Whisper Buddies

Whisper Buddies originated as a leading from Jillian Smith of New York Yearly Meeting and has now run successfully for two summers at New York Yearly Meeting sessions.  It’s an amazing and adaptable model for connecting across generations and passing down Friends’ oral traditions.

Basically, a group gets together and spends a little time in fellowship and low-pressure, getting-to-know-you facilitated conversation.  Then, those present self-identify as “experienced Friends” or “learners,” and the learners get to choose their Buddies from among the experienced Friends.  Whisper Buddies sit together in business meetings and whisper or pass notes.

Take a look below at Jillian’s words and a step-by-step how-to…

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Here’s Jillian!

The goals of Whisper Buddies are for two people (one more experienced, one less experienced) to become spiritual friends and for both to refresh, deepen, learn, and grow their Quaker process understanding. How do Quakers make decisions together? What is a consent agenda? Who sits in the front? What are they doing? Who told them to do it? What does “that Friend speaks my mind” mean?

In order for us to become friends, know one another and share a common practice we need to meet one another and sit together. Whisper Buddies facilitates that part. So if you want to know Quaker process, or make a new F/friend, try Whisper Buddies.

EVERYONE is invited to not just participate in the Divinely led decision making process that Quakers engage in, but also, to make friends, and deepen understanding. Those of us with experience can share it, learn more and make new friends, who will undoubtedly change our experience of Meeting for Worship with Concern for Business.


How to Do Whisper Buddies

Step 1. Expect the unexpected. Know everyone and everything changes!

Step 2. Invite everyone to the same *fun* space! Everyone means everyone…15, 16, 17…25, 26, 27… 35, 36, 37 (this means child care will be necessary)… 45, 46, 47…. up to 121 years old. There might need to be a wheelchair ramp. Who else might need or want to be invited?

Step 3. Bring 50 yards of wide ribbon and 100 pocket size notepads and 100 pens. (You’ll have extra. That’s okay. You’ll do it again next year!)

Step 4. Play some funny getting-to-know each other group games. Do funny getting-to-know each other name whips! These should demystify any assumptions that we are more different than the same. We need to see one another – feel familiar and safe.


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Whisper Buddies discover new things about each other, even if they’ve known each other for a long time.

Step 5. Have the group answer questions that bring up stories of vulnerability. Ex. Learning organic chemistry or advanced Greek? Advanced Swahili? Learning means admitting to yourself and another person that you don’t know some stuff.

Step 6. Ask the group to organize themselves in a line from most years of experiencing Quaker process to least.

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Almost there.  This is harder than it looks!

Step 7. Have the half of the group that has the most experience voluntarily cut a length of ribbon long enough to use as blind fold. Then blindfold themselves and stand in the middle of the room. Singing together is encouraged.

Step 8. Encourage those with less Quaker experience to step away, center…and open their hearts to a new journey.

Step 9. Allow those in the ‘learning’ role to let the Divine guide them in choosing their own teacher. Seeking can be difficult. Let’s empower those who seek!

Step 9 part two:
Once each person has selected a teacher they stand behind them silently place a hand on their shoulder and ask permission to remove their blindfold. This is to symbolize how much Light the student reveals to the teacher. Everyone teaches everyone learns!

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Whisper Buddies isn’t age-specific.  One of the Friends in this picture is a self-identified LEARNER who has only been a Friend for a couple of years.  Isn’t it cool that you can’t tell which one just by looking?

Step 10. Have the new friends or ‘Whisper Buddies’ sit down and plan their schedules! Hand out the pocket size journals (just as some Quakers who wrote in their own once upon a time?)

Encourage each pair to attend Quaker Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business together… *as their individual schedules allow!* In those meetings they can whisper questions or write them down and look up answers later in Faith and Practice or any other text. Encourage pairs to share a meal together and share contact info and learn from each other’s souls.

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Young Friends walking up the path to meet their Buddies in business meeting!