Quaker Family Sunday Suppers
by Ann Pettigrew Nunes
Clerk, Wilton Children's Meeting
Quaker meetings can sometimes feel small, and parents of young and busy children may struggle to attend. A handful of children attend our own meeting in Wilton, and while we feel supported by the community of regular attenders, connection with other families deepens our experience and sense of belonging like nothing else can. Our family has found that Powell House weekends and Summer Sessions connections have opened up relationship with many other families, a number of whose meetings are in similar situations to ours. The quiet of adult worship is comforting, but our children also need the fun—and challenge—of connecting with other kids.
The Wilton Children’s Meeting Committee sought to support parents in our meeting and our adjacent preschool through a book discussion of Paths to Quaker Parenting. This quickly led to further connection through the Quaker Parenting Initiative online discussion group led by Harriet Heath. By chance, three parents in the initial online discussion group came from the same quarter. We met online and wondered about possibilities for local gatherings.
At the suggestion of Melinda Wenner Bradley through the Vital Meetings Partnership Project from New York Yearly Meeting, we began this year to gather in Purchase Quarter for Quaker Family Sunday Suppers. These quarterly gatherings have been a delightful way to foster a sense of belonging within Purchase Quarter and to expand our circle of young families. To date we’ve met twice (June 2019 in Scarsdale and October 2019 in Wilton); a third supper will take place December 15 at Chappaqua Friends Meeting. We rotate hosting with the intention of broadening our reach.
The Sunday Suppers follow a simple format: families arrive and children play together while parents meet and greet. We gather in meeting for worship for a family-friendly story and singing, followed by pot luck and pizza for dinner, and inevitably more playtime. Faith & Play stories have been an integral part of the format. Start-to-finish the gathering lasts no more than 2 hours, scheduled early so that families with younger children can be home in time for bed.
At our first gathering, families settled into meeting for worship together in the Scarsdale Meetinghouse, forming a circle on the floor. Ann laid out the underlay, introducing the story called “Gifts.” “Gifts are very special things,” she began. “Gifts can come wrapped in a colorful package with a bow…” With that, toddler Friend Marshall crawled right into the center of the story underlay and sat up, curiously watching to see what was coming next. “That’s right,” his mother, Hallie, assured him, “Marshall is our gift!”
“Faith & Play is a way for kids and parents to learn about our faith and what it means in our daily lives,” commented Daniel Werges of Scarsdale. “Singing with kids and families is wonderful. It doesn’t happen much in our Meetings; I think it really helps our boys to connect spiritually by joining the singing,” he added.
It’s a special moment to witness and share the parenting experience together. The connection with other parents has opened up peer support for Quaker parenting. And our children who once were strangers to each other now recognize young Friends at quarterly and yearly meeting gatherings, remembering this unique time they’ve spent together.
These suppers have been so very Friendly and fun for all, offering another touchpoint for our children to get to know one another and share in an intimate way. The suppers have attracted families to Quaker worship who otherwise are not able to attend meeting, and have even served as an introduction to Quaker practice for new families. Invitations for the suppers have been distributed widely, including to our preschools. We hope to continue the practice and to welcome new Friends as we move forward.
For future gatherings, Friends may picnic or go for a hike together to give our children space to run around more. “Walking in nature is a great way to start conversations and connect further,” notes Daniel. In our hectic lives so full of work, activities, parenting challenges, and rushing around, a couple of hours spent locally with other Quaker families invite a pause and a deep breath. We find ourselves singing Rise up Singing songs in the car, carrying the story conversation and the wondering into our daily family life. Thank you, Friends!
It’s just like a magic penny
Hold it tight and you won’t have any
Lend it, spend it and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor!