QREC Conversation Circle Summary.  November 2019

Spirit of the Season: Wonder and Light in Advent, Christmas and the holidays

Centering Silence

Topic: How can Quaker religious educators help children, families and Friends of all ages celebrate the birth of Jesus in a spirit of joy and simplicity? How can the sacred holidays be a time of wonder, inspiration and connection with those we love? Learn about Friendly Holiday Gift Fairs, a collaboration between QREC and Friends Peace Teams (see below). Join the conversation to explore approaches to the holidays and to share questions, ideas and experience.  

Melinda Wenner Bradley, (West Chester MM, PhYM) After becoming a Godly Play¬Æ storyteller in 2005, Melinda co-authored Faith & Play:‚Ñ¢ Quaker Stories for Friends Trained in the Godly Play¬Æ Method. An accredited US Godly Play¬Æ Trainer since 2010, Melinda works with Quaker meetings and Friends schools to use these resources. A co-founder of the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative, she currently serves Philadelphia Yearly Meeting as the Youth Engagement Coordinator.

  • Local touch of spring weather reminds us that Friends live in varying climates around the world, and during the Christmas season we can be mindful of a northern hemisphere mindset predominating visuals

  • Experimenting with community worship (all ages together) and inviting locals from Friends retirement community and local Friends school (more below) 

  • Centering wonder, inspiration, multigenerational for gatherings; and alternative gift giving

Friendly Gift Fair

Nadine Hoover (Friends Peace Teams, Buffalo NY, NYYM) Nadine has been a peace activist all her life. She brought her peace ministry in Asia under the care of Friends Peace Teams Peace in 2007, and currently clerks the FPT Peace Ministries Committee that gives attention to Friends called to peace ministries. 

Beth Collea (QREC Steering Circle, Dover NH, NEYM) Beth recently moved to Dover, NH where she attends Dover Friends Meeting. She served NEYM as Religious Education & Outreach Coordinator for 14 years. Beth and her husband, Jeremiah Dickinson, have four young adult children who were raised in a blended family.Friendly Gift Fair 

  • Alternative Gift Fair: Give the gift of peace through support for Quaker work

    • Message: This is what real peacemaking looks like in the world. Peace isn‚Äôt something on a Christmas card surrounded by angels

  • Grew out of focus to link U.S. (NE) Quaker children with Quaker activists

  • Spirit-centered peace work, Friends Peace Team programs worldwide

    • One description supports FPT young peacemaker training Aug 1 ‚Äì 9 in Buffalo for teens and their allies. 

  • Instructions and written templates are all prepared:

  • QREC website: http://quakers4re.org/giftfairs2019

  • ‚ÄúWork bench,‚Äù Googledrive page: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1jv_sETwc1wBUMi538uXtVYNYHq7uDsOe 

  • Friends Peace Teams website: https://friendspeaceteams.org/

  • Advice: Keep it simple. Start with a table with the ‚ÄúShopping List‚Äù and gift card inserts

    • Honor friends with gift of support for peace making

    • Support for ministries folks connect with: ‚Äòspirit of giving‚Äô ‚Äì relationship

    • Blank description forms are available for local projects. Criteria: Are Friends in the local meeting directly involved?

    • Successive years: RE programs may want to study the projects and create displays

  • Post FWCC map and mark where projects are located: http://fwcc.world/fwccworldmap2017

  • Friends Peace Team is sharing 8 projects: 2 in US & territories; 2 in Latin America; 2 Asia; 2 Africa

Petrus Diem Sehining, Friends Peace Teams partner, joining from Indonesia

  • Grateful to Quakers for helping us go beneath the surface of conflict to see the truth of peace

  • Quakers have a special ability to bring peace through deep listening within ourselves and others

  • This listening brings people together, even enemies, into the same room to reduce violence. 

  • We have looked to many faiths, but Quakers have been the ones to bring people with extreme views together to listen and make peace. 

  • We are teaching Quaker peace making skills learned in FPT workshops to local children from many faiths: Buddhists, Moslems and Christians.   

