Topic: In April and May we held conversations on how Friends were managing Religious Education and supporting families during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we look forward, the virus is still with us – and will be for some time to come. Join the conversation on how we can work together at this time to offer virtual Quaker Religious Education that engages children, youth and families in Spirit and community.
- What is working for your meeting? What hasn’t worked so far?
- Are there ideas have you not yet tried?
- How can we collaborate as we plan for the fall?
- How about linking First Day Schools between meetings?
- How can we offer face-to-face or hybrid gatherings without overwhelming families?
Tuesday: Windy Cooler (Sandy Springs MD, BYM)
Thursday: Sita Diehl (Madison WI, NYM)
Melinda Wenner Bradley: West Chester FM, PhYM
Full article posted on PhYM website: http://www.pym.org/religious-education/wp-content/uploads/sites/86/2020/08/RE-Planning-in-Uncertain-Times.pdf
This is a liminal time, a threshold, when things are so disrupted that we have an opportunity to see beyond where we are now and create something new that will be sustainable on the other side of this time. If we listen deeply now, we can strengthen our meetings and society as a whole. In March, there was a crisis response and many meetings pivoted into online spaces ‚Äî now the shift is to the new normal.
Some questions we might consider in that energy:
‚Ä¢ What are we on the verge of discovering or accomplishing?
‚Ä¢ What seemed important before that‚Äôs not important now?
‚Ä¢ What was undervalued before ‚Äî and is not now?
‚Ä¢ Where is the abundance in this time? Where is the scarcity now?
‚Ä¢ What is our greatest asset now?
‚Ä¢ What relationships do we need to build or strengthen?
‚Ä¢ What long-term changes in the bigger picture would we like to be part of bringing to fruition?
Three images: Tether, See-saw, Circle
Tether: nurturing connection, especially families and children with the meeting community as a whole
- Hybrid: on-line and send things home to use. Weekly email, choice of activities for Sunday and home spiritual nurture.
- Share materials online and by delivery/mail to families to support them if they choose not to participate online, so they can stay connected to the Meeting.
- Suggestions for families to help children sit in worship: pipe cleaners, puzzles, snacks, fine for children to wander in and out. The mute button is your friend.
- PhYM is posting lessons on line for families to do at home when they choose. Some also posted on QREC Valiant Together Face Book group (see resources below)
- Clearer questions arise for ‚Äòcontent‚Äô: Why ‚Äì What is at center, what will hold no matter what
- Reading children‚Äôs books using YouTube (sparklers)
- Safety guidelines for online interaction with children, adaptive ‚Äì keeping balance
- QUESTIONS arise re ‚Äòreligious education‚Äô and ‚Äòschool model‚Äô prevalent in past
- What are the new circles ‚Äì building all ages mentality ‚Äì from ‚Äòinstruction‚Äô to ‚Äòpractice‚Äô – and melding
- Age based, families vs. all ages, multi-generational
- Sunday? Or other time better for all together worship?
- PhYM will host a “Giant Children’s Meeting” once per month so that local meetings do not need to have program every week. This is a collaborative effort, but a planning group will plan Sept-Dec to start thematically.
- Monthly meetings create program 2 weeks of the month, encourage families to go to Giant Children’s Meeting once a month, and that the fourth week is all-ages worship. Convinced that we need to continue to seed this change. Once a month particularly if meetings are on Zoom is something to try.
- Connecting adult RE and youth RE topics to support the spiritual nurture parents are doing at home — Exploring the same topics, themes and texts creates space for family discussion.
Cameron Hughes and Maria Nicklin: Goose Creek Friends Meeting, Lincoln VA, BYM, RE committee co-clerks.
RE that has been successful during the pandemic. Purpose, to support community among families, holding kids in the Light:
- Continue weekly lessons, emailing them to parents, posting them beforehand on the Meeting website: http://www.goosecreekfriends.org/our-children-and-young-people/ so parents and children can access it when they have time during the week. Lessons feature a Quaker of the week, a passage from our Faith and Practice, and lessons on such things as journaling, poetry, letter writing, art.
