Quaker Youth Pilgrimage 18th July – 15th August 2008
by Kate Pearson (BYM)
This summer the biennial Quaker Youth Pilgrimage took place in the British Isles. The theme was “A Journey through Conflict to Peace”. Organised by the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), the month long journey brought together young friends from across the world and from a variety of traditions of Quakerism. On 18th July, 24 young friends (later joined by a 25th) and four leaders descended on Glasgow, all very excited but nervous too. There were two friends from Mexico, seventeen from Canada and the US, one from Germany, four from Britain and one from Ireland; most of the group did not know anyone else before the pilgrimage so it was quite a daunting experience.
After home-stays with Quakers we travelled to ‘1652 country’ (the Lake District) where Quakerism started. It was here that we got to know each other really well. We stayed in Yealand Conyers – a beautiful spot which has one of the oldest meeting houses in Britain. We began our journey into Quaker history; many of us had only a limited knowledge of the start of Quakerism so it was fascinating to learn about and to consider how early Friends’ experiences was relevant today. We climbed Pendle Hill – following in George Fox’s footsteps, walked up Firbank Fell where Fox spoke to thousands and we visited Swath moor Hall, the home of Margaret Fell. At Lancaster Castle we learnt about the persecution Quakers suffered for their beliefs, which challenged us to think about what we would have done if we had lived then. We then spanned the whole of Quaker history with a trip to the fantastic Quaker tapestry in Kendal.
After a brilliant couple of weeks with some not bad weather(!), we travelled by train to Wales where we boarded a ferry to Dublin. This was a very different experience to the one we had had in England – we were only there a few days but managed to pack in a lot of things! We had a day in the city centre, visiting Trinity College and going shopping! We had a community service project where we raised at least £2500 for the charity Multiple Sclerosis Society Ireland.
Next we travelled to Northern Ireland, staying at the Moyallon Centre, where we explored the theme in terms of “The Troubles”. Whereas before we learnt about conflict in a historical context and in terms of the peace testimony, now we were learning about much more recent conflict, discovering the ways that Quakers had helped in these difficult times. We went to the Northern Irish Assembly and had talks from all the political parties which gave us a really interesting insight into the troubles.
Finally, we went to Wiston Lodge, on the outskirts of Glasgow for retreat time as we prepared to go home.
Alongside visiting places this we had regular discussions, games, meetings for worship and for business. We became a very close knit community – we even had rotas for cleaning and meal preparation! It was really fun and a fantastic spiritual experience – we learnt a lot from each other’s experience of Quakerism and made friends from all over the world at the same time. Everyone on the pilgrimage is very grateful to all those who organised the pilgrimage and to all the people that had kindly hosted us.