In a gentle, Quaker way, young people in the Swarthmore Monthly Meeting are encouraged to develop their spiritual nature through the Meeting’s new Family Program, on the first and second Sundays of each month. They’re also having fun with old and new friends in the Meeting’s First Day School every Sunday.
Meeting member Rich Schiffer, a First Day teacher and assistant clerk of the First Day School Committee, said that children aged from pre-kindergarten through high school have adjusted some of their traditions. On the first Sundays (next meeting on April 2), they welcome families at 9 a.m. in the Whittier Room for an hour-long program before the broader community worship. Younger students hear a Faith and Play story and are given “wondering questions,” then encouraged to express themselves in crafts and play downstairs. Parents remain in Whittier Room reflecting on and discussing ways to instill and nurture the values expressed in the story.
Rich is also the father of 13 year-old twins Chuck and Joe, who as “older youth,” he said, “are equals in the faith community, and in this they are facilitators; they help children open up, as well as parents.” Middle and high school youth also host an Inter-generational Worship Sharing period, 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on second Sundays (next on April 9). “The curriculum is fluid and answers to the spirit of the moment,” Rich said.”
Each month, the youth conduct their own business, and together develop a query which they then offer to the community through Worship Sharing, which could be compared to a form of guided meditation.
“The youth put a great deal of thought into developing the query,” Rich said, “which works to put the emphasis not so much on the silence of the more traditional worship meeting, but in thoughtful, personal responses. It also serves to engage the adults in the issues the youth are exploring.”
A core group of three or four families are regulars, usually joined by several other families who are “Quaker-curious,” Rich said. “An intentional community is developing organically here, from the bottom up.
“There are no cliques here; kids feel comfortable, respected, and welcome.”