Home and Family
The Quaker home offers a supreme opportunity for the expression of the Quaker way of life. Within this environment, simplicity, integrity, and love can be fostered. The early introduction of family worship and silent waiting can lend a rootedness to the practice of worship in meeting and enrich the family experience.
Although we have come to recognize a number of alternative family forms, nothing has changed the basic spiritual experience of Quaker homemaking. Family members are partners with God.
In the busy years of home life the family members are upheld and strengthened by their dependence upon God and upon one another. The efficient running of the home, the simple hospitality, the happy atmosphere are all outward signs of this threefold inner relationship. Homemaking is a Quaker service in its own right. It should be recognized as such and a proper balance preserved, so that other activities even the claims of Quaker service in other fields are not allowed to hinder its growth.
Where God Becomes More Real
Do you make your homes places of friendliness, refreshment and peace, where God becomes more real to those that dwell therein and to all who visit there? Do you consider the serious responsibilities of parenthood and do you welcome the counsel you may receive from your own parents?
New England Y. M.: Faith and practice, 1950. Query 5, p. 99.
Parents Are the First Teachers
The child's first teachers are his parents. It is in the home that Friends' principles first become practices. The home is founded upon love and depends constantly upon loving sympathy, understanding and cooperation. Love binds the family together and yet allows freedom for each member to develop into the person he was meant to be. Loving guidance, constructive in its attitude rather than authoritarian or possessive, will help the child to discover his own potentialities and interest. Love reaches farther than words and is understood long before words have meaning. Parents' love for God, for each other and for their children, brings stability and security. This outpouring of the spirit creates the religious atmosphere of the home.
Hospitality in the home is a vital force in spiritual nurture. The contacts of parents with their children's companions and the child's association with adult guests are important influences. Parental attitudes towards neighbors and acquaintances are often reflected in the children. Family conversation may determine whether or not children will look for the good in the people they meet, whether they will be sensitive to that of God in every man.
Philadelphia Y M.: Faith and practice, 1961, p. 27
Roots of Faith Formed in the Home
While I was too young to have any religion of my own, I had come to a home where religion kept its fires always burning. We had very few "things" but we were rich in invisible wealth. I was not "christened" in a church, but I was sprinkled from morning till night with the dew of religion. We never ate a meal which did not begin with a hush of thanksgiving; we never began a day without "a family gathering" at which mother read a chapter of the Bible, after which there would follow a weighty silence. These silences, during which all the children of our family were hushed with a kind of awe, were very important features of my spiritual development. There was work inside and outside the house waiting to be done, and yet we sat there hushed and quiet, doing nothing. I very quickly discovered that something real was taking place. We were feeling our way down to that place from which living words come and very often they did come. Someone would bow and talk with God so simply and quietly that He never seemed far away. The words helped to explain the silence. We were now finding what we had been searching for. When I first began to think of God I did not think of Him as very far off. At meeting some of the Friends who prayed shouted loud and strong when they called upon Him, but at home He always heard easily and He seemed to be there with us in the living silence. My first steps in religion were thus acted. It was a religion which we did together. Almost nothing was said in the way of instructing me. We all joined together to listen for God and then one of us talked to Him for the others. In these simple ways my religious disposition was being unconsciously formed and the roots of my faith in unseen realities were reaching down far below my crude and childish surface thinking.
Rufus M. Jones: Finding the trail of life, 1929, pp. 21-2.
Taught Early to Pray
Children should be taught early to pray, and as soon as possible they should be encouraged to speak to God in their own way; the natural difficulties that occur when prayer seems to bring no result should be handled with understanding and sympathy.
London Y. M.: Christian faith and practice, 1960 no. 507
Sacrifices for a Secure and Lasting Home
We recognise the new freedom and equality of those marriages in which both parents are able to pursue careers and to share the duties of the home. We are proud to think that in the past, by liberating women in the ministry and encouraging them in service, we have helped to create this pattern. But we know, too, that it brings its own tensions and dangers. If parents pursue their own interests and vocations (however worthy) without consideration for their families, the children will suffer. There are times when family calls must be put before all others, even those of our Society. We do not believe that rules of conduct can be strictly laid down, but we beg parents to be ready, in this as in other ways, to sacrifice monetary advantage, the pleasure of liberty, or the interest of their professional life, in order to preserve and build the family. The institution of marriage has survived many revolutions, social changes, and altered moral codes; we believe that it will survive others. Our task is to apply eternal principles in changing circumstances, and to make homes that are secure and lasting.
Ibid., no. 503.
Adequate Sex Instruction
It is the responsibility of parents to see that their children are reliably informed about the formation and functions of their own bodies, and concerning their manner of coming into the world. There must be the fullest confidence between parents and children in this matter, and the responsibility should be shared by both parents. Information about sex which is naturally sought for by the enquiring mind should be given gradually, in a simple and informal way, according to the growth of the child towards maturity.
Ibid., no. 509.
Partners in Adventure
As the boy or girl grows towards adolescence parents often have to stand back, for other people can frequently give better help at this stage. If the parents' way of life continues to make them acceptable partners in adventures of the spirit, and if they are willing to be called upon when needed, they still have opportunities to help the adolescent, but these opportunities come only now and then in actual words. The parents, however, must hold firmly to their own religious faith and principles, and can help the adolescent best by doing so. Trust, a sense of humour, a ready forgiveness, and the ability to "speak the truth in love" are other elements of the good home background for this age. Parents, too, should be ready to share experiences that they have found precious not only specifically religious experiences, but experiences of people, art, music, poetry and nature.
London Y M., Friends Education Committee: Growing up in Quaker worship, 1952, pp. 14-15.
Family a Path to a Better Society
The future of the family is a subject often approached with great anxiety in these times. I propose to strike a new tone of inquiry, and to ask what discoveries lie before us about the family. Since family-type togetherness is the oldest and longest-continuing human experience, it is not unlikely that what lies ahead for us as members of the human race will be arrived at in the context of having been formed as persons in family-type settings in the past and in the present. As a futurist, I have long been convinced that families are the primary agents of social change in any society. It is in this setting that individuals first become aware that the passage of time means growth and change, that tomorrow is never like yesterday. It is in this setting that one's first daydreams about a different future take place. In this view the family is not a barrier between us and a better society, but a path to that better society.
Elise Boulding: The family as a way into the future (Pendle Hill pamphlet, no. 222), 1978, p. 3.