I am writing some time after Summer Sessions at Silver Bay. It was a wonderful week. I was grateful to be there. I loved spending time with so many passionate, fabulous people. :)
I gave my report to the body on Thursday, July 21. The text of the report is at the end of this post, for those who are interested. I felt it was well received. I welcome feedback. :)
I returned home and heard news the other day that Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has discontinued the staff position of The YA coordinator. This is very sad news, and I know that there are many who are not easy with this action. I am holding that community in the light as they sit in this unsettled time. See the PYM website for the YAF Epistle. www.pym.org/programs/young-adults
There is a fabulous weekend coming up at Powell House August 19-21. Please look on the website www.powellhouse.org. It is important to sign up soon, as they are doing the food numbers!! It promises to be a deep and meaningful weekend. There are plenty of funds available to help, and I can assist in arranging transportation if you need. SPREAD THE WORD! :)
I hope that each of you are doing well, feeling light, and enjoying the summer.
Here is the text of my report.
Good morning Friends,
I am so pleased to be with you here this morning. I have been doing the work of the Young Adult Field Secretary now since the end of March of this year. It is with Grace that I have taken each step, and I truly feel that Spirit is moving in my work, as well as in the meetings and regions of New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM). In each of the places I have visited I have felt supported, loved, and met with enthusiastic joy. From so many Friends I hear a hunger for Intergenerational community. I am so grateful for the reception that I get and the outreach that Friends offer me. The emails and phone calls wishing to include Young Adults in the life of the Monthly and Yearly meetings show that Friends want to use me as a resource, want to work with each other, and have a desire to include as many people as possible.
Here is a brief summary of the work I have been doing thus far:
I have made visits to Spring Sessions, Circle of Young Friends (CYF) conference, Elmira, Young Adult Friends (YAF) gathering in Ithaca/poplar ridge area, Morningside, YAF gathering in New York City , All Friends Regional Meeting, Farmington Scipio Spring Gathering, Brooklyn Monthly Meeting, Ridgewood Monthly Meeting. For a total of 10 events/visits. I have found YAF at each of the visits. Some meetings were one, or two YAF. Others have many, more than most Monthly Meeting (MM) memberships. Many were YAF who had families, or were over 30. In two Meetings there were YAF, with Families, becoming members. In some regions there are pockets of YAF who don't have many others near by. I have realized that many YAF are in these small pockets, and that they may or may not be aware of other YAF in their region or in NYYM. I hope to find ways to pull these Friends together, and to make bigger groups out of the smaller ones. My hope is that by getting Friends together, and getting to know Friends better, that we will discover gifts in our body that will work to serve on many levels. Those YAF will also feel part of a larger community, with members that are closer to them in age and life stage.
I have established multiple ways of reaching me, on business cards, cell phone, face book, skype and email. I created a blog and Flyers.I have sent messages to all MM and Regional Meeting (RM) clerks, as well as our existing data base for YAF in NYYM. Please look for my flyers and business cards in the Moser book table bags. I would love for each meeting and worship group to have these so that new attenders and members, as well as long term ones, can have my information.
Young Adults Concerns Committee is still working hard, I do not replace them, and I hope for my work to compliment their spirit filled work.
One particular focus I have been thinking about is reminding Friends that YAF includes people up to age 35. This is often tricky, because by one's 30s often someone is quite established, with children, a career, a house. They can be professionals. They do not always stand out as YAF age. We also stop knowing people's ages when they come to our meeting as adults, and not as the youth who grew up there. It isn't polite to ask them their age, and as they are more settled, we may not know that they are still in that YAF age range. Please keep that in mind when identifying YAF in your meetings. I often solve this not by asking their ages, but by announcing that the age range is 18-35. That way they can identify themselves how they would like.
I would also like to ask Friends for your patience. This is a big job to do in 20 hours a week. I do not work every day. I try to check email and voice mail daily, but do not always get to call people back immediately. I am also still learning how to balance the unique needs of this job with my own life. I will get back to you when you contact me, but it may take a little bit. I also ask for your prayers and understanding as I travel and explore this work.
I would like to bring to Friends what has been brought to my heart. I ask your patience and prayers for the potentially messy delivery of my human interpretation of a message I have been given. When I arrived here this week, I promptly lost my voice, literally, could not speak. This is not good for a week when I have to speak to people, to get to know people. I began to silently freak out. But the message came to me that perhaps I am not meant to talk so much, perhaps I am meant to listen. So I listened. And I heard a lot, all in the first day. I began to feel heavy, and was not sure of my path. A Friend, noting my illness, and fatigue asked me if I had someone to help me, to hold me in prayer. I replied that I had an anchor committee, at home. She encouraged me to ask for help here this week, and helped me name people who were gifted in ways that I needed help. No sooner had I done that, several Friends, of a variety of ages, were happy to hold me and my work, their gifts for eldering, listening and being present immediately lightened my load, and I no longer felt the burden in the same way. This was Spirit moving.
