Zachary Dutton recently interviewed Melinda Wenner Bradley about the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC). This is a network whose existence centrally parallels the vision articulated by our new Five Year Plan. It is a great example of the formation of connections between meetings and individuals in our yearly meeting to encourage a similar movement from silos to synergy. Read the below transcription and also check out the recent press release.
How did this all get started?
The Quaker Religious Education Collaborative has some roots in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. It is the fruit of a conversation that has been going on for several years among Friends active in RE in both PYM and other yearly meetings. When different yearly meetings are all creating resources, but we are not talking and sharing, we can be reinventing the wheel! In January 2012,a weekend retreat was organized by Kathleen Karhnak-Glasby (Central Philadelphia MM) that gathered together Friends from several yearly meetings to talk about what religious education collaboration would look like across our yearly meetings. One of the visions was a centralized website, and we came out of that gathering excited about the possibilities. Last spring there was another round of communications among this group, and at some point, Beth Collea, Religious Education and Outreach Coordinator for New England Yearly Meeting, asked if anyone wanted to have a conversation over the phone. Liz Yeats, Marsha Holliday, Beth and I spent more than two hours on the phone. We agreed it had been a rich conversation and decided to come together in August face-to-face. So, as the press release describes, we figured out we could meet in August at Pendle Hill. We only needed one more person for Pendle Hill to provide meeting space, and then we could get together to think about a vision. In the end, we had thirty-three people gather at Pendle Hill! This spoke deeply to the need that people feel to connect and collaborate, to talk and to lift up this work.
Is this part of a particular yearly meeting or Friends General Conference?
The Collaborative has formed as its own entity, and includes members from 15 yearly meetings. It has a different purpose than the programming that FGC is developing at this time, to provide a repository of resources and means for communication and collaboration among Friends engaged in religious education. Members of QREC have expressed interest in resources for children, families, and adult RE, and we hope that what we curate and develop will be helpful to people.
What’s your personal vision for Religious Education for children and youth?
We are laying the table for what Quakerism has to offer today. Like many family gatherings, there may also be a children’s table. This table is something that needs to exist because sometimes children need a space that is their own; a place to try on ideas, play, learn, and be in community together. At the same time, we need to make sure we are asking children to pull up a chair at the “big” table. And we should be pulling a chair up to their table, too. We offer a spiritual community in religious education for children to be in a dynamic space among themselves, but we also need to invite them into fellowship, learning, and worship within the larger community. We need to do both for our kids, and for the future of Quakerism.
What is the next step for the QREC?
The four core planners have formed a steering group that meets 2-3 times a month, and we are working on a website that will be a central repository for resources. New England Yearly Meeting has created a QREC page on their website in the interim, and the documents from our gathering in August are on this page, including the resources that we shared then. The current Collaborative includes more than 100 Friends representing many yearly meetings. A piece of our vision is that the Collaborative dismantles the silos in which our meetings can tend to enclose themselves, including the boundaries of yearly meeting geography and traditional branches of Quakerism. Members of the steering group have reached out to FUM and to Northwest Yearly Meeting, which is an EFC (Evangelical Friends Church) yearly meeting. We’ve just sent out the first QREC quarterly newsletter, Connections, and until there is a functioning website, there will be a regular e-newsletter with new resources and ways to encourage people to collaborate. We are also making plans for another gathering at Pendle Hill, August 14-16, 2015. It will be a symposium with workshops, speakers, opportunities for fellowship, and, at the center of our time, worship together.