My apologies for the lack of updating recently. So much has been happening in the past few months!
Since I last posted, the three of us went to Farmington-Scipio's Spring Gathering. On the shore of Seneca Lake, we enjoyed getting to know so many of our community members better. Franklin and I (Helen) helped out with the kids and led an intergenerational games night on Friday, and Anna led a Bible Study on Saturday. There was so much joy, and wonderful conversations, throughout the day.
Our recent youth retreats have gone incredibly well also. We had a High School retreat on Gender and Sexuality called "He, She, Ze... Me?" in which we were blessed with the presence of some wonderful adults and young adults to help Franklin and I give as well-rounded a discussion on issues of gender and sexuality as possible. Two Friends from PYM were adult presences all weekend, leading one workshop on trans issues and other on spirituality and sexuality. Two lower case friends from Ithaca came and did a workshop on our society's perceptions of our bodies and our sexuality, a person's sexuality throughout their life, and the different spheres of sexuality. Despite it being a very talk-intensive retreat, our youth attenders remained engaged and contributed wonderful insights in some very thoughtful discussions.
At our most recent youth retreat, "Creating Your Way," we played with every kind of creative expression we could fit in - creative writing, storytelling, theatre games, culinary arts, crafts, and movement.
Most recently, Franklin and I attended Friends General Conference Gathering in Grinell, Iowa. Franklin spent nearly all of his time with the High School group, so you'll have to ask him personally about his experience. I spent my mornings working with the youngest age group (birth to 2.5 years), and my afternoons with the Adult Young Friends group. It was great to hear about what people my age are doing, as well as attend AYF Business Meetings, meeting for worship, and games.
Before Gathering officially started, I attended an AYF retreat which focused largely on discernment. Topics ranged from personal discernment and using your community to help you in that (or helping others with personal discernment) to the role that discernment as a group plays in Quaker business.
I found myself particularly challenged by the idea of waiting in the spirit for a group to come to a sense of the meeting when the issue is one that I might feel strongly about personally. How do you embrace the process when you feel that you know the truth? How did early Friends faithfully sit while their community members spent decades discerning whether or not Friends could hold slaves? How do you tell someone whose ancestors were enslaved that those years of discernment were necessary? Are there issues we are laboring with as Friends today that require some to continue suffering as we work towards sense of the meeting?
Next week is NYYM Summer Sessions on Lake George, and I am looking forward to it immensely. I've made the decision to take a year off from working with Junior Yearly Meeting, and to try to be more involved in the worship groups and business. I've also been working hard on the materials for YFIR's display table. It will include general information about the program, but also a photo album from our retreats, and a collection of testimonies of gratitude from you all.
Here is a sneak peak and some of the testimonies we've received, be sure to check out our table for more!
“As a family, we're re-imagining our relationship to a faith community. As a mom, I am grateful for you helping my daughter find deep strength and meaning in her young self - the best defense against poor choices, peer pressure, and depression! She gets SOO excited now when it's retreat weekend!”
“YFIR has really meant a lot to me these past few times I’ve come; it’s a great way to meet new people and to form new perspectives and ideas. I dearly enjoy all the laughs and great fun that naturally occur, but also the engaging discussions that have let me get to know other people’s opinions. I would like to sincerely thank all the hard workers who make these retreats possible.”
“The program has breathed new life into Perry City Meeting, the fruit of which is growing steadily. I think the adult ministry in particular has planted strong roots.”
“The YFIR program has meant building connections with wonderful young adult Friends, learning new thing about myself and my spiritual journey, and benefiting from their vision and hopefulness for Friends. Thank you!”
One last thing! Many of you have been asking us what YFIR will look like after Franklin, Anna, and I leave at the end of August. As of right now, we do not have any applicants to take our places. If you know anyone who might be interested, please give them our information. This does not mean the end of the program, however. The NYYM YFIR committee is working on plans to have guest facilitators come do youth retreats, and when we get new interns, the program will be there for them.