MEMBERSHIP AND BELONGING
Joining the conversation on who belongs, and how
Addressing Youth Exclusion
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) is beginning to consider expanding membership to make room for people whose primary Quaker community is their yearly meeting or quarterly meeting. This comes primarily at the request of young adult Friends, who have pointed out that the current membership policies no longer work well for young people!
At PYM Continuing Sessions in March 2021, Rising Clerk Melissa Rycroft invited Johanna Jackson to speak about the exclusion of young people that is currently happening. Johanna offered a message to the community.
Rising Clerk Melissa Rycroft
This message spurred an article, later published on the PYM website, describing how Quakers can be more inviting. The article features analysis by both Johanna and Melinda. Together, they advocate in support of the new membership policy. Johanna speaks plainly about her difficulty in finding a community that fully nourishes her spiritual condition.
Melissa notes that the definition of membership can be changed by Friends in PYM meetings for business. She encourages Friends to continue the conversation as we seek a way forward. To read the article in full:
To read epistles from Young Adult Friends that address the topic of membership, click below.
April 2019 Epistle
In the spring of 2019, Young Adult Friends gathered on Lenni-Lenape land. They addressed the Quaker community in a letter, asking for a wider membership policy that would open the door to service roles. Excerpts are below.
"We need a structure to acknowledge and appreciate our work," Friends say. Much of that work happens outside of local meetings. "We need yearly meeting councils and committees to allow for our participation."
"We cannot create the diverse, inclusive, welcoming, beloved community that we all long for, while holding up structures that exist as checkboxes."
"If we are being asked to serve on a committee or a council," they said, "it is because we have been seen and known, and because that of God within us has been at work. We understand Quaker process, in its most authentic form, to be a remarkable, radical concept. We trust that there is a Spirit guiding us, to which everyone in the room has access, and which, if heard, can guide us to Truth. "
Young Adult Friends, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Become an Ally
Friends under 55 have continually asked for structures that would open doors to full participation. Learn more about the barriers and history by reading the epistles below.
July 2016 Epistle
Three years earlier, in the summer of 2016, Young Adult Friends met in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In a letter to the community, they described the structures of exclusion that they regularly encounter. Excerpts are below.
"Our yearly meeting structures exclude those of us who aren’t members or regular attenders—even when we have a calling to service. Young adulthood often entails transience—geographically, financially, and spiritually. This can preclude our membership in a Meeting, even when we feel at home there. Some [Young Adult] Friends long for direct membership with the yearly meeting."
"We are trying to cultivate a sense of belonging, while being true to the Spirit and the wider work of our yearly meeting. Many of us still feel alienated, patronized or unsupported."
"Our gifts are essential to our yearly meeting, but we have felt blocked from full participation—discouraged, frustrated, and ignored."
Yours in Truth,
Young Adult Friends of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting