Are Catholics More Quaker?

I guess folks might won­der why the son of the Quak­er Ranter is get­ting bap­tized in a Roman Catholic church…

[box]An updat­ed note before I start: I don’t want this to be seen as a cri­tique or put-down of any par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­u­als but to point out what seems to me to be a pret­ty obvi­ous larg­er dynam­ic with­in Quak­erism: our reli­gious edu­ca­tion pro­grams have not been doing a very good job at trans­mit­ting our faith to our young peo­ple. One mea­sure of such pro­grams is how many chil­dren we retain as actively-participating adults; by such mea­sures I think we can say Quak­ers are failing.

And, a few per­haps obvi­ous dis­claimers: 1) there are deeply faith­ful peo­ple who grew up in Young Friends pro­grams; 2) there are reli­gious ed instruc­tors who are wor­ried about the mes­sage we’re giv­ing our young peo­ple and fret as I do; 3) there are a lot of mem­bers of the RSoF who just don’t think teach­ing dis­tinct­ly Quak­er faith­ful­ness is impor­tant and wouldn’t agree that there’s a problem.

I don’t think it’s use­ful to read this with­out also look­ing to my ear­ly arti­cle, The Lost Quak­er Gen­er­a­tion, which mourns the friends I’ve seen drop out of Quak­erism (many of them “birthright,” i.e., born into Quak­er fam­i­lies), and We’re all Ranters Now, which argues that our soci­ety of seek­ers needs to become a soci­ety of find­ers if we are to be able to artic­u­late a faith to transmit.
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On June 30, 2000, Julie and I met at a nation­al gath­er­ing of Quak­ers. Four­teen months lat­er we were mar­ried at the Wood­stown Friends Meet­ing­house under the care of the Atlantic City Area Friends Meet­ing. Rough­ly four­teen months lat­er, when the sparkles in our eyes were meet­ing with an approv­ing nod from God and our baby was con­ceived, I was co-clerk of Atlantic City Area Meet­ing and Julie was clerk of its Out­reach Com­mit­tee. Ten months lat­er, our infant son Theo was bap­tized at Mater Eccle­si­ae Roman Catholic Church in Berlin, N.J. It’s Julie’s new church; I myself remain Quak­er, but with­out a Meet­ing I can quite call home. What happened?

I don’t want to try to speak for Julie and why she left Friends to return to the faith she was brought up in. But I do have to tes­ti­fy that the rev­er­ence, spir­it and authen­tic­i­ty of the wor­ship at Mater Eccle­si­ae is deep­er than that in most Friends Meet­ing­hous­es. It’s a church with a lot of mem­bers who seem to believe in the real pres­ence of Christ. A dis­claimer that Mater Eccle­si­ae is unusu­al, one of the few church­es in the coun­try that uses the tra­di­tion­al Tri­den­tine Mass or Roman Rite, and that it attracts ardent fol­low­ers who have self-selected them­selves, in that they’re not going to their local parish church. I don’t think it’s the Catholi­cism alone that draws Julie – I think the pur­pose­ful­ness of the wor­shipers is a large piece. Despite all the dis­trac­tions (chants, Latin, rote con­fes­sions of faith: I’m speak­ing as a Friend), the wor­ship there is unusu­al­ly gath­ered. But more: there’s a ground­ed­ness to the faith. In a one-on-one con­ver­sa­tion the priest explained to me the ways he thought Quak­erism was wrong. I wasn’t offend­ed – quite the con­trary, I loved it! It was so refresh­ing to meet some­one who believed what he believed, (Hey, if I didn’t believe in the degen­er­a­tion of the Roman Catholic Church or the emp­ty pro­fes­sions of hireling priests, I might join him. I also feel com­fort­able pre­dict­ing that he would wel­come my joust­ing here.)

What I can talk about is my mis­giv­ings about the prospect of rais­ing up Theo as a Quak­er in Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing. The weak­est ele­ment of the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends is its children’s reli­gious edu­ca­tion. This is some­thing I’ve seen man­i­fest­ed in two dif­fer­ent kinds of ways: con­tent and results.

Quak­ers have remark­ably few expec­ta­tions of their chil­dren. It’s con­sid­ered remark­able if old­er chil­dren spend a whole ten min­utes in Meet­ing for Wor­ship (I’ve heard adult birthright Friends boast that they’ve nev­er sat through a whole hour of Quak­er wor­ship). Quak­ers are obsessed about lis­ten­ing to what chil­dren have to say, and so nev­er share with them what they believe. I’ve known adults birthright Friends who have nev­er had con­ver­sa­tions with their par­ents about the basis of their faith.

