Young adulthood is a time of great opportunity, challenge, and change. Listen to how this Quaker program is helping young adults find community, purpose, and spirit.
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Daniel Joseph Parker: I think doing service and doing activism is a thing that is at the core of what it means to be a Quaker—or what it means to be a person who has a spiritual practice or a person who has faith. Because if our spirituality is just internal or it’s just within the community that we practice the spirituality in, we can be in this cocoon of our own privilege and divorced from the experiences that people are having in the world.
7 Millennials Share How a Year of Service Changed Their Lives
Sara Dean: A lot of people I knew graduated from college and went out into the world in an unstructured way and got a job in a city and just felt really lonely.
Damon Motz-Storey: For me, when I left college and was starting to come into the real world, I didn’t really know where to go for exploring career and home life in a spiritual context.
Carol Anne Ferlauto: I had been working at a big bank for five years and felt that the work I was doing was in conflict with my ethics. I was a recently convinced Friend when I heard about QVS and it seemed like a great opportunity to be able to try something different and to find work that was more in line with my values, and it ended up being so much more than that.
The Value of Community
Zenaida Peterson: I mean, it was epic: you’re moving into a house with six other people, seven other people who you’ve never met before, and all I knew about them was that they were also interested in deepening their spirituality and doing social justice work.
Sara Dean: My housemates and I got very lucky in that we absolutely adore each other. We made sure that we were looking at community as an action, as both the work and the stuff you put into it, but also the play and the fun.
Zenaida Peterson: I’ve never been in a space where I was with other young people focused on spirituality, and it just felt so radical in so many ways. We weren’t roommates—we were people who moved in with each other and said, “I’m committed to your transformation for this year. I’m committed to you deepening your spirituality. I’m committed to your wellness. And I don’t know your middle name.”
Service and Faith
Lili Baldwin: For me, a lot of what faith is is being open to transformation and being open to knowledge and good and truth and beauty being beyond what you can rationally know. Service is really the best tool for getting outside of what is comfortable and known for you.
Damon Motz-Storey: I think the two are very inextricably linked—faith and action, faith and service. So to me that’s fundamentally what service is about: it’s about listening deeply to yourself and for that of God in others to tell you, “What is my place in creating the beloved community?”
Liz Nicholson: Before I did Quaker Voluntary Service, I conceptualized service as a very outward giving of myself. My idea of service has become much broader and much more complicated, in that service is both and outward and an inward process.
Daniel Joseph Parker: There are ways of thinking about service further back in history that are patronizing or are really not about equal power between people. What I was looking for was an idea of service that was not about being a savior who jumps in to make things better, but about showing up to be there and do the work with people who are in the community that you’re serving.
Lili Baldwin: Service is not just about helping people or putting a band-aid on a problem. The best service is service that–I don’t even want to say it helps, but it is a mutual spark of human connection.
An Opportunity for Transformation
Sara Dean: I think for many people, your early twenties is the first time that you might not know what your next step is. Because of that, it can be pretty frightening. For many people, it’s one of the least structured times in their life that they’ve ever had.
Damon Motz-Storey: There was something really profoundly incredible about the incubator of Quaker Voluntary Service for being able to make mistakes and have a community to do that in, and that led to some incredible personal transformation for me.
Liz Nicholson: It’s been an incredible opportunity to be supported in figuring out, “how do these gifts that I hold, how does my passion for music, and my passion for community building, and my passion for conflict resolution fit into my service or work?” What kind of career could that be?
Carol Anne Ferlauto: Quaker Voluntary Service is maybe the closest thing I’ll ever come to living in a utopian intentional community. If everyone in the world had had that same opportunity to participate in a program where you can engage deeply with your faith, and with the important work that needs to be done in the world, it would be quite a different world.
Zenaida Peterson: If we’re doing social justice work, if we’re doing work that feels important to us and that we feel like is opening doors and breaking down systems of oppression, then Spirit lives there. And if Spirit lives there, I want to be there.
- Zenaida Peterson describes the experience of Quaker Voluntary Service as saying to other participants: “I’m committed to your transformation for this year. I’m committed to you deepening your spirituality. I’m committed to your wellness.” Have you been in a community where you felt committed to other members in this way? What comes from that kind of commitment to each other?
- Lili Baldwin says, “Service is not just about helping people or putting a band-aid on a problem. The best service is service that is a mutual spark of human connection.” What is your experience with doing service work?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.