Conversation Circle Summary – Guiding the Guides: Supporting Spiritual Nurturers of Children and Youth in the Home

Guiding the Guides: Supporting Spiritual Nurturers of Children and Youth in the Home

Welcome and Introductions

Centering Silence

Topic: Parents are children‚Äôs first and most important teachers. This is especially true for faith formation. Grounded, creative religious education is happening in Quaker homes, on walks in the woods, during bedtime routines, and conversations in cars ‚Äî- one discussion, one query, one storybook, and one project at a time.

Religious educators have long recognized the vital role of parents in the faith formation of children and youth. During this time when the home is so much the center of family life, we want to support parents and grandparents effectively as they seek new ways to weave spiritual nurture and balance into the rhythm of daily life. This Conversation Circle will make space for a rich sharing among Quaker parents, grandparents and home caregivers about faith formation adventures and questions from the home front.

Facilitators

Beth Collea (QREC Steering Circle, Dover NH, NEYM) Beth recently moved to Dover, NH where she is a member of Dover Friends Meeting. She served New England Yearly Meeting 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.    

Melinda Wenner Bradley (West Chester MM, PhYM) Melinda is a QREC co-founder and currently serves Philadelphia Yearly Meeting as the Youth Religious Life Coordinator. Melinda co-authored Faith & Play:‚Ñ¢ Quaker Stories for Friends Trained in the Godly Play¬Æ Method and is the Director of Communications and Training for Faith & Play Stories, Inc. She parents middle school, high school, and college age children with joy and the help of coffee. 

Facilitator Comments:

  • 90% of RE happens in the home.  How can we support parents and other caregivers?
  • Grounding: Quaker spirituality in the course of everyday life, being truly present with children, listening deeply and catching the teachable moment.
  • Curriculum of the everyday: Being alert for Spiritual nurture opportunities
  • Make a space for the spiritual conversation: Affirm child‚Äôs behavior ‚Äì it‚Äôs already within you?
    • Images and quotes around the house: Children absorb it and it comes back in conversation.
  • Practicing skills. Coming to clearness, using Quaker language. Example, ‚ÄúBefore you are clear, you are unclear.‚Äù
  • Living it. Helping support our kids as they go out into the world and
    • Stick up for a friend or act for peace
    • Encourage them when the way is bumpy
  • Being with ‘us’ ‘where we are’ helping families where they are
  • Multigenerational, all teaching each other
  • Parents supporting parents

Outwitted by Markham – http://holyjoe.org/poetry/markham.htm

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Laura MacNorlin (Atlanta Friends Meeting, SAYMA) A passion for service is what brought Laura to Atlanta after college. She has been an active member of the Atlanta Friends Meeting for several years, formerly serving as one of its youth coordinators. Laura works at the Friends School of Atlanta as Spanish teacher, reading room specialist and Quaker education teacher/grant coordinator.  Having completed the Spiritual Nurturer program at the School of the Spirit, she is dedicated to the spiritual nurturing and growth of children and tries to incorporate Quaker testimony and values into her curriculum as much as possible. Laura coordinates the Quaker Visitor Program, a partnership that introduces members of the Atlanta Friends Meeting to FSA. She also works for Charis Books and is a Barefoot Books Ambassador.

  • This pandemic, with so much time spent at home, has also created new opportunities to connect online with other parents who are Quakers
  • With triplets, her family is always transitioning to the next moment. It‚Äôs demanding and incessant for the whole family. In finding ways to nurture herself, she can also offer her children opportunities for spiritual nurture, by striving to be truly present with them.

Conversation Summary:

  • When we are reading picture books, it is important to choose books that illustrate multiple generations together and a variety of families, including families with a number of parents other than 2. 
  • The Quaker school across the street from the Meeting house is so expensive that few families from Meeting can afford to go.
  • When one Friend‚Äôs children were small, they lived in a place with several Friends Meetings.  The children picked the Meeting where there was an older adult who truly made the children feel welcome. She had a cart with art supplies and food.
  • We need to listen to what parents need.  Some are staying away from screens on the weekend to balance from a week of having spent so much time online for school and work.
  • Online Children‚Äôs Circle before MfW. Often children stay for waiting worship with their families. The mute button is a real boon for parents.
  • Home spiritual nurture:  A few moments of quiet family time at the beginning of the day.  ‚ÄúAren‚Äôt you in a rush?‚Äù  ‚ÄúWe will be soon, but not now.‚Äù Story time all together at the end of the day. The children, now grown, remember the framing as precious time.
  • Examen for the Home is a reflection for the day, part of Lectio Divina.

