Put God at 
the center of your life.

 

       

To nurture the spirituality of Young Friends in our Meeting by creating a community where they have the opportunity to learn and put into practice Quaker principles, faith, and values.
On any given day at First Day School or any Young Friends (YF) event at meeting, we can count on having 12-20 YF’s present. Historically, this is unprecedented at Downingtown Friends Meeting. The number of participating YFs has ebbed and flowed over the years. The highest before this was perhaps six or eight at any time, with the norm being one, two or none at all because most of them chose to stay home to sleep on Sunday mornings. Consequently, there was seldom a First Day School program for them.

The exception was in the 1980’s and 90’s when two Meeting members led a tight-knit group of YFs, mostly girls. That group started being pen pals with a group of Russian teens who had formed an organization called the World Friendship Center in Elektrostal near Moscow, Russia.

After corresponding for a couple of years, they received a telegram saying that the Russians were coming to visit! Seventeen Russian teens and two chaperones visited us in the Spring of 1991 and stayed for three weeks, sleeping in members’ homes and at Westtown School. We toured them around and had a wonderful experience.

In August of 1991, 15 YFs and five adults traveled to the Soviet Union for three weeks as part of a peace exchange. Most were from our Meeting, but we also had many from other meetings in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) and from Westtown School. This was a significant trip because it happened during the Cold War when there was still much political animosity between the United States and the Soviet Union. The break-up of the Soviet Union happened one day after we returned home!

What Makes Our YF Program Special?
Our Meeting contributes the most to the PYM Young Friends program. We have more YF’s from our meeting attending gatherings than any other meeting in PYM. And while Friends Center in Philadelphia is undergoing construction YF Working Group meetings–where all the work and planning gets done for YF gatherings–are being held at our Meeting. We have a large group of YFs at our Meeting now and this attracts many more from other meetings because they know they’re going to see many of their friends and have a good time.

Our Meeting also seems to have the most spirited YFs in PYM. We’re proud that the adults from our meeting are very cool and make great Friendly Adult Presences.

Downingtown Friends Meeting is a gathering place for YFs. We invite other YF’s from local meetings to come and visit and play with us. Our friends from school are always welcome and once they’ve visited, they like to come back on a regular basis.

YF’s from Downingtown hang out together. There’s a strong connection among the YF’s even though we come from diverse backgrounds—some attend public schools, some attend private schools, and some are homeschooled.

YF’s from Downingtown take PRIDE in being Quaker. We don’t try to hide it. We wear our religious affiliation on the outside, talking about it in the classroom, with friends, and when we meet new people. It’s not like we talk religion, but we’re proud of our Quaker heritage, history and reputation, and we know that Quakers stand for peace, social justice and equality.

We love that Downingtown Friends Meeting has a playground. It’s an attraction that draws children, teens and adults with children to the property and makes it a fun place. One of the teachers from Downingtown High School comes here with his young son, for example, and is now thinking of attending our meeting.

Downingtown YF’s love the Friends Fall Festival, the Music Festival, and community work bees and clean up days when everyone is invited and encouraged to participate. We find the events fun and exciting when everyone pitches in and works together.

YF’s look forward to working on community service projects together.

Fun things happen at Downingtown Friends Meeting, such as First Day School breakfasts, campouts, parties and dances.

YF’s love our buildings and the fact that we have our own room with color-coordinated walls and chairs and beautiful handmade wooden tables. We like that the school house and the meeting house are separated because it allows us to walk outdoors and feel the fresh air and light. The set-up at Downingtown is full of tangible, visible, physical LIGHT.

We are active outside of meeting. We stay in touch through Facebook, maintaining our friendships with each other continue outside of meeting.

We get along with the adults in the wider meeting. We do outreach to them through Secret Santa activities and Opening Exercises and we invite them to our events and gatherings and ask them to be Friendly Adult Presences. We send the adults cards and small gifts and we talk to them. We like and respect each other as friends and Friends.

