Friday, April 20, 2012

Raising Up A New Generation of Quaker Leaders

By Anna Woofenden

Questions around engaging young people in the life of faith are being asked across denominations, as faith communities notice that many children who came faithfully to church with their parents as children are no longer involved as young adults   Within the scope of the Religious Society of Friends this question is being raised and addressed in various venues. One that may be of particular interest to the readers of this blog is work that is being done by the Newlin Center for Quaker Thought and Practice on Earlham College campus.

Emma Churchman and Trish Eckert spoke at Earlham School of Religion’s Common Meal and shared stories of the work they are doing to create spaces to raise up Young Friends through the Newlin Center. “The Newlin Center aims to identify young Quaker leaders, nurture Quaker scholarship and dialogue on campus, and provide members of the Earlham and wider communities with information about the Religious Society of Friends and Earlham's living Quaker character. More broadly, the Center aims to promote conversation and cooperation among Friends, and to provide a gathering place for Friends of all sorts.”

Trish, an ESR alum and Emma, an ESR current student both bring an infectious and deeply thoughtful energy to the topic of Young Adult Friends. Trish, who has been working at the Newlin Center for three years, started there as a project for her supervised ministry in her final year at ESR. On a search to discover her calling and passions, she began working with college students and discovered her ministry niche. She shared the joy she finds in the connections she has with the Young Friends she has on Earlham campus as she meets with groups weekly for fellowship and mentoring and provides spaces for Young Friends to gather and grow together.

Emma describes herself as a “visionary” and came into the Newlin Center overflowing with new ideas and ways to grow community and leadership among Young Friends.  Building on her experience of working with young adults at Pendle Hill she dove right into create programs, most notably the Quaker Fellows @ Earlham College program which works with Earlham College students to offer a transformative college experience.

“(The) Quaker Fellows echoes Earlham’s core values. Utilizing Quaker faith and practice, the program engages the whole person and prepares students to be agents of change in the world. Quaker Fellows includes three formation cores: spirituality, community and leadership development. The program is designed for young adults who are serious about serving as leaders in their communities, developing tools for social transformation, and living a life grounded in the Spirit.”

The ESR Community engaged in a thoughtful discussion with Trish and Emma, examining some of the questions that come up working with Young Adults and expressing a desire to support this important work.  If you are interested in spaces that nurture and develop Young Adult Friends, check out The Newlin Center and see how you can contribute to raising up the next generation of leaders.

Anna Woofenden is a MDiv student at Earlham School of Religion and the Swedenborgian House of studies. She blogs at 

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