And yet — I feel like being a Quaker is every bit as important to me as it was when I arrived on campus, having chosen it in part for the QLSP program and the Quaker ethics. My personal faith has not changed overmuch, but what I have gained is a new appreciation of community. When I applied to colleges, I intentionally went for small liberal arts schools where the community — academic and otherwise — would be strong, rather than a larger or more prestigious school. I had grown up in communities — Quaker communities, social justice communities, my home-schooling community. But I had never been in a community quite like the one offered by QLSP.
In my year level, we have often joked about how much crying we did the first year we were all together. It seemed like ever check in, someone had some issue weighing heavy on their heart. I have never been in a community that was so open to sharing not only joys but sorrows, and I think that without it, my experience at Guilford would have been much harder.
…And when I studied in England, one of the first things I did was seek out a meeting there. It was a large meeting, and at the end of 5 months of attendance, most people still did not know who I was, and I would have new introductions every week. But I joined a community of other young friends who gathered for worship and baked potatoes every week, and we had potlucks and pub visits together, sat around and talked about school and home, ran into each other at college, and more. We could share our feelings of frustration or loneliness or hope and excitement, and know that they were being heard.
I have not had many theological revelations in college. When I sit in silent meeting, my mind still wanders more than not. And yet, I have discovered in the past few years a power in community that I had not realized, at least consciously, in my home meeting. I miss meeting when I don’t go, even if I spend the hour of silence hour thinking about my essays, or a book I’m reading, or something even more mundane. But then I go sometimes to QLSP and share the grief and joys on my heart, or I go to Friendship and hear a powerful message that keeps me thinking and meditating. I eat potluck with Friends, or drink tea, and talk about life. And I find myself grounded to the world, to my community, and to myself, for another week. It is this — the necessity of spiritual community, a community that can truly hold grief and joy and everyday life — more than anything else, that I have learned while at Guilford.
Abraham Kenmore, College Meeting for Worship, 28 August 2016