For QVS to be successful, we need the support of local Friends. But what does that entail?
From QVS’ inception we knew that a fundamental piece of our model would include partnering with local Quakers. We knew we couldn’t build a program alone, so we enlisted the support of local meetings and churches to hold the QVS house under their spiritual care.
Local Friends not only volunteer their time and practical gifts and services — they are also spiritual midwives to this program, ensuring that the program and our young adult Fellows are offered spiritual accompaniment and support.
Over the years, we fine tuned our model and grew clearer about the structural ways we needed to connect local Friends to QVS. A Local Support Committee (LSC) draws Friends from host meetings and churches to share in the work of hospitality, housing, event planning, and more. In addition, each Fellow is assigned a Spiritual Nurturer to support their discernment and reflection throughout the QVS Year. The Spiritual Nurturer Anchor is a local Friend who helps recruit and orient those who serve as Spiritual Nurturers.
Since 2012, and now stretched across five cities, we estimate nearly 200 Friends have served as spiritual nurturers, and 100 Friends have served as LSC members.
Synergy of Support
In Atlanta, our founding program city, Atlanta Friends Meeting, holds the QVS house under their spiritual care. In July 2013, a year after the first cohort of QVS Fellows arrived in Atlanta, Mary Ann Downey wrote a reflection that highlighted the work and synergy of supporting QVS. She wrote:
We’ve learned from them more about living in community, serving others, being transformed and deepening our faith as we translate it into practice. Our journey together this year reminds me of the words from the prayer of St Francis, “For it is in giving that we receive.”
Read Mary Ann's Report to Atlanta Friends Meeting on the Inaugural QVS Program, July 2013
During our meeting for worship with attention to business in April 2012, we agreed to take the Quaker Voluntary Service Atlanta project under our spiritual care, trusting that we would live into the gifts and challenges of this commitment. The first group of seven volunteers arrived in August and are now in the final weeks of their year of QVS service. They were all recent college graduates who dedicated a year to live in community, work in nonprofit service agencies, be open to transformation and learn about Quaker faith and practice. The organizations served this year were Clarkston Community Center, Habitat for Humanity, American Friends Service Committee, Frazer Center, and Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions.
Our support took many forms with most of the early ones being practical gifts of money and furniture to get a beautiful rental house ready. We found beds, chairs, sofas, and a dining table, essential kitchen equipment and pantry staples along with a required popcorn popper and picnic table. Friends offered dinner invitations, swim parties, led hikes and workshops, donated books and enjoyed finding many ways to welcome and be involved in the life of QVS.
Our journey together this year reminds me of the words from the prayer of St Francis, “For it is in giving that we receive.”
One way we offered spiritual support was through pairing each volunteer* with one meeting Friend in the role of spiritual nurturer. The volunteer and nurturer met at least monthly to consider the everyday joys and concerns volunteers faced living in multiple new communities: their QVS house of 7, our meeting community, their work community of staff and those served, and all this navigating the Atlanta metro community. Our spiritual nurture for QVS has been like the traditional role of meeting elders that Friend Jan Hoffman described as being midwives for the ministers, discerning, calling forth and supporting the gifts of emerging ministers, trusting the value of being present to the Light within, offering guidance and encouragement.
Working together to offer support for QVS brought us together in new ways and strengthened our community even before the volunteers arrived and continued all year. Their presence in meeting for worship, and meeting for business, sharing stories of spiritual journeys at Adult First Day, hosting welcome dinners for us, caring for children at the meeting retreat, being greeters on First Day, attending SAYMA, getting to know many Friends and becoming fully a part of the life of the meeting gave back to us as much or more than we gave. We’ve learned from them more about living in community, serving others, being transformed and deepening our faith as we translate it into practice. Our journey together this year reminds me of the words from the prayer of St Francis, “For it is in giving that we receive.”
*QVS Fellows were formerly referred to as volunteers. This was changed in April 2015.
Honoring Mary Ann Downey
At this time, we are called to record our deep appreciation for the service and ministry of Mary Ann Downey. Mary Ann is a member of Atlanta Friends Meeting and long-standing QVS supporter. Mary Ann served as:
- A member of Christina Repoley’s support committee when Atlanta Friends Meeting first recognized her ministry to start QVS;
- A spiritual nurturer for five Atlanta Fellows from 2012 – 2021;
- The Atlanta Spiritual Nurture Anchor from 2012 – 2019, recruiting and training multiple cohorts of spiritual nurturers; and
- A member of the Local Support Committee from 2015 – 2020.
Each year, it is not uncommon that she and her husband, Bill Holland, supported local programming, including facilitating a clerking workshop for Atlanta Fellows.
Naming Mary Ann’s Gifts
In recognition of Mary Ann’s contributions to QVS and the many young adults she supported, two Friends on the Atlanta LSC presented Mary Ann with a handmade journal. Friends and Alumni each contributed a page. Images of some of these pages are included in the photo gallery below.
Additionally, some QVS staff who worked with Mary Ann took some time to name our gratitude for Mary Ann and the gifts she offered over the last decade.
“Mary Ann set the gold standard for what it means to anchor Spiritual Nurturers in a QVS city. As QVS grew, each new city worked to replicate the wisdom and gentle support that Mary Ann provided Fellows and Nurturers in Atlanta. Not only is Mary Ann a pillar of QVS as an organization, she’s a delightful and generous human being who has blessed many of us as individuals.”
“Mary Ann has been such an inspiration to QVS Fellows over the years offering her spiritual guidance, a warm smile, and a kind heart with everything she does. From our first clerking workshop to hosting our final days of QVS in her home she embodies Quaker hospitality and leadership. As a Coordinator she offered consistency and warmth to carry on the work with Fellows in asking really important questions about the lives of Fellows. This summer, she played a crucial role in preparing the new QVS House for the next generation of Fellows not just as a place to live, but as a home.”
“Mary Ann is an exemplar of hospitality (it was baked in from her southern roots), deep listening, of patience and fortitude. She calls us all to be faithful to our inner guides, and to attune to the ways we might need to lean in, or pause for rest in our work. My heart is overwhelmed in knowing how deeply Mary Ann’s energy has grown, shaped, and nurtured QVS in all of its life stages thus far.
This nurturing has looked like a thousand cups of tea, an ocean of well-timed queries, a groundswell of connecting calls, emails, and conversations, a mountain of used tissues over hard and tender conversations, a house full of homecooked potluck meals, more quilt squares and firm hugs than one could imagine, enough pies to fill her prius, a spiritual practice for every season (or QVS day for that matter), laughter that fills the meetinghouse corridor, curiosity and compassion like the solid foundation of a home, and a garden bed of generosity of time, resources, and spirit. She has helped till the soil of QVS for it to become a fertile space for spiritual, personal, and communal transformation for everyone who is a part of the wide community.”
“Mary Ann has been an anchor for QVS and for me personally for over a decade. When I was in seminary beginning the process of starting QVS, I regularly met with Mary Ann for spiritual care, support, brainstorming, and friendship. Her wisdom guided not only the formation of the spiritual nurturer program of QVS but also many aspects of how QVS came to be structured and supported. She hosted fundraising meetings at her home, she hosted informational meetings at AFM, she welcomed board members and others traveling to Atlanta to support QVS. She even traveled to Portland and Philadelphia when we were launching our programs in those cities to help shape how local Friends engaged with QVS and the Fellows. Her love, care, support, humor, and guidance helped QVS launch, deepen and thrive. I am so grateful for Mary Ann and can’t imagine having done what we did without her!”