On Friday, August 20, between 8-8:20 PM, Friends will gather outside their meetinghouses – or at their homes – for a silent, candlelight vigil during which we will remember the many ways we as individuals and a community were impacted by the COVID pandemic. This includes sorrows and joys, hardships and sharing, isolation and fellowship. We will be linked during the 20 minutes by Zoom. Meetings may wish to add a dinner or memorial-style meeting in advance of 8 PM, and invite others (such as the local Council of Churches) to join them. NOTE: Monthly Meetings and individuals participating from home are encouraged to pre-register in order to receive the Zoom link.
How do meeting communities prepare and engage in active invitation to families and children?
Three sets of needs. When a family walks through the door of a meeting, there are three sets of needs we should be prepared to support: the spiritual formation of their children, the spiritual journey of the adults as individual seekers drawn to Quakerism, and the family unit as they search for a spiritual community for their family to grow and contribute in. Welcoming a new family is the work of the whole meeting — youth religious education, worship and ministry, care of community, etc. Pastoral care for children begins with pastoral care for their parents or primary caregivers, and this care is best served at an intersection of multiple committees and ministries. Along with welcome and inclusion, child safety (which is really community safety) is another place for the meeting community to work together to address resources and practices. When my meeting wrote our child safety policy, the ad hoc committee included members of children’s religious education, worship and ministry, and the meeting clerk, who worked together to bring forward a policy for the whole meeting to approve as a body. There is a powerful message in the shared nature of that work.
Listen. When we welcome a family at the meetinghouse threshold, we need to be prepared to reach out and communicate about what they will find there. We also need to be ready to listen. What is a family looking for in a faith community? What do they want you to know about their children, their hopes and needs? After we listen, are we willing to create flexible structure and routines in programs for families to participate? How can we make space for Friends with a variety of gifts to participate in our spiritual community?
I had a humbling experience that lifted up the need to listen, as well as to share about Quakerism and our meeting: In a year when we had many new attenders, we decided to have a shared lunch to invite them more fully into the life and work of the meeting. We prepared a handout about committees, there was an agenda and program (and childcare and pizza for children!). The program opened with the simple request to go around the room and share what had brought each of us to our meeting? Where were we on our spiritual journey? I thought we would do introductions and then get to the “real work” of sharing about our committees and how newcomers could participate. Ninety minutes or so later, we had gotten around the circle of people present. We didn’t get to anything else we had planned. The real work of that time together was sharing, listening, and gathering as a spiritual community. The time for finding a place for people to serve would happen, but we needed to know each other better, first. Integrating families and other newcomers into the spiritual life of the meeting doesn’t need a committee. It’s just about placing primacy on the spiritual experience of worship, listening deeply to one another, and walking with one another in the travails and celebrations of life. People want to share their stories as they come to walk with us. Are we listening?
The unspoken messages of spaces. When my children were very young, I spent most of hospitality hovering over them on antique horsehair furniture where they balanced with glasses of juice and china plates of cookies. I rarely had an adult conversation of any depth, during a time when wonderful connection can happen — and when I needed it. It finally occurred to me to ask if we could add to the social room a small table and chairs for children. The result was transformative! People who are parents can get their children set up there, and then spend coffee hour talking to other adults. The other happy outcome? Children in fellowship with their peers, knowing one another in community outside of a program or worship. Spaces give unspoken, immediate clues to a new family about how prepared the meeting is to welcome them: is there a place to change a diaper? a booster seat or highchair? a small table and chairs in a fellowship space? Does the worship space have a basket of books, coloring, and other quiet things to support children be settled — and included — in worship? Does the greeter have information about child care and youth religious education programs, to hand to visitors along with announcements or information about the meeting? None of these things need to be fancy, but they send a powerful message of inclusion.
Friends may be interested in receiving:
- “The Tote Bag” PYM e-newsletter for Religious Education and Family resources.
- “Quaker Meeting and Me” from the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative. This little book in English and Spanish is wonderful to hand to a visitor or newcomer, or as a gift to young children in the meeting.
To learn more about these resources, or plan a conversation about outreach and support for families in your meeting, contact Melinda Wenner Bradley, the Youth Engagement Coordinator, at email@example.com.
About 35 members and attenders, from age 12 on up, gathered at Newtown Meeting to take up the Scavenger Hunt challenge. We used the First Day School time to form up into teams of 2-4, with the instruction to have a young Friend and someone you did not know well on your team. Each team reviewed the list of Scavenger Hunt items and picked one to pursue. Some who brought wireless devices did research, while others interviewed each other or wandered the grounds to find the items that fit a challenge. There was lots of chatter!
Near the end, the group gathered as a whole and each team reported one interesting thing they had discovered. Everyone in the room learned several new things about each other, our Meeting, and the wider world of Quakers.
Hopefully the recorders will turn in their discoveries! But in any case, it was one of the most fun intergenerational community-building activities we’ve done. We have many new attenders this year, so it was a great way to get to know each other.
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I will attend Spring Continuing Sessions on March 25 with the intent to participate in the multigenerational programs actively, mightily, and joyously with hope and enthusiasm. I encourage you to attend and participate too. These multigenerational programs provide our spiritual community with an opportunity to join in shared activities. In these challenging times these activities open our minds and nurture our souls. Through these programs we see the best of ourselves, and–they’re fun!
When our youngest Friends join in our business work, their initial shyness gives way to bright smiles as they describe their activities. As Young Friends share stories of their efforts to redress social injustice, they express both an unmistakable adolescent seriousness and an infectious joy and enthusiasm. Often Young Adult Friends provide opinions, observations, and courses of action which take the corporate body in new directions, forcing us to see opportunities and understand ourselves in new ways. I am comforted knowing that these Friends of all ages will lead our spiritual community into the future. I am also indebted and grateful for our older Friends, role models whose vocal ministry illuminates our best, Friendliest path. These Friends embody our heritage. They are our Living Past. Our spiritual community rests firmly on the foundation of their loving kindness.
If we liken the Yearly Meeting to a mature tree, our young Friends of all ages are the branches and leaves which require kind, loving attention in order to catch the Light. Even without our attention, they seek the Light naturally. Our older Friends are the deep roots that support and nurture the tree. All of us have a role in this shared, organic process. All of us contribute to the growth of the Yearly Meeting.
Come to Spring Continuing Sessions and participate mightily: Dig deep roots. Nurture tender branches toward the Light. Learn novel ideas. Find new expressions of Love, Hope, and Peace–and have fun while doing it.
In Hope of Peace,
Christopher A. Lucca
Yardley Friends Meeting
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An Intergenerational Spiritual Formation Program is specifically designed for Young Adult and other interested Friends. This 7-month program begins in Sept. 2014 and closes in April 2015. The elements of Spiritual Formation include retreats, personal spiritual disciplines, readings, and prayerful support. Participants will meet monthly in spiritual friendship and reading groups. We will be joining each other in worship, practice and witness to the Eternal in our lives.
The opening retreat will be held Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, at Abington Meeting. The mid-year retreat will be held at Chestnut Hill Meeting on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 and the closing retreat at Chestnut Hill on April 18, 2015.
If you have any questions about the program or about registration, please contact Amelia Diamond, firstname.lastname@example.org, Jane Keller, email@example.com, Wanda Wyffels, firstname.lastname@example.org or Wade Wright email@example.com.
Join us on a new spiritual journey! Invite a Friend to travel with you!