Quaker Practice: Silent Meeting

Silent Meeting

An honored Quaker tradition

Silent Meeting is a central component of the Quaker experience. Regardless of one’s religious practices or beliefs, the simplicity of sitting silently in the presence of others allows time for contemplation and self-reflection during a stimulating school day.

In addition to building community among students, staff, faculty, and families, Silent Meeting teaches our students with learning disabilities the important skills of how to sit quietly and to calm their bodies. It allows them to learn how to truly listen and gives  them the opportunity to respond to a particular query. A query is posed at the beginning of the silence and students can share a message if they are moved to speak.

Silent Meeting is an integral part of the Mary McDowell Friends School community. Our alumni report that it’s one of the most memorable elements of their time here. It is a time when the school comes together to share, listen, and celebrate. Silent Meeting happens twice a week in each division. Each division shares Silent Meeting in a way that best meets the developmental needs of the student body.

Lower School

Silent Meeting is where lower school students learn the fundamentals of being silent and calm. It provides a great opportunity for them to process information they’ve learned throughout the day and it provides a break from a busy and engaging school week. A query that all students can contemplate is posed at the beginning of Silent Meeting. Since all classes are present at Silent Meeting, community news is shared here once a week.

I like to be quiet.

MMFS lower school student

Middle School

Most middle school students are familiar with Silent Meeting. They are given the opportunity to speak when moved, and to stay silent otherwise. They learn how to be more independent, to center themselves, and to quietly contemplate the week’s query.

Silent Meeting is also used for making announcements and sharing community news. Different homerooms are responsible for transforming the gymnasium into a Meetinghouse by setting up circular seating. Everyone works together to restore the community space back into the gymnasium at the end of the meeting.

I have a long relationship with Silent Meeting. In third grade at Bergen Street I didn’t know you had to be silent – in spite of its name. Silent Meeting makes MMFS special – not everyone has the experience to sit back and contemplate. It makes us diverse!

MMFS middle school student

Upper School

Taking independence and responsibility a step further, Silent Meeting in the upper school centers around queries created by upper school students in the Quaker Life committee. Students contemplate and speak when moved. Silent Meeting also provides a space for club updates and school-wide announcements. Upper school students have introduced Choice Silent Meetings that offer students different ways, including yoga, music/meditation, walking/meditation, coloring, journaling, or beading, to practice Silence.

We have so much stimulation – iPads, phones, computers – even if that stimulation is beneficial. Silent Meeting is a time to cut down and be doing one thing – just thinking. We rarely get to do that nowadays.

MMFS upper school student


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