Wednesday, May 04, 2005

An Essay Thing

I find that there are so many things on my on-going To Do list that I have a constant need to be doing something! (So much for finding stillness..) However, every free moment I get (or create) I find myself reading a Quaker related writing of some sort, sending emails about one of the Quaker things I'm involved with, or trying to write something about my Quaker experiences or ideas of things to do.

I started writing an email the other day and it turned into an essay about a need to improve young Friend and adult Friend relationships in local meetings. I've decided to post this essay here, though it may need a little editing if anything serious is to become of it.

[Note: this is a revised version from the one originally posted in my other blog,]

On April 23 I flew to Oregon to serve on an editorial board for a book that QUIP is putting together of young Friends' experiences of Quakerism. After arriving in Oregon but before I met with the editorial board for this, I served on a panel with the other young Friends on the editorial board in a QUIP meeting (as we had arrived at the end of a QUIP conference for our meeting) about how media, printed or otherwise, inspired us spiritually. As we related our experiences as young Friends (and growing up as Quakers), a number of issues surfaced rather quickly.

As young Friends move through high school and enter the [young] adult world, there is often a general lack of communication between young Friends and adults in Meetings, as if there's some tension about it. Personally, as a young Friend in Durham Friends Meeting (NCYM(C)), I've found that I know certain adults - ones with whom I have interacted more specifically over the years as I have grown up. Often these are parents of other young Friends in the Meeting or people who have been involved in youth group events. What's missing is the connection to the rest of the adults in Meeting; I've been attending Durham Friends Meeting since I was born (with a period during middle school where I was mostly absent, but for the last few years I've been quite regular in attendance) and I feel like most of the meeting has no idea who I am. In addition to that, I've not known how to communicate my involvement and dedication in various national Quaker communities, such as being chosen as one of six co-clerks of the HS program at FGC Gathering this summer, my participation in Young Quakes, my attendance at a Pendle Hill Clerking workshop last fall, my involvement in this QUIP book, or how I have been reading many Quaker books over the last few months, all of which have been VERY integral in my spiritual development. Even Friends in DFM with whom I do converse sometimes after Meeting do not know of all these things with which I am involved.

Also, when I stopped attending First Day school in January of my junior year in high school (a little over a year ago) and began attending the full hour of Worship, I spoke to two youth leaders about it briefly so they would understand, and then there was no further response. Looking back on this, I feel that the Meeting should be more involved in such a transition for all young Friends - not just those adults directly involved in the youth group/First Day school, but everyone should be more aware and attentive of the young Friends in Meeting and their involvement in Quaker communities outside of Meeting.

One thing that each of us felt is very important yet very lacking is mentorship within Meeting for Worship. There need to be adults who are not necessarily First Day school teachers, youth group leaders, or parents who are willing to have a relationship with a young Friend as someone who has had more experience with Quakerism and can nurture a young Friend's spiritual development. A young Friend who was in Oregon with me related her experiences with a mentor she has at Earlham (she is a second-year there, currently), and how she sees him about once a week; often she even receives books to read from him.

As the only active young Friend at my school (I'm sort of the 'token' Quaker around), I usually do not have anyone to talk to about my spiritual findings and leadings. As I have continued to develop spiritually, I find more and more I need other Friends to talk to who are familiar with my struggles.

These are issues not only within Durham Friends Meeting, but in Meetings across the country. I recognize that there are efforts to improve youth programs everywhere, but it never hurts to start locally.

As a graduating senior this year, and as an involved Friend, I would like to improve my relationship with the Meeting as a whole and make way for better relationships between members and young Friends in the future. This, however, needs to be fully a double-sided effort.


Blogger Liz Opp said...

You write: As I have continued to develop spiritually, I find more and more I need other Friends to talk to who are familiar with my struggles.

I hope that the Quaker blogosphere can help you in the way it's helped me. Even though there are no guidelines as to how to engage in or sustain an online community, my experience as a fellow blogger has been that readers and commenters really do work to grasp the Spirit behind the words... At least, such has been my own experience.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

11/5/05 6:07 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

I am so glad to have stumbled upon this online Quaker world (or blogosphere)! When I first started a seperate blog for spiritual contemplations, I expected that maybe one person here or there would come by and read it from time to time, but that mostly I would be posting to myself. Instead, rather quickly after I created it, Martin found my blog and then ended up featuring this essay on his site (which I then began going to more often). Martin never would have found my blog if I hadn't met him in person at the QUIP conference in Oregon a few weeks ago, and if he didn't occasionally drop by the Livejournal scene.

After my essay showed up on his site, I received more comments than I ever expected, and found that online Friends seem to understand the importance of responding to posts. (In my mundane livejournal blog I rarely get comments on anything.) Replies can both stimulate and support a Friend in his or her contemplations.

While an online community is certainly not the same as an in-person community, it is still spiritually stimulating, and important dialogues can happen. Anyways, it is quite possible that I'll see at least you, Liz, at Gathering this summer.

11/5/05 11:34 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Hi, Claire. ...Martin has a real gift for making connections with all sorts of Friends and for lifting up the ministry of those Friends—online or otherwise. And his presence among various Quaker events lends itself to forming and supporting those connections, too, as it did me. (It just took me a while to consider starting a blog.)

As for meeting up at the Gathering, I wouldn't be surprised if someone among us (Martin? myself? someone else?) created an opportunity for the online Quakers to get together and see what happens.

Anyway, I'm glad other folks have made their way to your blog. And I know what you mean, about the value of having people thoughtfully respond to posts. Here's to having more of the same!

Liz, The Good Raised Up

12/5/05 4:41 PM  

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