August 10, 2005

Ministers: NEYM youth to older Friends

I've been extremely guilty of ageism of late: I've been writing a fair amount about how (older) Friends must be diligent about how to convey Quakerism to young(er) Friends and to new attenders.

But in New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM), it is a group of young(er) Friends--teens--who remind old(er) Friends what Meeting for Worship is... or more precisely, what it isn't.

(Martin at Quaker Ranter has been lifting up youth ministry among Friends for a while now, including the fact that age does not determine who will receive or provide mentoring and healthy eldership.)

Below is what appears to be a summary of the minute that was submitted to NEYM's Ministry & Counsel by the teens directly. M&C then presented the minute as part of their State of Society report.*

Excerpt from a summary of Ministry & Counsel's presentation of its State of Society report

Young Friends have come to M&C with a minute that they approved at their business meeting yesterday [First Day, 7 Eighth Month 2005], and they would like to share it with us. We don't have to approve it, but we want you to hear it. Hannah Z., outgoing treasurer of YF, will read the minute. "Our life is love and peace and tenderness and bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusation against another, but praying for one another, and helping each other up with a tender hand." (Isaac Penington). A summary of the YF minute follows.

We want to bring some issues to your attention. We are worried about this YM and our ability to worship together. Sunday morning we shared our gifts with you. When we are alone we have deep worship. We want to share with you our appreciation of the silence. Sunday morning many of us left after Max Carter's Bible Half Hour. We were ready for silence, but many left feeling empty and spiritually unfulfilled. The meeting seemed uncentered. We were concerned with how many messages seemed personal. The lack of silence between messages made it hard to appreciate them. We had hoped that by demonstrating our ways of worship, they might catch on. We love you and would not bother with this if we did not care deeply about you and about this issue. We know it is possible for us to sit together in silence, we did it on Sunday for fifteen minutes, and we want it to happen again.
For a personal account of how things transpired, take a look at this post by Peterson, who is currently attending NEYM sessions.


*I came across the summary at David Coletta's blog, which was referenced by Amanda of Of The Best Stuff But Plain. Sadly, I can't find a specific link on David's blog that has the minute (or its summary), which I have included above. But if you click on David's link, it hopefully will take you to his Quaker posts and to NEYM annual session's summaries. Scroll down until you see the section "Monday morning's business session" ... "Ministry & Counsel's presentation..."


Aj Schwanz said...

Wow: weighty (and worthy) words. Look forward to hearing what comes out of this.

Anonymous said...

I shared this news at a Ministry and Oversight Committee special meeting to consider the state of our meeting for worship on Monday night. Another member of M&O is formerly from Beacon Hill and said, "oh yes, some of those young people are really hard core." Pretty amazing. It was also referenced on Peterson Toscano's blog.

You can read about Pacific Yearly Meeting's new ideas at MY new blog: Robin M: What Canst Thou Say?

Anonymous said...

While some of the young Friends' observations are probably valid, I'm more than a little perplexed by the praise being showered on them in blogworld.

Clearly, their criticisms should be taken seriously and reflected on. It is hard work to build deep worship, and all of us need to do our part. In huge gatherings the challenges grow exponentially. If these young people raise awareness of this, something good may be accomplished.

But I also wonder if some of the youth might be ripe for eldering over this incident, including eldering regarding what makes for good eldering. Twenty Friends walking out of a meeting in protest over the frequency and shallowness of spoken messages strikes me as a gesture of self-righteousness, impatience and rigidity more than one of faithfulness. It's essentially a statement that "all of you should be as spiritually deep and centered as we are." It won't work, and it won't wash. As Fox said, let us "walk cheerfully over the world answering that of God in every one."

Liz Opp said...

Aj and Robin, nice to see you here.

James, your comments stretch me, and I know I am having a reaction that I must sit with and listen inwardly for a while. I have done some initial threshing and want to be clear with my response. I sense in me a desire to respond personally (based on some of my own experience) as well as in spiritual integrity (how am I being *asked* to respond).

I hope to post an additional comment soon, and I hope you and other readers will check back.


Anonymous said...

I think the Fox quote goes on to say something about being patterns and examples to all peoples and all countries.

To walk quietly out and worship elsewhere, followed by a return to engage in respectful dialogue during the business sessions, does not seem to me like a gesture of self-righteousness, but of self-discipline. Perhaps the impatience of youth with shallowness in our larger gatherings will serve us well.

Liz Opp said...

After sitting and reflecting on a number of things--these comments, my original post, and a similar post elsewhere--I find I am clear to add the following:

That I resist the temptation to raise more questions, share other concerns, make additional conjectures about how things came about at that moment in New England Yearly Meeting. I was not there; I cannot know, through immediate experience, how things transpired.

Thankfully, the questions and concerns posted here prompted me to check in with a New England Friend, for which I am glad. I have a clearer picture.

I hope others will consider being in touch with New England Friends, so that more of us may understand how Friends there experienced the movement of the Spirit.


Peterson Toscano said...

Perhaps, given the chance again, the young friends who walked out of the worship service, may respond differently today (or next year). They now have the advantage of having processed their actions.

When they walked out of worship, it was not in a "huff" or with attitude. Although I was there, I cannot speak to all their initial motivation, but I did witness the humble, loving and careful conversations that immediately followed the action.

I felt deeply moved by their integrity and the respect they exhibited towards the adults in the community as they discussed, wrote and presented their minute.

They desire extended periods of silent worship with a few spirit-filled messages and the time to sit and reflect on these messages. From the many letters and spoken comments to the Young Friends from adults in the community, the young friends are not alone in this desire.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for sharing your personal experience, Peterson. Your account reflects a number of pieces I heard from the Friend I had contacted.

I know I have a desire to remain under the discipline of the Spirit, so I might stay humble and be faithful. I find I can do so more easily and more quickly when others around me in worship are also desiring to be under the cover of the same Discipline.