Threshing session on children in meeting

First day Tenth month 29 of the year 2000


Ken Stockbridge, Sherri Morgan, LeeAnne Palmer, Bob Rhudy, Jeanne Knight, Scott Garrison, Ramona & John Buck, Susan & Jim Rose, Joe Morrissey, Sandy Girbach, John Farrell, Jean Leslie

Query 1 – What is appropriate behavior for those attending meeting for worship?

  • Stillness, silence as outward expressions
  • Inwardly listening
  • Any departure from stillness and silence are led by the spirit
  • People should be on time rather than arriving at successive times
  • Already mentally or spiritually prepared practicing discipline of reading/praying
  • Staying Awake
  • Speaking loudly and clearly when you do have a message
  • Speaking should follow a divine leading rather than the need to be heard or need to speak
  • Process of being receptive to leading from others as well from self
  • Uncluttered from other responsibilities in life
  • Able to focus inwardly
  • Respectful of each other, sensitive to each other
  • Our differences we bring together and the nature of one’s Quaker practice
  • Need to be prepared and disciplined
  • Need to be ready, to be still and meditate
  • Might have an idea of what I would like to ponder
  • Physically disciplined
  • Conscious of when they come in, when they leave
  • It’s not always easy but something we should aim for and make our families aware of
  • Not easy when we sneeze, cough or drop something
  • Friendly, welcoming and uncritical
  • Have many wishes that people can act differently than they do only that they don’t
  • It’s more like families where some people always come late, some sneeze too much etc.
  • The only thing I can do is to focus on myself and sometimes I achieve it and sometimes I don’t.
  • Silence is important and I wish people would be on time
  • Not read pamphlets
  • One issue is really how much time am I ready to commit to meeting for worship
  • Suggest that we prepare for meeting on an ongoing basis
  • I need to find that place where things don’t bother me
  • How could Quakers in Vietnam hold a meeting in silent worship with bombs going off all around?
  • Receptiveness, open to what might happen
  • Being in the Presence
  • Messages are all around us all of the time
  • Coming to meeting has paradoxes
  • In other traditions, people listen to a minister or leaders give the messages from god
  • In some groups, dress in their best & sing songs
  • In our religion, the focus is on us. We search for the leading.
  • My own children stand out with there every move & sound as a disruption.
  • Other children do not they just add color the meeting.
  • Community – Urban meetings have truck noise that makes concentration very difficult. Community is built on trust. Having children in silent meeting as a statement of trust. Idea of those very young children can meet the challenges of silence, which is very difficult. Way of Friends is difficult to, learn – Perhaps we teach by example. Whether a young child “gets the challenges of silence, I have to trust that we can teach by example.

Query 2: What is your experience of & perspective on sharing your meeting for worship with children?

  • I have led lots of the kids on a tree walk and most had a great time. It’s important for children to get to know the “strangers” – those who don’t have kids – to feel comfortable in the community. Why does god smile? Maybe he can see the future.
  • Likes the energy of the children. They will learn how to act in time. The quality of the meeting changes after they leave.
  • When my son was an infant I found it difficult to center when holding him. I didn’t feel unwelcome at meeting, just too much effort to care for him and the silence. Now I have mommy ears and hear the tapping & restlessness in the children. But the children are just as much a member of the meeting as we are. It’s out obligation to teach them how to be part of the meeting & how to worship in silence.
  • It’s not my meeting for worship it’s for all. There will be other perceptions as mine; the children have as much right to sit in meeting. They can experience the divine a whole lot in meeting. They carry the experience of the quiet worship away with them into the chaos of the rest of their lives.
  • As a child I had to sit through the full meeting for worship. I was sometimes bored but sometimes found it interesting. In meeting it is sometimes noisy. One idea is to try to have other Friends sit with children. If people are bothered by the noise we need to deal with that too.
  • At one meeting I attended one person would be very fidgety. I found them disruptive but found other members gave a lot of love to them. That was special.
  • I find children need to be in meeting to learn silence. There is a need to address other members if concerned about children in meeting. I have heard form one member that the last 15 minutes were better because then they hear messages & feel a settled meeting. What other thoughts are there?
  • I experience the children sometimes; other times I am not very aware. A few times I waited until they left before entering the meeting. I prefer the beginning then the end, as I would not like the disturbance after I am settled. A suggestion of having more quiet times with the children at home & elsewhere to help them understand the silence.
  • The children must be in meeting. Having them in meeting helps nurture them in vocal ministry. We have a testimony of equality. We have so much to learn from them in meeting.
  • Reporting from the playground, I see so much fantasy play of life. We probably have not done enough to have meeting for worship part of their fantasy world. Could it be done at home.
  • I like to see parents with children in meeting. It brings challenges. Problem: The noise of the kids coming down near the end of meeting is very disruptive for me. Sharing the mysteries & ministries of the meeting. Need to bring them and find ways to grow together.
  • Practice Meeting for worship with children… I have been practicing meeting for worship for 9 years. With practice one improves. We learn in worship what bothers me is it is only 15 minutes we are giving the children, they should be in meeting as long as they are able. I don’t know those up stairs because they are up stairs. I would like Sunday school not during meeting for worship. Like the ideas of others of taking children from parents. When?? Beginning,, middle,, End of meeting. Just more than 15 minutes.
  • Tolerance: teaching tolerance. How tolerant are the children are of us? I fantasize of not determining the part of meeting they would come in for, just that they would come in and we be tolerant of their activity.
  • I have grown up in Friends meeting and have seen several attempts to integrate the children into meeting. Sunday school before meeting and we sit through meeting, coming in for the last 20 minutes for the older children, to having the children sit through the first 15 minutes of meeting. I look at the children I grew up with and the ones who were older and I see only about 5 to 10 % still attending meeting. Most have gone on to other religions. Some for marriages some just because. But very few have stayed Friends. This struggle has gone on for may years and will go on for many more. It is a question that will always need answering and new thoughts to guide us. The positive exposure to meeting is critical for a lasting wish to be a growing group of Friends.
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