Masked teacher teaching elementary school children.
Meeting for Worship Pandemic Style 2021

Quaker & Spiritual Life folks met at the end of January to reconnect and refresh ourselves and to help think about meeting for worship “pandemic style.”

Some Quaker schools have a designated person or committee whose role is to pay attention to the Quaker nature of the school, including the quality and practice of Meeting for Worship and the integration of Friends testimonies into every aspect of school life. However, many schools do not have enough staff to fulfill this aspect of Friends education. 

The Quaker & Spiritual Life peer network peer network (formerly called Upper School Religion Teachers and Quaker Life in Lower and Middle Schools) has been meeting regularly for at least 20 years. During 2020 and now in 2021 - this group of dedicated Friends educators meets to support each other and to share ideas about how to best address the needs of our school communities and keep the Quaker heart of our schools healthy and strong.

Guybe Slangen, Director of Community Engagement at San Francisco Friends School noted that what started out as complexity and uncertainty with the pandemic and school closures inspired SFFS head of school, Mike Hanas, to remark “Our school is closing, but our values are not.” Friends principles and values are intended for times that are challenging; they help us through and guide us when we feel unsure. Slangen noted, “Certainly, the pandemic has tested us in serious ways, and it has brought us together in some other ways, energizing us in a weird kind of way.”

Tom Hoopes, Director of the Religions Department at George School, gave voice to the importance of taking care to ritualize Meeting for Worship in the Zoom environment.  Some ways of doing this include featuring the school’s sacred space (the Meetinghouse or other space regularly used for MFW) by having a camera on a music stand to show the Meetinghouse and perhaps also lighted candles, asking participants to bring a form of light to their Zoom space, invite students to create a sacred space at home for their MFW time, using a quote or message that is shared on the screen, and inviting students to sing a song as they “leave” the Zoom space. 

Through both large and small group conversations, participants generated a series of tips and suggestions for how they are approaching virtual Meeting for Worship and ways for reenergizing it as needed.

Friends Council will be sharing a full complement of their tips and advice on our website soon. Stay tuned! 

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