain in the butt. I’m not par­tic­u­lar­ly diplo­mat­ic. I think I have a tal­ent for mak­ing peo­ple uncom­fort­able – which can be a good thing and can help peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties grow but which goes against mod­ern Quak­er cul­ture (this could/should be a whole post in itself). It would be nice to sit down to lunch with you some time, but I think I’m more dis­sat­is­fied with where Quak­ers are (I was upset that Inter­im Meeting’s aver­age age is so high even when I myself served on it; I’m upset it took till age 37 before nom­i­na­tions talked to me). Maybe in the end, the dif­fer­ences are mat­ters of per­son­al­i­ty and if so, that’s fine as I think Friends need both of our per­son­al­i­ties (Bow­nas talks about this, doesn’t he, when he says we shouldn’t try to mim­ic each other’s min­is­ter­ing style?).
    I do wish I felt less cyn­i­cal. I’m work­ing on it, hon­est­ly I am. If I can arrange Theo-care maybe I’ll even try to attend some of Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing. I want to be sur­prised. Some­times I am sur­prised. I’m not the out­sider I often feel. I’m very con­scious that I’m cur­rent­ly in a two-year out-in-the-desert time, that this time away from a month­ly meet­ing has been nec­es­sary for my devel­op­ment as a min­is­ter (strange as that seems) and that it’s about time to come back in.

  • Robin Mohr

    I am very inter­est­ed in your expe­ri­ence of par­ent­ing and Quak­er­ing at the same time. I didn’t start going to Year­ly Meet­ing until I had a two year old. (Not the best time to start any­thing, real­ly.) But one of the most frus­trat­ing things for me has been feel­ing cut off from the “real­ly cool” and rad­i­cal­ly faith­ful 20 and 30-something Friends because I have to put my kids to bed at a rea­son­able hour. I just can’t go to wor­ship shar­ing at 10:00 at night. I have had some love­ly con­ver­sa­tions with old­er Friends, whose kids are grown and gone now, just because they took pity on me sit­ting with my kids at a Quar­ter­ly meet­ing meal. My hus­band and I have tak­en to tak­ing turns with the kids at meals at Quak­er gath­er­ings so that at least one meal a day, we each get to talk to the grownups. It seems odd to me that at 30 I was one of the youngest moth­ers, but among Pacif­ic YM Friends, that seems to be the case. Have you found that your Quak­er rela­tion­ships have changed since you became a father?
    I always have to bal­ance my per­son­al inter­ests in Quak­er gov­er­nance and my prac­ti­cal con­cerns for the children’s pro­gram. Chris and I each turned down a nom­i­na­tion to a very inter­est­ing com­mit­tee because it meets for a whole week­end every quar­ter and we’d have to be away from home more than we’re will­ing at this point. (The frus­trat­ing expe­ri­ence of being tak­en as inter­change­able rather than as indi­vid­u­als with sep­a­rate gifts is anoth­er story.)
    I think I’ve grown spir­i­tu­al­ly as a par­ent, and I wouldn’t trade my kids for all the tea in Chi­na, but I still find myself resent­ing the bless­ings in my life. Which is a chal­leng­ing place to come to. I haven’t found much in the way of Quak­er jour­nals about how to bal­ance my voca­tion as a par­ent and as a min­is­ter. Have you?

  • Hi Robin: I’m not sure I’m an expert on the jug­gling baby act. Julie & I are still try­ing to fig­ure out how to nego­ti­ate two church­es, one baby and one car in a land with very lim­it­ed pub­lic trans­porta­tion and it’s all made the hard­er that we want more inten­tion­al reli­gious communities.
    I wish the old Quak­er jour­nals talked about the jug­gle a bit more. I sus­pect one par­ent stayed home a lot. And trav­el­ing min­istry wasn’t con­stant. Maybe it picked up again when the kids got to a cer­tain age. Maybe someone’s researched this but I nev­er see this sort of dis­cus­sion in the journals.

  • Mar­tin, thanks so much for your reply. This para­graph espe­cial­ly touched me:
    I nev­er felt the sense of belong­ing to Cen­tral Philadel­phia that you described hav­ing so imme­di­ate­ly. How did that ini­tial sense of belong­ing hap­pen? I’ve always won­dered what would have hap­pened if some­one had noticed me, befriend­ed me and men­tored me into the Meet­ing. What if some­one had real­ized I was reg­u­lar­ly attend­ing wor­ship and had offered to go to busi­ness meet­ing with me? Or tak­en an inter­est in my atten­dance and start­ed ask­ing me ques­tions or invit­ing me to lunch once in awhile that would have made a big dif­fer­ence? Did you have some­one like that? How did it hap­pen? How did you feel so com­fort­able and ready to join with­in a few months?
    Some­one did notice me and take me under her wing. Although I was encour­aged to come to meet­ing by Steve Stalonas, with whom I was work­ing, and was glad to see Becky Birtha, whom I knew from folk danc­ing, it was Phyl­lis Sanders who did the most to make me feel wel­come and draw me in.
    At that time, CPMM reg­u­lar­ly had “Meet­ing Week­end” in the win­ter, and Phyl­lis had agreed to orga­nize it that year. She was a great believ­er in get­ting peo­ple involved and in nur­tur­ing young Friends. She roped me into help­ing with the orga­niz­ing for the week­end. The orga­niz­ing part wasn’t new to me, but it cement­ed a friend­ship with Phyl­lis and brought me right into the life of the meet­ing. Phyllis’s unself­con­scious zest for life and her extro­ver­sion were a great gift to the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends. As you say, cit­ing Bow­nas (who, of course, was draw­ing on sound Pauline ground), we shouldn’t try to copy one another’s min­istry – and Phyl­lis was a nat­ur­al at things that would be such a bur­den to me.
    I also had read a lot about Friends before I ever came, and increased that behav­ior ten­fold as I start­ed attend­ing. Mem­ber­ship, for me, had a lot to do with a com­mit­ment to an abstract ide­al of Quak­erism, rather than the par­tic­u­lar peo­ple or meet­ing. Most­ly that’s served me well, but my cur­rent meet­ing (Bea­con Hill) is a meet­ing where mem­ber­ship is very much an inter­per­son­al and rela­tion­al act. The dif­fer­ence in per­spec­tive has actu­al­ly caused some dif­fi­cul­ties for me.
    I’m touched that you’ve looked at me as sort of a role mod­el. A para­graph that I wrote and then delet­ed from my ear­li­er com­ment had to do with the almost split per­son­al­i­ty I feel – I’m just an aver­age, nor­mal per­son, yet clear­ly I’m not! The part about my elder­ing activ­i­ties putting me in a small group; even being clerk of Inter­im Meet­ing at such a young age kind of sin­gles me out (I was very aware of it at the time and tried, some­what in vain, to avoid pride). I think the first expe­ri­ence of it was at the Gath­er­ing one year when Ellen Hodge was look­ing for Bibles to use with a Jr. Gath­er­ing group. I think I was the only per­son in the FLGC dorm who had a Bible with me. FLGC at that time had far more Chris­tians than the gen­er­al FGC pop­u­la­tion, and I didn’t con­sid­er myself a Chris­t­ian. But I was tak­ing the Chris­t­ian her­itage of Friends seri­ous­ly, and so there I was lend­ing my Bible to Ellen.
    The next time I’m com­ing to Philadel­phia I’ll be sure to let you know, and per­haps we can have lunch.
    Bless­ings and love,
    Kenneth