- Parent Get Together (Zoom), Families are craving interaction and connection. Time for the parents to get together the last Saturday of each month at 11am. Space to support each other, exchange information. Positive responses
- Teen Group every 2nd Sunday at 1pm (Zoom) Our teens like to have just to have an open time to discuss as moved to and catch up. Conversation starters. Maintain safety: 2 adults on zoom call with kids. Once per month is about right so they don‚Äôt feel overwhelmed.
- Story time the 3rd Sunday at 1pm (Zoom)
- We had our Book Sunday which is tradition we have continued even through the pandemic where every child that has attended meeting during the year gets a book. We delivered a book to every child (46 kids). Then we had our celebration by Zoom to honor all our teachers and FAPs during the year and honor graduating high school students.
- Quilting project: Our “Every Problem has a Solution” quilting project, continued as virtual. Pre pandemic we had the members with quilting skills teach the children how to make a square and then stitch it all together. We created two beautiful quilts that we have raffled off and used that money to donate to a charity of the children‚Äôs choosing. This year we went virtual; everyone can make a square out of any material they want. We are virtually stitching it together. We use SPICES testimonies to find solutions to problems during the Quilting process, life, and personal situations. It has been a wonderful coming together project.
- We made boxes full of materials donated by our Quilter. The children have enjoyed the delivery of these boxes and the feeling of being a part of the Quaker community even during these challenging times. The boxes contained a diverse group of materials such as paper, cloth, stamps, stickers, ribbons. Members of the meeting delivered the boxes following the same routes as delivery for Book Sunday.
Greg Woods: Youth Ministries & Education Coordinator (FM Cambridge, NEYM) email@example.com
- Let Your Lives Speak Advocacy Camp, Virtual Youth Day of Action: https://bhfh.org/youthaction2020/, August 20 ‚Äì 21 (2-4PM EDT) for 6th ‚Äì 12th grade. Will focus on issues around Black Lives Matter and Climate Change. Hosted by Friends Meeting of Cambridge, Beacon Hill Friends Meeting in Boston and collaborating with FCNL.
- Collaborative First Day School between meetings that may be geographically distant. This may be especially helpful for smaller meetings with few children and youth. Since we‚Äôre all on Zoom, geography is not a barrier. The pandemic gives us a chance to connect Quaker kids with others who are like minded.
- Could we find ways to share lesson plans to use them at same time? For instance, the NEYM Quaker Heroes series.
- Small meeting, wide age ranges: How to meet the needs of children. Challenges of recruiting teachers so as to allow parents to be involved in the Meeting.
- Send lessons via email to EVERYONE, not just families and RE teachers/assistants
- QuakerSpeaks videos provide good content to watch and consider together
- Meet with Quakers from across geographic areas, including international Friends.
- Skype and talk about their faith: FM Cambridge spoke with a Friend from Ecuador.
- Opened virtual First Day School to all of NEYM and picked up a few families from a meeting in New Hampshire, to our great joy.
- Hybrid online/in-person activities:
- Make and share a recipe, virtual potluck.
- Scavenger hunt-kids gather things from their home (sometimes around a theme such as sustainability). Show & tell during class.
- All ages worship is different, needs some preparation, Friends must accept that ‚ÄúGeorge Fox never promised you an hour of silence.‚Äù Monthly, quarterly, other interval.
- Minecraft offers discussion as they play (Jasmine, NC, has experience with this). One family builds MindCraft homeless shelters. See article in resource section for more.
- Reading picture books aloud on Zoom, Share Screen of YouTube version of the book, turn sound off, teacher reads, can stop action and discuss, use ‚Äòdraw‚Äô feature of share screen to circle or point to parts of illustration. If no YouTube is available, take pictures of the book and put them in slides (copyright issues?)
- Making things as meeting for families or others: quilts for babies‚Ä¶ each family a square, put together by someone in meeting
- Passing a physical notebook with pictures and queries, from one family to another (see below)
- Middles school ‚Äòcoming of age‚Äô a Quaker style bar/bas mitzvah (Randy). Meeting on Zoom to create belief statements based on testimonies in own words [one per week], creating a publication of the belief statements in words and artwork to share with the Meeting. Young Friends choose mentors and complete service project (s).
