by A Friend
On a sunny Sunday in November some of our friends and family came to a Quaker meeting for the first time. They came to a half hour meeting for welcome, arranged in response to the births of our two daughters.
Having grown up attending an Anglican Church it seemed neglectful not to formally recognise the births of my children. My husband and I thought about what we wanted from a ceremony. This was not entirely straightforward. The functions of an Anglican christening are, in practise, much broader than renouncing sin and formally adopting the Christian faith on behalf of the child. A christening provides a chance to mark and celebrate the birth of the child, to be thankful for the child’s safe arrival and welcome them to the circle of extended friends and family.
After reflection both my husband and I felt that the aspects of this that were important to us were to celebrate and commemorate the births of our daughters. I also wanted to welcome them to the Society of Friends.
Everyone at meeting was supportive. Though a bit of explaining was needed, people seemed to understand our wish to hold the meeting. As someone said: “We celebrate marriages and funerals, why not births?”
I’d wondered and worried a little about how we might balance the presence of so many children with silence, as many of our friends would bring children. I’d assumed that children would have to be taken out and had set up a room for children to go to. However, I was uncomfortably aware of the incongruity of having a meeting to welcome children that the children had to leave for, essentially, being children.
My fears were unfounded and the meeting was beautiful. At the last minute we decided to put paper and crayons on the floor of the meeting room to help children stay quietly in meeting for longer. As the meeting began two of the Quaker children present took to it with enthusiasm. I was torn between excitement that they were there, evidently feeling comfortable, and anxiety about the escalating whispering. An elder stood and said a few words about Quaker meetings, as we’d agreed for the number of non-Quaker friends and relations who had come. It was a useful addition to the ‘First time in a Quaker meeting’ leaflets.
The elder also read number 19 from advices and queries. From that point it seemed clear to me that this was just a different kind of silence. It seemed very full. More children joined in the colouring and at the invitation of my daughter, I did too. She won’t always welcome the involvement of her parents and I was pleased not to miss that shared experience. I made an effort not to get drawn into conversation and in turn I tried to restrict my quieting to emerging squabbles and the louder conversations.
There was a wealth of ministry and I felt that we were blessed. Friends, both Quaker and not said how much they enjoyed the meeting. Some were visibly moved, and one non-Quaker friend was lent a book by one of our librarians.
We are thankful to have had the opportunity to welcome our daughters at meeting.