Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Whirlwind Recap

Hello Friends,

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.

Check out the wonderful promotional video made by one of our attenders and NYYM committee member, Abe Kenmore!

Monday, April 11, 2011


Hello F(f)riends!

As you may have heard, we owe a debt of gratitude to New York Yearly Meeting. Last weekend, at Spring Sessions, we received enough money to finish the year of 2011, and were approved to have a permanent line in the NYYM budget! This is great news. A big big thank you to all of you for your support in the past few years, and for showing that support at sessions last weekend.

We now embark upon a gratitude project. Of course, the three of us are very grateful to NYYM for its support, but we are not the only ones affected by the YFIR program. Our program touches many many people - the youth that attend our retreats, the folks that are part of Anna's adult religious education classes, those who have taken us into their homes when we travel, everyone who has contributed financial, emotional, and spiritual support, you are as much a part of this program as we are. I want to thank NYYM, but I also want to give you the chance to thank them.

Over the next few months I will be collecting expressions of gratitude from those touched by our program. This can be in the form of stories or anecdotes, pictures, or even just a sentence saying something about why YFIR is important to you. I'm hoping to put this all together for our table at Summer Sessions. Please send your contribution to yfirinterns@gmail.com or by snail mail to 599 Trumbulls Corners Rd, Newfield, N.Y. 14867. Please include your name and monthly meeting.

If you are a youth attender, you'll have the chance to help me put this all together at our upcoming retreats - so think about creative ways to express our gratitude!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hello all! Tonight we had vegan cream of mushroom and spinach soup for dinner. We thanked PYM (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting) for the mushrooms, and NYYM for the spinach. How did this come to be?

Franklin, who is on NYYM's Young Adult Concerns Committee (YACC) spent this past weekend in Purchase, New York, where he and other members of YACC lead a retreat for Young Adult Friends in NYYM. The theme was "Opening Our Hearts: Deepening Connection Through Vulnerability."
Here is the description provided by YACC:
Connection is what we're all here for - as humans, and as Friends. Connection to ourselves, to others, and to our spirituality. Fear and shame prevent and unravel connection, making us doubt that we are worthy of connection and afraid of rejection. Vulnerability is at the core of these fears, but it is also the wellspring of joy, faith, love, and belonging. This weekend we'll explore how vulnerability can enrich our spiritual and emotional lives, and how to find the courage to live vulnerably: to take on endeavors with uncertain outcomes, to say "I love you" first, and to have faith in that which is unknowable.

Franklin brought back to BCH with him the food leftovers from the retreat, only to open the refrigerator and find that it had already been stocked by leftovers from my adventure in Pennsylvania.

Why was I in Pennsylvania this past weekend? Well, back in November when Franklin and I went to the Young Friends Consultation in Indiana, I met Stephen Dotson. Stephen is PYM's Middle School Friends Coordinator. We talked a little about our respective work, and Stephen invited me to be a FAP (Friendly Adult Presence) at one of his retreats. YFIR's schedule being what it is, the first weekend that worked was in March. On Friday I packed up my air mattress and headed to Harrisburg, PA, using a GPS that I borrowed from my parents (that my sisters and I got them for Christmas, and that they carefully keep in a box on a shelf so that it doesn't come to any harm, or use).
It was really wonderful to observe the differences between PYM's MSF (Middle School Friends) gatherings and YFIR and Powell House retreats. I learned a few new games and approaches to scheduling, and shared (or tried to) about Put Ups and Molly's Game with them. The youth, and other FAPs, were incredibly welcoming and hilarious. I'm hoping to get some of the FAPs that I met to come and AP at a few YFIR retreats. It was a joy to connect with other Young Adult Friends with a leading to do youth work, to share past knowledge and build new experience together.
And, to bring the story full circle, I was sent back up the Susquehanna to Newfield with leftover mushrooms, peppers, carrots, and cucumber.

