Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Most Unwieldy Name Ever

...Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment Meeting. And it doesn't even have a good acronym. HFPE does not make it.

When they changed the name, and all the good little RS sisters were running around trying to train themselves to call it by its proper new name (at the time we were asked not to shorten it), I promised myself I would keep calling it "Homemaking meeting" as a matter of principle. Now I've noticed it's become appropriate to refer to this meeting as "Enrichment."

But I think this long-standing RS staple is dying.

Enrichment meeting has been dwindling for quite some time. When I first married in the early '80's, homemaking was held during the day in most wards. But attendance was falling fast due to a greater number of working women. I don't recall a directive ever coming from "the top," but one by one the wards and stakes decided that in order to get a bigger attendance, they would hold the meetings in the evenings. Meetings were a mix of fellowship, food, crafts and projects, learning of skills, and spiritual talks. It was a night to dress up and get out of the house, impress your friends with your cooking skills, and partake of a bit of refinement. How nice it was to wash that infant cereal out of your hair and sit down at a table dressed in a fancy cloth and adorned with flowers!

But soon attendance began to drop again. In a woman's whirlwind life, some things had to go, and for many, homemaking didn't have the importance to make the final cut. I was still at home with 8 small children, and needed a night out, so I faithfully attended month after month, but now I mingled with only the 60-and-above crowd, the Homemaking Leader, Homemaking Counselor, and their committee. Under General RS President Mary Ellen Smoot, there was a revamping of the program. This is when we took on the cumbersome name of "Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment Meeting." The new program became effective in January of 2000. We were told to always refer to the meeting as "Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment." We were also asked to substitute the majority of hands-on projects with more formal spiritual instruction. At the time I noticed that Enrichment meetings changed their tenor and became more similar to the Sunday meeting where the sisters sat and listened to a speaker. Instead of revitalizing the program, interest and attendance continued to plunge.

In 2004, the HFPE took a drastic turn when guidelines were changed. Directives were sent from the RS Presidency in Salt Lake City that meetings would be held quarterly instead of monthly. One to two stake enrichment meetings would be held, and each ward was encouraged to organize small-group activities for sisters with similar interests. More official clarifications were made in a circular dated January 1, 2006.

After a couple of years of implementation, I see a variety of results among the wards and stakes I have personally visited. There are a few wards who have made a spectacular program out of this. The four quarterly meetings are well-advertised and interesting. I find the more popular ones to be activity-focused, or centered around a dinner. These successful wards are usually blessed to have a highly motivated small-group specialist who has mobilized groups of women to meet regularly tying quilts, scrapbooking, exercising, reading books. Unfortunately, the majority of wards with which I am acquainted have dull, lackluster and poorly attended quarterly meetings, and few, if any midweek activities.

I'm showing my age when I admit that I look back on the "good old days" with fondness. But I don't think Enrichment could ever be the program it was. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of money to put together the type of thing that I remember. Women don't have as much time as we used to. In the '80's I recall ten or more of us showing up at the Church early in the morning, toddlers in tow, working most of the day to get everything set up for that evening's Homemaking Meeting. I don't think modern-day wards have great numbers of SHM's. (The ward I'm in now has two.)

I don't want to see HFPE die. I become apoplectic when I think of the possibility of losing this great institution which gave me so much support as a young mother. But I am beginning to fear that, like its name, this RS appendage has become too unwieldy to continue. People don't put their whole lives into the Church like they used to. The branches have overcome the roots and are now beginning to wither.


proudmamablogga said...

That is so interesting. I knew the program had changed, but I wasn't aware we were supposed to call it by the full name. Now I know why I heard some women insist on saying the whole darn thing. I actually find it funny.

In our ward, the quarterly activities are well prepared and well attended. I also attend a weekly playgroup, but I'm not sure what other groups are up and running.

Bradley Ross said...

As a man, I'm only an observer. I think you nailed it with this post. "Relief" has multiple meanings for me. I see the social aspect of RS as a relief for my wife from the ordinary duties that dominate her life right now.

I also like what relief meant to the first RS sisters. They had a humanitarian aspect to their mission. I wish we had more ways to do that these days.

ldahospud said...

We just got back into our church building today after a major remodel. It is an older building, so has two floors, stairs in weird places, etc. Anyway, during the remodel, they replaced the stage with two floors of classrooms (which, of course, we sorely needed). I have been pondering the loss of the stage all day, and when I read your post about the withering away of this program, I though it spoke well to my feelings. We no longer seem to need each other like we used to--the symbolism of the stage giving way to classrooms speaks of our unwillingness to put the necessary time in for things like roadshows, plays, concerts, etc. that I remember from my childhood, that were big deals.


Janell said...

