Epistle from Young Adult Friends


WE ARE the Young Adult Friends at NYYM Summer Sessions. We hail from a variety of regions and Quaker spaces. We hold a range of beliefs. Some of us have attended NYYM since we were children, and others are experiencing it for the first time. We embody a variety of life experiences: some of us are new to adulthood, others have lived on our own for years. Some of us are parents ourselves. Some of us are rooted, others are in transition. Some of us attended Sessions in person, others attended online. We are all happy to be here. 


During our time at Summer Sessions this year, we laughed a lot. We stayed up too late. We ate meals together. We danced. We cried. We made friends, we reconnected. We sang. We were bitten by many bugs. We whispered to each other during business meetings. We engaged with Quakerism in an intentional way. We shared ourselves with the wider NYYM community. Those of us in person at Oakwood created a warm, inclusive space for each other. We acknowledge that we did not include our virtual Young Adult Friends in spontaneous activities as much as we could have. We experienced the joy of changing our plans as Spirit moved us. 


We saw many new connections form among ourselves, intergenerationally, and in the larger NYYM community. We saw Friends navigating change and transition. We saw grief. At times we saw microaggressions, particularly related to age, race, and gender identity. We saw leadership from young people, including children, and Friends of all ages. We saw a greater mixing of ages and friendships than at previous sessions. We saw that our community is not in unity. We saw disagreement sit in the room without being addressed in a healing way. We saw tensions build and release. We saw that Spirit is here with us at Oakwood Friends.


We felt hope that this community can continue to grow and thrive as we find our way in changing times. We felt grief about the harms Quakers committed through Indian Boarding Schools, and grief for victims of gun violence. We felt glad that Friends who were not able to travel to us were able to attend virtually. We felt sad that some of our Friends who could have made the trip chose not to be in community with us at Oakwood. We felt appreciation of others’ gifts. We felt affirmed, validated, and so welcomed. We felt disappointed by some of the immature and unkind ways older adult friends conducted themselves in meetings for business and discernment. At times we perceived Friends speaking from ego rather than Spirit. We saw older adult Friends speaking about deep hurts in vague and indirect language. Our language here is a deliberate choice to directly name what we saw and experienced. We embrace the traditions Friends have of using truthful and simple language. We find it exciting when Friends are able to communicate and come to unity. We feel Spirit present among us.


We suggest that, given the passion that Friends of all ages feel for social and environmental justice, we find opportunities to attend demonstrations and political actions.


We suggest that, when experiencing conflicts and tensions, we name hurts and concerns directly and specifically, so they can be worked through openly. 


Young Adult Friends do not experience ourselves as the future of Quakerism—we experience ourselves as part of the present. We ask that Friends acknowledge and honor the wisdom YAFs bring to Quaker spaces. We ask that the community support and have faith in us as we exercise agency in Quaker processes. 


We appreciate the ways in which experienced Friends have served as our elders and answered our questions. We suggest that in our various meetings (for worship, for business, for discernment), Friends with knowledge directly and promptly answer questions that are raised. 


We ask that Friends remember that as Quakers we have meetings for worship, not churches—because we understand that we can worship anywhere we are gathered together and in Spirit.


Some of us remember that in past years, we had a facing bench of elders at all our meetings, including meetings for worship with a concern for business. We suggest that we might resume this practice to ground our business meetings, with Friends of all ages, including children, as elders. 


We love our yearly meeting and our community. We are committed to continuously rebuilding our faith and our ways of being together as the world continues to change around us. We look forward to doing so with all of you.