Report: Young Friends in Residence, Fall Sessions 2010

Submitted on 11/13/2010

The Young Friends in Residence First Year Report

Submitted by the YFIR Committee of NYYM
August 2010

A perfect spiritual work should fit like a deep breath. It should bring in new life-giving energy and clear out waste. It should fill to capacity and stretch in all the right places without overwhelming. And it should be work that engages the individual as well as the corporate body.—John Calvi

John Calvi’s quote really captures the feeling that was present when we (YFIR interns, Perry City Friends, support people, and the YFIR Committee) gathered this summer to reflect on YFIR’s first year up and running. It has been a year of surprises, joy, challenges, and growth. It has been a good year, an affirming year. The importance and strength of the Young Friends in Residence program (YFIR) has shone through the bumps and uncertainties, which are so often a part of starting something new. When we asked the interns, “Would you recommend this internship to your friends?” the answer was, “We already have.” What follows below is a summary of the work to date, things we’ve learned, and what we hope to accomplish in the coming year.

The Mission

YFIR is designed to strengthen and revitalize the Religious Society of Friends by addressing three areas critical to the continued, or restored, health of our meetings by:

  • Keeping adolescents and their families involved in the meeting
  •  Providing concrete and substantive opportunities to develop the leadership gifts of members and attenders, particularly among young adult friends
  • Deepening the spiritual life and practices of individuals and the meeting.

The Structure

YFIR is a joint collaboration between Perry City Monthly Meeting, which serves as host, and New York Yearly Meeting, which serves as the sponsoring organization. Two to four young adult interns live in the Beloved Community House (a name chosen by the first interns) in Newfield, NY, 10 miles from Perry City MM. The interns run a youth program for 11- to 14-year-olds consisting of six to eight weekend retreats per year. They are also engaged in both inreach and outreach work with Perry City Monthly Meeting. They are active in Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting and New York Yearly Meeting. They receive a small stipend, room and board, plus a modest amount of travel money.

The intern positions have been advertised on the NYYM Web site and Friends General Conference Web site, through contact with the clerk of Young Adult Concerns Committee in NYYM, and by word of mouth. The latter method has been the most effective. Applicants are required to submit a written application outlining their relevant experience and describing why they are called to this work. They are also asked to have a clearness committee and to submit a letter from that committee. The clearness committee has been a very moving and powerful experience for both the applicants and the committee participants. Interns have shared the clarity that has come to them through the assistance of the clearness committees even when they were initially skeptical about the process.

YFIR received its first two interns, Anna Obermayer and Franklin Crump, in September 2009. Both Anna and Franklin have committed to stay for a two-year term. Natalie Braun joined them in January 2010 and has agreed to stay for a little over one year. Helen Staab will join the group in September 2010. The YFIR Committee is actively seeking an intern to replace Natalie beginning in February 2011.

Currently support for the interns includes a Logistics and Support Committee at Perry City MM that addresses housing issues, use of the meetinghouse, and youth retreat reports and plans. There is an Anchor Committee which meets monthly and serves as a sounding board for the interns as they work on various aspects of the YFIR program, including youth retreats, intentional community building, and allowing them to speak to where they are on their spiritual journey, serving without expectations, but with intent of observing and supporting the interns’ journeys. The Anchor Committee is composed of the three Friends serving the interns as elders. Originally the hope was that there would be an at-large member on the Anchor Committee from each of the three closest monthly meetings as well. An invitation was sent out in early spring but to date the anchor committee remains primarily a Perry City effort. This coming year the Yearly Meeting YFIR Committee will work with Perry City Friends and the existing Anchor Committee to invite more regional participation. The Ministry & Council Committee at Perry City MM has also taken an active interest in the work of Anna and her Quakerism 101 classes and Bible study sessions. The interns spoke of the importance of having a place to hold ideas for support and clearness.

