Holy experiments, encouraged in deep community

Show up hungry. Show up on our doorstep hungry.

SHOW UP CURIOUS.  Show up without something to give, without enough time, SHOW UP LATE and in need of stories and the right questions AND TO BE HELD.

SHOW UP HUNGRY.  – Maggie Fiori, NEYM Youth Minister and artist

As an educator, parent, Quaker minister, general creative – I’ve learned to value to powerful energies of taking risks and embracing new paths.  We as Quakers talk about “continuing revelation” and in the best sense of the words being open to new ways of being, and being agile and attentive is what I think we mean.

Our Yearly Meeting youth programs have been a stunning example of that for me.  When faced with such change in times of Covid, where so much of their programming was impossible, they listened, they reacted, they invented.  The responses weren’t always the immediate “right” solutions – but they were loving, careful responses where Friends learned what the next right step was.

I’ve often said that Quakers are a people of process, not product.  What I’ve meant by that is not that results are unimportant – but rather that the way you get there, and how you discern leadings and next steps, is part of a holy and creative process.  This act of creation for a teacher/artist/minister is part of the work itself.

There’s another piece to this process that is hugely important. It is the container that holds the work.  While the work and focus itself may seem shifting and changing, the container that holds the creative emerging work is strong, and flexible, and loving and consistent.  In this case this is the network of Friends that are thinking about youth among us – and all that support youth, and were youth, and may be involved in Quaker youth development. In other words, our entire Quaker community!  But, there are specific people close to this shepherding and care.

I’m speaking as a parent of a teen who struggled mightily during this Covid time.  Zoom was not an option, being in person was not an option. But she was still spoken to as part of the wider community.  She was sent postcards and texts from Quaker adults and mentors. She was invited to every gathering, without expectation that she would be able to attend, or any criticism if she could not be present. When so much was in flux, the invitations themselves were a ministry of welcome. Friends provided weekly art hangouts, serious discussions, times for bread baking and play. Numbers of “attendance” may have dwindled – but the flexibility to see other ways of being attendive to each other emerged and were valued.

Last week a number of these Friends and their support systems gathered at our home.  It was such an experience of ministry to see them in community with each other.  That teen of mine could not be in the overwhelming large group.  But even on this day, a few stopped into the kitchen where she was preparing dessert, to chat quietly and just say hello and “ I see you.”

I cannot overestimate the importance of those supports and community. For ministry to flourish, ministers need a home base of loving listeners. I look forward to seeing what God gives these folks next, as things continue to change and grow and evolve.

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