  • My first impulse is to respond to Robin’s com­ment, about par­ent­ing and being part of a faith com­mu­ni­ty. Giv­en that the wor­ship group in which I par­tic­i­pate has a reg­u­lar atten­dance of 8 adults and 3 chil­dren under the age of 4 – with a baby due in June – and all but one of us live with­in a mile or two of one anoth­er, for a while we’ve been able to spread out child­care among par­ents and non-parents alike.
    One fam­i­ly with 2 of the young kids has got­ten into a vicious cycle of pass­ing on the flu or some oth­er bug around the house­hold for weeks at a time. Seri­ous­ly. A few of us healthy folks have pitched in with going gro­cery shop­ping, pick­ing up chil­dren from day­care, being with the kids as oth­er house­hold things get attend­ed to, etc. It’s not dai­ly by any means, but I feel as though we are touch­ing the edge of what could be pos­si­ble, in a large com­mu­ni­ty set­ting where its mem­bers share the val­ue that car­ing for chil­dren – and elders – rests on all of our shoul­ders, not just on those of par­ents. But it is some­thing that is hard to achieve, when so many of us have been raised in today’s indi­vid­u­al­is­tic society…
    And I now have to remind myself that I am one of those non-parents who used to look the oth­er way when a par­ent was in need of hav­ing a respite away from their lit­tle ones. But I’ve gained new Light by being faith­ful in offer­ing child­care as Way opens, and I nev­er would’ve known what I was miss­ing if our lit­tle group hadn’t got­ten underway.
    Mar­tin, on the oth­er hand, your sit­u­a­tion is so huge and it seems to extend for years in the past and per­haps for years into the future. It sounds over­whelm­ing and sear­ing­ly painful.
    It also sounds like you are find­ing some pos­si­ble answers for yourself:
    P.P.S. What if I took my own words to heart and con­sid­ered a PhYM renew­al as part of the fifty-year plan? If I just stopped com­plain­ing and just attend­ed patient­ly and faith­ful­ly year after year for those “teach­able moments” that might inch it forward?
    Com­plain­ing and shar­ing con­cerns out­ward­ly some­times helps us clear the emo­tion­al space for us to hear God more clear­ly. Many are the times when the Light of Truth is in fact reached by inch­ing for­ward in the Dark­ness of Despair. And some­times it is our faith­ful­ness to the Spir­it that teach­es us patience; and oth­er times it is our patience that helps us to be more faithful.
    …Then there are those oth­er oth­er times, of course, when we’re sim­ply too darn human, and we speak out of turn or act impul­sive­ly just to get out of our own pain or dis­com­fort. All that being said, it does sound like God is con­tin­u­ing to speak to you, even in the midst of the emo­tion­al whirl­wind and painful mem­o­ry of annu­al ses­sions com­ing up…
    I’d like to think that God is speak­ing to me, too, even if I can’t make out the words: like you, it’s hard for me not to take it per­son­al­ly or to keep my trust in anoth­er group’s dis­cern­ment when I feel passed by rather than invit­ed to serve on com­mit­tees where I feel I have gifts. *sigh*
    I hope you’ll keep us post­ed in your jour­ney among PhlYM, your jour­ney of inches.
    Blessings,
    Liz

  • Hi Ken­neth: your sto­ry reminds me of Julie’s sto­ry. I’m sure I’m going to get the details wrong and she can cor­rect me. But it goes some­thing like this: she was a junior in a Catholic high school where every­one had to do a report on a local church. Her mom thought of the Friends Meet­ing down the road so one First Day she walked in. She was lucky to imme­di­ate­ly bump into Suzanne Day, who instant­ly start­ed hand­ing her books and pam­phlets and invit­ing her to year­ly meet­ing ses­sions that were about to hap­pen, etc., etc. Julie left that day with a Friend and a stack of books. It made a big dif­fer­ence. I guess that’s part of the rea­son I’m kind of reluc­tant about the whole mem­ber­ship issue: yes, nice posi­tion papers are fine, but that gift of just being friend­ly to a total stranger is often a much more impor­tant first step.
    Hi Liz: I’m actu­al­ly in an okay spot. I’m at the point where I prob­a­bly could be a year­ly meet­ing insid­er if I want­ed. I have been asked by nom­i­na­tions to serve. It’s just that it seems like a lot of the com­mit­tees are a locked into pat­terns and are lim­it­ed by their own expec­ta­tions. Sor­ry to be so psy­cho­log­i­cal about it. I just don’t see the year­ly meet­ing or any of its com­mit­tees ask­ing the most impor­tant ques­tions that we need to be wrestling with. My out­sider­ness now is more the­o­log­i­cal (I real­ly need God to be the cen­ter) and insti­tu­tion­al (I need us reach­ing out to the world).