Friends acting as elders for the interns is a critical piece of the program. When done well the support provided by the sharing between elder and intern grounds and deepens the work. It allows for intentional reflection and wrestling. Interns shared about how they could feel the difference pre-elder and post-elder in their experience of the program. Eldering is a traditional Friends practice that is currently enjoying a revival. Because it is unfamiliar to many of us, Mary Kay Glazer and Margaret Obermayer facilitated an Elder workshop in August 2009 as a prelude to the YFIR program. Mary Kay later met with the interns in the early spring to talk about spiritual nurture and their experiences to date. She will be conducting a retreat for the interns and their elders in September 2010. Implementation of this piece of the program has been challenging, particularly in finding Friends able to serve as elders and in matching interns to elders. We have learned much from this and will be more mindful of this piece as we bring new interns on this year. We now have a written description of what we are looking for in an elder, and we will develop a more thoughtful process for identifying elders.

The Work

The interns have held five middle school retreats and a high school workshop. They have three more middle school retreats and one high school retreat scheduled through November. Their outreach and inreach work has included: AVP workshops at Auburn prison; Quakerism 101 classes focusing on Silence and Witness by Michael L. Birkel and Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order by Lloyd Lee Wilson; monthly Bible studies; and developing curriculum and leading First Day school for middle school and older youth. They have been named to Perry City’s Ministry and Council Committee, Building and Grounds Committee, and Peace and Social Action Committee. They have worked with youth and adults at NYYM Spring Sessions and Farmington-Scipio’s Spring Gathering and Friends General Conference. They have hosted two Circle of Young Friends retreats and traveled to Wichita, KANSAS, for a Young Friends Gathering. This past July, they led the Sunday evening family worship at NYYM Summer Sessions, worked with Junior Yearly Meeting, and attended business and committee meetings. For the personal spiritual nurture that grounds their work, the interns met regularly with their elder and their Anchor Committee and attended programs at Powell House and Pendle Hill as time allowed. Much growth has occurred in their spirited, deep conversations with one another on long car rides and around the table.

Results

Impact on Monthly Meetings

While it is too early to determine the long-term impact of the program on Perry City and Ithaca Monthly Meetings, there are some things we can say. Perhaps the most poignant result to date is the mutual tenderness and real appreciation for one another that is evident between the interns, Perry City Friends, and others involved in the work of the program. It has also brought to light the power that one small meeting has when it takes a leap of faith and embraces something new. As one Perry City Friend put it, Perry City Monthly Meeting (a small meeting off the beaten path) is now on the map in a way it has never been before. As the interns led the community worship at the annual sessions of NYYM, one Perry City friend beamed, “They’re from our meeting.” Early questions that Perry City MM considered prior to committing to host YFIR were if it would have the energy to get this started and if it would be worth the work. The answer to date is that it has definitely been worth it. The enthusiasm and energy that the young friends bring is uplifting. New faces on committees have been so welcome. Anna’s classes (Quakerism and Bible study) have reenergized the Ministry and Council Committee and stretched participants as she has brought in new books and resources. Franklin and Natalie’s work with the children at Perry City has helped foster connections between Perry City adults and children. The energy of the Beloved Community House touches the meeting as well, and the hope is to deepen that connection this coming year. Perry City Friends speak of how they are impressed by the level of commitment and exploration the young friends bring to their work. They have also come to understand just how busy young adult friends are. Looking at the balance of travel away with time spent at Perry City MM and the Beloved Community House will be something that the YFIR committee will work on with the Anchor Committee and the interns this coming year.

Ithaca Monthly Meeting sends several of its youth to the youth retreats. Adults from Ithaca Monthly Meeting have also participated in Anna’s classes. Ithaca friends now have a member on the Yearly meeting YFIR Committee who is actively seeking ways to more fully involve Ithaca MM in the program in the coming year

Intentional Community

The intentional community aspect of the program has been a source of real growth. Each of the interns stressed the importance of this part of the program. The diversity of the interns has been a key component in this. The three first-year interns span the young friends’ spectrum in terms of age, dietary inclinations, personality, theology, and faith practices. What they all have in common is integrity, passion, and a deep commitment to one another and the program. The work of forming a Beloved Community (the name they have given their home) has been hard but really meaningful and really, really good. Working at meeting the needs of all has stretched them in good ways. Adding the spiritual dimension brings whole new levels to the community aspect and to communication with one another. The interns have also embraced radical hospitality—opening their home to traveling friends, parents of youth attending the weekends, and young adult friends on the move. This coming year will bring further discussions on balancing time in community and away, deepening the connection between the Beloved Community in Newfield and Perry City MM, and ensuring Sabbath time for the interns.

