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Centering Voices of the Next Generation (abridged)

Faith Cantu, Nora Cooke
On Healers (September 2023)
Annual Sessions

Centering Voices of the Next Generation: Keynote Presentation by Sofia Faith Cantu and Nora Lisette Cooke; July 22, 2023; Mount Madonna, Watsonville, California

The following text was abridged from a transcript of this presentation, which is published online at: https://westernfriend.org/media/centering-voices-next-generation-unabridged

Sofia Faith Cantu:

Hello, everyone. My name is Sofia Cantu, and I go by my middle name, which is Faith. I was born June 15, 2004, a child protected by love and light, protected by my ancestors that walked this earth and that held this sky, and I have been Quaker my whole life. Meaning, I hold beliefs I didn’t even realize I was taught.

Yet, I want to talk about the future. I believe that Quakerism has made me come closer to who I am today. Nothing can compare to the love and happiness that is felt by a Quaker kid when they find their friends.

It feels like there is a wall between what is new and what is old. There will always be Light in both, though. A Light that needs to have these walls taken down, so we can just be in the present with each other. No more talk of how things used to be.

I think as everyone gets older, they decide when is the right time to stop learning. When this happens, you become a selfish person. When you stop learning, you stop accepting what is new and start letting what is old become one with you.

Love is the other thing I wanted to talk about. Love. It seems so basic and overused. Love is what I think will lead, help, and heal. I’m especially talking about the children’s love for each other. The reason I stayed a Quaker was because of my friends. I didn’t know the Light, but I knew there was something special inside everyone I met. That is how we build our community.

I also think of what it was like to be a child in a Quaker meeting, to feel the loneliness when there was no one else your age. No matter how much people tell you that you can make friends across different ages, it never seems to feel right.

A while ago, I walked past the most beautiful big rose sitting alone on a fence. I wondered how it felt to be the last rose to bloom. Such a beautiful rose in the most ordinary place. I guess I am talking about this rose because it reminded me what it was like to be a Quaker child. Wonderful, yet lonely.

What I’m trying to say is – don’t hold onto something that is already gone. Don’t hold onto people that are somewhere else. Just hope for the best for them.

Recently, I have come to have the belief that things never fall apart. Even when something shatters, it’s still in pieces. You can’t make something into nothing again. When you think that people are not coming to events as much anymore, that’s okay, because they still hold their pieces. As I hold mine and you hold yours. They might even be built to come back together.


Nora Lisette Cooke:

Good morning, Friends. My name is Nora Lisette Cooke. I wasn’t born into this yearly meeting, but I started attending when I was seven. Besides a few years in my twenties when I was absent, I’ve always felt a part of this community. I’m thirty now. This community has always held me. I’ve always known that and always felt that. But there’s also a way in which this community has dropped me. When I was probably sixteen, I asked for some kind of something. I wanted something about being Quaker. Where was my communion or bat mitzvah? So I was encouraged to apply for meeting membership, but that process did not challenge me, and I found it lacking.

I think often, we’re really scared of conflict. I think conflict is a sacred invitation. I think conflict avoidance is a violence we perpetrate upon each other.

In the light of wanting acknowledgement and pushing, I think the more I sat with that unfulfilled longing as I got older, the more it’s become clear to me how much we need that. Not just teenagers. And how much we need that as a community. How much we thirst for . . . “ceremony” is the word I would use.

Faith and I have decided to do a rite of passage ceremony with you all today. A rite of passage symbolizes the movement from something into something else. They are not things happening, but the symbolic recognition of them. We are acknowledging something is already happening and will continue to happen.

• Our first step is acknowledging the old. There are things that have served us in beloved ways that no longer do. So, during this time, we want to acknowledge the old of Pacific Yearly Meeting. We can acknowledge joyful things, bittersweet things, things that felt sacred, things that felt hard.

• Our second step is letting go of the old. This can come with a lot of grief. And it can come with a lot of terror. What will happen when I let go of this thing that has often made me feel safe? That has given me a sense of purpose? Something that I have loved? For this portion of the ceremony, we have ten minutes to respond to this query in worship: What will allow us to be released from bonds that no longer serve us?

• Our third step is the gap. The gap is about that somatic experience of jumping off a cliff, somatically teaching ourselves that we can do the things that feel uncomfortable. We can do the things that feel strange. So, to get you all uncomfortable, we’re going to do five minutes of prayer and we’re going to ask you to move if you are able. And we want the room to get loud.

• Our fourth step is bringing in the new. Again, ceremony is recognizing things that are already happening. Pacific Yearly Meeting is already bringing in the new. For this step, we will again worship for ten minutes on a query: “How can Pacific Yearly Meeting be well-used by Spirit?”

• The fifth step in our ceremony is celebration. Only in joy can we truly metabolize all the processing that we do together. We’re going to sing “Instrument,” by Carin Anderson many times, so that we can all sing it together joyfully! With zeal and ardent spirit!


by Carin Anderson

Take these hands, I give them over.
Make my heart an open door.
Make my life a house of Spirit.
Make me an instrument, nothing more.  


Intergenerational relationships Quaker practice

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