I would like everyone to think about the first 2 or 3 things they would say when asked to describe themselves. If you cannot think of anything, how would your friends describe you? (turn to someone nearby and tell them the 2 or three words.) Perhaps you thought of your vocation, or that you are a parent, or a hobby. Perhaps you thought of yourself as a student, a graduate, a friend. Perhaps you thought of the work you do at Meeting or in your community. Perhaps you thought of yourself in or out of a key relationship. Perhaps you thought of your gifts, a good listener, an elder, an artist, a musician, a writer, a peacemaker. If it is your birthday, perhaps you thought of your age first. Can I see a show of hands of people who listed their age as how they describe themselves. If it isn't your birthday, you probably didn't.
In the past few months I have had countless conversations and received many emails that go something like this... “ I need __ YAF for ________ committee, cause, event.” This is wonderful and the immediate response to my position, and the number of requests I get indicates that there is a real desire to include all generations. This excitement is critical, and deeply felt.
I invite you to imagine this scenario. What if someone walked up to you and asked you how old you were, maybe they asked your name too. When you replied that you were 63, they immediately asked you to be on a committee stating that they were looking for 2 people, between 55 and 65. How would that sit with you? I have experienced a version of this. I can tell you it did not feel good, and did not make me want to serve on that committee. I have also been told that they were happy to have a young person on the committee, instead of stating why they were glad to have ME on that committee. When identified merely as someone of a certain age, or that is “young” I did not know why I was being asked more than just a body to fill a slot. I want all the people in the Meeting who are led to be able to serve as they are led. The tricky thing is that I do not have a pool of YAF from which to draw. I do not know everyone yet, and I may never. I can publicize the request, but this too is empty because I am not familiar with the work of the person requesting the YAF. I am working on, and praying on, a way that we can make known what work needs to be done, and communicate that widely, past the people who always get asked, and to everyone, so that those who hunger for work that fits their needs, get fed. And this is where we will all have to work.
I think that is because Spirit works through us at all ages. Age is no factor for the work of God. Some of my most valuable moments with Spirit have been with very old, and very young people. It did not matter their age, but the lesson I learned, and the gifts we exchanged. God works through our gifts, and our ability to receive those gifts. But there is a built in trick. In order to see that work, to know God, I believe we have to listen, get to know and be open to our gifts and those of others. We have to spend time with each other, be present with each other, and help to coax those gifts out if the other is unaware or reluctant to see their own gifts. This takes time, and it takes patience. It takes a conscious effort to be open and aware.
So with that passion, the desire to integrate our body, here is my question. How can this happen? How can we channel the enthusiasm into integration of all ages? How do we focus on knowing our gifts? I am sure you can think of some ways. For me it usually happens through activity, action. I know those best with whom I have labored. I get close to people when I work with them, travel with them, worship with them, share a project. In times of action, gifts come forward. There are leaders, organizers, editors, timekeepers, collaborators, brainstormers, ministers, people who can make a plan come together. But all these gifts are inspired by action. A goal. Friends have a strong history of action. We have moved mountains. It is the gifts of the Spirit that made that happen. When called Friends answer with that of God.
If there is a committee of people above 80, all of whom have a passion for a cause, who commit their time and gifts to that cause, who talk about their cause, and who live their gifts, that is a thriving committee, no matter what the age of the members. That is the work that is needed. That is who is led to that work. They will do the work, others will see, and if they are led, they will join, regardless of their age.
The powerful thing that can happen when we look at gifts, and get to know others in our community, is that there is a much wider group from which to harvest those gifts. I know it happens all over that the same energetic, enthusiastic, generous people get asked to do work over and over. Mostly because they will say yes, rather than being asked specifically because of their gifts. I believe this is how we see burn out. If we use passion and gifts as the motor, and spirit as the rudder, I wonder how many more people we could include so that the work is light, and the blessings are many. I have faith that if the work is strong, and the groups are active, and that the word gets out, that the right people will be led to the work.
In that vein, I ask you to get to know each other. Talk to other people. What would happen if you went through your meeting directory and listed the gifts of each person in it? Could you do it? If you could not, maybe you would go out of your way to fill in the holes, and get to know the people you left blank. Please do not be shy about spreading the word about your work. We are all working together. I would like to see this Yearly meeting work from a point of power, focusing on gifts, not age to continue the work of the Spirit. I leave you with a queary.
How are we faithful to the leadings and gifts from God and nurture those in ourselves and others, regardless of age, encouraging and supporting each other at each stage of life?