THE LISTENING PROJECT:
How did this project begin?
At the beginning of our shared ministry, JT and I knew very little about what we were going to do. We knew that we each had a passion for healing and for energy work. We knew that we each cared about faithfulness. We began to see how our gifts complemented each other as we started to work in small circles.
Over time, we learned that we each had a personal list of people that, someday, we'd like to interview. We combined lists: in many places, we had been thinking of the same people. We were led to start listening to young people. We weren't sure what we were listening for or what we might find.
What were the first steps?
In September of 2020, we reached out to a few close Friends for interviews. Our first few listening sessions were surprising and sometimes awkward. We were not sure what, exactly, we were exploring, but we moved on faith. Friends were gracious with us in this exploratory time. They agreed to be recorded, and we talked together about their faith lives. We reflected on their experiences of worship and heard many positive memories of the FGC Gathering. We also asked people about their spiritual needs, as young folks.
In time, JT and I reached to a wider range of peers. We looked for younger Friends who were leaders in their yearly meeting. In many cases, these Friends were "fully aflame" with a passion for their faith lives and for community change. They recommended more people who may want to talk with us; our list began to grow.
What did you learn?
Even from the first few listening sessions, we noticed a few patterns emerging. We found that many younger Quakers were, like us, looking for spiritual peers. Some people chafed at the loneliness they felt. People shared about the places outside of Quakerism that helped them meet their needs. These included mutual aid networks, folk bands, antiracism work, and hiking trails. Several high school Friends shared vividly about how much they loved making music. Climate change, consent culture, and embracing new ideas were themes that emerged in these interviews. We learned that in many cases, the younger folks that we had met through Quaker contexts did not consider themselves Quaker.
We talked about our "inner wild" – that part of us that yearns for freedom and space to grow. Is it alive? Is it well? What feeds it? We talked about "living flat," which is how we described the culture of white supremacy. "We've lost the power of our faith," a Friend in their 50s told us. The Friend went on to say: "White supremacy and capitalism dull us, and they tell us that we're small." Many people brought up their critiques of capitalism and the dominant culture in general. In contrast, they told us about the moments in their lives when they had felt "most alive."
Over time, we became more familiar with the themes, questions, and processes that might come up in a listening session. Each encounter is an experiment, however. We continue to explore, with "listening" as the central focal point of our ministry and work.
For more information about our process and research, see the options below.
FORWARD IN FAITHFULNESS
We are a network of Quakers who work for inner transformation and collective renewal. Our goal is to motivate one another toward revitalization, so people of faith may become creative, relevant, and thriving for years to come.