This autumn QVS Philadelphia Coordinator and Alumni Rachael Carter shares with us their reflections on transitions and community. They received this message on a train.
I have had the amazing opportunity to transition in QVS from being a Fellow and Coordinator in Atlanta and I now have the honor of supporting this year’s Philadelphia Fellows. Supporting QVS in multiple cities has been an eye opening experience to the uniqueness of each of our cities and the places in which there is deep similarity. From QVS days to the ways that meetings and LSC are structured this transition has shown the diversity of ways that Meetings and Quakers gather, worship and see their faith.
The cycle of life is most visible in the fall. The leaves that were green just weeks ago turn to deep shades of gold, red and orange before they depict the practice of release by falling to the ground to make way for new life. What a journey, a transformation of sorts. As a Coordinator, I have seen different interactions of this cycle throughout my time with fellows and the program. Here at QVS we seek to embrace change, to see what is alive in us as we witness and hold it.
” Supporting QVS in multiple cities has been an eye opening experience to the uniqueness of each of our cities and the places in which there is deep similarity..”
Butterflies, even as creatures of the spring depict a similar journey. They have these incredible emergent cells called ‘imaginal cells’. While a caterpillar has little to no structural resemblance to a butterfly, the imaginal cells hold the important future information needed for complete transformation. These cells move from working alone to working together to unleashing a butterfly in its new form. I find it deeply beautiful that the transformation in these cells invites the butterfly into what would be called joyful rest. It is something that I hope for personally and for so many others.
Fall programming is focused on transition, both big and small. Fellows transition over and over again, from home, to Pendle Hill for our National Orientation to their QVS houses. They are thinking about what is COVID-safe now and in the future. They are thinking about what transitions they want to make personally and with their community as they begin to settle and maybe even shed some old ways for new opportunities of being. They are growing into understanding that are the ways we can invite rest while still doing the work of community.
As I’m writing this, I think about my own transition starting with QVS four years ago and thinking about where I am with the organization now. The ways that I have transformed are numerous and expansive. Thinking about community in the ways that I show up in it has encouraged me to practice how I shop for myself and the people that care about differently. I have been ever more committed to my own faith and spiritual journey as a practice of self care, connection to social justice and the divine. This transition has brought up many questions for me and I have deep gratitude for the Friends that have been in connection with me to move in and through those moments.
There’s something that is so hard about transition and change. How do we allow this experience to feel natural and consistent with the lives that we hope to see? How do we normalize transition as a part of our experiences, things that can be healthy and courageous?
As an organization QVS is doing the same. We have begun a really important process in moving though transition as we think about the future of the organization through strategic planning. QVS staff and board, together and separately, have entered facilitated spaces to integrate critical feedback gathered through surveys. This feedback comes from previous QVS fellows, Quaker Meetings and Friends to hold the question of our own transition: Where might we be 10 years from now?
An Invitation to Slow Down and Connect
It has been important to reflect on all of our learnings to strategize on how QVS can meet this moment, a world and a set of young adults and Quaker communities that have experienced real changes. A question that I have held in this process is how can we be more vulnerable and open to the people that we care about? What support do our communities need from us to lean into the world that we want to see?
It’s a challenging set of questions and hopefully ones that stimulate new growth in the new year. For now, we hold and honor the growth and stretch from our previous experiences and turn towards holding the light as the days get shorter and the warmth and connection with others comes closer. We seek to build a world that we have never seen or experienced before. One in which relationships and connections are at the center. In which our most authentic selves can be witnessed. We are building a coalition of people, organizations, youth, faith communities that see that transition and transformation with us to practice in a different way.
I look forward to the slowness and reflection that is soon to come. I look forward to resting into transition joyfully. May we have the ability to hold for our own imaginal cells to transform us. I hope to practice stepping courageously into that transition and I hope you can too.
More about Rachael (they/them)
In 2018-2019, Rachael moved to Atlanta to participate in QVS. QVS was their first introduction to Quaker practice. After their service year, Rachael continued working with their site placement. In summer 2020, Rachael joined staff as the QVS Atlanta Coordinator and held this position for 2 years. In summer 2022, Rachael transitioned into the role of Philadelphia Coordinator. Rachael is excited to be back in Philadelphia where their roots are!
What sorts of programming and tools are Fellows offered during their year?
Every other Friday throughout the 11-month fellowship, QVS Fellows attend QVS Days instead of working at their site placements.
QVS Days offer Fellows a chance to slow down and be in community. For the first part of the year, QVS staff take the lead in planning and facilitating QVS Days. They support Fellows in exploring their individual and communal journeys, as well as discussing work, community living, Quakerism, spiritual practices, and social justice issues. As the year progresses, Fellows take a more active role in planning and facilitating QVS Days.
Over the course of the year, Fellows learn tools like: clerking and Quaker decision-making processes, clearness committees, conflict transformation, signs of defensiveness, and tons more. Additionally, at the start of the year, Fellows attend a week-long orientation with all QVS Fellows from across the country, as well as a mid-year and a closing retreat with their city cohort.
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