The picture above shows Friends at Newtown Meeting as they assembled in 2018 to honor World Quaker Day. While the meeting has been gathering virtually during the pandemic, they are still planning to celebrate this ‘special day’ of Friends’ activities around the world.
World Quaker Day is an annual event sponsored by Friends World Committee on Consultation (FWCC). This year they have designed an interactive way for Friends Meetings in the Americas and elsewhere to engage in shared celebration.
The project captures part of the history of our meetings in the words of the oldest members of our meetings. We have suggestions on how to conduct an interview adapted from the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative-Africa Oral History project. These instructions are available in English and Spanish from the FWCC website. – Robin Mohr, Executive Secretary, Section of the Americas
Meetings can either conduct the interviews in advance of October 3 or collect them that same day. The hope is that on October 3, they will be shared with FWCC and other Friends around the world. They can be emailed firstname.lastname@example.org. Videos should be uploaded to email@example.com via https://wetransfer.com/.
The Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC)–a grassroots network of Friends holding a sense of stewardship for life-long Quaker faith formation through religious education–has created a series of lessons and activities for World Quaker Day in collaboration with FWCC and QuakerSpeak. They organized two Conversation Circles called World Quaker Day: Sharing session on RE resources and activities. The first is on September 21 at 1pm and September 23 at 8pm (both ET). You can find those materials here: Celebrate Our World Family of Friends and they include suggestions for children and youth programs, as well as multigenerational groups.
And, for those who wish to watch it, there is a brief video on FWCC’s Section of the Americas website that invites all into the circle of Friends and explains some events this year.
Tell us what your meeting is doing on World Quaker Day
PYM would love to hear what your meeting is doing on this special day. Below are the FWCC queries for this year.
- How do you understand resilience and hope? Is this different from your Quaker neighbor?
- What elements of your Quaker faith enable you to have resilience and hope?
- How does being part of an international Quaker community help provide you with strength?
Snapshot of Newtown Meeting’s Approach to World Quaker Day
Newtown Meeting Member, Norval Reece, has been active in promoting World Quaker Day since its inception. It started as just an idea over lunch with John Spears, of Princeton Meeting, and Gretchen Castle, General Secretary of FWCC.
Newtown meeting also does quite a bit of survey work to identify who their community is and what the community needs. Norval reports that their community has been surveyed three or four times, about five-to-ten years apart. He said the survey identifies “who we are, why we come to Meeting, our outside interests, how we are or are not being welcoming to visitors, how new members first heard about Newtown Monthly Meeting, and what we can do better.”
Knowing what the community wants–and who it is made up of–helps build cohesiveness. Then, with events and frequent publicity for things like World Quaker Day, awareness of the meeting in Newtown and Bucks county grows, and new friends are drawn in.
Norval writes that frequent publicity, even in a pandemic, does help growth: “Covid 19 continues to wreak havoc with normal activities. But Newtown Quaker Meeting continues to show steady growth. From 1996 to 2020, membership increased in Newtown Friends Meeting by 64% — from 210 to 345. The current number includes 296 adults, 39 minor members, and 10 associate members under age 21 – a net increase in 2020 of 5 people.”
Some of this growth is due to stories and activities like World Quaker Day this October 3. Just letting people in the area know that a Quaker Meeting exists nearby, would welcome them, and has various activities, sometimes brings visitors. Newtown Quakers try to place similar stories in the local papers and online each week with a photo featuring an adult class speaker, children’s project, or Meeting activity. – Norval Reece
In terms of who the community is, Norval notes that the “Meeting’s survey in 2019 indicated about half work or worked before retiring in government, education, or non-profit entities, and half work or worked in business, as artists, or in for-profit entities.”
Following is Newtown Monthly Meeting’s news release about World Quaker Day October 3, 2021, and (above) a photo of Meeting worshippers when they could meet in person.
Press Release: Newtown Quakers Celebrate World Quaker Day, October 3, 2021
Newtown Quaker Meeting will be sending greetings and love to people throughout the world on October 3 in celebration of World Quaker Day as they gather virtually via Zoom for worship in Newtown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
There are approximately 400,000 Quakers worldwide in North, Central, and South America, Europe, the UK, East Europe, Russia, Africa, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
The goal of World Quaker Day is for Quaker Meetings and organizations around the world to share something about Quakers with the public via some event — a talk of “Why I am a Quaker,” or “My Spiritual Journey” by a member, the founding of their Quaker Meeting, or maybe “Things about Quakers You Didn’t Know.” During Covid-19, the events are of necessity virtual and online.
Sometimes talks are about well-known Quakers like George Fox, Margaret Fell, John Woolman, Judi Dench, William Penn, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, John Greenleaf Whittier, the Barclays of Barclays Bank, Joan Baez, Susan B. Anthony, the Cadburys of Cadbury Chocolates, the Clarks of Clark’s shoes, Bethlehem Steel founder Joseph Wharton for whom the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is named, Johns Hopkins, Ezra Cornell of Cornell University, or Bonnie Raitt, and others.
Talks sometimes focus on people raised as Quakers like James Michener, Daniel Boone, and James Dean.
Sometimes, the public is just invited in for a cup of coffee. There was a wonderful Quaker Day in Glasgow, Scotland, a few years ago featured in the local paper which said Glasgow Friends Meeting was promoting ” the Glasgow Library scheme where there was a ‘human library’ at the meeting house on Saturday when visitors could ‘borrow a Quaker’ for 40 minutes for a chat and cup of coffee.”
Newtown Quaker Meetinghouse is currently closed for all events due to the coronavirus pandemic, but activities of the Meeting and the Meeting’s 345 members continue online and outdoors (such as the biweekly vigils on Newtown’s State Street in support of racial justice). When the Meetinghouse at 219 Court Street, Newtown, does re-open, all events will continue to be open to the public as usual.
Photo Courtesy of Newtown Friends Meeting