A Swiss Army Knife for Quakers

Cover photo by Chris Liu on Unsplash

As I write these words, the continuing onslaught of COVID-19 has pushed my worship community out of the meetinghouse and back into virtual worship, and on Sundays I see the pixelated faces of my Friends in the comfort of their own homes, perhaps under a blanket and with a mug of hot coffee or tea. It’s as good a time as any to think about how I—and the Friends around me—can retool and reposition ourselves for the next stage of our lives, in our homes and in our communities.

How can I help meet the needs of the younger adults and families in my meeting, or those who might visit us? What are working young adults feeling in a society whose economic landscape seems almost alien to that in which older generations of Quakers established themselves? How can we reckon with the acts of our Quaker ancestors who held human beings in bondage? What do I do with all this grief? What skills can I cultivate so that my experience of attending and participating in my Quaker meeting’s business sessions is more fulfilling?

If these are questions that pique your interest, this issue of Friends Journal is for you.

I hope I’m not presumptuous in assuming that this pandemic will eventually recede and we will all begin to resume, restore, and rebuild our lives in its wake. It makes sense to think about the tools we’ll need.

John Andrew Gallery’s “Meeting for Business as Spiritual Rehearsal” is one piece that speaks to my condition. When I was in my 20s, John led a “Quakerism 101” series in my meeting. Now, at a time in my life when I’ve newly taken up such responsibilities as clerking a monthly meeting and chairing a Quaker nonprofit board, reading this piece feels like reconnecting with an old teacher, sitting in on a master class just when I needed it.

Likewise, “How to Retain Young Families in Your Meeting,” coauthored by seven participants in a New York Yearly Meeting-sponsored parent support circle, strikes me as a toolset for Quaker communities, like my own, to become and remain hospitable to a large segment of people who are in need of a very particular kind of nurture in a growing season of their lives. As a parent, myself, of two school-age boys, I feel that our participation together in our Quaker meeting’s worship, and theirs with a small cohort of kids in First-day school, gives us all something important we simply can’t access otherwise. There is simply no way I’d be able to participate in the way I do, and want to, in my Quaker community, if it weren’t for the steps my meeting has taken to embrace my family, foster our spiritual growth, and receive what gifts we may offer back to our Friends. Every Friend who is an active participant in a Quaker meeting or church would do well to think about your community’s plan to welcome, and hold fast, the young families among you. If none exists, now is a very good time to get planning, and this article is a great place to begin to skill up, with references to resources for your next steps.

As the days in the northern hemisphere brighten and lengthen, and we all look forward to green shoots, may you find the opportunity to stretch and grow in the ways that matter to you, dear reader. Be well.

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