Quak­er reli­gious edu­ca­tion pro­grams often for­go teach­ing tra­di­tion­al Quak­er faith and prac­tice for more fad­dish beliefs. The base­ment walls of the Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing youth cen­ter is paint­ed over with danc­ing gods, while of the big events of the Young Friends’ annu­al cal­en­dar is a “Quak­er sweat lodge”. A cul­ture of touch and phys­i­cal­i­ty (“cud­dle pud­dles”, back­rubs) is thought charm­ing and immod­est dress is con­sid­ered a sign of rebel­lious indi­vid­u­al­i­ty. Quak­er schools pub­lish brochures say­ing Meet­ing for Wor­ship is all about “think­ing, with God giv­en lit­tle notice.” When Quak­ers want to have “inter­gen­er­a­tional” wor­ship, they feel they have to pro­gram it with some sort of attention-keeping play­time activ­i­ty (Mater Eccle­si­ae echoes Quak­er tra­di­tion here: “inter­gen­er­a­tional” means chil­dren sit­ting through and par­tic­i­pat­ing in Mass with the adults).

Too many of the peo­ple my age and Julie’s who were brought up at Friends are igno­rant of basic Quak­er beliefs and are unaware of Quak­er tra­di­tions (FUM, EFI, Con­ser­v­a­tives) out­side the easy-going East Coast lib­er­al­ism they were raised in. For them being a Friend is act­ing a cer­tain way, believ­ing a cer­tain brand of polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy and being part of a cer­tain social group. Too many Young Adult Friends I’ve known over the years are cliquish, irre­li­gious, and have more than their share of issues around inti­ma­cy and sexuality.

Don’t get me wrong: these kids are often real­ly good peo­ple, chil­dren to be proud of, doing great things in the world. Many of them are open-hearted, spiritually-sensitive, and in deeply ground­ed rela­tion­ships. But only a very few are prac­tic­ing Quak­ers. And when I look at the reli­gious edu­ca­tion they get, I can’t say I’m sur­prised. If I were to raise Theo as a Quak­er, I would have to “home school” him away from most of the reli­gious edu­ca­tion pro­grams offered local­ly. When all the kids scram­ble out of wor­ship after ten min­utes I’d have to say “no” and tell him to keep sit­ting – how weird would that be?

Theo has a bet­ter chance of shar­ing the tra­di­tion­al Quak­er val­ues of the pres­ence of Christ, of Holy Obe­di­ence, and of bear­ing the cross by being raised as a Catholic in a tra­di­tion­al­ist church. It’s more like­ly he’ll turn out Quak­er if he’s bap­tised at Mater Eccle­si­ae. Julie and I will be teach­ing him rev­er­ence by exam­ple. I’ll share my Quak­er faith with him. I’m sure he’ll par­tic­i­pate in Quak­er events, but con­scious­ly, selec­tive­ly, guard­ed­ly (in the old Quak­er sense).

If Friends believe they have a faith worth holdling, they should also believe they have a faith worth pass­ing on. Do we?

Related Reading

  • Beck­ey Phipps con­duct­ed a series of inter­views that touched on many of these issues and pub­lished it in FGCon­nec­tions. FGC Reli­gious Edu­ca­tion: Lessons for the 21st Cen­tu­ry asks many of the right ques­tions. My favorite line: “It is the most amaz­ing thing, all the kids that I know that have gone into [Quak­er] lead­er­ship pro­grams – they’ve disappeared.”
  • I touch on these issues from the oth­er side in The Lost Quak­er Gen­er­a­tion, which is about the twenty- and thirty-something Friends that have drift­ed away
  • Angela Mass­man

    I am review­ing your web­site (non​vi​o​lence​.org) as part of a col­lege lev­el Eng­lish Research course. Of course I began fol­low­ing your links and here I am. I was raised with a vari­ety of orga­nized reli­gious inputs; to the point I call it “reli­gion of the month”. I have set­tled in my adult life to being Roman Catholic. I think that your arti­cle has summed up many aspects of why I attend mass and our chil­dren will also be raised Catholic. I also find it refresh­ing that you are able to rec­og­nize that oth­er reli­gions have pos­i­tive attrib­ut­es that are worth con­sid­er­ing. It is won­der­ful that anoth­er per­son can respect the dif­fer­ences in their beliefs with­out being over­ly crit­i­cal. Grow­ing up attend­ing an Assem­bly of God ele­men­tary school, I was told that all oth­er faith’s mem­bers will burn in Hell for not being their reli­gion. I dis­agreed then and even more so now! I only hope that I can teach my chil­dren tol­er­ance and appre­ci­a­tion for the dif­fer­ences that make us human.