First Day School is always interesting for us. We have good topics and have interactive discussions. It’s not just like the adults are the leaders. It is not overly structured. There is always a chance to do lots of coloring and art stuff while we listen and talk. We like the options that we have every First Day to choose First Day School or the silence of Meeting for Worship. Most of us choose FDS. We always go to Meeting for Worship for the last 15 minutes each Sunday and sit together on the facing benches as a group, and once a month we go to Meeting for Worship for the first 45 minutes and then come back and discuss it.

We feel supported by the adults at our meeting. Several adults have made time commitments to us and stayed with us throughout our years of First Day School, so we have had a cohesive and meaningful experience. Many adults from meeting come to our school performances, attend our concerts, and contribute financially to our endeavors and community service projects. They ask us about our interests and stay in touch. They give us hugs and smiles. They appreciate us in Meeting for Worship. We do not feel intimidated by each other. We feel mutual admiration.

How does our YF program compare to those at other Meetings?
We sometimes get invited to YF events at other meetings in Caln Quarter–things like contra dances, concerts, pancake breakfasts, etc. But other meetings have fewer YF’s and aren’t always a cohesive group like we are. Sometimes other meetings have First Day School programs that combine middle school and high school kids, but we like it better separate. Other meeting houses sometimes seem somber and churchy which brings us down. We’re partial to our own meeting.

What draws our YFs to participate in special projects?
We like that the service projects are well organized. This current opportunity to work to help Native Americans makes us feel good because we feel injustice about them being relegated to live on reservations after having their land taken away by the government. Service projects bring people together. It is a good opportunity to have a meaningful experience and do good things for other. Going on a trip to South Dakota gives us a unique experience that we can’t find anywhere else.

Do our YFs Become Members of Meeting?
Because of the structure of membership for teens in our Meeting, it’s difficult to tell how many YFs have gone on to become members. Presently, if families become members as a whole, including children, the adults become members and the children become "Associate Members." We ask them what they want to do about their membership status once they reach majority age at 18. If only parents become members, then their children have to decide on their own whether or not to become members. However, two YFs recently chose to become members totally of their own volition.

Young Friends Go to Pine Ridge, South Dakota

This summer our Young Friends joined the AFSC and Intermountain Yearly Meeting in one of their workcamps on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation in South Dakota. They  helped repair houses and engaged in a cross-cultural exchange with the Lakota youth. They were also able to attend an annual pow-wow.

 
Our Young Friends Create Sock Monsters for Camp Onas

Sock Monsters made by some of our Young Friends.
The Yfs are at it again. This time they created Sock Monsters for a workshop/free time activity at the YF Camp Onas. The theme of the camp is "Friends Testimonies, What Canst Thou Say?"
And though the Sock Monsters didn’t really relate to that, they were a lot of fun for the campers. To find out more, go to the 
YF website
.


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Some Past YF Projects

Baking bread for Eating Meeting Simple Meal 
Canned Food Drives for the Lord’s Pantry
Car Wash
Coffee Houses and Homecoming Parties for
       YF’s and returning college students
Drawings and paintings for cards for 
       First Day School fundraising
Fairhill Community Book Drive
Friends Fall Festival work–children’s games,
       face painting, Quaker juke box, historical
       Quaker
wedding reenactment, Lemon
       Sippers booth, providing entertainment
Helping prepare food for Salvation Army dinners
Hoagie sales and coupons from Wawa
Hunger Meal
Knitting and crocheting squares to make
       afghans for the Domestic Violence Shelter
Peace Fair at Buckingham Friends Meeting
Secret Santa cards and small gifts for adult
       members of meeting
Serving at the Bicentennial Dinner wearing
       historic Quaker costumes
Selling T-shirts at Camp Swatara
Working the concessions for the Music Festival

Young Friends pause at the food booth at our annual Fall Festival.
Young Friends participate in the historic Quaker wedding re-enactment at our annual Fall Festival.
A Young Friend cheers at our annual Fall Festival.
Young Friends show off their T-shirt bag creations.
A Young Friend washes a car during a fundraiser.

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