Why I'm doing this Youth Book Project thing.

Those of you who know me well (which is most of our readership so far as I can tell) know that Quakers drive me up the wall.
I'm not a big fan of YAF gatherings. I'm not a fan of ecumenical Quaker gatherings either. My reasons are twofold. First, while I value my friendships with Quakers my age, I see no reason to segregate myself from older Friends. In fact, I'm more likely to find common ground spiritually with older Friends.
As for ecumenical Quakerism, I find that I like it in theory but in practice it is deeply draining and frustrating. Part of this is my experiences as a teenager with the joint yearly meeting sessions of the NC yearly meetings when we celebrated our triennial. Part of this is being a fly on the wall, so to speak, at YouthQuake before that was laid down. When the in-group dialog is very different from the out-group dialog there's a problem. When the planning is done in an ecumenical cooperative spirit, but the implementation is proselytization, there's a problem.
While I was in NC, I had a conversation with Will T. (at least I think it was Will) about my Quaker identity. I had identified myself as a member of one yearly meeting and an attender of another, a graduate of a Quaker college, YouthQuake and blah, blah, blah. I don't think I ever mentioned Friends Music Camp, but I did that too. He was inquiring about how confused I must be about what kind of a Quaker I am, and I had to reply that I am not. Each time I interact with the wider world of Friends I become more and more certain that I belong with the Conservatives. The silence is different somehow and it feels like home.
So how is it that I, who avoid ecumenical and YAF gatherings, came to be a part of the Quaker Youth Book Project? Well, it was a leading.
See, several years ago I was sitting in worship with my big liberal meeting. And that still small voice which is never really all that small to me said "Speak to them" and then didn't give me anything to say. He also didn't give me a clear sense of who the pronoun was referring to, other than that "they" were Quakers.
Since then, I've started this blog. I've been teaching First Day School. I taught Bible Study for NCYM-C and found that while that felt led and was wonderful experience, it didn't calm the "speak to them" leading much at all. And in January, when the call for ed board applications came my way, I promptly felt the need to answer some of the questions in the application. The next thing I knew I'd filled out the whole application, except for the references. I realized that He wanted me to send it in, so I did. Lo and behold, they wanted me on the board. I didn't need any time for discernment. The message was clear. I was going to have to commit to 2-3 years of ecumenical YAF work. At least it will involve some sort of end product, right?
Actually, I'm pretty excited about the book. I can't wait to get my hands on the call for submissions (I was recording during the session when we crafted it, so I have no personal notes). I'm so happy that the board works so well together. I'm hopeful that we'll get quality writing about interesting topics. I'm looking forward to finishing up the guide for writing workshops and leading a few myself.
Oh, and I'm really grateful that I'm off the hook for the Young Adult Friends Conference at Earlham later this month. If you're going to be there, I'm sure you'll hear more about the Project from other ed board members. Rumor has it we're pretty awesome, so make sure to say hello.

Elizabeth Bathurst


With wings as eagles

So, I used up all my patience on my trip to NC. I'm excited about QUIP's Youth Book Project, relieved that the board works so well together and a little bit cranky about getting dragged back into the wider world of Friends. I'm also feeling a little anxious about the amount of energy this project is going to require. I'm already exhausted.

It's hard work speaking in front of a group, even when it's just a bunch of Quakers who want to pat you on the head and tell you you're awesome. It's hard to have your photo taken over and over and over again when you've gained a lot of weight over the past year or so and are still really uncomfortable with it. It's hard work to act as recording clerk in most situations, but when you factor in theological and cultural differences it's even harder.

Moreover, I had to face a lot of difficult memories while I was there. Memories of a dear friend and mentor who committed suicide two years ago. Memories of past experiences of ecumenical Quakerism gone awry. Memories of campus drama from college and feeling unsupported by all the communities I identified with. I really wasn't expecting to have to talk to anyone about how I came to leave QLSP, or what the joint North Carolina Yearly Meeting sessions or Youth Quake were like for me. And I really wasn't prepared to see a portrait of my mentor hanging in the library.

There was a lot of talk about life transitions over the course of the long weekend and in a lot of ways I was truly blessed as I transitioned from college student to working girl. I never questioned my faith, although I struggled and grew with it. I never questioned my career path, although it hasn't always been easy. I really wish I could talk to my mentor about work right now.

I've grown a lot since college. I've learned to build community with individuals and no longer believe it intrinsically when groups tell me I'm welcome. I've learned to accept my abilities and leadings with a great deal less angst. I've even learned to speak in public without dissociating! I've learned to stand up for myself and to ask for what I need. Most importantly I've learned how to take care of myself.

So tonight I'm taking care of myself. I'm going to go to a tequila tasting and then an opera performance. Later this weekend there will be a tour of local artist studios, most likely a viewing of R. Kelly's entire Trapped in the Closet, and perhaps I'll even perform the 1812 overture as part of a "Last-Minute Orchestra". I'm filling my weekend with the silly, the outrageous, the artsy and the delicious. In the meantime, I'm enjoying work emails that warn of a potential "interruption as a result of the manhole fire."

Perhaps on Monday I'll be ready to transfer my notes about what I've agreed to do into my big to-do list. Maybe by First Day I'll be ready to go to worship. And if not, I'm not going to worry about it. He always gives me enough strength to do the things He's asked me to do, so I know I'll be fine.

Elizabeth Bathurst