  • Robin Mohr

    Dear Mar­tin,
    Just in case you don’t have enough to read already, I’d like to rec­om­mend “The Ref­or­ma­tion of Amer­i­can Quak­erism, 1748 – 1783” by Jack D. Mari­et­ta. It is about how Friends in Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing moved from a rather world­ly posi­tion in soci­ety and gov­ern­ment to a much stricter inter­pre­ta­tion of Quak­er sim­plic­i­ty and integri­ty “to become a more dis­tinc­tive and puri­fied reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty.” As they moved to be more guard­ed from the world, they cleared the way for the clas­sic Quak­er tes­ti­monies on abo­li­tion, strict paci­fism and tem­per­ance to become stan­dard pol­i­cy. The PhYM ses­sions of 1777 were appar­ent­ly amaz­ing. At the same time, they dec­i­mat­ed the mem­ber­ship rolls by dis­own­ing peo­ple for all kinds of things, and laid the seeds of the schisms and ossi­fied rule-minding of the 19th century.
    Around the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry, Friends had a whole new wave of renew­al — re-linking their Quak­er faith to actu­al engage­ment in the world. See Rufus Jones and JW Rown­tree in the Man­ches­ter Con­fer­ence in 1895 and the Haver­ford Sum­mer School of 1900. By the time Howard Brin­ton wrote Friends for 300 Years in 1952, he was already think­ing that maybe they’d gone too far. Lit­tle did he know that it would be dark­er before the dawn.
    So I think your idea of the 50 year plan is about right. I think we’re already 10 years into this wave of renew­al and we’re gath­er­ing steam. (San­dra Cronk’s pam­phlet on Gospel Order was writ­ten in 1991. Maybe oth­ers can point to oth­er ear­ly signs.) Maybe we can learn from our his­to­ry a lit­tle bit about how to bet­ter man­age the human­ly imper­fect imple­men­ta­tion of God’s Way.
    One of the oth­er things I am learn­ing from my read­ing is that the refor­ma­tions were led by the 30 – 40 year olds. There were a few old­er allies, the work was car­ried for­ward by younger folks, there were some hold­outs. It’s folks who are old enough to know the ropes and young enough to not be com­plete­ly tied up in them. Also, in ear­li­er days, folks our age would have near­ly grown chil­dren by now instead of diaper-changing in the mid­dle of the night. But please don’t give up now.

  • Julie DeMarchi Heiland

    Hi Ken­neth and Robin and Liz,
    Robin, thanks for the read­ing rec­om­men­da­tions, but I think that Martin’s already read much of that. I read Jack Mari­et­ta already and shared large por­tions of that with Mar­tin. It’s good stuff and too bad it’s out of print.
    Ken­neth, I want­ed to just men­tion, even though Mar­tin already touched on it, that I came to Quak­erism when I was much younger than you (about 15) in 1991. So it was a full 15 years lat­er but I was also about 11 years younger. Part of my expe­ri­ence was people’s chang­ing atti­tudes toward me as I changed from a cute and unin­tim­i­dat­ing kid to an adult. I found that I was far less appre­ci­at­ed as an adult and that, in fact, I was not real­ly viewed as an adult any­way. It was my expe­ri­ence that up until a cer­tain age you’re not real­ly viewed as a full-fledged adult in [Lib­er­al] Quak­erism, birthright or not. Not only that, but I was def­i­nite­ly treat­ed dif­fer­ent­ly in any num­ber of cir­cum­stances because I was female. Of that I have NO doubt. Not only is ageism ram­pant in the RSOF but also sex­ism. Lots of real­ly con­de­scend­ing atti­tudes and I had lots of very unset­tling expe­ri­ences. This shocked me and shook me up FAR more than my expe­ri­ences of ageism did. I was so naïve – I must’ve thought that because many Quak­ers his­tor­i­cal­ly and cur­rent­ly were on the fore­front (at least the­o­ret­i­cal­ly) of fem­i­nist issues that on a per­son­al and insti­tu­tion­al lev­el I wouldn’t expe­ri­ence sex­ism in Quak­erism. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
    On the ageism front, my first reac­tion to the expe­ri­ences you describe (and I’d like to go back and re-read yours and Robins’ and Liz’s posts lat­er too when I have a lit­tle more time) is that the oppor­tu­ni­ties you had wouldn’t hap­pen now. Not even to a Ken­neth Sut­ton, I don’t think. I did many of the very same things you did (with the excep­tion of join­ing up for­mal­ly so quick­ly), includ­ing apply­ing for var­i­ous Quak­er jobs and intern­ships for which I was either per­fect­ly suit­ed or OVER qual­i­fied. I was nev­er even con­sid­ered, nev­er even got a return phone call or the hope of an inter­view. After a num­ber of these expe­ri­ences I was final­ly crushed, but began to see more objec­tive­ly and less per­son­al­ly what was real­ly going on from a cultural/institutional per­spec­tive. Com­par­ing notes with Mar­tin over the past few years has kept me sane too and affirmed and con­firmed my expe­ri­ences and thoughts.
    I guess that’s all I was think­ing for now. Must go up and tuck in Theo as they are wait­ing for me.
    Julie

  • Julie DeMarchi Heiland

    Oh one oth­er thing I for­got to men­tion. In my view, Martin’s def­i­nite­ly a lot more opti­mistic and for­giv­ing than most peo­ple, and cer­tain­ly much more than I am in both cat­e­gories. Per­haps it’s just dis­po­si­tion, I’m not sure. I don’t see him as very cyn­i­cal at all, and I think it’s tak­en like 15+ years in Quak­erism for him to come to a lot of these con­clu­sions, “cyn­i­cal” or not. I think he’s real­is­tic, really.
    Julie

  • Melyn­da Huskey

    Dear Mar­tin (and all Friends),
    For some weeks you, and all the Friends in this grow­ing cir­cle I’m on the out­skirts of, have been on my heart as you ask your­selves (as I’ve asked myself) if leav­ing Quak­erism is the answer. And I’ve been sur­prised at how defen­sive every­one else’s pon­der­ings have made me, even if they were voic­ing thoughts I’ve had.
    And they are thoughts I’ve had! Just three weeks ago (before we were strick­en with influen­za), I had tears in my eyes over a piece in _Friends Bulletin,_ the PYM, NPYM, and IM Year­ly Meet­ings’ mag­a­zine: appar­ent­ly Inter­moun­tain YM has been “strug­gling for over ten years to pro­duce a Faith and Prac­tice agree­able to its var­ied con­stituent mem­ber­ship.” As a joke (?), they sub­mit­ted a piece which began:
    “Chap­ter 1: Introduction
    “George Fox heard from God and passed the mes­sage along. Appar­ent­ly this is possible.
    “Chap­ter 2: Friends’ Faith
    “Some Friends believe dif­fer­ent things, but that’s OK.”
    This “joke” struck me like a blow. If this is what we’re com­ing to, per­haps there *is* anoth­er place for me.
    On the oth­er hand, what has *my* wit­ness been? Have I been so trans­formed by the love of God, so root­ed and ground­ed in the unknow­able love of Christ, that I tes­ti­fy in my dai­ly life that God speaks to me – not appar­ent­ly but tru­ly? Am I faith­ful in Meet­ing and out of it? Am I will­ing to return patient­ly and faith­ful­ly to the point over and over again?
    Alas, no. I’m more con­vict­ed about myself than I am about any­one else, and that’s more painful to con­tem­plate than the vagaries of IMYM.
    Of course, I can leave the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends – and it may not be left much poor­er for my absence! – but I can’t leave my own lack behind. What gave the Soci­ety its pow­er was the trans­formed and sanc­ti­fied lives of its mem­bers. If we are tru­ly liv­ing in God, trans­formed by grace, sanc­ti­fied by love, sure­ly *we* will ren­o­vate our denom­i­na­tion. And if we aren’t, it won’t help to go some­where else.
    “The fruits of the Spir­it are love, joy, peace, patience, kind­ness, good­ness, fideli­ty, gen­tle­ness, self-control; against such there is no law.…And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due sea­son we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”
    That sounds like war­rant for a 50 year plan to me.
    Love to all,
    Melynda

