November 10, 2008

IYMC visits and a high school drop-in

It's been a busy start to the month, not including the historic presidential election.

Over the first weekend of the month, the worship group had three Friends from Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative (IYMC) visit with us as we begin seeking affiliation with a yearly meeting.

Here are a few things that were notable to me:

1. The visit was arranged in just under three weeks, from the time we were given a date when all the visitors could make it to the time they actually arrived. During the one evening and one morning that the Iowa Friends were with us, all the children and all of the regular adult attenders participated in at least one significant portion of this very short visit--and we have six kids and nearly a dozen adults!

I consider this an indication that the Way is open for us to continue seeking affiliation with IYMC.

2. We were reminded to consider that any of us who have attended the annual sessions of IYMC have been witness to the clerking of only one presiding clerk, who has been serving for ten years or so. Since each presiding clerk has a unique style and perspective on how to go about attending to the business of the yearly meeting, the visitors encouraged us to consider that the current clerk is bringing a great deal of discipline (in the good sense of the word, in my opinion) to the body, and that this hasn't always been, and won't always be, the case.

This was a sobering thought to me, given how much I've appreciated the current manner and discipline of the body during their meetings for worship with attention to business at annual session.

3. The visitors, who are serving as a sort of membership clearness committee for us on behalf of IYMC--though it's for affiliation of the worship group, not membership of individuals--also cautioned us that IYMC at the level of its monthly meetings may not be all that different from Northern Yearly Meeting at the level of its monthly meetings, especially when considering the breadth of theological diversity of Friends there.

I find I'm less concerned about that point, given the frequent reference to Scripture and the greater proportion (it seems to me, at least at the yearly meeting level) of Friends who speak humbly of their walk with their God.

That was all just the first weekend of the month! Next week the worship group will reflect together on our experience with these Friends from Iowa, and we'll see how the Spirit moves among us at that point.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Towards the end of the summer, while I was worshiping at the monthly meeting, a member of the meeting's First Day School Committee announced at the rise of meeting that the committee would be doing something new with the high schoolers this year: they would be seeking adults to be a Friendly Adult Presence (FAP) for that group for a month at a time.

The concern is that there continues to be a disconnect between the adults of the meeting and the oldest teens among us. For years, the teens haven't come to Meeting for Worship--not even with the younger kids for the first 15 minutes--and the adults don't make time to interact authentically with the teens, with the possible exception of the parents of their friends or their past FDS teachers.

For as long as I've been an adult among Quakers, I've been aware of my struggle of wanting to connect with teenage Friends but not wanting to "impose" myself on them, not wanting to just pop in and out of a conversation and pretend I've had a meaningful interaction with them.

I've been seeking a way to be engaged with them through some structured activity, and through my own authentic desire rather than through some "required" event. So when the announcement was made that there was a request for FAPs for the high school program, I volunteered on the spot.

Yesterday was my first drop-in there, since the first First Day was hang-out time for them at a coffee shop, the Friends from Iowa were visiting the worship group, and I'm no good around strangers when there isn't a structure. Seriously.

Yesterday was worship-sharing time around a query, and the adult leaders offered up the topic of equality, what that means, and how it may or may not relate to the presidential election. The teens outnumbered the adults by three to one, and I chose to pass the first couple of times, not sure of the lay of the land or what the teens might make of me.

As they opened up, so did I, and within a few minutes, we were talking about oppression, privilege, gay marriage, Obama, and everything else that would typically come up in a high-energy discussion about the state of things in our country.

I left that morning emotionally and spiritually spent, having opened myself to share about my relationship with my partner, an open letter I've sent to Barack Obama, and my concern for white privilege, especially among young white Quakers. I learned how seriously this group takes themselves when they're encouraged to share their views of the world.

The worship-sharing was so rich and intense and worshipful, it reminded me of the open Meetings for Worship that the high schoolers host at the FGC Gathering each year. My only hope is that I didn't outrun my Guide, and I'll be curious to see how the next few First Days in November go...



David Carl said...

Greetings Liz,

I resonate with your interest in --and the difficulty with -- connecting with young Friends. Glad you're having that opportunity, and I wait for way to open here in NW Arkansas.

I'd be interested in reading you open letter to Barack Obama; are you planning to post it?

Robin M. said...

Wow. Keep up the good work.

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