  • Won­der­ful diver­si­ty in the world. It is amaz­ing that we can find renew­al in the same rites and rit­u­als that Fox and ear­ly Quak­ers found wanting.

  • Liz Oppen­heimer

    Once again, Mar­tin, you artic­u­late a num­ber of con­cerns that weigh in my heart. I believe that a part of your min­istry is to call Friends to be ever mind­ful of our deep(er) prac­tices and the­ol­o­gy, in fact to lift up and live “a faith worth pass­ing on” – a phrase you use that speaks vol­umes to me.

  • Robin Mohr

    I don’t know, most of my friends who grew up Roman Catholic aren’t prac­tic­ing any­more either.
    The oth­er option, of course, is to orga­nize First Day School along your prin­ci­ples. Every Meet­ing I know is look­ing for peo­ple to teach.
    In our Meet­ing, we have a nurs­ery for the youngest, a low­er ele­men­tary group, and an upper ele­men­tary through teen group on Sun­day morn­ings. I’m with you on mak­ing teenagers go to Meet­ing. But here’s what else we do.
    Our low­er ele­men­tary group, which has been run­ning since it was the preschool group, focus­es each month on the top­ic of the Advices and Queries that are read in our Meet­ing each month. There are four of us who take turns teach­ing, because we care enough to pro­vide reli­gious edu­ca­tion for our chil­dren. We read a sto­ry, do an art project, maybe sing a song and have a snack. Often the oth­er weeks use sec­u­lar lit­er­a­ture on the gen­er­al theme. My per­son­al (radical?)commitment is to teach every month a les­son based on a Bible sto­ry. Most­ly to be sure that my chil­dren (and the others)don’t grow up with­out learn­ing more about the Bible than Raffi’s ver­sion of Who Built the Ark? At this ear­ly age, I am just teach­ing the sto­ries straight up. In a few years, we will get to analy­sis and his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy and the­o­log­i­cal com­men­tary. As an exam­ple: one month, A&Q: Peace. Gen­er­al theme of FDS: Bul­lies. My week: Saul on the road to Dam­as­cus. Hor­ri­ble bul­ly turned to great teacher by God. And it’s a great sto­ry for five to sev­en year olds. We act­ed it out.
    I think it’s not devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate for chil­dren under the age of maybe eight to be expect­ed to sit still for an hour. I wouldn’t want them to do it in school or in meet­ing for wor­ship. It can be done, and some­times my kids do it. But most­ly young chil­dren need to walk in nature and exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent pos­tures for sit­ting and have prayers spo­ken out loud for them. Then they can take that expe­ri­ence of the Divine with them into Meet­ing for Wor­ship. We need to make explic­it our artic­u­la­tion of our faith to share it with our chil­dren. The same holds true for adult new­com­ers. The fault is not doing enough of this for young chil­dren and then not mov­ing on from this for old­er chil­dren. They need to engage with adults who feel the pow­er of God in their own lives and are will­ing to explain it and mod­el how they prac­tice it. The best line of George W. Bush’s first cam­paign was about the soft big­otry of low expec­ta­tions. This is anoth­er part of what is hap­pen­ing to young peo­ple in our Society.
    We will not change the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends if we don’t engage with it. Friends WILL fall apart and die out if those of us who see the truth and are will­ing to speak it don’t com­mit to teach­ing it.
    This is my num­ber one com­plaint about young Friends: if you just com­plain and say my local Meet­ing doesn’t meet my needs so I don’t go, that is not the same as prac­tic­ing Quak­erism which by def­i­n­i­tion requires prac­tice with­in a local faith com­mu­ni­ty. It is not easy to be the prophet­ic voice in a com­mu­ni­ty. But it will make it eas­i­er for the next per­son who comes along to find they are not labor­ing in com­plete isolation.
    Teach­ing First Day School and serv­ing on the Quar­ter­ly and/or Year­ly Meet­ing Children’s pro­gram com­mit­tees are hon­est hard labor. There’s no fak­ing it. It is a lot hard­er than sit­ting in ple­nar­ies or at our com­put­ers and rant­i­ng about the state of the uni­verse, the Unit­ed States or our Meet­ings. But this is where the oppor­tu­ni­ty to change the course of human events is tak­ing place right now.
    I don’t want my chil­dren to have to grow up and orga­nize ses­sions at FGC about what they didn’t learn in FDS. But that effort has to start now. In my Meet­ing. In your Meeting.
    I can’t believe that you would write all this about youth min­istry in the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends and not pro­vide it for your own child.
    P.S. Obvi­ous­ly, I’m a lit­tle late to the par­ty and this is respond­ing to a post from last sum­mer. But I want­ed to have this argu­ment with Zac Moon and some oth­ers last sum­mer at PYM. Maybe I’ll call him up and have it now.