 

To elders in Meeting: how to relate to children and families

  • Mutually missing each other during shelter in place: Meeting has been a place for children and families to interact with elders on a regular basis.
  • How to connect now, be in touch: postcards, phone calls, zoom/google chats
  • Organize Pen Pals, nurture committee develops a list of elders who are isolated.  Families are paired with them as pen pals.  Send children‚Äôs drawings and brief notes. 

Activities to support families in a busy time

Remembering: NOT to be doing everything, not worry about what is missing, no rushing: FOCUS on the core, own experience, needs

 

What are Meetings doing that help families?

  • Reach out to parents individually, so parents know they can ask for something.
  • Making clear the specialness of each relationship by recognizing children individually, their gifts, needs and questions.
  • Actions that connect, not just the ‘talk’: Showing by doing. Send materials and messages that parents can use in the home.
  • Meeting ‘care groups’: connections in group interact, stay in touch
  • Helping parents connect with each other:  Google chat with families; card-writing, within meeting, and beyond to local communities (particularly Friends homes for retired)
  • Responding to prompts: spiritual knowing, growing, share: Outside – take a walk, notice.
  • Service project prompts: things to do ‘in place’
  • At THIS time: Being present. AND how to build on deepening presence when we come out of this
  • Children circle preceding worship: 2 parents facilitate, all welcome (many adults come); story offered, children/family anchors worship which follows
  • Sundays in our virtual world: Centering, singing, wondering, drawing/crafts
  • Once a month family worship: Sing, story; popular with even those with no kids.
  • Technology: Let’s not LOSE the benefits we have discovered when we are on the other side of the crisis. The need to gather through technology raises NEW possibilities of connection with those afar.
  • Flexibility: Parents relating to each other more… others are stepping in
  • Where do we go from here? As an educator, seeing the Light in children‚Äôs eyes when there is a deep connection is a sacred moment that is hard to replicate with remote communication.

Spiritual Nurture in the Home and Family:

