While the adults of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting gather for interim meeting, Junior Interim Meeting brings together kids in grades K-5 to do their spirit-led work. As with the work we do as adult Quakers, sometimes we are taking action, and sometimes we need to make decisions or test ideas. For this, just like older Friends, we have Meeting for Worship for Business.
On January 11th, the question was this: Did we want to send an open invitation to everyone of all ages to join us in our work at Junior Interim Meeting on the second Saturday in March?
Benjamin Camp, Children’s Religious Life Program Coordinator, served as Clerk. Below is an excerpt of the minutes from the meeting, demonstrating a depth of listening, a desire to find sense of the meeting, and a guiding spirit to which all of us can aspire.
Excerpt: Minutes, Junior Interim Meeting January 11th, 2014
Present: 27 Kids, 6 Friendly Presences, 1 Guest from Fair Hill Burial Ground
After Hide-and-Seek concluded, the clerk called the body to a business meeting.
The clerk explained that sometimes in our lives, groups of people who have to make a decision using voting as a way to make that decision, but that as Quakers, we have another way- we have business meeting. It was explained that Quakers listen to the Light/ the spirit inside all things including us/ God, and seek carefully a way forward in our decisions that isn’t just good for us, but good for everyone effected by the decision. The clerk reminded the group that though we listen within, we don’t listen for what we want, we listen for what everyone needs.
In Junior Interim Meeting, we meet lying on our stomachs with our heads close together, so we can see and listen and hear.
The clerk pointed out that the adults were having a business meeting, and that we would be having one too.
The question at hand was this: in March there is no Interim Meeting scheduled, but we could have a Junior Interim Meeting, and that some years we have invited everyone in the YM. What do we want to do with that time this year, which was ours, and did we want to invite everyone?
We had settling worship.
Then we asked clarifying questions.
We established that there is work for us to do at Fair Hill, and enough work for anyone who came.
We established that we really could decide what we wanted, though we would need to follow a previous decision we had made (the Children’s Priority).
It began to be clear that there were some concerns about inviting adults to come with us, and it was established that if we invited adults, some of our parents would certainly be in attendance.
We had some worship, and then offered ideas/proposals. A proposal was brought to invite everyone. A proposal was brought to have just kids.
The clerk asked that the proponents of the idea of having Just Kids offer their reasoning.
- It was mentioned that playing games was important.
- It was pointed out that they don’t get a lot of just kid time.
- The point was made that sometimes your adults will tell you not to do things a lot if they are there.
- Someone was concerned that older friends might be injured playing games.
- Another person was interested in surprising their adults with work they had done.
The clerk asked for advocates for the idea of inviting everyone to speak.
- Someone said that it was a nice thing to do to invite everyone.
- Others thought that there might be a lot of work they could do at Fair Hill.
- Someone brought up the idea that the adults could also play games, and that was confirmed by the clerk.
The clerk took a straw poll of those in attendance, and found that they were split fairly evenly between inviting and not inviting the adults.
The clerk took a moment of silence to consider the path forward. The clerk decided to seek a third way, while offering the opportunity to delay till next month a decision if true impasse remained.
After unpacking some of the reasoning behind hesitations in both directions, the clerk made a middle proposal. Perhaps the need for guaranteed kid only time could be met through programming. Bri Barton, representing Fair Hill Burial ground, noted that she would be happy to plan part of the day’s work to be just kids work, and part of the work to be just adult’s work, so there would be another opportunity for kid time.
These ideas were both well received by those who had hesitated to invite the adults. The clerk, remembering the interest in games, also proposed that the adults could be encouraged/required to play a game as well, and suggested Hide-And-Seek, a simple multigenerational classic that had just been played previous to the meeting. This idea was also received enthusiastically.
The clerk asked the body to return to silence and consider the proposal that we invite everyone with the caveats that there be guaranteed kid time, and that everyone play a game. The clerk asked everyone to listen to themselves and the spirit in all things and God and their light and see if they felt that this was a good path forward for the group. The clerk asked any among us who felt that it really, really wasn’t the right thing to offer that thought at this time.
One Friend did so. She shared that it didn’t feel right. She was asked to identify why it felt that way, and after some time to consider, shared that she really felt the kids doing something as a reveal, or offering, or surprise, was an important part of the vision she had for the event. She was asked to test with herself whether given the group’s general sense of moving forward, she might be willing to let go of her concern and stand aside. She was not prepared to do that.
Some clarifying facts were offered, that the work at Fair Hill is never really “finished” such that it could be revealed in a permanent way, as well as the fact that inviting all of the adults in a future month, while not totally impossible, would be tricky.
After the group considered that, an amendment to the proposal was offered, that perhaps the adults and kids could approach different tasks towards the start of the day, allowing for such a reveal. These amendments seemed to put at ease the concerns of the person at odds with the proposal.
The clerk asked the body if they were ready to approve their decision, repeating it thusly:
The Yearly Meeting, including adults, will be invited to Junior Interim Meeting in March at Fair Hill Burial Ground. There will be an opportunity for just the kids to have some time together to work on a project that they can reveal to the adults. Additionally, the adults will be required to play a game of hide and seek.
The clerk asked for verbal approval of the proposal, and it was granted.
Having found sense of the meeting for the agenda at hand, we adjourned outside to play blob tag, until it poured rain on us.