Thursday, January 2, 2014


George Fox was 23 when he began to preach. 28 when he climbed Pendle Hill and saw the great people to be gathered. John Woolman was 26 when he went on his first ministry trip, 34 when he published 'Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes' William Penn was 37 when Pennsylvania was founded. Thomas Kelly only lived to the age of 44. Jesus was crucified in his early 30s. Inasmuch as Young Adult Friends are a named category, I think we can't let it dictate much. Friends shouldn't marginalize Friends for being young, but at the same time, the functional word in the phrase "Young Adult Friend" is "Adult," capable of both work and responsibilities. I've been thinking about this in reviewing attendance lists for events that took place a few years ago. Many lists specifically mark out Young Adults, and there are names that keep popping up, especially in the larger conversation about Young Adult Friends. I wonder if the legacy of these Friends is that they will forever be remembered as YAFs, regardless of what other contributions they can bring to the community. Certainly that feeling is felt by the person who wrote the Quaker Problem meme "43 years old with successful career, still called Young Adult Friend." At the same time I think I'm done with conferences for Young Adults and with the YAF housing at larger gatherings. Surely the point of the Young Adult program is to bridge Friends out of a highly structured teen group into the more amorphous community, just as teens sometimes need help adjusting after leaving their highly structured high school lives. The point isn't to create another community that needs to be bridged out of as well, it's to connect older mentors with people who could use their help in their struggles of life and faith, and to empower those teens to take serious part in the life of the meeting. That really should start in the teen years. At conferences I don't want to encourage a separation whereby young adults only interact with themselves. Those barriers need to be broken down. That's my challenge to myself in this new year. Act more like an adult while bringing what I have into more of my meeting life. Young Adult Friends are not the future of Quakerism. They are the present.

1 comment:

  1. This is an important issue!

    I think there are some bloopers in your commentary; e.g., holiness as a factor in the Hicksite/Orthodox split, and the notion that "continuing revelation" was a doctrine of the early Friends. To validate your claims, you would need to define these concepts. As I see it, "continuing revelation" is a modern Quaker idea, and Holiness theology postdated the H/O split.

    My own perception is that Quakerism as a brand name has lost much of its earlier drawing power. Many would confuse it with "Amish" or "Mormon"; some with UUism.

    If we want to recover the spiritual genius of early Quakerism, Lewis Benson's book, *Catholic Quakerism*, can IMHO point us in the right direction. Note that I don't claim that he has it all together, but I believe he does point us in the right direction.

    In any case, thanks for bringing up a critical issue