Young Friends at the Gathering: Sharing, Questioning, Visioning

Post from Christina, January 27:

One of the most enriching parts of this gathering has been connecting with other young friends. We are all going through similar processes of finding our place in the world and in Quakerism, however are doing so in very different contexts and from a diversity of backgrounds.

Last night we had our second gathering of young friends. We came together to share laughter, questions, stories, inspirations, and concerns. It was lifting to feel a community of young friends beginning to form. We divided into small groups of young friends from different yearly meetings and shared stories about our experiences as young friends. My small group was composed of five other young women from Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, and the Netherlands.

I heard stories that felt similar to my experience, and others that stretched me to consider other aspects of my identity as a young Quaker. In our small group there were Friends who felt isolated in their Meetings, and others that were upheld by a strong community of young Friends. We touched on the role of women in our Meetings, the dynamic between older friends and younger friends, the types of gatherings we have and the large range of numbers that we have attending our youth gatherings. We reflected on the transition between being a young friend and a ‘full’ adult in the Meeting. I was exposed to joys and challenges experiences by young Friends from around the world.

After this rich discussion we transitioned into simultaneous music making, games, discussions, and a precarious game of indoor frisbee. We spent hours into the night getting to know each other and sharing parts of ourselves, continuing to build a community of young friends that will continue beyond just this gathering.

Throughout the gathering I have been engaging with a consultation group. These groups are formed around issues around which FWCC is hoping to conduct consultation. I have been attending the group addressing ‘Leadership and Ministry.’

The work being done by this consultation group is significant as it will have an impact on the future of youth programming at the FWCC level. As a group we encouraged each other to dream. Out of this dreaming came ideas of youth exchanges between yearly meetings, internal national youth pilgrimages, mentorship programs, section wide youth gatherings, and online spaces that could keep us connected.

Three main ideas that came out of this group are 1) to explore the idea of holding another World Gathering of Young Friends, 2) to create more connections globally through a stronger online presence, and 3) to design a type of QYP 2.0 to carry on the work of QYP in a way that fits today’s context and concerns. The report will also include a request that FWCC begin a conversation on international membership for young Friends.

Last night young Friends gathered to reflect on the recommendations that will be reported back from this consultation group to today’s FWCC Meeting for Business, specifically the recommendation of a World Gathering of Young Friends. We were called to ask ourselves ‘what is our current need?’ The worship was deep and went late into the night, with rich sharing from many Friends. One Friend reflected that if we are to take action on a global level, we must start with ourselves asking:

What do I get from Quakers?

What can I offer Quakers?

What do I need from Quakers?

We will continue to meet tonight to hold these questions and the future of young Friends in the light. I look forward to sharing the work that has been done with and by young Friends in gatherings at the plenary and the consultation group.

Thank you to all who have been holding me and Steve in the light. I have felt very held. Thank you for opening the space for me to participate in this gathering, which has brought me great learning and sharing.

I hope to write again soon.