  • The most important work is to help parents feel renewed, encouraged and accompanied.
  • Nerd herd: A Friend‚Äôs daughter brought a boy into their group. He had been hard to get along with, but changed once he felt accepted by the group
  • Online ‚Äì We are so much on screens; some families have decided not to do screens on the weekend
  • My children‚Äôs spiritual education is no way contained in Sunday morning.  Deep experiential moments during daily life.  Essential questions from children: Why was I born? Children do not compartmentalize. They integrate spiritual questions, insight and experience into everyday moments and activities.  As parents, prepare to be present in these teachable moments.
  • Parents new to Meeting may not be well versed in Quakerism themselves, yet happy to have their children participate in FDS. Trying to find how to share Quaker language with parents, see connections in the everyday to see those moments. How to give support to parents offline.
  • Experience with getting to know each of the parents and to have conversations with each of them.  Tried to get them together on Zoom ‚Äì too busy.  Have called and emailed every one of them individually. Send resources to each of them individually.  They are thankful.  Families are not coming to MfW online on Sunday mornings.
  • This doesn‚Äôt need to be the work of the RE committee alone, can partner with Ministry & Nurture committee.
  • Valliant Together FB group ‚Äì RE resources and support during COVID 19 pandemic.  A lot of rich sharing. If you are not on FB there is a page on the QREC website.
  • Laura: FM impromptu FDS online Zoom.  5 or 6 families join locally and from elsewhere.  The children really jump into interaction, parents holding the space, debrief afterward is important.  What is meaningful, fellowship, what works?  Spaces for people to normalize. This is a hard time, but seeing families doing their best.  Centering and grounding in the experience of being at home together. 
  • JB, Gwynned FM Meeting: Doing the same things together even when we are not together.  Send weekly email to all families to let them know what to expect. Gave a spiritual learning and growing prompt:
    • Creating a worship space outside as a family. Have a worship time there.  Model sharing from the silence, what they hear, smell, see in the natural world.
    • Service project: Helping families in a transitional living facility
    • Making cards for isolated elderly Friends in assisted living facilities when we can‚Äôt visit
    • Start letter with what has been happening to her, what she has been worshipping on during the week.  Some of the families have responded with comments, photos and drawings.
  • More prompts to help families, let families know they are not alone.
    • Easter: Packets for each family by age group. Coloring pages, marigold seeds, post cards to send messages to older Friends. People were really touched to receive
    • Now sending package with cards in the mail.  Send puzzle pieces to each child. When we get back together put the puzzle together
    • Trying not to call right now because everyone is so busy
    • Can‚Äôt get the parents together online. Can‚Äôt get the teens to say anything about what they want to do.
    • Ministry is like gardening. Nurture and water, see what grows.  Keep on trying.
  • Marty: Quarter has launched an online youth group. Virtual conference with new youth leader. Hope it will blossom into F2F time
    • Online Quaker Parenting Fellowship: Peace outside and peace within. Read & discuss books. Brainstorm situations they face in their household around the topic.
    • May: Simplicity, Quaker values as well as the beliefs.  Parents want faith community that supports them and their children.
  • Dartmouth meeting has been having weekly worship online. Children are worshiping with their parents.  Attendance in MfW has increased as a result. Positive to include whole families, to bring them together in worship.
  • Virtual worship is joined by toddlers: mute button is very helpful.  If the parent is able to worship with their child present, we should encourage joining MfW as a family. Dogs, parrots also join MfW.
  • HH: Holding a free time when parents can join if they choose, ask questions, share with each other. Help parents teach children to relate to their friends through Zoom.  After this is over, MM is now talking about bringing Zoom into worship at the Meeting House. Families can worship at home in the way they find possible. 
  • Pam: Some families are feeling very confined.  We can think of stories from history where families were confined. Mayflower was a very confined space. Those people coming across the water were really crammed in, could not stand erect. A baby was born on the voyage among everyone. Story of Anne Frank who lived confined for 2 years. Children will resonate with these stories in a way they couldn‚Äôt before. There may be people in Meeting who can talk about confinement during WWII. 
  • Stories: Trauma as a parent when 3-year-old had cancer.  Had just started using Godly Play.  The story of Miriam and Moses. Miriam was watching over her little brother. Important to make stories available to children.  Children will see themselves in the stories
  • Children and elders are missing each other, stories with multi-generational pictures and plots. Stories with pictures of children playing outside. Children coming close to the big questions they are facing now.  A lot of story times, family devotionals morning, afternoon, evening during the week.
  • Children with different disabilities and needs: Virtual FDS allows the children to get up and move around and make noise, but still stay engaged in the class.  Some of the families don‚Äôt come often because it takes so long to prepare, get there. Online, it is far easier to participate.
  • Grandmother with grandchildren in England.  Grammy school: Did Bible studies starting with Genesis and now at Ruth and Naomi.  Twice a week.  Working from children‚Äôs Bible telling the stories, then they have a Bible. She helps them find the place in the book. Each reads their translation. What was God like for the Hebrew people? How our concept of God has changed over the years. Has opened a way to share with grandchildren in a deeper way than was possible with her children. Older children stay at the screen. Younger children move, ask children to get paper/crayons or Legos: Either draw or build the story while it is being read.
  • Marty: I have taught these children in class. Those who are most attuned to the screen are those who are least attentive in class.
  • Disabled child who needs to wear earphones when with other people. Child is able to sit and listen in virtual conversation.
  • What are these children doing that we are not seeing? What are we learning that will apply to FDS in general? Some children need to move during class.
  • Pam: Mother would sing morning songs while she was preparing breakfast. Children could sing along from their bedroom as they were waking up and getting ready for breakfast. Encouraging song: ‚ÄúEre you left your room this morning did you think to pray? To sing?‚Äù These things anchor us to Spirit, to our better selves.
  • Outreach, families bring needs. How do we do this differently when we are apart
    • Religious education, program for their children to anchor children‚Äôs spiritual lives
    • Parents themselves are seekers, overwhelmed with children in the home, school online, etc. Young people who grew up Quaker and are returning. What are the needs of those adults?
    • Seeking something for your family unit.
  • Children‚Äôs meeting in the time before waiting worship. Encourage families to have something for the children to do, coloring, snacks, etc. 
  • The question: What do you need?
  • Hoping we will center the needs of families and children in our Meetings.  Being in worship is a big part of that.  How do we find greater inclusion and tools for inclusion on the other side of this challenging time?
  • Just finished a webpage, selection of books for the home, all being read in YouTube.  All of COVID-19 books for families at home: https://www.quakers4re.org/news/books-families-these-trying-times-covid-19
  • Judy: In Nairobi Meeting, they have been doing Zoom lessons with young people, what they understand about the word of God during this pandemic. She comes up with questions about passages in the Bible.  If they know, they describe it. If not, the teacher tells the story.  Children want to look it up rather than having the answer given to them. Children were interested and eager to know more.
  • As parents we have to take more time with our children. The children help prepare for the lesson and take parts (sing, read Bible, prayer, etc.). That fellowship pulls us together as a family,
  • Pam Cole created Bible Bingo: 40 Women of the Bible. Way to explore stories of women from the Bible.  Pam will share the resource with Liz for posting in the QREC Resource Library.
  • Judy: as we talk about the extra-ordinary women in the bible, we should also mention those who were wicked or did not do things that were right. 

