Photo caption: Naren with Young Adult Friends from Friends Meeting at Cambridge

Boston Fellow Naren Roy shares with us about his experience with Quakerism and Service this past year.

Karla and Naren, this year’s Boston Fellows, on a QVS day at Arnold Arboretum.

Like many young adults of faith, college was a transformative time in several aspects of my life but found me lacking a sense of connection to a spiritual community. For more than half of my college career, I got a taste for Quaker values and living in intentional community while residing with a residential cooperative of fellow students interested in exploring the applied legacy of Quakerism at our historically Quaker college. And yet, it seemed we were all moving a million miles a minute, at times retreating into our deeply individualistic lives.

Enter QVS. An opportunity to move from learning about Quakerism to living Quakerism. In saying “yes” to a QVS year, I knew there would be challenges–both the anticipated and the unforeseen. But I could also sense that both the security of having my basic needs met within the service year could afford me the opportunity to really try on Quaker practices for size.

One form of Quaker-ing has been regularly attending Meeting for Worship, which has taught me many things including the virtues of patience and deep listening, including out of silence. Initially, I worried about doing Quaker worship from silent expectant waiting “wrong.” Worship has long been something I have found to be enhanced through community. Yet, it wasn’t until slowing down and learning how worship is possible in the absence of a sermon or large and bustling choir that I began to understand my connection to the Divine as something necessarily communal. In Quaker Meeting, everyone participates on a relatively equal footing, each with the capacity to minister to one another.

Many Sundays I worship with a large group at Friends Meeting at Cambridge. But other Sundays, it’s worshiping with Friends at another Meeting across the river or even in the living room of the QVS house. And then, the following Friday I worship on the bank of a river with my QVS Boston besties – grateful once again for the presence of silence and stillness, out of which ordinary folks can and do speak prophetic words.

The East Coast Fellows met on Cape Cod for their winter retreat.

QVS made it possible for me to attend an incredible gathering of New England Yearly Meeting Young Adult Friends this past winter during a Woolman Hill retreat, and I found the language and tools to conceptualize what can constitute Quaker spiritual practice and how that applies to the pilgrimages many of us are on as we evolve spiritually. Burrowing into deep corners of our unique and shared spiritual journeys that weekend richly informed what had previously been a mostly solitary journey of skimming foundational Quaker texts in the hopes of gleaning a better understanding of Quaker theology.

In conversation during the fall with my spiritual nurturer, Polly, I came to embrace the notion that even through “un-programmed” Quaker-style worship, a program indeed exists, it just isn’t pre-determined. Throughout the evolving journey of the QVS year, I’ve found much joy in slowly discovering the program(s) my own faith journey has had in store for me. My continued spiritual formation is just one of many gifts that QVS has offered with the continued support of community members like you. 

In the Light,

Naren Roy, QVS Boston 2023-2024

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