PYM 3: Children’s Worship

Last year for the first time in my-then 5 years of PYM the children participated at the beginning of MFW, with a Bible-based lesson each day, from a Friend who grew up in the Yearly Meeting and whose daughter is now in the Children’s Program. This year, my successor as clerk talked about her concern to provide discipline… to follow the Christ Light within… We agreed that we don’t often teach our children what we’re doing in meeting for worship. So we included lessons again this year, with some variety:

Monday: Centering and breathing; “This Little Light of Mine”; “George Fox Song”
Tuesday: Breathing and centering exercise
Wednesday: Passage from 1 Kings 19:11-12: “The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

I said, “Quakers believe we can hear that gentle whisper (“still small voice” in the NEB which I was reading from) today. Some people hear it as words, some people hear it as a whisper and others loudly, some hear it in music, some see it in nature. You can hear it too and let us know what you hear.”

Two Friends sang lovely songs before we left with the children. I’m glad they got to hear it.

Thursday: Explanation that the adults were looking at the theme of sabbath and jubilee; that John the Baptist had proclaimed, quoting Isaiah 40, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” And that Jesus’s first lesson in the synagogue proclaimed good news to the poor, release for prisoners. And that we welcomed the children’s thoughts on these things, too.

I led the lesson on Thursday and Friday, and I was mindful of Peggy Senger Parson’s description of “catching a message.” I had a strong sense of the two Biblical passage that would connect the children respectively to the processes of worship and of discernment that the adults were doing the rest of the time. I outlined some thoughts for myself (usually as I was lying in bed awake starting at 4 AM or 5 AM… it was not a restful week for me by any means). Then I waited in the actual meeting until it felt right, I read the text, then talked about it without prepared remarks, rather a general sense of what needed to be said.

I came back to dip into the meetings for worship and discernment later on every day (I think) and found them to be centered and deep, though also so full of words that it was almost too much. (Several people I talked to were concerned about that, and yet many of the individual messages were rich and deep. Though one Friend called it “sharing and won’t dignify it by calling it ‘ministry.’”

A couple of people commented that they thought the children’s worship set the tone for the whole meeting, and that some of the themes continued to resonate the rest of the morning. I feel blessed to have been able to participate and contribute this way.
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Part 3 in a series:
» Prelude: Prayers for Pacific Yearly Meeting
» Part 1: Acting Organized so Others will Act Organized
» Part 2: Committee Service as Worship Service


Lisa H said...


Thanks for chronicling this. I did especially like the morning that I heard you lead the children's worship. This PYM was a real change for my daughter. While I had thought it was a problem that there wasn't a children's program during the evening plenaries, she ended up liking them so much that she was eager for more. Since Yearly Meeting, she has chosen to come to worship with me rather than to go to First Day School.

For whatever part you played in that, thank you.

Chris M. said...

Lisa: Wow, that's great to hear. For whatever part I played in that, thank you. Of course, your daughter has a lot to do with it!

Joe: Yes, I think connecting the dots is really important.

-- Chris M.

forrest said...

Yes, what you did with the children was extremely, wonderfully right!

What's this notion about silence being somehow superior to "sharing?"

I heard a lot of people talking, but they weren't just chattering on the surface of things.

Sometimes my mind just spins its little exercise wheel, and then I need to get off it. But God does reveal Godself to us in what we say, and hear, from each other. Far more, in my experience, is given me when I don't try to be too "modest" about it, but put the words out there in hopes they'll nourish others as well. That saying about not hiding the light under a bushel, maybe it says something about how close we've sometimes come to smothering it.