It is my good fortune to belong to a large, urban meeting that has quite a few families with young (and not so young) children attending. When the children leave us after the first 20 minutes of worship each First Day, there is a very perceptible exodus, as dozens of young people, accompanied by First-day school teachers, leave the meeting room. I love to open my eyes during that moment and watch them trooping out with their teachers, fondly remembering the years when I helped with childcare and First-day school. I am very grateful to those who develop or work with curriculum and make real efforts to engage young minds with the particulars of our religious faith.
I’m convinced that, whatever other work I’ve done in this lifetime—and there has been plenty of other work—nothing has been so challenging or as important as giving birth and being present to my three now-adult children. My offspring are amazing and wonderful to my maternal eyes, but not without presenting huge challenges to me and my husband, Adam. I sense that this may be the case for many if not most parents, and it is in the work with my evolving children, who are spiritual beings on their own journeys, that I have learned the most, and found life’s greatest challenges and the most joy and satisfaction.
Perhaps because I believe that nurturing the next generation very well is such a pivotal task in bringing peace and social justice to our suffering world, I am convinced that we Friends, as a Religious Society, should give very high priority to nurturing young Friends (and other young people) in their spiritual journeys. I wrote years ago in this column about the immense importance of youth programs run by yearly meetings or other Quaker bodies, such as the Friends General Conference Gathering. The connections that Quaker young people forge in these programs are seminal to their independent embracement of Quakerism and defining its importance in their own lives. The friendships forged can last for many years and provide a cohort of Quaker peers that can support an emerging young adult Friend during some of life’s big challenges. I know from listening to my own 20-something offspring that such a Quaker peer group can also provide immense joy and relief to young Friends who feel isolated in our mainstream culture from others who share the values with which they grew up. I feel strongly that we older Friends should do all that we can to support quality programming for our young Friends. Beyond that, I also believe that Friends organizations, even small ones like Friends Publishing Corporation, should do everything within their power to find and mentor young adult Friends into positive encounters with Quaker work and preparation for assuming leadership in our Religious Society.
For all of the reasons mentioned above, I am very pleased that this month we are printing excerpts from Whispers of Faith: Young Friends Share Their Experience of Quakerism (p.6), a new publication by Quaker Press of FGC and Quaker Books of Britain Yearly Meeting, in cooperation with Quakers Uniting in Publications (QUIP). This book was written and illustrated exclusively by Quaker youth, and was edited by a very capable panel of Quaker youth. We have included only a few excerpts from the book in this issue, but were impressed by the maturity of perspective and the quality of writing and photography to be found in it. I encourage you to read these selections—and also to have a look at the new youth-oriented web pages on the Friends Journal website to hear from the next generation of Friends, and to see the excellent work of which they are capable.