  • Julie DeMarchi Heiland

    Dear Melyn­da,
    Your descrip­tion of the “joke” con­tained in the Friends’ Faith sec­tion of the F&P is exact­ly the point I came to before I real­ized I had to leave. I sus­pect that, like me, you are much hard­er on your­self about being faith­ful than any­one else is. Ulti­mate­ly the only one we need to care about is God and what He thinks, and being faith­ful to Him. And God is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly our hard­est and gen­tlest crit­ic! My expe­ri­ence on the oth­er side of hav­ing left, both imme­di­ate­ly and after a few years, is that it made very lit­tle dif­fer­ence to any­one inside Quak­erism but all the dif­fer­ence to me. Mar­tin can attest to the com­ments we’ve both received that said some­thing to the effect of, “Well we all have our own paths.” Blah blah blah. No one seems to give a hoot whether I stayed or left. If there’s any­one who did, I’ve yet to hear about it. Hmmm.
    Dear Kenneth,
    I remem­bered that there is anoth­er thing about the dif­fer­ences in your expe­ri­ences in Quak­erism and mine. I’m sure I don’t know the details of your back­ground, but I know that mine, as an Ital­ian Catholic daugh­ter of work­ing class par­ents, are/were so dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al­ly from that of the exist­ing Quak­er cul­ture that I felt very out of place much of the time, espe­cial­ly toward the end. You had a con­nec­tion with at least one per­son at CPMM through your folk danc­ing. I NEVER did any­thing even remote­ly like folk danc­ing. Cul­tur­al­ly I was dif­fer­ent from most of the upper or upper mid­dle class, high­ly edu­cat­ed, uni­ver­sal­ist lib­er­als who sur­round­ed me. The thing that often occurs to me with regard to this is that, in var­i­ous sit­u­a­tions, there would be an Ele­phant in the mid­dle of the room. But as good polite Friends we were sup­posed to talk around the ele­phant, pre­tend­ing it didn’t exist or pre­tend­ing it wasn’t an ele­phant, but instead a kit­ten or some­thing. So, me being me, I say, “Hasn’t any­one else noticed?! There’s an ELEPHANT in the mid­dle of the room! Geese, what the heck are we going to DO with that thing!?” Usu­al­ly the rel­a­tive­ly blunt expres­sion of the obvi­ous wasn’t wel­come. Every­thing was sup­posed to have been so care­ful­ly and inten­tion­al­ly framed, well thought out, and gen­tly and del­i­cate­ly stat­ed, with the utmost con­cern for any­one whose feel­ings MIGHT get hurt because, gosh darn it, they might LOVE that ele­phant, no mat­ter how inap­pro­pri­ate its exis­tence in the mid­dle of the room. In a word, I was raised to call a spade a spade, and this talk­ing around the obvi­ous con­tin­u­al­ly and increas­ing­ly mys­ti­fied me…
    God bless,
    Julie

  • Paul L

    Thanks for the fas­ci­nat­ing discussion.
    It strikes me that your expe­ri­ence, Mar­tin, in Philadel­phia is quite dif­fer­ent from mine in Illi­nois & North­ern YMs (28 years now, col­lec­tive­ly) where I nev­er expe­ri­enced youth as a neg­a­tive fac­tor in com­mit­tee ser­vice except to the extent that skill, expe­ri­ence, amount of free time (espe­cial­ly for stu­dents & young par­ents), and oth­er chara­ter­is­tics are nat­u­ral­ly cor­re­lat­ed to age.
    My expe­ri­ence is more sim­i­lar to Kenneth’s where my youth­ful enthu­si­asm (and tal­ents, such as they are) was wel­comed, despite the lim­i­ta­tions inher­ent in my inex­pe­ri­ence in Friends’ ways and per­son­al imma­tu­ri­ty. Mem­bers of com­mit­tees I served on were (almost) always able to cor­ral and direct the ener­gy in a pos­i­tive direc­tion while mod­el­ling and impart­ing the tra­di­tion & prac­tices of Friends and were for­giv­ing and nurturing.
    I sus­pect that the rel­a­tive­ly younger YMs like Illi­nois (130 yrs old) and (espe­cial­ly) North­ern YMs (now 30 yrs old) (when com­pared w PhYM) is a func­tion of their small­er mem­ber­ship, geo­graph­ic dis­per­sion, and pre­dom­i­nance of con­vinced Friends (which, by the way, con­tributes to many of the prob­lems the­o­log­i­cal & spir­i­tu­al prob­lems that you’ve been iden­ti­fy­ing in this blog) more than any­thing intrin­sic with 21st Cen­tu­ry Quakerdom.…

  • Julie wrote:
    In my view, Martin’s def­i­nite­ly a lot more opti­mistic and for­giv­ing than most peo­ple, and cer­tain­ly much more than I am in both cat­e­gories. Per­haps it’s just dis­po­si­tion, I’m not sure. I don’t see him as very cyn­i­cal at all, and I think it’s tak­en like 15+ years in Quak­erism for him to come to a lot of these con­clu­sions, “cyn­i­cal” or not. I think he’s real­is­tic, really.
    Despite the fact that I don’t know Mar­tin that well, that is my impres­sion, too. It reminds me of myself: am I loy­al to a fault?
    Liz’s thoughts remind me that the answer to this ques­tion is: some­times yes, some­times no. The com­plain­ing and strug­gle can help to clear the head and heart: this I know experimentally. 😉
    OTH, as Melyn­da points out:
    …what has my wit­ness been? Have I been so trans­formed by the love of God, so root­ed and ground­ed in the unknow­able love of Christ, that I tes­ti­fy in my dai­ly life that God speaks to me — not appar­ent­ly but tru­ly? Am I faith­ful in Meet­ing and out of it? Am I will­ing to return patient­ly and faith­ful­ly to the point over and over again?

