Quaker Life Transitions


Commentary from Facebook

At the end of last October, we posted a call for submissions for this issue on our Facebook page, posing a few thought-provoking queries on the topic. These call-for-submissions questions are meant to be rhetorical, meant to inspire the writer within to accept the challenge and submit to us the next great article on Quaker thought and life today. And usually they are interpreted as such (at least that’s what we hope when no one leaves a comment). But this time, about a dozen of our Facebook followers replied to the post, openly sharing their thoughts on the matter. As the thread grew with more voices chiming in, we enjoyed following the discussion and later saw it as insightful commentary on how Friends around the world think about recognizing life’s passages. From Monteverde to Morrisville and New England to Atlanta, Friends shared a number of ceremonious-type observances: “meetings for appreciation,” “certificates of welcome,” “baby dedications,” “rites of passage,” and copies of Faith and Practice; along with opinions on the need for such commemoration (Friends don’t do external forms, right?) and the difference between community and spirituality. One person even tagged God (did you know God is on Facebook?). You can read all the comments from that post below; those wanting to share more are invited to join the conversation by commenting below.

Friends Journal Extended deadline: Do Quakers need baptisms, bar/bat mitzvahs, confirmations, etc? What do we miss by ignoring life passages? Can we help meeting members with changes like adoption, divorce, or selling the family home? We’re extending our writing deadline for the February “Life Transitions” issue to November 17. October 28, 2014 at 4:45pm

Mackenzie Morgan Isn’t the expiration of childhood membership (and requirement to go through membership process) upon adulthood the exact same thing as confirmation, just usually a few years later? October 29, 2014 at 4:23pm
Whitney Suttell When I attended Monteverde Monthly Meeting while working at Monteverde Friends School, they had a tradition of Meeting for Appreciation. It’s just like a Meeting for Worship but with a focus on appreciating someone or a group of people. Similar to a Friends wedding or funeral. I have often thought this would be a lovely way to welcome a new baby on their first Meeting. A Meeting for Blessing of sorts in which members offered blessings, prayers, and good wishes for the baby and their family. The part of baptism that rings true to me as a Quaker is the official welcoming into a community of faith and the public statement of support for the child and the parents. I would have welcomed an opportunity to do that for my children when they were babies. October 29, 2014 at 11:38pm
Melinda Wenner Bradley Hi Whitney! There are meetings who have a practice like this for welcoming children. I recently visited Atlanta Friends Meeting where they were preparing to welcome several babies (including triplets!) in their community. What you describe resonates with me. It would be cool to gather different practices from meetings and share them. October 30, 2014 at 10:44am
Barbara Harrison Chester River Monthly Meeting (PhilaYM) tends to print up a Certificate of Welcome acknowledging the presence of a newborn who by his/her  “vocalizations expressed a wish to become a Member of Meeting” with everyone present signing it on the First Day the newborn first attends (assuming we have our act in order in time). October 30, 2014 at 6:09pm
Luanne Hagee I like that Barbara! At Mooresville Friends Meeting (Mooresville, IN/Western YM/FUM) we use to have a ‘Baby Dedication’ . . . some were newborns others might be up to 8 years old or so. All four of my children were dedicated during a Meeting for Worship – up in front of the Meeting (don’t remember exactly what was said) but as I recall (my children range in age from 18-1/2 to 27 years old now) the Pastor, Clerk of the Meeting, and maybe even the Clerk of Ministry & Evangelism said something and one of them offered a prayer and we were presented with a certificate. October 30, 2014 at 10:00pm
Conrad Muller The Religious Society of Friends is a spiritual community, but that doesn’t mean that community and spirituality are the same thing. Celebrating birthdays, comings of age, weddings, even joining a meeting are community events, not spiritual events. We are supposed to celebrate our relationship to God in every aspect of our lives every day, not on special days set aside from our busy lives. There is also a difference between spirituality and religion. Religion is about community. Celebrating religion as if it is spirituality interferes with focusing on real spirituality, our relationship with the Divine. October 29, 2014 at 8:31pm
Duggan Millard I was born a Quaker, and when I was 13 I got a “Faith and Practice” . . . a bar mitzvah/confirmation, no? October 29, 2014 at 8:54pm
Tony Haverstick I got that Faith and Practice, too, ’57 edition. I remember thinking at the time, “this seems a little backsliding, I thought we didn’t have ceremonies.” I still think we might be thinking about eliminating that rather than adding more. Just kidding . . . kind of. Conrad’s remarks speak to my condition. October 30, 2014 at 9:52am
Joyce White If I do not have a life so filled with Christ, I will look at other things to fill it – rituals, addictions, business, doing stuff, elaborate celebrations . . . October 30, 2014 at 10:45pm
Fred Mikkelsen We have Yearly Meeting. That has all the nuances of a traditional religious ceremony and festival. Rites of passage occur going into JHYM (Junior High Yearly Meeting) and coming out. Going in, you’re a child. Coming out, you’re a Young Friend assumed to have a nourished religious spirit with voice. October 31, 2014 at 12:20am
Mark L Grantham NO! For me, these man-made rituals seem to go against the tenets of true Quakerism, just me. October 31, 2014 at 8:01am
Paul Kriese we are already baptized at birth as all people are blessed by God. October 31, 2014 at 9:56am
Rebecca Musso Alexandra Radocchia Zealand we like the meeting for blessing. We just had a baby and are getting her baptized in a Presbyterian church. The baptism is just a celebration of life and support from family. October 31, 2014 at 4:05pm

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2 thoughts on “Quaker Life Transitions

  1. Because of the long drive to the nearest Meeting, we have been attending a United Methodist church for over ten years, and have only recently begun visiting the Meeting (sporadically). Both of my children have been active in the children’s and youth programs in the church, and both chose to be baptized and confirmed in the UMC. Even though I don’t think that the ceremonies are necessary, they meant a lot to my kids, and I found them to be very moving experiences. We will soon be relocating to an area with a larger Quaker community, so I hope to begin participating in a Meeting regularly. My kids tell me that they want to continue being Methodists. I would prefer that they be Friends, but each is on his own journey, and I respect that.

  2. My Meeting has a tradition of presenting a Bible to youth at the end of middle school, and some other spirit-related book at the end of high school. We also have annual ways to acknowledge babies born to members and attenders, as well as new members.

    While I enjoy these traditions, I acknowledge that there can be some tension between those kinds of practices and the historic Quaker advice about avoiding empty rituals. We are well advised to continually try to sense whether there is Life in what we do. Better to lay down any thing that is done purely out of habit, and return to the Silence from which all Truth emerges.

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