Rebecca Cole Sullivan served at American Friends Service Committee in Atlanta during the 2012-2013 QVS year. She was in the first cohort!
Spiritual Community: Member of Atlanta Friends Meeting and worshiping there! Also a part of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC).
QVS Year: 2012-2013 — the first year!
City: Atlanta, GA
Site Placement: American Friends Service Committee
What’s a fun *Quaker* fact about you? Born into Baltimore YM, grew up in Pacific YM, lived in Philadelphia and spent time with PYM, attended North Carolina YM Conservative during college, SAYMA thru QVS, South Central YM with spouse.
“During the fellowship year, QVS helps Fellows practice listening to the still, small voice as they discern how to spend their time; discern their spiritual gifts and how to be of service to community; discern how to move through conflict or how to bring joy into a community’s practice; discern a vocational path, job opportunity, and training or further education.“
Quick Intro: Tell me a little bit about yourself! What led you to QVS?!
It’s a big and simple question all at once. The simple answer would be: I was a year out of college. Having grown up a Quaker, I was looking for service and communal housing and really wanted to figure out how that’d work within a Quaker community.
What have you been up to since your QVS year? How have you stayed connected to the Religious Society of Friends?
One of two or 3 of the QVS alumni attending Atlanta Friends Meeting! In the last 10 years, I have served as Recording Clerk for SAYMA, served as Recording Clerk for AFM, served on FGC’s board, and clerked the FGC gathering 2022. I went to grad school to get my MA at Georgia State in Nonprofit Management, then I worked at a dropout prevention and family support organization for 4 years. Currently, I am the Database Product Manager for Center for Action and Contemplation, a Christian Contemplative Education Non-profit. I feel very grateful working for an organization doing spiritual education. What does it look like creating the experiential spirituality space for others? That’s a query I am continuing to hold in my life right now.
Since participating in QVS, you’ve stayed in Atlanta. Have you stayed connected with Atlanta Friends Meeting?
Short answer, yes. Ever since my QVS year, it’s felt like a welcoming space for me to worship in.
Expanding on that: QVS is a nice container for young adults to more easily enter a meeting. Without a program like QVS, a challenge of the Religious Society of Friends is to welcome young adults and support and nurture all young people. QVS gives meetings an opportunity to grow what it means to support young people. Specifically Atlanta Friends Meeting treated young adults in the program really well. If you’re an alum, you continue to be welcomed. That has also welcomed non-QVS young adults in the community to Atlanta Friends.
What impact has QVS had on your life? How do you look back on your QVS experience?
As someone who was already committed to my Quaker faith, I never felt like my Quakerism was changing solely because of QVS. Discernment is a big theme that surfaces in QVS. During the fellowship year, QVS helps Fellows practice listening to the still, small voice as they discern how to spend their time; discern their spiritual gifts and how to be of service to community; discern how to move through conflict or how to bring joy into a community’s practice; discern a vocational path, job opportunity, and training or further education. As I’ve spent more time out of QVS (and I imagine some of my fellow alumni do as well), I’ve continued to grow in listening to the still, small voice.
One area of discernment or noticing that came up during my QVS year and part of what QVS was for me was practicing noticing a good day and bad day at my site placement. Practicing this noticing in myself helped me in discernment along my career path and led me to queries I would hold during my QVS, but also in future jobs I’d have: Does my job need to be my vocation? Is my current job supporting me in the things I want in my life? Offering enough pay? Is it fun enough? Is it providing work life balance? What does a new place or culture look like and provide me with?
“Service is an easy place to look at discernment. At each step in my life post- QVS, Quaker board and non-Quaker spaces : would I be willing to serve? Would I do this task? Do I have the time? Can I take this up right now? Is this what I’m called to do? Is this how I want to fill my time?”
What does discernment look like in your life now and/or since your QVS year? What spiritual and/or vocational questions are you sitting with right now?
Discernment is always there. Always possible. It’s about thinking about what we’re doing. I don’t always know discernment best by myself, so asking friends and Friends to ask me questions, then seeing if there are additional questions to ask of myself. Naming the queries is essential in finding the answer, alongside noticing my bodily feedback, head or body, and being willing to listen to that feedback.
Service is an easy place to look at discernment. At each step in my life post- QVS, Quaker board and non-Quaker spaces : would I be willing to serve? Would I do this task? Do I have the time? Can I take this up right now? Is this what I’m called to do? Is this how I want to fill my time? These are common questions I have practiced asking myself when taking on a new role. So discernment is always there.
Going to grad school was a moment of discernment, as much as a moment of helping me get the job I want. I discerned with my spouse over the options of where we were going to live. I asked myself: What is it that I want to do with my life? What’s the environment at work that’s important to me? What direction do I want my career to go in? What are ways I want to be supported in work?
Discernment is a tool I’ve grown up with in my back pocket, so I had some practice with it before QVS. I’ve learned to take a moment of pause before I say “yes” or “no” to a new path. I’ve recently been prioritizing self-care and interests I’d like to explore. In the past I wouldn’t always take this pause before saying yes to a new service opportunity, but with this pause I am able to assess my capacity. When I say yes now, it means I truly have space to give my whole self to the service I will be doing, which reflects my values in the way I’d like to be of service in my life.
Read More Alumni Spotlights & News
On January 24, 2024 Quaker Voluntary Service held a special Supporters’ Briefing. While we usually hold this event annually in June, we felt it was important to hold an event sooner to share with supporters the program shifts recently approved by the Board of...
Photo: A potluck hosted by the Local Support Committee in the Twin Cities last year. Local enthusiasm for QVS kept the door open for a possible return to the Twin CitiesLast Spring, the QVS Board of Directors made the difficult decision to pause the program in...
Photo: The QVS Boston house on retreat in Sandwich, NH in the summer of 2023. If you read our blog about a shortened program year, you might be wondering, what will QVS do with the extended summer break? We are piloting a summer program! There are endless...