 

Beth: Spiritual nurture in the home is like being in a glider. It’s a light craft and the discipline is to find the up currents. Spirit is all around us. There is no shortage of God. Children are already awake. We need to be aware, take that minute. It all starts with stopping. In all parts of the Quaker journey, we have language for spiritual nurture. We are the home team to support our children as they go out into the world. Parents are accompanying. We will be enriched as parents as we walk in the Light with our children.

 

Grateful Worship

 

Suggested Resources:

Accompanying Children and Youth:

The Children‚Äôs Illustrated Bible. Stories retold by Selina Hastings. Illustrated by Eric Thomas. Dorling Kindersley. Good illustrations. Grade level: 1-4.

Look for the edition that is 7.8‚Äù x 10.3‚Äù.  Printed in 1994 and later, check online used bookstores.

The Power of Goodness: Art and Stories for a Culture of Peace. Edited by Nadine Hoover. Conscience Studio, 2016.

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God. Sybil MacBeth. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press. 2008.

Suggested Resource Bibliography for First Day Programs and Meeting Libraries

Books and Curricula for Children and Youth

Resources for Quaker Teens at Meeting and Home

 

To Nourish Parents and Grandparents:

The Bible for Dummies. Jeffrey Geoghegan and Michael Moman, as e-book or from used bookstores.

Listening Spirituality. Volume 1. Personal Spiritual Practices Among Friends. Patricia Loring. 1997.

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey. Marcelle Martin. Inner Light Books. 2016.

Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Lives: A Journey of Spirit and Wonder. Melinda Wenner Bradley. 2014.

Paths to Quaker Parenting: Using Quaker Beliefs, Testimonies and Practices Edited by Harriet Heath. Quaker Parenting Initiative. 2009.
If the Buddha Had Kids: Raising Children to Create a More Peaceful World. Charlotte Kasl. 2012.

 

Participants:

Tuesday, 4/21/20 8:00PM EDT

Name

Meeting-Organization

Melinda Wenner Bradley

West Chester PA, PhYM

Beth Collea

Dover NH, NEYM

Sita Diehl

Madison WI, NYM

JB Baker-McAllister

Gwynned PA, PhYM

Joan Broadfield

West Chester PA, PhYM

Mim Coleman

Tacoma WA, NPacYM

Windy Cooler

Sandy Spring MD, BYM

Anna Dulin

Vassalboro ME, NEYM

Mary Lou Hatcher

Bethlehem PA, PhYM

Harriet Heath

Schoodish ME WG, NEYM

Sofia Lemons

Dover NH, NEYM

Laura MacNorlin

Atlanta GA, SAYMA

Linda Miller

New Haven CT, NEYM

Mackenzie Morgan

Adelphi MD, BYM

Nora Pollack

Chappaqua NY, NYYM

Betsy Wenny

Kendall., Birmingham PA, PhYM

Kim West

FM Cambridge, NEYM

Andrew Wright

Durham NC, NCYMC

 

Thursday, 4/23/20 1:00 PM EDT

Name

Meeting-Organization

Melinda Wenner Bradley

West Chester PA, PhYM

Beth Collea

Dover NH, NEYM

Christine Ashley

NC, FCNL

JB Baker-McAllister

Gynned MM, PhYM,

Pam Cole

Wellesley MM, NEYM

Marion Dalke

Radnor FM, PhYM

Sita Diehl

Madison WI, NYM

Sally Farneth

Portland ME, NEYM

Deborah Faulkner

Gynned MM, PhYM

Rachel Guaraldi

Hanover NH, NEYM

Harriet Heath

Schoodish ME & Radnor PhYM QPI

Ruth Heath

Concord NH, NEYM

Marsha Holliday

FM Washington, BYM, QREC SC

Susan Hopkins

Grass Valley CA, PacYM, Sparklers

Kay Humbert

 

Gail Koehler

Miami OH, OVYM

Ruth Kutcher

Richmond IN, Durango, IMYM

Laura MacNorlin

Atlanta MM & FS, SAYMA

Judith Nandikove

Dunhom MM, Nairobi YM

Ellie Rosenberg

Ithaca NY, NYYM

Gale Schultz

Dartmouth MM, NEYM

Kathryn Sitter

Pittsburgh MM, LEYM

Marty Smith

Morristown NJ, PhYM

Serita Spadoni

Birmingham PA, PhYM

Kim West

FM Cambridge, NEYM

Denise Williams

CA, Sierra Cascades YM

Greg Woods

FM Cambridge, NEYM

Liz Yeats

Austin TX, SCYM

An Introduction

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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