Franklin and I, while recovering from the past two weekends of retreats, are planning another retreat for this coming weekend. It's a Middle School Retreat - Finding the Inner Me. Here is the blurb:
A large part of connecting with others comes from our ability to connect with ourselves. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with messages about who we should want to be, what we should want to look like, and what things we should want to own. These external voices can be so loud that it can be hard to hear the internal voices of our souls. This weekend we’ll talk about ways to turn down the volume of the outward noise and search for avenues into our inner selves...

We're still excepting registration, so if you or someone you know would like to attend, please e-mail us at yfirinterns@gmail.com by Wednesday. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Be Still and Listen: snow and spiritual nurture

Hello beautiful beings,

We have gotten a lot of snow at Beloved Community House. It's snowed pretty much non-stop for the last two weeks, but this morning as Franklin and I got ready to go to Meeting at Perry City it had not only stopped snowing but also looked like some of the snow and ice might be starting to melt.

(our snow covered garden)

At Perry City Friends gathered before Meeting, to discuss some of the upcoming spiritual nurture workshops. Friends requested that we change the order of the workshops and added a new topic: What is the Spiritual Aspect of Money? : Finances, Tithing, and Covenant Donation.
We also get a date for our first workshop, which will be:

Fellowship Among Friends: How do We Pray Alone, How Do We Pray Together?

A Meeting should be a spiritual fellowship of Friends. Yet a common problem faced by most Meetings is that a member could attend for years without knowing the spiritual stories and experiences of the Friend sitting next to them.

We will meet at Perry City Meetinghouse.

On Sunday February 13th and 20th at 9:15 am - 10:30 am

we will discuss such questions as:

How do we facilitate nurturing conversations about our spiritual lives?

How do we deepen our spiritual lives together?

How do we talk about our differences in a loving way?

Extra Reading: http://unwaveringbandsoflight.blogspot.com/2006/07/missing-jesus-train.html


(Friend Betsy next to this morning's brainstorming)

Friends should feel free to join us if they can.

Peace and Joy,


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Trusting in the Slow Work of Sourdough, Our Communities, and God

Hello everyone! Helen here. I'm going to share some pictures that I took at Powell House last weekend throughout this post to break up the words.

This past weekend, Anna and I attended a retreat at Powell House led by Christopher Sammond titled "Trusting in the slow work of God." One of the perks of being a Young Friends in Residence is that we are able to attend Powell House retreats for free. I'm really grateful for this, as I would not otherwise be able to afford to go. I've been to two already, and I hope to be able to do more. Anyway, I was struck this weekend with how open the group was to sharing personal stories and revelations with such a large group (more than forty, some had to stay in the ACC). One of my favorite activities was creating a life map of spiritual, vocational, emotional, and otherwise important life events. It was interesting to see the variety of ways in which people chose to map their lives, and incredibly powerful to hear about people's revelations and observations about the process. It came to me that "trusting in the slow work of God" means not just believing that God will be at work in my life, but realizing that God always has been at work.

The topic of "Trusting in Slow Work" has brought to mind something that was said two weekends ago when YFIR presented at Farmington-Scipio winter gathering: that Young Friends in Residence has been an exercise in trust. The pilot program started a year and a half ago based on a dream of what it could be, and without the funding to complete a full two years. Since then the program has grown in unforeseen ways, thanks largely to the trust that individuals and groups have put in the interns and the committees that support us. Thanks to Farmington-Scipio, we now have the funds to continue until the end of August 2011.

Another aspect of trust has been on my mind recently. At our last retreat, we had three new attenders. As one mother was dropping off her daughter, an eleven year old who was not Quaker, and did not know any of the youth at the retreat, it struck me: this woman is putting so much trust in me right now, to care for her daughter for a whole weekend. And I know that, when I was eleven, you couldn't have paid me to spend a weekend without anyone I knew in a strange place with new people all talking about a religion I had barely any knowledge of. But here they were. And by the time her mother came to pick her up at the end of the weekend, the girl was telling her that she wished the retreat were a whole week long.

