Swarthmore Friends Meeting

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania










First Day School (FDS)


Faith & Play

            1st and 3rd Sundays: FDS classes and parents are invited to Faith & Play:

Montessori inspired, Faith and Play is a uniquely Quaker program, created by Friends General Conference of the Religious Society of Friends. It is designed to nurture the lives of children and youth, and holds the intention of helping youth find words and images for expressing their experiences of holy mystery and wonder in their lives. Friend's values and themes are the topics of the stories. For more information, www.fgcquaker.org/faithandplay

 Parents are encouraged to attend Meeting for worship while their children are in classes or childcare. Please remain on the Meeting premises during FDS unless other arrangements are made with a responsible adult.

General Information about First Day School

Religious education for young people is called "First Day School." The young people are divided into several groups.  There is childcare for the pre-school children, two levels for Elementary school-age children, a Middle School-age group, a once-a-month High School-age group, and a student breakfast for College students each Sunday when the college is in session. In April 2010 the new Clerk, Elizabeth McAndrew and Co-Clerk, Barbara BurgerLentz were announced. Kit Raven offered a 5-year recap of FDS while she has been Clerk:  Initially the downstairs classrooms needed major cleaning and de-humidifiers installed; New tables were added in 2009; A special Faith and Play classroom was set up and supplied.  Notably, children from other Meetings have been attending Swarthmore’s Faith and Play program, since their own Meeting does not have one; Childcare for Middle-School age children has been instituted on a year-round basis; and group teaching evolved in the upper classes.  Looking forward, Barbara BurgerLentz presented one of FDS’s future goals: to nurture the transitioning of the large cohesive group of middle schoolers into a high school group.

General First Day School Events

  • October through March, Faith and Play will be on the first day of the month.  

  • December, the third Sunday in December the First Day School has its Christmas pageant during Meeting for Worship.

  • April, Easter Sunday - there will be singing during Meeting for Worship. We will have plants to give away, in our tradition of celebrating growing, re-emergence, and resurrection.

  • May - Bird Walk, one of our Meeting's oldest traditions, has a change this year! (See details in the headline below.)

    8:00 (instead of 7:45 a.m.) - 9:00 a.m. Bird Walk on Campus

    9:00 - 10:00 a.m. Potluck breakfast (instead of a potluck lunch) for everyone!, even if you don't go strolling in the woods.    

  • May - The last First Day School classes will be in the middle of May.  During Meeting for Worship, teachers will present Bibles to the 4th graders, and Faith and Practice to the 8th graders and the college senior attenders.  High School seniors will receive a book chosen by the Care and Counsel Committee. The Meeting for Worship  is followed by special refreshments in Rushmore Room to thank the First Day School teachers.

Every Sunday from Memorial Day through Labor Day, there is a family-style, multi-age childcare, provided by the Meeting's teens.

Bird Walk and Breakfast -- A First Day School Favorite

One of the most loved traditions of the Swarthmore Monthly Meeting First Day School program is the annual bird walk and breakfast.  For as long as anyone can remember, First Day School students and Meeting members have been gathering early in the morning on the first Sunday in May to see and hear a symphony of birds.  The walk across the campus and through the woods never disappoints, as the flowers, birds and wildlife are all worth the trek.  Johanna Sibbett has been leading this adventure for many years and robins, blackbirds, doves, cardinals and blue jays are almost guaranteed.

After an hour of hiking and bird watching, the assembled group returns to the Meetinghouse for a wonderful breakfast prepared by a rotating group of chefs.  The Bird Walk breakfast always includes eggs, sticky buns and strawberries. The bird walkers will gather at 8:00 a.m. and breakfast will begin at 9:00 a.m.  All Meeting members and attenders are invited.  Pleases join us for breakfast, followed by Meeting for Worship, even if you can not make it for the bird walk.

Children and Young People in the Meeting

Children and young people are important members of the Meeting. However, many of them find it difficult to remain in the silence of the Meeting for Worship for the whole hour. If they attend it is usual for them to stay in the Meeting for the first ten or fifteen minutes or to come in towards the end. During their absence they may be discussing Bible stories or Quaker traditions, using crafts, games or other activities to develop their own understanding and insights. The aim of the children's or young people's group is to give its members an awareness of being part of the community, a knowledge of its spiritual traditions, and of having a positive role in the larger community around them. Some older children prefer to stay in Meeting with the adults and sometimes take part in vocal ministry themselves. At Young Friends' gatherings there are often experiments with different forms of worship, including certain aspects of programmed worship and music.