Thursday, 30 August 2007


The sound of silence

I went to my first ever Quaker meeting on Sunday. I've been curious about Quakers for a long time - my preference for styles of worship oscillates between the full drama of High Church, and the quiet simplicity of Iona - but I'd never actually been to a Quaker meeting.

There were a lot of first-timers like me at the meeting at Greenbelt, and we were given a brief explanation of what to expect by a member of the Cheltenham Quakers. It seemed straightforward enough in principle: Quakers wait in silence and stillness, allowing themselves to become open to an awareness of God's presence. If moved to speak (not the same as speaking 'in the Spirit') then they do so, but otherwise, there is no spoken liturgy.

Needless to say, it was a lot harder than that.

First off, there were obvious distractions - being in an unfamiliar room, amongst mostly unfamiliar people, under novel circumstances. Stomachs rumbled, people fidgeted, bizarrely, Mika's Big Girl (You are Beautiful) played on loop in my brain. Halfway though, a group of drummers began a loud sound check on the Arena stage; waiting for an awareness of God felt like straining to hear a voice on a bad phone line. I ended up simply praying, which was enough to turn my thoughts way from the other sounds and intrusions, and whilst I didn't feel that God imparted any specific words of ministry, it was enough to feel that I'd had time to be still - something that I often feel that I miss in 'normal' Church.

I came away feeling refreshed, and with the feeling that, for something as deceptively simple as shutting up for an hour, it took a lot of effort and I'd barely scratched the surface of the wealth of experience that it could offer. If I had to pick a denomination from scratch, then the Quakers certainly tick many of the boxes, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to give up the familiar comfort of the Anglican church that I'm so used to. Maybe that's the challenge to myself.

Posted by em at 08:12 | Comments will be back later in the year. Please email me instead!