Multi-Cultural Celebration of Christmas and the Winter Holidays

Sally Farneth (Sparklers Working Group, Portland ME, NEYM) Sally is a retired public school teacher and also a First Day School teacher off and on for 35 years. She co-authored the first Sparklers with Nancy Pickering 38 years ago. She was a frequent participant in curriculum writing, mostly with Quaker FDS groups at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and FGC. She is one of 5 co-authors of Sparkling Still. She and her husband Alan moved from PA to Falmouth ME in August. They have one daughter and family in ME, another daughter and family in Madison WI, and a son in Tucson.

  • Lover of children‚Äôs books.  A good picture book can communicate deep, lasting lessons 

  • Taught about the holidays in public school in Arizona and in Langhorne, PA FDS

  • Theme locally, based on kids there; what traditions, holidays, stories 

  • Started with a map: ‚Äòhow the holidays of this season are celebrated where their ancestors come from‚Äô

  • Using ‚ÄòLight‚Äô pulled in various diverse ideas; and food is a nice addition

  • Finding unique in families, yet in common

  • Mixture of books in basket covering holidays, backgrounds – familiar stories told in new ways

  • Sally‚Äôs favorite picture books for the holidays: 

    • This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten (2006) 

    • Edge of the Night Sky by Teri Probasco (FGC publication, 1995) more about God‚Äôs presence

    • A Dozen Silk Diapers by Melissa Kajpust (1995)

    • The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie De Paola (2001) ****

    • The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (1995) read to older children.

    • Night Tree by Eve Bunting(1991) young children/animals

    • Uncle Vova‚Äôs Tree by Patricia Polacco, (1989

    • The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco (1997) Jewish family provides Christmas for their sick Christian neighbors.

    • Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, (1993)

    • Celebrate Hanukkah with Me by Shari Faden Donahue (1998)****

    • Lights For Gita by Rachna Gilmore (1994) A Story about Divali.**** 

    • Ramadan by Suhaib Hamid Gmazi (1996) factual story for older children. There may be newer books that would be better

    • The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson (1994) factual book about traditions for older children****

    • Lucia, Child of Light by Florence Ekstrand (1989), about Saint Lucia‚Äôs Day is Dec 13th. For older children

  • Melinda‚Äôs favorite books for the holidays: 

    • All Creation Waits, by Gail Ross

    • The Light of the World, by Katherine Paterson. Simple telling of the life of Jesus. Read the first part at Christmas, then the rest in the Spring. 

    • Refuge, by Sara Usher. UN book that may be hard to find.

    • That Baby in the Manger, by Ann E Neuberger 

    • The Nativity, by Julie Vivas

  • Good website: We Need Diverse Books: https://diversebooks.org/


How do we approach these celebrations as Friends?

What can we share with RE colleagues from our experiences?

What can we share with families in our communities?

Conversation Summary:

  • There is an adaptation of the Godly Play Advent story with less liturgical imagery (contact Melinda) 

  • ‚ÄúReverse Advent‚Äù idea: each week a different focus of giving (not just waiting until 25th)

  • Children a major part, with them presenting, building confidence, giving opportunity to lead

  • resources to remind early Friends eschewing celebrating Christmas

  • carols, gathering = party — all with focus of God present with us

  • 3rd Sunday ‚Äòwatching and waiting‚Äô: expectation, light

  • Play Script to bring the story of nativity to the present: http://www.quakers4re.org/sites/default/files/Kennett%20Meeting%20PhYM%20Christmas%202016.pdf

  • remembering stories we know and connecting them to today

  • Dorothy: gathering Friends together from various places with music, food, poetry, showing talents of children

  • Melinda: Chuck Fager has a story, ‚ÄúA Quaker Christmas Story: Candles in the Window,‚Äù set in 1812.  About a Quaker family that does not celebrate Christmas because ‚Äòevery day is holy‚Äô. 