    Of course, I can leave the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends — and it may not be left much poor­er for my absence! — but I can’t leave my own lack behind. What gave the Soci­ety its pow­er was the trans­formed and sanc­ti­fied lives of its mem­bers. If we are tru­ly liv­ing in God, trans­formed by grace, sanc­ti­fied by love, sure­ly we will ren­o­vate our denom­i­na­tion. And if we aren’t, it won’t help to go some­where else.
    Again, this can be part of the strug­gle: has thee tru­ly been faith­ful? Buth, then, has thee been too loy­al? It reminds me of the instruc­tions giv­en by Jesus: go and preach, but if the mes­sage is not well received sim­ply brush the dust from thy feet and move on… Hmm…
    Such questions!
    Great conversations!

  • Hi Paul,
    While Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing is a force unto its own, the invis­i­bil­i­ty of young Friends is across the board. As some­one who works for FGC, I have a lot of con­tact with both Illi­nois and North­ern Year­ly Meet­ings and quite frankly, most of young peo­ple I see being lift­ed up in either year­ly meet­ing are the chil­dren of promi­nent Friends.*** [[Update: LizOpp chal­lenged me on this, ask­ing about two spe­cif­ic NYM Friends. Google found that the moth­er of one is the past pre­sid­ing clerk of a major nation­al Quak­er orga­ni­za­tion (news to Liz). The oth­er appears by all accounts to be of more mod­est parent­age. Nei­ther is self-convinced. Liz was right to call me on my over-generalization but it’s still true that FGC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee ses­sions feels like “bring your kid to work day” and that few if any of the reps are con­vinced.]] For­get con­vinced twenty-somethings for a moment. If your mom isn’t the clerk of mul­ti­ple com­mit­tees, it doesn’t mat­ter that you were born into a Quak­er fam­i­ly, you’ll be left whistling in the wind. I wish I couldn’t state that so cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly, but when­ev­er I hear of a promi­nent younger Friend I can assume it’s someone’s kid. Nine times out of ten I can name one the newly-lifted-up person’s par­ents. The pri­ma­ry qual­i­fi­ca­tion to serve come from their rela­tion­ships. This is tokenism, pure and sim­ple. And even these annoint­ed young Friends are com­plain­ing that they’re not being rec­og­nized for their gifts.
    From the sto­ries here, it looks like this: If you hit your twen­ties in the sev­en­ties, you could find your­self with a major Quak­er appoint­ment right out of col­lege (like any num­ber of Friends I could name). If you hit your twen­ties in the eight­ies, you could (like Ken­neth) find a small meet­ing, spend ten years on com­mit­tees and become clerk at 38. Those of us who hit their twen­ties in the 1990s.… well, most of us have left.
    I sus­pect this isn’t about Quak­erism but about Baby Boomerism. The cur­rent Quak­er lead­er­ship is part of a gen­er­a­tion that’s always been catered to, that thinks it’s eter­nal­ly young and that has a real­ly hard time notic­ing when the times have changed. I think a big under­ly­ing rea­son why FGC is sud­den­ly inter­est­ed in youth min­istry is that its lead­er­ship is real­iz­ing its mor­tal­i­ty. For the last fif­teen years they’ve been lead­ing with­out any con­cern that they wouldn’t be around for­ev­er. There have been so many Baby Boomers around that they’ve been able to fill all the com­mit­tees and rotate clerk­ship around amongst them­selves. There’s been lit­tle men­tor­ing, no sow­ing of seeds.
    I hear sim­i­lar sto­ries from my age peers in oth­er reli­gious denom­i­na­tions. There’s one methodist min­is­ter in Cana­da who’s been an influ­en­tial “emer­gent church” writer. He’s well-known and very respect­ed among thirty-somethings inter­est­ed in church renew­al issues. He devours books and goes to every con­fer­ence he can. He’s clear­ly some­one who should be lift­ed up and giv­en the time to write and orga­nize. But since he start­ed work­ing long hours stock­ing shelves in a super­mar­ket, his posts have become ever-more like­ly to chron­i­cle his exhaus­tion. A few years ago I looked for­ward to every post he made but now I’ve dropped him from my Blog­lines subscription.

  • Julie DeMarchi Heiland

    Mar­tin wrote:
    …so many Baby Boomers around that they’ve been able to fill all the com­mit­tees and rotate clerk­ship around amongst themselves.
    Yep, and the peo­ple in the meet­ing I was a part of for eleven years told me that this is exact­ly what they did. Every so many years one of the core half dozen peo­ple (or less actu­al­ly) would take their “turn” at being clerk of the meet­ing or some oth­er com­mit­tee. This, of course, can only last so long. But it’s also been my expe­ri­ence that many Quak­ers will con­tin­ue to do this until they are well past the age that they can even safe­ly dri­ve to meet­ing. There­fore I fear it is like­ly that some meet­ings and insti­tu­tions will let their respec­tive orga­ni­za­tions die with them (or suf­fer a long and ago­niz­ing dis­ease before an even­tu­al death). Or else they will appoint inap­pro­pri­ate and ill-trained birthrights to posi­tions of lead­er­ship. Isn’t that prac­ti­cal­ly what hap­pened when many of the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of baby boomers came into the pic­ture? (Except that many of the young’ns were con­vinced, which tells you exact­ly how des­per­ate the elder­ly Quak­er lead­ers must have been!)
    It will be inter­est­ing to observe what hap­pens or doesn’t hap­pen in time. I guess I don’t hold out all that much hope that any new, young, con­vinced blood will be entrust­ed with any posi­tions of impor­tance in meet­ings or larg­er bod­ies, as the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion, as Mar­tin point­ed out, doesn’t seem to see itself get­ting any older.
    Any­way I cer­tain­ly wasn’t appoint­ed to any posi­tions of respon­si­bil­i­ty or hired for any jobs or intern­ships, and the only peo­ple rough­ly my age who were were people’s kids. Real­ly I can’t speak for oth­ers rough­ly my own age, but then usu­al­ly I was the only oth­er per­son in any meet­ing or quar­ter­ly mtg I attend­ed with­in twen­ty or so years of me, aside from what­ev­er few chil­dren (if any) were around. It’d def­i­nite­ly be inter­est­ing to find out the details of what hap­pened back in the 70s and 60s and why it happened.