  • Hi Robin,
    Youch! Do we have an elder in the house or did I hit a nerve with this post? You’re right, of course, we should make our stands in a thou­sand Month­ly Meet­ings, blah blah blah. But you could be a bit more char­i­ta­ble – after all, many of us are in Meet­ings that bare­ly have kids and don’t have good First Day School pro­grams. We didn’t cre­ate the cri­sis with our rant­i­ng web­sites. Part of my min­istry is done online because of a deep sense of alien­ation and pow­er­less­less. I have served as co-clerk of my month­ly meet­ing, as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the year­ly meet­ing gov­ern­ing body and on the com­mit­tee try­ing to revi­sion a dying quar­ter­ly meet­ing. I work for the largest denom­i­na­tion­al body of lib­er­al Friends in North Amer­i­ca and worked for two years at lib­er­al Quakerism’s most promi­nent pub­li­ca­tion. In my free time I run a major peace web­site, raise a eighteen-month old, make a wicked lattice-top apple pie and try to find moments to spend with my wife Julie. Do I have to do every­thing? I haven’t felt led to teach much FDS but I’ve hard­ly been a slack­er. Hon­est­ly, I don’t want to be an out­sider; I would love to be a com­mit­tee Friend. But all the work I’ve done has run up against the same sets of prob­lems that are not easy to crack. I would love it if our Quak­er bod­ies sup­port­ed, rec­og­nized and named prophet­ic min­istry, but right now the only men­tor­ing I see is through web­sites, infor­mal fel­low­ships and odd­ball work­shops and consultations.
    If some­one as ultra-involved and con­nect­ed as I am is still feel­ing like an out­sider, then there are seri­ous issues we need to address. And to do that we need to lis­ten, under­stand and appre­ci­ate why peo­ple are doing the work they’re doing. There’s a lot to be done. It’s not about our meet­ings meet­ing my needs: it’s about God’s needs and dis­cern­ing God’s plans for us, which is _not_ some­thing I’ve seen on most agen­das. As I return to more com­mit­tee work I’ll be in a dif­fer­ent place ready to engage in some of the prophet­ic min­istry that’s need­ed. I don’t think I could have got­ten there if I hadn’t stepped back two years ago to see the big pic­ture. There’s a long tra­di­tion of dis­ap­pear­ing out into the desert before begin­ning pub­lic ministry.
    It’s okay Robin, real­ly, the twenty- and thirty-something blog­gers and emerg­ing min­is­ters are alright. We’ll fig­ure it out, part­ly by hav­ing these sorts of con­ver­sa­tions. But yes, call Zach, tell him your beefs, talk about all this. We all need to talk about all this. From my emails with you I know we’re all want­i­ng the same thing. I want us to work out these frus­tra­tions in way that builds the Soci­ety of Friends we need and that God demands.
    PS: The per­son­al piece is also that after mar­ry­ing a good Quak­er wife I found myself in a mixed mar­riage when she went back to the Catholic Church. She left for all the right rea­sons, I just have to admit. Now, any reli­gious edu­ca­tion has to be nego­ti­at­ed. Theo will hear about Quak­erism, don’t you fear. He’ll also hear about Catholi­cism and Chris­tian­i­ty and God, nev­er Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing fear.