  • Melinda: What Color Was Baby Jesus‚Äô Hair: Representing Christ Multiculturally through famous works of art. Lesson plan on QREC website: http://quakers4re.org/find-resources/what-color-was-baby-jesus-hair-representing-christ-multiculturally?return_path=/find-resources%3Fkeys%3DJesus%2BArt

  • Melinda: Community worship for Christmas (all ages):

    • A couple of songs, sharing the Godly Play Advent Story (revised for Friends ‚Äî less litugical imagery), then settle into waiting worship

    • Quiet things to support children in the waiting worship: pipe cleaners, coloring mandalas, crayons, basket of books  

    • Sound rises, falls, as wiggle worship progresses – each time kids settle into deepening worship
  • Alison: Small Meeting, First Day School once a month, huge age spread.  Singing once a month. For Christmas, combine the two. Children and youth today may not know Christmas carols.  

  • Cameron: Potluck the Sunday before Christmas.  Very popular! They use sign-up sheets. Gift exchange of handmade gifts. Sing carols after dinner. 12 Days of Christmas in which people stand up for the number of their birth month. Conclude with Silent Night by candlelight followed by silence. 

  • Andrew: Durham meeting hosts monthly Soup, Spirit and Song. In December sing carols.  

Christmas trivia with the middle and high schoolers.  The teens brought trivia questions to the adults during the forum.  

Christmas eve: 3 services, 

  • 3:30 PM, half hour, for young children & families. Tell Godly Play Christmas story. 

  • 5:00 PM main service with candles and singing

  • 7:00 PM quiet, contemplative meeting

  • Experimented with having 5 children each tell one of the five parts of the story.  Children can bring parts of a nativity set to the story

  • Melinda recommends having an unbreakable Nativity set in the RE classroom for children to work with

  • Javaughn Fernandez likes celebrating Winter; more inclusive and more time. Family makes ‚ÄòWaldorfy‚Äô crafts. Oregon West Hills Friends Meeting decorates the Meeting House on a particular date, serves cider, hot chocolate and it is intergenerational.  They have a LOW KEY PAGEANT: kids just show up on the pageant day, put on a set of wings, the youngest child is usually Baby Jesus. On New Years Day they have a meal with African American dishes symbolizing prosperity.

  • Gail Koehler: Families in her meeting are uncomfortable with overtly Christian content. They have a holiday party, gift exchange and carol singing

  • Melinda introduced Faith & Play style story, The Light: A Story for December, about how light is a theme across cultures and religions. 

  • Nan Tilton: Small meeting 6 -7 children.  Very active Peace & Social Concerns committee led by the children. Compiling 30 boxes of food for Thanksgiving. So, Christmas play will be simple. On QREC website there is a script for a Simple Christmas Play by Nancy Pickering adapted from This Is the Stable, by Cynthia Cotton http://www.quakers4re.org/find-resources/plays-christmas-holidays

  • Nadine: Remember how valuable really simple things can be. 

  • Sita: for Thanksgiving: while gratitude important, remembering the reality of the first people who were here, to learn more and deal with authentic stories.

  • Resources to observe Native American Heritage Month on QREC website: http://quakers4re.org/news/thanksgiving-and-native-american-heritage-month

  • Melinda lifted up two books for children about Indian boarding schools in Canada by Nicola Campbell: ‚ÄúShin-chi’s Canoe‚Äù and ‚ÄúShi-shi-etko‚Äù

  • Beth suggested the script for ‚ÄúThe Christmas Truce‚Äù in WWI. https://www.dramasource.com/scriptfiles/CT.pdfy 

  • Nadine: Lack of materials about why Quakers don‚Äôt celebrate Christmas. When she was clerk of SEYM, she wrote a letter about how Friends consider all acts in our day to be sacraments. We don‚Äôt hold one day above another, but we do hold community sacred.  She wrote letters for children to take the Yearly Meeting time off from school as a religious holiday. It was at a different time of year. She does not recommend trying to make this point during Christmas. 

  • Abby: Her meeting has been developing an ongoing story for five years.  It explains who Jesus is and refers to the Torah, the message of peace Jesus is bringing.  The story is told in brief readings with songs as interludes. Friends of all ages participate in the performance. This year they are starting the conversation early about WHY they are hosting this pagent. 