  • Hel­lo Martin,
    In terms of gift-naming, I see you as being in the prophet­ic mode. Not say­ing you are a prophet, but def­i­nite­ly in that mode. And their glass­es weren’t just half emp­ty, they were typ­i­cal­ly shattered.
    Read­ing just a tiny lit­tle bit of Jere­mi­ah makes you sound hap­py and con­tent, and emi­nent­ly reasonable.
    “Oh Lord, you have deceived me and I was deceived.” Jere­mi­ah 20:7 ??? I think ???
    Isabel

  • Hi Julie: I think it is pos­si­ble to take a lit­tle solace in learn­ing things weren’t always as they are now, as that means they won’t always con­tin­ue as they are now. I first walked into a Friends meet­ing­house as a twen­ty year old eigh­teen(!) years ago. Eigh­teen years from now 95% of the cur­rent Quak­er lead­er­ship will be push­ing 80. Things have to change.
    As far as I can see, what I call the “lost gen­er­a­tion” is large­ly gone. A few of us remain and a few would prob­a­bly wan­der back if they saw some­thing inter­est­ing hap­pen­ing in Quak­erism but I sus­pect we’ll always see a “Gen­er­a­tion X”:http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​G​e​n​e​r​a​t​i​o​n_X gap (“Gen X” is rough­ly born 1965 to 1980; Julie and I are both a few years shy of book­mark­ing the generation).
    The questions:
    * How long will (can) Quak­er lead­ers con­tin­ue to clas­si­fy twenty- and thirty-something Friends as “young Friends” whose min­istry and lead­er­ship should be ignored or used only in token ways as eye can­dy and/or for dona­tion appeals? And if so, will the promis­ing ear­ly twenty-somethings on the scene also dissapate?
    * Will the prob­lem get so bad that we’ll repeat the cri­sis of the 1970s where very unsea­soned Friends were put in charge of large swaths of Quak­erism? A lot of the cul­tur­al prob­lems Friends have had over the last thir­ty years can be traced to this phenomenon.
    * Will Quak­erism use the gen­er­a­tional shift to be able to work through its var­i­ous iden­ti­ty crises and fig­ure out how to bring in new seekers?
    I don’t like point­ing it out, but most of the great schisms of Quak­erism had gen­er­a­tional over­tones as a major con­tribut­ing fac­tor and tokenism and birthright’ism are recipes for future breaks. Woe be to Friends that can’t fig­ure out these issues.
    ***
    Hi Isabel: Jere­mi­ah, hmm? Maybe I’ve been focus­ing too much on Matthew and James the last few weeks. I’m not sure I’ve even cracked Jere­mi­ah. Due to my lack of reli­gious upbring­ing I still think of him pri­mar­i­ly as that inco­her­ent bullfrog…
    ***
    *Joe wrote:* _Despite the fact that I don’t know Mar­tin that well, that is my impres­sion, too. It reminds me of myself: am I loy­al to a fault? Again, this can be part of the strug­gle: has thee tru­ly been faith­ful? But, then, has thee been too loyal?_
    Joe, stop ask­ing these ques­tions! I don’t want to think about that! I have won­dered the same thing, of course. It has occurred to me that my Quak­er expe­ri­ence is eeri­ly like my pre-Julie roman­tic life, which had too many rela­tion­ships where I real­ly wasn’t appre­ci­at­ed, where I put much more in than I ever got out. I long ago iden­ti­fied a per­son­al ten­den­cy to give unearned loy­al­ty. Is that at play in my insti­tu­tion­al and pro­fes­sion­al affil­i­a­tions? (Julie would cer­tain­ly say yes, ahem).
    How do you always seem to know the ques­tions that will make me squirm?

  • Hi Julie,
    While of course I’m sor­ry for the facts recit­ed, I was so glad to read of your expe­ri­ences. There are a cou­ple of big dif­fer­ences that you point out that I agree were cen­tral to our dif­fer­ent experiences:
    I’m male. It’s a sin that it makes a dif­fer­ence. (It makes a dif­fer­ence, too, with the Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ists. [where I’m work­ing now]) (Who are also strug­gling with “youth ministry.”)
    In addi­tion to the dif­fer­ent decade, I came to Friends old enough that I was able to enter direct­ly into the “adult” track even though I could have entered the “young Friends” track. You were giv­en no such oppor­tu­ni­ty and then had to attempt to get out of the “youth” ghet­to. I have a f/Friend here in Boston who couldn’t stay in the meet­ing she grew up in because they wouldn’t allow her to grow up.
    I just missed the myth­ic World Gath­er­ing of Young Friends in 1985, and most of the peo­ple who went to it are ten years old­er than I, or more. I think there have been two more gath­er­ings, and yet anoth­er is on the way this sum­mer. In 1991, when I could have gone to a Young Friends gath­er­ing after the World Con­fer­ence, I didn’t because, well, I was at the World Con­fer­ence! It just nev­er occured to me to go to it. And I felt guilty as I neared 40 when I approached Friends Insti­tute for a grant one time. –But that’s for YOUNG Friends, I thought. Ha! Now I’d be fas­ci­nat­ed to attend a Young Friends Gath­er­ing, but that’s par­tial­ly just mid­dle age speak­ing. I’d love to be the kind of 70-year-old who could suc­cess­ful­ly go in sol­i­dar­i­ty, as Tom Bod­ine did in 1985. (I have no idea how old he actu­al­ly was. Prob­a­bly not 70.)
    And ah, fam­i­ly cul­ture. Among Friends I feel like I’m with my peo­ple. I grew up in a non­re­li­gious home. I don’t think my father’s ever been in a church except for wed­dings, funer­als, or con­certs. My moth­er grew up in a Con­gre­ga­tion­al Church but didn’t con­tin­ue with them. We were (and are still to a large extent) clas­sic don’t talk about it, keep a stiff upper lip, don’t make a big scene WASPs. So you see how I would feel right at home.
    It’s iron­ic that Friends (and then usu­al­ly only friends) often note that I speak my mind and am blunt. But when you describe your upbring­ing, and as I remem­ber a for­mer part­ner who grew up in a vol­u­ble, out­ward­ly emo­tion­al fam­i­ly, I think: but I’m not like that! And it’s a shame that Friends have not made both forms of expres­sion (and more) more wel­come. I can vouch for how hard it is, though. In per­son­al rela­tion­ships I’ve real­ly strug­gled with being able to hear and speak in that rela­tion­al culture.

