The World Gathering of Young Friends will take place August 16-24, 2005, at Lancaster University, UK and will gather around 300 Young Friends ages 18-35 from over 40 countries and 90 different yearly meetings. Young Friends around the world are preparing for this exciting event, expecting it to bring new life to the Religious Society of Friends. As with the 1985 World Gathering of Young Friends, the 2005 World Gathering will inspire and create our future leaders.
Vision Statement for the World Gathering of Young Friends 2005:
The World Gathering of Young Friends will bring together Friends aged 18-35 from around the word to build community within the next generation of Quaker leaders. We will study and learn from our heritage, share our present-day expressions of faith, and discern how Christ our present teacher is guiding us to facilitate understanding within our Quaker family. By sharing experiences of living Quaker testimony from our varied cultures, we seek to ask humbly for guidance and to open ourselves to the possibility of transformation.
This will be the first fully representative World Gathering of Young Friends since the meeting at Guilford College, North Carolina, USA, in 1985. The Young Friends of the 1985 gathering came away changed. Many hold leadership positions teaching Young Friends who will be attending the 2005 gathering. Several members of the North American Based Planning Committee were born the year of the 1985 gathering—we understand that we are the next generation of Friends. In addition to the 1985 gathering, smaller international gatherings since the 1940s have led to the development of regional Young Friends groups, which worked together at different points in history. There is evidence of direct communication between North American Young Friends and German and Japanese Young Friends before and after World War II, which suggests a radical methodology of love between Friends living under different political administrations. Later on in history, in the late 1950s, a group of Young Friends from North America kept ties with Friends in Russia after a world gathering. The American Friends brought the Russian Friends over to tour the U.S. hoping to combat McCarthyism.
In light of the state of the world today, and the state of the Quaker community, there is a need to create an international spiritual forum for the Religious Society of Friends for the 21st century—a forum that could unify us to do great things in this world. In addition to promoting global awareness, the gathering this summer intends to build on the themes of the last major gatherings, emphasizing the importance of spirituality in the lives of Young Friends and the vitality of youth interest in the Quaker community.
The concept of this World Gathering arose in discussion at the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) Triennial in 2000. There was a deep feeling that God was calling the current generation of Young Friends to hold another World Gathering with the aims of:
- Spiritual connection
- Cross-cultural understanding
- Friends’ leadership
- Spiritual discernment
- Lasting Friendship
Young Friends who were present at the Triennial went back to their regions and began to develop connections in many yearly meetings and to hold meetings on the idea of a World Gathering. The idea of a World Gathering interested Young Friends feeding into the process from other areas of the world. We have used existing organizations such as FWCC, local yearly meetings in Africa, and the Young Quaker Christian Association to develop contacts. We have received much support and enthusiasm from these organizations.
The development of the vision among many Young Friends has brought forward a theme for the gathering: "I am the vine, you are the branches." (John 15:5) "Now let us see what Love can do." (William Penn) We hope that, through this theme, Young Friends will be able to discover new directions for Friends worldwide, breathing fresh life into the Religious Society of Friends. We can then go together in Truth and power to shake up and challenge the world today as our Quaker ancestors did.
There are already discussions worldwide of how to continue the learning and experience found within the World Gathering subsequent to it, including plans to bring back the Young Friends of North America Association. These plans, ideas, and dreams are being put into action currently. Please look for the development of the World Gathering and Young Friends of North America in Friends publications within the near future. This is the beginning of an International Quaker Youth Movement. This is the beginning of an age of Young Friends stepping up into the leadership positions before them with full knowledge and experience of the breadth of Quakerism, and of our abilities to change our world.
To find out more about the World Gathering of Young Friends visit http://www.wgyf.org.