  • Julie Hei­land

    Hi Robin,
    I’d like to address some of the points you raised, as frankly I feel as if peo­ple like me, so to speak (youngish – mean­ing under 30 or 40 – peo­ple who are ded­i­cat­ed to God, and for­mer­ly to Quak­erism), were severe­ly cri­tiqued in your post.
    As an aside, I should men­tion that most of my friends who I remain close with, who like I was, were raised Roman Catholics, remain deeply com­mit­ted to their faith. They teach reli­gious edu­ca­tion, are Nat­ur­al Fam­i­ly Plan­ning edu­ca­tors, and are very con­cerned about ortho­doxy in the church­es that they attend. But I cer­tain­ly am aware of the flak­i­ness that exists with­in some parts of the Church, the poor cat­e­chism, and the fla­grant dis­re­gard for God that caus­es peo­ple to become inactive.
    As far as orga­niz­ing Quak­er FDS along one’s own prin­ci­ples, this is a dif­fi­cult thing. First it is dif­fi­cult to even HAVE a FDS in a meet­ing that has no chil­dren (or very few). I have trav­eled wide­ly in Quak­erism – in fact I attend­ed a meet­ing in North­ern CA for the bet­ter part of two years when I lived there. This was an excep­tion­al meet­ing – ie a “large” one– that actu­al­ly did have chil­dren. But the vast major­i­ty of Friends meet­ings (unpro­grammed ones, at least) are very small and have next to no chil­dren. Of course this is a chick­en or the egg sit­u­a­tion. Nev­er­the­less, I do not see many adult Quak­ers clam­or­ing to share their “faith” (if they have any, that is) with their chil­dren. Sec­ond, I fear that attempt­ing to orga­nize a FDS along one individual’s prin­ci­ples is not some­thing that would or should fly in a meet­ing any­way. I say this even though I had tried it from time to time. Third, I real­ly wish I knew all these meet­ings that you know of who are want­i­ng peo­ple to teach FDS. In a cou­ple meet­ings I was involved with I offered to teach FDS and was flat­ly turned down. The unspo­ken rea­son, nat­u­ral­ly, was that I was too young. In the meet­ing in North­ern CA I men­tioned, I was instead assigned to the hos­pi­tal­i­ty com­mit­tee to put out cook­ies and tea. Need­less to say I declined. (I should men­tion one thing that real­ly got under my craw at this meet­ing. The Min­istry and Wor­ship com­mit­tee, which was the­o­ret­i­cal­ly open to any­one to attend, met only on Wednes­day after­noons some­where around 11:00. This is the type of exclu­siv­i­ty that I have found abounds at most meet­ings on some lev­el or anoth­er. Yeah, the­o­ret­i­cal­ly we want your input, but in real­i­ty we’re not. Pas­sive aggres­sive? A little.)
    It seems that from a very fun­da­men­tal point of view I have dif­fer­ences from you in out­look regard­ing the pri­ma­ry pur­pose of reli­gious edu­ca­tion for peo­ple of any age. I do not view the search for analy­sis, his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy, and the­o­log­i­cal inquiry as the pri­ma­ry pur­pos­es of RE even lat­er in life. The pri­ma­ry goal of RE, from my per­spec­tive, is to instill faith in God and a mature life of prayer. From these things grow the virtues, and this lays the ground­work for life in com­mu­ni­ty. I say this as some­one with a mas­ters degree in reli­gion, by the way, so I’m not opposed to the nerd­ly pur­suits you describe. I just don’t think they’re what meet­ings or church­es’ reli­gious edu­ca­tion pro­grams are pri­mar­i­ly for.
    As to devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate wor­ship, I must also be blunt. I think all this “devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate” dis­cus­sion I fre­quent­ly hear among Friends is most­ly just an excuse. It’s an excuse to keep kids out of meet­ing because they are squirmy and noisy. It’s an excuse to low­er our expec­ta­tions for chil­dren, not expect­ing them to have a life in the Lord all their own. It’s an excuse to not allow them to have a foun­da­tion in prayer that they NEED to prop­er­ly UNDERSTAND the reli­gious edu­ca­tion we seek to pro­vide for them. After all, if reli­gion right­ly is first and fore­most expe­ri­en­tial, it is cru­cial that we all expe­ri­ence God. I was expect­ed to sit through mass from the time I was a baby. Nobody cart­ed me out because it was devel­op­men­tal­ly inap­pro­pri­ate. And the result, from my per­spec­tive, was a healthy love for God and desire to live for Him. Nobody can con­vince me oth­er­wise because I think it’s crap.
    Final­ly, I’ll just say – and per­haps not so polite­ly – that I resent your impli­ca­tion that I and oth­ers like me failed to “engage” with Quak­erism and mere­ly go around com­plain­ing about it. I “engaged” with Quak­erism for over eleven years. I was extreme­ly involved – and, might I add, from about the age of 15. I did not leave eas­i­ly or with­out a fight. I final­ly decid­ed that God was my pri­or­i­ty and I need­ed to fol­low Him. If this was not the inten­tion of most Friends I ran into – espe­cial­ly not the meet­ing I was a part of for all of the eleven years, not to men­tion the many I was involved with in sev­er­al parts of the coun­try and else­where – then clear­ly I had to leave. I need­ed to return to a place where He would be hon­ored as King of the Uni­verse. This was hard­ly the case in most Quak­er cir­cles I knew. It was my expe­ri­ence that if God was not receiv­ing my due atten­tion because of the “reli­gious” com­mu­ni­ty I chose to asso­ciate with, then I had no option but to leave so that I could focus on Him.
    Julie

