Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

Gathering Profiles: Junior Gathering Parent

Photo Credit: Marijke van Roojen

Gathering Through Three Generations: Marijke van Roojen and her family

Since its inception, FGC’s Youth Programs have been influential in the lives of Quakers of all ages. This is especially true of Marijke van Roojen and her family, who have been attending Gathering for nearly twenty years. Marijke’s son originally attended the High School program when their family first came to Gathering in the early 2000s.  These days, Marijke’s daughter, Hazel, participates in Junior Gathering, and her grandchildren occasionally attend as well. At home in Wisconsin, Marijke’s family hosts a small worship group at their house. There are few youth involved, which can feel isolating for her children. For Marijke’s older son, Gathering’s High School program “was a way to connect to other Quaker youth and created an important community that we weren’t able to have at the local level.” Currently, Hazel loves attending Gathering and has special F/friends who she sees year after year. Junior Gathering is also a valuable experience for Marijke’s grandchildren who otherwise would not have the opportunity to engage with Quaker community.

Marijke values FGC’s youth programs for the “truly wonderful staff who have been involved since Hazel was a baby. Many come back year after year and watch our children grow and know our kids.” Marijke has often led workshops at Gathering, and the youth programs have enabled her to participate in the full life of Gathering, even as a parent.

Of particular importance to Marijke and her family is FGC’s People of Color Pre-Conference. This is a space where People of Color and their families build relationships at Gathering. Hazel, who is of African descent, and Marijke, who is of European descent, are able to convene with families like theirs. In this more intimate setting, Hazel is able to interact with other POC Quakers who care about her and form a network of support.

Being from a small worship group, Marijke believes that “having a connection to the greater Quaker body is really important for us. We get inspiration and stimulation from what happens at the national level.” Marijke notes that the clerk of her worship group has often brought back skills from Gathering, on topics such as welcoming newcomers and clerking. Marijke herself has shared workshop content from Gathering with her worship group and Yearly Meeting.

The friendships and long term relationships that Marijke has built at FGC are very meaningful to her, and keep her coming back each year. For Marijke and her family, Gathering holds influence beyond their spiritual life. Marijke explains that it informs their whole life: “It’s about being in community with people who are also seekers, who are self-reflective, people who want to be their best self and make the world a better place.”

FGC is excited to continue offering our Youth Programs at 2020 Gathering.  This year we will host an optional afternoon session for Junior Gathering participants in grades K-6. Please indicate your interest on your registration form. Registration for all Gathering attendees opens April 1. Sign up for Junior Gathering (infant-rising 9th grade) by May 31st and for the High School Program (rising 10th grade-graduating 12th) by June 10th. For more information, contact Gathering Youth Coordinator, [email protected] or 215-561-1700 x. 3050.