Sorry for the comment deletion. I wrote an immensely long rant which would best be simmered, trimmed, and reincarnated as a blog post ;)

Here's the relevant portion:

My RS experience consists of 8 years in student singles' wards (including the multiple program changes). I have found two extremes in Enrichment committees throughout various wards: either a deft group of motivated women enthusiastic, eager, and attuned to the desires of the sisters, or a unwieldy, large group of sisters lacking both direction and motivation.

Bored in Vernal said...

spud, I've really been pondering this phenomenon. I too miss those days when everyone was so involved in the church. It seemed that everyone's activities were centered around it. Our social and cultural needs were all met through church programs. In many areas there were well-developed sports programs as well. I loved road shows and all the work that went into them.
Is it a good or bad thing that we are so involved in the world now? I don't know. But the new generation does not know what it is like to be so attached to the church like it was in the past. For active Mormons, the church was your entire life. It's just not like that now.
Janell, I'm looking forward to you posting on this, as I know you have something more to say on this very issue. I'll be looking for it.

a spectator said...

I love the new enrichment program as it can actually meet the needs of every sister. I also think that it is a great step forward to be engaged with the world rather than having our world be our ward--that is something that was probably only satisfactory to a rather limited geographical area, anyway.

annahannah said...

Although we usually say "enrichment", sometimes we also call it "huffpa" or HFPE

Disco Mom said...

Hi there, wandered over here from Beginnings New. I too am in mourning for the evolution, or it feels more like slow death, of Enrichment (that's what I call it.) I am a stay-home Mom who serves in Primary so you better believe I desperately miss the monthly evening meetings - my only chance to bond with my ward sisters w/o the tikes in tow. We are in a spread-thin urban ward and the last Enrichment meeting we had was last March, to celebrate the RS birthday. It was the most fun I'd had in a long, long time - both socially and spiritually cathartic.

Enrichment and visiting teaching are the only connections I have to RS in our ward. I'm so desperate for sisterly contact that I make a real effort in my visiting teaching, but I miss the group setting of Enrichment, and the chance it allows to meet new members as well. OK, I'll stop.

If we're having a campaign, I'm in the bring-back-the-monthly-meetings boat.

Bookslinger said...

There's nothing stopping any ward's RS from scheduling more events if they want to have them, and the ward building is available.

So HFPE is once every 3 months now. Big deal. Be creative and schedule something else those other two months. And, there's nothing that says every single event/activity has to be at the church (have it at a member's home), or at someone's home (have a night out at a bowling alley).

And there's nothing that says such extra activities have to be all inclusive of all women 18 and over. You can have something for single women, something for young moms, something for empty-nesters.

There's nothing stopping someone who wants to organize/host something at their home from standing up in RS/EQ/HP/whatever, and say "Hey ya'll, anyone want to come over and....?"

And if the ward building is free on a night you want to do it, there's another option. All you need is someone who has a key/code to be responsible for locking up.

Mistylynn said...

Yes, we have been calling it "Enrichment". Home, our persons and our families are enriched by the activities we've had. So, I was the lucky one to get called to be the FIRST EVER HFPE coordinator after they changed the program. What a doozy that was, but I got it worked out, had sign ups and sisters volunteered to Lead groups. These are some ideas for weekly or bi-weekly meetings that we've had: FHE kit group, you make 6(?) of the same lesson kits and then swap with the other ladies who signed up; Scripture Study group, the leader we had rotated who was in charge of each meeting; park group, young moms have enjoyed this immensely; Dinner Club, we've done a "How to Barbecue" one with spouses and last month we had a cookie exchange with pot luck soup just the gals; scrapbooking, we meet once a month; next month were pooling stamping and cardmaking supplies to make cards for the troops; Lunch Bunch, once a month we've had speakers or not, pot luck or eating at a Restaurant; special talents one time meetings where a sister will volunteer to teach us something cool she's learned or a craft or show pictures from a D.C. trip and stories; RS temple day where you have a partner to watch your children and switch off going to the temple on the first Thursday of the Month!
So those are just some of the things we've done. I'm no longer the coordinator, haven't been for over a year and things are still going strong. I found it "Homemaking" MUCH harder when I was 2nd counselor in the RS, pregnant with my first child and working a full time job! The planning was all on my shoulders and I had to do it every month, plus a lot of my helpers were pregnant too! I really like HFPE now. We really get a chance to know the sisters we have similar interest with, we have more than just an hour to chat with a few once a month. It's up to us! Have fun ladies.
Misty in New Mexico

Bored in Vernal said...

Misty, Wow! You are truly awesome. If every ward had a leader and a program like you, HFPE would never be in danger. If I was in your ward, I would probably find myself at many of the activities. Sounds like a lot of fun.

annegb said...

I completely agree. I think it's almost obsolete, as it visiting teaching. I love visiting teaching and I rock at it, but I find it's becoming increasingly more a burden than anything to bless others.

Plus I hate what we call it. I just refuse and call it homemaking. Sort of like "mutual."