“Friends believe that there is “That of God” in each and every one of us. We gather in silent worship, centering on that inward Light that nurtures our spirit, and bear witness to our Faith through our testimonies: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship.“
September 15, 2019 1030 AM
I had been longing to return to this silent form of worship for some reason. Maybe because our lives are filled with so much noise, distractions and busyness, that I felt the call to disciplined silence again. I arrived right at 1030 to the old stone building with one main room filled with pews. I entered the door and took a seat against the wall. There were about four others already there. The only detectable sounds came from the whirring of the fans and the squeaking of the benches when someone moved. I could also hear the voices of children and adults in the back area, through a closed door. But it felt more like background noise and didn’t distract from the quietness of our space.
Several more people arrived over the next ten minutes or so. A group of teenagers came in for about fifteen minutes and then left as a group. I felt like that was probably a huge feat–to get the youth to be silent for fifteen minutes. Making them go any longer was probably counterproductive. Small bites, as they say.
It was about this point when I began to pray in earnest. It felt like I entered a meditative state with prayer–something that rarely happens. I prayed for two people in particular, old Army friends. One is dying with advanced cancer, the other is dying of alcoholism and I had been trying unsuccessfully to get her into rehab for months. I felt a comforting peace as I prayed for these two friends.
Of course, I also prayed for my family and for our country–specifically that we might find a way to the epidemic of gun violence. I prayed for all those who are stuck in darkness, in suffering and in sin. I prayed for various other subjects, which I can’t even remember now.
At about the half way point, one woman began to speak. She said she had been contemplating humility lately and that it doesn’t necessarily come with age. We have to always learn humility and often the young can teach us more about it than the aged. She said children are probably the best teachers of humility.
At first, her comments distracted me from my deep state of prayer. But when she finished speaking, I reflected on her words and found them to be helpful in resuming my prayers. Apparently this is also part of the Quaker tradition, to share something if one feels moved to do so.
At the end of the hour, a woman stood and began shaking hands with others and everyone followed suit, signaling the end of the worship time. Then, that same woman asked if anyone had anything they’d like to share from their experience today. No one responded. She made some announcements and she asked for first time visitors to introduce themselves. So I stood and said my name to the twenty or so worshippers. Then, she invited everyone to the monthly friends luncheon. Another woman greeted me before I could slip out the door.
Although only one person actually spoke to me, I felt very welcome in this setting. The lack of formal structure and hierarchy, the informal room, without statues, paintings, flags, pulpits, bibles, etc., and everyone’s casual attire, all seemed to create a non-judgmental and welcoming atmosphere. I felt like I could pop in anytime without question or scrutiny. Therefore, this church PASSED the WELCOME TEST.
Added note: when I returned home, I had a text from my alcoholic friend saying she entered detox that day, and would go to rehab afterwards. My friend with cancer also texted saying he had the most unusual sensation of energy go through his body, starting from his head, down his shoulders and to his toes. All I can say is this: there’s got to be something to this prayer thing.