The Quaker Community of Haverford College (QuaC) hosted 16 students from Earlham College and George Fox University in September 2010 for a weekend of bonding and networking. Ten Earlham students drove to Haverford from Richmond, Ind., and six students flew in from George Fox University in Newberg, Oreg., as part of a program aimed at strengthening ties among Quaker colleges.
Haverford students started this intervisitation program in the spring of 2009 to foster and nurture relationships between students at Quaker and Quaker-rooted colleges and universities around the country. Since that time, and with a grant from the Thomas H. and Mary Williams Shoemaker Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Haverford students have organized trips from and to Earlham, George Fox, and Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.
That weekend in September was the first time that this program brought students from three colleges together. It was also the first time that the program brought three branches of Quakerism—unprogrammed, Evangelical, and pastoral—together.
I am a sophomore at Haverford, and when I came here as a freshman in the fall of 2009, the intervisitation program was already underway. I was able to join a trip to Earlham in November and was grateful to have connected with students and faculty. I was looking forward to the next gathering, which would bring students from both Earlham and George Fox to Haverford.
The three-day weekend gathering at Haverford in September 2010 was the culmination of the intervisitation program. Several Haverford students and the associate director of the Haverford Quaker Affairs Office took the George Fox students, who arrived one day before Earlham’s students did, into Philadelphia on Friday to see Quaker landmarks. The group toured Arch Street Meeting House and Friends Center at 15th and Cherry Streets.
Friday evening, after the Earlham students arrived, students from the three schools bonded as they sang songs from Rise Up Singing around a fire. Saturday events included a nature trail walk, an art activity designed to spark discussions about the Quaker testimonies, and a game of Wink. Time was spent Saturday evening in worship where students of the three colleges shared their spiritual journeys with one another and what it meant to participate in intervisitation.
"I loved worshiping with everyone and hearing the hearts of those that I have become so close with," Elizabeth Rogers, a George Fox sophomore, told me in an email. "This intervisitation was incredibly fruitful for me," she wrote. "The experience gave me a chance to hang out with a different branch of Quakers."
For many others and for me, the weekend was about finding commonalities underneath our differences. "We still found a language in common, even though we were coming from a lot of different places," Molly Minden, a junior at Haverford and co-clerk of QuaC, said. "It just seemed like a lot of people felt very comfortable talking about God," she added.
Growing up in a liberal Philadelphia meeting, I would hear about the "other branches" of Quakerism. They always seemed foreign to me. The relationships I built from these intervisitations helped me to see that we are one Religious Society— one rich with variation but woven with common threads.