At the core of the mission of the Children’s Spiritual Life Committee of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is encouragement of structures which include children in the work and witness of our meeting communities and providing tools to adults to support them. Finding the resources to support religious education and those who do this work with our youth can be a challenge, and is a struggle common to many yearly meetings.
Several Friends from Philadelphia YM participated recently in a meeting with religious educators from three other yearly meetings and FGC to talk about how we support First Day School (both children’s and adult’s) among Friends. All of us present were concerned about the lack of professional support and the dwindling volunteer resources for First Day School. The epistle that came out of that weekend is attached.
The group anticipates that several concrete action steps will come as a result of this meeting. One which is already underway is a collaboratively developed web site that will give First Day School teachers one place to go for well organized, comprehensive teaching resources.
Participants from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting were: Melinda Wenner Bradley and Joan Broadfield; Christie Duncan-Tessmer (PYM staff); Michael Wadja and Trudy Rogers as FGC representatives; and Kathleen Karhnak-Glasby as the organizer and facilitator for the weekend.
The PYM Children’s Spiritual Life Committee supports this effort. We hope that this coming together across Yearly Meetings will help provide the energy we need to work toward fulfilling our hopes and dreams for religious education programs, and plan to share more with you as this collaboration takes shape.
Melinda Wenner Bradley
Clerk, PYM Children’s Spiritual Life Committee
January 6, 2013
To Friends Everywhere:
Ten Friends gathered from four yearly meetings and Friends General Conference with a concern for the state of religious education in our yearly and monthly meetings. We met at the Mother Boniface Spirituality Center in Philadelphia, PA, January 4 to 6, 2013 with the support of a grant from the Clarence and Lilly Pickett Endowment for Quaker Leadership. The Friends in attendance were chosen by their yearly meetings as Friends with knowledge of the religious education programs within their yearly meetings.
We came together with passion and love for religious education. We were hungry for time to meet in person to support each other in our calling to develop and nurture Quaker religious education for all ages. We quickly experienced a sense of community, reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. We considered the question of what is included in the full scope of religious education, and while there are many topics to be covered, we would ultimately want religious education to provide a fertile environment for Friends to experience God as love.
We looked at the state of religious education in each of the yearly meetings represented among us through an exercise of taking inventory, considering a wide range of components that would be part of a vibrant religious education program. We found that this exercise affirmed our strengths and revealed where we need additional support for religious education programs and teachers.
We are concerned that we currently lack an organizational structure for bringing Friends together across yearly meetings to care for religious education. We noted the diminishing of staff support for religious education within several Friends organizations and discussed the challenge this creates in nurturing vibrant religious education programs.
The areas we identified as priorities for renewal are:
- Communication with religious education teachers in monthly meetings regarding the resources that exist and the best uses of these resources. We are concerned that Friends are not aware of, and not using, the available materials.
- Training for teachers, and tools for Friends to use in providing this training.
- A system for mentoring religious education teachers, programs and committees.
- Venues for meeting face to face to support each other in this work and nurture new Friends in becoming involved at a deeper level.
We began to wrestle with potential solutions to these challenges and to seek concrete ways to solve them through collaboration across yearly meetings.
We ask for your prayers as we continue to seek God’s guidance for this work. We pray that you may be blessed with an abundant and joyful spirit for religious education.
Yours in the Spirit,
Joan Broadfield, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
MJ Foley, Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Kathleen Karhnak-Glasby, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Becky Morehouse, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting
Carla Pratt-Harrington, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting
Trudy Rogers, Friends General Conference
Gail Thomas, Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Michael Wajda, Friends General Conference
Melinda Wenner Bradley, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Liz Yeats, South Central Yearly Meeting