26th February 2017: Day 38 - Be Still and Know...
This morning I attended a Quaker meeting.
It’s different to a church service in that there is no minister, hymns are not sung, there isn’t necessarily a Bible reading or prayers and a large part of the time together is spent in silence.
I have wanted to attend a Quaker meeting for a long time now, in fact about a year ago I tried to attend this particular meeting but couldn’t find the way in. What attracted me was this notion of silence and waiting until spiritually prompted to speak, I have always wanted to see how this worked in practice.
Quaker meetings are held not in a church but in a ‘Meeting House’. The congregation is known as ‘Friends’ maybe to show that there is no hierarchy in this form of worship. There are, however ‘elders’ that I imagine to be the more established members of the house.
As with my last attempt I tried the first door I came to. It led to a large hall which was empty and there was no one else around. I started to compose how I was going to write about my first failed task in my head when I thought to knock on the door of the caretaker's residence. I was let in and informed that I was actually at the back door. The man brought me in and showed me what was the front door then handed me some leaflets recommending that I read them first and then sit in silence.
The first thing that struck me as I entered the room was that the chairs were organised in a circular formation so you could see the people directly opposite you and slightly to your side. The meeting can be with as few as 2 people who sit still together in expectation of experiencing God’s presence. The silence was very comfortable - sitting in silence is something I'm quite used to - and it was nice to just sit and wait, and being with others that were just sitting and waiting.
After about 20 minutes someone was moved to read from what I think was a Quaker text. They then sat down. Another 20 minutes or so went by and another person got up and spoke. More minutes past and yet another person stood to speak. There were connections between what was said, it was like a small theme was triggered, so while people didn’t talk about the same experiences, the idea of light, which was what came through today, seemed to be in each contribution.
The thing I liked the most about the meeting was the fact that no one commented on anyone’s contribution. No one agreed, or disagreed, no one acknowledged them even. The space was theirs to express what came to them and we, the others in the room were free to take it or not.
The end of the meeting was marked by 2 elders shaking hands and then we also shook hands with the people nearest to us. This was followed by announcements of forthcoming events and then we were invited to contribute to the collection box if we wished to.
I didn’t stay for coffee and biscuits. I really enjoyed the sense of inner quiet and peace and wanted to keep that a little longer. I don’t think I will give up the Methodist Church to become a Quaker but I think there is something to be said for just sitting and waiting. Not meditating as such, just sitting and waiting for God’s spirit to speak to us, sometimes through another’s voice. So I won’t give up the Methodist Church but I will go to another meeting sometime soon.