  • Robin Mohr

    Dear Julie and Martin,
    Let me start with I’m sor­ry. For me, one of the prob­lems with online com­mu­ni­ca­tion is the lack of frames — my ten­den­cy is to veer back and forth between philo­soph­i­cal rhetoric and per­son­al com­men­tary and this doesn’t come across well in writ­ing — on paper or online. The oth­er is that it is too easy to for­get about the actu­al peo­ple on the oth­er end of the com­put­er. I don’t even know you and I’m crit­i­ciz­ing your per­son­al par­ent­ing deci­sions? Nev­er a good idea, Robin.
    Per­haps I should also add my per­son­al dis­claimers: Where do I work? A Catholic schol­ar­ship pro­gram. Why not a Quak­er one? Because there isn’t one on the West Coast, there are bare­ly any Quak­er schools. What am I doing to start one? Umm, not much. Occa­sion­al­ly I fan­ta­size that I am doing an appren­tice­ship with the Catholics so I can start a Quak­er Edu­ca­tion Fund, but that seems a long ways away, so for now, I like to think that I’m sup­port­ing faith-based edu­ca­tion on the ecu­meni­cal end of the Roman Catholic church. My last job was also rais­ing sig­nif­i­cant mon­ey for a Catholic Church and Fran­cis­can fri­ary in a poor neigh­bor­hood. Is that a skill that Quak­ers could use? Yes. Did I get the last Quak­er job I applied for? No.
    I don’t want to argue the ques­tion who is more reli­gious, Quak­ers or Catholics. There are com­mit­ted peo­ple that I know and love in both tra­di­tions and I won­der if there are sim­i­lar per­cent­ages of lapsed youth in both.
    My Meet­ing wouldn’t have a good FDS pro­gram if it wasn’t for the moth­er of the first baby born in our Meet­ing in years. He’s 11 now. I am just fol­low­ing in her foot­steps. But our Meet­ing has come a long way from when she was first asked not to breast­feed in meet­ing for wor­ship. I per­son­al­ly avoid­ed CRE for years because I thought it was a ghet­to for women. But that’s not true in our Meet­ing. To the point where now the last two clerks of CRE have been men, the new one is a young sin­gle man, and a recent con­vert from Catholicism.
    I did not mean to imply that you have not engaged with Quak­erism. If I may make a small joke, if the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. But I get tired of hear­ing oth­er young peo­ple say there’s noth­ing here for me — rang­ing from my six year old son to 40 year old sin­gle women. One of the great things about Quak­erism is that we sup­pos­ed­ly believe that Christ has come to teach his peo­ple him­self. As you know, there were no Young Adult Friend pro­grams for ten­der­ly nur­tur­ing George Fox and Mar­garet Fell into lead­er­ship posi­tions. Quak­erism is a do-it-yourself reli­gion in a lot of ways. I have stuck with Quak­erism because I believe that this is the path God has giv­en me to walk. A Catholic friend once asked me, if those peo­ple are so hard to work with, why do you both­er? Because there isn’t anoth­er Quak­er Meet­ing around the cor­ner, like the Catholics seemed to have in that city, I said. This crazy group is the only one I have to work with.
    I hope we could have a more leisure­ly and char­i­ta­ble dis­cus­sion of devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate reli­gious edu­ca­tion at anoth­er time. There is a lot of work to be done in this area, and I hon­est­ly think we share more opin­ions than we dif­fer. I think I’ve said every­thing you wrote at one time or another.
    Before this becomes a nov­el, I want to end by say­ing that I have the strong sense of hav­ing walked in late to the par­ty, hear­ing some­thing I had been think­ing about at the tail end of a dis­cus­sion, and hav­ing said some things so loud and inflam­ma­to­ry that I have alien­at­ed the very peo­ple I would have most want­ed to hang out with.
    I hope that we’ll meet at anoth­er par­ty soon.
    Peace,
    Robin