  • Abby: Goosecreek Friends Meeting posts all lesson plans on the Meeting website.  


December Conversation Circle: Spiritual Deepening with Children (FGC) 

Facilitator: Rachel Ernst Stahlhut

  • Tuesday, 12/10 1:00 PM US Eastern time 

  • Thursday, 12/12 8:00 PM US Eastern time

QREC Annual Conference: Mark your calendar!

  • August 14 ‚Äì 16, 2020

  • Catholic Conference Center

  • Hickory, North Carolina

We are seeking Friends to serve on the Planning Circle, especially from North Carolina and around the Southeastern US.  Contact Beth Collea: bethcollea@aol.com 


Closing Worship


Advent, Christmas and Winter Holidays

Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month: 

In the US, Thanksgiving is celebrated in November and so is Native American Heritage Month.  Share these resources to acknowledging Native culture and give thanks in accordance with Friends’ testimonies of peace, integrity, equality and stewardship. See the QREC website for more: http://quakers4re.org/news/thanksgiving-and-native-american-heritage-month

  • Two books about Native American children by Nicola I. Campbell, Kim LaFave (Illustrator)

    • Shin-chi’s Canoe 

    • Shi-shi-etko

  • Decolonizing Thanksgiving. (Joan Broadfield) When celebrating Thanksgiving, it is important to acknowledge the culture of first peoples and avoid the whitewashed ‚ÄòPilgrims and Indians‚Äô story. This Books for Littles blog contains a brief list of children‚Äôs books countering the myth of the ‚ÄòFirst Thanksgiving.‚Äô 


  • Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message, by Jake Swamp, is a special children’s version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada, still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations.


Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PE2YHTSQVgY

  • ‚ÄãThanksgiving: A Native Perspective, Ed: Doris Seale (Santee/Cree), Beverly Slapin, and Carolyn Silverman (Cherokee/Blackfeet)This sourcebook of essays, speeches, stories and activities will help teachers and students think critically about what has been, and continues to be, taught as the ‚Äúfirst Thanksgiving.” http://oyate.org/index.php/component/hikashop/product/372-thanksgiving-a-native-perspective?Itemid=11

  • The Thanksgiving Tale We Tell Is a Harmful Lie. As a Native American, I‚Äôve Found a Better Way to Celebrate the Holiday, By Sean Sherman, author of:

The Souix Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen: https://sioux-chef.com/


  Date: November 19,2019 – 1-2:15



Melinda Wenner Bradley

West Chester PA, PhYM

Sita Diehl

Madison WI, NYM

Nadine Hoover

Buffalo NY, NYYM

Sally Farneth

Portland ME, NEYM

Beth Collea

Dover NH, NEYM

Judith Nandikove

Nairobi, Kenya YM

Dorothy Henderson

Grass Valley CA, PacYM

Laura MacNorlin

Atlanta GA, SAYMA

Gail Fletcher

Norman OK, SCYM

Javaughn Fernanders

Santa Monica CA, PacYM

Faith Kelley

Berkeley Friends Church, WARSF

Susan Hopkins

Grass Valley CA, PacYM


  Date: November 21,2019 ‚Äì 8:00 PM



Melinda Wenner Bradley

West Chester PA, PhYM

Sita Diehl

Madison WI, NYM

Nadine Hoover

Buffalo NY, NYYM

Beth Collea

Dover NH, NEYM

Cameron Hughes

Lincoln VA, BYM

Andrew Wright

Durham NC, NCYMC

Gail Koehler

Lexington KY, OVYM

Abby Matchette

Burlington VT, NEYM

Alison Levie

Bennington VT, NEYM

Kerry Lynn Resnik

Goshen/Philadelphia, PhYM

Nan Tilton

Oyster Bay, NYYM

Petrus Diam Sehining



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The Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC) is an international, cross-branch, grassroots network of Friends sharing a stewardship for lifelong Quaker faith formation through religious education. We formed in April 2014 and now serve more than 300 Friends in our network. We actively engage and support each other across languages and continents. We gather for regional and annual conferences and offer monthly Conversation Circles via an online conferencing platform. 

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