A response to YFGM, from Cat Hess – Who joined us for the first (but not last!) time in Nottingham, February 2012.
Many would wonder what makes an eighteen-year-old who, only having read about Quakers on the Internet, never having even been to her local meeting, travel 130 miles to a tri-annual General Meeting of Young Quakers. Strangely though, that thought did not enter my own mind until the very moment I arrived at Nottingham Friends’ Meeting House, and by then it was too late – much too late.
I’ll warn you right now: yes, there were embarrassing ice-breakers. We even had a quiz. But you know what? It worked. By the time we reached the pub on Friday night, and with the discovery of an encyclopaedia under our table (don’t ask) causing much hilarity, I felt very much at home.
During the course of the weekend, I went on a ‘treasure hunt’ around Nottingham, I wrote a poem about Quaker history which included the lines ‘we are big on equality and we have no priestly’ and I got a total of about six hours sleep. I also learnt the Quaker business method, I found out what an ‘epilogue’ was; I learnt the value of silence and of words.
I think what drew me to Quakerism was its openness and acceptance. And that acceptance, I feel, is really true. It’s not ‘it’s okay that you’re different but really I’m going to try and change you to fit with what I believe.’ In my opinion, all the people I spoke to and all those I heard speak at YFGM are very similar, but that is by far from a negative thing. I think that similarity is the desire to question, to be ‘radical’, as we heard in a talk from Simon Best during the weekend. Every Friend is searching for something, and they are not content to just go through life with apathy, without caring, and without challenging the status quo. And so that means that whilst there were and are differences among them, it interweaves with a seamlessness to make anyone and everyone welcome.
So, in conclusion, where can you find me on May bank holiday weekend? Why, in Bournemouth at the next YFGM, of course.