Book Review by Margaret Clark, Canberra Regional Meeting
PATHS TO QUAKER PARENTING
EDITED BY HARRIET HEATH
THE QUAKER PARENTING INITIATIVE, A WORKING GROUP OF THE PHILADELPHIA YEARLY MEETING, 2009
Here is a handy little reference book about parenting as a Quaker, what it can mean and how it can be done. While reading, I experienced a sense of worship-sharing among both experienced and novice Friends and parents.
Indeed, at the time of writing the book, the members of the Quaker Parenting Initiative of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting were a collection of seasoned and new Friends and ‘less and more experienced parents’.
All the stages of parenting were part of the discussion, from those with newborns to others with grandchildren. The group met six to seven times a year over three years. This lengthy time together increased the level of depth and trust at which they shared their own experiences, and the book is much richer as a result.
Through discernment, the group identified eight commonly held beliefs and eight parenting queries which then laid the groundwork for their project. For example, one belief is that there is a God, a Divine, Truth, Light which we all can experience directly. The corresponding parenting queries are: ‘How does God speak to me? How do I come to know the Truth? What is the way with this child right now?’
Six testimonies were also discerned by the group which ‘speak most forcibly to us and our parenting’. They are integrity, equality, peace, simplicity, stewardship and service. The testimony section of the book goes on to discuss the meaning of each testimony, drawing on various Quaker literature, followed by individual reflections.
The practical aspect of parenting by these testimonies is then discussed. In particular, how as parents we can consider the stage of our child’s development to manage our expectations of how our children could be ‘living the testimonies’.
This chapter is rounded out with several queries to provide guidance, and numerous stories from individual experiences.
Most of these stories include anecdotes of how the parents applied, or tried to apply Quaker practices. These practices are conveniently collected together in the final chapter, and include such things as ‘centering down’ and ‘being tender’. As in other parts of the book, descriptions of each practice include both a ‘common Quaker’ and a ‘Quaker parent’ perspective. I found the examples of these practices to be most inspirational and yet also very practical for daily living.
One particular line in the Epilogue summarises the heart and soul of the book: ‘Parenting is an ongoing opportunity to walk the talk, to live our faith’ (p110).