Interconnectedness—meeting new people

YFIR was designed in the hope of strengthening bonds across generations and meeting affiliations. While this has indeed occurred, much more has happened. Interns have been moved outside their normal circle of friends and have met new people within the Yearly Meeting across ages and interests. Older and younger friends are connecting with the interns and with each other through the work of the interns. Through travel to Friends General Conference, Pendle Hill, and the Young Adult Friends gathering in Wichita, the interns came to know the breadth and depth of the wider Quaker community. Interns expressed how good it was to hear one another share about their experiences of these events since each intern approached them from a different place. Hearing all these perspectives amplified the learning.

Differences have provided many growth opportunities, which the interns have fully embraced. In the words of one of the interns, learning how to deal constructively and lovingly with others on a different spiritual path was an area of unexpected but cherished growth. Early tensions and misunderstandings of who was in charge of what offered another area for Friends to tenderly work out issues and learn from one another within and across generations. Mutual respect, trust, and appreciation blossomed. Difficult situations are being handled with care and with the help of diverse friends across the Yearly Meeting. This work strengthens us all.

One of the intern’s parents shared that “the real growth in all three interns, and the connections that all three have made with Perry City, FSRM, and NYYM have been what has impressed me the most. I’m so excited about the listening, sharing, respect, and openness across the theological spectrum.…They went into the program being completely and thoroughly “Quaker” yet meeting someone just as completely Quaker whose understanding of what that meant was very different. And they gave themselves the space to listen and grow in understanding. “

Youth Program

The interns all expressed how much they enjoy the youth retreats. “It’s what we’ve done best with the least number of mistakes.” “Once we’re with the kids, it makes sense why we do the rest.” The youth program is like the solid grain of sand around which the pearl is formed. This is the one piece of the YFIR work that all the interns have some experience with, knowledge of, and skill at. This is where they have had enough confidence in their abilities to most easily take the lead. Ideas gathered at an initial planning weekend with the youth formed the basis for the next several retreats, much to the delight of the younger conference participants. (It is always empowering to see your ideas fleshed out and made real.) Other young adult Friends and older Friends have been eager to help support the interns by being adult presences and resource people at the youth retreats. Teens from around the Yearly Meeting have volunteered as counselors. The youth retreats share Perry City’s meeting space on Sunday and so have made it a tradition to invite monthly meeting friends and parents to eat lunch with them. The interns have created a loving, fun, healthy space where youth, young adults, and older Friends learn from and support one another. The youth participants agree. They eagerly await upcoming conferences, and they are spreading the word. They are inviting their friends, including several non-Quakers and not-yet Quakers. They also have a strong sense of being part of something new and helping to shape it and contribute to it.

Being interns—steps on each of their journeys

Each of the interns has had a role in the results of the YFIR program as described above. This is what they were selected to do. They were also chosen with the realization that individuals doing a short-term dedicated job are enabled by that experience to develop further the abilities they already have, to find new aspects of themselves, and to find next steps in their careers and personal spiritual paths. This report does not attempt to describe how these personal changes have been experienced by each of the interns. Sometimes an individual doesn’t even realize until looking back later the extent of those changes. Still, each of the interns can affirm that this has been a year of personal growth, opening ways and choices. For all of us involved in supporting the program it has been a true gift to be witness to this.

Finances

Support for the pilot program has come from a number of sources. We received $20,000 from The Thomas H. and Mary Williams Shoemaker Fund, $10,000 from the NYYM Trustees, almost $8,500 from Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting, $1000 from the Nurture Coordinating Committee of NYYM, and contributions from Butternuts Quarter, Ithaca Monthly Meeting, Binghamton Monthly Meeting, and parents of youth attending the retreats. Each intern also received a Clarence and Lilly Pickett Leadership Grant. The NYYM office handles payroll and receives grants and donations to the YFIR fund. Ithaca Monthly Meeting is handling payment and record keeping for local expenses. Perry City Monthly Meeting has been wonderful in offering a home to the program, providing a house at cost to the interns, and giving them encouragement, oversight, and friendship.

