Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Paid Worship

Now that our meeting has a new meeting space with a great children's area, we parents have upped our demands.

We have asked for a paid-- gasp, yes, PAID -- facilitator for the children's program (3 out of 4 weeks per month - we'll cover the last week). We found one early this summer who'll do the job for what we can afford and got it onto the July MM agenda.

Here's the punchline -- he's not even Quaker.

Oh, let's just say this was a bit of an issue at MM -- that, and the fact that we're going to be doing the P word. The elders were goggle-eyed, sputtering. Process, you know, they choked, not the way it's done. Testimony against paid worship, you realize. Fans out, legs crossing and uncrossing.

The parents were passionate. Losing kids, losing families. Being too embarrassed to invite out our friends. Never being able to sit in meeting while others sit in it every week. Arms folded or gesturing or sweeping the room.

The clerk and recording clerk struggled to keep up.

I know George Fox had a thing against paid worship and "hireling minister" and so do I. I mean, how can you pay someone to pray or be holy? But what about a children's program director? Is that worship?

We had to decide that this was a wrong direction.

So much can still go wrong between now and the next MM at the end of August. But our fingers are crossed that it will pass and we parents and children will be able to be full Quakers.

The letter killeth, as they say.


At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Aj said...

I think George was against things that hindered folks worshipping, and sometimes having a paid "leader" makes us lazy and inattentive. Not to mention, I don't think George spent much of his time having to chase the tykes around (a bit of a idealist, methinks).

There's NO way I could worship in a group setting without organized childcare (my child only sits still for the appearance of Veggie Tales and cookies - they disappear, and so does he), and the good organized childcare I've experienced has been paid for. I hope y'all have reached peace, and that whatever choice helps you encounter Christ fully and without regret.

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Robin M. said...

We have had a paid nursery teacher at our unprogrammed meeting for seven or eight years now. None of them have been Quaker. We also have a paid building manager who handles the maintenance and the groups that rent our building. These have generally been attenders of our meeting. Neither of these has led down the slippery slope of having paid pastors or hireling ministers preaching in meeting for worship. We still have volunteers who do religious ed for older kids, to run our adult Bible Study and Quaker study groups. Our pastoral care is all still done by volunteers. Just in case you needed evidence that this is not necessarily the first step down the road to Quaker ruin. :)

At 8:34 PM, Anonymous zach said...

I haven't thought about this issue much, 20-something that I am, but my meeting (North Shore) has had paid childcare off and on for a long time I think, and I never thought anything of it. Doesn't seem like ministry to me, except in the broad sense.

Though on the subject of paid vs. volunteer "ministry", is it unfeasible for someone(s) to volunteer to do childcare?

At 5:59 PM, Blogger Johan Maurer said...

I wonder how many people are on Quaker payrolls in the predominantly unprogrammed side of USA Quakerism, including the American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Friends General Conference, other yearly meetings, monthly meetings with paid staff, .. who've I left out?

I think it was Bob Dockhorn of Philadelphia YM who once observed that it was a bit absurd to require all Friends who were compensated for their ministry to work only on weekdays in an office and never in a meetinghouse, and never to mention God in their work.

At one time, there were more people on the staff of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (a 100% unprogrammed yearly meeting unless you count First-day schools) than pastors in any North American yearly meeting. However, I just counted the staffers listed on the PYM Web site, and I don't think that's true anymore.

A bit of a tangent, but not entirely: I published an editorial, "Being Cordial to our Ministers," in the November 1997 Quaker Life. Sorry if I've already overflogged this concern in the Friendly blogosphere, but unprogrammed Friends might appreciate knowing that those of us who have pastors (and have been pastors) can testify that we too experience ambivalent feelings about ministering for money. But reasonable compensation to liberate the minister for service is neither unscriptural nor unquakerly; and the term "hireling" is nearly useless, since the political and social context is so different from George Fox's time. However, paid or not, no Friends minister should be holding their gifts or message hostage for money, monopolizing the public expression of faith, inculcating dependency, or otherwise violating the boundaries of healthy leadership.

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Johan Maurer said...

PS: Canadian Yearly Meeting had pastoral meetings in living memory.

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Nancy A said...

To be fair, the objections of the meeting elders to paying a children's program leader had more to do with a sense of failure at a responsibility than with an objection to tainting our hands with silver.

By hiring someone, we were renegging on our responsibilities to the children to teach them ourselves and keep them full members of the meeting. Having them "babysat" takes them out of the meeting, subtracts them, and places them under the care of someone outside the meeting. This is how they saw it, and it must have felt awful to admit to failing at something they saw as so important.

But of course, we are human, and we do need to accept that. Those who spoke in favour pointed out that the children would far rather have someone who was fun and well prepared than to have us, worn out and grumpy.

There ain't much light in that!

At 10:29 PM, Blogger Will T said...

Our meeting for a long time hired outside people to provide childcare for the toddlers and infants and for all of the children during after maeting activities. (Nothing enforces discipline in Meeting for Business quite like the sight of childcare workers packing up and getting ready to leave.) Then, as our oldest children became teenagers we discovered that it was harder and harder to get them to meeting on Sunday. We finally hit on a system that seems to be working. We pay them to come. Well not actually. What we do is pay them to provide childcare. So the teenagers stay connected to the meeting and the parents of infants and toddlers can come to meeting.

As for the First Day School, who said it was the parents that should provide it. The meeting community is everyone, from the newborn to the oldest person. In a community, we all have a responsibility to each other. So let the elders with the fans who do not want a paid staff to get with the program and start providing care for the youngers so the parents can get to meeting.

And there never was a testimony about paid worship. It was always about paid ministry. It was as much about the ministry being supported by taxes and that ministers were often political appointments that led to the Quaker position.



Post a Comment

<< Home