Creating a Space for Peace

Meeting for Worship, at both Sidwell Friends and in the larger Quaker world, has many roles. It’s a time to center, to reflect, and to listen for that still, small voice within. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a time to be with others.

“It wasn’t meant to be something do be done alone or in solitude,” says Noreen Muhib, parent of Zaid ’27, Aliya ’30, and Isah ’33, and the co-clerk of the Lower School Parents Association Quaker Life Committee. “It’s about being together with other people. It wasn’t meant to be done in isolation.”

During normal times at Sidwell Friends, it wasn’t. But these aren’t normal times. While the School virtually gathered (and continues to gather) for Meetings for Worship, sometimes the digital divide seems like too much to overcome, particularly for Lower School students. To solve the problem, Muhib and co-clerk Melissa Merideth, parent of Isabel ’27 and Oliver ’30, joined forces to provide Lower School students with a different kind of school supply—one that specifically supported Meeting for Worship. At supply pickup, each Lower School student received a kit with a candle, a packet of seeds, and a rock.

“We talked about the candle’s light symbolizing the Inner Light; the seeds representing connecting to and taking care of the Earth; and the rock reminding us of our testimonies,” Merideth says. “Providing these items can be a symbol for this time of Meeting for Worship, and it creates the same sort of experience that they would have at School.”

It was important to provide the same materials to each child to assist students and parents in setting up a dedicated space in their home for Meeting for Worship. “My children, if they can see something and they know there’s a space and a place for something, it helps them come to that place,” Muhib says. Last year, she says, her family would do Meeting for Worship on the couch, on the bed, or even on the floor. It didn’t feel like a special spot for sitting in silence. “But if we could send three items home in order for children to set up their Meeting for Worship place,” she says, “and if they all were able to see the same items on each other’s tables, it would create a consistency so they could feel connected.”

The Meeting for Worship kits were also meant to support parents, both on a very practical level and on a more spiritual one. One of the ways the School is providing that support is through a short video guide to Meeting for Worship created by kindergarten teacher Denise Coffin. Link to video here.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘Get these items,’” Muhib says. “Then parents have to find the items and collect them, and it’s one more thing to do. It seems like small thing to have to get things, but if you take one thing off my plate right now, I’m so thankful—even if it’s small.”

On the spiritual level, setting up a dedicated space makes it easier for parents, guardians, and caretakers to join their student for Meeting for Worship “Parents are always welcome to join Meeting for Worship at the School starting in October, and a lot of parents do join periodically throughout the year,” Merideth says. “But some people can’t come to campus at nine o’clock on a Tuesday morning because of their work. We’re hoping the kits are more inclusive and can expand Meeting for Worship to people who couldn’t come otherwise. I hope people will feel welcome to join—whether it’s a nanny, or even a sibling that’s not at the School, or even a little brother or sister.”

Overall, the kits are intended to do at home what Meeting for Worship does on campus.

“I hope that the Meeting for Worship time helps the children take a moment and feel part of a group,” Merideth says. “And that it will bring a sort of peace to them.”

 

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