Photo: The QVS Philadelphia house 2023-2024 Emma, Shay, Racheal (coordinator) and Kat at national orientation at Pendle Hill.


2023-2024 QVS Fellow Emma Fee shares a testimonial about her experience.

With two months of my QVS year to go, I hesitate to name one singular, defining moment to encapsulate my experience thus far. This year of service, informed by Quaker spirituality and commitments to community and advocacy in service of those around me, has been a joy and a challenge. What I can say, however, is that I have found that which I actively sought from this year, have had new questions posed to me which I now seek to answer, and have gained the tools to help me uncover that which remains unknown.

Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I knew that the thing I loved most about my college experience would be the thing I would look for afterwards—a strong sense of community and belonging. I chose QVS as my first post-grad opportunity because intentional community is one of the core tenants of the program. I was raised in a tiny Quaker Meeting where oftentimes my siblings and I were the only people in attendance under the age of 30. Part of the reason I moved away from attending Meeting in high school and college was because I did not have a sense that there was a space for young Quakers, but I always knew that I would return to my Quaker roots once I had “grown up.” I didn’t know that there were other Quaker youth in the world, and that I could find a space of spiritual peers who were not many decades my senior.

I have had my perspectives challenged and my worldviews broadened, in the most compelling and inviting space possible because I know that those with whom I share my time also share my most deeply held values.

Joining QVS, I was for the first time with likeminded age-mates. I walked into Orientation at Pendle Hill and knew that I would not have to explain to the other people there what a Quaker was, how I interacted with Spirit, what Spirit was—all conversations I have had time and time again trying to connect with my peers. While I love having those conversations and introducing others to my faith and practice while also learning about theirs, it was refreshing and revitalizing to be in a space where I didn’t have to expend energy explaining myself.

This sense of having a foundational understanding and an innate sense of belonging was crucial to me this year. While my friends and housemates in the program and I have had many disagreements about TV shows, restaurant choices, and how to load a dishwasher most effectively, there has never been a question of where any of us stand on human rights issues, on how to approach conflict and tough conversations, and on our mutual love and respect for one another as human beings.

Not having to dance around issues and find mild language to express our fiery worldviews of love and liberation has allowed us to dive into deeper conversations without preface. We all know that the core of Quaker practice is commitment to nonviolence, an understanding which has opened way for an ongoing conversation about the place of violence in movements resisting violent oppression. Our shared obligation to anti-racism has grown into conversations of bias and structural white supremacy in our places of work and worship, as well as into supporting one another through voicing our concerns and finding places of action and activity. I have had my perspectives challenged and my worldviews broadened, in the most compelling and inviting space possible because I know that those with whom I share my time also share my most deeply held values.

This has translated into a greater understanding of the role that Quaker practice does and can hold in how I make decisions and interact with the world around me. The chances throughout the year to attend Meeting for Worship in a plethora of spaces and ways has opened my eyes to how I can be more worshipful in every daily action that I take, from taking the train to drinking my morning coffee. I feel more comfortable taking moments of silence to discern what Spirit is saying to me before I share in meetings at work. I am confident that when I do make a choice, I am making a choice that aligns with what I know to be good and true. I have always known that Light exists all around me, but being immersed in Quaker community has made it glow more brightly before I also know that many issues which I saw before in solidly binary terms are much grayer spaces than many of us wish to acknowledge.

What this means for me is that I am departing my QVS year with more unanswered questions than with which I first arrived, but more importantly, with the confidence that I can begin to unearth those answers by looking to my Quaker faith for guidance and direction. I have become surer than ever that that little voice in my most inner self, that which is not mine to claim but is the communal voice to which we all have access if we listen, is alive and well within me.

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