  • Julie DeMarchi Heiland

    Dear Ken­neth,
    Thanks for the post. You made me laugh out loud (esp the sec­tion about fam­i­ly), and not feel so crazy!
    Dear Martin,
    Glad to hear that things HAVE to change insti­tu­tion­al­ly with­in Quak­erism by the time you’re near­ing retire­ment. Yikes! Hee hee hee. Do I detect a lit­tle sarcasm?
    Love,
    Julie

  • Mar­tin writes:
    I sus­pect this isn’t about Quak­erism but about Baby Boomerism. The cur­rent Quak­er lead­er­ship is part of a gen­er­a­tion that’s always been catered to, that thinks it’s eter­nal­ly young and that has a real­ly hard time notic­ing when the times have changed. I think a big under­ly­ing rea­son why FGC is sud­den­ly inter­est­ed in youth min­istry is that its lead­er­ship is real­iz­ing its mor­tal­i­ty. For the last fif­teen years they’ve been lead­ing with­out any con­cern that they wouldn’t be around forever…There’s been lit­tle men­tor­ing, no sow­ing of seeds.
    I’m afraid that this is pret­ty accu­rate. I was the youngest of a fam­i­ly of Boomers. Despite my point­ing fin­gers at my old­er sibs, I’ve often found that I am very much like they are. There is a ten­den­cy amongst us Boomers to always refer every­thing back to ourselves…kind of like I just did with the my first few sen­tences in this post. I’m not kid­ding! A “generation”-specific weak­ness, I suppose.
    I think the inter­est in “youth min­istry” is also the fact that many of these Boomers now have chil­dren in that age range so…Of course, one can’t fault a par­ent want­i­ng good things for his/her chil­dren, but it still can come across as self-serving (again) giv­en the pre­vi­ous his­to­ry of things…
    Mar­t­ing continues:
    Joe, stop ask­ing these ques­tions! I don’t want to think about that! I have won­dered the same thing, of course…How do you always seem to know the ques­tions that will make me squirm?
    Because I’m your dopple­ganger, remem­ber? Plus, I have a close rela­tion­ship with Lily, I mean, the Spir­it so… 🙂
    Hon­est­ly, I’m not sure why although I sus­pect that Quak­erism might draw sim­i­lar tem­per­me­nt types that, in an odd way, have sim­i­lar “issues”.

  • Robin Mohr

    Loy­al­ty is such a fun­ny con­cept these days. Just like so many of us have been con­vinced on the way in to Quak­erism, I sup­pose we could all be con­vinced on the way out. Mar­riage (in our cul­ture) too has become an insti­tu­tion that we can opt in and opt out at will. Patri­o­tism has become an all or noth­ing proposition.
    How­ev­er, there is anoth­er way. A pop­u­lar expres­sion is that God loves us just the way we are and too much to let us stay this way. In the recent Pen­dle Hill pam­phlet, “Mem­bers One of Anoth­er”, there’s a much longer and bet­ter explo­ration of this metaphor, com­par­ing our rela­tion­ships with God and our Meet­ings with the uncon­di­tion­al love of par­ents for a new­born ver­sus the much more chal­leng­ing love of par­ents for a tod­dler. I feel both ways about my Meet­ing and the wider RSoF. And I believe they (and God) feel that way about me, at least the ones that know me.
    Was thee faith­ful? Did thee yield? These ques­tions are not to be posed to folks on the way out but as we trav­el along the way together.
    My own expe­ri­ence is of going to Pacif­ic YM for the first time in 2000, at age 32, after attend­ing Meet­ings in NY, MD/DC & CA for about nine years before that. At one of the ple­nar­ies, I rose to say some­thing crit­i­cal of the fact that the Min­istry and Over­sight report on the State of the Year­ly Meet­ing had not men­tioned the exis­tence of chil­dren or young peo­ple. By the end of the week, I had been appoint­ed to the Sub!committee on the Reli­gious Edu­ca­tion of Chil­dren. I don’t think this actu­al­ly reflects very much on my per­son­al qual­i­fi­ca­tions. It reflects much more on the low esteem in which that com­mit­tee is held. Oooh — a two-fer — a young Friend and some­one who would actu­al­ly be will­ing to serve on that com­mit­tee! Any strong opin­ions I might have expressed about peace and social order would not have got­ten me appoint­ed to that august com­mit­tee. So Mar­tin, you see, you’ve been knock­ing on the doors of the sacred cows. (Just to mix a few more metaphors.) If you’d choose a less impor­tant top­ic, the doors might be much more open.
    Sar­casm prob­a­bly doesn’t come across well on the Inter­net any more than it does in meet­ing for busi­ness. So I’ll try to be more plain speak­ing here. I am not spend­ing any time won­der­ing if I should leave the RSoF. God led me to Friends when I need­ed a wor­ship­ping com­mu­ni­ty. I won­der some­times why God lets us set up such human and imper­fect insti­tu­tions in God’s name. But I’m hav­ing fun. I’m being chal­lenged to live a more faith­ful life, right here in this blog and in my Meeting.
    One of my favorite poems is
    The snail does the Holy
    Will of God slowly.
    –GK Chester­ton, from In Every Tiny Grain of Sand, ed. Reeve Lind­bergh. (sor­ry, I don’t know how to make a link)
    Same goes for Friends.
    Peace,
    Robin