The first year of the program cost $24,000. This is well below the budgeted amount of $37,700. This is due primarily to running the program with two interns for the first half of the year and then three for the latter half. Additionally, we did not use the contingency funds for medical expenses. The 2010–11 budget has been adjusted to reflect actual costs of the first year while anticipating a full staffing of four interns. The total cost of the program for 2010–11 is estimated at $40,000. (See attached). We have added money for travel and conference fees for Yearly Meeting functions and other Quaker gatherings, since participation in these activities was valuable to the interns and to the YFIR program. The interns attended a number of these events this year by using a combination of work study and money from their Pickett Fund grants.

The YFIR Committee will seek grants to cover the costs of the second year of the pilot study. The grants received to date and those we will be applying for are for program development. Following the completion of the pilot-study phase of YFIR, support to continue the program will need to come from other sources.

The Role of Yearly Meeting YFIR Committee

The Young Friends in Residence Committee was created under the care of the Nurture Section of the Yearly Meeting to provide oversight for the program. The committee provides support and networking for the project sites, locates and solicits sources of funding, and receives applications and interviews and selects interns. The committee continues to attract members from across the Yearly Meeting. Young adult Friends and high-school age friends Are drawn to this work, making the committee composition multigenerational. These younger friends represent the YFIR Committee on various coordinating committees at the Yearly Meeting level, helping to further integrate the Yearly Meeting.

During our summer evaluation meeting, the YFIR Committee identified a number of questions we hope to address in this coming year to improve the support and oversight we offer the YFIR program.

  • Is there a way to make the first few months of startup less difficult for the interns, particularly in a new location?
  • How do we make clearer lines of communication for interns and others looking for guidance in the program (definitions of program supplies for example, expected time in-site etc.…) ?
  • Elders (Recruiting, training, when things aren’t working) How involved in this should we be?
  • Recruitment and hiring. How well do we handle this? How can we improve?
  • Benefits package (are we treating our interns fairly?)

Evaluation

Evaluation of the program is an ongoing process. This program is quite organic. It is flexible and responsive, adapting to meet the needs of those involved. This is a great strength of the program. It also makes formal evaluation challenging. The variety of beans to count is staggering. Better to plant them and see what unfolds. That said, the YFIR committee has begun and will continue throughout the coming year to prepare a written evaluation of the pilot study. The areas we will be looking at are outlined below.

  1. Is the program addressing the stated goals?
  2. Finances. Is the budget realistic? Sustainable? How well does money move? How well is it accounted for?
  3. Should this be an ongoing program? Do we expand it in NYYM? Do we expand beyond NYYM? What gap does it fill within the YM?
  4. Role of the YFIR committee: how can we better support the program?
  5. Length of term and compensation for interns
  6. Identifying who benefits from this program: very complex program in that it works on a number of different levels and benefits a wide range of constituents.
  7. Perry City Specifics
    1. Do they want to continue as hosts
    2. Does the current housing situation work
    3. what kind of additional support do they need
  8. The role of YFIR in relation to the other new Young Adult Friends initiatives and other youth activities in the YM.

Summary

Our early experiences with YFIR speak to the power of this program for strengthening monthly meetings and the Yearly Meeting as a whole. This is an across-the-Yearly Meeting program. The interns come from Butternuts Quarter, Northeastern Regional Meeting, and Purchase Quarter. Youth who have participated in the retreats have come from Butternuts Quarter, Farmington-Scipio region, Northeastern Regional Meeting, and Nine Partners Quarter. The young adults have been active at the local, regional, and yearly meeting levels as well as attending Friends General Conference and a gathering of young adult friends in Wichita, Kansas. Applicants have expressed a desire to be more fully involved in the Quaker community at all levels and have reflected on how this work fits into their own spiritual journeys. All of us who have been involved have felt the power of love moving through this work at all levels. This is a program brimming with connections across ages, regions, and theologies. We hope that as a faith community we will be able to continue to support it.

Chris DeRoller and Amy Obermayer
Coclerks of the YFIR Committee

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