- Quaker Affirmation curriculum: https://www.indyfriends.org/quaker-affirmation an amazing resource from Indianapolis First Friends based on the belief that middle schoolers need something as they transition to adulthood. Free downloadable version.
- Ann Arbor Meeting and Ithaca Meeting have developed rite of passage programs
- Passages; A guide to coming of age programs for Quaker youth (NEYM, 2012) by Martha McManamy, Judy Campbell, Beth Collea based on the work of Su Hansen (Ann Arbor, LEYM)
- Teen Online Climate Activism (Madison WI): Instagram campaign: Quakerkidsforclimate. Weekly posts with photos, artwork, climate change facts and advocacy messages
- Salon (European tradition), a meaningful conversation on a topic. Madison FM high schoolers are looking at racial justice as a focus. Important to keep the salon nonthreatening and private. Especially valuable for biracial families – as well as others.
- Other ways to gather: ‚Äòporch ministry‚Äô (visiting families in outside spaces, family devotionals (Melissa and Emily Provence)
- Recognize value in this work including pastoral care for families
FGC Virtual Junior Gathering (Marian Dalke, PhYM)
Multi-age gathering with 3 story times, 1 art day, 1 kite day, and an Open Mic. The Open Mic was very popular.
Several kids became pen pals at the end of the week.
The High School program consisted of support groups, affinity groups and evening hang-outs such as meme-showcase, trivia, games, and a dance party and talent show. We weren‚Äôt sure if HS would want to have meeting for business, but they decided to have it 2 times that week, and focused mostly on our anti-racism work.
Mary Hansen: (Bellingham FM, NPYM) authored a middle grade children’s book, A Journey out of Season, Quaker historical fiction addressing testimonies. Has done some activities with First Day School groups. Will be doing zoom children’s programs soon. She is available to do this for Friends, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. One project that was successful was homemade toys from Depression and post war era. Available from FGC bookstore. https://quakerbooks.org/products/journey-out-of-season-a?_pos=1&_sid=2a38520e2&_ss=r
Seres Kyrie (Madison WI, NYM) Northern Yearly Meeting’s Middle School group has sent a notebook on the road! The notebook is a physical sharing space to be filled with queries, drawings, scrapbooked photos, handwriting and whatever else the Spirit moves to share! In the slow movement spirit of Zines and pen pals, the notebook is an alternative to the fast-paced world of instant uploads and liked posts. I have supplied the package with addressed, stamped envelopes for the notebook to travel to the next child and a “deadline” of 2 weeks to get it back in the mail. With 12 kids or so, I figure this project could take a full year to make its first circulation! Every few kids, the notebook travels back to me so I can check in on the discourse, repair anything that needs repairing etc.
I also created bumper stickers on Vistaprint that say “Some of my best friends are Friends” so the kids get a little “prize” when they get the package and somewhat of a souvenir of our group to put on their water bottle, laptop etc. It‚Äôs all a grand experiment so we will see how it goes!
Maria Nicklin (Goose Creek, Lincoln VA, BYM) The question of why we do Quaker religious education is answered to a degree in Faith & Practice*
1) are most people aware of this; and
2) if Friends share this understanding; and, do they agree?
*Excerpt: ‚ÄúThe goal of our religious education is to strengthen the awareness of the presence of God and so build Quaker spiritual values and conduct. We learn these through experience and study … in First Day School classes conducted by Meeting, the Bible, religious history and ideals, the world of nature, history, principles, and testimonies of Friends are more formally taught. As children are guided to an understanding of history and science, they are enabled better to understand religious Truth. A secure awareness of our role in God‚Äôs world frees us for more sensitive responses to the leadings of the Inner Light.‚Äù ‚Äì p. 27, Faith & Practice Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, 1988
Virtual RE in the time of COVID-19:
- Valiant Together: RE Support During COVID-19, Face Book group
- RE Program Planning: Finding Direction in Uncertain Times, Melinda Wenner Bradley: http://www.pym.org/religious-education/wp-content/uploads/sites/86/2020/08/RE-Planning-in-Uncertain-Times.pdf
- Virtual Advocacy Camp, August 20-21 for 6th-12th grade. https://bhfh.org/youthaction2020/ sponsored by Friends Meeting of Cambridge and Beacon Hill Friends House in collaboration with FCNL.