One last trust topic: sourdough. This fall I became interested in sourdough, a process by which (ideally), you can bake using only the yeast that occurs naturally in the air. I'd neglected my sourdough starter for a while, so yesterday I took it out and tried to make bread. When baking, you trust that all of the elements will come together to make what you're trying to make, or at least something edible. I don't fully understand sourdough, but I have to trust that the bread will rise even if I don't understand why. Unfortunately, yesterday, I was cooking on the stove top while the bread was in the oven, and somehow accidentally turned the oven off part way through. The result was a dense, doughy, but still delicious bread that we ate with grape lavender jam from our CSA. I guess I'll try again today. If you want to learn more about sourdough, check out this site.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The only thing to do is to come together and ask “how is God working among us right now?”

Hello all you wonderful beings,

(Friends having a little fellowship time before we started class)

Over the last year and a half I have been blessed to teach two adult religious education classes attended by Friends from Perry City and Ithaca Meetings.

The first class which started in November 2009 was called “The Theological framework for Quaker Traditions and Prophetic Witness,” (nicknamed Quakerism 101 and 202 by those Friends who took it.) This class ran almost every week starting at 9:30 am-10:30 am on Sundays before Meeting at Perry City Meetinghouse, until June 2010.

I then taught “Quakerism and Mystical Traditions: A history of radical theology,” (Quakerism and Mysticism for short) from September 2010 - December 2010. This class was also well attended by Friends from Perry City and Ithaca and met at the same time and place as the class before it.

Both classes where a wonderful experiences for me and I felt blessed to spend time with the Friends who attended.

For 2011 I have felt lead to do something different though. Under the prayerful guidance and support of Perry City Ministry and Counsel I will be offering a series of workshops on spiritual nurture issues.

These workshops will meet at Perry City Meetinghouse at 9:30 am-10:30 am. Some workshops will be single Sunday morning session some might be several consecutive sessions long depending on the need.

A planning session will be held on February 6th at 9:00 am Sunday at Perry City Meetinghouse to solidify the schedule. Workshops should start soon after.

The topics of the workshops will be:
  • Meeting For Worship: Deepening the Space
  • Fellowship Among Friends: How do We Pray Alone, How Do We Pray Together?
  • Fellowship Among Friends: A Community More then One Hour A Week
  • Meeting For Worship With A Concern For Business: Deepening the Space
  • Greeting The Stranger: Newcomers and Hospitality
  • The Many Parts of the Church: Naming of Gifts and the Work of Friends
  • How High Is Our Hedge? : Our Quaker Community and Our Secular Communities
  • That Still Quiet Voice: Nurturing Vocal Ministry
  • Some Quakers Have Pastors: Understanding and Nurturing Community Between Monthly Meetings and Wider Quaker Community

Each workshop will include a brief reading but there will be no required text and no fees. These workshops are designed to be less academic and more prayerful planning sessions where we work together to come up with ways to deepen and nurture our communities around these issues.

For more information about the specifics of each workshops visit my Quaker blog Raised in the Light. If you have any questions feel free to email me at anna.e.obermayer AT gmail.com

Peace and Joy,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lets Talk About Food!

Hi all you beautiful beings,

As some of you may know out of the four YFIR interns I do the cooking for the youth retreats. For every retreat I plan out a menu, do the food shopping, cook the meals and manage the meal crews. It has been for me on of the best parts of the program. I also cook a lot at Beloved Community House because I love to cook and we eat communal meals together every day.

For the youth program we YFIRs have made the commitment to buy as much local foods as we can, to eat seasonally whenever possible and to buy fair-trade when we can. Every retreat is vegetarian with always a non-dairy or vegan option. We are lucky to live in the Ithaca area where we can get local fruits, veggies, dairy, bread, honey, maple syrup, flour, and soy products. We can get sugar, coffee, tea, and chocolate fair-trade. It only costs a little more money to be much more ethical with our food choices.

At Beloved Community House we also have a commitment to eating and buying local and fair-trade the CSA shares that Friends have donated the money for has allowed this to be possible on our lower income. At Beloved Community House we also eat vegetarian and often vegan.

Some Friends have voiced interest in seeing recipes for some of the delicious food we eat at the YFIR youth retreats and around the Beloved Community House. So on my personal blog I have begun writing down recipes to some of the food that I make. If you want to check it out I hope you enjoy it.

Peace and Joy,