Report to Peterborough Monthly Meeting on the Canadian Young Friends Yearly Meeting (CYFYM) Post-Boxing Day Gathering
Young Adult Friends (age 18-35ish) gathered at Friends house in Toronto from December 27 to 29. The weekend consisted of two sharing sessions, one around a reading of the article “A Gospel of Quaker Sexuality” by Kody Gabriel Hersh and the other around the ministry of Job Scott (#52 in the Blue Book); an urban hike or writing session; a community night; group singing late into the night; and strengthening connections among YAF from Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Kitchener and Area, Montreal, Peterborough, and Vancouver Monthly Meetings such that, if Steve may say so himself, Toronto Meeting for Worship on December 29 was moved with our love.
The discussion around Kody’s article was the first programmed one in what we hope to be a series where Friends share their experiences around not just the acceptance of queer Friends but also: complexities around romantic or sexual relationships among two or more people within a spiritual community, how communities respond (or not) if those relationships are toxic or abusive, the interplay between spirituality and body acceptance (of our own and our Friends’ bodies and boundaries), and the questions people face when family planning in a time of climate crisis. Steve highly recommends Friends read or listen to Kody’s reading of the article, while it may sound heavy he believes that it is, in fact, Good News for Friends seeking physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual wholeness. Our community benefited from discussions of “What is or isn’t Divine?” that grew from the (not-so-)small seed of Job Scott’s ministry, which casually slayed the nostalgic idea that people “way back when” were somehow more spiritual, more enlightened than those in his time and promptly moved on to things that were much more interesting. Canadian Young Friends look forward to sharing and exploring the struggles and
joys in our faith journeys with each other for a long time to come. Community night was a blast, with visitors from throughout Toronto and even first-timers!
From the outset, the organizing committee of Harmony Morris (Lethbridge WG) Caileigh Morrison (Winnipeg MM), and Clerk Evelyne Russell (Toronto MM), and Steve (Peterborough MM) prioritized a relaxed gathering for themselves and for Friends attending. Ordering in food from the variety of
omnivore and vegan options in Toronto proved invaluable for this, and despite ordering delivery for over 20 Friends for one lunch and two dinners, we spent less than our proposed budget. The generosity of Toronto MM and the helpfulness of Friends House staff also were key in a low-stress gathering where we could focus on building community. Friends attending gathering made our job easy by taking on chores, contributing to the cooperative framing of our community standards, making clear boundaries and requests, and not getting on our case when things ran late. And of course, the gathering would not have been possible without support from CYM staff who were available to help us even given the inconvenient season to be working and how close it was to the end of our fiscal year. Friends younger than 18 were invited to come for the discussion, hike and community night on December 28th , and one joyously was able to join us, perhaps more would have joined if not for the gathering occurring during the holiday break for students and our request that minors be accompanied by a guardian*.
For most of the GOC, it was the first gathering we had planned. But thanks to advice from elders of all ages, and a bright, active body of Young Friends that were eager to meet each other, it happened. And it will not be the last from this committee. Hope to see you at the next one!
*This was another policy set to reduce impact on the organizers, as YF must be accompanied by at least two adults at all times for Friends’ safety and that of the Society. CYFYM strongly supports this policy, as the safety of the most vulnerable of our community is paramount, and so coordination amongst the
Friends who are responsible for the Safe Nurture of our younger members would have been required throughout the gathering, making these Friends less available for activities. This (to Steve’s understanding as he was not on the GOC) was the case at the CYFYM pre-gathering at CYM in session 2019. Based on Steve’s experience, the idea that CYFYM, which at the time of this report is predominantly comprised of childless adults, should be solely (outside of CYM in session and events at Camp Nee Kau Nis) responsible for providing programming for Young Friends who legally are minors is a subject perhaps in need of discernment by CYFYM. Young Friends are a dearly valued part of our community, and this is not to suggest that they are not welcome, but rather that planning activities for Young Friends throughout the year could in practice be laid down without involvement from the legal guardians of our Young Friends.
– Steve Ginley, CYFYM Representative and member of the CYFYM Gathering Organizing Committee (GOC)