the quaker meeting

At 8:30 this morning I went to my first unprogrammed Quaker meeting; technically it was my first ever Quaker meeting programmed or unprogrammed. At 10:30 I joined my kids at the Catholic Church that we typically attend with their dad. The differences were astounding. I would like to expand on what I saw and how it affected me.

If you’re not familiar with an unprogrammed Quaker meeting it’s very different from a traditional protestant or catholic service with a minister/priest leading the congregation. There’s no one person in charge so to speak. I entered the main room of the Live Oak Meeting House and took a seat. There were fewer than 10 of us in all. We sat in silence for a good ½ hour before anyone feel moved to speak.

My first thoughts were, how nice, how tranquil, how unlike my house. I closed my eyes to pray and listen to God. My understanding is that Quakers wait for the Light within listening for what God is telling them. When moved they stand to speak. So I listened. What I heard was the song that was last playing on the radio, my list of tasks for the day, the anticipation of shopping that afternoon, etc. Certainly not things I think God was trying to tell me. I kept telling my self to clear my head and concentrate.

The conversation between myself and I went something like this,
“Ok, be quite and concentrate.”
“Shhh, don’t even say be quiet just do it!”
“ok, ok I’m quiet now.”
“No! I can still hear you!”
My children might as well have been there. God couldn’t get a word in edgewise!

Ok, so even if I wasn’t going to hear God today, I would enjoy the solace. And I looked around. The space is absolutely beautiful. One of the first things I thought of was how plain the room was compared to the very ornate Catholic Church I’m used to. The only thing I saw was wood (on the floor and pews), giant windows showing me the grass, trees and sky. There’s a skylight that’s open on warmer days. It was closed today but there was a lovely blue tinted light on the ceiling giving the illusion of sky. What this room represented was all of God’s natural creations, nature was everywhere. What was missing were all the icons of mainstream Christianity: the statues of Jesus, the crucifixes, the pictures and statues of a blond, fair Mary, stained glass windows of saint after saint.

Although these things are very beautiful (especially the stained glass windows) they represent for me the very things I struggle with in Christianity. Jesus hanging from the cross, did he die for my sins? Was he really the son of God? These huge questions hang in my head on Sunday’s at this Catholic Church. I didn’t realize until today, when they were so obviously not present, how much these icons overtake my mind during church. It was lovely sitting there today not thinking about these overwhelming questions.

My mind did eventually quiet down and I accomplished some wonderful reflective thought on how I deal with my ex-husband and how to be a better mother, lover and friend. I didn’t solve all my issue in one hour of course. But I made some real progress on concerns facing my everyday life; and felt more able to face the things I needed to. Today, this meeting room was a breath of fresh air for my soul.

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10 thoughts on “the quaker meeting

  1. gmc says:

    welcome, I hope you enjoy many more Quaker meetings. Your post brought
    back memories of my first time. I wasn’t as prepared as you seem to have been and my experiance wasn’t quite as plesasnt, but it was enough to keep
    me comming back. I found something very deep, meaningful and a way for
    me to commune with God.

    I also went through many meetings like you describe. I was going through
    my rants to God about being egnoried and not told what was wanted of me.
    I heard a clear ansewer in my mind ” shut up and listen”. That has become my bumper sticker description of the Quaker religon.

    After reading your info I am almost afraid to post becuse of my poor
    grammer and spelling. My foolishness won out.

    Peace

    GMC

  2. Jodi says:

    I’m glad you did post. It’s so nice to finally feel eager for Sunday mornings to come as opposed to feeling that I have to go fulfill some obligation. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thomas Fioriglio says:

    Hi, I just read your description and I would say it is probably like that for most people. As for me, my first experience at a Quaker meeting house was on a historical site seeing trip to Philadelphia with my wife. We saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc. and then we stopped in a Quaker Meeting House. Someone there described to us how the unprogrammed meeting works and I remember feeling quite at peace there. For all its plainness, it seemed like the most holiest place I had ever been. A place where real worship happens. (I was raised Catholic and it is quite a contrast to what I was used to). That stuck with me for the last two years.

    My wife and I started going to Quaker meetings 2 months ago. We had not been to church for over 8 years. Our meeting house in Jericho, Long Island was built in 1788 and has not changed much since. It is heated by a wood burning stove. The only adornment are some pictures of the house from the last 150 years and a portrait of Elias Hicks who worshipped there and is buried on the grounds. To be in this historic place and part of the local Quaker history is overwhelming. Of course, like you, it is hard at times to clear your head. I laughed as I you described the thoughts in your head because often, I also have the last song I heard playing on and on in my head. It does take a while to clear those thoughts out. I think many people may make the mistake of thinking that God will speak to them right away. Like anything, it takes time and effort to open yourself up to His message. For me, sometimes it happens, and sometimes it does not. But every week, I look forward to going back, listening and being part of that community.

    I do not know how many Quakers are converts and how many were born and raised into the faith, but I would imagine that for many of the converts, it is the meeting house and the type of service that has them coming back.

    Thom

  4. Even after many years as a Quaker, I still have plenty of meetings like the one you described. Still, the silence helps clear out my mental muck, helping me feel clearer, even if I didn’t hear something that felt like a divine message.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Eileen

  5. Tania says:

    I was raised as a Roman Catholic, and my first Meeting for Worship felt much like yours did. I still struggle with the quieting of my mind, and I’ve been attending Meeting for Worship for well over a year now. (That is to say, it’s completely normal. 🙂 )

    As a side note, I did a double take on your blog because you use the exact same WordPress template as I do and I was confused as to whether I was seeing your blog or my own.

    I’m glad your first Meeting for Worship was so liberating for you. I hope you continue to attend and they continue to be so wonderful.

  6. laurie says:

    Glad you made it to a meeting for worship 🙂 It can feel strange at times to try a new religious house of worship… I’ve been to many Many MANY so I know that feeling. At times, I have trouble centering down in silence, as well. That just happens sometimes. Today both my husband and I couldn’t focus very well, but at the end of the meeting, met more people from our town we hadn’t before, so that was why God said “GO TO MEETING”. There is a reason for everything, isn’t there? BTW, The new Live Oaks meeting house looks beautiful, and thankfully, that does help to inspire good worship, I believe.

    Hope you have a chance to also attend a Friend’s Church so you can compare/contrast two different forms of Quaker worship. It is great when you are first starting out, and you may find you like a programmed service even better!?!

  7. Jodi says:

    Yes, I’d like to see the Programmed service as well. Just outside of Houston is a town called Friendswood (Quaker settled community, hence the name). They have programmed meetings that I would like to check out – just a little far to go on a regular basis unfortunately.

  8. laurie says:

    I used to live in Dallas, so the name Friendswood was always so intriguing to me. You’ll have to let us know how it goes…..

  9. diane watkins says:

    Has anyone ever heard of a pamphlet called “the covered meeting” I think it might have been written by a cathoic priest as he did a good job relating the intense spiritual similaritys of the presence of the holy spirit to both forms of worship. please e-mail me at dianewatkins2006@yahoo.com because Id like to find it again.

  10. jindowaygook says:

    The Live Oak Meeting is a great place. I haven’t lived in Houston for quite awhile, but when I come home (it’s where my parents live), I make it a point to visit.

    As a teacher, I spend my day talking and being talked to, and having meeting on the weekends can be so calming and quieting.

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