Bath Childrens’ Meeting: it’s welcoming, it’s vibrant. But what do they actually get up to?

Children are most welcome at Bath Quaker Meeting. For a period some years ago there was no Childrens’ Meeting. Then it was a meeting of one child, typically once a month. Now our growing Meeting has a proper Childrens’ Meeting every week. It takes place at the same time as the Sunday Meeting for Worship 1100-1200. Typical attendance is in reasonable single figures.

Young Friends report back after a busy Childrens’ Meeting with Aliya and Katy.

The Childrens’ Meeting is based on the same core values: peace, simplicity, equality and truth. Rooted in Christianity, Quakers are happy to draw on the wisdom of other faiths.

But what do they actually get up to? This can be a bit of a mystery. The adults upstairs sometimes hear cheerful scampering noises. Children rejoin us  afterwards with mischievous grins. Sometimes they share cryptic accounts of what they’ve been up to. Often they produce pieces of art or craft as supporting evidence.

Bath Quaker children acting out a story from the time of religious oppression.

We asked Judith Eversley to give some examples of Childrens’ Meetings earlier in 2017. Here they are (in reverse order):

May Water part 3, bringing in Air and Fire (Judith, Hilary and 3 children). We read the poem From a Railway Carriage by Robert Louis Stevenson and  looked at a Turner painting, Rain, Steam and Speed. We thought about train journeys we might like to go on and heard about Thomas Edmondson, a 19th century Quaker who realised that the old system of hand-written railway tickets was inefficient and invented a ticket-printing machine. We made railway tickets to the places we wanted to visit. Mentioned (as for Darby in March) the fact that Quakers were active in trade and manufacturing.

April Compassion, sacrifice: Agnes, Sally and 3 children). Had some drama exercises, children heard a story about compassion and sacrifice. Attempted to write a communal poem using some cards as prompts. The final version had nothing to do with the story. Will be interested to find out if next time (provided the same children turn up) there will be traces of the messages of the story.

April: Spring with Alex, Hilary and 5 girls. On growth and renewal, childhood as the ‘Springtime of life’. Made paper flowers and pipe cleaner lambs

26 March Water part 2 Judith, Sally and 7 children: bringing in EARTH – The Bridge built by Quaker Ironmaster Abraham Darby. We recapped part 1 because not everyone had been there on 26 Feb. We built bridges out of wood blocks then some of us went out to look at Pulteney Bridge (stone, but built on brushwood supports). On return we drew Pulteney Bridge and learned about the Quaker Darby family who worked out how to smelt iron ore cheaply and made it possible to build strong bridges out of iron.

19 March Kites not drones: Agnes, Laurie and 3 children. Had a few drama exercises to start our creative juices flowing. Talked about drones and kites and the countries where these figure.  Looked at books of photos about Afghanistan and Syria. Used “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” as an inspiration to create a piece of writing and/or drawing of what it might feel like to experience deadly drones appearing in the clear blue sky — a condition which is otherwise ideal for flying kites. Tried to fly a mini kite in the small hall.

12th March: Spring Alex, Alison with Sophia talked about the myth of Persephone, about truths and myths and alt facts, myths as having ‘deeper’ and varied meaning . Joined by William and talked the whole hour

26 February: Water part 1 with Judith, Katy. We had a story about a bridge across a stream – a simple structure that brought two brothers together after they disagreed. We went over to the Victoria Art Gallery to find the painting of a bridge over the Kennet & Avon Canal (connection with John Rennie, Quaker supervisor of the canal).

12 February: Fire with Agnes and Hilary and 4 children. We built a small fire in a fire bowl under the arches and toasted marshmallows (great success), told the children a story about a destructive fire overcome by the individual effort, bravery, determination and faith of a small creature (children listened but not sure if the story made a lasting impression), finally tried to think of images of different kinds of fire (mildly successful) and drew images of fire.

22nd January 2017: Water Alex, Hilary and 8 children. A shortened meeting as boiler not working. I bought a 2 litre bottle of water and some grapes. With the water demonstrated how many bottles of water each of us contained and talked about its uses in the body, then 2 stories, while the children ate the grapes, stopping before the end and asking the children for ideas to complete it, one a fairy tale about a witch whose tears sucked up all the water in a village, the 2nd a true account of water shortage in the world, with a map and pictures, and about causes, esp. Irrigation depleting water table. The grapes had grown in a country in Africa that is doing this. [I don’t think the kids understood the point!]. No time for craft.

15 January: Fire and warmth with Judith, Hilary, Ella. The hospitality of Margaret Fell at Swarthmoor Hall in the early days of Quakers; looking after each other.

8 January 2017 Months and seasons Agnes and Alison and 8 children. I told the children a story involving the months, seasons and some elements (earth, water as snow and fire). Other themes were: overcoming hardships, generosity vs envy, kindness vs cruelty, joy and community. The children created some beautiful, intricate kite paper stars.

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