YFHS Epistle 2018
A week ago we arrived at Bootham School, nervous and excited, to begin Yorkshire Friends Holiday School 2018. The fantastic Student Helpers organised a game of ‘human bingo’ which helped everyone, especially newcomers, to start conversations and learn things about each other.
Elspeth led the first night’s social which soon had everyone up running, dancing and spinning around. A quiz helped introduce us to our fellow nest group members, people who we would get to know better and better throughout the week. Nest groups create a sense of trust and warmth, helping us to build friendships with people we may not have mixed with otherwise and giving us a sense of belonging within the larger group. By the end of Sunday night everyone was feeling more at home and old and new friendships were already developing.
Our theme for the week has focussed on Peace, allowing us all to reflect on the ways in which we can find peace in ourselves, our communities and the wider world. Quakers commitment to the Peace testimony and pacifism is one of the most widely known aspects of our faith, but this week gave us a chance to delve deeper into what that means for each of us and how we incorporate it into our daily lives.
Monday began with Meeting for Worship, which provided a peaceful and calm start to each day throughout the week. This was also an important time for us to come together as a community and for people to share thoughts on the theme of peace through ministry.
Guy led the opening session on the first day, which began with us all mingling around the room and holding short discussions with different people. We began by talking about our favourite breakfast, before moving onto the more serious topic of our own personal relationship with pacifism.
On Tuesday we welcomed Robert Keeble and Richard Leavett from Leeds Quakers who shared their many years of involvement in peace activism, specifically in relation to nuclear weapons and disarmament. Both of them have been arrested several times for their direct action and described the emotional and spiritual impact this had on them. The message we all took from it though was that action of any size or scale has an impact and can help us move towards a more peaceful world.
By Wednesday we’d got to know our nest groups better and we had the chance to work together in teams in a Taskmaster themed Game. Different challenges were set and we were tested on various skills including our ability to throw a teabag into a cup and build towers out of marshmallows and spaghetti. As always The Game was energetic and entertaining and helped us to bond through friendly competition.
Our speaker on Thursday was Abigail Darton, a Holiday School alumni, who is now working for a charity which provides training on conflict resolution. She explained techniques we can use to deal with conflict in our day to day lives and through role play we put these into practice. By understanding the underlying fears that can cause conflict, with other people and within our own minds, we can all learn to react to it more peacefully. We were left feeling invigorated and equipped with new skills we could apply.
On Friday we welcomed Razwan Ul-Haq and his family to talk about Islamaphobia. He gave an engaging talk about the media and how we’ve become desensitized to anti-Muslim messages. We also learnt about the global contribution of Muslim culture and how little this is recognised in our education system and wider society. He shared his positive experience of Quakers in helping combat this discrimination and inspired us to challenge all forms of prejudice within our communities. His humour and relatability made a complex issue really accessible and led to lots of further discussion throughout the week.
This year staff pulled out all the stops to offer a wide range of Activity Groups including new additions Dungeons and Dragons and Rest and Recuperation as well as much-loved regulars the Newspaper and the Craft Group. The video group provided everyone with lots of laughter with their music videos and the sketch comedy group performed for us on the last night.
Each night we got together for a jam-packed social with a big variety of dances and games. Although it can be daunting at the start of the week, it wasn’t long before everyone was taking part and throwing themselves into it. Epilogue at the end of the night gave us time to quietly reflect on the day.
On Thursday the student helpers organised a fantastic Winter Olympic themed Potted Sports. As usual it was a really memorable afternoon and they packed a lot of challenges (and water) into a short time. Free Time also gave the opportunity for football, table tennis and basketball tournaments as well as swimming. Each of these helped us form relationships and bonds with different people, enhancing the sense of community within holiday school.
We’ve been heartened by new visitors who described feeling uplifted and having their faith restored by the thoughtful and inspiring young people they have met here. They were impressed by the open, inclusive environment we create together and our consideration for each other.
As we reflect on our week we hope to take some peace back home with us, whether that’s taking some time to be still and present or using new found tools to deal with stress and conflict when it occurs. When the week is over we carry Holiday School with us and will always remain part of this special community.
A special thank you to Emily for putting this Epistle together for us.