Two weeks ago, around 40 QVS Alumni gathered from around the country for an Alumni Reunion & 10 Year Celebration. This event was a first of its kind and an experiment in gathering together. QVS staff had long hoped to offer a retreat like this, convening together Alumni and Friends invested in our work and evolution over this last decade.
For these reasons, there was a lot we held and hoped for in the weekend together. These are some pieces from the weekend that have stayed with me.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON was a time of welcoming Friends and orienting them back into our QVS community. In many ways the time together paralleled our National Orientations when we orient Fellows to our program and their relationship with QVS. Yet, this was a moment of re-orientation, as we asked:
– What does it mean to be an Alumni of QVS?
– As the program evolves and grows, what does it mean to have had a shared experience but also one that is really nuanced and different?
– How can QVS be its most faithful and most powerful moving forward?
In our initial session we closed with a worshipful space in which we each shared what drew us to be together. One alum shared a desire to reconnect with and cherish the values QVS holds, while another wanted to process the complicated experience of their QVS year. This alum shared that it would be easier to not engage, but that they were here to do the hard thing.
Another alum shared a desire to understand the unfolding impact QVS has had on their personal and professional life. Finally another shared they came to honor the trust that they had put in when they decided to do QVS. They said that they wanted to hear what all the individual growth sounded like when we put it together in a shared space.
Staff members present named wonderings held around the role and responsibility staff and the QVS institutional structure have to connecting, reconnecting, supporting and walking alongside alumni. It was clear that Friends gathered for similar and different reasons — and that there was Truth in all of it.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON AND SATURDAY MORNING were reserved for Alumni-led workshops. This was an intentional shift away from top-down organized events, and instead making space for the resources, tools, skills, and expertise that rested within the community of attendees. Eight Alumni prepared workshops ahead of time on various work and thinking they wanted to share with the larger community. Friends offered workshops on trauma stewardship and resiliency, anti-capitalist finance, crafting and creativity, the enneagram, work and compensation, liberation theology, and spiritual practices. These workshops were especially grounding as we learned from and listened to the leadership of alumni.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON we tried on a visioning activity. With wondered with Friends:
What do we hope the world looks like in 20 years?
What are the specific tools, values, infrastructure, and capacities that will help us get there?
What are the ways that QVS — not just as an organization, but as a spirit-led network of relationships — is, and can be, equipping individuals to live into this vision?
From a space of worship, Friends imagined together the world we are building. This vision was recorded on two large sheets of paper (included in the photo gallery below). Next, Friends gathered in small groups to listen and discern specific tools and capacities that we can collectively harness as a spirit-led network of relationships. One specific tool that was named over and over was a directory for Alumni to use to maintain connections formed during their fellowship year. Friends were eager to know where Alumni are in the world, the skills and tools that Alumni are equipped with, and the questions and issues in which Alumni are engaged. It is our hope to move our work forward from this vibrant and energizing space.
SATURDAY NIGHT we celebrated our founding Director, Christina Repoley, and the investments of time and relationship building made together in this last decade. We were thrilled that members of the greater QVS community were able to share the evening with us as we built a physical and interactive timeline with pictures from the years. We concluded the evening with a couple alumni and members of the community sharing about Christina’s vision and prophetic leading to build QVS.
Noah Merrill, founding board member and now New England Yearly Meeting Secretary, shared a particular message that has stayed with me about the work of building faith communities. He said “we often tell the myth [and] only acknowledge the celebration. We must also acknowledge the fear and doubt and risk.” He went on to say that “the life of a community of faith is a continuous risk.”
SUNDAY MORNING we concluded our weekend together by offering space to uplift the work our Alumni are engaged in today. It was named in the Saturday afternoon visioning session that Friends wanted to build a directory to continue to support, nurture, and connect the lives of those in our QVS community- especially as we held how to continue to build and deepen relationships with alum who were not able to attend this gathering. So, we began some of that work of understanding where are Alumni in the world; what questions are Friends asking of themselves; what resources do Friends have access to and what resources do Friends need.
We went around the room and each shared a piece of our world with each other. There was an excitement that this space brought that may not have been seen before that moment: a vulnerability and a deep connectivity that mirrored the intimacy found in the fellowship year itself. We’re hoping to capture this energy and move forward with it into our work ahead.
Across the weekend, we listened together for how QVS can be its most faithful and most powerful moving forward. After all, we don’t see QVS ending after the 11-month fellowship, but rather as a spirit-led network of relationships that we’re a part of for our whole lives.
I was there Saturday Evening, with my QVS nurturee, Carole Ann Ferlauto. It was a wo nderful evening. I have hope again for a flourishing Religious ?Society of Friends and a flourishing QVS. Thank all of you got your faithful service.