  • Mar­tin Kelley

    Hi Robin, Whew!, glad to get this email. Yes, I thought we were on the same page and won­dered about that last post. I thought it was just one of those inter­net things. Last night I said to Julie “I think the com­ment will start off with an apol­o­gy” and it warms my heart to see it. It’s inter­est­ing to see your own rela­tion­ship with Catholi­cism, it cer­tain­ly makes more sense of your reac­tion. I’m glad you’re still with Quak­erism despite every­thing (in this post and in the email you sent ear­li­er today). I agree that the “what’s in it for me” ques­tion is not the right one, it’s cer­tain­ly not the one that moti­vat­ed Fox and Fell and Penn and Wool­man, Fry and Mary Dyer.
    That’s great that the children’s reli­gious ed is work­ing for your Meet­ing, I’m jeal­ous. This week­end I heard some real­ly *sol­id* younger Friends talk about how impor­tant their reli­gious edu­ca­tion was to them as they grew so I know it’s not all gloom and doom. Got­ta go, _West Wing_ is start­ing (pri­or­i­ties priorities!).

  • Robin Mohr

    Where did the young Friends go to Meet­ing and what do they remem­ber from reli­gious edu­ca­tion? This is what is miss­ing from our Meet­ing — very few of us grew up Quak­er and those who did are often not impressed with their reli­gious education.
    I didn’t grow up Catholic either, but if you’ll for­give the cliché, all my best friends were Catholic.
    And I devour reruns of The West Wing when­ev­er we are at my par­ents’ house. It may be what I miss most about not hav­ing a TV. Which I oth­er­wise con­sid­er one of our best par­ent­ing moves.
    Robin

  • Julie DeMarchi Heiland

    Hi Robin,
    A cou­ple of things occur to me. My first thought is that if your six year old and oth­ers are say­ing that there is noth­ing there for them at the meet­ing, you bet­ter lis­ten to them. There’s prob­a­bly some­thing behind what they are say­ing, no mat­ter how annoy­ing­ly it is framed. Does that make sense? If your six year old is ALREADY artic­u­lat­ing that he feels a lack in his expe­ri­ence of Quak­erism, hear him!!! The time to address this prob­lem is now and his expe­ri­ence (or lack there­of) is very real. We all need and long for God – it’s how He designed us – and some­times when you hear peo­ple say things like this, that’s what’s behind it. Tru­ly our hearts are rest­less until we rest in Him. St. Augus­tine was quite right about this! There is noth­ing truer.
    My next thought is that I don’t think there are many of us who expect or expect­ed Quak­erism to pro­vide some nifty and slick Young Adult Friends pro­gram to “ten­der­ly nur­ture” us. Hard­ly. Like you, it was my view for years in Quak­erism that it was large­ly a “do it your­self” reli­gion (and what it lacked I had to make up for myself, or just pitch in more). But I real­ize now there are a cou­ple of big holes in this assump­tion, even if it is large­ly the case. First, we don’t “do it our­selves.” Whether or not things get “done” is ulti­mate­ly up to God. If He’s not the One we’re lis­ten­ing to to find out what needs doing and how we ought to be doing things, then cer­tain­ly there are big prob­lems. And very lit­tle that needs doing will actu­al­ly get done. The sec­ond prob­lem with this out­look on Quak­erism is that tra­di­tion­al­ly, Quak­erism was a much more struc­tured reli­gion with elders and min­is­ters, etc. There was account­abil­i­ty to larg­er groups. There were expec­ta­tions. Quak­ers were NOT expect­ed to always have to go it alone and “do it your­self” – they were SUPPOSED to have the sup­port and prayers of their meet­ing, their trav­el­ing com­pan­ion, etc. The COMMUNITY was to act togeth­er as one body. The Quak­er world is very dif­fer­ent now. Don’t get me wrong, there was nev­er a gold­en age, but at least these were the going assump­tions about how things were sup­posed to work. So, as to being “ten­der­ly nur­tured,” I just want­ed to cease to be INVISIBLE and to begin to be seen as an actu­al adult with my own mea­sure of Light. As such, I want­ed the sup­port and prayer of my meet­ing (or at least a few peo­ple in it). Maybe occa­sion­al­ly be seen as wor­thy of doing some­thing aside from serv­ing cook­ies and tea. Maybe get nom­i­nat­ed for some­thing real (or nom­i­nat­ed at all). Call me crazy. But I wasn’t old enough and wasn’t anybody’s kid, so that made me a nobody. Of course, this was only one small part of what made me leave Quak­erism, but the fact that I believed I would nev­er be con­sid­ered a full or vis­i­ble mem­ber until I was prac­ti­cal­ly 50 cer­tain­ly didn’t help things any…no mat­ter what I did or how hard I tried. Or how much I prayed. And I cer­tain­ly couldn’t make any­one believe in God – that wasn’t changing.
    As to devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate RE/worship for kids, you are more than wel­come to email me direct­ly if you want to con­tin­ue that dis­cus­sion. But hon­est­ly I don’t think we see eye to eye on this issue. A num­ber of weeks ago a woman who looked like she was about 50 or so, some­one who I’ve nev­er seen before at my tra­di­tion­al Latin Rite Catholic church, noticed me with Theo (now 1 1/2) stand­ing just out­side the glass doors to the church, in the hall­way area. I took him out for a lit­tle while because he was being a lit­tle fid­gety and noisy. But we could still see and hear every­thing at mass from this loca­tion. She said to me some­thing to the effect of, “Isn’t there some kind of nur­sury or children’s pro­gram for the kids?” At first I didn’t under­stand her. What was she talk­ing about? I said, “What?” I learned that she thought that expect­ing a small child under some age to stay through­out most of mass was “tor­ture.” (I believe that’s the word she used.) I sim­ply replied by say­ing some­thing to the effect of, “We believe that chil­dren *should* go to mass and receive spe­cial graces by being in God’s pres­ence.” I haven’t seen her back at Mater Eccle­si­ae since.
    God bless,
    Julie