  • Mar­tin:
    Two things to address…
    I wish the old Quak­er jour­nals talked about the jug­gle a bit more. I sus­pect one par­ent stayed home a lot. And trav­el­ing min­istry wasn’t con­stant. Maybe it picked up again when the kids got to a cer­tain age. Maybe someone’s researched this but I nev­er see this sort of dis­cus­sion in the journals.
    I am read­ing an excru­ci­at­ing­ly bor­ing book about Mar­garet Fell right now, which is most­ly based on the account books they gave list­ing the amounts of sad­dle soap, straight pins, and stock­ings they bought at the Hall in any giv­en year. How­ev­er, there is men­tion of this prob­lem, par­tic­u­lar­ly in view of the long impris­on­ments suf­fered for Quak­erism at the time. I’m also read­ing anoth­er book, Pecu­liar Pow­er, about a woman preach­er named Susan­nah Some­body (it’s also very bor­ing and I can’t remem­ber her last name) but it also talks about this. The dif­fer­ence, it breaks my heart to say, is in community.
    They did leave their fam­i­lies, in the Pow­er of the Spir­it, and trust­ed (with good rea­son) that God was going to hold both them and their fam­i­ly up while they sought His will. Peo­ple were con­stant­ly liv­ing in each other’s hous­es. Young unmar­ried Quak­er women served as gov­erness­es to fam­i­lies whose moth­ers and fathers were away preach­ing. Chil­dren were entrust­ed to Friends and tak­en into their fam­i­lies for days, weeks, months at a time.
    The Fell daugh­ters all took turns run­ning the house­hold AND THE BUSINESS while the heads of the house were away. In fact they were the first women ever record­ed in Eng­land hav­ing part own­er­ship and over­seer­ship in a Quar­ry. But that’s off top­ic. The also took care of the young Fell chil­dren, and their nieces, nephews, and the chil­dren on promi­nent trav­el­ling min­is­ters, some of them couples.
    The point is, there were peo­ple to step in and keep the mun­dane things going when God’s Work was call­ing. This safe­ty net and pro­tec­tive frame­work doesn’t exist any­more. A lot of this is not so much Quakerism’s fault as Society’s (ah geeze, now I sound like my mom) — but where are the extend­ed fam­i­lies? Who would take care of your chil­dren for eight months while you WALKED to Ire­land? Then again, though the “vil­lage” mod­el helped, now that I think of it, many Friends from all over the coun­try, who didn’t know each oth­er before Quak­erism sup­port­ed each oth­er in this way. My strongest lead­ing these days is to try and find some way to weave a new ver­sion of these safe­ty nets, since the old ones have all rot­ted away. Can’t do it alone. Pray for me.
    Also this, which struck near the heart for me:
    It has occurred to me that my Quak­er expe­ri­ence is eeri­ly like my pre-Julie roman­tic life, which had too many rela­tion­ships where I real­ly wasn’t appre­ci­at­ed, where I put much more in than I ever got out. I long ago iden­ti­fied a per­son­al ten­den­cy to give unearned loyalty.
    I have this per­son­al­i­ty trait, too, so strong­ly it’s near­ly ruined my life. But I’ve real­ized that the appre­ci­a­tion and feed­back and love and “pay” almost nev­er comes from the place you expect or want it. You prob­a­bly won’t even get to see much of it in your life­time. And that’s real­ly hard to get over. Some­times it does mean mov­ing away from the rela­tion­ship. But if you con­tin­ue the metaphor, as metaphor and not too lit­er­al­ly, think of this…
    Some­times what you are step­ping away from most when you leave any rela­tion­ship are your hopes and expec­ta­tions and invest­ment in that rela­tion­ship. When I had to leave my hus­band, I found that even hard­er than leav­ing the rela­tion­ship was leav­ing my dreams for what our rela­tion­ship could be. In the end, leav­ing these dreams was actu­al­ly emo­tion­al­ly and spir­i­tu­al­ly much more impor­tant that leav­ing the rela­tion­ship. That’s what freed me and allowed me to grow into true relationsips.
    Caveat — I left the man because he was doing actu­al harm to me. If you find Quak­erism is doing actu­al harm to you, you need to leave. If it’s your hopes, expec­ta­tions and invest­ment that are doing you harm, you only need to leave those.
    “Only”. Heh. God asks us to give up such hard things. I gave up so much and didn’t start squeal­ing until He asked me to give up my hopes, dreams, expec­ta­tions, and invest­ments in my rela­tion­ship with Him and His Church (how­ev­er that is defined.) Then I cried. I’m still in the mid­dle of wrestling this, and it is very hard. Pray for me.
    This also should remind the rest of us to keep express­ing our grat­i­tude and joy when we feel it. How many times do I read an inspired or mov­ing post in a blog, and I’m just too lazy to frame a response post or an e-mail?
    Jeff once quot­ed this to me when I we feel­ing heart­bro­ken over my family’s rejec­tion of my mes­sage of peace, and it made me feel bet­ter. I guess Even Jesus’ mis­ery loves company.
    “He left that place and came to his home­town, and his dis­ci­ples fol­lowed him. On the Sab­bath he began to teach in the syn­a­gogue, and many who heard him were astound­ed. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wis­dom that has been giv­en to him? What deeds of pow­er are being done by his hands! Is not this the car­pen­ter, the son of Mary and broth­er of James and Jos­es and Judas and Simon, and are not his sis­ters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not with­out hon­or, except in their home­town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of pow­er there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick peo­ple and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.”
    (Mark 6:1 – 6)
    Ask him about his med­i­ta­tion on this.
    Love,
    Amanda

  • Robin Mohr

    Dear Aman­da,
    Could you please send me the actu­al names of the two books you men­tioned? I am in need of even bor­ing accounts of how my spir­i­tu­al ances­tors man­aged this. I think the sys­tem you described of Friends actu­al­ly serv­ing in each oth­ers’ homes was much more com­mon, even among non-Friends, in those days.
    How­ev­er, in my own life, dur­ing both my dif­fi­cult preg­nan­cies, Friends came and did our laun­dry, mopped our kitchen floor, loaned us their cars and their books, cheered up my poor suf­fer­ing hus­band, etc., etc. It made all the dif­fer­ence. I may nev­er be able to leave San Fran­cis­co Meet­ing because it will take a long time to repay our debts.
    Peace,
    Robin

  • I know you were kid­ding about the debts…but be care­ful not to think of it that way! Yikes!
    I will look at the books when I go home and post the info for you.

  • This whole thread is extreme­ly impor­tant and I don’t feel up to mak­ing a sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion today. How­ev­er, I have just enough time and ener­gy to point out some­thing I have always found curi­ous in the descrip­tion Aman­da quotes from the Gospel of Mark about how Jesus got no respect in his hometown.
    Mark writes “And he could do no deed of pow­er there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick peo­ple and cured them.”
    My com­ment: oh, is that all? Imag­ine what he could have done if they had faith in him!