"Where are Older Young Friends?"
Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Friends are concerned that Older Young Friends have not found a place for themselves in the Society of Friends. They have reached the age where they should be increasingly active in the Meeting, but where are they? This question we feel is vital to the society as a whole. Is there a place in the Meeting for Older Young Friends?
In many cases these Young Friends have stopped coming to Meeting activities because they feel too old for expanding high school groups, and yet they are not quite ready to settle "silently into Meeting." They still have too many unanswered questions. We feel that these late and post-college Friends do have a responsibility to offer leadership and guidance to younger Young Friends, but they are not and should not be a part of this group. There must be a place where maturing Young Friends can go to solve together the problems which are challenging them.
Conferences are one gathering place for Older Young Friends; but many are not free to attend conferences, and even those who are need a continuing fellowship at home. Both Baltimore and Washington Monthly Meetings have organized before Meeting coffee sessions which have been partially successful in bringing Older Young Friends together and giving them an atmosphere in which to develop their religious thinking. We have not, however, fully succeeded in finding the fellowship we need so badly. And so we ask: Is there a place for Older Young Friends?

Sue Powell and Jon Carnell
Friends Journal
October 1955

The rest of the article describes a Young Quaker Conference in Indiana which drew 135 from across the world body of Friends, poetry, news of young Friends from Philadelphia, Pacific, New England and Iowa Conservative YMs.

This is all fairly bizarre to me as thoughts like that have been floating around in spoken and written form for years in my yearly meeting. Coupled with news of activities and culture of Young Friends around the world at that time it seems like there was a divide between the conference culture of Young Friends and the spiritual nurture and leadership that they felt in their home meetings. I'm not sure what to make of it because I know from my own grandparents that there was an intense drive among the young parents to keep together, to discuss and plan and organize around their own meeting in Richmond, IN but apparently that was not the case so much for younger, or less local Friends.
At the same time I can't help but think I'm a 'conference Friend' at this point. I have the contacts and possess the background and erudite knowledge to have sophisticated discussions with other Young Friends but I'm not living where my community meeting is and don't have a way to directly relate my thoughts and leadings into my weekly worship and communion (not explicitly sacramental).
I was wondering if other folks had thoughts on this or know some of the history of Young Friends movements in their locality or nationwide. I'll keep posting gems from the archives of Friends Journal probably.

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I've been writing about similar issues for a long time (the main piece is "The Lost Quaker Generation" (so old now all the links are broken, LOL!) and sort of collected in my youth tag. I organized for ten years, ranted for ten years and have now largely dropped out of local Quakerism. Most of my old Friends have also more or less dropped away. Those of us with little kids have it especially hard as a lot of "official" Quaker life is pretty family-unfriendly (i.e., they expect you to work around difficult schedules and lack of childcare). In the last few years I've seen people my age given leadership roles but they've often been very proscribed and I still haven't see a lot of the real change that's going to be necessary if we're going to fill in the generation gap.

Quaker history shows us that things get ugly when transition generations have been ignored. But I'm resigned that this is where we're heading again.
My first experience with Friends meeting in Philadelphia in '67 was at a mostly young adult one! So no problem then. But since in going to meetings in various states in the West, I do see how meetings often don't seem "friendly" to young families nor do the meetings seem to reach a wide variety of people. The last time I visited my previous yearly meeting conference, nearly everyone attending was over 65. Thank goodness for the elderly--since I am almost there myself:-) But I couldn't help wondering, "Where are all the young adults, the married with families, the middle aged?"

Here's a few things my local meeting on the Central Coast of California does to open wide the doors of Friendliness. We have a marvelous First Day program. Right now we meet in two rooms of a charter school, so the one room is perfect for kids. Considering the small size of our meeting, we have a fairly large group of teens and children.

Secondly, following the rise of meeting after worship, we have started having lots of fellowship (usually with snacks. This means so much to me. I don't often feel called to speak in meeting (about 3 times in 3 years), but I am such a communcative kind of guy that I love the sharing that goes on amongst the Friends after worship.

Plus, we also have Dialogue discussions on non-business meeting days.

We still don't have college students (though we meet near Cal Poly), nor young adults, but our meeting has a deep commitment to reaching out.

I hope and pray some day to see people of other ethnic and social background attending.


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