- Key Ingredients for Connection from a Distance: What I‚Äôve learned from facilitating virtual youth retreats, by Maggie Nelson, Portland ME, NEYM
- Working with Children in Virtual Spaces, A conversation with Melinda Wenner Bradley: https://www.pym.org/working-with-children-virtually-a-conversation-with-melinda-wenner-bradley/
- Together at Home and Online: Religious Education During COVID-19: How do we continue to connect and engage with children, young people, and families each week in worship and religious education, during the ‚Äúphysical distancing‚Äù of the coronavirus pandemic? By Melinda Wenner Bradley
- Online Family Devotionals: with Emily Provance (M-F, 8:00 AM eastern) and Melinda Wenner Bradley, (T&Th 7:00 PM eastern time) To register: tinyurl.com/quakerfamilydevotionals
Virtual classes and home-based lessons:
- Goose Creek Friends Meeting online lessons, Cameron Hughes and Maria Nicklin: http://www.goosecreekfriends.org/our-children-and-young-people/
- Books for Families in these Trying Times of Covid-19: Recommendations, read-aloud videos and lesson plans for home religious education, Sparklers Work Group
- Flat Fox and Fell (Faith & Play) Children share photos of George Fox & Margaret Fell figures in various places.
- City of Ember, by Jeanne Du Prau. Ember is the only light in a dark world. But when its lamps begin to flicker, two friends must race to escape the dark. Consider as an online read aloud series as a basis for conversations with young Friends about the pandemic.
- A Journey Out of Season, by Mary Hansen. Quaker historical fiction for middle grades addressing the testimonies. Available from FGC bookstore.
- Minecraft in RE. Constructing Religious Worlds with Minecraft. Kimberly Winston, Sojourners (2/6/2018): https://sojo.net/articles/constructing-religious-worlds-minecraft
Online Child Safety:
- Britain Yearly Meeting: https://neym.org/sites/default/files/2020-04/Britain%20Yearly%20Meeting%20Virtual%20Youth%20Group%20Guidelines.pdf
- New England Yearly Meeting: https://www.quakers4re.org/find-resources/child-safety-virtual-youth-programs?return_path=/find-resources%3Fkeys%3DChild%2Bsafety
- Northern Yearly Meeting: https://www.quakers4re.org/find-resources/guidelines-virtual-meetings?return_path=/find-resources%3Fkeys%3DChild%2Bsafety
- Philadelphia Yearly Meeting: Guidance and Practices for Online Youth Gatherings: Guidance and Practices for Online Youth Gatherings when participants are under the age of 18.
- Safe Online Learning: For Parents, by Darkness to Light
General RE Resources:
- Planning Calendar, First Day School 2020/2021: https://www.quakers4re.org/find-resources/planning-calendar-first-day-school-20202021
- QREC Suggested RE Web Resources: websites with Quaker Religious Education Resources.
- Earthcare for Children, from Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW): https://www.quakerearthcare.org/article/earthcare-children
- Climate Justice with and for Children and Youth in Churches Get Informed, Get Inspired, Take Action, from the World Council of Churches: https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/publications/climate-justice-with-children-and-youth
- Quaker Affirmation curriculum: from Indianapolis First Friends based on the belief that middle schoolers need something as they transition to adulthood. Free downloadable version.
- Passages: A guide to coming of age programs for Quaker youth by Martha McManamy, Judy Campbell, Beth Collea (NEYM 2012), based on the work of Su Hansen (Ann Arbor, LEYM)
- Build It! A Toolkit for Nurturing Intergenerational Spiritual Community. Available from FGC bookstore.