  • Robin Mohr

    My six year old was com­plain­ing last sum­mer after a peri­od when the oth­er boy his age was away vis­it­ing his grand­par­ents for like six weeks. Two weeks ago, he and the oth­er boy flat out denied that they ever thought meet­ing for wor­ship was bor­ing. I don’t know whether to be delight­ed or wor­ried that he’s lying. 🙂
    One of the prob­lems is just the small num­ber of oth­er chil­dren in our Meet­ing. Rhetor­i­cal ques­tion: Why is it that if one oth­er fam­i­ly is away, there are no oth­er boys with­in five years of his age? How­ev­er, my plain­tive prayer/vocal min­istry last sum­mer ask­ing what God wants me to learn from this, (ie if Lloyd Lee Wil­son and oth­ers are right that God sends us every­one we need for our Meet­ing, why aren’t there more chil­dren? or is there some­thing I/we are miss­ing?) was both tak­en as a per­son­al crit­i­cism of the par­ents who didn’t hap­pen to be there that week and a sign that I was about to take my chil­dren else­where. Nei­ther of which did I mean. If any­thing, I was mad at God. But that kind of talk wasn’t real­ly expect­ed in our Meet­ing, as advanced as it usu­al­ly is.
    I ful­ly agree with you that Quak­erism needs to be a com­mu­ni­ty based reli­gion. That’s why I’m slog­ging away here in SF. That’s why I final­ly start­ed going to Quar­ter­ly and Year­ly Meet­ings about five years ago. I think the tide is turn­ing back towards being a more God led reli­gion. My expe­ri­ence of com­ing to Quak­erism has been dif­fer­ent in my feel­ing val­ued and sup­port­ed. As I have grown deep­er, just when I think that I’m going over the line, some­one else appears that offers the right book or the right task or the right forum for dis­cus­sion. God’s bless­ings right out in front of me, lead­ing me down the Quak­er path.
    Final­ly, I real­ized that I don’t want to pur­sue the ques­tion of appro­pri­ate reli­gious edu­ca­tion with you via email. It already takes all the time and ener­gy I have to work out these issues live and in per­son with the Friends in my Month­ly, Quar­ter­ly and Year­ly Meet­ing where my chil­dren attend.
    Peace,
    Robin

  • Ankur Trive­di